FEMA IS-10.A: Animals in Disasters: Awareness and Preparedness Course Summary
Lesson 1: Introduction
Welcome to the Animals in Disasters: Awareness and Preparedness Course
Animals, including a family cat, a herd of dairy cows, or a police officer’s horse, are an important part of the lives of millions of Americans. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 60 percent of all U.S. households own at least one animal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the animal agriculture industry generates an annual revenue of about $125 billion.
For many reasons, including safety, health, economic, environmental, and emotional concerns, the care of animals in disasters is important to the care of people. A collaborative effort between incident management and animal owners can improve a community’s successful disaster preparedness and response.
This course is designed to promote personal responsibility of animal owners and care providers. It also guides emergency managers in the recruitment and use of local community resources to define, develop, teach, and implement a disaster response.
With some planning, preparation, and cooperation, animals and their owners can be made safer.
Animals and the Family
Studies show that more than 60 percent of household pet owners consider their pets to be very or extremely important to their families. Household pet owners in the United States spend approximately $45 billion dollars on household pets and pet supplies, with the amount increasing annually.
Our Nation depends on livestock producers to deliver safe, wholesome food, and to contribute to a healthy economy and international trade. Livestock producers choose to support their families through the care of animals, and depend on animals for their livelihood.
Animals and Disasters
In disasters, incident management teams face an array of management challenges, including the care of animals impacted by the disaster. While the care of animals in disasters should never take precedence over the care of people, providing care for animals may facilitate the personal safety and care of a large segment of the human population.
Planning for household pets, service animals, and livestock in case of disaster is also a human safety issue, ensuring that animal owners and jurisdictions are well prepared and provides additional safeguards and options for them and their animals.
Animal welfare is a human responsibility that encompasses all aspects of animal well-being.
Animals and Disasters: Concerns
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Some concerns involving household pets and service animals during disasters include:
- The spoilage of food and water supplies for people and animals.
- Animal bites.
- Outbreaks of diseases transmitted between animals and people, such as rabies, as well as illness to animals due to contaminated waters.
- The loss of local veterinary care capabilities.
- Unintended release of animals from their normal residences.
Other problems include the significant impact on public mental health due to the strong bond many owners have with their animals. These issues are particularly evident in seniors and children.
Owners’ Concern for Animals
Some people are so concerned for their household pets and service animals that they may endanger themselves during a disaster.
This concern may impair their ability to make decisions about their own safety and that of rescue workers. Household pet owners have been injured or killed attempting to rescue their animals from burning buildings, or refusing to evacuate hazardous areas.
Animal Care and Incident Management
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act (as amended (by the 2006 Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act and Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act) states that State and local emergency preparedness operational plans should address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals.
The response community must recognize the special requirements of individuals who require and utilize the assistance of family members, personal assistants, and/or service animals. Effective incident management ensures that:
- The physical and mental health needs of these individuals are addressed, and
- The individuals and assistance providers remain together to the maximum extent possible during evacuation, transport, sheltering, or the delivery of other services.
Service animals shall be treated as required by law (e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990).
Emergency Operations Plans and Animals
Emergency operations plans should address:
- Sheltering of Household Pets and Other Animals: Household pets and other animals may be sheltered adjacent to or near a human shelter, ideally allowing people to help care for their household pets. Human shelters may restrict animal sheltering locations for reasons of hygiene, safety, public health, animal phobias, or facility features.
- Service Animals: Although not addressed under the PETS Act, service animals, such as search and rescue dogs, are important to incident management officials. Rescue workers need to be prepared for service animals at the incident scene.
- Dangerous Animals: Responders may encounter dangerous animals. Plans should include training first responders on safety issues regarding animals and assign animal professionals (such as Small Animal Teams or Animals Response Teams) to support the initial response, and to deal effectively with a variety of animal issues, including dangerous animals.
Example: Tornado Incident
In February 2008, a total of 87 tornadoes hit over a 2-day period in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama.
In Tennessee, local Disaster Animal Response Teams (DARTs) helped with the response and recovery efforts by transporting livestock, erecting temporary shelters for livestock and household pets, and capturing stray animals.
Emergency household pet shelters were established next to shelters for residents, so owners could visit and help care for their household pets on a regular basis.
Example: Flood Incident
In March 2008, rising floodwaters in Missouri threatened herds of cattle. Members of the Missouri Humane Society and the Missouri Emergency Response Service (a volunteer large-animal rescue organization) answered a call for help from a farmer.
Equipped with a boat and dry suits to protect them from the elements, the rescuers moved the cattle to higher ground.
Lesson 2: Incident Management
Incidents typically begin and end locally, and are managed on a daily basis at the lowest possible geographical, organizational, and jurisdictional level.
However, there are instances in which successful incident management operations depend on the involvement of multiple jurisdictions. These instances require effective and efficient coordination across this broad spectrum of organizations and activities.
Coordination of knowledge, resources, and expertise between government officials and the private sector is a basic principle of emergency management.
National Preparedness Goal
|The National Preparedness Goal presents an integrated, layered, and all-of-Nation approach to preparedness. Successful achievement of this Goal will result in a secure and resilient Nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.|
National Preparedness Goal: Mission Areas
|Mission areas are groups of core capabilities, including Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery. Each mission area is comprised of the capabilities required for achieving the function at any time (before, during, or after an incident) and across all threats and hazards.
The five mission areas include:
National Response Framework
The National Response Framework (NRF) is a guide that details how the Nation conducts all-hazards response—from the smallest incident to the largest catastrophe. The NRF establishes a comprehensive, national, all-hazards approach to domestic incident response.
The NRF identifies the key response principles, as well as the roles and structures that organize national response. It describes how communities, States, the Federal Government, and private-sector and nongovernmental partners apply these principles for a coordinated, effective national response.
National Incident Management System
The National Incident Management System (NIMS) provides a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work seamlessly to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity, in order to reduce the loss of life and property and harm to the environment.
NIMS works hand in hand with the NRF. NIMS provides the template for the management of incidents, while the NRF provides the structure and mechanisms for national-level policy for incident management.
What Makes Incident Management Work?
The NRF and NIMS provide general guidance and structure for the management of incidents. However, effective incident management requires that community members, all levels of governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations work together to fulfill incident management responsibilities.
Incident Management Partnerships: Overview
To understand incident management partnerships, let’s look at an fictional incident.
