Disaster Preparedness for Meow, Bark and Moo: Ways to Include Your Pets and Livestock in Your Disaster Preparedness Plan

Animals can sometimes be overlooked when creating a disaster preparedness plan for your household but are still at risk during an emergency.

Floods and home fires are some of the most common disasters that families in Minnesota and the Dakotas face. It’s important to have a plan in place for your family members, pets, and livestock in the event that a disaster strikes close to home. Below are some ways to include your pets and livestock in your disaster preparedness plan. Note: This post mainly focuses on cats, dogs, and livestock. For information on other pet species, visit the links in the Additional Resources section at the end.

10 Ways to Include Your Pets in Your Disaster Preparedness Plans

1. Include pets in evacuation practice drills so they feel comfortable riding in their travel carriers. Practice transporting your pet by taking them for rides in a vehicle similar to one you would be evacuating in.

2. Microchip your pet(s). Register your pet’s microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information updated at all times.

3. Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit so evacuation will go smoothly for your entire family. This kit should include:

– Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that they can’t escape.

– Food, drinking water, bowls, cat litter/pan and a manual can opener.

– Medications and copies of medical records stored in a waterproof container

– A first aid kit.

– Current photos of you with your pet(s) in case they get lost.

– Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.

– Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable

4. Communicate which family member is tasked with grabbing the emergency pet disaster kit. Make sure each member of your family knows your pet evacuation plan.

5. Ensure that your pet’s vaccinations are current and that all dogs and cats are wearing collars with securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Many pet shelters require proof of current vaccinations to reduce the spread of disease.

6. Know where your pet might hide when stressed or scared. Practice catching your pet, if needed.

7. Identify which pet friendly hotels and motels along your evacuation route will accept you and your pets in an emergency. The majority of Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety concerns. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are allowed in Red Cross shelters.

8. Create a buddy system with neighbors so everyone is prepared to help if a disaster strikes when a family is away.

9. Affix a pet alert window cling to a visible front window and write the number of pets in your house. This is critical for first responders to know how many animals may need to be evacuated.

10. Download the Red Cross Pet First Aid App for access to training on dog and cat first aid and other resources to be prepared for a disaster.

When Disaster Strikes

If you must leave your pet behind in the event of a disaster NEVER leave them chained outside. Leave them loose inside your home near entrances with plenty of food and water.

While the best way to ensure your pet stays safe during a disaster is to evacuate them with you, remember never to delay escape or endanger yourself or family to rescue a family pet.

Caring for Pets After Disaster

Be aware of hazards at ground level, particularly debris, spilled chemicals, fertilizers and other substances that could injure your pet.

Watch your animals closely and keep them under control as fences and gates may be damaged or destroyed.

Disasters can alter the scents and the appearance of areas your pet is familiar and comfortable with. Make sure you monitor their well being and be aware that changes in levels of aggression and defensiveness are possible.

10 Ways to Prepare Livestock for Disasters

1. Ensure all animals have some form of identification.

2. Evacuate animals whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance.

3. Hold disaster drills and practice emergency procedures with all employees and animal owners.

4. Make sure you have the trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal.

5. Make available experienced handlers and drivers that understand your evacuation plans.

6. Help organize safe holding facilities in your community such as fairgrounds, farms, and racetracks for use in an emergency.

7. Ensure destinations have food, water, veterinary care, and handling equipment.

8. For flooding disasters, move animals, feed, and water supplies to higher ground. Act quickly at the first sign of rising water.

9. Do not let animals loose to fend for themselves during a disaster unless a wildfire threatens your area. Animals on the road can be injured and can create a hazard for evacuating motorists.

10. Post a sign for rescue workers noting the number and types of animals left behind.

Additional Resources

Red Cross page on Pet Disaster Preparedness
CDC guidelines for protecting your pets during an emergency
Livestock Disaster Planning Guidelines from Palo Alto Humane Society
Disaster Tips for Reptiles and Amphibians
Further Tips on Disaster Preparedness from The American Humane Society

Post by Kieran White, American Red Cross Volunteer

July Fourth Safety Tips

This year, celebrating Independence Day will be different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We have safety tips that you can follow, especially if your community is re-opening.

COVID-19 Safety

• Continue to social distance by staying 6 feet away from others, especially if you are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19 (over age 65 or any age with underlying medical conditions).

• Continue to wear cloth face coverings in public. Face coverings are most essential when social distancing is difficult.

• Follow guidelines for your area when it comes to how large gatherings can be. Avoid crowds and mass gatherings.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.

• Stay home if you are sick.

Fireworks Safety

Many public fireworks shows are canceled this summer to avoid holding events where large crowds will gather. If you plan to use your own fireworks, check first if it is legal in your area.

• Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.

Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.

Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.

• Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”

• Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

Grilling Safety

Grilling fires spark more than 10,000 home fires on average each year in the U.S. Do these things to help prevent a home fire:

• Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.

• Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.

• Never grill indoors — not in the house, camper, tent or any enclosed area.

• Make sure everyone, stays away from the grill, including children and pets.

• Keep the grill away from the house or anything that could catch fire. 

• Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill.

DYK: The Red Cross offers a series of free mobile apps to put lifesaving safety information in the palm of your hand. Download these apps by searching for “American Red Cross” in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

Have a save and fun weekend!

“The most important tool we all have is a positive outlook.”

Red Cross disaster mental health expert shares mental health insights for times of isolation, stress, and uncertainty.

When disaster strikes or when a crisis develops we can find ourselves challenged physically, emotionally and mentally.  While we are often very good at taking care of our physical needs, in those hard times we often neglect our mental health. 

And that’s where the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health team comes in.  These volunteers are highly trained and qualified helpers that can assist with keeping us mentally strong and emotionally stable during hard times. 

Terry Crandall knows all too well the challenges we are all facing with COVID-19 related stay-at-home and quarantine orders.  “Our biggest challenge right now is probably isolation and the ongoing effect of not having our usual social support network.” 

Mr. Crandall leads the Disaster Mental Health team for the Minnesota & Dakotas Region of the Red Cross.  Terry, who is a Licensed Professional Counselor and an Adjunct Professor at the University of South Dakota, tells us that he started volunteering with the Red Cross in 2006. 

Since then he says with a laugh that he has now, ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ in reference to his passion for the Red Cross mission and his commitment to helping people in need of mental health help.  “That is sometimes just a shoulder to lean on and someone to tell their story to.”   

Terry believes that not having access to the people we love like our family and friends leaves most people feeling isolated and without their usual support system.  He says that feeling of isolation can lead to despair when facing this pandemic. 

“People are experiencing very normal emotional and mental reactions to this situation.  They are missing their families and friends, they are worried for kids and their studies.  Kids are missing their friends and social networks like their clubs and teams. There is uncertainty about when, or if, school will be back in session.  Proms and senior events will likely not happen for this class.” 

For almost all of us work has changed.  For those left out of work by this virus there are huge amounts of anxiety about the future.  Money concerns seem to touch everyone.   

Compounding these worries are the stressors that can come from having what may feel like, “just too much family time.”  Terry recommends families keep to a regular schedule and try to stay engaged in activities that are creative and can offer some exercise.   

Terry says that using positive imagery, relaxation techniques, and visualization tools can all help make you more resilient and able to cope in a healthier way.  “The most important tool we all have is a positive outlook.  If we can stay focused on the fact that this isn’t forever and that there will be a much better day to come, we can keep all of us mentally strong.”   

The Red Cross guide to recovering emotionally recommends several tools to help keep a positive outlook. ‘Remind yourself of how you’ve successfully gotten through difficult times in the past. Reach out when you need support, and help others when they need it.’ 

You can get disaster tools, information about recovery, and guides to coping with the stress of the COVID-19 crisis at the Red Cross website.  You can start here: shelteringathome. For more about the emotional stresses and tools that can help  you can visit this guide:  recoveringemotionally.

