Tag: pets

Evacuate with your pet

If you had to evacuate with your pets, could you take all of them?

Over the past several weeks my neighbors and I have been caught up in the aftermath of our “almost evacuation.” (The next zone to evacuate was across the street, and we were just waiting for the police call.)

While I was fighting gusty winds and dust to get my own stuff packed up, I was particularly conscious of all my neighbors who have pets. In our senior community, pets are small. But many dogs are astonishingly aggressive. Few dogs and certainly no cats have any obvious obedience training. Many don’t seem to like a leash.

How would these pets and their owners fare in an evacuation?

Well, the threat never materialized for us. We were lucky. But as our neighborhood emergency response group continues to examine what should have gone better, pets take their place among the concerns at the top of the list. So today, let’s take a closer look at how to evacuate with your pet!

As it turns out, over this very same period I was putting finishing touches on the last book in our Mini-Series – entitled Protect Your Pet. Our booklet goes through fully a dozen situations that help define what it takes to be a responsible and loving pet owner. Throughout, it focuses on what really happens to pets in emergencies.

Emergency Preparedness Q&A Mini-Series - Protect Your Pet

If you aren’t confident you’ve thought it all through, grab a copy of the book! You’ll feel a whole lot better once you’ve answered the dozen or so questions that it contains! They cover how to evacuate with your pet, but also how to cope with everyday emergencies, pet first aid, lost pets, etc. Every pet owner needs this information.

As far as this Advisory goes, though, I’d like to focus on just two things.

1- Does your pet have what it needs to evacuate with you or with someone else’s help?

A pet go-bag.

Just as you need a custom go-bag for yourself, each of your pets needs one too. It contains basic food supplies, water, a dish, medicines and identification. Yes, the pet go-bag can contain a lot more, but these are the absolute essentials. (We have a whole chapter on pet survival kits in the Mini-book.) The go-bag accompanies your pet and . . .

Your pet’s travel carrier.

One of my neighbors contemplating being bussed to a shelter said, “Oh, I’ll just take my cat with me, on her leash.”

Here’s the problem with that. Vehicles sent to pick up senior evacuees can’t manage loose animals! Can you imagine being on a crowded bus with a dozen or so pets pulling, twisting, climbing, barking, etc.?  

To be confident your pet will be allowed to accompany you, and to be sure it will be safe during the trip, it needs its own familiar and comfortable carrier. And you need to be able to manage that carrier yourself or have arranged with a partner to help.

There are hundreds of pet carriers on the market. If you don’t have a carrier for each of your pets, you really need to consider getting one. Here are some things to look for:

  • Size. Is the carrier the right size for the pet? Some pets will feel comforted by a snug, closely fitting carrier, but most will want to be able to turn around and lie down. (Some carriers even have expandable sides to add extra room.) Before you start your search, measure your pet’s shoulder height and length in addition to knowing its weight. (Remember, only one pet to a carrier.)
  • Weight. Some fabric carriers weigh less than 3 lbs; hard-sided plastic crates can easily weigh as much as 10 lbs. Add the weight of your pet. Remember, you will be carrying this! (You’ll see one option below that doesn’t require too much carrying!)
  • Balance. A child strapped to your chest is easy to manage. So is a pet – and yes, there are chest pet carriers! But a small pet in a large backpack with a solid bottom may move around so much that you find it hard to walk safely. Moreover, while a pet may ride happily in a backpack, it can’t be left on the floor inside that soft-sided pack. Think about where you might be going and how you’ll carry your pet.
  • Airline approved. If you think you might be flying with your pet, check now to find out the size and weight limitations placed on travelers by the airlines. In-cabin pet travelers must stay in their carrier the entire time, and that carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. Caution: Not all airlines have the same restrictions! 

Below you’ll find some examples of carriers. But first,

2- Does your pet know HOW to evacuate?

Every dog we’ve had has loved “taking a ride.” From what I hear, though, other animals absolutely HATE it! Some like to be able to see out, some cower under a blanket. Some pets welcome being in a crowd of strangers, others get aggressive or frightened.

If you want your pet (and yourself) to make it through the stress of evacuation travel and perhaps prolonged confinement, you need to train your pet HOW to evacuate! This involves obedience training and crate training. We offer suggestions in the booklet. Suffice it to say for this Advisory that as a beloved member of your family, your pet deserves these trainings!