Centerville is a town of 20,000 people, located alongside a river. One spring, after weeks of snow melt and heavy rains, the river threatened to overtop its banks and flood the town.
A major incident was avoided due to careful planning. A few years before, Centerville joined the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and adopted local ordinances to regulate building activities in flood-prone areas. In cooperation with the National Weather Service and the State, Centerville installed a series of river gauges to monitor water levels and provide an advance warning system.
The town emergency manager raised awareness of the flooding hazard through mailings and public presentations. Emergency response teams developed plans and conducted exercises to practice evacuating people and their animals to pre-identified shelter sites.
Representatives from the local animal-care community identified businesses and volunteers that were willing to help farmers and pet owners in the event of major flood.
After the flood warning was issued, response teams quickly mobilized and followed emergency procedures. Most residents moved with their pets to stay with friends and family. Others moved to Red Cross shelters, while their pets were housed at the local humane society. Local veterinarians and other private-sector partners donated items for the care of these sheltered pets. While most horse owners could evacuate their own animals, the State Department of Agriculture was called in to help evacuate hundreds of cattle to higher ground.
No lives were lost and only minor injuries occurred. However, damage to homes, businesses, and farmlands was extensive, and exceeded State and local resources.
At the Governor’s request, a joint damage assessment was conducted by State, local, and FEMA officials. The President declared several counties in the area a major disaster and authorized release of Federal disaster assistance funds.
Disaster programs and flood insurance claim payments allowed the residents and businesses in Centerville to rebuild in ways that made their property less prone to damage in the next flood. In a few months, Centerville homes and businesses were safer than ever.
The next section of this lesson presents additional information about the roles and responsibilities of incident management partners.
Household pet, service animal, and/or livestock owners have the ultimate responsibility for their animals. As a result of legislation, State, Territorial, Tribal, and local emergency preparedness operational plans must now account for the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency. While those same plans may coordinate care for livestock, they may not always provide for it.
The best way to be prepared is to create a personal emergency plan that includes provisions to care for your household pets, service animals, and/or livestock. You can learn how to prepare such a plan from your local emergency management agency, animal control agency, other animal welfare organizations, or your local American Red Cross office.
Being Ready: Exercising Your Plan
After you develop your personal emergency management plan, you may:
- Be prepared to deal with many emergencies;
- Find it much easier to understand the actions of official emergency managers; and
- Help with the official response.
Note that the lessons that follow offer practical information for household pet, service animal, and/or livestock owners to help prepare for an incident.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) provide sheltering, emergency food supplies, counseling services, and other vital support services to support response and promote the recovery of disaster survivors. These groups often provide specialized services that help individuals with special needs, including those with disabilities.
The American Red Cross helps support and coordinate mass care functions. National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) is the forum where member organizations share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle, including recovery for individuals and families as well as the community.
Voluntary organizations for animal assistance and rescue in disasters include community and State Animal Response Teams (includes SART/CART programs and a wide array of similar programs under many names), local humane organizations, State or local veterinary reserve programs, including some Medical Reserve Corps Units, and national organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams, and other national animal welfare organizations such as those participating in the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC).
Local Government Responsibilities
The responsibility for responding to incidents, both natural and human-caused, begins at the local level. Local leaders and emergency managers prepare their communities to manage incidents locally. Local governments serve as the link between you and State and Federal agencies in the incident management network.
The chief executive officer or jurisdiction manager is charged with creating effective emergency services. Local governments:
- Develop preparedness plans, including a chain of command to follow.
- Conduct mitigation activities to reduce the impact of an incident.
- Provide resources to protect their citizens in response to emergencies.
- Conduct recovery operations.
Responsibilities of Local Government for Incident Management
- Identifying hazards and assessing their potential risk to the community.
- Determining the community’s capability to mitigate against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from major emergencies.
- Identifying and employing methods to improve the community’s emergency management capability through efficient use of resources, improved coordination, and cooperation with other communities and with the State and Federal governments.
- Establishing mitigation measures such as building codes, zoning ordinances, or land-use management programs.
- Developing and coordinating preparedness plans.
- Establishing warning systems.
- Stocking emergency supplies and equipment.
- Educating the public and training emergency personnel.
- Assessing damage caused by the emergency.
- Activating response plans and rescue operations.
- Ensuring that shelter and medical assistance are provided.
- Recovering from the emergency and helping citizens return to normal life as soon as possible.
Local Government: What You Can Do To Help
You can assist your community in developing and improving community disaster plans for the care of animals and their owners by doing the following.
- Find out who your emergency manager and animal industry representatives are.
- Determine how these groups perceive hazards in your community.
- Review with the emergency manager and animal-care groups in your community the most important areas of need to provide care for animals and their owners in disasters.
- Determine where you might fit in and be able to help your community as a whole.
Working with local emergency managers before a disaster strikes can help all animal owners during a disaster.
State Government Responsibilities
States (including territories and tribal governments) have responsibility for the public health and welfare of the people in their jurisdiction. During response, States play a key role coordinating resources and capabilities throughout the State and obtaining resources and capabilities from other States.
Different State offices charged with incident management have various names and procedures for operating, including Emergency Management, Civil Defense, Civil Preparedness, and Disaster Services. In this text, the term emergency management is used to refer to these State offices. It is important to keep in mind, however, that in many States, the Department of Agriculture has responsibility for the welfare of animals.
State Government Responsibilities: Assistance
The role of the State government in response is to supplement local efforts before, during, and after incidents.
If a State anticipates that its resources may be exceeded, the Governor can request assistance from the Federal Government and/or from other States through mutual aid and assistance agreements such as the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).
Federal Government Responsibilities
When an incident occurs that exceeds or is anticipated to exceed State, tribal, or local resources, the Federal Government may provide resources and capabilities to support the State response.
When an incident overwhelms or is anticipated to overwhelm State resources, the Governor may request Federal assistance. In such cases, the affected local jurisdiction, tribe, State, and the Federal Government will collaborate to provide the necessary assistance.
The Federal Government may provide assistance in the form of funding, resources, and critical services. The intention of the Federal Government in these situations is not to command the response, but rather to support the affected local, tribal, and/or State governments.
Emergency Support Functions
Federal assistance is coordinated based on the principles and mechanism set forward in the National Response Framework (NRF).
