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Keep Your Pets Safe During a Wildfire Evacuation

Wildfire season is here in the United States and is already burning 3.6 million acres of land this year, damaging property and causing injury and death. Because wildfires often break out suddenly, it’s important to have an evacuation plan. And this plan should include your pets.

“Often wildfires come on so quickly that people don’t have their things on hand,” explains Lynnette Round, Information Officer at Cal fire.

Luckily, there are some steps you can take to be better prepared. We’ve already talked about how to do it Get your house and yard ready for the forest fire season, what to pack in a go bag In case you need to leave the house quickly, how to use emergency apps keep in touch
and receive up-to-date information about natural disasters in your area – and how Store digital copies of important documents.

All of these tips could come in handy in preparing your family and home for the unexpected. But what special precautions should you take for your pets? I’ve received advice from Cal Fire, FEMA, and the American Red Cross on how to protect your cats, dogs, and other pets in the event of a wildfire evacuation.

Include pets in your wildfire evacuation plan

The wildfire season typically lasts from May to October, but recently that time frame has expanded. forest fires were burning 735,125 hectares in December 2020 and broke records in the US. predictions Assume 2021 will be another record year for wildfire activity. Over 2.6 million hectares have already burned, including the devastating pirate wildfires in Oregonwhich has so far scorched 400,000 acres.

The extended season and intensity of individual wildfires like Bootleg make it even more important to have a plan in place before a possible evacuation, including making a plan for your pets.

“Once in a while [people] I don’t have much time and there’s just enough time to get out. So if they are prepared in advance, they don’t have to be afraid and can just grab it [their pets] and go,” adds Round.

Note: Although this article provides information specific to wildfires, the advice is generally applicable to emergency preparedness for any natural disaster. However, it is specific to smaller animals and pets. If you have questions about how to handle livestock, horses, or other large animals in an emergency, Cal Fire has one helpful guide.

Familiarize yourself with the warning procedure in your area

Be aware of the types of natural disasters in your area, says Marilyn Jiménez Dávila, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross. How do local officials inform residents and visitors about wildfires? Do they sound sirens? Do they issue emergency warnings on TV and radio? Before anything else, make sure you know what types of alerts exist where you live and how they are issued. In this way, you will find out about evacuation orders as quickly as possible.

Put together a travel bag for your pets (and for yourself).

Cal fire details how to prepare pets for an evacuation and how to protect them during an evacuation. It includes pet-specific go-bag items to have on hand at all times:

  • Carrier(s), one for each pet
  • Enough food and water for two weeks
  • Spill/break resistant food and water bowls
  • A pet first aid kit (you can buy one or make your own)
  • Medicines with full instructions for use
  • litter box and litter
  • Plastic bags for cleaning up rubbish
  • paper towels/cloth towels
  • cleaning supplies
  • Leashes/collars/harnesses/seat belts
  • Cover
  • toys and treats

Keep everything you can in one bag and tuck the rest (cat crates, carriers, etc.) within easy reach so you can grab everything you need quickly when you head out the door.

Keep digital copies your pet’s current medical records and other important documents. You should also keep paper of this information in a waterproof bag, including adoption papers, vaccination records, details about their diet and meal schedules, medical/behavioral issues, and your veterinarian’s contact information, a FEMA spokesman suggests via email.

“Include a picture of you and your pet. If you are separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet will help document ownership and allow others to help you identify your pet,” the FEMA spokesman says.

Make sure your pets are microchipped and that the microchips are activated. Make sure they wear their most recent IDs on easy-to-read collar tags, including your contact information (and ideally the contact information of at least one other person), rabies tags, and registration IDs.

You should also prepare a bag for yourself. Learn more here: Emergency bag: what to pack if you need to leave the house as soon as possible.

Know where to go and practice ahead of time

FEMA provides detailed information when planning an evacuation, including evacuation with smaller animals. Begin by identifying several potential evacuation routes and locations, including staying with friends or family, or an emergency shelter or hotel. The Red Cross allows service animals, but most animal shelters do not allow pets.

“We are working with partners to ensure our small animals have a safe place,” said Jiménez Dávila, Red Cross spokesman. This means you can show up with your pets at a Red Cross shelter and the team there will help find a safe place for them to stay during the evacuation. That American Red Cross Emergency: Alert App has a map section that contains information on the locations of the emergency shelters.

Jiménez Dávila also suggests filling up your car (if you have one) and facing the road in the direction of the planned evacuation route. “Having a plan is great, but what will really help is if you practice what you should be doing. Practice your evacuation route,” she explains. Involve the whole family in your evacuation drills, even pets, to get used to using pet carriers, carrying holdalls, and testing your planned evacuation routes.

If you don’t have a car, talk to neighbors, friends and family about your options – and find out what public transport or other services might help you.

Once you return home

After the local authorities have decided that it is safe for you to return home, you should still be careful, says Jiménez Dávila. “Just as you would be careful returning home with gloves and sturdy shoes, your pets also need a little extra care.”

Hotspots or other hazards created by the wildfire could remain a concern. Your pets will be nervous, so make sure to watch them closely and don’t let them run around.

Three other important things to keep in mind

If you’re not home when wildfire starts or spreads to your area, have a plan for a neighbor, friend, or relative to check on your pets to make sure they’re okay — or with them if necessary to evacuate them.

If you must evacuate without your pets, bring them into your home in a windowless room with good ventilation, says Cal Fire. Consider putting them in a bathroom, utility room, or garage (depending on the weather) and don’t tie them down.

Provide dry food and water in containers that won’t break or spill, and have a faucet slowly drip water into a larger container or bathtub for a longer-term water supply.

For more information, see the following resources on protecting your pets in wildfire prone areas:

Continue reading: How to prepare for hurricanes, wildfires, storms and other natural disasters

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