Now, some examples of carriers and crates to help you evacuate with your pet — safely and comfortably.

Click on the links beneath the images to get to Amazon where you can get full details and prices, and compare with other similar styles. As you know, we are Amazon Associates and may get a small commission if you buy through our links.

Rolling Pet Carrier. I would choose this carrier immediately for one reason – I wouldn’t have to carry it! The telescoping handle doesn’t take up much room but would make walking through airports or bus stations or a high school gym shelter a whole lot easier. This carrier also includes washable mattresses to keep it clean and comfy for your pet.

There are other rolling carriers, of course. It looks to me as though the simple ones with just two wheels won’t stand up by themselves if you need to have both hands free for a moment.  

Comes in various sizes and colors. Click below to get to more details.
Katziela Pet Carrier with Removable Wheels – Soft Sided, Airline Approved Small Dog and Cat Carrying Bag with Telescopic Walking Handle, Mesh Ventilation Windows and Safety Leash Hook (Black)

Something a bit more fashionable!

This classic bag from well-known manufacturer Sherpa looks very secure and comfortable, even stylish, with quilted sides and flexible leather handles (and additional carrying strap). It has side plus top entry – absolutely something I’d want.  Flexible frame helps bag keep its shape, adjusts to fit under an airline seat.   

Sherpa Original Deluxe Charcoal and Camel Pet Carrier, Large, Gray

Yes, a hands-free pet carrying sling!

I carried my baby boy with a sling – so convenient! This one for pets comes in a variety of colors, three sizes to fit pets up to 14 lbs. Obviously, your pet can’t stay in the sling in an emergency shelter, but this would be excellent for quickly getting out of an emergency situation.

YUDODO Pet Dog Sling Carrier Breathable Mesh Travel Safe Sling Bag Carrier for Dogs Cats (S up to 5lbs Pink)

Very basic folding crate.

Mesh all around for plenty of visibility – and so you can see instantly how your fur-baby is doing. Removable stiff floor; plush blanket included. This one comes from the Amazon Basics collection.

AmazonBasics Soft-Sided Mesh Pet Travel Carrier, Medium (17 x 10 x 10 Inches), Black

Portable dog house!

During the recent evacuation members of our family had to remove by car to a hotel with their LARGE dog. He traveled with his wire crate. Something like this soft-sided crate might have been far more convenient and comfortable. (And would look a lot nicer as a piece of furniture in the house while he’s getting crate trained.)

EliteField 3-Door Folding Soft Dog Crate, Indoor & Outdoor Pet Home, Multiple Sizes and Colors Available (36″ L x 24″ W x 28″ H, Navy Blue)

One last thought about evacuating with your pet.

In reviewing articles and comments about pet owners and their experiences with carriers, it seems that some pets are simply determined to escape. They claw, chew, scratch, pull and twist until they are FREE! So keep pet and carrier under close watch until you are sure everything is secure!

Do you have experience evacuating with a pet? Share your story below in the comments. Everyone will appreciate it!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Prepare Your Pet for an Emergency


Pet in emergency

Last night our neighborhood response group hosted a special presentation from a local non-profit, SoCal Animal Response Team. The group’s mission is to help animals in disasters and to educate owners to have a pet emergency preparedness plan.

They stress preparing yourself but also how to prepare your pet to come safely through an emergency!

Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare your pet for an emergency.

Everyday emergencies can keep you from getting home to your pet.

Even on a regular day, there are a lot of reasons why you might not make it home to your pet . . .

  • There’s a broken pipe at work and you have to stay to help clean up.
  • You get in a traffic accident on the way home and end up in the hospital.
  • A gas leak threatens your home neighborhood and you are trapped OUTSIDE the safety perimeter. No one is allowed in.

OK, so this emergency lasts all day and all night and well into the next day. In the meanwhile, what is going on with your small house pet?

Baby is wandering around in the dark, no lights, no heating. Baby finished off food and water a long time ago. Time to pee – where to go?  Time to poop – no one to take Baby for a walk! Baby whines, whimpers, howls and then gets mad and tears into a few pieces of furniture and starts destroying them.

