Depending on the type and intensity of a natural disaster, it may be safer for you and your dog to stay where you are than to evacuate. FEMA advises that sheltering in place is appropriate when “conditions require that you seek immediate protection in your home, place of employment, school, or other location when disaster strikes.” Sheltering in place is not intended to be long-term; FEMA says it should only be for a few hours, not days or weeks.
While you may think you know what “sheltering in place” means, it’s important to understand the actual definition: According to the American Red Cross, “Shelter in place means selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there. It does not mean sealing off your entire home or office building.” It also does not mean that you and your dog have to stay exactly where you are: Depending on the threat, such as during a tornado, flood, or earthquake, you may have to move to another room inside your home to remain safe.
Reasons you may be advised to shelter at home include:
- Unsafe air quality.
- Roads are too dangerous for travel, due to washed-out roads, downed wires, or trees, or large amounts of snow or ice.
- High winds and flying debris.
If you have to shelter at home with your dog:
- Make sure your dog is inside. If it’s unsafe for you to be outside, it’s unsafe for him, too.
- Know the location of your dog’s emergency “go bag.” It should have already been stocked with extra food, water, first-aid kit, and other essentials your dog needs.
- Take your dog with you to a room that is safe. The room’s location is based on whether you are sheltering from a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, flood, or blizzard. If there’s a wildfire, it’s best to take your dog and leave the premises immediately.
- Bring a battery-operated radio to ensure that you can get updates from emergency officials even if the power goes out, or your phone and Internet connections are down.
- If time allows, move your dog’s favorite bed or blanket to your safe room, so that you can make him comfortable until the threat passes.
- Since dogs can get restless if cooped up inside, bring items to keep him engaged, such as toys, games, and learning activities.
- Make sure your dog has a place to relieve himself, if he can’t go outside. Keeping puppy pee pads on hand can be useful for this purpose, as can potty training your dog to go indoors. Have cleaning supplies on hand, in case of an accident.
- Keep your dog away from the windows. Debris may fly around during a major storm due to high winds. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that flying debris is the most common cause of injury during a hurricane.
- Be ready for you and your dog to leave at any moment. Keep his leash and any necessary travel gear near the exit, and make sure you refer to your emergency evacuation plan.
- Dogs know when panic is in the air, so try to remain as calm as possible.
No matter what, use good judgment: Stay inside with you dog until you hear or see an official message that the threat is over. If authorities tell you to evacuate, listen to them. Nothing is worth risking harm to yourself or your dog.
For more information about sheltering in place during a natural disaster, visit RedCross.org.