With the perfect weather this past weekend, my (Perry Jamison) family spent most of Saturday working in the yard and decided to take it easy and enjoy Sunday.
My wife, Holly, was on call and stuck at the hospital, so instead of walking over to St. John’s for church, I settled in to wait for her to get home. I brewed a pot of coffee, went out to the back porch and began reading the Sunday edition of The Post and Courier.
Everything was going great until I got to the Hurricane preparedness insert in the middle.
As I seem to every year, I forget hurricanes are a real worry where we live. The more years we go without even a threat of one, the easier it becomes to believe we will never have a hurricane again come in our direction.
How can I forget the damage I could see six years after Hugo when I first moved to Charleston in 1995? Or the 12-hour drive to my uncle’s house in Seneca with five people and four animals in one car as we fled from Floyd?
So this time of year, I start my preparation. That means making sure I have everything my family would need if we had to evacuate.
I also check and make sure I have the tarps and plywood ready to protect the house. Does the generator work and do I have fuel?
Serving on the board of directors for the Charleston Animal Society, I get to see firsthand the number of stray animals that come through our facility on a “normal” basis. Following a hurricane, this number will skyrocket as pet parents and pets are separated during the storm. So many people leave their pets at home as they evacuate. Those able to survive the storm are often displaced in its aftermath.
Charleston Animal Society, Pet Helpers and other animal aid groups are then left to use valuable resources taking care of and trying to get these pets back home.
Leaving your pets at home during the storm is not an option.
Flipper, our dog, and our five cats are part of our family. We would never leave a family member behind. So be prepared to evacuate with your pet and survive for a few days afterward as well.
Make sure you have a vehicle (or vehicles) that can carry everyone. Cats are safest in carriers so make sure you have enough, that they are OK sharing a carrier if necessary and make sure the carriers fit in your vehicle. Ideally dogs should be buckled in like the rest of us, so insure there is a seat with a seat belt for each.
Now is the time to find out if the place you plan to escape to accepts pets. Whether you plan to go to a relative’s home or a hotel, ask to insure your pets are welcome. Do not just assume your mother-in-law is going to be OK with your entire family staying in her spotless home.
Make sure every pet has a form of identification. We recommend both a collar with the pets name and phone number as well as a microchip. The microchip cannot be lost, but you have to have a specialized reader to get the information. A collar can be lost but anyone can read it and contact you.
You should have enough food to last a week. Have a separate supply you keep with your hurricane supplies. When the hurricane season is over in November, donate it to an animal aid organization.
Make sure you have enough water for each pet (and person) for a week. A good rule of thumb is 1 ounce of water per pound per day. This is a basic figure and will increase with activity and in extreme heat.
You should have enough bowls for everyone to eat and drink at the same time.
If your pet is on a medication it cannot go without, make sure you have enough to last a week. The best way to do this is to not wait until the last day to get your refills. Call one to two weeks before you run out all year long.
Your cats may be stuck in the car for hours. Have a litter box so they can relieve themselves. Have leashes so you can walk your dogs. You are going to have to walk them in locations that are strange to them as well as near traffic. A leash is an easy way to prevent them from getting lost or worse from happening.
Leaving your pet at home ultimately means that someone else has to deal with your lost or injured pet. In the worst case, you may never be reunited. If you prepare now before the storm, then you will be ready to take your pets with you when the time comes.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to email@example.com.