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A lesson from Irene: What if you’re not home when disaster strikes?


I’ve long had a disaster plan that includes my pets; after all, I’m a born-and-raised New Yorker who was here for 9/11 and the blackout of
2003. But when Hurricane Irene struck, I realized my plan had a gaping hole in it: What if I’m not around during the disaster?


Tilly is my former foster dog who stayed with us this weekend while her adoptive family was on vacation.

This weekend I was in Tysons Corner, VA, for the BlogPaws pet-bloggers conference. At the time, the worst of Irene was supposed to hit around there, so I
didn’t think twice about leaving my pets behind in
my family’s capable hands.

But then Mayor Bloomberg ordered an evacuation of lower Manhattan. Was my neighborhood next? And, if so, would my family be able to get
themselves and our pets out without my help? No.

I raced back to New York and got home just before Irene hit.
Thankfully, leaking windows and fallen tree branches were the worst damage we saw. But the whole thing made me all too aware of what could have happened if I
hadn’t have been home to help.

Count this as a lesson learned: From now on, any time I go away for a few days without my pets, I’ll be sure to take some precautions. After the jump: Things to consider before you next leave town.

  • Make sure your pet sitter has a back-up person who can get to your home no matter what.
  • If you have too many pets for one person to transport, ask a friend or neighbor (preferably someone with a car, if you don’t have one) if he or she can be available to help your pet sitter or family member should disaster strike.
  • Always let your pet sitter and back-up person know where your pet’s disaster kit is. Find out what to include in your pet’s disaster kit.
  • Fill out our Healthy Pet Checklist and post it somewhere prominent in your home (such as on your refrigerator) so your pet’s vet’s name, microchip number, medication instructions and other important information are easy to find.
  • Make sure your family member or pet sitter knows where your pet’s recent medical records are — temporary shelters may require these for entry with pets.
  • Make sure all your pets have collars and tags and their microchip registrations are up-to-date. We recommend registering your pet’s microchip with HomeAgain — here’s why.
  • Take copies of your pet’s microchip number and medical records and a recent photo with you on your trip so you’ll be able to prove your pet is yours if he ends up in a shelter.

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Previous entry:
Hurricane Irene: Are your pets prepared?

A Guide to Disaster Preparedness for Families with Pets

1. Disaster Preparedness and Pets

2. Disaster Preparedness Tips

3. Disaster Preparedness Tips – Spanish Version

4. How to Create A Disaster Preparedness Plan

5. Keeping Pets Safe During Disasters

6. Disaster Preparedness Kit Checklist

7. Evacuating Your Home In Disasters

8. Riding Out Disasters At Home

9. Dogs: Disaster Preparedness Shopping List

10. Cats: Disaster Preparedness Shopping List

11. Horses: Disaster Preparedness Shopping List

12. Birds: Disaster Preparedness Shopping List

13. Annual Health Checklist

14. Dog Vaccination Schedule

15. Cat Vaccination Schedule

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