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November 10. 2012 9:10PM

Gail Fisher's Dog Tracks: Hurricane Sandy dramatizes the need for disaster planning for pets


 

When you read this, it will be nearly two weeks since Sandy struck the East Coast. I have relatives in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Fortunately, they're fine. A close friend has family in Toms River, N.J. She described the horror of walking out of their house that first post-Sandy day and seeing an alien landscape - nothing was familiar. Even after a week, they still had no power, no gas and not much aid available to help restore some semblance of normalcy.

Even nearly eight years since Hurricane Katrina drove home the importance of preparing for worst-case scenarios, few imagined how truly worst-case this mega-storm would be. Fortunately, we in New Hampshire live far from areas most often and hardest hit by hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, mudslides and earthquakes, so it's easy to feel relatively safe - at least from the most common major natural disasters.

The reality is, however, that we're not immune. In the past few years, we've experienced torrential rains wreaking havoc on the western parts of the state and a deadly tornado in central New Hampshire. Just last Halloween, we had the "Snow-tober" storm. Four years ago, we had a huge ice storm just before Christmas that knocked out power for nearly two weeks for some, And fire is a year-round danger.

It's only been six months since I wrote about emergency preparedness, but my hope is that by reprising this information in the wake of a truly horrific disaster for so many, you will take action and do something rather than "plan to do it someday."

I am not a worst-case-scenario person, but events like Sandy remind us how important it is to have disaster and evacuation plans for our families, including our pets. What if someone knocked on your door and told you that you had to leave ... right now! What would you do? Could you use your car? Could you take all your pets? What if the roads were impassible? What if you had to take only what you could carry and walk away?

A number of organizations' websites provide information about disaster preparedness plans, including the HSUS, ASPCA and FEMA sites just to name a few. Noah's Wish (www.noahswish.org) has a series of checklists to help people prepare. It starts with considering what disasters might happen where we live or work, pointing out that no one is exempt. In addition to such universal disasters as wildfires or house fires, the world has changed, so we all need to think about a terrorist attack.

I doubt there is a pet owner who hasn't thought about the tragic dilemma faced by someone who has to be rescued by a boat or helicopter and is forced to abandon his pets. If prior planning can eliminate the chance of being faced with such a horrifying choice, it's worth spending a few minutes writing up an evacuation plan, discussing it with your family and reviewing it together at least once a year, such as on your pet's birthday, or on Sept. 11th, a date no one will forget.

The most important consideration has to be the lives of the humans in the family. But with prior planning, your pets' safety and well-being can be planned for, too. Next week I'll offer some specific ideas to help you plan ahead, along with suggestions for your pet's disaster supply kit.

Gail Fisher, author of "The Thinking Dog," runs All Dogs Gym & Inn in Manchester. To suggest a column topic, email gail@alldogsgym.com or write c/o All Dogs Gym & Inn, 505 Sheffield Road, Manchester, NH 03103. Past columns on her website.


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