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Is Your Dog Ready For An Emergency?

Written by Anna Hollisey

Updated

Rotti in high vis jacket staying safe

Here in the US, we can get some pretty intense weather. Although we can predict and prepare to a certain extent, some disasters are unfortunately unavoidable. Depending on where you live, you’re probably pretty clued up on what to do in an emergency but is your dog? 

Preparing For a Fire

When you have babies, or fur babies, fire safety planning is more than a good idea; it’s essential. We won’t publish any scary stories here, so let’s not dwell on the possibilities. But fires can break out in surprising places at almost any time – and you’ll never regret being prepared. 

Although fur babies won’t evacuate the building when they hear a smoke alarm, it’s vital to have one installed and regularly checked (how old are those batteries? Make a note in your calendar to change them annually). If you’re out frequently then you can get an alarm which connects to your smartphone via app. But if you have the regular kind, take heart. Many neighbors will check on an unattended alarm or call the emergency services – and if you can trust yours, you could also consider giving them a spare key. 

What other equipment could you purchase to increase your protection against fire? 

ASPCA has a great fire safety pack which includes a window-sticker that notifies firefighters about your dog inside. It’s also totally free!

Your dog is probably already awesome at dropping and rolling. But if he does get sparks in his fur, a fire blanket will help you to put them out. 

Do you have a fire extinguisher? They’re not just stairwell decorations. Store one in or near your kitchen so you’re ready to put out domestic fires (then get out and call the fire brigade just in case). A small one is advisable for most homes, although more than one may be required – read the instructions before you hang it up.

Finally, check for risks in your home – especially in the rooms where your dog might be left unattended (because pets start a surprising number of house fires in the US). Here are some that you may have missed:

Electrical wires and cables 

Young dogs love to chew them. But if you’re not there to prevent it, a fire could start when the electrical components become exposed. You can secure them, re-route them beneath carpet or flooring, or completely relocate the most tempting cables. 

Candles

You should never leave lit candles unattended: ensure they’re lit only when you are in the same room (and never for too long, which increases the risk of smoking – a 300cl should burn for 3 hours maximum). Swap that kitchen candle for an electric diffuser to be safe. 

Fires and heaters 

Electrical heaters can be tipped and get very hot against the flooring; an open or gas fire is very inviting for your dog, and all these heat sources can start fires. So relocate electric heaters out of your pet’s way, and install a fire-screen to maintain a safe distance.

Preparing for Flood

If a flood is expected, you may have to evacuate – it pays to be prepared with a plan. Did you know that state authorities are required by law to have emergency procedures in place for dealing with pets during natural disasters? So there should be facilities for caring for your dog. It’s up to you to know where they are located.

  • Keep your dog’s medical details and microchip number inside a sealed plastic bag, upstairs if possible.
  • Keep a list of pet-friendly accommodation in different directions from your home.
  • Exchange spare keys with a trusted neighbor so that your dogs won’t be left home alone in case of a flash flood.
  • Keep an emergency kit for your dog – see below for what to include.

Be Prepared for a Hurricane

In October 2022, Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc in Florida with heavy rainfall and high winds, causing many people to evacuate their homes. The ASPCA worked hard to rescue more than 630 animals from shelters and houses, supporting owners who were separated from their animals. During natural disasters, way too many pets get left at home – with no recourse to safety. That means it’s important to make an emergency plan and prep your household for dealing with any situation.

Rescue services will usually check homes for people and the ASPCA or other animal rescue will check for pets, too – if they know about them. You can make sure yours don’t get left behind by putting a sign in your window. It’s useful in case of fire or flood (and you can get a free one from the ASPCA – see here). Note that if you do evacuate your dog(s), it’ll save the rescuers’ efforts if you write EVACUATED on your sign.

You’ve prepared for the worst – but you also need a plan for evacuating with your pet. When state officials announce evacuation, where will you go? This may involve locating nearby shelters or hotels which accept families with pets. You can find this out ahead of time, and keep the list somewhere prominent.

In a high-risk zone, you’ll want to keep an emergency kit ready. This includes an ID tag for your pet (with medical requirements) and a carrier, if appropriate. A microchip is good, but rescue teams without scanners can help your dog if they’re wearing a tag. 

If you live in a high-risk area, here’s a suggested list for your Evacuation Pack…

  • Food! Most important. Keep a few days’ supply (dry food will keep for longer if you’re unlikely to check your emergency kit frequently). 
  • Bottled water. Not always accessible during a flood or hurricane. Some people fill bathtubs or sinks when flood warnings are broadcast.
  • A pet first aid kit. This could contain a first-aid guide as well as wipes, bandages, dressings, scissors, tweezers, antiseptic cream and a blanket.
  • Cleaning supplies, like paper towels, spray or disinfectant to deal with urine and feces.
  • Water bowl.
  • Trash bags, flashlight, blanket, and puppy pads or trays.
  • Leash, pet carrier, and toys.