Pet Emergency Preparedness – A West Coast Primer

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June is designated as National Pet Preparedness Month by the American Humane Society (or AHS). The AHS offers a simple list of ten things to have in your pet preparedness kit, all of which are important. But depending on where you live, the emergencies or natural disasters you prepare for might be a little different.


To give you some added insight, we are teaming up with our friend Dexter over at Fidose of Reality for an east-coast | west-coast look at disaster preparedness. Be sure and visit Dex’s site if you live on the east-coast and are more susceptible to hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes or floods than we are out here on the west side of the country.


earthquakeIf you live in the western part of the US, you are probably more worried about earthquakes or fires – I know we are here in SoCal.


Let’s start with earthquakes. We have had a few since we lived here, the last one being just last week with an epicenter in Westwood, CA and magnitude of 4.2. We felt it here, just slightly, but Westwood is a good 50 miles from us. The largest quake in recent history was the Northridge earthquake in 1994, a 6.7 quake that claimed the lives of 63 people. Luckily, we had not moved here yet.


There is an old wives tale that your pets can ‘tell’ when an earthquake is about to strike. It’s never held true with any of our dogs. Both Jack and Maggie slept right through the one we had last week. But it’s not an old wives tale that you need to be prepared. We are fortunate that we live in a fairly rural area in a one-story house, so I don’t worry about the building collapsing or things falling on me, but for those of you in the city, be sure to have a plan if things really start rocking. Bracing yourself in a doorway truly is the best advice. But what about your pet? If they are small enough, hold them, or at the very least get them in the doorway with you. You don’t have time to do much more than that – I would suggest a metal crate if you have time, that would at least keep things from falling on them.


After the quake, assess the damage. Check for downed power lines or damaged water or gas lines. Obviously that would only be a danger if the quake was severe – we have never experienced anything close to that.


Given the drought we’ve been experiencing in the west, another concern is fires. We had a fire not far from us about a year ago – we even wrote about it at the time and offered some tips. You need to be prepared to move and move quickly with a fire as they are unpredictable and spread quickly. California has a reverse-911 protocol in place and they will call us if our area is being evacuated. It’s recommended to get your cell phones registered to the reverse-911 directory as well as your home number.
Whenever there is a fire danger, I stick pretty close to home because of the dogs. We have a special sign in our windows to inform the fire department that there are two dogs inside the house in case we are not home. If you went to Blog Paws, they actually gave one away in the swag bag. I can’t recommend those enough for ANY situation. I imagine you can get these at your local pet store.


A final situation we’ve prepared for here is wildlife. We are fortunate to live very close to an extended “Open Space” area in California. This is totally undeveloped land and will remain that way, but it’s not uninhabited. Depending on the time of year and where we are walking, we encounter coyotes, rattlesnakes and  even bobcats around our home.  Even more scary: every so often we read signs informing us of mountain lion sightings!

Having a plan already formulated in your head is critical to dealing with any of these situations. Here’s my short list of actions or reactions I plan to take if faced with one of them.


  1. First and foremost, our home has earthquake insurance. Obtaining this requires that your house be firmly secured or bolted to the foundation.
  2. Make sure shelves, cupboards, bookcases are also secured firmly – open shelves for your dishes are probably not a good design idea.
  3. Know where the shut-offs for your gas, power and water lines are in case you need to shut that down for safety purposes. Look for paint cans or other combustibles that are toxic to your pets that may have spilled or fallen off that shelf in the garage.
  4. Crating your pets, or at least having them crate trained can help keep them safe and out of harms way during a quake and after. If your dog tends to run off when afraid, be sure you know their hiding spots.


  1. Have a plan, if not written down, at least in your head. What will you take and where will you go if you have to evacuate?
  2. Most importantly, what will you do with your pets? If you have to go to a temporary shelter, they may not allow your pets. We are fortunate that we have lots of family nearby, so we will impose on them, but not everyone has that luxury. Think about this and make plans so you aren’t left flustered.