Within the NRF, Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) provide concepts of operations, procedures, and structures for achieving response directives for all partners in fulfilling their roles under the NRF.
The ESFs provide the structure for coordinating Federal interagency support for a Federal response to an incident.
The National Preparedness Resource Library on the FEMA website provides links to the NRF ESF Annexes.
ESF #11 – Agriculture and Natural Resources
ESF #11 – Agriculture and Natural Resources: Two of the five ESF#11 missions impact animals by supporting State, tribal, and local authorities and other Federal agency efforts to:
- Control and eradicate, as appropriate, any outbreak of a highly contagious or economically devastating animal/zoonotic (i.e., transmitted between animals and people) disease.
- Provide for the safety and well-being of household pets during an emergency response or evacuation situation.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) coordinates ESF #11.
Safety and Well-Being of Household Pets
Animal evacuation and sheltering should be conducted in conjunction with human evacuation and sheltering efforts. Animals should be sheltered near their owners to the extent possible. Owners should be expected to provide food, water, husbandry, and exercise for their pets during the time they are in emergency shelters.
Businesses where animals are integral to operations (e.g., pet shops and veterinary hospitals) should be encouraged to have contingency plans in place for those animals in the event of a disaster or emergency.
- Supports DHS/FEMA together with ESF #6, ESF #8, ESF #9, and ESF #14 to ensure an integrated response that provides for the safety and well-being of household pets during natural disasters and other emergency events resulting in mass displacement of civilian populations.
- Provides technical support and subject-matter expertise regarding the safety and well-being of household pets.
- Conducts critical needs assessments for household pets.
- Expedites requests for resources to assist in evacuating and sheltering household pets.
Other Emergency Support Functions
Other Emergency Support Functions with missions that pertain to animals include:
- ESF #6 – Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services ensures coordination of Emergency Assistance required by individuals, families, and their communities to ensure that immediate needs beyond the scope of the traditional mass care services provided at the local level are addressed, such as evacuation, sheltering, and other emergency services for household pets and services animals.
- ESF #8 – Public Health and Medical Services, in coordination with ESF #11, ensures the health, safety and security of livestock, household pet and service animals, animal feed and therapeutics.
- ESF #9 – Search and Rescue integrates animal search and rescue services provided by animal control agencies and humane organizations.
- ESF # 14 – Long-Term Recovery coordinates with animal welfare and agricultural stakeholders and service providers in long-term community recovery efforts.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Responsibilities
At the Federal level of government, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is involved in prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery activities. FEMA helps States in several ways, including:
- Providing supplemental resources to assist communities and States to protect or assist their citizens.
- Meeting the disaster-related needs of individuals.
- Restoring essential services to support the local economy.
- Offering training in disaster management. Many of FEMA’s courses are taught through your State emergency management agency. FEMA also provides classroom instruction and operates the National Emergency Training Center, which offers higher level courses in emergency management.
Lesson 3: Care of Household Pets and Service Animals in Disasters
Disasters & Readiness
You may not be able to prevent a disaster from occurring but you can reduce its impact. A little planning can help reduce injuries, loss, and suffering. This applies to your household pet(s), service animal(s), and yourself.
You are ultimately responsible for the survival and well-being of your household pets and service animals. You should have an emergency response plan and readily accessible kits with provisions for family members, household pet(s), and service animal(s).
While the ADA guarantees a service animal may remain with the person served in any public accommodation (e.g., a shelter set up in response to a disaster), the ADA does not ensure other aspect of caring for a service animal during disasters. Owners of service animal(s) should prepare to provide food and water for their service animal during an emergency, both at home and if staying in an emergency shelter. Access to veterinary care is also not guaranteed during an evacuation.
Prepare a Disaster Kit
One of the most important disaster preparedness steps is to assemble a disaster kit containing basic necessities and important information. The kit should include information and items you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate. Remember to:
- Store your disaster kit in an area where it can easily be retrieved.
- Check the contents of the disaster kit twice a year when the clocks change for daylight savings.
- Rotate all foods into use and replace with fresh food every 2 months.
Suggested items for your household pet(s) and service animal(s) in your family’s disaster kit include:
- Food, water, and bowls for each pet. (Keep a 3-day supply for evacuations, and a 2-week supply for sheltering-in-place at home.)
- Paper towels, plastic bags, and spray disinfectant for animal waste cleanup.
- Extra collars and tags, harnesses, and leashes for all pets (including cats).
- Copies of your pet’s medical and vaccination records. Boarding facilities may not accept your pets without proof of health.
- A 2-week supply of medication, along with a copy of the current prescription.
- A recent photo of you with your pet.
- A crate or traveling carrier large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around. Label the crate with your pet’s name, your name, and where you can be reached.
- First aid kit.
Know Your Hazards
There are important differences among potential emergencies that will impact the decisions you make and the actions you take. Learn more about the potential emergencies that could happen where you live and the appropriate way to respond to them.
To learn about more about the hazards in your area:
- Contact your local emergency management agency.
- Visit Ready.gov to learn about specific hazards and suggested preparedness activities.
Later lessons in this course will present information about different types of hazards.
Develop an Emergency Plan: Evacuations
One topic that must be addressed in your emergency plan is evacuations. There are many situations where you need to evacuate your home, such as an approaching wildfire, rising floodwaters, or even an erupting volcano.
Plan and practice multiple evacuation routes, where possible, in case some roads are impassible. You should practice your plan with your family, household pet(s), and service animal(s) until you can evacuate within a few minutes. Individuals with disabilities that would need assistance during an evacuation should contact local emergency management as part of their emergency planning.
Decide on a place where your family will meet if you get separated. Identify contacts out of the area or out of State that you can call in case you need help or to let people know you are safe.
Develop an Emergency Plan: Shelters
Determine sheltering options for you and your animals. Consider the following in your area and within a 100-mile radius:
- Family and friends,
- Hotels that allow household pet(s),
- Boarding kennels,
- Animal shelters and humane societies,
- Veterinary offices with boarding facilities,
- Grooming shops, and
- Approved areas at fairgrounds or parks.
Many jurisdictions now provide emergency household pet shelters alongside general population shelters. As part of emergency planning, owners of household pet(s) and service animal(s) should see what facilities might be provided in their area.
