Help Prepare Your Community
National Preparedness Month is a nationwide effort held each September to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and schools. National Preparedness Month is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The goal of the month is to increase public awareness about the importance of preparing for emergencies and to encourage individuals to take action.
The Humane Society of the United States encourages all local animal shelters and other animal care organizations to participate in National Preparedness Month to ensure all human and animal members of the community are prepared in case of disaster.
Host a “How To Prepare Event” for Pet Owners
- Display a pet “go kit”
- Provide information on how to build an emergency plan for pets
- Share volunteer information
- Hold a microchipping and ID clinic
Be Part of a Community Preparedness Event
- Contact your local fire department or emergency management office to see if they are hosting any events
- Participate in any festivals or fairs happening during September to promote pet preparedness
- Check with schools about tabling at a back-to-school night
- Talk to local libraries about placing pet preparedness information in their lobbies
- Find out if your local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is hosting an event
What Pet Owners Can Do
There are three simple steps community members can take to prepare for disaster:
1. Get a Kit
Encourage pet owners in your community to make an emergency kit for their animals that can be placed alongside their family’s disaster “go kit”. A pet’s “go kit” should include these basic items (at a minimum):
• Food, water and medicines for five days
• Medical and veterinary records
• Carrier, toys, blanket or bed
• Litter box and litter
• ID attached to your pet
• Pet carrier and/or leash
• Current photos of pet with physical description
Remember, as a sheltering organization, you too have many lives depending on you should an emergency occur. Make sure your shelter has an emergency kit to cover the needs of the animals in your care.
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2. Make a Plan
The kit is a good start; however, without a plan covering what to do should a disaster or emergency occur, it may just gather dust. Another component of your messaging to the community should include simple ideas on planning that will stimulate the pet owner to take the time to consider their options during the time of a crisis. Pet owners should keep the following planning points in mind:
- Identify a safe place before an emergency ever happens by doing a little research into pet-friendly hotels outside the local area and talking with family out side the local area about staying with them. This is a great time for pet owners to get to know their neighbors. If they are away at work, a trusted neighbor can evacuate pets and bring emergency kits to a pre-arranged location. Often times, a crisis will occur when someone is at work or running errands.
- It is critical that pets wear visible identification at all the times. The ID tag should include a cell phone number and perhaps an out-of-area contact phone number. Microchips are a great form of permanent identification that will back up an ID tag. Also, encourage pet owners to get a pet ID card that contains a photo of their pet as well as vaccination information.
- Using the planning tools offered by organizations such as the American Red Cross, pet owners can easily augment with information they need to ensure their pets will be safe. The key is to advocate for pets to be evacuate when humans are being told to leave.
Planning does not end with the pet owner. Animal shelters should have a plan in place that includes when animals will be evacuated, how they will be evacuated, and who will care for them. Determine how staff and volunteers will be notified when the plan goes into place. Create a time to practice evacuation of the animals in your care so you know how long it takes and what extra supplies may be needed to get them all out safely.
3. Get Involved
Animal lovers can get involved in animal disaster preparedness through many avenues including volunteering at local animal shelters to get hands-on animal handling experience. Volunteers are a great resource for staffing preparedness booths at local festivals and fairs, helping to bring the preparedness messaging to community.
In these uncertain times, one thing we can be sure of: We will be confronted by more emergencies and disasters. Animals and humans are profoundly impacted by these unexpected, and many times unpredictable, events. However, with advance preparation all community members—both two-legged and four-legged—have a much better chance of safely making it through a crisis.