Posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Evacuation Plans for the Entire Family

Photo credit: USA Today. “Tammy Lance of Payson, Utah, is emotional after finding kittens alive under a burned-out truck in the Oaker Hills neighborhood in Sanpete County.”
Photo credit: USA Today. “Tammy Lance of Payson, Utah, is emotional after finding kittens alive under a burned-out truck in the Oaker Hills neighborhood in Sanpete County.”

As we watch the fires in the west with heavy hearts, our thoughts go out to those who have lost so much. Losing all of your belongings to a fire or some other natural disaster is horrific and life-altering, but losing a family member (human or of the furry kind) can make these experiences devastating. To keep the ones you love safe, make a plan!

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) has created a wonderful document that explains how to best prepare for disasters and create plans for your furry family members – big and small. Here are a few pointers we thought were important to start with:

Do Not Wait Until It Is Too Late

Countless times people have been told to leave their homes for a “short time,” only to find that they cannot return for days or weeks. Even disasters like gas leaks and minor flooding can keep you from tending to your animals for extended periods of time. To prevent situations such as these


It is best to be overly cautious during a disaster warning. Preparing ahead of time and acting quickly is the best way to keep you and your family, including your animals, out of danger.

Familiarize yourself with each type of disaster that could affect your area, not forgetting a hazardous materials spill.

  • Be prepared for the possible disruption of services for extended periods of time, including electric, phone, and local food and water sources.
  • Having a plan in place and practicing the plan prior to a disaster will help you accomplish a successful evacuation and maintain the safety of your animals.1
  • Visit www.avma.org for the most current information and for links to additional websites.

Preparing a Disaster Plan

Set up an appointment to talk to your veterinarian about disaster planning.

  • Assemble an animal evactuation kit
  • Develop an evacuation plan for all of your animals and practice the plan.
  • If you live in an apartment, make sure your animals are on record with management and are able to evacuate via the stairwell. Dogs should be taught to go up and down stairs to better assist rescue personnel.
  • Keep written directions to your home near your telephone. This will help you and others explain to emergency responders exactly how to get to your home.
  • Identify alternate sources of food and water.
  • Have well-maintained backup generators for use in food-animal production operations.
  • Keep all vehicles well maintained and full of gas.
  • Keep emergency cash on hand.
  • If you have horses or livestock, good barn and field maintenance can reduce danger. Decide on the safest housing location if evacuation is impossible, realizing that the situation is still life threatening. Assess the stability and safety of barns and other structures, promptly remove dead trees, and minimize debris in the fields and immediate environment.

In Case You Are Not At Home

Preplace stickers on front and back house doors, barn doors, and pasture entrances to notify neighbors, fire fighters, police, and other rescue personnel that animals are on your property and where to find your evacuation supplies.

  • Provide a list near your evacuation supplies of the number, type, and location of your animals, noting favorite hiding spots, in order to save precious rescue time.
  • To facilitate a successful rescue, provide muzzles, handling gloves, catch nets, and animal restraints where rescue personnel can find them. keep in mind that animals may become unpredictable when frightened.
  • Designate a willing neighbor to tend to your animals in the event that a disaster occurs when you are not at home. This person should have a key to your home, be familiar with your animals, know your evacuation procedures, and know where your evacuation supplies are kept.
  • In your evacuation kit, keep a pre-signed letter that releases your neighbor from responsibility if one of your animals becomes injured during the evacuation.
  • You may also want to have a pre-signed veterinary medical treatment authorization with your Evacuation kit – this will aid your veterinarian if your animal must be treated during your absence.
  • Pet identification – collars and tags or microchips, etc.

Read in more detail about the best ways to protect your furry family members here. Have you ever had to evacuate your family and pets? If so, what do you wish you had prepared for beforehand?