Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to formulate a family emergency plan for natural and man-made disasters

There is no such thing as being too prepared!
By Ines de Pablo - Wag'N Enterprises, LLC
When you decided to take in a pet you took on the responsibility to care for the well-being and care for this animal for its lifetime, no matter what hazards get in the way. At Wag'N Enterprises we take and recommend an all-hazards approach to preparedness as the basics remain the same regardless of the nature of the emergency. You are your pet’s 911! They depend on you and your thumbs to keep them safe and healthy. See Dog’s Plea

COUPLE OF FACTOIDS 

·        * You are more likely to panic if you don’t have a few good rehearsed plans. Screaming and utter panic does not extinguish fires, stop earthquakes, etc. You need to remain calm and collected. Pets pick up on your stress and should they be injured make the medical condition worse was increasing blood pressure.

• Bad things happen to good people, so yes it can happen to you and your pet(s).
• Plan A does not generally work out. Don’t sell your soul to that plan. Have good contingencies ready.
• Any rehearsed plan is better than any theoretical plan.

ALWAYS: Pets should wear a collar with its regular identification, county license, microchip and rabies tag at all times. Update microchip information when you move, change phone numbers, get new job or anytime your contact information changes.

No matter what the nature of the emergency, pet parents will always need to consider 7 essential concepts. We all need:

SECURITY
Generally shelter from the elements and other hazards (including wildlife and other people)
* Make sure the scene you are in is less stable than the scene you are going to escape to before you make your move. If not, shelter in place.
* How you will protect yourself, your family, your pets and property against the element and others once you have evacuated or once you emerge from your shelter-in-place location.

A DESTINATION
Even if it’s your safe room you need to get there and have it established as the go to place. Also know in which instance to select that safe room or another location

* Known Out-of-Town Location 
   - Make sure OUT OF TOWN CONTACT 1 can and will accept and accommodate you and your pets
   - You have OUT OF TOWN CONTACT 1 contact information readily available at all times
   - OUT OF TOWN CONTACT 1 is not in the path of whatever disaster is striking your area
   - You have a backup to OUT OF TOWN CONTACT 1. Who know OUT OF TOWN CONTACT 2 maybe better prepared, available and on higher grounds!

* On The Fly
   - Now make sure you scope out pet friendly hotels along your evacuation route.
   - Not all shelters accept pets. Those shelters that do require vaccination records and proof of ownership.

TRANSPORTATION 
* Your Own (like secondary residence or camping site)
   - Make sure you always keep your gas tank half full…always…like at all times. The lines at the gas station after an emergency is declared…fuzzy & mega busy. Evacuation routes slow and mostly gas guzzlers.
   - Make sure you check your tires and the spare. Enough air I hear helps you get further. Keep a car safety kit if you get stranded in the winter time.
   - Do not overload your car. Seriously. It’s an emergency. As a general rule of thumb Go-Bags should not have wheels and weigh more than what you can carry. It’s a GO BAG. NOT A SIT-IN & GET COMFY BAG!

* Friends/Family/Neighbors
   - When everything is fine planning is easy. Remember that your neighbors, friends etc are people too and that they certainly have a list of things they want to include. You would be a guest in their vehicle - assuming they wait for you and/or that you make the rendezvous point on time – so now is a good time to determine how much of your stuff they can accommodate.
   - If you are THE DRIVER or what we like to call THE PLAN then remember others are counting on you. Reassess your list of essentials and let them know what is permissible to bring along. Practice now to ensure it all fits and all people and pets get along. If you don’t practice this now, there will be a very rude awakening during the emergency when tensions already run high.
   - Pet owners should keep a list of all their emergency contacts’ (friends, neighbors or family members) contact information and pre-printed copies of lost pet posters readily available in their grab and go bag. The Wag’N Rover Respond’R is another valuable tool pet owners should use to keep important information handy in their vehicles as well.

* Communal/Public Transportation
   - Most of them do not accept pets that cannot fit on your lap inside their crate. If you have more than 1 pet or the one would crush your lap in bus, make other arrangements now. Start the discussion.

