In an emergency your pets rely on you
Know your risks. Be prepared. Stay informed. Act early.
CHECKLIST FOR YOUR ANIMAL EMERGENCY KIT
- 3 days food and water, treats, bowls, can opener
- Current medications, animal first aid kit, vaccination certificate, care instructions in waterproof container
- ID tag, record of microchip number, photo of animal in case they get lost
- Secure crate/carrier, collar, harness, lead
- Comfort item - toy, blanket etc
- Toileting supplies - eg cat litter, poo bags etc
- Cleaning supplies & plastic rubbish bags
- Emergency contact numbers - local vet, friend or neighbour to assist you with animals, emergency accommodation
Commonly Asked Questions
The following is general information only and should not be construed as advice. It does not take into account individual circumstances. Blue ARC does not warrant or represent that the material is free from errors, omissions or defects. We disclaim any and all liability for any loss or damage (whether direct, indirect or consequential, including in negligence) suffered or incurred by any person relying on this information including as a result of any omission, error, defect, insufficiency or inaccuracy in its content. Users relying on this information do so at their own risk. Blue ARC excludes to the extent lawfully permitted all liability whatsoever for any loss or damage arising out of the use of this information.
Q: How do I prepare for an emergency?
A: To prepare for an emergency you need to:
• understand your level of risk,
• make a plan for all your family including your animals,
• prepare your home and property,
• practice your plan,
• keep informed,
• discuss your plan with your family, friends and neighbours.
Q: In an emergency who is responsible for my animals?
A: YOU are responsible for the welfare of your animals during an emergency. You are also responsible for managing your animals so that they do not present a danger to other people or animals.
Q: How could an emergency affect me and my animals?
A: Bushfires, severe storms, heavy snow falls, heatwaves, and other extremes of weather can result in damage to property, and injury or loss of life for people and animals. Roads may be blocked, with residents stranded at home, or unable to get back home to their animals. People and animals may need to be relocated or evacuated to safety. Animals can escape from properties, and become lost and disoriented. Water and power outages can last for hours or even days, along with disruption to phone and internet connections.
Q: What can I do to protect my animals during an emergency?
A: You need to plan and ensure all important decisions about you and your animals are made well before an emergency occurs. When you are under pressure is not the best time to make good decisions. Knowing what to do with your animals during an emergency can help you think more clearly. It is important to be self-reliant and prepared in advance.
To help keep your animals safe during an emergency make sure they can be easily identified with microchips, ID tags or labels on their carriers. Pack supplies for each animal in an emergency kit (see A guide to preparing a small animal emergency kit in the column to the right) and store it somewhere you can find quickly. Talk to neighbours or nearby friends who could help care for your animals and possibly evacuate them if you are not home at the time of an emergency.
To prepare your home for an emergency clearing the property of any hazards is essential. If possible larger animals, such as goats and horses, need a safer place prepared on your property where they can be relocated to away from danger. Relocating your animals early is the safest option.
If you need to evacuate your home plan to LEAVE EARLY and take your animals with you, if it is safe for you to do so.
Decide to stay only if you are well prepared. If you are staying home or it’s too late to evacuate, contain your smaller animals in one room of the house. Make sure your animal emergency kit is easy to access. Provide animals with adequate food and water and make sure these are in non-spill containers.
In the event that you become stranded at home you will need to have extra emergency supplies on hand for you and your animals, eg. food and water, a torch, radio and extra batteries. If you’ve lost power and phone lines you could be cut off for some time. Prepare for a possible loss of power and water, and consider how you will provide lighting, prepare meals and protect yourself and your animals from the extremes of weather.
(For help planning for storms, bushfires and other emergencies see the Links to assist you with emergency preparedness in the column to the right,)
Q: How do I know if my plan will work?
A: Practice your plan! Consider these questions:
Do you have enough carriers? Are your evacuation supplies packed and easily accessed? How long does it take you to find and contain your animals? Can they all be easily identified? How long does it take you to load all your animals and family members in your vehicle/s? How many trips will it take you to evacuate all your animals? What if the vehicles are not available? Have you thought about the time of day or whether the emergency happens on a work day or the weekend? Do you have a plan A, B and C based on where the danger may be, who is home at the time and what roads may be closed?
Q: If I need to evacuate when is the best time to leave?
