How to Plan Emergency Evacuations with Pets

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When emergencies happen, you want every member of your household to evacuate and move to a safer location. No one deserves to be left behind.

Evacuscape offers emergency escape chair models for this exact reason. No one who has mobility issues should be left behind during an emergency situation — or worse, they shouldn’t put themselves in further danger in an attempt to evacuate the premises along with everyone else. This chair is an essential safety tool for seniors, people with physical disabilities, people recovering from serious injuries and anyone else who will struggle to leave the premises quickly.

If anyone in your household (including yourself) will need an escape chair model to aid with your emergency planning, you should get one as soon as possible. You can place it beside the exit your household will use in an evacuation or by the staircase nearest to that exit. You want it to be easily accessible, so someone can quickly grab it and bring it to the person who needs it most. Practice using it during drills so that you can operate it smoothly during stressful and time-sensitive situations.

Once you’ve made sure that all of the humans living under your roof are prepared for evacuations, you’ll need to shift your focus onto the animals living under it. You don’t want your pets to get left behind in an emergency — they’re part of your family, too. Read ahead to find out how you can prepare all of your pets for these emergency evacuations.

Rescuing housepets during emergencies

Immediate Evacuations

There are four stages of evacuation that your household should prepare for. In a stage 1 evacuation, everyone needs to evacuate the building immediately. Emergencies like house fires and gas leaks would demand stage 1 evacuations. Time is of the essence in these scenarios, so you’ll want every member of your household to get out of the building and to a safer location as soon as possible.

As a pet owner, it can be hard to accept the following advice: in cases of immediate evacuation, you will need to focus on leaving the premises quickly. If your pets have run away or hidden in panic, you shouldn’t waste precious time going through your rooms and searching for them. You should prioritize other evacuation goals, like getting an Evacuscape emergency escape chair for anyone who needs to use it and guiding them safely out of the house.

If you’ve escaped the building, and you realize no one grabbed the pets, you shouldn’t go back into the source of danger to rescue them. Even the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs advises people to never go back into a burning building to retrieve their possessions or pets.

Why is that? First, you are putting your safety at risk by entering the building once again. You can’t be sure whether you’ll make a quick escape a second time after finding your pets. You could get trapped inside the building. You could succumb to an injury or fall unconscious. The worst-case scenario is that you lose your life.

The second reason is that your uncaged pets might escape an emergency situation without you seeing it. So, you could go into a risky environment to search for them after they’ve already fled.

So, what can you do? Call emergency services like the fire department the moment that you reach a safe location. They have the experience and equipment to handle these types of emergencies (whether it is a house fire or a gas leak). If they deem it safe to do so, they will enter the premises and try to retrieve your pets for you.

Using collars to identify lost pets

How Can You Prepare Your Pets for Immediate Evacuation?

It’s understandable that you don’t want to leave your pets behind. There are some preparations that you can take that will maximize your chances of getting all of your pets outside of the house the moment that an emergency starts:

  • Practice evacuation drills with pets like dogs and cats. Set off the smoke alarm and try to get them to come to the front door or run to their carrier.
  • Always have carriers, leashes and harnesses near the exit doors to make for an easy escape.
  • Have transportable containers or cages for pets like birds, reptiles, rodents, fish and insects that you can easily grab and carry out.
  • Designate people (adults without mobility issues) to grab pets during emergencies. Assigning this responsibility to specific members of the house will minimize any confusion in the moment.

Even with these precautions, you may not be able to round up your pets and bring them outside in time. In that case, you will want to have pictures of these pets on your phone or in your wallet to show emergency responders — this will make them easier to spot and rescue.

Your pets should be microchipped and registered to a database. Your cats and dogs should also be fitted with collars that list their names, your home address and contact information. If your pets escape your home during an emergency and go missing, these identifiers will make them much easier to bring back to you.

Preparing emergency kits for evacuations

Oncoming Emergencies

Not every emergency will require an immediate evacuation. Some emergencies will give you some time to assess the situation, gather essentials and leave the premises. Think of emergencies like power outages or earthquakes.

How can your household prepare for this type of evacuation?

Make a Plan

Start by making an evacuation plan that includes your pets. You’ll want to bring them with you. You don’t want to leave them in the house since you can’t be sure when you’ll be able to return home and retrieve them. You also can’t guarantee that your empty house will be a safe haven for them. For instance, the power could go out, leaving your pets without heat in the middle of winter.

Build Your Kit

Add essential pet supplies to your household emergency kit. Here are some essentials that you should include:

  • Bottled water
  • Pet food
  • Food/water dishes
  • Collars, leashes and harnesses
  • Blankets
  • Seasonal accessories (for example, dog boots for winter weather)
  • Necessary medication (at least a week’s worth)
  • Copies of veterinary records

Research Safe Locations

Have a list of safe locations that you can turn to in an emergency, whether it’s a friend’s house, a shelter or a hotel. You should also make a list of kennels and veterinary clinics that operate in your area since some shelters and hotels may not allow pets inside.

You shouldn’t be turned away from locations if your dog is a service animal — this is against the provincial Human Rights Code and is considered discrimination based on disability. To avoid this problem, you should have documentation that proves your dog is a service animal and that they are essential to your well-being.

No member of your household should be left behind in an emergency. Follow these steps to make emergency evacuations effective for everyone in your family (human and animal).

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