COMMUNICATION 
* Family: You and your family should plan how you will contact each other if you are not together when disaster strikes/Zombies attack. Don't rely exclusively on cellular telephones since they usually work intermittently following a disaster. Landlines are you best bet. During the August 23rd East Coast Earthquake first responders and emergency managers asked the public to not flood cell phone towers with unnecessary calls. Text, Twit or Facebook instead as real emergency calls may not make it through. Discussing Fido’s feelings after an event is not crucial and can wait or be shared through other means. Someone out of town may be more easily able to communicate among separated family members.
Your plan should include designating at least 1emergency contact person who lives out of town. Not just in the next zip code! Have at least 1 person you trust that lives within a 100 miles radius and that you know how to get in touch with, how to get there and that will accept you AND your pets.

* Emergency Contact: That person does not have to be near you. It could be Aunt Anna 100 miles away who is always watching TV and lives at home glued to phone. She would be a great emergency contact because she both lives out of town and is available. She can become your dispatch of sorts. Everyone in your family can send in a status report and she can coordinate activities and remind you of your option, tell you what is being reported road closure wise. Landline calls out of town are more likely to make it thank local and cell calls. Of course she cannot be a manic zombie, so select wisely!

* Medical: Know where your nearest hospital is, how to get there and keep hospitals and emergency vet clinics marked on your evacuation route map (yeah that paper think). Keep the contact information of your primary care physician, veterinarian, emergency vet, poison control (1-800-222-1222) and ASPCA Poison Control (1-888-426-4435/$65 fee) on paper and electronically at home, in your car and in your go bag.

ESSENTIALS
* Food & Water
   - Water for 7 days. That is 1 gallon of water per person per day minimum. Water can be used for drinking, sanitation, cleaning, cooking, medical, cooling down engine, etc. Too heavy? Consider water purification tablets and camping equipment to filter and boil water found on the go. For pets add 2 quarts per day per pet.
   - Food for 7 days. Make that non-perishable food please. Technology is tricky. For those of you that feed RAW consider adding Dehydrated or Freeze Dried brands to your pets food now so their system can get used to it and keep a large bag of that food in your GO BAG. The emergency is really a bad time to find out that Fido gets raging diarrhea at Aunt Judy’s because he had never had this food before. Even worse when at a collocation shelter!
   ... We recommended dog food and cat food brands such as Grandma Lucy's Grain-Free Freeze Dried ; K9 Natural Freeze-Dried Dog Food; Wysong Canine & Feline Diet Archetype Freeze Dried Food; Paw Naturaw Raw Freeze Dried Food; Grandma Lucys Pureformance Diet; etc.
   ... The benefits of those are that you can get a lot of food that won’t weigh you down and has a very long shelf life. The downside is you need more water. So plan for it and get your pet digestive system used to it now! No matter what always include food you pet is used to in order to maintain health and diminish stress and sanitation issues.

* Medication
   - Yours and your pets of course. When you prepare the Go Bag keep a Go Bag Calendar to make notes of when things were placed inside and when they expire. Unless you are planning on using the go bag as a weapon against Big Foot…pack it so it does not kill you!
   - Place meds in Ziploc bags and label each so others can help you and not get things messed up and confused.
   - Human & Pet First Aid Kit. Get the right tool to stop the bleeding, respond to poisoning emergencies. At a minimum get some instructions. Cuts & Booboos are bound to happen. Preferred tools & references: Wag’N Pet First Aid Bandana, The Safe Dog Handbook, Pet & Home Emergency Pocket Guides, Veterinary Disaster Response (the ultimate comprehensive guide).
   - Skill: Know the skills of first aid and CPR for all members of your family. Learn how to manage chocking, revive non-breathing creatures, bandage wounds, etc. Find a PetTech Instructor in your area now. Recertify through Red Cross or American Heart for the human components.
   - Proof of your identity. Proof of pet ownership included.
   - To keep the confusion to a minimum get your pets’ immunization records and proof of ownership in multiple copies, updated often in your Go Bag. Most important is picture of you and your pet(s). That is every family member that can physically care for the animal(s), and are considered owners on that picture. This ensures all these people can claim ownership at a shelter or care for animal at a collocation shelter if they are recognized as owners.
   - Pet owners should carry a record of their pet’s medical history, a photo of their pet and emergency contact numbers (veterinarian, local animal control, etc.). A Wag’N Pet Passport is a good solution to put all information together in one place.
   - Of course keeping records of your social security card, copies of mortgages, loans, deeds, insurance, medical records, birth certificates, passports, driver’s license, family and house content pictures, etc in your Go Bag & in a safety deposit box is always a safer bet should you need to file claims or need to prove your identity to authorities, insurance companies, etc

