CFA Disaster Relief

“They are our pets. We domesticate them. We bring them into our lives and make them dependent on us for food, shelter, medical care, and love. In return, they enrich our lives in so many ways. Yet somehow, when disaster stiikes they often seem to fall between the cracks. This is not to say that human life is not more important, yet it seems as though a system ought to exist for them in times of disaster as it does for us. Often left behind in the urgency of the moment, like very small children they are at a loss to understand just why this is happening to them. Every underpinning in their life is suddenly gone. The people around which their lives revolved have vanished. Their homes as they have known them have disappeared. They are lost, alone, afraid, and often hungry, thirsty, and in pain. Somehow a system must exist for them as it does for us.”

– Cat Fanciers’ Almanac, December 1994

The CFA Disaster Relief Committee has undertaken the task to create such a system. In August 1992 when Hurricane Andrew slammed into heavily populated areas of southern Florida, in July 1994 when horrendous flooding took over the southeastern United States, and in January 1995 when the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake caused massive destruction in Japan – CFA offered support teams for rescue workers, and disaster relief aid for animals left homeless and injured in these natural disasters.

The lesson to be learned is to plan ahead. With Hurricane Fran (August/96) heading on a collision course with the southeastern United States, and with Tropical Storm Gustav coming across the Atlantic right on the heels of Hurricanes Eduoard and Fran, necessary planning for evacuation for yourself and your pets must be a priority. With the up-to-the minute course tracking of such occurences able to give us a high probability of where such a storm may reach land, we are fortunate that we have time to plan a rescue mission should one be needed, and have it ready for execution if one is required. CFA’s disaster rescue network is quite extensive. In an impending disaster such as a hurricane, plan are made for shelters to be set up to receive animals whose owners must evacuate – animals are not allowed in “people shelters”. If help is indeed needed, we will set up auxiliary shelters for animals to handle these evacuees, and those pets we are able to successfully rescue afterwards.

Pet owners must do their part to help in disasters by being prepared to be able to evacuate their homes, with their pets, at a moment’s notice should it ever become necessary. Plan your course of action and evacuation strategy NOW! Be prepared to take your animals with you when you evacuate. Statistics show that over 90% of animals left behind to fend for themselves do not survive. Cat owners should have on hand enough pet carriers to evacuate your pets. In the event that you don’t have a sufficient number of carriers, pillowcases with rope through the end to tie them make great emergency evacuation carriers for cats. Have a supply available to use at a moment’s notice. The cat bag evacsack is the perfect carrier to have on hand and use in an emergency situation. If you live on the coast and a hurricane threatens, call friends inland and make plans for them to take in you and your pets should you have to evacuate. Better still, have a permanent understanding with your friends that you will arrive on their doorstep should you ever have to evacuate. Most of all, be prepared at all times!

Disaster Preparedness: The Basics

If a major storm, flood, fire or other natural disaster is headed toward your area, your best defense is to be adequately prepared ahead of time. Here is a series of useful tips on preparation activities that should occur before a disaster strikes, and things to stock up on so that you will be prepared during the aftermath. .



  • Have a plan for evacuation to a shelter in case you are ordered to do so by local authorities. In the event of a natural or man-made disaster, pets are NOT normally allowed inside emergency shelters for humans due to public health and safety reasons. If you and your family need evacuation to a public shelter during a disaster, you must have planned in advance for the care of your dog and cat. Check to see which shelters in your area will allow you to bring your pets. Such planning could save your pets’ life and make yours easier. The alternative, which may not always be wise, is to stay in your home with your pets.
  • Start a buddy system with someone in your neighborhood so that they will check on your animals during disaster in case you aren’t home. Agree to do the same for them. Exchange information on veterinarians and have a permission slip put in your file at the vets, authorizing your buddy to get necessary emergency treatment for your pet in case you can’t be reached. Talk with your pets’ “babysitter” about a disaster plan to be used to evacuate and care for your animals in your absence.
  • Have a carrier available for each cat, clearly labeled with your name and address. If you have to confine the cat(s) for a long period of time, have a carrier large enough to hold a shoe box sized litter box, a water/food dish, and room for the cat to comfortably lie down. Ensure the carrier is not left in the sun, and, if it is warm, that the cat gets good ventilation. If you must take the cat out, do so in a confined space as the cat may try to run away.
  • Water for everyone in your household (enough for at least 7 days to use for drinking, cooking, pets and personal hygiene).
  • Pet food. Canned food should preferably be in pop-top cans. Dry food should be stored in waterproof containers.
  • Water bowls and dishes or paper plates for food.
  • Litter. Have a sufficient supply on hand, and a litter scoop plus garbage bags.
  • Medication, if necessary, in a sufficient quantity for a minimum of 7 days. Always keep a back-up supply of your pets’ medications. A vet may not be open for some time following a disaster. Prepare to ice down medications that need to be refrigerated (ice is available from the Red Cross). Ask your vet is he/she has a disaster plan. Your pets may need medical attention after a disaster and you need to know where to take your animal. Keep a first aid kit in your disaster kit for your pet (check with your vet on what to include).
  • Make sure they all either microchipped or have collars with ID (their name, your phone # and address) on them in case they get loose during the storm. Have a picture of them on hand in case you have to go to shelters or post “missing” ads in your neighborhood. “Missing” posters can even be printed ahead of the disaster, just in case they are needed in the aftermath.
  • Protect important documents (registration certificates, pedigrees, vaccination certificates, etc.), photos, and keepsakes in watertight containers/bags.
  • Know where the animal shelters are in your area. You may need to visit them after a disaster to look for a missing pet. Also call the National Lost Pet Hotline, 1-900-535-1515 (this is a charge call) to report a lost pet. Call the National Found Pet Hotline, 1-800-755-8111 to report a found animal.
  • Check with local news media for facilities offering disaster animal rescue and relief. Also, you may call (800) 979-0241 and leave your phone number for assistance.


  • Have a plan for evacuation to a shelter in case you are ordered to do so by local authorities. Keep in mind that if you have pets, they may not be allowed at some shelters and may have to remain in your home.
  • Protect important documents (insurance policies, birth certificates, banking and credit card information, medical records), photos, and keepsakes in watertight containers/bags.
  • Create a family communications list, and copy it to all members of your family. Include home and work phone numbers, your cell phone numbers, and numbers for a close friend as well as email addresses that can be used for contact before, and after, a disaster. Let your family members know what your plans are (staying put, evacuating, where to, etc.) in advance of a storm, and contact them asap afterward. It will most likely be easier for you to contact them, than for them to try and contact you. Consider setting up a Yahoo! Groups mailing list for your family members and close friends, so that one message to a list will be distributed widely to all who have a need to know. A single mailing list address is easier to remember than a list of dozens.
  • First aid kit, including pre-moistened antibacterial wipes. Be sure to stock any special emergency medication that may be needed, i.e. for bee-sting allergies, etc.
  • Sufficient amounts of any prescription medicine (your local pharmacy may be closed and/or you may not be able to travel anywhere)
  • Insect repellent (especially in areas where mosquitoes are a problem)
  • Leather-palmed work gloves for handling tree limbs or moving other rough/dangerous objects
  • Bottled water for everyone in your household (enough for at least 7 days to use for drinking, cooking, pets and personal hygiene)
  • Liquid bleach (plain, not scented) for treating water to make it potable
  • Keep tabs on “boil water” alerts on TV/radio – they can change on a daily basis and may apply even after you regain power /electricity. Don’t assume that because you have running water that it is potable. Unbeknownst to you, water mains may break and water supplies can become contaminated by sewage backups and flooding conditions after storms.
  • Paper cups and plates and plastic utensils, manual can opener
  • Food (e.g., dry cereal, canned meat/fruit, peanut butter, crackers, bread – anything that won’t spoil quickly if not refrigerated)
  • Charcoal, lighter fluid, matches/lighter and BBQ grill (or propane gas grill with plenty of propane) for cooking
  • Phone numbers of emergency providers in your area (e.g., fire department, police, FEMA, hospital, etc.), family/friends to call for assistance, the electric company power outage hotline, and claims phone number for your insurance company (auto, home, flood)
  • Cash (if there is a power outage and you rely on ATMs or banks being open you will be out of luck)
  • If you have children, gather games, cards, puzzles or other items to keep them occupied
  • If you have an infant, be sure you have sufficient diapers, formula, and other supplies as appropriate
  • If you or someone in your family is elderly/disabled/handicapped, ensure that you have someone to help you in case you /they cannot leave your home. Also make sure you have all of the necessary medical supplies you/they might need for an extended period of time. If you/they are dependent on a dialysis machine or other life-sustaining equipment or treatment, devise a plan to relocate to an appropriate medical facility as soon as possible. If you have a friend, neighbor or relative nearby, you may want to keep in contact with him/her on a regular basis.
  • Do your laundry if possible and you won’t have to worry about having clean clothes to wear


  • Take photographs/video of the interior and exterior of your house and of any valuable items (e.g., antiques, heirlooms, collectibles) in case anything gets damaged/destroyed and keep them with your important documents (in a waterproof container).
  • Fill up your vehicles with gas before hand if possible (if the power outage is extended, local gas stations will likely be closed and you may need to drive somewhere)
  • Use large plastic heavy duty garbage bags to cover/enclose items that you don’t want to get wet in case of flooding or in case of roof leaks, blown-in windows, etc.
  • Have a sufficient quantity of fresh batteries to keep all battery-operated equipment running for at least 7 days. Do not rely on rechargable batteries as you may not have electricty required to charge them.
  • Flashlights (one per person)
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Battery-operated lamps (find in camping sections of stores). If you must use candles or gas/oil-powered lanterns, be careful to extinguish them thoroughly if you leave the house or go to sleep and ensure they are not placed in an area that would catch on fire if the candle accidentally tipped over–place anything with a flame away from combustible materials (drapes, rugs, tablecloths, bedspreads)
  • Battery-operated fans (find in camping sections of stores)
  • Battery-operated TV (a lot of information is disseminated via TV news stations)
  • A set of rabbit ears for a portable TV, in case the cable goes out. You should still be able to receive basic local stations.
  • Regular plug-in-the-wall phone (not cordless or any type that requires an electrical cord for operation–you may have phone service but you need a regular no frills phone that doesn’t require electricity)
  • Get sandbags from your local community emergency management office. Find out whether sand bags are available if a storm may include flooding
  • Reinforce your windows if expecting a storm with high winds. Use strips of tape across the panes in case the window blows in. Ideally, putting plywood or closing the shutters on your windows from the outside is the best option to follow.
  • Remove items in your yard/outside, i.e. garden furniture, garbage containers, etc. that may become airborne in strong winds and store them in a shed/garage or secure them in some other fashion.
  • Turn all major household applicances off, except the refrigerator and freezer.


  • At least 2 very large coolers (clean) filled with ice (do not wait until after the power goes out to try and find ice at a store). Use one cooler to store food to keep it from spoiling and the other for beverages. Melted ice can be used as a water source.
  • Disposable flash camera, or digital camera (and batteries!) to take photos of any damage to your home or vehicles for insurance purposes.
  • Pen and paper
  • Cell phone (charge beforehand and buy a charger for your car in case of extended power outage. Note that if cell towers are down after the storm, your cell phone may be useless)
  • Gasoline and large gas can(s) with gas in case you use a generator. Place the generator outdoors–not in a garage or anywhere inside your home. Carbon monoxide exhaust fumes have killed people who foolishly placed generators inside their garage/home. If you place the generator outside but near a window to the house, ensure that the exhaust is pointed away from any windows or doorways. Ensure that any electrical extension cords you use for the generator are intact and the appropriate type for the voltage.
  • Tools: chainsaw, prune saw, axe/hatchet for cutting down any trees or limbs, spade or shovel, etc.
  • If you lose power, try to keep your home as ventilated as possible. Mold can a big problem after a hurricane or flood and thrives in conditions where it is damp, dark, and there is no circulation. Check this website for information about mold:
  • Turn the main switches in the circuit-breaker box to the “off” position until you know electricity has been restored or at least make sure household appliances are turned off. Some people may not remember if their stoves, irons or other appliances were on at the time they lost power. When electricity is restored at random times, no one may be at home when power is restored and appliances left in the “on” position could contribute to a household fire.
  • REMEMBER: if your power is out, it is likely that stores, pharmacies, banks, restaurants, gas stations, hospitals, and other businesses in your area also have no power or are inaccessible. If there are any open at all, there will be limited supplies and it will be a first come-first serve, long line scenario. Do not assume that you will be able to get supplies once electricity has been lost.
  • Keep receipts for restoration activities, repair, etc. after a hurricane. If you are eligible for financial assistance after a hurricane, FEMA may require this information.
  • If you suffer damage to your home (roof, tree uprooting, etc.), beware of anyone knocking on your door offering to help you with removal and repair. Be certain that anyone making repairs on your home is licensed, bonded, and insured! Do not pay anyone for work until it is complete. Find out if permits have to be obtained for work performed on your home. When in doubt, contact your local city/county government offices for guidance.
  • Do not put yourself in danger by trying to conduct your own repairs. People have been crushed by limbs/trees, fallen off of roofs, and been electrocuted by climbing power poles in trying to repair their own homes’ storm damage.