How Veterinarians Can Prepare Their Clients for Natural Disasters

August 31, 2016
VMD Staff

Anne McCann, national emergency programs coordinator at the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Care, discusses veterinary roles in family preparedness.

Anne McCann, national emergency programs coordinator at the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Care, discusses the role local veterinarians can play in preparing their clients to care for their pets during disasters.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability).

"It's absolutely critical that family preparedness be a key piece of helping the country recover from disasters. So local veterinarians really play a key role in ensuring that their clients are prepared to take care of the animals in their lives during a disaster. You know, animals are dependent on the people that they live with. So if the people aren't prepared to evacuate with them, if evacuation is necessary, or shelter in place with them and stay at home with them during a disaster, and have sufficient supplies on hand to weather the storm, so to speak, we don't get where we need to be with family preparedness. And the communities really need for everybody in the community to be prepared to take care of themselves for at least three days to a week following the disaster, until all the supplies can be brought in if it's particularly large disaster.

"So for example, in Superstorm Sandy, one of the crazy things for me was how quickly people ran out of pet food. That was a disaster where there was a week's worth or more of notice that this was going to be a huge storm. Yet, almost immediately after the disaster people needed pet food and they couldn't get down, the power was out, they couldn't use the elevators in their apartment buildings, and they needed pet food and all of the stores were closed as well because the power was out.

The English and Spanish versions are also available online.

"So it really is critical that people plan ahead, particularly when it's a notice event where people are talking about this bad storm coming, to do the preparations needed to make sure that they and their animals are going to be safe during the disaster. AVMA actually has a brochure called “Saving the Whole Family,” and this brochure is really, I think, about the best that's available now for helping the whole family, for helping all animals in the family be prepared. So it talks about preparedness tips for all of the animals, whether you have companion animals—cats and dogs, whether you have backyard poultry, or whether you have horses, or other animals, this brochure really covers all of them and what preparedness is needed. It also comes in Spanish, which is handy, and I think it's the only one that I'm aware of that does come in Spanish. So for people that need information, veterinary hospitals can get this from AVMA, or they can download it and print it at their local facility and give it to their clients. But if they could put one of these in the hands of every single client they have and encourage those clients to get prepared for an emergency, I think we'd all be better off as a country. This is a dialogue we need to have that on an ongoing basis to ensure we're all prepared to weather the storm."