Speaking of Pets: Disaster preparedness response
Speaking of Pets
No one wants to face a disaster like a wildfire, but the threat is always there.
Prepare for the worst
Familiarize yourself with Vail evacuation plans. An order is mandatory; a warning asks you to remain alert for an order. However, leaving as soon as you get a warning means less stress for you and your pets, and helps avoid tragedies like being trapped by fire. Your home and possessions can be replaced, but your life and the lives of your animals can’t.
Sign up to receive emergency alerts at ECalert.org. Link your cell phone with a property address by registering your number with Eagle County. Give a set of house keys to a neighbor who can rescue your pets if you’re not home.
Saving your animals
First, ensure your own safety. You can’t do anything to help your animals if you’re panicked or incapacitated. That means having an advance plan: have your cat carrier easily accessible, and keep an extra dog leash and secondary food and water bowls in your car.
Fully secure your animals in the car, and keep your windows rolled up and your headlights turned on.
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Because our pets respond to our emotions, you can help them by staying calm. Understand that they can be just as confused and frightened as you. Once you’ve reached safety, spend time stroking and speaking gently to them to assure them they’re safe.
Return home only when authorities give permission, then keep your dogs and cats indoors, especially if there’s still smoke in the air. There could also be hotspots on your property, or even wild animals that have taken refuge nearby. Keep your pet leashed if you go outside, as familiar scents and landmarks may have disappeared and your pet could become lost.
If the worst happens and you’re facing a wildfire, your response can make the difference between life and death for you and your pets.
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Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever Joey and Maine coon cat Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at email@example.com.