In recent years, the incidence of home- and life-threatening events has increased: 56 tornadoes on May 22, 2011, including one that killed 158 in Joplin, Missouri; hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in 2017 that, combined, resulted in the deaths of almost 3,300 and destroyed most of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure; the Camp fire in California that flattened the town of Paradise and has so far killed 84 and at least 500 are still missing. These events have shown that no one is immune: urbanites are just as affected as ruralites. On top of that, not every situation is one that can be predicted.
In the aftermath of the Camp fire, Facebook pages and groups are coming together to rescue, rehabilitate, and reunite pets who were left behind by families fleeing the fire. It appalls me to see so many injured pets, pets who should never have been left behind in the first place. They are forgotten because owners are focused on themselves and their children; they’re forcibly abandoned because shelters or evacuee transports won’t allow pets; or they’re left behind because owners don’t have a plan for evacuating their pets. In the worst case scenarios, they are viewed as replaceable possessions, and if they are not in perfect condition when the owner returns, they may choose to leave them as abandoned pets in the clinics and shelters that rescued them, in exchange for a new, undamaged puppy or kitten.
Include your pets (and livestock) in your emergency preparedness plans.
Two of the core components of any emergency preparedness plan are supplies (food, water, medications, clothing/shelter) and records (such as medical history and identification). This is where the BOB, or Bug-Out Bag, comes in.
When most people think of stockpiling supplies for emergencies, they think of preppers – that enigmatic section of the population that seems to enjoy the idea of apocalyptic survival scenarios, who have a bunker or basement stocked full of a year’s worth of non-perishable food items. However, the majority of emergency situations are short-term, measured in days or weeks; even if the entire situation remains unresolved for months, aid for those affected arrives and becomes available rapidly. This means the average person only really needs a few days’ worth of supplies: amounts that can fit in a backpack, which can be easily retrieved for any situation, whether it involves evacuation or not.
It can be difficult to get into a preparedness mindset, either because of the general perception of “preppers” or because it’s hard to believe something serious could ever happen in your community or to you and your family. However, in 2016, between 1.11 million Americans were displaced due to natural or man-made disasters. FEMA estimates that 25 million Americans, or about 8% of the population, were affected by disasters.
It could happen to you.
The first thing to start with is a quality hiking backpack (like this one). You need something that has a large capacity; at least 2 cubic feet (3400 cubic inches) is a good place to start. Additionally, you want to look for a pack with wide, well-padded shoulder and waist straps – these features are important for your comfort in lugging the pack around. The final qualifier for a good BOB is lots of ways to attach items to the outside of the pack: straps, buckles, pockets, grommets, and webbing. These are especially important if you have pets to include in your plan.
Do NOT cheap out on your backpack. You are only doing yourself a disservice: lightweight material will tear, water-permeable material will allow rain or flood waters to soak the contents, skinny shoulder and waist straps will chafe and bite into your skin and make it not only uncomfortable to carry your pack, but invite infection. Pay the extra to get a quality backpack that will last and will do the job without making it harder.
Once you have a backpack, you can start assembling your kit.
The four most important items are water, food, shelter, and medications. You want to have between 3 and 7 days’ worth of these items, for you and your pet.
This is Part 1 of a 6-part series on building an emergency BOB (bug-out bag) for you and your animals.
 Ritchie, H., and Max Roser. 2018. “Natural Catastrophes”. https://ourworldindata.org/natural-catastrophes. Retrieved: 23 November 2018.
 Insurance Journal. 2018. “Disasters Affected 8% of U.S. Population in 2017, FEMA Notes in Review of Historic Year”. https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2018/01/03/476001.htm. Retrieved: 23 November 2018.
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