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Include pets in your disaster planning
KENT, Wash. – Torrential downpours and saturated earth are typical of winter weather in western Washington and so is flooding. In fact, flooding is the most common and costly weather-related disaster in western Washington, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Major flooding situations can often result in communities needing to evacuate and take steps to protect their families and property.
“In King County alone there have been 12 presidentially-declared flood disasters since 1990,” said Julia Patterson, Chair of the King County Flood Control District. “That’s an average of a major event every other year. That’s why we urge everyone to prepare for flooding. Because it is not a matter of if it will happen, but when.”
Pets and animals in our care may seem like secondary concerns when in the midst of a flood situation;however, having an emergency plan that includes pets and animals is a critical part of being prepared forfloods and decreases the likelihood of the need for emergency rescues, which also put first responders in harm’s way.
Animal welfare gained national attention during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, prompting Congressto pass the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act in 2006, which requires that state and local disaster plans include pets in their procedures.
Most recently, Super Storm Sandy has displaced what looks to be thousands of pets. According to the American Humane Association, some 15 million dogs were in the storm’s path. Search and rescueoperations and temporary emergency shelters for pets lost in the storm are in full effect to help reunite families with their animals.
Last month, the Seattle Animal Shelter unveiled the Pet Emergency Trailer-Seattle (PETS). Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the unit is intended to contain all supplies necessary to pop-up a pet shelter during an emergency. Pet shelters can then be co-located with human shelters so the whole family unit can stay together in the same area. This allows staff, volunteers and owners to provide care throughout the day. Up to 40 animal groups can be sheltered by the PETS unit at one time.
“As Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy demonstrated, even if you have emergency supplies for you and your pets it’s not always safe to shelter in place,” said Kara Main-Hester, manager of volunteering and fundraising for the Seattle Animal Shelter. “Previously, pet sheltering was not one of the services we could provide residents during and after an emergency. Now we’re able to offer pets asafe place near the rest of their family should they be forced from their homes.”
When making a plan for your pets, think first about the basics for their survival, particularly food and water. Consider two kits – in one, put everything you and your pets will need to stay where you are; the other should be a portable version that can be taken along during an evacuation. Download a completepet preparedness checklist at TakeWinterByStorm.org.
“Pets are family, and just like any other member of the family, you need to make sure that you thinkabout their safety and well-being in an emergency,” said Dr. Gene Mueller, manager of Regional AnimalServices of King County. “Never leave your pet behind if you have to evacuate your home, and be sure your pet is wearing a license, identification tag, or is microchipped. That way, if you do get separated, it’s much more likely that you will be reunited after the emergency is over.”
Simple steps such as creating an emergency kit, making a plan for emergencies and staying informed can keep families and pets safe during bad weather and emergencies.
The Take Winter By Storm campaign is a collaborative, public-private effort spanning westernWashington that includes the City of Seattle, King County, the King County Flood Control District,Puget Sound Energy, State Farm, NOAA’s National Weather Service, American Red Cross and BartellDrugs. These organizations – which represent Washington state’s largest counties and city emergencymanagement offices and energy utilities, the leading insurer of homes and automobiles, weatherforecasters, first responders during disaster occurrences and local businesses – have joined forces in themajor multi-media public awareness campaign to raise community awareness of hazardous weather and encourage behaviors that help protect lives and property.
The Take Winter By Storm website, TakeWinterByStorm.org, is a one-stop emergency preparednessinformation hub that includes safety tips and regional resources related to high winds, heavy rain, snow, freezing conditions, power outages, flooding and more.
The public is encouraged to take the following actions in preparation to be storm ready:
Create an emergency preparedness kit with at least a three-day supply of non- perishable food and water for your home and office. Kits prepared for vehicle road travel and winter weather evacuation go-kits are also advised.
Make an emergency plan and practice it with your family and those who depend on you – including animals.
Stay informed and monitor the weather approaching so you are prepared for whateverMother Nature throws your way.
Visit TakeWinterByStorm.org for more information and helpful resources, such as a downloadable preparedness and maintenance checklists and emergency contact cards.
You can find Take Winter By Storm on TV, radio, the Internet, as well as on Facebook, YouTubeand Twitter:
Twitter.com @WinterByStorm, #stormready, #winterprep
The Take Winter By Storm campaign is made possible by the following Partners: Bartell Drugs, City of Seattle, King County,Puget Sound Energy and State Farm; Sponsors: Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and Snohomish PUD; CommunitySupporters: City of Bellevue Office of Emergency Management and Pierce County; and Participating Supporters: American RedCross, City of Seattle Department of Planning & Development, Goodwill, King County Flood District, NOAA/National WeatherService, Seattle Department of Transportation, and Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.