SHELTER
This selection should vary depending on the nature and scale of the emergency. Either way plan for all and go back to Transportation, keeping paper maps in the car to find alternate routes. Technology fails. Paper and pen notes survive water damage better!
* Shelter-in-place. Can be hazard specific. Safe room on top floor in tornado alley may be a problem. Safe room in basement in flood zone or near water also a problem. How many people can fit in? What is it protecting against? How long can you stay in there? What resources will you need?
* Evacuate. Assuming it is not safe for you to remain at your current location, you need to get out of dodge. How far should you go? Where will you stay? Is there still room?
   - In Town
   ... On your own terms (Camping)
   ... Friends/Family
   ... Hotels/Motels (make sure you keep records now of those that are pet friendly)
   - Out of Town
   ... On your own terms (Camping)
   ... Friends/Family
   ... Hotels/Motels (make sure you keep records now of those that are pet friendly)
   - Out of State
   ... On your own terms (Camping)
   ... Friends/Family
   ... Hotels/Motels (make sure you keep records now of those that are pet friendly)

COMMON SENSE ITEMS
   - Emergency/Weather Radio to keep track of updates news on hazards, find shelters, road closures, public transportation, weather changes, help and FEMA centers, etc.
   - Ways to cook food and filter & treat water
   - Clothes
   -  Sanitation (no one stops going to the bathroom during emergencies…sorry)
   - Trash bags
   - Cat litter. A bucket with lid and cat litter makes for a great human toilet!
   - Poop bags
   - Multi-tool knife
   - Flashlight and extra batteries
   - Can opener
   - Whistle
   - Human & Pet Life Jackets
   - Towels. Beach towel if possible and smaller cotton towels. The large towel can be used as a stretcher (people and dogs); cut into pieces if needed to bandage or wrap things together; to carry & wrap pets & small infants, to cool someone (or pet) suffering from heatstroke (that’s when the skills of first aid class come into play); to warm up/as blanket; as a towel, bandanna, or to wave at helicopters or rescuers, etc. Get your MacGyver on!
   - Pet Carriers of puppy course! 1 per pet even if they get along fine during non emergency times. It’s at the discretion of the emergency animal shelters to keep them together or separate them. Should one of the pets get sick or injured it will be better off alone (for its safety and the health of other pet).
   - Always keep paper and electronic copies of the following information, preferably in a resealable bag:
   ... Pet’s veterinarian information
   ... Emergency animal hospital
   ... National poison control (800.222.1222)
   ... Paper maps of your neighborhood, town, county as well as regional maps.
   ... Veterinary and immunization records
   ... Pictures of owner(s) with pet(s) for proof of ownership

Once a pet emergency management plan is made, practice the plan with your family, considering multiple hazard scenarios and giving yourself various time frames to evacuate.
A non-rehearsed plan is a BAD plan! You will learn so much about your stress management and criticality assessments skills, that of your family and friends, pets will do their part – assured; and will keep you from making assumptions - your actual worst enemy!

Don’t the frost man bite! 
Get away from the TV and start preparing!


About Wag’N Enterprises, LLC
Wag'N Offers Pet Emergency Management Solutions to Service Industries, First Responders and Pet Parents To Effectively Mitigate, Prepare And Respond To Emergencies That Impact Pet Health And Safety.
Keeping pets and their people trained, safe and ready since 2007. www.WAGNPETSAFETY.com

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