HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The 2011 hurricane season ends officially on November 30. Once the possibilities for continued bad weather or even a federally declared disaster fade, families have time to reflect on how to be better prepared in 2012. You should already have a disaster preparedness kit on hand. This helps you protect your family as much as possible; if you do not have one, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA's) website www.ready.gov or the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA's) web site www.readypa.org.
At the same time, it's important to remember disasters don't just affect people - they also affect pets, and pets depend on people for their safety. Officials of FEMA and PEMA say the best protection for your pets is to also plan for them before the hurricane season starts.
Plan for how you will evacuate your pet:
- Take your pet with you, if possible. Contact your local emergency management office for information on shelters that welcome pets.
- Find "pet friendly" hotels at www.petswelcome.com.
- Ask friends or relatives who live outside the disaster area to care for your pet.
- Leave early-don't wait for a mandatory evacuation order. An unnecessary trip is far better than waiting too long to leave safely with your pet. If you must be evacuated by emergency officials, you may be told to leave your pet behind.
- Make sure your pet has an identification tag that includes your address, phone number and the phone number of a friend or relative living outside the disaster area.
Put together a pet emergency kit containing:
- Water, pet food, can opener and treats;
- Cat litter and litter box;
- Pet medications, medical records and your veterinarian's name and telephone number;
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers so you can move your pets safely and securely;
- Current photos of your pet.
Plan for your pet's safe transportation:
- Condition your pet to being in a carrier.
- Move birds, snakes, lizards, and "pocket pets" like hamsters and gerbils in a secure travel cage or carrier. If the weather is cold, wrap a blanket over the carrier. During warm weather, carry a water mister to mist your bird's feathers from time to time. Certain snakes may need a water bowl large enough for soaking as well as a heating pad.
If you suffered losses because of Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee, you may be eligible for disaster assistance. Call 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. Operators are multilingual and calls are answered seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
You also can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by smart phone or tablet at m.fema.gov. If you have a disability and need help registering, don't hesitate to contact FEMA to ask for help.
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FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.