Are You Ready?

Besides all the usual hurricane preparedness, there are a number of steps and precautions you’ll want to take if you have children with you during a storm.

For starters, if there’s any question of a serious threat to life and limb, evacuate your kids from the area as soon as possible. Don’t wait. While you’re at it, send the pets along, too. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. But if you’re all staying, know that kids are not oblivious to danger and rising stress levels. They often require reassuring, and they’ll be looking to you for comfort and stability.

Facing Fears

Fears often stem from imagination. Let’s face it: fear of the unknown can rattle anyone. With kids, it’s best to be honest about the situation in a calm manner and present a united front with other family members, reminding them that they are not alone.

If they appear nervous at any point, encourage them to express what they’re feeling and reassure them that you have taken every precaution conceivable to keep everyone safe. Remember, fear breeds fear and it’s easily picked up on, so try and keep it together.

According to Florida’s Department of Health, be aware that after a disaster, children most fear these three things:

•    They will be separated from family, and they will be left alone

•    The event will happen again

•    Someone will be injured or killed

They also depend on routines. When emergencies or disasters interrupt those routines, children can become anxious, confused and/or frightened. Routine is what many of us thrive on for keeping an even keel.

Early Planning

The experts at DOH recommend putting a kit together for your child containing the following:

•    Any medications they may be taking

•    A few favorite books, crayons and paper

•    Puzzles, a board game, a deck of cards

•    Two favorite small toys (e.g., doll, action figure, stuffed animal)

•    Favorite blanket, pillow

•    Pictures of family and pets

Pets and Storms

Being a pet owner when eyeing a storm can also bring added planning and responsibilities to your already hectic prep efforts, whether you’re staying or evacuating the area. 

Evacuation Routes

If you’re planning on evacuating, know this: county and state government officials strongly advise you to take your pets with you. Don’t leave them behind to fend for themselves. Due to this advice, it’s important to know what you’ll be facing with an animal or two in tow.

Pets are not allowed in public shelters administered by the American Red Cross. As in prior hurricane seasons, three locations will be identified within Brevard County by the Emergency Management division as being pet-friendly shelters. It should be noted pet-friendly shelters are for people and pets residing in mandatory evacuation areas only.

It is also strongly recommended that prior arrangements be made to shelter your pets with a commercial kennel, family members or friends outside of the evacuation zone. These arrangements should be seen to in advance of a storm’s approach. To make life easier, ensure all your pets are vaccinated before hurricane season begins, as many animal care facilities require proof of the following:

•    Dogs: rabies vaccine, distemper/Parvo group, Bordetella and Corona

•    Cats: rabies vaccine, feline leukemia, Rhinotracheitis/Calicivirus and Panleukopenia

Additionally, make sure your pets wear collars with rabies/ID tags; have leashes; that each pet has a carrier/cage with room to stand and turn around in; food and water bowls/dispensers; any pet medications; a week’s supply of food; plenty of drinking water; and pet toys, bedding and potty pads. Continuity and familiarity can help tremendously in times of stress for animals, kids and even adults.

Important Hurricane Tips

Regardless of where you’re sheltering, assuming it’s local, your pet will eventually need to relieve itself. If they’ve never used a potty pad for waste, you may need to take them outside, provided there is an entrance/exit protected from the wind. If this is the case, be sure to attach their leash so they cannot run off during the storm or get blown off course. Fortunately, most animals will only go out as far as is absolutely necessary to clear the door before deciding the patio or porch will do in a pinch.

For more information on surviving disasters with pets and Brevard County pet-friendly shelters, visit BrevardFL.gov.