An evacuation plan is a necessity for every home, especially if you live in an area that’s at high risk for earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, and other disasters. Although many homeowners craft and practice evacuation plans with their families, far fewer have even considered one for their furry friends.
It is Ethical?
Many people have questioned the importance of having this type of evacuation plan and for the most part, arguments could be made for either side. One group says that you should forget about the animals altogether and focus entirely on getting yourself and the children out of the home. Another group says the pets are part of their families and they must be included, even at the risk of safety.
We’d like to suggest a middle ground, with the exception of if their are children that they need to be tended to first – always. The middle ground simply means having a plan of action and being prepared. You will have to make some judgement calls – if there is imminent danger, than get yourself and any other humans out of the house – people must come first. However, if the danger is not as such that bending down to pick up the cat (and not searching for the cat while your house is filling with smoke) on the way out the door is likely not too risky.
Don’t forget that your dog has learned many tricks, and it wouldn’t be unheard of to teach the dog to get himself out. Use your heads and you’ll be okay, but for those that want to be proactive, here are some steps that will help you add your pets to your evacuation plan.
Assign pet evacuation to one adult. Everyone in your household should know the plan of action during an evacuation, and that includes assigning one adult in your family to the pets. This allows the other adult(s) and the kids to focus on their parts of the evacuation plan, so there’s no confusion during a pressure-cooker moment when time is everything.
Practice your evacuation plan. When you practice your home evacuation drills, include your pets. It’ll help you see how they will respond to commands in an urgent situation and will guide you in making changes to your plan if necessary. Hauling your cat or dog out of a window may not be as intuitive as you think!
Keep pet carriers and evacuation maps readily accessible. If your pets need carriers, keep them in a convenient place that you can access easily. And if you need to evacuate, you should be aware of precisely where every key item is. Remember, disaster is not always immediate. For example, there could be a forest fire closing in, but you have an hour to prepare – having a plan will help you best utilize that hour.
Be prepared in case you get separated from your pets. Unfortunately, no matter how much you practice your evacuation plan, it’s still a possibility that a pet will run off while you’re focused on the rest of your family. Often times after a fire, when people believe the pet was in the home, they found a way out, only to return when they least expected it. You should prepare for this possibility in advance. A GPS-compatible tag or microchip can help you find your pets once it’s safe to return.