An effective and proven method of communicating and getting help is to establish a telephone tree. Telephone trees work when one person phones two friends to see if they need help or to request help. These two people each phone another two people and so on.
Develop an Emergency Plan: Household Pet(s) and Service Animal(s) Left Behind
Some circumstances may force you to leave your household pet(s) and service animal(s) behind. Leaving your household pet(s) and service animal(s) behind is only a last resort. If you must leave without your household pet(s) and service animal(s), you should leave them in your home and follow the below guidelines:
- Never leave your household pet(s) and service animal(s) tied up outside or let them loose to fend for themselves. Animal control shelters may need to treat loose animals as abandoned and they may be euthanized.
- Do not leave unfamiliar foods and treats. They may overeat, which can lead to intestinal problems. Provide water in a heavy bowl that cannot be tipped over.
- Always keep exotic animals in separate rooms. Leave warnings and handling instructions.
- Paste labels clearly for rescue workers about the animals they will encounter.
- Make sure somebody knows where you can be contacted and what the needs and location of your household pet(s) and service animal(s) are.
Leaving your household pet(s) and service animal(s) behind in a disaster may decrease its chances of survival.
Prevent Losing Your Household Pet(s) and Service Animal(s)
With unfamiliar sounds, smells, and sights that follow a disaster, household pet(s) and service animal(s) can easily become confused and get lost. Dogs and cats should wear appropriate identification at all times.
Know your cat’s and dog’s common and favorite hiding places. Once the chaos starts, this is where you will find them.
One type of appropriate identification is a collar tag with your name, address, phone number, and emergency phone number. More permanent methods include microchips, freeze marking, and tattoos. Examples of appropriate identification for birds include leg bands, microchips, or tattoos.
Current photographs of your household pet(s) and service animal(s) will help with identification after a disaster. You should also send photos of your animals to your out-of-state friends or relatives.
Train Your Household Pet(s) and Service Animal(s)
Accustom your household pet(s) and service animal(s) to sudden actions as would be needed in a disaster. Actions taken in preparation for a disaster include the following:
- Train your dog. Obedience may save its life during an emergency and help to make it a welcome guest.
- Familiarize your household pet(s) and service animal(s) with its transport crate before a crisis.
- Familiarize your household pet(s) and service animal(s) with being transported. You can practice by getting your pet used to riding in your car.
- Cats can be very difficult to catch when they are stressed or afraid. Practice catching and transporting your cat in a crate and carrying it around the house.
Safeguard Your Household Pet(s) and Service Animal(s)’s Health
To minimize ill health effects of a disaster, make sure that:
- Your household pet(s) and service animal(s)’s vaccinations are current. Most vaccinations are repeated yearly. Rabies is repeated every 3 years in most species, but may be required yearly (depending on the type of vaccine and State requirements).
- Keep copies of your household pet(s) and service animal(s)’s current vaccinations, health, and ownership records in your disaster kit.
- If your household pet(s) and service animal(s) requires regular medications, keep a current copy of the prescription or extra supplies in your disaster preparedness kit.
Special Recommendations for Birds
The care of birds in disasters requires special consideration. Following are some recommendations.
- If maintaining a safe environment for your birds requires a continuous supply of power, purchase a generator and make sure it is in good running condition.
- Equip aviaries with an overhead sprinkler system to minimize smoke inhalation, cool the air, and reduce the chance of burn injuries. Birds are sensitive to smoke and fumes and succumb quickly to smoke.
- Have enough carriers on hand to evacuate all birds. Equip nest boxes with quick-release latches and a hinge-type cover over the entrance to enable quick removal for transport.
- Identify multiple sources for purchasing any special foods.
- Test your birds to ensure they are free of psittacosis and tuberculosis.
When the disaster has passed:
- Check your household pet(s) and service animal(s) for injury and exposure to chemicals. If you have any concerns, contact a veterinarian.
- In new surroundings, do not remove your household pet(s) and service animal(s) from its crate until you are in a closed room where it is calm.
- Do not go out until the environment is safe for you and your household pet(s) and service animal(s) .
- Give your household pet(s) and service animal(s) small amounts of food several times throughout the day and slowly increase the volume over the next few days.
- Let your household pet(s) and service animal(s) have plenty of uninterrupted sleep. Give the household pet(s) and service animal(s) its favorite toys, and encourage it to play. This will help the animal recover from the stress and trauma.
- Avoid unfamiliar activities with your household pet(s) and service animal(s), such as bathing, excessive exercise, or diet changes.
Recovery: Considerations for Birds
Check your bird for injury and exposure to chemicals. If you have any concerns about the health of your bird, contact a veterinarian.
- If you think or know that your bird has been exposed to chemicals, contact your veterinarian before treating it yourself.
- If the bird is bleeding, apply direct pressure with a small piece of cotton cloth until you can get help. Do not remove the cloth as this may start the bleeding again.
If you have to move to new surroundings, do not remove your bird from its cage. When birds are frightened, they may become aggressive or fly away.
If electricity is available, many birds benefit from having a heating pad under their cage in times of stress. Blankets placed over the cage can also minimize stress.
Recovery: Lost Household Pet(s) and Service Animal(s)
If you and your household pet(s) and service animal(s) are separated, pay daily visits to local shelters, animal control facilities, veterinary offices, and kennels. A phone call is often not as effective as a visit. You can also post photos of your lost household pet(s) and service animal(s).
If your household pet(s) and service animal(s) has tattoos, a microchip, or other permanent identification, this will increase the chances of finding it. Be aware that collars and tags are sometimes lost.
If you find a stray animal, take it to a shelter or other facility set up for lost and found animals. Place an advertisement in the local newspaper and online to inform the owner where the animal was taken.
Recovery: Psychological Healing
We consider our household pet(s) and service animal(s) as beloved friends, companions, or family members. The loss of a household pet(s) and service animal(s) is similar to the intense pain that accompanies the loss of a friend. Some guidelines for coping with the loss of a household pet(s) and service animal(s) include:
- Sharing your experiences with friends and family. Talking about your experiences will help you deal with them and offers great stress relief.
- Considering seeking professional counseling, as recovery is aided when guided by professionals experienced in dealing with disasters.
Lesson 4: Care of Livestock and Horses in Disasters
Farms and Natural Disasters
Farms in disasters are of concern for many reasons.
- The safety of the human food supply depends on the health of food-producing animals.
