Don’t judge, do plan!

Date Published: 
Sept. 8, 2017

As we all watch the results of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey, besides our empathy and compassion, we think of what people should have done differently.

We see pictures of people being rescued and our hearts go out to them, but we also comment about what they should have done. Then, we animal lovers see a dog or cat left by their family, or at least separated from their family, and we become angry. We say things like; how could people just leave their pet? Why didn’t they plan ahead? What were they thinking? And things like that.

We don’t know their particular situation, though. Maybe they were at work when the flooding started and couldn’t get home to their pet. Maybe they didn’t have room for their pet. Maybe they couldn’t find their pet and had to leave quickly.

We don’t know why, and we shouldn’t judge them.

But, are we prepared ourselves? Do we know what we would do if we were in their place? Do we have an evacuation plan? What if it happens with only a few hours’ notice? Would we be ready? What if you woke up in the morning and your road was flooded and you could not drive out. What if you have multiple pets? What about farms, what should they do? What about boarding kennels, shelters, etc.?

We all sit back in our dry, secure homes and judge those that have been affected. We do the “Monday-morning quarterback” thing.

Those of us living in this area have been fortunate for many years that we have not been hard hit by a hurricane or severe tropical storm in many, many years. Because of that, we have become complacent. When they talk of us possibly getting hit with severe weather, many of us just blow it off. Yes, most of us do the grocery run, but other than that, most of us generally don’t do much. We figure we will chance it, because we probably won’t get hit.

Then, the rain starts, and then it keeps coming and coming and coming. By then it is too late. Do we take a chance and jump in the car and try to drive and risk getting stuck, or do we try to ride it out? If we decide to try to drive, what do we take with us?

Especially those of us with children and pets, we need to plan ahead. Those of us who have multiple pets need to be even more prepared. I know that we could never evacuate all of our animals.

We — my daughters family and myself — basically have a small farm, with chickens, ducks and rabbits, in addition to our inside pets, a combined six dogs, three cats, guinea pig, turtle, parrot, tank of fish, betta fish, tank of frogs and lizards and, currently, one indoor chicken. (Don’t ask.)

There is no way we could evacuate everything, so what would we do to prepare our animals to try to survive a storm? Do we have enough supplies to stay here and survive for possibly a week without power and running water, and without being able to get anywhere?

We all sit back and judge others and comment about what others should have done, but we don’t actually know what we would do until it is us. The lessons we need to learn are to always be prepared for the worst. Pay attention to local news and weather. If they say evacuate, do it when they say, don’t wait. Don’t just think of yourself — think of who or what you are responsible for caring for. Also, think of the lives of the people who would be responsible for rescuing you.

There are hundreds of websites that give you emergency preparedness checklists. I usually write one or two of these articles every year myself.

My daughter keeps a file box ready with all of her family’s most important papers and documents, and even a small group of her most precious photos. It is ready year-round to grab and go.

Keep a list of the things you would need to pack in an emergency, such as medications. Figure that, if you are going to evacuate, you will be gone for minimum of one week, and pack enough. That list should be similar to if you were going on vacation for a week, but also include your important documents. Also include pictures of all of you, each child and each pet. These become important if any of you become separated.

Think of what each person and pet would need for at least one week. Do you have someone whom is afraid of the dark? Then make sure you have a flashlight and extra batteries for them. Is there a special toy that your dog loves and “couldn’t live without?” Then pack it. Does your child have a special toy, blanket, pillow? These are some of the things you should include on your list.

Take the time now to start preparing a list. Divide it down, also, to “have to have” and “want to have” — prioritize the list. Make the lists of those things you grab at a moment’s notice and the things you can take the time to pack.

Assign each family member to a particular section of that list and then one person to coordinate and check to be certain that the most important items are packed. Assign each person and pet a bag for their own personal items. Label them with their name and store them in a convenient location. For pets, place a checklist of what needs to be packed in the bag (food, toys, leashes, litter, medications, treats, etc.) on the bag itself.

Also, is your vehicle large enough to accommodate everything you are packing? Do you need to split up into two vehicles? If you do need to divide into two vehicles, put all the items for each person/animal into the vehicle they will be in, in case you become separated.

Then, if worse comes to worst and you have not planned ahead, or if some disaster happens and you must leave with no warning, know what you will do. Try your best to not leave your pets behind, but people do come first. Your human family must come first.

(To those of you who know me personally, yes, I did just say that. I love my animals as if they are family, but if it came down to my human family or my pet family… Yes, humans first and pets second. This is why I try to make sure I have planned ahead, so I would not have to make that decision.)

So, before you start judging those people in Texas that are being rescued, and those people that left their pets and animals behind, think about how you have reacted to the last several storm threats we have had. Think about how prepared you are to react in a few hours’ notice to evacuate.

For example, how much gas is in your car right now? Do you ever let your gas tank get below a quarter-tank? We all do, because we are used to gas stations being every few miles, but what would we do if the power went out and every gas station within an hour’s drive was shut down? How many of us carry cash anymore? If the power is out, credit and debit cards do not work.

So, instead of judging those people, take it as a lesson learned to get yourself prepared. Be ready. Plan ahead, and hope you never need it. Then, pray for those people and consider donating to organizations that are helping them.

Austin Pets Alive (www.austinpetsalive.org) is one of the organizations helping the shelters in the Texas area with the animals they currently have and the ones they are anticipating coming in in the days and weeks to come. (I am not recommending this organization and have not done extensive research on them. Before you donate to any organization, you should personally research them.)

Of course, the Red Cross is always on the scene, helping all that are affected, and they are always a wonderful organization to contribute to. Be aware that many organizations pop up whenever a disaster happens and, although many are good, they are many that are not so good. So, research who you choose to donate to and be careful.

Most importantly, make a plan for your family. Know what you would do. It doesn’t take more than a few hours to sit down to make plans and to be prepared. Let’s hope you never need to use those plans, but if you do, won’t you be glad that you “wasted that time”?

Cheryl Loveland is a semi-retired dog groomer. She currently lives with Bo, her male bloodhound; Noel, her bichon frisée; Reba, her female bloodhound; Bootsie and Nala, her indoor cats; KitCat, the outdoor farm cat; Max, her scarlet macaw; two tree frogs; a leopard frog; a lizard; and one lone betta fish. Also, living on the property are three ducks, and numerous chickens and rabbits, while her daughters’ pets include two dogs, a guinea pig, a box turtle and a tank of fish. She is a member of Colonial Bloodhound Club and Mispillion Kennel Club. She welcomes hearing from readers with their comments and suggestions for future articles. She may be contacted at lovelandcheryl@gmail.com.