A: If you need to evacuate leaving EARLY is the safest option. What have you decided are your triggers? Late evacuation can be dangerous. Don’t wait for an evacuation warning from the emergency services, as you may not have much time. It is also common during emergencies for there to be disruptions to water, power and phone services. Make decisions based on your own triggers. When you have developed your evacuation plan and tested it, you will know how long it takes to pack up your animals. If you need to evacuate, do so early, as roads may be closed or traffic may be heavy. Keep aware of what is happening around you, including listening to ABC 702 AM radio (the local emergency broadcaster) and keeping your mobile phone close by.
Q: I’m not sure if relocation or evacuation is possible for all my animals?
A: It may not be possible or safe for you to relocate or evacuate all your animals to an area away from danger. Your own personal safety must be considered first.
If you have animals that are hard to catch or transport decisions about whether to keep them at your property or to relocate them need to be made for each animal well before an emergency occurs.
If there are animals you may not be able to relocate consider what you can do to help keep them safe. Clear your property of hazards, plan what to do with your animals on high risk days, provide them with protection from extremes of weather and prepare a safer place on your property where they can be relocated to if possible.
Other issues to consider might include thinking about what you can do to overcome barriers you may have identified to evacuating your animals. For example, would it be helpful to buy more carriers if they are needed? Perhaps identify
places where you could take hard-to-accommodate animals or speak to a neighbour or nearby friend who may be able to help your animals if you weren’t able to get home.
Q: How can I reduce the stress on my animals?
A: Being prepared and relocating your animals early can reduce the stress for them and for you. Emergencies such as bushfires, floods and serious storms are frightening and stressful, and it is common for animals to feel anxiety and fear during such an experience. Animals can sense danger and their fight or flight response may cause them to try to run away, be difficult to handle or be aggressive with people or other animals.
All animals are different, so carefully consider the individual needs of each of your animals, including their temperament, and any behavioural or health issues, and plan for them accordingly. Ensure that you contain and secure your animals early, otherwise they may panic and run away while you are getting organised to evacuate.
Where possible limit your animal’s exposure to bushfire smoke, as this can cause health issues. If you need help dealing with anxious animals speak with your local vet for advice.
Q: How do I transport my animals?
A: Consider what equipment you will need, the number of trips it will take and the travelling distance to different accommodation venues. If you have multiple animals you might need to arrange some help to contain and transport them, and you may also need to house them at different places.
When transporting animals ensure they are safely contained and restrained in vehicles. Use a secure animal carrier, or a harness and car seat belt restraint to transport smaller animals. Some animals find being confined to carriers and travelling in cars stressful. Having enough carriers for all your animals, which allow room for them to be able to stand, sit, lie down and turn around, will make them more comfortable during travel. Practice with them going in and out of a carrier or walking on a lead. Train animals to become accustomed to car trips, where possible. Small animals and birds may feel more secure if there is a cover over their carrier. You know your animals best. Do not leave animals unattended in a motor vehicle during an emergency.
Q: What do I need to consider when looking for accommodation for my animals?
Practical issues - what animals the venue/facility caters for; the cost; number of spaces available; distance to travel.
Safety issues - low-risk location; secure accommodation and fencing; protection from environmental dangers, such as predators and other animals; the animal carer’s experience handling stressed/anxious animals; whether emergency
planning is in place at the facility in case they are also impacted by the emergency.
Welfare issues - adequate provision of food and water; whether medical assistance is available if needed; protection from extremes of weather; protection from the transmission of disease and parasites; care available to assist animals with toileting, exercising and to provide emotional support; ability to cater for animals with special needs; adequate space for animals to move around and toilet in; access to exercise facilities.
Q: Where do I take my animals if I need to relocate or evacuate them?
A: Do your research. Planning where to take your animals if you need to evacuate can be challenging. Consider accommodation options for your animals ahead of time and prepare for a range of scenarios. Look further afield than your local area for low risk options.
a) Accommodation with family and friends:
First, consider friends and family you could stay with and whether they can provide for the practical, safety and welfare needs of your animals. If possible have a number of options that you review regularly as circumstances can change.
b) Boarding facilities:
There are limited boarding options for animals in the Blue Mountains and they are mainly only available for dogs, cats and small animals. These facilities could also be at risk during the emergency. During large scale emergencies there will be increased demand, so you will need to have a number of different options. Daily boarding costs vary between $15 to $40+ per animal and animals taken to boarding facilities need to have been vaccinated within the previous 12 months. It is important to contact kennels, catteries and vet clinics well before the time you may need them to discuss vaccination requirements, boarding fees etc.
