During the 2009 bushfires and subsequent flooding events, it was obvious that many people had not planned effectively for the evacuation of their pets. Some had no means of moving larger animals and given that many of the deaths that resulted from Black Saturday occurred on the road, it is actually wise to do so if you leave it too late.
Stay and defend your property and pets or evacuate?
Only you can decide what the right course of action for you and your family is, and you can only do this once you have considered all the facts and logistics of your particular situation. While making the choice to evacuate may be your ultimate goal, you must also be prepared in the event that you get caught out and are forced to stay.
Experts generally state four main steps when preparing for disaster;
Step 1: Be informed
Being informed means you should familiarise yourself with:
- Potential hazards in your area
- The emergency management plans and evacuation centres for your area
- Weather or fire warnings and know where to get information about an emergency. During extreme weather events it is important to listen to a dedicated emergency radio station such ABC 774AM.
Step 2: Make a plan
Making a plan will give you the ability to stay calm and take affirmative action and give you something to refer to if you begin to panic. Your plan should include:
- Whether you have decided to stay or go
- A backup plan for both outcomes
- Strategies for protecting your pets/animals and valuables
- Insurance that is appropriate for your area
- Make sure you regularly revise, test and check your plan make sure that you practice.
Step 3: Be Prepared
Part of your preparation will involve putting together an emergency/evacuation kit that contains everything you will need if to ensure the safety of your family including your pets. Firstly you need to decide what is important and what isn't and then where the kit should be stored.
Please use the checklist provided as a template to ensure that you have everything your pets will need.
Step 4: Know your neighbours
Knowing your neighbours is imperative in times of crisis. Anyone who has been through a natural disaster will tell you how important the assistance of their neighbours was and how it brought them together. When you know your neighbours you are more likely to:
- Be able to prepare as a neighbourhood
- Work out who can help and more importantly who needs help
- Work together
Animal Aid staff experienced firsthand both personally and professionally, the devastation and confusion that was Black Saturday 2009. Their efforts during and after this tragedy mean that they have a rare insight into effective strategies and can give practical advice on how to plan to protect your pets during natural disaster.