Last week while reading before bedtime, I started to smell smoke. You know, that dreadful house-on-fire smoke smell. I didn’t hear any sirens, but it was obvious that somewhere nearby someone’s home was burning. The next morning I read there were two home fires about a mile from me. That gave me pause to think about what I would grab with just a few moments to get out. Where were my cats? Where was that emergency crate?
The Pacific Northwest is primed for the quake of the century . . . tomorrow or in 300 years. This is the big one — the one that could destroy bridges, take down cell towers, and make it nearly impossible to get just about anywhere.
Realistically, the most likely potential disaster is fire, not earthquake. Fire is the most common home disaster and kills more people every year than all natural disasters combined. To give you perspective, in the first six months of 2011, the Portland Fire Department responded to 200 structure fires and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue responded to 50 fires. Last year alone there were 568 structure fires in Multnomah County. TVF&R responds to an average of 100 fires every year.
And what do you think is the #1 cause? If you guessed cigarettes, you are partially correct; that’s the cause of one in 10. The distinction is that cigarette-started fires are the leading cause of fire-related death. The leading cause of residential fires in Oregon and nationally, according to TVF&R, is kitchen fires.
Today, most of us are not even prepared to “survive” a traffic delay (do you have water and food in your car?). So how would we live in the days after a horrific natural disaster? According to an online survey I conducted in July, about half of respondents don’t have any sort of family emergency kit and two-thirds don’t have one for pets.
Take time now to put together an emergency kit for your pets and keep it readily accessible. If the kit isn’t for that 9.0 earthquake, it might be for a gas leak, broken water main, or even a fire filling your home with smoke.
- Know where your cat might hide when stressed
- Find a trusted neighbor who can evacuate your cat in case you're away (86% of survey respondents did not have someone on call to help)
- Practice removing your cat from his/her hiding spot quickly and firmly
- Practice using your cat’s carrier, a pillowcase, sturdy box — anything to get your pet quickly out of harm’s way. The evac sak, created by local animal advocate Rebecca Rodriguez, works great: www.evacsak.net
- Involve your entire family so everyone knows what to take, where to find the pets, and where to meet
- Keep your emergency kit up to date. Add it to the list for when you do like annual checkups — of smoke detectors, for example.
- Make sure your vehicle always has enough gas to get you out of the area (over a quarter full at all times)
Prepare now so when something does happen, you, your family, and your pets will be safe.
Kathy is PR Manager for the Cat Adoption Team, author of the Cat's Meow Blog on OregonLive.com, and member of the Cat Writer's Association. She's worked for the Humane Society of the United States and the Oregon Humane Society. Kathy and her hubby live with two 'adopted from a shelter' cats - Mack and Clio.