Contact Blue ARC or the Resilience and Preparedness group for a list of boarding facilities in the Blue Mountains and surrounding regions.
c) Evacuation centres:
Evacuation centres are opened to care for people, but always bring your animals with you if you have no other option. Ensure that you are self sufficient to care for your animals, and that you have an emergency kit providing for your animal’s needs, as there may be little or no provision made for animals at the centre and you may not be allowed to bring them inside. Evacuation centres are busy and stressful places, and although you can take your animals to an evacuation centre be prepared that you will be responsible to attend to them yourself. Information will be available at these centres to assist you to keep your animals safe.
As emergencies can be unpredictable it is not possible to know in advance where your nearest evacuation centre will be. The location of evacuation centres will be broadcast as soon as possible in an emergency – listen out for ABC radio updates and check on the relevant emergency service’s website. (See the list of Emergency Contacts in the column to the right.)
d) Emergency animal shelters:
Specific animal evacuation sites may be opened outside the area impacted by the emergency for the temporary housing of animals.
You are still responsible for the care of your animals while they are housed at these sites. Accommodation options available are limited and while animal welfare will be maintained, shelter may be very basic such as dog crates.
Your best option is to do your research and make a list of temporary accommodation options for your animals well before an emergency occurs, then implement your plan and leave early with your animals. The availability and location of emergency animal shelters will be broadcast like evacuation centres.
e) Accommodation options for people and animals together:
If you are planning to relocate your family to safety on high risk days or during an emergency, and wish to find short term rental options where you can be housed together with your animals, you could look at accommodation offered through businesses like Stayz, Airbnb, tourist sites, caravan parks and motels to see what pet friendly options may be available. It is important to do this research well before an emergency occurs.
f) Neighbourhood Safer Places:
Neighbourhood Safer Places are a place of last resort during a bush fire emergency. The NSW RFS states that Neighbourhood Safer Places are not intended for pets and livestock. You can take your animals to these sites but do not expect any assistance or provision there for the care of your animals. It is important that during an emergency your animals are kept under your effective control at all times.
g) People finding accommodation for animals via social media.
During emergencies, volunteerrun pages and groups offering assistance with the care of animals often form via social media. Some create databases, detailing temporary accommodation offers for animals, made by members of the public.
Such offers of assistance should be approached with caution as they may be run separately to official networks.
Consider the practical, safety and welfare needs of your animals, eg. secure housing, protection from dangers, and whether there is any screening of accommodation offers made by members of the public. A reliance on social media during
emergencies may also be compromised when power is lost or mobile networks are disrupted.
Instead, research accommodation options for your animals well before an emergency occurs, and have an emergency kit providing for your animal’s needs prepared. If you don’t know where to take your animals as a last resort go to an evacuation centre to get advice.
Q: Where can I get help to make a plan for my animals?
A: Preparedness for an emergency is strengthened through discussing challenges and uncertainties, and making connections, with people in your community.
• Consider the people you already know who you could talk with eg. family members, friends, neighbours, people in a group or church you belong to, staff at a local neighbourhood centre you attend etc.
• Get to know your neighbours better.
• Speak to the staff at your local vet clinic.
• Contact your local council.
• Keep up to date with community initiatives - ‘Get Ready’ events are held in spring in the Blue Mountains every year, with RFS Open Days
and stalls at community markets, ‘Meet Your Street’ events etc.
• Possibly visit your local RFS station and speak with officers there.
• Join online communities eg. animal-related groups on Facebook with people who volunteer at animal shelters, own poultry, care for horses etc, where you can discuss issues and help support each other if there is an emergency.
• Join groups eg. a local pony or dog training club.
Even if there are parts of your plan you need help with there are still things you can do TODAY to help prepare yourself and your family, including your animals, for an emergency.
We would like to acknowledge the impact of the 2013 bushfires on all the animals — domestic pets, livestock and wildlife — that were injured, displaced or perished in the fires.