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Pet Care Facility Weather Emergency Preparedness: You’re Ready, Right?

By Ben Day, Business Safety Consultant

Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Flooding. The list of potential weather disasters for any business is a scary one. But if you have insurance, you’re covered. Right?

Wrong.

How will you pay your employees with a crippled business and no revenue. And, here’s the biggie for pet care facilities that insurance cannot take care of, where will you house the animals you care for if your facility is, if not completely destroyed, at least temporarily unusable? Do you have an Emergency Action Plan? If not, put one in place. Now.

September is National Preparedness Month and there is no better time to get prepared. Hurricane season is on the horizon and, if last winter is any indication, more dangerously cold weather could be just ahead.

Although there are many emergency situations to consider, the following provides a start for preparing for weather disasters.

Designate Your Emergency Leaders and Locations
Starting today, designate a team member responsible for monitoring weather updates to communicate to the rest of the staff.

Clearly identify to the staff the person with the authority to begin an evacuation so there is no question who is in charge.

Before disaster hits, you should already have identified an alternative location to take your animals if your building is destroyed or rendered temporarily unusable.

Put It In Writing and Keep Your Policies Safe
Make sure you have a crystal clear Communication Plan in place with current phone numbers to inform both your clients and staff of the situation with specific instructions for the next step in recovery.

Keep those insurance policies in a handy place for retrieval so when you are in a hurry you will not need to search for them.

Organize your “Survival Gear”
What will you need to evacuate a pet care facility? Start with:

  • Leashes
  • Transport carriers
  • Owner contact information
  • Medical records (if you are heading to another kennel facility)

As IBPSA has discussed before, make sure your owner contact information and related pet client records are always kept in a safe, off-premises location either by storing “in the cloud” or by regular back-up to a separate drive kept at separate location.

Don’t forget planning for the “unique” pets that may be in your care at the time a weather disaster strikes:

  • Birds – Blankets to cover their cage for warmth and a spray bottle to hydrate feathers.
  • Snakes – Pillowcase for transport and a heating pad for warmth.
  • Pocket pets (mice, gerbils, hamsters) – Bedding and water bottles

Train and Drill: Real World, Real Time Preparation
Written policies and lists must be just part of your Emergency Action Plan. So you and your staff are truly prepared should disaster strike, you must take the time to train and drill for potential emergencies.

Hurricane
Your designated weather monitor should have the information you need to advise of a possible hurricane.

  • Determine safe evacuation routes both inland and alternative routes.
  • Review your shelter in place plan making sure your batteries are fresh and your disaster kit is fully stocked.
  • Cover windows and back up servers taking a copy with you should you leave the premises.

Tornado
As we know, even if only from watching the news, tornadoes develop quickly, so you must be prepared in advance.

  • Make sure all employees and animals are away from glass.
  • Ensure that employees have their heads and as much of their body as possible covered.
  • Animals should be covered and secured as well, following your individual company policy/procedures.

Flood
As we learned this past spring in Texas, stunning, historic and deadly floods happen in a flash.

  • Have a clear plan to move animals to higher ground, taking into consideration possible flooded parking lots and streets.
  • Plan for more than one location in the event your primary safe location is also flooded.
  • Check beforehand to keep dangerous chemicals from being introduced into the environment.
  • Take important contact information with you.

Winter Weather
As we learned last year on the East Coast and in other parts of the country, winter weather can strike with a vengeance, so get ready now.

  • Have plans in place for loss of heat, frozen pipes, and clients and employees who cannot get to your facility.
  • Make sure portable heaters are permitted where your business resides, and, if so, consider having some safe ones on hand.
  • Designate the persons responsible for keeping the drive and walks clean.
  • Clearly identify the person who makes the decision when or if you will close.

The best outcome of taking the time to get prepared now and create an Emergency Action Plan is that, ultimately, there is no emergency. We all hope and pray for no weather disasters, but taking the time to prepare is never wasted time. A tornado can form and level an entire town in mere minutes. A flash flood can rip through a business and destroy it in a flash. This past spring a business near downtown Austin, Texas, released the footage from their security cameras that shows exactly how quickly disaster can strike. But this was a restaurant that was closed, not filled with helpless animals. You can watch the video here. Now, close your eyes and envision those tables and chairs as kennels with pets trapped inside.

Get prepared. Now.

Emergency-Preparedness-Program-150For more in-depth preparedness planning, IBPSA offers an Emergency Preparedness Plan exclusively for members in our online store. The expanded document includes a sample written “Emergency Plan For Off-site Evacuation” plus much more. To purchase and download now, visit the IBPSA member online-store here.