You get the idea!

Prepare your pet with a Pet Buddy.

This is a friend or neighbor, someone who . . .

  • Knows you have a pet and notices you don’t get home as usual.
  • Knows and likes the pet, and the pet knows the Buddy.
  • Has a key to your house, knows where food, leashes, and pet medicines are kept.
  • Would be willing and able to get your cat into a pillowcase and thus into the carrier.
  • Has been authorized to take your pet to the vet for medical care if the pet gets injured. (Probably the vet will require a signed release for this.)

Being a Buddy is a big responsibility. But if you don’t find and train that Buddy, you could arrive home to a sick and hostile pet and a wrecked and reeking house.

Action item: Plan a meeting of a few neighbors (with pets) to see if you can come up with some Buddy pairs. Everyone’s pet will be safer and you will all feel better!

Prepare your pet for immediate evacuation!

Some emergencies hit without warning, but in many cases you will have some time to get packed up and into the car and headed for safety.

If you have 15 minutes, you will not have time to run through the house to grab everything you need, much less what your pet will need.

Heck, in 15 stressful minutes you may not even be able to find your pet! (Our speakers told horror stories of pets crawling into unreachable spaces.)

The plan for bigger emergencies:

  • Have your pet’s emergency kit already packed and sitting right there next to your own survival kit. (Need a reminder of what all should/could go into that kit? Here’s our recommended supplies list.)
  • Know where your pet is likely to hide and have a good way to call it to come out – for example, shake the food bag!
  • Keep important ID papers in a waterproof container (folder), along with the pet carrier. (See list of important pet papers here.)

If you are directed to a shelter, keep in mind that no matter what the law says, not all shelters will accept pets. If you’ve done your homework, you will already have a list of “pet friendly” hotels or kennels in the region. Clearly, if the disaster is widespread, these facilities will fill up fast. If you can, evacuate early to have the best chance of finding shelter for your pet.

Two-week plan for managing your pet after the hurricane, earthquake, etc.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all for disaster response. Your home could be fine, but the power is out. Your home could be partially damaged, or cut off by floods, snowed in roads, etc.

To prepare your pet for a two-week emergency, at a minimum you’ll need food, water and medicines not just for yourself but also for your pet. How much will depend mainly on the size of your pet. Of course, you’ll need warmth, light, etc.

In addition, our speakers gave us important reminders about what we might watch out for in the way of expected pet behavior in an extended emergency situation.

If your home is damaged, your animal will be disoriented, just like you are. Long-standing pet “markings” (with urine) may have disappeared or moved so your pet won’t recognize his or her territory.

Remember – your house pet is likely so domesticated it cannot protect or defend itself from danger. You have chosen your pet to be your companion. Now it’s your job to be your pet’s protector.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Inside, keep the pet in a bathroom. Safe, able to be closed up and cleaned up, no place for pet to hide.
  • If you go outside, keep the pet closely leashed to protect it from injury or from being attacked by other animals. If there is debris — broken wood, broken glass — make sure your pet is wearing booties.
  • If you’re in a group setting, you may need to muzzle your dog to be sure it doesn’t injure other people or animals. (If your dog is injured, it may bite YOU. Muzzle it.) Your cat can’t be muzzled, but injuries caused by a cat’s scratches or bites are particularly dangerous. Our speaker said that anytime their workers are bit or scratched they go immediately to the emergency room! Control your cat.
  • If your pet does escape, a couple of things can happen very quickly. First, your small pet is likely to become a victim of other hungry animals. Second, it may take only a few days for it to “revert to wild.” If you see the pet again later, it may not recognize you, may react aggressively, and may have become part of a dangerous pack of other animals. Approach with extreme caution.

Action items to prepare your pet to make it through an emergency

1-Have a pet emergency kit packed and ready to go. Include items you might not normally need, such as booties or muzzles.

2-Build and maintain a list of pet-friendly hotels and kennels – not just in your own town but wider afield in case you need to evacuate some distance away.

3-Update important identification papers for your pet, including medical information and photos.

4-Familiarize your pet with its carrying container. (Many animals find their cages/containers a very comforting place to sleep in, particularly when they have a favorite blanket or piece of your clothing.)

5-Plan a way to help organize neighborhood Pet Buddies.

