The Veterinary Hurricane Preparedness Kit

Hurricane season has begun in Florida, and preparing for these storms is a song and dance many Floridians have become familiar with each year. With many hurricanes over recent years having grown in severity, it is as essential as ever to remain aware and prepared for—though not afraid of—what lies ahead.

When lives are altered during these storms, clients’ animals cannot fend for themselves. The following tools will help pet owners and veterinary practices ensure these animals have someone to fend for them in a safe, effective manner.

ADVICE TO PASS ALONG TO YOUR CLIENTS

While many clients will have previously weathered hurricanes with their pets, some may be first-time pet owners or may have just moved to an area with hurricanes. Remind your clients that pets should be kept inside during the storm and indoor accommodations made for them to go to the restroom.

The client must know that if they evacuate, the pet must go with them. If it’s not safe for a human, it’s not safe for their pets.

As hurricanes approach, and chaos ensues, consider emailing your clients with the following recommendations:

KEEP YOUR PET IN DISASTER-READY CONDITION

  • Ensure all your pets’ collars and tags have up-to-date contact information.  
  • Microchipping a pet is one of the best ways to find them again, should they become lost.  
  • Have proper equipment for pets to ride in the car with you (this is especially important for cats or exotics, who may not leave your house often).  
  • Pet carriers are needed at many shelters and can serve as a safe space for a nervous pet. They are highly recommended when transporting your pet. The pet carrier should be the correct size (the pet should be able to stand, turn around and lay down comfortably). Be sure to label the carrier with your pet’s name, breed, sex, date of birth, your current address and contact numbers and any important medical information. 
  • Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag and a leash.  
  • Carry at least one slip leash. A simple slip-type webbing or nylon leash will ensure you have a way to restrain a dog (or even a cat) in the event they slip out of their collar or harness.

YOUR PETS’ DISASTER KIT IS AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR FAMILY’S 

  • At least three days to two weeks’ worth of food and water specifically for your pet stored in sealed containers. 
  • If your pet’s regular diet includes canned food, remember to have a manual can opener with you.  
  • Don’t forget bowls to serve your pet’s meals  
  • At least two weeks’ worth of any medication they require in a sealed, airtight container. 
  • Important documents such as any registration information, adoption papers and vaccination documents. Photocopied records of your rabies certificate, vaccinations and medical summaries are a must and should be stored in a waterproof container.  
  • A first aid kit particularly for your pet. May include cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors, antibiotic ointment, flea and tick prevention, latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. A pet first aid reference book is a good idea too. 
  • Hygiene and grooming supplies. Any sanitation items and products you need to clean and clean up after your pet. Consider pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach.  
  • A picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in the event you become separated. Add species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics. 
  • Familiar items, such as treats, toys and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet. Toys will also help keep your pet occupied.

Ask, don’t assume

Be sure to secure accommodations for your pet before the storm. Every time a hurricane approaches, false information circulates on social media. A common myth is that there are laws requiring all hotels to allow pets in their rooms during an evacuation notice. This statement is not true and can put you in a tough spot if all other pet-friendly hotels in your area are already booked. Ask ahead of time if the location you plan to evacuate to is comfortable with every pet you will be bringing when you arrive there. There are also plenty of websites where you can verify if a hotel or shelter will be petfriendly. 

For more information, visit CDC.gov and search “Pet Safety in Emergencies. 

 

HAVE A PLAN FOR YOUR PRACTICE

Whether you plan to evacuate or ride out the storm, every effective disaster plan for veterinary practices and clinics consists of seven basic parts. All seven of these will be critical to the success of your company during a major storm.  

  • Emergency relocation of boarded and hospitalized animals 
  • Backups of medical records 
  • Continuity of operations 
  • Building and personnel security 
  • Fire prevention 
  • Chemical spill prevention 
  • Insurance coverage/legal issues 

      Be sure to hand out your completed hurricane plan in advance, so you aren’t trying to create a plan at the last minute.  