- Owners have personal and financial investments in their animals. Farm owners may be injured or killed attempting to rescue their animals in disasters. For many areas and businesses, livestock, poultry, and horses are a vital source of revenue. Additionally, many families keep horses or other livestock for recreation or companionship. Much like household pets, they may be reluctant to evacuate without these animals.
Farm owners and horse owners should work with their local emergency management agency and other groups before a disaster to help protect livestock. Remember that the care of and responsibility for animals ultimately lies with their owner or designated care provider.
Mitigation measures that farmers can take to reduce the effects of disasters include:
- Build and repair buildings to meet or exceed construction codes and consider ease of evacuation.
- Replace or cover glass windows with materials that will not shatter and injure animals or personnel.
- Make sure that drainage ditches have grass covering (maintain sod).
- Secure or remove anything that could become blowing debris or objects that may become projectiles.
- Make sure the wiring is safe and that any heat source is clear of flammable materials.
- Store chemicals in storm-proof buildings and secured containers.
- Build levees around or drain ponds.
Many farms are in floodplains. An area designated as a 100-year floodplain has a 1 percent chance of flooding per year, or 30 percent chance in the lifespan of many mortgages. County area planning offices compile information on floodplains in their community. The State natural resources department can provide maps and flood risk assessment information on every property in the State.
Farm owners should review the flood risk assessment for their property’s location and design an access route that will not leave them stranded during flooding. Civil engineers can help in the design and construction of flood-protected farm accesses and make recommendations on suitable locations for barns, stables, paddocks, and high-lying areas that may be used as pasture ground in the event of a flood.
A common aftermath of flooding is the overflow of manure pits and waste lagoons, potentially contaminating the environment and water supply. In these instances, farmers can be fined for violations of environmental and natural resource regulations.
To prevent this from happening, farmers should take the following precautions.
- Have lagoons inspected regularly.
- Keep records on the impact lagoons have on the environment and watershed.
- Discuss plans to divert manure from streams and rivers with the local county extension educator and representatives from the appropriate State departments. (Similar issues surround all waste disposal systems on farms.)
Mitigation: Fire Safety
Preventing barn fires and being prepared in the event of a fire can mean the difference between life and death for your livestock. Barn fires may be caused by lightning, faulty wiring, discarded cigarettes, or sparks from equipment. Many livestock facilities are built of flammable materials and some contain gas heaters.
Safety measures to prevent fire damage include the following:
- Install fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, and smoke detectors.
- Enforce no smoking policies.
- Have all electrical wiring of barns and stables installed and inspected by qualified electricians.
- Consider having the local fire department inspect the property and recommend fire prevention measures. Knowing where a farm is located, how to access facilities, how many animals are there, and where large volumes of water are available can make the difference when firefighters are responding.
Mitigation: Power Supply
Priority for restoration of power following an emergency is usually based on human population density. Because many farms are in rural areas, it could be some time before power is re-established, and generators may be needed.
Many livestock operations depend heavily on electrical power to milk cows, provide heat and cool air (fans), and operate feed elevators and machinery. Contact your local utility company so that you can be prepared for times without power.
Ensure generators will power wells or install a hand pump on a well. As an alternative, consider keeping enough large water containers on hand to effectively haul water for animals from an alternative source, such as a neighbor with a generator for their well.
Protection: Farm and Horse Owner Disaster Kit
The priorities for disaster planning for farms and horse owners vary to some extent with the type of animals and facility. However, you should assemble a disaster kit that includes:
- Current list of all animals, including their location and feeding records, vaccinations, and tests. Make sure that you have proof of ownership for all animals.
- Supplies for temporary animal identification, such as plastic neckbands and permanent markers to label your animals.
- Handling equipment such as halters, cages, and appropriate tools for each kind of animal.
- Water, feed, and buckets.
- Tools and supplies needed for sanitation.
- Safety and emergency items for your vehicles and trailers.
Check the contents regularly to ensure fresh and complete supplies. Additional sources for assistance include FEMA and the USDA.
Dependable communication is fundamental to identify immediate sources of help and where it will be needed most. A few methods of emergency communication are described below.
- Buddy System: Neighbors and friends determine ahead of time who will be responsible for checking on and helping whom, which resources will be shared, and generally improve their knowledge and sensitivity of animal welfare.
- Telephone Tree: Every person in an affected area phones two to three other people to see if they need help. These people in turn phone two to three others, and so on. Telephone trees should be tested periodically and revised if necessary.
- “Help” or “OK” Signs: Visible from the road, these are a simple, effective method of advising others as to your status.
Protection: Veterinary Care
The priorities in veterinary care vary with each disaster.
- In tornadoes and hurricanes, traumatic injuries will predominate.
- In droughts and severe winter weather, starvation and dehydration may be problems.
- Following fires, smoke inhalation and burn wounds will require veterinary attention.
Livestock owners can prepare for these and other types of disaster-related injuries by talking with their veterinarians about the contents and appropriate use of first aid kits.
The leading causes of death of large animals in hurricanes and similar events are collapsed barns, dehydration, electrocution, and accidents resulting from fencing failure. Timely evacuations can help prevent these types of injuries.
Farm evacuations present unique problems and appropriate planning is essential. Coordinate the destination and method of transport with neighbors, friends, livestock associations and horse clubs, and county extension educators.
Regular inspection of trailers and tow vehicles for safe operation (including checking tire pressure) is also important.
When evacuating livestock during a fire, close barn doors to prevent animals from running back inside.
Every farm owner should have alternative sheltering for their animals. Plan ahead and work within your community to establish safe shelters for farm animals. Potential facilities include fairgrounds, other farms, racetracks, humane societies, convention centers, and any other safe and appropriate facilities you can find. Survey your community and potential host communities along your planned evacuation route.
Consideration should be given to how large amounts of manure will be disposed—manure will accumulate and can pose a significant animal and human health problem.
Shelter areas for livestock and horses may combine animals from many different properties and areas. This may lead to outbreaks of contagious diseases. Measures to safeguard the health of horses and livestock in disasters include vaccinations, deworming, and Coggins tests for horses.
When livestock and horses are evacuated and housed in large numbers, adequate amounts of feed may be difficult to procure. Develop lists of feed and hay suppliers in your area.
Avoid dietary changes. When the diets of horses or livestock change, they become predisposed to colic, laminitis, and metabolic diseases.
