To help, here are some tips from American Humane Association and the experts at its Red Star emergency services program to help protect you, your family and your pets in the event a wildfire threatens you:
Before the Fire
- Know your wildfire risk and be aware of fire conditions.
- Plan multiple routes to a safe destination. NEVER leave pets behind.
- Evacuate your family and pets as early as you can and remember to take your disaster preparedness kit for your pets.
- Create a defensible space. Visit www.firewise.org for tip for preparing homes to reduce wildfire risk.
- Have a list of evacuation destinations including family and friends' addresses, boarding facilities, pet-friendly hotels and emergency shelter locations.
- Make sure your animals are wearing collars and have current ID; take their updated vaccination papers and a photo in case you become separated and need to identify your pet.
- Stock extra pet supplies in your vehicle.
- Don't leave children or pets in vehicles.
- Don't leave pets tethered or crated without you.
- Practice loading cats and dogs in pet carriers before you have to.
- Stay tuned to emergency channels and heed instructions. Disasters can change quickly.
After the Fire
- Use caution when returning home and walking around the affected area. Avoid debris and do not allow children or pets to wander.
- Be cautious about all food, which may have spoiled when electricity was interrupted.
- Keep your dogs on a leash and cats in a carrier.
- Watch for objects that could cause injury or harm to your children or pets.
- Give your pets time to reorient. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and cause your pet confusion or to become lost.
- Keep children and pets away from downed power lines and debris.
- Keep an eye on children's emotional reaction to the crisis. If you are concerned about the way your children are responding long after the crisis is over, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional.
- Uncertainty and change in the environment affect animals, too, presenting new stresses and dangers. Your pet's behavior may change after a crisis, becoming more aggressive or self-protective. Be sensitive to these changes and keep more room between them, other animals, children or strangers.
- Animals need comforting, too. Comfort your pet with kind words and lots of pats or hugs. If possible, provide a safe and quiet environment, even if it is not their own home.
"Now is the time to act," said Justin Scally, national director of emergency services for American Humane Association. "If you have time to prepare and you haven't been ordered to evacuate, be sure to start your preparations now. If you have been ordered to evacuate, do NOT leave your pets behind and leave immediately."
"Please follow the directions of local officials very closely," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. "These situations can change drastically, very quickly and therefore it's important to prepare now even if you haven't yet been ordered to leave. For your safety, your children's safety, and the safety of your pets – act now."
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