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Pet Disaster Prep: How to Keep Your Pets Safe During a Wildfire Evacuation

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Pet Disaster Prep: How to Keep Your Pets Safe During a Wildfire Evacuation

Wildfire season is here in the United States, already scorching more than 2 million acres of land this year, damaging property and causing injuries and deaths. Because wildfires often start suddenly, it’s important to have an evacuation plan in place. And that plan should include your pets. 

“A lot of times wildfires come so quickly, people don’t have their stuff ready to go,” explains Lynnette Round, information officer with Cal Fire.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to be more prepared. We’ve already talked about how to get your house and yard ready for wildfire season, what to pack in a go bag in case you need to leave home fast, how to use emergency apps to stay in touch
and get up-to-date information on natural disasters in your area — and how to save digital copies of critical documents.

All of these tips could come in handy to help prepare your family and your home for the unexpected. But what special precautions should you take for your pets? I got advice from Cal Fire, FEMA and the American Red Cross on ways to keep your cats, dogs and other pets safe in the event of a wildfire evacuation. 

How to plan a wildfire evacuation with pets

Wildfire season typically lasts from May to October, but more recently that timeframe has expanded. Wildfires burned 735,125 acres in December 2020, breaking records in the US. Predictions say 2021 will be another record-breaking year for wildfire activity. Over 2.6 million acres have already burned, including the devastating Bootleg wildfire in Oregon, which has scorched 400,000 acres so far. 

The extended season and intensity of individual wildfires like Bootleg make it even more important to have a plan in place before a potential evacuation, including making a plan for your pets. 

“Sometimes [people] don’t have a lot of time, and it’s just enough time to get out. So if they’re prepared ahead of time, they won’t have to have that anxiety and they can just grab [their pets] and go,” adds Round. 

Note: While this article has specific information related to wildfires, the advice is broadly applicable to emergency prep for any natural disaster. It is specific to smaller animals and pets, though. If you have questions about how to manage livestock, horses or other large animals in an emergency, Cal Fire has a helpful guide.

Know the alert procedure in your area

Familiarize yourself ahead of time with the types of natural disasters in your area, says Marilyn Jiménez Dávila, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross. How do local officials notify residents and visitors about wildfires? Do they sound sirens? Do they issue emergency alerts on TV and radio? Before anything else, make sure you know what types of alerts exist where you live and how they’re issued. This way, you’ll hear about evacuation orders as quickly as possible. 

Pack a go bag for your pets (and yourself)

Cal Fire goes into detail about how to prepare pets before an evacuation and how to keep them safe during one. It includes pet-specific go bag items you should have ready at all times:

  • Pet carrier(s), one for each pet
  • Enough food and water for two weeks
  • Spill/break-resistant food and water bowls
  • A pet first aid kit (you can buy one or make your own)
  • Medications with complete use instructions
  • Litter box and litter
  • Plastic bags for cleaning up waste
  • Paper towels/cloth towels
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Leashes/collars/harnesses/seat belts
  • Blankets
  • Toys and treats

Keep what you can in a bag and store the rest (litter boxes, pet carriers, etc.) within close reach so you can quickly grab everything you need as you’re heading out the door. 

Keep digital copies of your pets’ current medical records and other important documentation. You should also store this information in hard copies in a waterproof bag, including adoption papers, vaccination documents, details about their food and eating schedules, medical/behavior issues and your vet’s contact info, a FEMA spokesperson suggests over email.

“Include a picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet,” the FEMA spokesperson says.

Make sure your pets are microchipped and that the microchips are activated. Ensure they’re wearing their most recent IDs on easy-to-read collar tags, including your contact information (and, ideally, at least one other person’s contact info), rabies tags and registration IDs. 

You’ll also want to prepare a go bag for yourself. Learn more here: Emergency go bag: What to pack if you need to leave home ASAP.

