Emergency responders prepare for pet problems

Posted at 6:54 PM, Mar 26, 2013

PROVO, Utah – The message of 72-hour kits and evacuation plans is one often repeated in Utah, but how much thought is given to four-legged family members?

“Emergency Managers, a lot of them have been devoted for years to the human element,” said Utah Emergency Animal Response Coalition president Julie Meron. “But the truth and the reality is that people won’t go anywhere if they can’t take their animals with them.”

Representatives from county agencies across the state are in Provo this week to attend an annual workshop on emergency animal response. Meron said the goal is to learn from each other and learn to work with each other in the event of a large-scale disaster.

Superstorm Sandy is one of the most prominent recent examples of such a large-scale disaster, and this year emergency responders from New York spoke about the work they did after the storm in October of 2012.

David Chico, New York state emergency animal response manager, said that since Hurricane Katrina hit states near the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, responders have learned about how to coordinate with human resources to give pets the help they need in a disaster.

“The mayor [of New York City] allowed people to ride public transportation with their animals, so they could get out of the mandatory evacuation zone and take their animals with them,” Chico said.

Utah dealt with wide-scale animal evacuations during the ongoing wildfires in 2012. Meron said hundreds of head of livestock died in those fires, but there were only two pet casualties. She said it shows pet owners are getting serious about emergency preparedness.

“It’s just one of those things that we’re probably more aware of stuff than other people could be,” dog owner Robin Tynan said. “Because they don’t think about it until it happens.”

Meron said some of the most important emergency pets preparedness steps are:

  • Store enough food and water in your 72-hour kit for your pet.
  • Have a plan to get all of your pets out in case of an evacuation, including large animals like horses.
  • Keep a picture of you and your pet in a safe place to use as proof of your ownership.

Additional tips can be found on the UEAARC’s website.