Preparing for hurricane evacuations and emergencies when you live with companion pets.
Coastal living in Florida isn’t all sand, surf, and fun. It’s also hurricane seasons and no name storms. There’s a finesse and light nod to the future unknowns coming after June 1st. Evacuation plans are as important as not evacuating plans. You need the best not evacuating plans to serve the sudden decision to evacuate after all. Nimble is a word that comes to mind. Very nimble. Nimble and prepared to pivot with plans for contingencies. Evacuating doesn’t happen in the calm. It happens in the stress and mess of thousands of others, stressing and making messes.
Local officials can order evacuations for many circumstances. And none of them are relaxed. Do your thinking, planning, preparing, and collecting while you can think straight and clear. Being prepared to the best of your ability will remove a portion of the sudden stresses you’ll feel the day you evacuate to high ground, safe shelter, or indirect incoming storm paths. If you have beloved companion pets, it’s doubly demanding in startling ways. The real goal for evacuation and hurricane plans is to remove as many surprises as possible.
The time to check for the latest hurricane evacuation routes for your area is before hurricane season begins. Pre-season doesn’t only apply to football. Now’s the time to not only locate the best routes for you, but the pet-friendly hotels and motels along those routes. Gather that information and the phone numbers to those locations. You’ll want to call and make a reservation as soon as you decide evacuation is your choice during a storm. And if you’re really ready to rumble, call to confirm the hotel’s position on your specific companion pets if there is a hurricane. Creating a hierarchy list of likely places to stay is helpful. Do know that if a Federal Emergency is called for your area, laws mandate hotels must accommodate any paying customer with or without pets.
If you are evacuating with your pet in a vehicle, do you know for a fact that there’s enough room for your pet and their supplies? There’s not as much space as you think.
Hurricane Ian made our personal Tetris shortfalls clear. Protected interior cubic feet space was missing from our plans for all our companion animals. We ran out of packing space because we didn’t test drive the plan. This year we added a second vehicle to our life and evacuation plans. We test drove and dry fit cages and carriers inside vehicles until we found the SUV that had the cubic feet necessary so when the going got tough, this tough family could get going safely. Test drive your strategies. Use a separate cage for each companion pet. When animals stress, they can become aggressive toward each other, even when they are usually the best of friends. For smaller pets, a collapsible cage is easier to handle when it’s not being used. Some companion pets require additional items. Pack your vehicles to see if everyone and their things can safely fit for the ride. The day you really pack up and in, you will be under a lot of stress and worry. Get it right on a quite sunny weekend day, and you’ll be able to get it right in heavy winds and threatening weather reports.
Dry fitting your transportation gives you time to think through what you’ll really need, what you could conceivably leave behind, and what carriers need a change or upgrade for the best results. We pack for three days of no ability to replace pet foods and bedding supplies.
Bring your companion pets with you every time you evacuate. Even if you are only planning to be gone for a few hours, emergency conditions can prevent you from returning for days or weeks. Be patient, calm, and kind with your companions. They are looking for you to tell them how they should feel. Which is why the better you’ve prepared, the more confident you will feel. Your confidence will support and calm your children, your family, and your companion pets.
Essential human supplies to have on hand for hurricane season in Florida are essential supplies for emergency stockpiling:
- Water — at least one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days.
- Non-perishable food — at least a three-day supply of canned goods, protein bars, dried fruit, nuts, and powdered nutrition mixes to drink.
- Cell phone charger — or portable solar-powered charger.
- Flashlight — with extra batteries.
- First aid kit — with basic medical supplies such as bandages, antiseptic, and pain relievers.
- Prescription medications — a two-week supply of all necessary prescription medications.
- Personal hygiene items — such as soap, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes.
- Cash — in case ATMs and credit card machines are not working.
- Keep your car, truck, or SUV gas tank filled during Hurricane Season. It’s just easier this way, and you’ll be ready to go at a raindrop’s arrival.
- Important documents — such as birth certificates, social security cards, ID documents, life and homeowner’s insurance papers, and medical information in one totable soft-sided briefcase. Store the bag somewhere safe in your home. Ready to be grabbed and packed on a moment’s notice.
Evac Tip: Keep recent copies of gas and electric bills that show your name and address in your document briefcase. After a storm, getting back to your property could be difficult. You’ll be required to prove your residency and having more than enough documentation is better than not enough. Property tax bills, gas/electric/city service bills are powerful proof for reentry.
A companion pet evacuation kit specific to their needs:
- At least three days’ worth of food and bottled water.
- Medications and medical records (digital on the cloud or paperwork in your document bag).
- First Aid Kit.
- Food and water bowls.
- Litter and litter box for cats.
- Leash and collar or harness for dogs.
- Carrier or crate for smaller pets.
- Blankets and bedding.
- Toys or comfort items.
- Plastic bags for waste cleanup.
- Reptiles will require travel cages that allow their necessary heat and humidity needs to be met.
Evac Tips: Rabbits and guinea pigs can do well with just their kibble, hay, and fresh water. No need to worry about fresh foods. Parrots can also do well with their familiar parrot food mixes and pellets. No need to worry about packing the produce aisle. But make sure they have a parrot specific First Aid Kit.
Planning and test driving your family evacuation needs, including finding the best evacuation routes and pet-friendly hotels, is crucial. Test driving transportation plans and packing schemes creates confidence for you. Being familiar with what you will and will not do during emergencies and evacuation eliminates guessing games. Because there’s no time for games or guessing during emergencies.