Clearly, this Advisory does not cover the whole picture. But it’s a start –  with more to come! Please share with others who have house pets – and that probably means over half of your neighbors!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Knowing your neighbors’ pets is important. If the pets are always in the house, you may not realize just how many of them there are, or what KIND there are, until the walls fall down!

Evacuate Immediately!


Evacuate ImmediatelyIf someone said to evacuate RIGHT NOW, would you be ready?

  • Do you know where you would likely be heading?
  • Do you know if your pet will be allowed to go there with you?
  • Do your family members/children, who aren’t at home right now, know where you will be and how to contact you?

Here’s more about evacuations that might help you answer these questions!

Who actually gives the evacuation order?

News reports always talk about “the authorities.” In our local community, evacuation orders are given by the fire department and executed by the police department. To get the most attention and the best response to evacuation orders, professionals recommend that the warnings be issued as coming from ALL sources available (First Responders, local government, Red Cross, National Weather Service, etc.), so as to make them more credible.

Once I leave, when can I come back?

Generally, once an area is evacuated, residents will be prevented from returning until officials declare an all-clear.

If the evacuation takes place “too early,” authorities are challenged to retain control of the once-evacuated area. There’s always the danger of looters trying to sneak in. And residents go to all lengths, finding their way by back roads, etc.,  to get back to their homes to pick up valuables and particularly to deal with pets that were left behind.

What if I don’t want to leave?

As a private citizen, you can always leave your home at any time if you feel threatened. By the same token, you can refuse to evacuate if you think your home is safe, you need to provide continuing care to a family member, etc.

If an area has been officially evacuated, though, emergency personnel may be pulled away from your neighborhood and you will be left on your own. (For a very interesting view of the kinds of people who don’t respond to evacuation orders, check out this blog post: Why don’t people evacuate?”

What if I can’t leave?

You may not be able to evacuate because you don’t have access to transportation, you are mobility impaired, or you can’t afford to leave. Obviously, officials will try to provide evacuation services where possible.

In Hurricane Sandy, some people with mobility issues were trapped in high-rise buildings when electric elevators no longer worked. Only if friends and neighbors know of disabled neighbors are they likely to be able to help. If you know that evacuation would be impractical or impossible for you, your preparations for sheltering in place need to be more rigorous.

Get more about how to cope with evacuation for people with disabilities here.

Where do I go?

Your city or county will have already identified potential public shelters. Look for a list online or request one from your property manager, local fire department, etc. If an evacuation is called, you will be told where shelters are open and space is available. Don’t head for any shelter until you know it is open!

Interestingly enough, only about 15% of people go to shelters; most evacuate to friends, family or to hotels.

Can I take my pet?

Traditionally pets have not been allowed in Red Cross shelters. People end up leaving their pets at home, or leave them in the car when they have reached the shelter. Obviously, you would want to find a shelter or hotel that is “pet friendly” well in advance of an approaching storm. You can do that research beforehand. As for large animals (horses, etc.), sometimes they can be cared for a facilities such as fair grounds, etc. Check with your vet for resources and further information.

What should I bring?

Your evacuation kit should always be prepared and ready near the exit of your home. You won’t have much room in the car or even in the shelter, but your kit should contain some food and water, medical supplies, prescriptions, sturdy shoes, clothing and blankets. Having an emergency radio and flashlight is smart. Have a list of important emergency contact phone numbers; copy important papers onto an electronic “flash drive” and include it in your kit.

The Emergency Plan Guide comprehensive Checklist has two lists, one for the “Survival Kit” and another for an “Evacuation Kit.” We also have a Pet Emergency Checklist.

Hope this has made you think about how YOU will handle an evacuation order!

Virginia Nicols Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Have you been through an evacuation?  Tell us what happened and what you learned . . .! (If you have a whole story, I’d love to publish you as a guest blogger.  Just let me know.)

Emergency Supplies List


If you’re looking for a checklist, you’ll find many, many of them online. FEMA offers up a 26-item list; the American Red Cross has a 36-item list, and different commercial companies (selling tools, pre-made kits, insurance, dried food)  have their own lists, some of which extend to hundreds of items.

