How One Fire Sparked My Awareness

by Kimberly Wade

Earlier this week I was driving home and as I exited the freeway, I noticed the plume of distant smoke wasn’t actually so distant. In fact, it was too close to home. At a stoplight (oops, don’t tell), I jumped on my phone to search for any news about a local fire. The Mogul fire, as it was dubbed, had just sparked near Somersett, a few blocks from my house. I bypassed my street to follow the firefighters and police. I’ve never seen a wildfire up close. This week, I did. The flames were literally right there.

I’m an East Coast beach baby, born and raised on the water, and I just don’t understand the desert. We had a heavy winter, yet it seems we have more fires than ever. I can empathize with locals who have endured them but I had yet to experience it myself—until now. I was used to hurricanes which offer plenty of time to prepare. Fires, not so much.

I panicked of course, called my husband and asked if I should prepare. Though realistically (I can be dramatic) the fire would have to jump a road and a ravine, it was still too close to home for me. I packed the necessities and got the kids (pets) ready. And that brings me to this—are your pets ready for a disaster?

I had all the kennels lined up with bedding. I had food, supplements and medical items. I even took their toys. Of course they were thinking we were going on an adventure, but I was already imagining loading three dogs and three cats into our cars and finding a place to stay (we would have bunked overnight in my office because I’m lucky enough to work at Nevada Humane Society).

Our cats range from one to three years old, but Maisey has a virus that requires supplements and a carefully monitored diet. Our dogs are all seniors, ages nine to 14. Our lab, Gilda, is incontinent, has hip and knee challenges, and eye issues. Lovingly, I say she’s a hot mess. They too are on supplements, and we have a slew of meds just in case. I recently checked all of their microchips and made sure they were registered and up to date with our contact info, and had all their vet records neatly organized. I was in good shape.

Emergencies come in many forms and can require a short absence from home or a long one. Each type of disaster requires different measures, and so you can prepare, I’m offering this simple advice:

  • Get a rescue sticker for your windows. Make sure it’s visible and includes types and number of pets. If you must evacuate, write “evacuated” on it when you leave so it’s known they’re safe.
  • Arrange a safe haven for your pets. Do not leave them behind! Look now to find boarding or someone who can take them in.
  • Choose a designated caregiver if you can’t get home. Whether temporary or permanent, this will help if you need to separate.
  • Prepare emergency supplies and a travelling kit, including first aid, leashes, collars and items that help keep your pets calm. Make sure their info is up to date—ages, vaccines, any medical conditions. Know contact info for your veterinarian. Get them microchipped and make sure that info is up to date. Have recent photos of your pet available in case they become lost.
  • Think about your home too. If you live in an earthquake prone area, find the safe rooms. I experienced a bad hurricane and I put my cats in harnesses, leashed them to me, and we all rode it out in the bathroom tub—with my roommates.

The three biggest things to be ready for a disaster, natural or not, are to prepare in advance, make a plan for if and when it happens, and stay informed. Take my advice. Don’t wait. Do it now.

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