Are you and your pets evacuation-ready?

The Portland metropolitan area shuts down with 2-3 inches of snow, and freezing rain causes major disruptions to transportation and utilities. We’ve all been admonished to be ready for such events and worse ones, like an earthquake. This year’s COVID-19 shutdown forced some of us who had been putting off this planning to get prepared to shelter in place. Ensuring we had sufficient supplies of water, food, medications, batteries for flashlights or lanterns, a battery-operated radio, solar or hand-cranked chargers for the radio and/or phones—and, as time wore on, trying to avoid any unnecessary trips—really proved to us how challenging this can be.

As the weeks dragged into months, we wearied of staying home, ran out of some supplies, and experienced shortages of items we’d never have predicted. Who ever thought toilet paper would be limited? Now it’s home improvement supplies like the humble 2×4 that are nearly impossible to find. We have adjusted our mindsets to occasional shortages and seem ready to pounce on items when availability returns.  

Last month’s unprecedented forest fires focused us on the need to not only be ready to hunker down, but also to flee with very limited notice. Folks right here in the tri-county area had to evacuate and some lost their homes, many leaving with at most a few hours warning, some much less. Getting ready to evacuate in the case of fire, flood, or earthquake now seems much more relevant.  

Each family member, including each pet, needs the equivalent of a “go bag.” This needn’t be a bag, of course: I’m preparing 5 gallon buckets for my four-footed family and daypacks for the humans. This includes food for the humans that stores well and doesn’t require much preparation (canned or freeze-dried); food for the pets (especially for those that are on special diets, which may be difficult to source during an evacuation); litter for the cats; a shallow cardboard box lined with a plastic bag or similar as a temporary litter pan; carriers or crates; and collars, harnesses, and leashes. Photos of you with your pet and permanent identification such as a microchip or tattoo are all appropriate as well, especially should you get separated from that pet at any time. Ideally, an updated medical summary would also be in your “go bag,” including vaccine history and any significant medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or epilepsy.

Once you have assembled these items and water for the whole family for at least several days, congratulate yourself! Then schedule to rotate and refresh supplies every few months (this is my weakest link—my water will probably taste “stale” because it has been stored in plastic jugs for months, despite my best intentions). Know in advance where you’d expect to evacuate, and, if you don’t have close friends or family there to stay with, what shelters might be available in that area and what their policy is on accepting animals. Be sure to check out the AVMA website under Disaster Planning for helpful videos and checklists.

Guest article by Dr. Andrea Frost, DVM at Pacific Veterinary Hospital

Dr. Frost received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Reed College, her Master’s degree in Zoology (Neuroscience) from the University of Iowa, and her DVM from Oregon State University. She started practice in a rural setting in southwest Washington, where she saw bald eagles and great blue herons daily. Although southwest Portland doesn’t offer quite the same scenic views, Dr. Frost loves being part of a family practice, being able to walk to work and when it isn’t cloudy, and seeing Mt. Hood on her daily walks.

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