Different lists serve different purposes

Comprehensive checklist

Page One of list

Over the years we have created or used different lists for different purposes. For example,

* At an introductory neighborhood meeting, you may wish to distribute a simple, one-page list with items that apply to everyone and that won’t appear too intimidating.

* In a community where people have had some training, a more comprehensive list would be a good idea. (We wrote earlier about the “door-hanger list” that we created for our community.) Naturally, adding items appropriate for the geography would make sense: rain gear, for example, or cold-weather gear.

* In a senior community, a list might focus on items that apply to older people: 14-day supply of medicines (and how to get your doctor to give you extras), extra eyeglasses, batteries for hearing aids, etc.

* A community with pets needs a completely different set of reminders. (You can get a copy of our Emergency Pet Supplies Kit here.)

* A quick reminder card, useful for teaching, might have only a half-dozen items or a specific, focused list of supplies (for example, what you need in your first aid kit).

Our Emergency Supplies List

The Emergency Plan Guide has prepared its own comprehensive list. We have found that breaking it into three sections makes it easier for people to focus on. The three sections are:

 17 basic items for a 3-day emergency

 11 more categories for managing an extended, 14-day emergency

 10 essentials to take if you must evacuate

What’s important is to get your list, and then take the time to see what’s missing from it based on your family’s needs. Add those items to the list, and start assembling!

Like many families, you may need to prepare not only for the three situations listed above, but you may also want to put together specialty kits to carry in your cars, for students away from home, or for the office.

Get started now!

There is no time to assemble emergency supplies after the earthquake, after the storm has hit, after the fire has forced you out of your home.  Action item:  Download the Emergency Supplies Checklist and get started.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S.  I am not called the “Queen of Lists” for nothing!  Stick around Emergency Plan Guide and you will discover a number of them. Lists help me think, and keep me on track.  I hope you’ll find them useful, too!


Emergency Food and Water Supply – An Intro


You have numerous choices in putting together an emergency supply of food, water and medicines.  You can purchase kits that include a year or more supply of freeze dried food or even MREs (Meals Ready to Eat).  And this kind of preparation may well fit your plan.  A lot depends on where you are located, the density of population in your “neighborhood,” etc.

Medicines for the family and pets take extra care. 

Medicine supply

Enough to last 10 days?

Of primary importance is your supply of medicines that members of the family (including pets) require.  Making sure that prescriptions are refilled promptly so that you always have at least two weeks worth of them on hand can be life saving.  Some prescriptions are timed to renew closer to the end of the supply so a discussion with your doctor or pharmacist may be necessary.

A realistic food supply. 

Before you go out and spend several hundred dollars on food packets that are likely to sit in a closet or on a storage shelf for months or even years waiting for a cataclysmic event, we suggest that you take a more practical, less expensive route and simply buy extra portions of the canned & packaged goods that you eat regularly and “rotate” their usage so that
you always have items with the longest shelf life on hand. 

Will it need cooking? 

Obviously, if these are to include frozen items, you will want to have an alternate supply of electricity, such as a gas generator available to run periodically.  Likewise, if chosen foods will require cooking, you will need a portable camp stove to use in preparing meals.  What you choose to “stock up on” will depend on your regular eating habits as well as your physical situation. 

Let’s not forget pets.

MREs don’t work too well for them. They are not likely to want to taste “pet MREs” any more than you want to eat human ones.  In fact, pets also may not be prepared to eat ANY new food. Keep that in mind as you pack food supplies for their emergency kits.

How much to store? 

How much of a supply you keep on hand is up to you.  Some foods have a shelf life of more than two years.  Many are best used within six to nine months.  We’re really focused on having a supply to last us for 3 to 10 days.  Anything longer than two or three weeks and we would expect outside help of some kind.  And a case in point – something of an embarrassing admission – we have a ten gallon container of dried foods that we purchased several years ago that is nearing the end of its useful life.  That turns out to be a not-so-good investment.  We’re not likely to replace it. 

If you are a serious and experienced survivalist, you will find these references to emergency food and water mighty simplistic. But if you have just begun to think about pulling together emergency supplies, it can be a start.

You’ll find much more detail on these topics right here in the Advisories. Just head up to the “search” bar at the upper right of this page, type in “water” or “food” or “pets” to get a lot more info!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team