With spring officially under way – and summer peeking around the corner – there’s no time like the present to start preparing for the hazards that warmer weather brings. If you are one of the millions of pet owners nationwide, it’s important to remember to include your furry, feathered and scaly friends in any family disaster preparedness and response plans. Unfortunately, statistics reveal that a majority of Georgians have not considered the needs of their pet companions in planning for emergencies.
In honor of National Pet Week – which runs May 4 through May 10 – the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA)’s Ready Georgia campaign encourages all individuals to take steps now to prepare their beloved Fifi or Fido for potential disaster.
“In the event of an emergency, your pet will depend on you for his or her safety and well-being, so it’s vital to prepare them like any other member of the family,” said Lisa Janak Newman, a spokesperson for GEMA. “A 2013 survey conducted on behalf of GEMA reveals that only 47 percent of Georgians have stocked extra emergency supplies for their pets. Taking time to prepare your family and pets today can help avoid stress during the time of an emergency.”
The Ready Georgia website provides the information needed to prepare pets for any disaster. Start by creating a pet-friendly Ready kit that includes basic items such as food, water, medication, as well as important documents like rabies vaccination forms. Depending on what type of pet you have, you may want to include an extra collar with an ID tag, litter, an extra harness or leash and a favorite toy, blanket or bed to reduce stress. After packing the kit, create a plan detailing where to take your pet during an emergency. It is important to stay informed about the different types of disasters that can occur locally and make a plan on how to respond to each one.
If you evacuate:
Due to public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept animals so it’s crucial to determine an evacuation location in advance. Find a pet-friendly hotel or a boarding facility near the shelter. Also consider developing a “buddy system” with friends or relatives who would be willing to host you and your pet during an emergency. Never leave your pets behind in a disaster; they can be hurt, lost or killed.
If driving, be sure to properly restrain your pet with a secure harness or a carrier. It is a good rule of thumb to always secure a pet in a moving vehicle in the event of a collision.
If you stay home:
If you are unable to vacate your home before a disaster, designate a safe area where you can wait out the danger together. Make sure the space is pet-friendly and does not include dangerous items such as tools, windows or toxic products.
For more information about preparing your pet and the other family members for disaster, or to download a Ready kit checklist and other pertinent information, visit www.ready.ga.gov. For preparedness on the go, pet owners can also download Ready Georgia’s free mobile app.