10 Ways My Dogs and I Prepare for Natural Disasters
Editor's note: This originally story ran in October of 2012.
In the last six years, my small home city of Binghamton in upstate New York has been hit by two "100-year floods." Both of these incidents have involved the mandatory evacuations of thousands of residents and dozens, if not hundreds of businesses.
Each storm earned us visits from the National Guard and later, federal and state government programs to help with the rebuilding. The first of these floods came in 2006, and the most recent was just over a year ago, in September 2011.
People and businesses had not fully recovered from the 2006 flood when last year's arrived. Many have moved away, hoping to find higher and drier ground, often cutting their losses on now-condemned properties. One of my best friends has twin five-year-old boys who had just started kindergarten last September when their school was destroyed so badly it had to be torn down and rebuilt. Even now, they are bused to a former Catholic school as a temporary solution until their actual school can be rebuilt.
I remember driving around (once the Federal State of Emergency had been lifted), surveying the damage in my area. While I understand that this is on a much-smaller scale, I couldn't help but think I understood some small portion of the despair felt in Louisiana after Katrina - houses condemned, sprayed with bright orange or pink Xes. I saw entire yards full of what looked like garbage, but was in fact one family's lifetime full of memories -- pictures, art projects from a time when their children were young, precious treasures passed down through generations. This wasn't garbage -- it was someone's life.
So to say I'm acclimated to crappy weather that makes everyone feel like they'll be lucky to escape with life and property is no exaggeration. During both storms, we were fairly lucky -- our house is two blocks outside the mandatory evacuation zone, and our home suffered no damage. My businesses weren't so lucky, and I've cleaned up probably five flooding events at my dog training classroom in six years.
And now here comes Sandy. While the forecast is saying we probably won't get the widespread overflowing of our rivers, we may be in for some moderate flooding in low-lying areas and near streambeds. The biggest concern at this point seems to be wind; predictions of damaging gusts at more than 60 mph are a bit scary. I'm hopeful that our good luck trend of being able to stay home continues, but am not betting on it -- it's always better to plan for the worst and feel foolish later than to find yourself in an emergency situation unprepared.
So, just to be safe, here's the prep that's going on at my home tonight. Feel free to steal my tips if Sandy is set to arrive on your doorstep as well!
1. Fill up all kinds of receptacles with clean water.
We're talking buckets, pots, pans, water bottles, pitchers -- even Rubbermaid totes. In the last floods, we were told to avoid tap water entirely. And history shows that the local grocery stores are unable to keep bottled water stocked on the shelves.
Even though the storm hasn't arrived yet, we have enough water to get us through for about a week if needed. We'll each take showers and fill the bathtub, just in case.
2. Stuff every toy you can full of raw food and freeze them.
I am a raw feeder, so I would prefer to stick to as normal a dietary routine for my pups as I can. Since the weather may make getting them out for their normal exercise impossible, it's a good idea to be prepared with stuff to keep them busy indoors. Think of a frozen stuffed Kong as the doggy equivalent of a coloring book for a toddler!
3. Have kibble packed in the van, just in case.
My van already contains at least enough kibble for each of my dogs and both of my cats to eat for a week.
4. Pack medications.
Any supplements or medications your dog needs should be packed and ready to go. If your dog has extreme anxiety issues in stressful environments and you have time, talk to your vet about emergency treatment options for reducing stress in times of trauma.
5. Get your crates ready.
The crates are already set up in the van for the dogs. When the storm arrives tomorrow, the cats will be confined to a particular room with their carriers near the door -- so they can't run and hide if we need to get them quickly before evacuating.
6. Prepare a canine first aid kit.
While you may purchase a first aid kit if you have time, you also probably have many of the items on this list already at home.
7. Have your veterinary records on hand.
It's important to have accurate and up-to-date vaccination and veterinary records available for all of your pets in case of emergency. Take photos of your dog's records, so you have them handy, and read Julia Szabo's Dogster article, "12 Tips for Keeping Dogs Safe During a Disaster."
8. Make sure your dogs are wearing their collars.
My dogs hardly ever wear collars, but they have them on now. I have temporary tags bearing contact information for a friend that lives out of the storm area, in case I am separated from my dogs or unable to reach my phone if I were to be separated from them.
9. Have an iPod and battery-powered speakers handy.
I have my Through a Dog's Ear CDs loaded onto my iTunes and ready to go. Just a little something familiar and comforting to help soothe if we find ourselves in an evacuation situation.
10. Plan a midnight walk.
I know I might not be able to get the pups out for a bit safely, so we're heading out for a late-night walk before things get yucky.
To all Dogsters in the path of Sandy: Stay safe. Prepare well for your dogs and yourselves. For more on what you can do to keep your family safe, visit the Red Cross page for more information.
Read more about preparing for disasters with dogs: