7 Ways to Be Prepared with Your Dog for Tornadoes

When warmer weather hits, it also brings an increased threat of tornadoes in the United States. While we often take precautions for ourselves and our family, we need to also make special considerations for our pets.

Here are some tips to make sure you are prepared for the safety of your dog should a tornado or other type of natural disaster occur.

Tornado season?

While tornadoes can occur at any time of the year in the United States, there are times of the year where tornado season is at its peak. In the southern states, that time is from March through May. Some southern states also have a second peak time during the fall. The peak month for northern states occurs during the summer.

The most likely times of day for tornadoes to occur is between 3 and 9 PM. However, tornadoes have occurred at all hours.

Tornado alley

On average, the US gets about 1,000 tornadoes per year. Certain US states have more activity and because of this, it has caused a particular area of high tornadic activity to be referred to by the term “Tornado Alley.” This area extends from Central Texas northward toward Illinois and Indiana. The most affected states are:

Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Eastern Colorado, South Dakota. The lesser intensive areas of Tornado Alley are: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa, Tennessee, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The highest amount of tornadic activity occurs in Tornado Alley between March through August, but can extend into September.

Tornado watches versus warnings

The National Weather Service issues tornado watches and tornado warnings.

A tornado watch: Means that tornadoes are possible in your area and you should remain alert for approaching storms.

A tornado warning: Means that a tornado has been sighted or has been indicated through weather radar. In cases of tornado warnings issued for your area, it indicates that you should seek shelter and move to a pre-designated place of safety.

Purchase a weather alert radio

It’s a good idea to purchase a weather alert radio that allows you to receive emergency broadcasts that include weather alerts about dangerous weather events, natural disasters, as well as, other events such as terror alerts or events. These operate on batteries and won’t be affected by power failures or blackouts.

7 tips for being pet prepared during natural disasters

There are three areas of concern in being prepared. The first is planning before a tornado or another disaster occurs. The second area is what to do during the disaster. The third area is what to do in the aftermath.

– Before a disaster or weather event happens

1. Identify a safe area

For tornadoes, you need to have a designated safe area that is large enough to accommodate both your entire family and your pets. This is frequently a basement or the most interior room of the house on the bottom floor. It’s a good idea to practice getting your family in and out of this area so that you know in advance what you are going to do should disaster ever strike.

Make sure your safe area is safe

Knowing that you might be bringing your pets and/or small children into this area make sure it is free from any dangerous or toxic items that may be present there.

If possible, make sure there are crates present for your animals. If that’s not possible, make sure that you have leashes or leads that you can use to prevent the animal from running around or running away.

Have emergency supplies available

Make sure you have emergency provisions such as:

  • food (for you and your pet, plus feeding bowls)
  • water for you and your pet (including water bowls)
  • both types of first aid kits for humans and pets
  • flashlights and extra batteries
  • a weather alert radio and extra batteries
  • potty pads & and or newspaper; litter box; paper towels and old towels/rags for cleanup
  • pooper scooper and poop disposal bags.
  • Trashbags

2. Have your pet microchipped

Many people lose their pets during disasters and weather events. Having your pet microchipped allows others to identify your pet and contact you should you become separated. The chip poses no threat to your pet’s health and is a simple and easy process that can be done by your veterinarian or other qualified professional.

The scanning device that is used to identify microchipped pets is routinely used by most humane societies, rescue organizations, animal control, shelters and veterinarians.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your pets are wearing ID tags, licenses and rabies vaccination tags on their collars.

3. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations

In the instance that a natural disaster causes you to be separated from your pet, it’s possible that your pet could be picked up by animal control or other individuals. Your pet may wind up being taken to a shelter or boarded. It’s also possible, if you find yourself without permanent shelter or home after a disaster strikes, you might have to voluntarily and temporarily board your animal.

It will be necessary to show proof of your animal is up-to-date on all vaccinations to be admitted. (This is why it’s also to make sure your veterinary records are easily accessible in case you have to evacuate quickly in the event of a disaster)

– During a weather event or disaster

4. Bring your pets inside

Just as it is unsafe for humans to be outdoors during a tornado or other weather event or natural disaster, it’s unsafe for your pets as well. Bring your pets inside. Even if your pet spends most of its time outdoors, it’s a good idea to have a pet carrier or crate available indoors to be able to secure your pet during an emergency event.

5. Take shelter and don’t wait

You only have 13 minutes, on average, once the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning to get to your safe location. This is why advanced preparedness is so crucial. You won’t have time to run around and gather supplies to stock in your safe room. Those items need to be there in advance.

When a threat is imminent, you only have enough time to get you, your family and your pets into the safe space and secured.

Extra protection for your pets

During a tornado, you can add extra protection for your pets from projectiles or being crushed by covering their crate/carrier with a moving blanket, mattress or foam pad.

If you have a very small pet, you may even be able to place your pet carrier inside a dryer, which will offer additional protection due to its metal double walls.

The worst thing you can do during a disaster is to leave your pets unleashed and able to roam around the room – even in your safe room. Your pets should be in a crate or carrier or at the very least – secured to something stable with a leash or lead.

– After a disaster or weather event happens

6. What to do in the aftermath

Just because a storm, flood, fire or other natural disaster event has ended – it doesn’t mean it’s safe outdoors. It’s best to keep your pet indoors. If you do need to take your pet outdoors to relieve itself, make sure to walk your pet on a leash to an area you already know is safe for you and your pet. Staying as close to home as possible is your best bet.

Don’t allow your pets to roam outdoors

After a storm or other disaster has passed, conditions outside may remain dangerous. There can be all types of debris such as broken glass, exposed nails, downed electrical lines, sharp rebar and exposed metal, sharp sticks and any number of other items.

There may be sinkholes, open manholes and hidden items in grassy fields or beneath stormwater. All these things can cause injury to both you and your pet. Wait until local officials have given the all-clear notice.

Other considerations

In the aftermath of a disaster, wild animals may be displaced from their usual habitat and might be roaming through populated areas. These can be a danger to your pet.

The city’s water supply can also become contaminated after a natural disaster. There also can be contaminated standing water that your pet may be tempted to drink from.

7. If you have to evacuate with your animals

Either before a disaster such as a fire or in the aftermath of disasters such as tornadoes or flooding, it may be necessary to evacuate. Here is a list of items you need for your pet in the event of an evacuation:

  • Have an appropriately sized pet carrier available for each animal. Be sure to label each carrier with your contact information and the name of your pet who will be inside.
  • Have a 2 week supply of pet food. Make sure to have a manual can opener if this includes canned food. A supply of favorite treats can also act as comfort food to calm your dog during these out of the ordinary conditions.
  • Have a 2 week supply of water.
  • Pet supplies: pet bowls; leashes/leads; collars/harnesses; medications and preventative medications; pet beds; pet blankets; poop scoopers; poop disposal bags; paper towels; trash bags.
  • A pet first aid kit.
  • Have emergency contact numbers for your veterinarian and records of your pet’s medical, veterinary and vaccination history.