2013: Year in Emergency Review

Munchkin lion pose

The year 2013 brought many lessons in animal emergency preparedness. The year started with many NJ and NY coastal towns still struggling to recover from Super Storm Sandy which struck only a few months earlier. While the first few months found many focusing on recovery, it was not long before the focus turned to the next disaster response.

In April, the emergencies extended beyond natural disasters. On April 17, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston marathon killing three and injuring scores of other. A few days later, a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas leaving 15 dead and over $100 million in property damage including a nearby school. Both events occurred without any warning – a reminder of the importance of planning for the worst well in advance.


Firefighters battle blaze

Those who live in areas that are threatened by wildfires should know the importance of good emergency and evacuation plans. June and July of 2013 brought a number of devastating fires to California, Arizona, and Colorado. Wildfire brings the destruction of personal property but even graver is the risk to human life. Arizona saw the greatest loss of firefighters since 9-11 when 19 of their bravest were lost in the Yarnell Hill Fire in late June.


Tornado warnings

Breaking News warns of approaching tornado

Severe storms often bring flooding and damage. Particularly notable was a September storm in Colorado that left the state facing land-slides and mud-slides brought by heavy rains and overflowing rivers. In October, an early winter storm left 100′s of thousands of dead cattle and horses killed by hypothermia or suffocated in deep snow in North Dakota. But Mother Nature was perhaps cruelest earlier in May when a series of tornadoes brought a devastating whopper to Oklahoma where a single large twister left a 12 mile path of destruction. Its 200 mph winds brought the death of 24 people including 7 elementary school children. While some of these storms had some warning, others came up quite quickly or developed into a disaster that exceeded the predictions of the weather warnings. In additio
n to the direct impact to people and even the loss of life in some cases, animals were impacted in all of them and displaced along with their owners.

These events of the last year remind us of the need to consider all the risks to our homes and the animals that reside there. It is not just during hurricane season — Emergency Preparedness is a year round commitment to being safe and knowing how to respond to any type of emergency or disaster.

For 2014, here are 12 tips for Animal Emergency Preparedness in the New Year:

1) Have an emergency plan that includes your pets — make sure everyone in your family is familiar with the plans

Stan and Ringo close up

Emergency Plans must include your pets

Farm sign in flood water

Is your area prone to flooding?

2) Have a back-up plan in case you cannot get home  — this includes having an emergency caretaker if you are incapacitated and unable to care for your pets and having a neighbor or other local contact who can assist you during an emergency if you are unable to return home

3) Know the hazards for your community — is your area susceptible to flooding? Wildfire? Near heavily traveled areas (highway or railway which may transport chemicals)? 

4) Have a Pet Disaster Go Kit — include 3-5 days of food, bowls, crates/carriers, copies of medical records and a picture of your pet with you

5) Practice with your pets and all members of your family –you can get your pet used to its crate or carrier by using it as a feeding spot, a place for your pet’s bed, or a hiding spot. If they are allowed to go in and out of the crate/carrier it will be less scary and less traumatic if you have to use it for an evacuation.

Cat carrier

Introducing cat to carrier

6) Know where you will go with your pet during an evacuation — will you stay with family, friends, or seek a pet friendly hotel/motel? Organize this well in advance of actually needing the refuge.

dog with ID tags

Visible dog ID tags hang from this Corgi’s collar

7) Include plans for sheltering in place — make sure you have enough non-perishable food for at least 5 days. Have plans for loss of power including how you will access water.

8) Have both permanent and visible identification on your pet — permanent ID may be a microchip or tattoo; also have a visible easily seen and read ID tag on your pet’s collar

9) Learn pet first aid and CPR — courses are offered by humane organizations, veterinary offices, and the Red Cross

10) Evaluate your house and other buildings for fire safety — have escape plans for you, your family, and if it can be done without compromising your own safety, escape plans for your pets. Include a rendezvous point outside the danger zone


Check with your local Office of Emergency Management to see if they offer sign up for emergency alerts

11) Follow weather reports and alerts — you can download apps to receive emergency weather alerts

12) Join your local County Animal Response Team (CART) or offer your services as a resource to be utilized during a disaster

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