Sunday, September 18, 2011

Planning for Disaster.

An article on CNN's website titled "Making an Emergency Plan for Pets" reminded me to review the Stardancer Kennel's emergency evacuation plan.  For this quick mental review I just considered the dog musher's equivilent of each of the "10 tips to kick-start your emergency plans" lised in the CNN article.

 1. Create an emergency contact list.  I maintain an "emergency responder" list for the Stardancer kennel that is readily available to both myself and our handler.  It includes people who are either current or former dog mushers, familiar with the special needs and challenges of sled dogs. 

  2. Make an emergency kit.  The article recommends "fill a backpack with at least two weeks of food for your pets".  For the Stardancers, a two weeks supply of kibble represents at least 130 lb.  That's a bit more than will fit into a back-pack.  Our evacuation plan includes instructions to hitch a small trailer to the truck, and load dogfood, water and other supplies into that trailer as an early step of the process.

3. Try camping, or at least learn a few skills. The odds of finding a motel, emergency shelter or other accommodation willing to accept 15 rambunctious working dogs ranges from slim to none.  Part of my plan includes preparation not just to camp the team, but to camp the human with the team. 

 4. Practice makes perfect.  At least run through a few "table top" scenarios.  Consider how you'll respond if access roads or obstructed or you come across other issues that may complicate your plan. 

5. Take a certification course.  I've taken dozens of different "certification courses", and frankly, none of them are particularly applicable to making an emergency action plan for a sled dog kennel.  I don't require this of our handler, and it's not high on my list of recommendations to others.

6. Invest in sturdy pet carriers.  We have an entire truck dedicated to safely transporting and housing the team "on the road".

Our sturdy pet carrier.
7. Stock the basics in an emergency bag.  In our case, the "basics" include such things as drop-chains, picket lines, harnesses, food dishes and so forth, all of which are in handy locations so they can be quickly loaded and packed in an emergency.

8. Carry copies of documentation.  The advice in the article reads, "Grab a waterproof container and use it to hold copies of your pet's vital information, McNulty says. The container should hold pictures of your pet, as well as a list of medications, allergies, vaccination records, a rabies certificate, and disaster contacts — inside and outside of the disaster area."  I simply keep all that stuff on my lap-top computer, which is much easier to transport and keep track of than any sort of paper filing system.

9. Carry photos that show you with your pet.  Again, I have lots of photos of the dogs and I in my computer.

10. Don't wait for the second or third warning.  Most of the folks in Joplin, Missouri didn't even get a "first" warning when that town was struck by a tornado earlier this year.  Be ready to bug-out at the first hint that it may be necessary to do so.  On the other hand, be equally ready to "dig in" and wait out the disaster, if that is the safest approach for you and your team. 

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