***Please note that this was our scheduled post for today as a part of our monthlong safety focus on wildfires and there is no connection with the current local wildfire. At this time there are no evacuation orders.***
This week, we’re going to be talking about how to keep the furry members of your family safe during an evacuation! This was initially going to be a part of last week’s post but there’s just too much information and our animals are so incredibly important that they are getting their very own post!
We’ll start with pets! Last week we touched on a little bit of what needs to happen to prepare pets for evacuation and this week we will be expanding on all those points!
-Just like with people, it is important to plan ahead to evacuate your pets safely! How will you transport your pets? Where can you take your pets with you? Who can you leave your pets with outside of the hazard zone? If you are unable to get home during an emergency, which neighbor(s) can you call to evacuate your pets? Make sure you have back up plans in place as well. What if your friend outside the hazard zone is one vacation, where will your pet stay then? If your neighbor is stuck at work too and cannot reach your pet, which other neighbor can help you evacuate your pet? Make sure you have contact information for everyone and everyone has your contact information.
-Put together an emergency supply kit for each of your pets. Each pet should have a two week supply of both food and water as well as dishes to eat and drink out of, preferably non-slip. Make sure you have at least a one week supply of any medications they require as well as the dosing instructions. Put together a pet first aid kit. Make sure you have a collar, leash, and harness (if you use a harness) for each pet. Have a good supply of plastic bags to pick up waste as well as paper towels and some sort of disinfectant to clean up after accidents. Make sure puppies have a good supply of newspapers. For cats, have a litter box and plenty of litter. There are portable litter boxes available that would be good for use during an emergency. Each animal will need their own carrier or cage. Animals such as rodents, reptiles, and birds should be in cages. Having a carrier or cage can sometimes mean the difference between being allowed in an emergency shelter with your pet and being turned away. Bring comfort items for your pets – a favorite pillow or blanket, some toys, and some favorite treats. Such items can help calm them during an evacuation and while in new places with new people. Just like with the emergency supply kits for your non-furry family members, keep all the items together in a bag that is easily accessible. Also place your pets’ veterinarian contact information, medical records, vaccination records, proof of ownership, and a current picture in the bag.
-Keep pets inside. If you are issued a grab and go order, you do not want to be hunting your property to find your dog or cat. To do so could be fatal for not just you but also anyone who relies on you to get them to safety or the first responders who go out to look for you. When your pets need to go outside to do their business, put them on a leash so you can keep them close.
-Make sure each of your pets have a properly fitting collar with all of the required tags up to date. An ID tag that includes their name and your contact information is also incredibly helpful and is essential if your pet does not have another way to ID them, such as a chip.
-Placing something like a thin sheet over your pets’ carriers or cages can help reduce their anxiety during the evacuation.
-If you find yourself in the absolute worst situation and have exhausted your resources and you must leave your pet behind, leave them inside your home and untied. Pick a room that has good ventilation but no windows. If you have several options of rooms, you might want to pick the one with an easy to clean floor. Leave dry food only. Leave them fresh water either in some non-slip bowls, tubs, etc. or leave a faucet open slightly to drip into a partially filled tub or stopped sink or bathtub.
Locally, when we talk about wildland-urban interface, a large part of what we’re talking about is farmland. Yes, we have a lot of forested areas with people, camps, and such scattered about but in our area we also have a lot of farms. With farms can come the added responsibility of putting in place evacuation plans for livestock as well as people and pets.
Law enforcement, firefighters, and animal rescue groups will sometimes work together to try to save animals when they can but it is the responsibility of each owner to evacuate their own livestock. First responders have to work quickly through areas. Sometimes the only help they can provide is open your gates or cutting your fences. Plan ahead and evacuate early to ensure the safety of your livestock.
-Create defensible spaces around your barns and pastures, just like you do for your own home. Start before fire season begins. Make sure your defensible spaces are in position before fire season is even declared.
-Create an evacuation plan well before it is needed. Do you have any animals with special needs, such as pregnant animals? What will they need? How will you transport your animals? What sort of help will you need? Make arrangements with friends, neighbors, and/or local companies if you need to rent trucks, trailers, etc. Make arrangement to get extra hands if you will need them. How much time will you need? Be realistic! Factor in things going wrong – people working quickly under stressful circumstances often means more mistakes. Animals becoming frightened and acting uncooperative means more time will be necessary to load. Be ready for that and don’t want until the last minute to evacuate your livestock! Where will you load up your animals? What do you need to have in place so that you can safely and efficiently load your animals? Whatever you need, make sure it is sturdy and in place before you need to start evacuating! Where will your animals go? Contact friends, fairgrounds, equestrian centers, stockyards, etc. to find out what their policies are about housing livestock during emergencies. Think about making reciprocal agreements – if you have an emergency and a friend’s farm is in the safe zone, you can keep your animals there and vice versa. Have several places you can take your livestock depending on how far the emergency extends, your choices filling up before you can get a place, etc. Make sure you have all of the contact information you need to get a hold of them and that they have yours as well. Pay attention to news reports. Often times, the news will report where livestock is being boarded during emergencies. Figure out multiple evacuations routes and create several maps so everyone who will help you transport will know how to get out and to your evacuation site.
-Put together an emergency supply kit for your livestock. Make sure you have enough feed and water for your herd for 72 hours. Keep water buckets on hand so you do not have to rely on an automatic watering system. Keep first aid items all together in a bag, box, or case. You’ll also want non-nylon halters and leads, a shovel, leg wraps, hoof pick, a sharp knife, wire cutters, a portable radio that can stay out in the barn or pasture with you (so any family in the house can listen to their own), flashlights, extra batteries, and a plastic trash can with a lid. While your livestock emergency supply kit might not fit in a backpack like those for your family and pets, you can still keep everything together in one part of your barn or another easy to access outbuilding. Place all of the small items in a bag or use the water buckets to store the small items. Just keep them all together, easy to transport, and easily accessible. Also keep medical records, vaccination records, registration papers, proof of ownership, and current pictures of each of your animals with your kit.
-Make sure all of your animals are tagged, marked, or branded.
-Consider moving livestock early. Especially on larger farms, there will likely not be enough time to gather, load, and move livestock once it comes time for evacuations orders. And it will be hard for neighbors to help one another because everyone will be in the same position. Be aware of the location of nearby fires, the direction they are predicted to move, and how fast they are predicted to spread. Stay up to date and plan accordingly.
-If you cannot move them early, bring them in to a closer pasture, barn, etc. so they are more readily available when it comes time to move them. During an evacuation is not the time to be crisscrossing the length of your property.
-If you’re able to, leave a trailer at the farm or other location that will be keeping your livestock during the emergency on your last trip to drop off animals. When you return to check on them for the first time, you can bring feed and store it in the trailer. For future check ups, you won’t have to try to haul a trailer through what will probably still be congested roads.
-Keep records of where each of your animals went as you might have to separate animals over multiple evacuation locations.
-If you are unable to move your livestock, leave them untied in a cleared area with defensible space around them. Make an area with this use in mind beforehand. Leave enough feed and water for 72 hours. Remember that power outages during emergencies are common so do not rely on any sort of automatic watering system. If you are unable to move all of your livestock, you need to figure out how to prioritize which animals you move, such as with genetics.
Our wildfire series will continue next week with a post on preparing your house for evacuation!