Originally published in the Marin Independent Journal on Aug 24, 2020

include pets in disaster planningWe’ve had quite a summer, haven’t we? As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, Mother Nature also threw in an intense heat wave, rarely seen lightning storms and now, wildfires and heavy smoke throughout the region. Add rolling power outages to that and we’re all being pushed to our limits. It can make one feel quite powerless (no pun intended). But a great way to feel empowered is to make sure you and your family —including your pets, of course — are well-prepared for disasters.

While disasters can happen any time, we’re coming up on September, which is National Disaster Preparedness Month. It’s a good time to be reminded of the importance of preparedness for every member of our family, pets included.

The best way to protect your animals is to put them in your plans before disaster strikes. A well-practiced disaster plan for you and your pets will not only reduce stress, but will also save precious time and lives.

How to prepare

• Make sure your pet has identification. A collar and identification tags should be worn at all times, and pets should be microchipped.

• Crate train your pet. You can train your pets by putting their favorite treat in the carrier and sounding a bell at the same time. Repeat the process every day until your pet comes running at the sound of the bell. The ability to get your pet quickly into a crate is essential.

• If you evacuate, take your pets with you. Animals left behind in a disaster can easily become injured, lost or killed. They can escape through damaged areas, such as broken windows. Animals left to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or accidents. Never leave them tied up inside or outside the home.

• Evacuate early. Don’t wait for mandatory evacuation orders.

As part of your personal and pet response plan, prepare an emergency kit in a watertight plastic storage container that includes:

• Leashes

• Collars

• Identification tags

• Water and food

• Medications and veterinary records

• Photos of your pet to prove ownership

Lost pets

If your animal becomes lost, immediately call or visit the nearest animal shelter or emergency command post. Post notices on social media and when deemed safe, return to your neighborhood to post or distribute lost pet posters. Continue to search your area for your missing pet — a frightened animal can stay hidden for days. Set up a feeding station and place clothes with your scent nearby. Call neighbors or service workers such as mail carriers, police, firefighters and PG&E workers for leads.

If you find a lost pet notify your local animal shelter and be prepared to give a full description of the animal and location. And remember that pets are much more likely to be reunited with their guardians if they’re kept in the county in which they’re found.

Finally, let’s remember that we’re all in this together, so share this information with others and consider reaching out to neighbors with pets if you think your neighborhood may be evacuated.

Let’s make sure our beloved pets are safe, no matter what Mother Nature brings us. To learn more, go to marinhumane.org/disaster.