Being prepared in case of a natural disaster or emergency is critical. During Emergency Preparedness Week our focus is raising awareness about the importance of pet owners being prepared – no matter what comes your way.
Making arrangements before the chaos of an emergency, such as a bad storm, can increase your pet’s chances of survival and greatly reduce their fear and anxiety. You can plan ahead in a number of ways including:
- Develop a family emergency response plan. This includes setting a primary and alternative meeting point away from the home in case of evacuation, listing emergency telephone numbers where all family members can find them (including the name and number of your pet’s veterinarian) and putting together a family emergency survival kit.
- Include your pet in any local or family emergency drills and exercises.
- Plan ahead to ensure you have a safe place to take your pet.
- Find out about your municipality’s evacuation centre locations and related pet policies.
- Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area and check their policy on accepting pets during an emergency.
- Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they could shelter your pets during an emergency.
- Create a pet emergency survival kit for quick and easy access. You can find a complete list of items your survival kit should include on the Ontario SPCA website at ontariospca.ca/ep.
If an emergency occurs when you are not at home, you can still be prepared. Set up a buddy system with your neighbour. Make arrangements that they will take care of your pet in the event of an emergency when you are not home.
This kind of planning is more than just recommended; it’s crucial for your family and pets. The Brant County SPCA experienced first-hand the importance of being prepared when they were notified they needed to evacuate their animal centre in February 2018 during extensive flooding in Brantford.
Brant County SPCA flooding evacuation
Nadine Dwinnell, Manager of Animal Care at the Brant County SPCA, says the flooding experience was a lesson learned for their centre. She’s grateful there were staff who had been trained in emergency preparedness. Dwinnell says they learned of the risk of evacuation when they got a call from police to help rescue a dog whose home was flooding. She says it was soon clear something bigger was going on.
Staff sprang into action, taking in evacuees and making a plan in case they, too, would need to evacuate. Finally the call came that they needed to evacuate. Dwinnell says they were given permission to shelter animals in an empty airport hangar outside the flood area. The emergency shelter for people escaping the floods couldn’t accommodate animals, so the Brant County SPCA set up a temporary intake area for people’s pets who were then transported to the hangar as well.
In addition to the six dogs and 30 cats that the Brant County SPCA transported from their animal centre to the hangar, they also provided emergency sheltering for 32 cats and 21 dogs taken in for evacuees. Amazingly, Dwinnell says the transport was facilitated in 4.5 hours. The Ontario SPCA, a wildlife professional in the area with a trailer, as well as local people responded to the needs of the centre during the evacuation. Together, they transported animals and equipment that needed to be moved to safety.
The Brant County SPCA set up a makeshift first aid station at the hangar and had a staff member staying with the animals at all times, Dwinnell says. Members of the community showed their support through donations of needed items that were dropped off at the hangar for the animals.
The evacuation lasted three days for the animal centre, but many people in the community were unable to return to their houses. To help those who were displaced, Dwinnell says the evacuee animals stayed in the care of the centre for just over a week.
Dwinnell says without preparation and a plan in place, an emergency situation like this would lead to chaos.
“We see more and more of these occurrences happening and it’s always sudden,” she says, “We encourage pet owners to have a plan in place, long before an emergency arises.”
For more information on emergency preparedness and getting your household prepared, visit http://ontariospca.ca/ep