Protection: Identification of Animals
Ideally all animals should be uniquely and permanently identified so the owners can positively identify their animals, and others can trace the owner.
Horses can be permanently identified by microchips, freeze marking, branding, or tattoo. Owners should have current front and side view photographs.
However, if livestock and horses have to be evacuated suddenly, emergency identification methods can be used, including:
- Painting or etching the hooves.
- Body marking with crayon.
- Clipping phone numbers or farm initials in the hair.
- Neck banding.
- Identification tags on halters or braided into the horse’s mane.
- Glue-on numbers.
Cuts acquired from disaster debris make animals more susceptible to tetanus. Contaminated floodwater may contain toxins, including botulinum toxin from rotting carcasses. Contact with wildlife may also increase the potential for rabies.
Make sure livestock are current on all recommended vaccinations to help prevent illness.
Response: Hazardous Materials
During any disaster, hazardous materials releases can contaminate the environment and animals.
While farmers are often qualified to handle hazardous materials commonly used on their farms, proper training and hazardous materials certification are required to deal with releases and the potential contamination of the food supply. Untrained persons should not deal with hazardous materials at all.
If you are concerned about a hazardous materials release, phone 911.
Recovery: Animal Care
If you are concerned about diseases that may result from a disaster, you should consult your veterinarian.
If animals die or have to be euthanized, it is recommended that a post-mortem examination be performed at the State diagnostic laboratory so that insurance and legal claims can be settled should they arise. Photographs and videos can aid in documentation.
Recovery: Financial Considerations
Recovering from a disaster often can take years. Major concerns for small businesses, including farms, in disasters include:
- Cash flow and continued income for employees.
- Continued provision of quality care for animals.
- Restoration of a functional business.
- Changes in community infrastructure.
- Customer, buyer, and supplier loyalty.
Some small businesses affected by a major disaster never recover fully.
Many of these issues can be addressed before a disaster by obtaining adequate insurance coverage and entering into agreements with neighboring farms to share facilities and resources.
Low-interest loans supplied by the Small Business Administration and local banks can facilitate the restoration of businesses. In addition, emergency assistance funding may be available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the State’s Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.
Farms often have special claims programs for recovery from disasters—farmers should pay special attention to these and consult their State emergency management officials and county extension educators on what is available. In the past, farmers have been unaware of the sources of funding available to them to help recovery.
Disaster Assistance Resources
Disaster information and assistance resources are available at http://www.disasterassistance.gov.
Lesson 5: Meteorological Hazards
Natural hazards are usually more predictable than any other type of hazard. Although we cannot know exactly when or where they will strike, or how severe they will be, we recognize from past experience which geographical areas are most vulnerable to certain types of natural hazards. This knowledge helps us better prepare for and respond to natural hazards.
In particular, you should learn about the disasters most likely to occur in your geographical area.
Meteorological Hazards: Overview
Our most frequent disasters are meteorological (weather-related) events, including:
- Winter storm
The impact from these events can be localized or widespread, predictable or unpredictable. Damage can range from minimal to major. Depending on the severity of the incident, meteorological events can have a long-term impact on the infrastructure (roads, bridges, and utilities) of any location.
Thunderstorms may include large amounts of rain or localized hail. Thunderstorms can cause tornadoes and flash floods. Violent lightning can strike the ground several miles away from its parent cloud.
Each year in the United States, lightning injures approximately 300 people and kills 80 people. Lightning also kills grazing livestock and horses. Annual property loss resulting from thunderstorms, including damage to farms and barns, is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Storm Prediction Center issues severe thunderstorm watches.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch
- Indicates that conditions are right for:
- Lightning or damaging winds greater than 58 mph,
- Hail that could reach a diameter of 0.75 inches, and
- Heavy rain.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning
- Indicates that severe thunderstorms have been sighted in your area.
Thunderstorms: Protection Actions
- If you plan to be outdoors or your animals are kept outside, check the latest weather forecast and keep an eye on the sky.
- Designate a safe area in or near your home to shelter your family and animals in a severe thunderstorm. Teach family members what to do in a storm if they are at home, outside, or in a car, including how to relocate animals to safe locations.
- Evacuate from a manufactured (mobile) home with your animals to a safe location.
- If you have animals that get nervous and pose a safety risk in thunderstorms, contact your veterinarian for advice on training and/or medication.
Thunderstorms: Mitigation Measures
- Install lightning suppression systems on all high-risk buildings, including those where animals are kept.
- Insure crops against storm damage loss through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Because lightning strikes can cause fire, install appropriate sprinkler systems and smoke detectors.
- If you live in a manufactured (mobile) home, securely tie it to a solid foundation or anchors to keep the wind from shifting it or turning it over.
- Build fences around single trees in pastures where horses and livestock graze so they will not congregate under these trees in storms.
Thunderstorms: Response Actions
In the event of a severe thunderstorm warning:
- Get inside a storm shelter, home, or large building. Avoid using the telephone except for emergencies, and stay away from windows.
- Avoid standing under a natural lightning rod such as tall, isolated trees in an open area.
- Keep yourself and any animals away from open water, such as a lake, pond, or river.
- Keep yourself and any animals away from metal objects that could carry electricity, including:
- Tractors and other metal farm equipment.
- Motorcycles, scooters, golf carts, and bicycles.
- Wire fences and clotheslines.
- Metal pipes and rails.
- Umbrellas and golf clubs.
- Move yourself and any animals to a low place such as a ravine or valley but remain alert for flash floods.
- If you feel your hair stand on end (which shows that lightning is about to strike), stand on the tip of your toes and curl your body into a tight ball. Ideally you want to be as low as possible with as little contact with the ground as is possible. Do not lie flat.
- A person or animal struck by lightning will receive a severe electrical shock and may be burned. They will carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely. Give first aid and get emergency medical assistance immediately.
- Victims who appear only stunned or otherwise unhurt may also need appropriate medical attention. Check for burns in people next to metal buckles and jewelry. In animals check areas around halters and collars.
Thunderstorms: Recovery Tips
After one storm subsides, be certain there are no more storms approaching before resuming normal activity.
- Make sure that any animal enclosures are secure before placing animals in them.
- In pasture areas, remove any debris that might injure animals or that animals may accidentally eat.