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Know where to go and rehearse ahead of time

FEMA provides detailed information on planning an evacuation, including how to evacuate with smaller animals. Start by identifying multiple potential evacuation routes and locations, including staying with friends or family or at a shelter or hotel. The Red Cross allows service animals, but most of its shelters don’t allow pets. 

“We do work with partners to make sure that our small animals do have a safe place to go,” Jiménez Dávila, the Red Cross spokesperson explains. That means you can show up at a Red Cross shelter with your pets and the team there will help find a safe place for them to stay during the evacuation. The American Red Cross Emergency: Alerts app has a map section that provides information on shelters locations. 

Jiménez Dávila also suggests keeping your car (if you have one) full of gas and facing the road in the direction of your planned evacuation route. “Having a plan is great, but what’s going to really help you is, if you practice what you should do. Practice your evacuation route,” she explains. Include the whole family in your practice evacuations, even pets, to get used to using pet carriers, carrying go bags and testing your planned evacuation routes.

If you don’t have a car, talk to neighbors, friends and family about your options — and find out what public transportation or other services might be available to help you. 

After you return home

After local authorities decide it’s safe for you to return home, you should still be cautious, Jiménez Dávila says. “Afterwards just like you would be careful wearing gloves and sturdy shoes when you’re returning home, your pets are going to need some extra care as well.”

Hotspots or other hazards caused by the wildfire might still be a concern. Your pets are going to be nervous, so make sure you watch them closely and don’t let them wander.

Other important things to keep in mind

If you aren’t home when a wildfire starts or spreads to your area, have a plan in place for a neighbor, friend or relative to look in on your pets to make sure they’re OK — or to evacuate with them if necessary. 

If you have to evacuate without your pets, put them inside your home in a windowless room with good ventilation, Cal Fire says. Consider putting them in a bathroom, utility room or garage (depending on the weather) and don’t tie them up. 

Set out dry food and water in containers that won’t break or spill, and let a faucet slowly drip water into a bigger container or bathtub to allow for a longer-term supply of water. 

For more information, check out the following resources for protecting your pets in areas prone to wildfires:

Read more:  How to Prepare for Hurricanes, Wildfires, Storms and Other Natural Disasters

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The Google Pixel Watch is incoming
(Image credit: Google)

We’re expecting the Google Pixel Watch to make its full debut on Thursday, October 6 – alongside the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro – but in the meantime a major leak has revealed much more about the upcoming smartwatch.

Seasoned tipster @OnLeaks (opens in new tab) has posted the haul, which shows off some of the color options and band styles that we can look forward to next week. We also get a few shots of the watch interface and a picture of it being synced with a smartphone.

Watch faces are included in the leak too, covering a variety of different approaches to displaying the time – both in analog and digital formats. Another image shows the watch being used to take an ECG reading to assess heartbeat rate.

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If the leak is accurate, then we’ve got four silicone straps on the way: black, gray, white, and what seems to be a very pale green. Leather straps look to cover black, orange, green and white, while there’s also a fabric option in red, black and green.

We already know that the Pixel Watch is going to work in tandem with the Fitbit app for logging all your vital statistics, and included in the leaked pictures is an image of the Pixel Watch alongside the Fitbit app running on an Android phone.

There’s plenty of material to look through here if you can’t wait until the big day – and we will of course be bringing you all the news and announcements as the Google event unfolds. It gets underway at 7am PT / 10am ET / 3pm BST / 12am AEDT (October 7).


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It’s been a fair while since Google launched itself into a new hardware category, and you could argue that there’s more riding on the Pixel Watch than there is on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro – as Google has been making phones for years at this point.

While Wear OS has been around for a considerable amount of time, Google has been leaving it to third-party manufacturers and partners to make the actual hardware. Samsung recently made the switch back to Wear OS for the Galaxy Watch 5 and the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, for example.

Deciding to go through with its own smartwatch is therefore a big step, and it’s clear that Google is envious of the success of the Apple Watch. It’s the obvious choice for a wearable for anyone who owns an iPhone, and Google will be hoping that Pixel phones and Pixel Watches will have a similar sort of relationship.

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