Are your pets ready in case of a wildfire evacuation?

Posted By elaine on September 6, 2010

Todd Stusuy rescues a dog from a burning home… (Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel)

With the wildfire and evacuations caused by the Fourmile Canyon Fire just west of Boulder, it is a good time to take a look at our pet emergency plans.

We live in an area where fires are just a fact of life, and right now the fire danger is extreme in many areas.  It is important to think about pets before you are rushed in an evacuation, so here are some tips to help keep your animal safe when disaster strikes.

  • Don’t leave your animal.  Often people will think they will be able to come back in a couple hours, but sometimes it is days.  Unless your life is at stake take the time to get your animals out.
  • Assemble an animal evacuation kit.
  • Make sure that you have crates or carriers for you dogs, cats and other small animals. 
  • Develop an evacuation plan for all of your animals and practice the plan.
  • If you live in an apartment, make sure your animals are on record with management and are able to evacuate via the stairwell. Dogs should be taught to go up and down stairs to better assist rescue personnel.
  • Keep written directions to your home near your telephone. This will help you and others explain to emergency responders exactly how to get to your home.
  • Identify alternate sources of food and water.
  • Have well maintained backup generators for use in food-animal production operations.
  • Keep all vehicles well maintained and full of gas. This is especially true when you have livestock!  Also make sure your trailer is road worthy and ready to go.
  • Keep emergency cash on hand.
  • If you have horses or livestock, good barn and field maintenance can reduce danger. Decide on the safest housing location if evacuation is impossible, realizing that the situation is still life threatening. Assess the stability and safety of barns and other structures, promptly remove dead trees, and minimize debris in the fields and immediate environment.
  • In case you aren’t home when disaster strikes; make sure to place stickers with information on your front and back doors, barn doors, and pasture entrances to notify neighbors, fire fighters, police, and other rescue personnel that animals are on your property and where to find your evacuation supplies.
  • Make sure there is a list of animals with a description of them, any special needs they may have and make sure that you have your vet contact information in your evacuation kit.
  • In case you are separated, make sure you have photos of your animals in a location you can get two if you are evacuated.  Smart Phones and sites like Facebook are good places to have this because you can get to them from anywhere.

There are many other great suggestions online.  The best site I found was The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).  They have even created a booklet for pet owners.   FEMA also has stuff on the internet.

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