  1. Coyotes are our biggest concern as we see them often – especially at certain times of the year. Typically, we just turn and walk the other way and that’s the end of it. I tend to keep Jack and Maggie on the leash more often than not, so I feel safe they can’t run off. I had many frightening experiences with Sally and Tino chasing the coyotes so I am more cautious then before. Coyotes typically aren’t aggressive and will leave you alone if you leave them alone. We interviewed a CA Park Ranger last year and provided some great tips on handling an encounter with a coyote in this article published at Dogster.
  2. The standard advice on rattlesnakes is to freeze when you see or hear it and slowly back away. Easy for a human, not so easy for a dog. That’s one reason it’s important to have your dog leashed when you are in rattlesnake country during the time of day that they are out- when it is hot and dry.
  3. If the unthinkable happens and your dog gets bit, keep calm. That will help your dog stay calm. The venom is carried through the blood stream, so you want to minimize movement of your dog and get them to a vet immediately.
  4. If you live in rattlesnake country, know which vet in your area has anti-venom in stock. Smaller vets may not have it. There are also rattlesnake avoidance classes that you can sign up for – check to see if they have them in your area.
  5. If you encounter a bobcat, DON’T listen to your gut which is telling you to turn and run. Follow the same rule as above and back away slowly and deliberately keeping as much distance as possible between you and the bobcat.
  6. If you have a small dog or pet pick them up and hold them. A larger dog may be harder to control but this is where good leash training comes in handy. Loud noises, including barking, a whistle or an air horn may scare them away.
  7. We don’t have bears in our part of California, but there are plenty of other places in the west and back east where bears are much more common. I think the advice is similar to any wild animal encounter…back away slowly.

There are many guides and tip manuals out there and I’ve listed several in the Resources section below.  Being well prepared do handle emergencies really comes down to common sense and, like a boy scout, being prepared. If you are a pet owner, you have the added responsibility of being prepared for your pet as well as yourself.


Jack wanted me to add one more disaster to the list, although it is not endemic to the West Coast and can happen anywhere in the world. “Running out of bacon“.  I’m not sure that really qualifies as a preparedness event, but I told him I would add it. If you have advice to share with our readers on how you’ve prepared, please tell us about it in the comments.


And don’t forget to visit  Fidose of Reality to get the east-coast perspective too. Looks like Dexter has his priorities straight as far as what’s important to put in his emergency kit!


Center for Disease Control: Emergency Preparedness

Red Cross Earthquake Preparedness for Pets
California Pet Preparedness
Earthquake Preparedness for Pets
California Earthquake Map
Red Cross Wildfire Preparedness for Pets
How to Survive Wildfires (State of Arizona)

How to Protect Your Dogs from Coyotes
Bobcat Control and How to Prevent Attacks
Be Bear Aware!
USDA Forest Service: Hiking and Camping with Dogs

BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop!


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  1. WOW, what great resources here. I really was scared and a bit nervous when we went cross country in May and there were wildfires brewing out west. You all sure do have your regional scares, as we do. What binds us is that we want our pets kept safe and out of harm’s way.

    Amazing, too, that your dogs slept through the earthquake. I, too, thought dogs predicted them, so to speak. I can tell you this: Dexter knows an hour or so before it is going to rain. He sniffs and starts letting us know.
    Carol Bryant recently posted…East Coast Dog Disaster Preparation TipsMy Profile

    • Interesting he smells the rain…yeah, none of our dogs ever reacted to earthquakes or anything really. Tino eventually became afraid of the Santa Ana winds, but that was mostly because he was blind. Hope our two posts give folks some good tips to help keep our prized pets safe and secure.
      mkob recently posted…Pet Emergency Preparedness – A West Coast PrimerMy Profile

  2. We are always prepared here in the shakey isles, Wise words – Be Prepared!!!
    Harvey Button recently posted…Awesome Angels for the Blog Paws Blog HopMy Profile

  3. Wow, this is a very comprehensive list and makes me extra glad to live in New Zealand. In our area we only have earthquakes and I’m sure Frankie does know when we’re about to have one! He gets a bit agitated before and during them. Thankfully they don’t worry Beryl and Asher.
    Greyhounds CAN Sit recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Living Dangerously!My Profile

  4. That’s very good advice thanks so much for helping all the pet parents be prepared to help us if a disaster strikes. Just because you are prepared doesn’t mean you are hoping something happens! Love Dolly
    Dolly the Doxie recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Dogs OnlyMy Profile

  5. Great advice, now that we’re in Colorado we’ve had flooding that was unexpected and completely unprepared for. We know better now. Luckily we haven’t had any of the fires that have happened in the past. And, it’s way better than the tornadoes in KS where we came from!
    Emily recently posted…Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  6. Great information, will hop over to Fidose – since I’m on the East side. I like the sign in the window, will have to do that. Thanks so much Slim

