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Prepare Your Pets, Too!

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Lots of people don’t think of their pets when making emergency kits

One evening, I started to smell smoke. It was a dreadful house-on-fire smoke smell. I didn't hear any sirens, but it was obvious that somewhere nearby a house was burning. The next morning I read there were two home fires about a mile from me. This made me think about what items I would grab if I had just a few moments to get out of my burning house. Where would my cats be? Where was an emergency crate for them? Am I really as prepared as I should be?

The Pacific Northwest is awaiting the quake of the century. However, whether this quake happens tomorrow or in 100 years is unknown. This quake is known as the ‘big one’- the one that could destroy bridges, take down cell towers, and make it nearly impossible to get just about anywhere. While many of us have hopefully taken steps to prepare for a Cascadia earthquake, realistically, the most likely potential disaster that people in the Northwest may be faced with in their lifetime is a home fire. 
Fire is the most common home disaster and kills more people every year than all other natural disasters combined. To give a perspective, in six months the Portland Fire Department responded to 200 structure fires and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue responded to 50 fires. There are over 60,000 home fires across the US annually, which means about two happen every day in our region (Oregon and Southwest Washington).
According to an informal and unscientific online survey I conducted last year, about half of the respondents did not have a family emergency kit and two-thirds did not have a plan for pets.
It is important to take time to put together an emergency kit for our fur babies and to keep it readily accessible. If the kit isn’t for that 9.0 earthquake, it might be for a gas leak, broken water main, or even a fire filling your home with smoke.
“Lots of people don’t think of their pets when making emergency kits,” reports Jacleen Simons, with the American Red Cross Cascades Region. When she was a volunteer, Jacleen offered disaster preparedness training for the public in the mid-county region (Marion, Polk, Linn, Benton, and Lincoln Counties). Jacleen reminded attendees that “every pet needs their own kit with food, water, and supplies.”

While making sure you have supplies for your family and your pet to survive, don’t forget to take steps to ensure you will be reunited with your pet in case you should become separated during the chaos. “Every pet owner should do two things right now. The first is to have pets microchipped or update their pet’s microchip information,” urges Simons. “As a trained emergency animal sheltering volunteer through the Oregon Humane Society, one of the first things we do when an animal arrives is scan for a chip.”
Her second tip involves getting your cell phone out and taking a selfie with your pet. “Showing a photo of you with your pet increases the chance of a happy reunion if your pet ends up at an emergency animal shelter.”
Here are some action items you can take now and share with friends and family:


Red Cross Pet First Aid App

Download the Pet First Aid App for your phone: The American Red Cross Pet First Aid app puts veterinary advice for everyday emergencies in the palm of your hand. The app will also help connect you with pet-friendly hotels/motels in your area.
Important tips to help you safely evacuate your pet:
·                   Know where your pet might hide when stressed
·                   Find a trusted neighbor who can evacuate your pets in case you're away
·                   Practice removing your cat from his/her hiding spot quickly and firmly
·                   Practice using your cat’s carrier, a pillowcase, a sturdy box — anything to get your pet quickly out of harm's way
·                   Desensitize your pets to their carriers by making it a comfortable place
·                   Train your dog to go to the door when the smoke alarm goes off
·                   Have your entire family practice evacuating with your pets so everyone knows what to take, where to find the pets, and where to meet
·                   Using a specific command, train your dog to come to and pay attention to you despite distractions going on around him/her
Prepare your pet’s kit:
·         Keep your emergency kit up to date. Perhaps check your supplies when you turn your clocks forward in spring and back in fall.
·       Include the essentials: food, water, medications, comfort supplies (litter box, brush, treat), medication, extra collar, and leashes
·       How much water will your pet need?
o   your cat requires 2 to 4 ounces of fresh water daily
o   your dog will need 8.5-17 oz per 10 pounds per day (10 pound dog needs about 1 cup; 65 pound dog between a ¼ to ½ gallon)
Check out all the great preparedness information on the Red Cross website:
Kathy Covey authored this article. She is a Red Cross volunteer and has worked for the Humane Society of the United States, the Oregon Humane Society and the Sherwood Cat Adoption Team.