— It’s 5:30 p.m. and you just got home from work when there is a knock at the door. It is a police officer explaining that you have 15 minutes to evacuate your family and pets from your home as a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed close to your property.
What could you grab in your house in 15 minutes that is necessary for your family and pet’s livelihood?
Dr. Deb Zoran, associate professor and member of the Veterinary Emergency Response Team at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), presented the previous example and asked “Could you gather up your personal documents, your pet’s rabies documents, you pet’s food, enough clothing and personal belongings for yourself in 15 minutes and not forget anything?”
To ensure nothing is forgotten, Zoran recommends a preparedness plan for family and pets in case emergencies or natural disasters occur. She said this plan should include discussing locations for evacuation, meeting sites in case family members are separated or cell phones do not work, and who is taking care of the pets.
Zoran strongly encouraged not leaving a pet in an emergency situation.
“Rule of thumb that pet owners should always use is that if you are evacuating, take your pet with you. Don’t assume that you will be able to come home to take care of them because you probably won’t,” she said.
Zoran suggested people prepare a “go bag,” a little bag that is packed with enough clothing, medicine, food, water, and other necessities. This bag should also include important documents such as IDs and cash in case power is out at ATMs and banks.
“The other thing that needs to be in your ‘go bag’ is a little stash of cash because otherwise you may not be able to pay for gas, food, or anything if something truly monstrous occurs where the power shuts off,” she said.
There should also be a “go bag” for pets as well. Zoran said this should include their carrier, leashes, food, and water. For cats, this would also include a litter box and litter. As with people, the “go bag” should include the pet’s vaccination and medical records in addition to identification documents in case of separation. Zoran said this would include information about micro chipping or photographs of the animals.
For both humans and pets, Zoran said the “go bag” should contain supplies for three to five days.
Remember, the emergency situation is not always a train derailment. Other disasters may include hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes. A preparedness plan can help in all emergencies and natural disasters.
“The truth of the matter is preparing helps you think more logically and clearly because you know what to take and where things are,” Zoran said.
Zoran explained that all disasters are different so it is important to be able to adapt to the situation.
“The [preparedness] plan works until disaster hits and then what do you do? You adapt to the situation. … If you have a plan and an idea, it is much easier to adapt,” she said.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.