By HELEN PALMER
4:09 PM EST, February 27, 2012
March is right around the comer and March is designated “Severe Weather Month.” Are you ready? Even if you prepared an emergency supply kit last year, this is the time to check it; bring the medical records up-to-date for your pets and make sure all the food and water containers are fresh and ready to go.
Most of us haven't gotten this far, so we need to start from scratch and first look around the house to select an appropriate room or closet to shelter-in-place. Some people will select the basement for tornadoes or severe thunderstorms and a room on the first floor to shelter-in-place if there is a contaminated air warning. In either case, there should be plastic sheeting cut to cover each window and a fresh roll of duct tape to seal the windows. Doors, vents and fireplaces should also be sealed if the contaminated air warning is issued.
My basement has windows, so I would want to put plastic sheeting over them to stop or slow debris from being blown into the basement during a tornado. It also is a possible shelter for other kinds of disasters and a place for dog crates and exercise pens to be set up.
Each pet owner should have an emergency supply and traveling kit. The most important items for the kit are enough food and water for each pet to last three to five days. Estimate a gallon of water for each human and each pet per day. Mark your calendar to use the food and change the water each month. The same goes for medications; stored in a waterproof container in the emergency supplies tub, use them when you run out and order more for the supply box.
If you have a cat, you must plan for disposable litter trays and a supply of litter. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests aluminum roasting pans as they are disposable.
The pets' medical records and vaccination certificates are very important. While you are collecting these documents, take some pictures of your pets displaying any notable markings and at least one with you and your pet. (If you are asked to evacuate and have to board your pet, these pictures will provide proof that it belongs to you.)
There are lists available with a number of items, like a spoon and can-opener, that will make surviving an emergency easier. You can find such lists at http://www.aspcapro.org/emergency-pet-preparedness.php.
For those who work and have to leave their pet at home, make arrangements with a friend or neighbor to be a temporary caregiver until you are able to come back home.
Once you have everything, store the emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible. Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. Be sure to write your pet's name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.
Now that you've prepared for your pets, prepare for your family, too. Don't put this off, as the Scouts' motto says: "Be Prepared!"
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