Are you ready to join the team?  The American Red Cross accomplishes our mission with over 90% volunteers.  We need you.  Your community needs you.  You feel the need to help make this better.  Please consider adding your talents to our team. 

If you are interested in joining the Disaster Mental Health team please see the requirements and opportunities by visiting:  mentalhealthvolunteer

To reach out for free 24/7 counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746. 

Story by Ray Guest, Red Cross volunteer

Minnesota nurse receives highest international Red Cross award

This year, our own Janice Springer is among the selected recipients of the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal. This honor from the International Committee of the Red Cross is the highest international distinction a nurse can receive.

Janice Springer, DNP, RN, PHN, received this prestigious recognition for extraordinary service in disaster situations and in public health and nursing education.

Dr. Springer co-authored the American Red Cross Disaster Health and Sheltering course, used to teach more than 18,000 nursing students nationwide how to serve as Disaster Health Services volunteers. Students who complete the course may go on to become official Red Cross nurses after graduation, expanding the pool of prepared Disaster Health Services volunteers. She also created the evidence-based Cot-to-Cot© model to assist clients with functional and access needs in American Red Cross shelters.

Dr. Springer is a Red Cross volunteer who has deployed to 15 disaster relief operations since 2005, often as a leader. Having held several Red Cross leadership roles within Disaster Cycle Services and the International Services Department, she is currently serving as Volunteer Partner for International Recovery, expanding her public health nursing expertise internationally.

Dr. Springer serves as a disaster public health and disability integration subject matter expert for the North American Humanitarian Response Summit, a coalition of U.S. and international government and humanitarian response organizations, helping plan for international cross-border catastrophic disasters. She has published extensively in nursing textbooks and professional journals and has presented papers and posters on her research and best practices throughout the world.

Dr. Springer’s contributions to public health nursing, disaster nursing and the Red Cross are exceptional. The effects of her dedication, leadership and work will continue to spread their positive impact on Red Cross nursing and support individuals affected by disasters around the world.

Click here for more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

Five years on, Home Fire Campaign continues to save lives: 11 to date in Minnesota

Smoke alarm installation day, Federal Dam, August 17, 2016. Photo: Mike Auger

For five years, we’ve been working with our partners to install free smoke alarms in high-risk communities and help families create escape plans through our Home Fire Campaign.

Every day, seven people die in home fires in the U.S., most in homes that don’t have working smoke alarms. That’s why the Red Cross launched our national Home Fire Campaign in 2014. We would like to thank everyone for their support to help prevent these needless tragedies.

So far, the campaign has saved 11 lives (details below) in Minnesota. Across the country, the national campaign efforts have saved at least 638 lives.

Our local impact includes:

Local Lives Saved

  • In Two Harbors, two lives were saved in January, 2019.  Thanks to Red Cross volunteers Tim and John who had installed the smoke alarms before the fire as part of Home Fire Campaign activities a couple years ago.
  • In Virginia, three lives were saved on May 20, 2019. The family received notification of a fire through a Lifetone bed-shaker smoke alarm installed just three months prior. The special alarm helps alert people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Thanks to the entire Virginia Fire Department for supporting this effort.  For more, see this story by WDIO ABC News in Duluth.
  • In Federal Dam, six lives were saved on January 2, 2019. Special thanks to Red Cross volunteer Mike Auger who responded to the fire to help the family and also installed the smoke alarm in August, 2016.  Thanks to partners Federal Dam Fire Department and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. For more, see this story by KBJR NBC News in Duluth.

You Can Help
Home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster, and while we can’t always stop them from happening, we can help ensure families are prepared. Please help us to sound the alarm about home fire safety and save lives. Visit soundthealarm.org/mn to learn how you can join us by becoming a volunteer or making a donation to support our lifesaving services.

Responding to disasters: “Flexible is the word”

Rick’s got to get on a plane soon. So, let’s get right to this. Rick Emanuel (in the video below) is going south to support people affected by the powerful storm approaching the Gulf Coast.

