I have a friend up in Ben Lomond who has been on edge with the current massive 3,000 acre fire nearing their property. They have several animals, including some goats and pigs, and because they live in a fire zone up in the Santa Cruz mountains, they always have a plan for their animals.
But not everybody does. Certainly Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath proved as much. While I don't want to say anything "positive" came from that tragedy, it is because of that awful event that authorities now realize how important it is for people to remain with their pets or have access to places for their pets/livestock to be housed.
So, here's my gentle reminder: Have a plan, think about that plan and even if you think it's silly, execute that plan every now and then.
For smaller animals:
- Call your local animal shelter and find out who you need to talk to about the rules regarding dogs/cats during emergencies. If the shelters don't take pets, compile a list of local motels/hotels that do as well as possible boarding facilities. Know where you can safely go before a disaster strikes.
- Create a phone tree/networking tree with neighbors, friends and family. Find out who can house your companion animals during an emergency (and hopefully you too!)
- Make sure you have enough food and water for 3-5 days. Keep an emergency kit of food in an airtight container (refresh, when appropriate) and bottled water. Make sure you have easy access to your pets' medication. Include a spare leash and halter/collar. Even if you don't normally have your dog wear an id collar (and you should), make sure your spare collar has a clear cell phone number on it.
- Never leave your animal inside your home or apartment. Take your animal with you. At the very least, drop your animals off at a boarding facility or safe animal shelter. Your animal has a slim chance at survival if a fire or flood comes through.
- Have a sticker on your door or on a visible window that describes the types and number of animals you have located in your home.
- Practice how your egress will look, act it out just like you did those duck and cover drills in school (but probably don't practice duck and cover for fires and floods).
For larger animals:
- Know where your local fair grounds is located. This is the most likely housing site for large animals, like cattle, pigs, horses and goats. If you aren't sure of where animals go during an emergency, call animal control and ask. Even better, have a backup housing site with one of your friends or acquaintances.
- Have the necessary equipment to load up and transport your hoofstock. In addition to the obvious livestock hauler or trailer, make sure you have leads and halters to help properly restrain your animals.
- Practice! I know it sounds silly, but even if you do it twice a year, practice loading up your animals for an emergency transport. If you have a lot of animals, this isn't feasible, but if you have a small group, learn what works and what doesn't. The last thing you want it so practice when there's a fire a half-mile away or the flood waters are lapping at your door.
- If you can't transport, don't leave your animals in barns or small pastures. Open up the stall doors and gates, let the animals have an opportunity for escape. Yeah, it will suck rounding them up after the disaster passes, but it's a lot better than having to scoop up their charred remains.
- Network, network, network. Ask neighbors, friends, other ranchers (who, while I generally disagree with them on many things, will often be out there ready to help your animals) what they do for emergencies and if they'd be willing to help you and yours during one. A phone tree is helpful.
- If time permits, grab a few bales of hay and straw to transport with your animals. Make sure any medications that are necessary are also included.
With a little bit of plan and management, you can dramatically increase the chance you and your animals have at survival. With few exceptions, there isn't any reason why you cannot bring your companion animals with you - remember, they are part of your family and deserve as much of a chance at survival as us.
FEMA: http://www.fema.gov/plan/prepare/animals.shtm and http://www.fema.gov/plan/prepare/livestock.shtm