Pet Disaster Plan: Preparing for the Worst

Learn how to prepare for the care of your pet in an emergency
By Denise Fleck, August 2019

A year ago, Tropical Storm Lane barreled into the Big Island of Hawaii and dropped a torrential 51+ inches of rain on the mainland. People and pets had to dodge mudslides, and rescues were needed to save lives. Three months prior, Mt. Kilauea erupted followed by a 4.4 earthquake -- 280 homes were destroyed, 1,700 people and pets had to flee their homes and those not directly affected, suffered migraines and worse from inhaling sulfur dioxide as their beautiful countryside was covered in a LAZE (lava and gasses).

California celebrated July 4th this year with the boom and rumble of three main 6.4, 5.4 and 7.1 magnitude shocks followed by more than 1,400 aftershocks! Although relatively minor damage was suffered, a few building fires and loss of power to thousands, next time the epicenter could be in a more heavily populated area.

Surely you recall the names, Harvey, Irma, Maria and Katrina? Without getting prepared, you and you pets will have little chance of surviving many of these disasters. With the changing climate, it is no longer IF a disaster will affect you, but rather WHEN! The time is now to get prepared.

Write it Down!

When writing both your family and business plans (there’s no guarantee you’ll be home when an emergency arises), include all family members, as well as employees, volunteers, independent contractors, in the process. Your youngest child or newest hire may think of something others have not, and you may find something was left out in the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th draft.


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Practice Drills

Go through the motions several times annually, as if it was the real thing, making everyone participate and practice rounding up every pet. Desensitizing pets to muzzles, life preservers or to stay in a carrier or seat belt may alleviate stress (theirs and yours) when you need their cooperation the most!

Know Where to Go

Human shelters only accept service animals, so find out if your city plans to erect temporary animal shelters near human locations. Choose a primary meet-up spot, and have a Plan B in case the location is in the heart of the disaster. Your plan must take into consideration how you will meet-up if reconnecting with kids who are at school or daycare, spouse at work, pets and/or elderly family members at home alone.

Know What to Stash & Where

Stash the following for each pet in an easy-to-carry backpack or crate:

  • 3-day to 2-week supply of food stored in an airtight container and a manual can opener if needed; water (for medium to large dogs, 1-gallon per day); medication. Remember to exchange these items regularly so they are fresh when needed.
  • A water-proof container with vaccination & micro-chipping records and photos of your pet with your family as proof of ownership.
  • Treats, toys, bedding, bowls or dishes; Collars/harnesses and leashes. Disinfectant for cleaning crates, paper towels, flashlight with batteries, zip ties, garbage bags and a well-stocked up-to-date Pet First-Aid Kit.

Consider storing supplies in several locations in case they are un-retrievable when the ground shakes, the flames rise or the mud slides. Positioning items inside, yet close to an outside wall, will allow easier access should buildings collapse and rummaging through rubble is required to get to supplies. Stowing duplicate items in your car and/or office is a good idea, as is placing a battery or solar-powered radio, rubber-soled shoes and a flashlight near your bed.

Sign up for emergency alerts!

  • Visit
  • Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter.

Preparing for the worst may just prevent the worst from happening!

Denise Fleck has personally taught 20,000 humans to rescue Rover or help Fluffy feel better in her role as the Pet Safety Crusader™ through her pet first-aid and disaster preparedness classes and books. She is also the board president of The Grey Muzzle Organization.

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