This will be Rick’s third deployment to a major disaster response in just over a year. His first, last fall, was Hurricane Florence, where he worked at a shelter in Havelock, North Carolina. “Feeding, setting up cots, making sure everybody has what they need,” he says were the main things he did in his volunteer role supporting shelter operations for the American Red Cross. “And getting people to the right resources when they’re in crisis.”

Rick Emanuel

In North Carolina, the water rose so fast in some areas that first responders, national guard soldiers and community helpers were bringing in people, especially the elderly, in massive dump trucks because those vehicles could reach them through the flood waters. “They were bringing in people as fast as they could,” he says. Supplies arrived anytime and needed to be off-loaded as fast as possible. Sometimes this was in the middle of the night when volunteers like him might get some sleep. “That was the biggest part of the deal, finding down time.”

With this deployment to Louisiana he’s even more ready to help others because he knows that “flexible is the word” when it comes to providing disaster relief.

If you would like to support disasters big and small, including training and deploying volunteers like Rick, visit redcross.org/mn.

Story by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Responding to disasters: Opioid overdose has no boundary

September 13, 2018. Strong winds and rain from the outer bands of Hurricane Florence begin impacting the Cape Fear River and Wilmington, NC. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross.

During Hurricane Florence, John Decker was not at the shelter in North Carolina the night a woman died from an opioid overdose in September of 2018.

But he heard about the death almost as soon as it happened because for one month, at the onset of the response, Decker was in North Carolina serving as Disaster Health Services chief for the Red Cross relief effort. The young woman who died was her mother’s care-taker, he recalls.

Decker is a Red Cross volunteer who responds to major disasters across the United States. When home in Minnesota, he’s a registered nurse. Now, after ten years with the Red Cross, he’s often at the front lines of providing disaster relief in shelters.

September 15, 2018. Red Cross shelter relief supplies at Farmville Middle School, NC. Photo by Adam Jennings for the American Red Cross.

That night in North Carolina their first concern, Decker says, was to support the young woman’s mother. Their second was to prevent more deaths. Decker connected with national Red Cross disaster leadership that was supporting field activities. Together, they set two immediate priorities: find naloxone and train shelter workers.

The CDC reports that around 130 people die from opioid overdose every day in the United States. During 2017, 47,600 people died from overdoses involving opioids. Those deaths were 68% of drug-related overdoses.

John Decker

Decker found a local source for Narcan, one type of naloxone medicine that reverses overdose.  There were only a couple boxes. Not enough, he figured. Plus, they were expensive. Then, his phone rang.  On the line was a woman who worked with a relief partner. She had 2,500 – 3,000 doses. With help, Decker picked them up and got them distributed to more than 400 shelters.

The Red Cross and its partners supported more than 129,700 overnight stays for people displaced because of Hurricane Florence across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. During Fiscal Year 2018, the Red Cross and its partners provided more than 1 million overnight shelter stays for people affected by disasters.

A sign at the Red Cross relief headquarters in North Carolina. Courtesy of John Decker.

Next up was teaching shelter workers the signs of opioid overdose and the steps to respond. Initially, some people resisted. They were comfortable delivering relief supplies, not giving someone a medicine requiring injection.  The training transformed their feelings and their skills. At first it’s scary, and then we learn, and then it’s nothing, Decker says. “It’s good to get rid of the mystery. It’s no more complicated than a kid’s Legos.”

September 17, 2018. The Red Cross shelter at the University of North Carolina Friday Center in Chapel Hill. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross.

Since then, the Red Cross released an online class that helps people respond to opioid overdose emergencies. I took the course and learned a lot. It removed my anxiety and strengthened my confidence about helping someone during an opioid overdose emergency. Check out and take the class here. For a quick understanding of opioid overdose, watch this new video.

Story by Lynette Nyman for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region.

National Red Cross award goes to Minnesota nurse

Barb Billmeier (center) received the Ann Magnussen Award at American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, DC, on March 27, 2019. Photo by Dennis Drenner/American Red Cross

Congratulations! to Barb Billmeier for receiving the 2019 Ann Magnussen Award, the highest honor of nursing achievement in the American Red Cross.