      Emergency Relocation of Boarded & Hospitalized Animals 

      • Make sure leashes, carriers and other species-specific supplies are brought along.  
      • Plan for appropriate, pre-arranged animal transportation along with a temporary animal holding location.  
        • Include a 24-hour client contact list which can also be accessed off-site.  
      • Inform staff, clients and legal counsel of your planning processes for these animals. 

      backup of medical records

      Keep medical records and digital copies of important documents backed up on an off-site computer. 

      Continuity of operations

      • Have alternative power sources to avoid issues, should the power go out for an extended period of time.  
      • If you purchase backup generators, make sure staff is well-versed in the maintenance and operation of them.  
      • Compile a seven-day supply of food and water for staff and patients, along with any medications that might be needed for this seven-day period.  
      • Write down a list of contacts that can be used throughout the duration of the emergency operations period should any challenges arise. 

      BUILDING AND PERSONNEL SECURITY

      Your local fire department is a great resource for inspections and evacuation drills. Each municipality has specific instructions during impending disasters.  

      • Outline all preferred means of reporting emergencies, as well as the main point of contact in such emergencies.  
      • Establish an office phone tree and pre-plan opportunities for conference calls with anyone who will be off-site during the storm.  
      • Secure your practice to prevent any crime, such as theft.

      Fire prevention

      • Identify any/all fire hazards in the workplace. 
      • Go over proper handling and storage procedures with the rest of the staff.  
      • Appoint employees who will be responsible for maintaining this equipment.  

      chemical spill prevention

      Create a plan to address appropriate responses to all foreseeable emergencies, which may include hazardous chemical spills.  

      • Employees will need to be trained on the proper equipment required to respond to these issues, should they arise.  
      • Each Florida county’s extension service has information on how to respond to chemical disasters, which was provided by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Services (UF/IFAS). 

      Insurance coverage and legal issues

      Ensure your insurance is updated.

      • Speak to your agent ahead of time, preferably before the impending disaster is approaching.
      • AVMA PLIT’s insurance carriers accept claims from uninsured customers in affected areas. 
      •  If you are insured through AVMA PLIT and you need to file a claim, you can find filing information at avmaplit.com. This site also offers additional resources to assist with commercial damage assessments, reestablishing security after a natural disaster, and minimizing interruptions for your business. AVMA LIFE will sometimes extend the grace period for premium payments for an additional 60 days following a natural disaster. If you are insured through AVMA LIFE and have questions or need assistance, call 800.621.6360, or visit avmalife.org. 

      Assistance from the FVMA Foundation 

      Any FVMA member who assists in rescue, relief, and recovery efforts during a natural disaster is encouraged to apply for reimbursement through the FVMA Foundation. Member veterinarians who provide emergency boarding to animals may also be eligible. Any members who are facing an unreimbursed loss as a result of a storm may also be considered for FVMA grant assistance.

      For more information, contact the FVMA at 800.992.3862 or visit our page here.

      Additional grant and reimbursement assistance

      AVMA member veterinarians participating in rescue and emergency care related to a natural disaster may apply for reimbursement through their charity, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF). For more information visit www.avmf.org and search “disaster reimbursement grants. 

      FEMA AID

      hose impacted by damage from these disasters can also apply for FEMA aid. There are specific loan programs for businesses and private non-profit organizations, as well as homeowners and renters in affected counties. To learn more, visit www.fema.gov or www.disasterassistance.gov 

      The IRS offers tax relief to areas designated by FEMA as qualifying for either individual or public assistance. The IRS has a declaration permitting a postponement of certain deadlines for taxpayers who have a business in, or live in, disaster areas. If you receive a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS, call the telephone number on the notice in order to abate the penalty. The IRS will also waive any usual fees and expedite requests for copies of previously filed tax returns for those who were affected. 

      Affected taxpayers in a federally declared disaster area also have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax return. You may also deduct personal property losses that were not previously covered by insurance or other reimbursements.  

      business relocation reminder

      If your practice suffers damage from a storm and you need to relocate, contact the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to apply for a new establishment license for the new location.

       For more details, visit the Florida DBPR website at www.myfloridalicense.com.