Living in the Dallas area, it's only a matter of time before a tornado touches near and dear to home. And after the devastating touch-down this week, the aftermath is almost overwhelming as communities in Oklahoma pick up the pieces and try to decide how to go forward.
Tornado season is already here but it's always a good idea to take a second look at your personal disaster preparedness. If you do have a disaster plan, prepare and practice it before disaster strikes. And if you're a pet owner, those plans need to include what you will do with your pets.
The main concerns for animals will be preparing a safe area, providing shelter to ride out the storm, and having a source of food and water during and after the tornado warning.
The following tips are a must-read for pet owners as they make these preparations.
Don't leave pets outdoors
Pets (and people) have little chance of surviving a tornado outside. They will likely panic and not know where to run for safe cover.
If a storm warning is given, grab your pets and take them with you to your safe place. If one is not available, lay in a bath tub holding them, or close them in a small area towards the center of the house such as a closet, stairwell or bathroom.
Have enough crates on hand for each of your pets. If there is time, lock the animals into crates and secure the crate as well as you can to a solid item with chords or bungees.
Have a tornado kit
Storm kits should be placed in the area you plan to ride out a tornado. They should be inside a water-proof container with a locking lid.
Inside there should be canned food, a can opener, blankets, a storm radio, first aid kit, pet food, and plenty of water.
It is also a good idea to put identification on your pet so it's easier to be reunited should disaster strike.
Know who can help
Know who to turn to should a tornado devastate your area.
The Red Cross normally has contact information for places that will temporarily house pets and where stray pets are being held. The SPCA often pitches in and is a main point of contact in pet rescue and offering services to pet owners.
Once owners have access to these agencies, they can be the biggest source of comfort.
Practice the drill
Don't assume your dog will take cover with you willingly, especially when stressed. It's a good idea to practice where you will go.
The Humane Society of the United States says, "Do your best to train your dog to go to the area on command or come to you on command even when there are distractions."
Even though storms can be scary, try to be calm when dealing with pets. Your emotions will only add to their uncertainty and could cause them to panic, even run away.
Act with a clear head and try to make the best decisions in the shortest amount of time.