Disaster Prep: 6 Steps to Protect Yourself & Your Animals

Taking these steps can help ensure the safety of yourself, your family, your livestock and your farm in case of natural disaster.

by Audrey Pavia
PHOTO: Shannon Rand/Flickr

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, winter and spring storms, wildfires and earthquakes happen, and you can protect yourself. Plan ahead to ensure the safety of yourself, your family, your livestock and your farm. A natural disaster is a terrifying experience for farmers in rural, suburban and urban areas. The following checklist can help you be prepared should a natural disaster strike your area.

1. Identify Your Animals

If you have goats, dogs or cats, make sure your animals are wearing collars with identification tags. The tags should have your name, address, phone number and an emergency number outside the area where you can be reached if a disaster occurs in your neighborhood.

Chickens can’t wear collars, but you can tag them with leg bands that contain an emergency phone number should they be found off your property after a disaster. Your other animals can be implanted with microchips for identification should they become lost.

Rabbits, cats and dogs can also be marked with a tattoo on their skin. The tattoo can have your phone number or the registration number of a tattoo registry. (The National Dog Registry registers all species of animals bearing identifying tattoos.)

Make sure you have photos of your animals easily accessible should any of your pets become lost. Having pictures of each animal can go a long way to help you relocate your livestock in the event they are separated from you. Photograph your animals from the front and side, being sure to show any distinguishing markings that can help people identify them.

2. Stock Up on Food & Water

One of the greatest hazards resulting from natural disasters is the lack of services that can occur in the days that follow. You might be without safe drinking water or a way to buy food for your animals or yourself for several days after a disaster hits. Be prepared by always stocking an extra week’s supply of food and water for your animals as well as your family.

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Purchase dog, cat, chicken, goat or rabbit feed well before your supplies run out. That way, should disaster strike, you’ll always have extra food for them on hand.

Water is a vital commodity that might be scarce after a natural disaster. Store drinking water for your animals in plastic barrels, replacing it every couple of months to ensure that it’s fresh. (If you have sufficient advanced warning of a natural disaster, you can stock up on water just before the storm hits.)

3. Make an Emergency Kit

Have a kit with emergency supplies easily accessible so you can take it with you if you have to evacuate with your animals. Pack items such as a blanket, toys, copies of rabies certificates for cats and dogs, treats, bedding and any other items your animals might need while you are away from home. Your animals’ medications and documentation of special health concerns should also be included in the kit.

Keep these items in a container that will help protect the contents in the event of a disaster, such as a fireproof box or a water-tight bag. Also, make sure the kit is easily accessible so you can grab it in a hurry if you have to leave your home in short notice.

4. Develop an Escape Plan

Think in advance about how you will get your animals off the farm should you need to evacuate. Small animals, such as cats, rabbits and chickens, can be transported in carriers, which should always be on-hand. Dogs and goats can be led with a leash. (If your goats aren’t leash trained, it’s a good idea to get them used to walking on a leash in case you ever need to evacuate them.)

Be sure you have access to a vehicle large enough to move all your animals. Crates can be stacked to help maximize space, though larger animals, like big dogs and goats, probably need to be transported in a truck or SUV. If you don’t have a large vehicle at your disposal, talk to a friend or neighbor about helping to move your animals should you need assistance.

5. Find a Place to Stay

If you are forced to leave your home with your animals in tow, think about where you will go. Shelters for disaster evacuees have become more lenient about allowing pets since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, but goats and large flocks of chickens might not be welcome at these places. Talk to a friend or relative outside your immediate area about evacuating to their home if necessary. Make sure your emergency contact knows you have livestock and that you will be bringing them along.

6. Educate Yourself

Do research hotels, veterinary hospitals, animal shelters and boarding kennels just outside your immediate area. Knowing their days and hours of operation, fees and policies ahead of time will prove valuable if your neighborhood is struck by a natural disaster.

To get started, the U.S. government offers information about hotels and campgrounds that allow animals on its Ready America website. Keep the information you acquire in your emergency kit.

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