How Animal Shelters and Clinics Can Prepare for Hurricanes
September is the height of hurricane season—and a key month for disaster preparedness.
The ASPCA works with emergency management, public health, and animal welfare organizations yearlong to prepare for all types of natural and manmade disasters, including windstorms.
Windstorms, which make up 22 percent of all disasters and include hurricanes, are the second deadliest type of disaster after floods. Due to factors like global climate change, population growth, and environmental fragility, there has been a significant increase in disasters in the US in the past several years.
Storms are also making earlier yearly appearances. The summer of 2012 was the first time in recorded history that four named storms developed in the Atlantic before July 1: Tropical Storm Alberto, Tropical Storm Beryl, Hurricane Chris, and Tropical Storm Debby.
Prepare Well in Advance
- Develop a written disaster plan to identify operating protocol for disasters, and review and update it every year.
- Share your plan with staff and volunteers to ensure their safety as well as the safety of animals in your care, and provide staff, volunteers, and adopters with information to assist them with developing a personal preparedness plan for their family members and pets.
- Review and share the preparedness guide for taking care of animals, co-authored by ASPCA, HSUS, and FEMA, available at Ready.gov. Check with your local Emergency Management System (EMS) for training opportunities, and consider enrolling in The ASPCA's Disaster Response Program, a free course.
If your shelter or clinic is not rated to withstand high winds and/or is located in a storm surge area or a floodplain, you'll need an evacuation plan for people and animals. Work with groups and shelters outside your community to develop mutual agreements, recognizing how you can assist each other in the event of an emergency. If a storm is likely to make landfall in your community, arrange to transport your dogs and cats to shelters outside the area. Doing so will provide you with additional space for housing pets lost during and after a storm.
Identify Highest Risks
- Connect with local social service agencies to identify the most at-risk pet owners needing assistance.
- Build your volunteer foster network to include safe places for the pets of owners who may need your help, such as the elderly and disabled. Medical shelters do not permit pets, and pet-friendly shelters may not have enough capacity.
- If your shelter or clinic is hurricane-safe and has capacity, offer to shelter vulnerable pets or build your foster network to include temporary foster homes.
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