A Q&A with Charley English, Director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA)
Winter weather can be hazardous for you and your dog, especially if you aren’t prepared. I recently spoke with the director of Georgia’s emergency management agency to get some tips for pet owners on weathering winter storms and other disasters.
Victoria: Charley, let’s start with the basics of emergency preparedness. Why is it important to prepare, and where do we begin?
Charley: Anyone can get ready in three basic steps – prepare, plan and stay informed. Prepare by assembling a Ready kit filled with all the emergency supplies you would need to survive for three days without assistance. Make a plan for communicating and reconnecting with family members. And stay informed by educating yourself on how best to respond to various disasters. Taking these three steps can save your life.
Victoria: What should we dog-lovers do to prepare? Are there specific items we should include in a pet-friendly Ready kit, especially as the winter months set in?
Charley: For those that are unable to help themselves, such as our pets, it’s critical that we make time to prepare on their behalf. During winter months, a blizzard or ice storm can often strike without much warning and you could be stuck at home for several days. You don’t want to get caught short on dog food or any medications your pet takes on a regular basis, so go ahead and stock those in your Ready kit now. Also make sure that you have a warm, dry place for your dog to take shelter during extremely cold weather.
Your Ready kit should also include copies of important documents such as proof of vaccinations, identification tags, blankets to keep your pet warm and a photo of you and your pet together, in case you were to get separated in a disaster. Our online pet resource page lists these and many other necessary items. It also features more information on how to protect your pet in emergency situations.
Victoria: That covers the Ready kit, but what should we do to include our dogs and other pets in our emergency plans?
Charley: I’m glad you asked, because this is step is incredibly important. People often assume that they’ll be able to take their pet with them in case of an emergency, but most shelters do not allow pets due to health reasons. If you had to evacuate your family due to a disaster, you would need to know where to go immediately, so I suggest keeping a list of pet-friendly hotels in your Ready kit or making arrangements with family or friends in advance. NEVER leave your pet chained outside. Another good tip is to talk to your neighbors and set up a buddy system so you can check on one another’s animals if you happen not to be home.
Victoria: Charley, thank you so much for sharing this vital information. For those us who love our dogs like family, it’s so important to know what to do in the event of an emergency.
Charley: I’m happy to spread the word, Victoria. I hope every pet owner takes the time to prepare their pets for severe winter weather and any other emergency.