It was a dark and stormy night…
Oh, wait, I already used that lead-in, in Help, My Dog Ate a Battery! In that post, I told you about the time my big sweet doofus, Leroy, picked the worst possible time to ingest something that could be very harmful, and I had to drive him to and from the animal hospital in all manner of horrible weather, amongst downed trees and power lines, over flooded roads and past dragons.
Well, okay, there weren’t any dragons. But the rest is true.
My thoughts have gone back to that night because we’re coming into hurricane season, and even if you don’t live in the hardest hit areas, like Florida or Louisiana, you can still get a lot of the effects from hurricanes and tropical storms. Are you ready?
Many people aren’t, even in areas that are prone not just to hurricanes, but to fierce winter storms, summer thunderstorms and the like. Ask yourself, have you ever had to scramble to find flashlights or candles when the power has gone out? Have you had to avoid flushing your toilet because there was no water, thanks to a power failure? Do you have an emergency kit?
If you’re anything like me, the answers to those three questions are probably along the lines of “Yes,” “Yes,” and “No.”
Then, of course, you vow to do better the next time around, but do you?
It behooves all of us to be prepared when storms hit, so here are 7 “storm season” tips for dog owners.
1. Find a Safe Space
We don’t all have storm cellars, so if you don’t, find a safe place within your house. Ideally, you should choose a first-floor room without windows that could blow in in the event of a storm. A large closet is ideal, but you could also choose an interior bathroom.
Make sure that whatever safe space you choose, there’s enough room for your family members and your pets. And don’t worry about comfort – that’s not the issue here. A big bedroom might be very comfortable for a lot of people and animals, but if it has windows and it’s not supported by load-bearing walls, it’s not safe. So, cram everyone into a closet or bathroom, and worry about your comfort once the storm has passed.
If you can’t get to a safe room, then have everyone in your family find a sturdy space. They can hide under a solid bed frame, or stand in a doorframe. Any protection is better than nothing.
What this means is simply that you should make a plan. Decide where your family will go if a bad storm should occur. Maybe you don’t have one single space that will work for all your family, so what happens then? Do the teens go to the laundry room with the dog, while the adults take the cats to the bathroom? You don’t want people and pets scattering all over the place, so one of the most important storm season tips for dog owners (and cat owners) is to have a firm plan in place. You don’t know when you’re going to get out of your “safe space,” so make sure that it’s as comfortable as possible for all concerned, and also make sure that you know where to look for the rest of the family once the storm has passed.
Do drills – pretend that a storm is coming, and have everyone in your family take the pets they’re responsible for to the safe area. If you need supplies, know where to find them. Then, once the drill is over, do an evaluation to see how everyone performed. Talk about the things that went right, and the things that went wrong, and discuss ways to make your storm plan work better the next time.
3. De-Sensitize Your Dog to Emergency Sounds
If you’re in an emergency, there’s a good chance that your smoke detector, and possibly other warning alarms, will go off. Police and fire departments might also go by using sirens. Is this going to terrify your dog? One of the best storm season tips for dog owners is to get your dog used to emergency alarms. So, deliberately set off the smoke alarm from time to time, but don’t react to it – behave as though it’s business as usual. You might also use recordings of police and fire sirens to accustom your dog to the sounds. If your dog is accustomed to these sounds, he won’t react badly in a situation where it’s very important that everyone, pets included, remain calm.
4. Know Where You’re Going
If you think you might have to leave your home in an emergency, then one of the most important tips for dog owners is to know where you’re going to end up. Often, emergency shelters will not allow pets – just service animals. So, check beforehand with emergency shelters, and find out if they’ll let you bring your pet. Also, call local motels and hotels to find out which are pet-friendly. In an emergency, you’re not going to have time to do this, so have your plan made beforehand.
Also, find out which friends and relatives will welcome you and your pets. If they’re in the disaster zone, they might not be able to help you in any case. If they’re farther afield, make sure you know beforehand that when they say, “You’re always welcome,” that includes your pets. Sometimes, people make promises that they think they’re never going to have to keep.
5. Take Measures in Case You’re Not at Home
If a disaster occurs, and you’re not at home, you might not be able to get to your pets. So, apply stickers to your doors and windows that will let emergency responders know how many animals you have. Nobody is going to evacuate your animals if they don’t know that they’re there.
6. Make an Emergency Kit
Make sure that you have a “grab and go” kit in the event of a disaster. Choose a big bag, and stock it with food, health records, bottled water, and identification. I see this all the time when I’m researching emergency preparedness tips for dog owners, and I expect that it’s because it’s vital. You probably keep a similar emergency kit in your car for your human family members, so don’t forget your dog.
7. Prepare to Be Separated
In a disaster, it’s possible that you could be separated from your dog. So, make sure, at the very least, that his tags are current, with your name, address and contact phone number. Microchipping would be even better.
These are the top 7 “storm season” tips for dog owners. But there’s more.
Once It’s Over
You still have to consider the aftermath of the storm. Once it has passed, be very careful out there. Watch for downed wires and trees. Keep your dog on a leash – don’t, under any circumstances, let him wander untethered. Heavy winds and rain can change familiar scents, and alter familiar landmarks. You don’t want your dog to become disoriented, or run off in fright.
Follow the above 7 “storm season” tips for dog owners, and you and your best buddy will have a far better chance of getting through the disaster intact, and together.