Disaster Planning

Natural or man-made disaster can strike anywhere, anytime.  Too often, people with companion animals may fail to make adequate preparations for caring for those animals during the upheaval that surrounds power and water loss, evacuation, and long or short-term stays in emergency shelters.  Humane Association of Georgia, in connection with other groups including the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, developed the nation’s first disaster plan for animal care.  Included in this section of our site is our outline for emergency preparations, as well as links to sites which may contain helpful information during time of disaster.  A printable brochure containing much of the same information is available on our “Resource Materials” page.
Why You Must Plan Ahead
If you wait until the last minute to evacuate, your only choice for refuge will probably be a public shelter where companion animals generally are not allowed.The most important thing to remember when you evacuate is to take your animals with you.  If it is not safe for you to stay in the disaster area, it is not safe for your companion animals.Animals left in your home can escape through broken windows, open doors or damaged areas.An animal tied or chained outside in a disaster is almost certainly sentenced to death.An animal turned loose to fend for itself is likely to become a victim of exposure, starvation, predators or contaminated food or water; they may be hit by cars or emergency vehicles.The animal’s behavior may change due to fear or hunger and they may bite, posing a threat to others.If you leave your companion animals behind you should prepare your children and other family members for the fact that they may not survive or may be lost forever before you are able or are permitted to return to your home.Once you leave your home you may not be able to go back for your companion animals.  If you leave, even if you think you may only be gone for a few hours, take your companion animals with you.Leave early when you evacuate. Don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order. An unnecessary trip is better than waiting too long to leave safely with your companion animals.  Take your disaster supply kit with you.
Birds, Small Mammals, and Reptiles
Birds should be transported in a secure, covered cage.  Keep birds in a quiet draft-free area.  Make sure the temperature isn’t too cold.Small mammals should be transported in a covered cage or carrier; one carrier for each.Reptiles should be transported in a secured and non-breakable carrier (not made of glass).Each companion animal should have its own supplies and written instructions for care and maintenance.
Where Will You and Your Companion Animals Go?
Contact hotels and motels outside of your immediate area to check their policies on accepting companion animals.  Ask if there is any extra fee for them.  Keep a list of the “companion animals allowed” places with your emergency information.  Call and make reservations as soon as you think you MIGHT have to leave your home.  (Don’t forget – you aren’t the only one evacuating.)Ask friends, relatives or others outside your immediate area if they would shelter you and your companion animals, or just the animals.  You may need to separate your companion animals into different homes if you have more than one.Make a list of veterinary clinics and boarding facilities that might shelter your companion animals in an emergency.  Add their 24-hour numbers to your other emergency numbers.Ask your local animal shelter or humane society if they have foster care or sheltering for companion animals in an emergency.  This should be your last resort since shelters are limited in their housing and resources.  They may also be in the evacuation zone.
If You Can Stay At Home
It is still important to have a plan for your family and your companion animals.  Collars, leashes and carriers should be maintained ready for use and kept in a convenient place.  Identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together.  Dogs, cats or other caged animals should stay in their carriers in the event your home is damaged.  Keep your disaster supply kit with you.
If You Are Not At Home When Emergency Is Threatening
Find out if a neighbor would be able to take your companion animals and meet you at a pre-arranged location. This person should have a key to your home, be comfortable with your companion animals, and know where your emergency supplies and numbers are kept.
After the Danger Has Passed
Proceed with caution. Watch for downed power lines and other debris, which pose real dangers to you and your animals.  Check your food and water supply for contamination.Walk your companion animals on leashes until they become re-oriented and all the dangers have been cleared.
Getting Started
Bring companion animals indoors and under control as quickly as possible on a leash or in a carrier. You will be able to quickly evacuate with them under your control.Make sure each companion animals is wearing a collar with current rabies vaccination tag and identification tag with your name, address and phone number.
Disaster Supply Kit
Whether you are away from your home one day or two weeks you’ll need supplies for your animals. Keep everything your animal will need accessible. Store all items in separate watertight containers.  Include the following:Portable carrier with your name, address and phone number clearly markedLeashes and harnesses to maintain controlFood and water bowlsFood and water in plastic containers with feeding instructionsLitterbox, scoop, and litterMedication and health records with written instructions in sealed plastic bags
First aid kitName, phone number and address of your veterinarianCurrent color photos of each of your companion animals with their name on the backColor photo of family members with the animals to show proof of ownershipName, address and phone number for someone living outside of your areaGrooming supplies, newspaper, paper towels, disposable wipes, plastic trash bags, manual can opener and spoonHousehold bleach in its original containerCompanion Animal Identification Sheet for each animal 
Companion Animal Identification Sheet
HAGA has prepared a printable Companion Animal Identification Sheet for your use.  You will need Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to open and print this file.  You can download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page, and following the instructions at the Adobe site.  Print and complete an ID sheet for each animal to include in your Disaster Supply Kit. 
Guide to Severe Weather Warnings
A storm watch means that conditions are favorable for a weather event to occur.A hurricane is expected within 36 hours.A tornado is possible.Prepare yourself, your family, and companion animals to go to a safe place in your home, or to evacuate.A storm warning means that a weather event is imminent.A hurricane is expected within 24 hours. A tornado has been sighted. You, your family and companion animals must take cover immediately or evacuate. Listen to your weather radio. Leave early. Take preparation and evacuation seriously.
Emergency Information Links
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – National Weather ServiceNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA Weather RadioNational Hurricane CenterThe Weather Channel – Weather.comGeorgia Emergency Management AgencyFederal Emergency Management Agency