Barb served as the Regional Nurse Lead in Minnesota until her recent retirement from this volunteer position. She also led the Minnesota Health Professionals Network as we strove to optimize volunteer engagement and increase capacity. Barb also serves as a volunteer disaster health services (DHS) responder helping people who need disaster assistance.

Award nominees were evaluated on four criteria: (1) provides service to others; (2) teaches and involves others; (3) exhibits compassion, professionalism, and a humanitarian spirit; and (4) demonstrates outstanding contributions to strengthening Red Cross programs and services.

Previous recipients from the American Red Cross Minnesota Region include Janice Springer in 2014.  Click here to learn more about Ann Magnussen – a graduate from the University of Minnesota.  Click here to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

“That” season is here

Red Cross flooding clean-up kits in Minneapolis. Photo by Jill Hallonquist.

It’s officially “that” season as we unload Flood Clean-up Kits at the Minneapolis Red Cross office. Those pictured above will head to Carver and Scott Counties. More will go to Ramsey County and other places soon. Many more will stay here in our warehouse for distribution to individuals and our partners who will be helping others during this spring flood season.

For example, we partnered with Scott County Emergency Management to open a shelter for people who evacuated their homes in a community in Jordan.  Local Red Cross volunteers arrived quickly to set up cots and other shelter necessities. We’ll continue to be there until the need passes.

Red Cross volunteers at the shelter for flooding evacuees in Jordan, Minnesota, March 15, 2019. Photo provided by Jennifer P.

This is going to be a huge response not only in Minnesota, but also in many parts of the country. To those fighting their own basement flood fight, we wish you strength and at least a little sleep here and there. We’re all in this together in whatever way we can help!

By Jill Hallonquist, Disaster Program Manager, Twin Cities Area of the American Red Cross Minnesota Region. Click here for flood prep and response safety tips and resources. For relief assistance related to this disaster please call (612) 871-7176. 

Volunteer spotlight: Desiree Haupert

Desiree with her son, Dylan, volunteering at Home Fire Campaign event in Marshall, MN. Photo courtesy of Desiree Haupert.

“This is an excellent way to give back to the same community and with our surrounding communities.”  Desiree Haupert, Red Cross Home Fire Campaign volunteer team lead for Marshall, Minnesota 

Story by Zabiba Sameru/American Red Cross

When I listen to Desiree Haupert, a mom and volunteer, speak about her experience with the American Red Cross, I can hear the excitement in her voice as she tells her story about being fulfilled as she continues to give her time to the Red Cross.

What started out as future planning to keep busy for Desiree in April of 2018 is turned into a lifetime rewarding experience. In her time volunteering at the Red Cross, she has been involved in many activities, such as Sound the Alarm by installing home smoke alarms and sharing fire safety tips in Slayton.

Red Cross volunteers responded to flooding in southwest Minnesota during 2018. Photo: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

During the flood in Tracy, Desiree also was involved in helping residents find shelter, food and additional resources that could support them during their recovery from the flooding. She also is involved with the Pillowcase Project, campaign that teaches kids in grades 3 to 5 how to prepare for home fire emergencies and other disasters like tornadoes and blizzards.

As a duty officer, she takes calls for assistance requests, and then responds by reaching out to local Red Cross volunteers who give assistance to people who are affected by disasters. To top it all off, Desiree attends youth preparedness conferences to learn about engaging communities and provide support to them in the face of a disaster.

This year Sound the Alarm takes place April 27 – May 12.

It’s important and rewarding for Desiree to give back to her community and be an example for her kids with all the work that she’s doing with the Red Cross. Being a Red Cross volunteer gives you an opportunity to help your local community, says Desiree. “It gives me the opportunity to take ownership of something and grow in a way that I didn’t know I was needing. It’s amazing.”

On Saturday May 4, 2019, Red Cross volunteers and their partners will be installing free smoke alarms in Worthington.  Join us! Click here to learn more about the campaign. Click here to become a Red Cross volunteer.