Preparing for the worst

Having lived most of my life in southern California, I’m no stranger to wild fires. When I was 10 years old – the year we moved to Anaheim – we had to evacuate to my aunt’s house a few miles away when I fire got within a mile of our house. Our house was safe but it was really terrifying for me because my mom was at work when the police officer drove by the house and yelled at us to get out of our houses because the fire was coming. We had a dog and two cats at the time and I had no clue what to do for myself, much less for them. Fortunately I was able to get in touch with my mom at work (long before the advent of cell phones made that much easier) and she told me to get the cats into their carriers and get the dog on his leash then stay in the house with all of the windows and doors closed until she got home.

Many years later, as an adult, I faced another situation where I was facing the threat of wild fire engulfing my condo and this time there was no one to tell me what to do (or to come and pick me up, for that matter). I watched the fires closing in on me by using the street names from the reporters on the television and a paper map of San Diego. I drew a one-mile circle around my house on the map with a pencil and decided that once the fire breached that circle, I was out of there. In preparation, I began to pack my little Saturn with everything that she could fit, which wasn’t much. I pulled the hard drive from my computer, grabbed the photo albums and important papers from my spare bedroom, packed in some pillows and blankets in case I had to sleep in my car, and then I realized I needed to make room for two cat carriers for my (then) cats, Dave & Abby. I unpacked everything and started over with the cat carriers snugly nestled beneath my bedding and clothing on the back seat. I set everything up so that I could grab each cat and shove them quickly in the carriers if I only had a few minutes to get out of there. I put their food, litter, a makeshift litter box, and three gallons of water for them next to the front door, ready to grab at a moment’s notice. I sat on the couch, cats lying next to me, and prayed that I wouldn’t have to leave.

Thankfully, my condo was spared that day. And the next. In fact it’s still safe and sound with some nice tenants living there now. We have a beautiful, new townhouse now which almost burned down in 2007 before we closed escrow on it, but it, too, was spared. Living in southern California, though, we are painfully aware of the ever-present risk of wild fires. Just this week CalFire issued a red flag alert which indicates that the risk of wild fires is extreme due to very high temperatures and very low humidity and that residents should review and revise as necessary their personal wild fire preparedness plans. While we’ve discussed what to do in case of a fire in very general terms, we do not yet have a written plan of action should something happen, so I am working on one as we speak.

Here are the three primary reasons I’m so motivated:

Alouysius the Wonder Pug
Harry, Mama’s baby boy!
Princess Sally


A great resource for creating a family emergency preparedness plan that includes your furkids is the Humane Society of the United States’ website (see information below). I can tell you from personal experience that your plan will not be nearly as detailed as it ought to be if you wait until you actually need to evacuate your home to decide what you need to bring for you and your pets, so consider going over there today to check it out.

Do you and your family have an emergency preparedness plan already in place? If so, does it include provisions for taking your pets with you?

Now is the time to think about disaster preparedness for you, your family, and your animals. Please visit the Humane Society of the United States for advice on disaster planning for pets, horses, and farm animals and make sure you’re ready for an every day emergency.

(I was not compensated in any way for this post and all of the opinions expressed here are my own.)