  7. That was some really helpful info and tips. Luckily here in Canada the worst we get (98% of the time) is thunder storms and snow storms. Nothing to major.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Husky graphics – Hey i’m learning!My Profile

  8. Some dogs are said to act weird before an earthquake hits. My dogs have acted weird a lot more times than we’ve had earthquakes.
    jan recently posted…Elvis Presley, his Hound Dog, and the controversy that followedMy Profile

  9. I hope all will be well prepared, I can only imagine what can happen when the elements go crazy. Our wildlife is more moderate, think the biggest “predators” here are foxes.
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog AUCTION TUESDAYMy Profile

  10. Understanding the risks where you live is the first step. Then researching the resources and potential options in the case of those emergencies is the next step. It is never a good idea to try to figure out stuff as the disaster is unfolding. Knowing where you can evacuate to depending on how far you have to go now is a good idea, since you may have to pursue a few before you can get a spot in an emergency.

    We also have info on CMDart that works with the Red Cross in our area when animals need to be evacuated.
    Bailey recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Our First KongsMy Profile

  11. Fantastic information, so valuable and great idea to team up and share. Hope we never need to use it.


    We don’t have earthquakes but we do have hurricanes (and fires) so this is another list of things to consider.

  13. We just have tornadoes to worry about, but the chances are so slim, we don’t worry too much. I guess since we spend have the year frozen and buried in snow, God lets us catch a bit of a break with those big natural events the other half of the year. Mom has been in earthquakes in Guam and Tokyo and did not find them the least bit amusing.
    Emma recently posted…Meet Snoopy’s Sister BelleMy Profile

    • You pay the price one way or the other you know…it’s all in what you can take. See I can’t take that snow…I’d rather have a little shaking ever couple of years.
      mkob recently posted…Pet Emergency Preparedness – A West Coast PrimerMy Profile

  14. That is some interesting information. You guys face very different threats than we do here. I live on the East coast so will be heading to Fidose of Reality to read the tips there. I am actually in the process of making our hurricane survival kit at the moment so the timing is perfect.
    Crazy Dog Life recently posted…Risky Dog BusinessMy Profile

  15. Fabulous post thank you for all the great information. I bought ten pounds of bacon the other day and thought of jack.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Wordless Wednesday~Ya Got Something Green In Your ToothMy Profile

  16. Mostly just earthquakes here. You reminded me that I should get together some emergency rations for the pup. He won’t eat kibble, and the cans are too big for him to eat in one meal without refrigeration. i’ll have to look into some freeze-dried food.
    Tenacious Little Terrier recently posted…Wordless Wednesday #40 – Sleeping with ChewbaccaMy Profile

  17. Great post. I *really* need to get a little emergency pack together for Rita! We have one of those stickers in the window, but it’s gotten really faded out where I wrote her info in. This is a good reminder to fix that!
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…Animal Mummies – A Fascinating ExhibitMy Profile

  18. There is crazy weather anywhere you choose to live, I guess. One other important item to keep on hand is bottled water for yourself and the pets. Always hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Two Great Adoptable DogsMy Profile

  19. Wildfires are the biggest one here. We had a small one start very very close a couple of years ago. Helicopters were hovering over our house and the land that was on fire. The helicopters freaked out the dogs while we were trying to pack a few things before fleeing. (We have a box of dog meds etc, always packed). The part that we didn’t expect was that one dog sneaked out with us on a trip to the vehicles and then wouldn’t come when called due to the insane noise of the helicopter. We did capture him but learned a very very important lesson about locking up your dogs until you are absolutely ready to go. We’ve thought that we’ll seatbelt them into the car while we’re packing so they’re ready to go.

    Thanks for the important reminder!
    KB recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Huge AntlerMy Profile

  20. Great emergency guide! It got me thinking about a few problems we have here in Michigan. I will have to check out Dex’s blog since we’re more prone to east-coast emergency situations here.
    Playful Kitty recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: The Cave of AwesomenessMy Profile

  21. Excellent tips. LOL on the bacon shortage. We have to worry about wildfires up at our cabin every spring. It is a good idea to have an escape route planned out. We also have to worry about wildlife up there as well and have seen coyotes. Luckily they mostly go the opposite direction when they see us and the dogs. I am happy we don’t have snakes….or earthquakes.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–That LookMy Profile

    • Fires are the scariest I think – especially here because they move so fast and furious. We’ve been lucky so far.
      mkob recently posted…Some Fun Dog & Fitness InfographicsMy Profile

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