- Provide fresh feed for animals; many will refuse to eat waterlogged feed and minerals.
- If your house or farm has sustained damage, have the damage assessed as required by your property insurance company.
- Clean up and repair damage as soon as authorized by your insurer.
Floods are one of the most common natural disasters in the United States, and no area is completely free from the threat of floods. In the average year:
- More than 300,000 people are driven from their homes by floods.
- 200 flood-related fatalities occur.
- $2 billion in total flood damages are sustained.
- Animals that are affected by floods risk death from hypothermia and drowning.
Floods are classified according to whether they are slow or fast rising. Slow-rising floods are typical as floodwaters move down a river or stream and can often be predicted to reach a certain height. Flash floods may occur suddenly following extremely heavy rain, melting snow, or dam or levee failure.
Flood warnings may be issued by sirens, horns, radio, television, or door-to-door canvassing by local emergency personnel. The National Weather Service, local police, sheriff, highway patrol, county flood control district office, or other local agencies issue flood watches and warnings.
Flash Flood Watch
- Issued when flash flooding is possible within the designated watch area.
Flash Flood Warning
- Issued when a flash flood has been reported or is imminent.
- Issued as an advance notice that a flood is imminent or is in progress at a certain location or in a certain river basin.
Proper land-use management and strict enforcement of building codes, with special attention to floodplains, can reduce flood losses. Additional actions include:
- Determining if you are in the floodplain, and if so, purchasing flood insurance.
- Stockpiling and replenishing emergency building materials such as sandbags, plastic sheeting, and lumber.
- In the event of a flash flood warning, taking yourself and your animals to the nearest high ground without hesitation.
- Taking caution when reentering farm buildings that were flooded. Let buildings air out to remove foul odors or escaped gas. Do not use a match or lantern because of possible gas buildup.
- Checking all perimeter fences and removing debris before letting animals out.
Floods: Protection Actions
- Stockpile and replenish emergency building materials such as sandbags, plastic sheeting, and lumber.
- Keep your car, truck, or other vehicles fueled. If electric power is disrupted, gas station pumps may be out of operation for several days.
- Check your horse or livestock trailers to make sure they are in useable condition.
- Make family and animal evacuation plans.
- If you are in a flash flood area, plan several alternate routes to ensure rapid evacuation.
- If you have a large number of cattle or horses, anticipate the course floodwaters might take.
- Start moving animals in advance of any danger. Even if the evacuation turns out to have been unnecessary, at least you have practiced for the time when it might be necessary.
- Identify ways to keep animals safely confined while they are evacuated and living in a temporary setting.
- Ensure that animals are properly identified—keep a collar and identification tag on pets at all times so that if they get lost during a flood, you have a better chance of getting them back. Ideally tags should also list an out-of-state contact.
- Maintain your animal’s vaccinations against rabies and tetanus.
Floods: Mitigation Measures
- Determine if you are in the floodplain, and if so, purchase flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a Federal program enabling property owners to purchase flood insurance.
- If you graze livestock or horses in floodplains, be prepared to move them to higher ground before low-lying evacuation routes become flooded.
- Consult with your State natural resources department if you plan to alter landscape on your property in such a way that it may affect the flow of water in a flood.
- Consult with your State departments of environmental management or natural resources on how to prevent overflow of manure pits or lagoons into local streams and rivers.
- Construct buildings for the storage of fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, and fuels so that these have minimal chance of contaminating the environment.
- Install check valves in building sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up in sewer drains.
Floods: Response Actions
Response actions to flooding vary depending on whether the flood is a flash flood or slower rising flood. With a flash flood, seconds may make the difference between life and death. If you hear a flash flood warning on the radio or television, or hear the roar of approaching waters, act immediately.
For a flash flood:
- Head for the nearest high ground without hesitation, bringing with you animals in danger.
- Even if you are not sure where to take your animals, do not leave them behind unless it would compromise your safety.
For a slower rising flood:
- If you must leave an animal behind, ensure that it always has an easy escape route. Never tie an animal up if floods are pending.
- Secure all outdoor items or store them inside on upper levels.
- Move all valuable household possessions to upper levels above rising water.
- Move cars, machinery, and all livestock to higher ground.
- Check emergency food and water supplies and move them to a high-and-dry place.
- Listen to radio announcements from emergency officials. If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately. Use only those routes recommended by local authorities. Any other route could be blocked or otherwise made impassable by flooding.
- At the earliest sign of danger, start moving your animals to a safe location.
- If there is time before evacuation, turn off all utilities at the main switch. Do not touch any electrical equipment unless it is in a dry area. Always wear well-insulated rubber footwear and gloves.
- Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road; you can become stranded or trapped. If your car stalls while in flowing water, abandon it immediately, taking with you any animals (unless it would compromise your safety). Cars may only serve as traps in the face of a raging flood.
- Do not attempt to cross flowing water that is above your knees.
- If you are evacuating horses, do not ride them through swift moving, deep water.
Floods: Recovery Tips
- Before horses or livestock are returned to property that has flooded, be sure that all perimeter fences are intact and any debris has been removed.
- Before entering a building or barn:
- Check for structural damage.
- Check for any wildlife that may have gotten trapped inside.
- Open the building and let it air out for several minutes to remove foul odors or escaped gas. Do not use a match or lantern as a source of light because of the possibility of gas buildup. A battery-powered flashlight is recommended.
- Once inside a building:
- Check for electrical shorts and live wires. Make sure the power is turned off and do not use any electricity until an electrician has checked your system. Report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities.
- Open all doors and windows to help dry the building.
- Shovel out mud while it is still moist to give walls and floors an opportunity to dry.
- Consult with your veterinarian, department of agriculture, county extension educator, or State chemist to determine the safety of the feed for animals and products for human consumption. The release of hazardous materials during floods can lead to poisonings in animals that ingest or come into contact with the hazardous materials.
- Do not use food or bedding that has come in contact with floodwaters. Contamination of animal feed can be toxic to animals and humans who consume the meat or milk of cattle that ingest these fungal toxins.
- Do not give animals tap water until it has been boiled or determined safe. Wells should be flushed out and the water tested before drinking.
- In a barn, empty any water containers that contain floodwater, and be sure to clean them with diluted chlorine bleach or some other type of disinfectant before they are used again.
Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that descend in a funnel shape from thunderstorm cloud systems. Tornadoes can occur anywhere at any time.
In extreme conditions, a tornado may travel more than 300 miles and leave a path of total destruction more than a mile wide. Tornadoes will travel up to 60 mph with wind speeds approaching 400 mph within the tornado’s center. Tornado winds can be louder than several jet engines. The violently whirling winds and debris hurled through the air can damage property and threaten life safety.
Tornado warning networks save many lives each year. Volunteer spotters watch the sky during threatening weather and report signs of a tornado to local emergency management officials, the regional office of the National Weather Service, and local farmers.
- Are issued by the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK.
- Indicate that conditions are right for a tornado to develop and that the sky should be watched.
- Are issued by the local weather service.
- Indicate that a tornado has been sighted or is spotted on radar. Warnings will give the location of the tornado and the area immediately affected by the warning.
Having a safe place to go when there is a tornado warning is one of the most important measures. Other actions include:
- During violent weather, stay tuned to a local television or radio station for tornado reports. Tornadoes can develop during severe thunderstorms and hurricanes.
- In the event of a tornado warning, if you have a storm cellar or shelter, go to it immediately with your family and animals. If no shelter is available, go to your basement and get under a heavy workbench or stairs.
- After the tornado has passed, be alert to additional hazards, including downed power lines.
Tornadoes: Protection Actions
- During violent weather, stay tuned to a local television or radio station for tornado reports. Tornadoes can develop during severe thunderstorms and hurricanes.
- If a storm shelter or basement is not available, follow the listed guidelines when preparing for a tornado hazard.
- Plan to find shelter under heavy furniture or mattresses near an inside wall of your house on the ground floor. Provide animals in your household with a safe area and keep them confined.
- Conduct tornado drills with your family.
- Know the location of the designated shelter where you work or go to school. If you frequently travel with your dog in the car, keep a leash in the vehicle at all times in case you have to vacate the car during a tornado.
- Plan to evacuate your manufactured (mobile) home taking your pets with you. Even if you are not sure where to take them, do not leave them behind.
- If a watch is issued, turn horses and other livestock out to an open pasture to avoid injuries from building collapse. Try to turn animals out into areas where they will not be harmed by flying debris. Ideally this will be a low-lying area where animals can choose to lie down and protect themselves.
Tornadoes: Mitigation Measures
- Build tornado shelters and implement policies that provide sheltering for pets when there is a pending tornado or other disaster. Tornado shelters are safest if they are underground—a storm cellar or basement away from windows offers the best protection.
- Follow relevant building code practices such as the use of wind-resistant design.
- Replace windows in barns with materials that will not shatter and cut animals or people when broken.
- Store or secure any loose materials including strapping and label hazardous material tanks such as heating oil or propane.
Tornadoes: Response Actions
- If you have a storm cellar or shelter, go to it immediately with your family and animals. If no shelter is available, go to your basement and get under a heavy workbench or stairs.
- If your home has no basement, stay in the center of the house away from the windows or in a small room on the ground floor that is away from outside walls. Take cover under solid furniture or mattresses. Protect your head.
- In manufactured (mobile) homes or vehicles, leave and take shelter in a substantial structure, taking your animals with you. If there is no nearby shelter, lie flat in the nearest ditch or ravine with your hands shielding your head.
- Do not drive. If you are driving and spot a tornado, get out of your car and go into a nearby building or ditch taking your animals with you. Protect your head and stay low to the ground.
- After a tornado passes, stay tuned to the local radio or television station to get an all-clear signal before leaving your shelter. Sometimes more than one tornado will develop during a violent storm.
Tornadoes: Recovery Tips
- After the tornado has passed, be alert to additional hazards, including downed power lines.
- Consult with your veterinarian if you are concerned about the health of your animal, or with the agriculture department, county extension educator, or State chemist if you are concerned about contamination of your livestock or your animals’ feed.
- Re-enter buildings with extreme caution.
- Be alert to fire hazards such as broken electrical wires or damaged electrical equipment, gas or oil leaks, other hazardous materials, or smoldering piles of wet hay or feed. Report downed utility lines or other hazards to appropriate authorities.
- Do not use food that may have been contaminated. This includes any food for animals. If there is a boil-water order in effect, continue to take this precaution until officials tell you the tap water is safe to drink. Do not give tap water to pets until it has been boiled or otherwise determined safe.
- Keep animals safely confined until the area has been cleared of debris.
Hurricanes are storms that develop in the northern hemisphere and have winds with constant speeds of at least 74 mph, gusting up to 200 mph. These winds move in a counterclockwise spiral around a relatively calm center or hurricane eye.
One of the greatest dangers associated with hurricanes is a storm surge, a surge of water accompanied by battering waves and incredibly strong winds. The storm surge may cause flooding up to 20 feet above normal sea level along major stretches of coastline.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and caused an estimated $89 billion in property damage.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami monitors weather data and issues forecasts for hurricanes.
- Tells where the storm is located, the intensity of wind speeds, and the direction of movement.
- Issued for a coastal area when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24 to 36 hours.
- Issued when hurricane conditions are expected in a specified coastal area in 24 hours or less. Hurricane conditions include winds of 74 mph (64 knots) and dangerously high tides and waves.
Hurricanes can strike coastal and inland communities from Texas to Maine. Inland flooding associated with hurricanes can threat many noncoastal States. Communities in areas that may be threatened by hurricanes should develop action plans that specify evacuation routes, including routes for livestock trucks and trailers, shelters, and emergency services response. Additional actions include:
- Retrofitting your home to withstand wind and flooding. Consult FEMA’s Coastal Construction Manual (FEMA-55) for guidance.
- Before hurricane season, checking your window shutters and supply of boards, tools, batteries, nonperishable foods, bottled water, and other equipment.
- Complying with all hurricane evacuation orders.
- After the storm has passed, avoiding contact with loose or dangling electrical wires, and reporting them to the power company.
- After a hurricane where storm surge has flooded pasture land with salt water. This “brackish” sea water may cause illness or death in livestock. Hauling fresh water to livestock in such areas may be essential.
Hurricanes: Protection Actions
Before hurricane season, check your window shutters and supply of boards, tools, batteries, nonperishable foods, bottled water, and other equipment.
When your area receives a hurricane watch notification, keep calm and take the following precautions:
- Listen for weather updates.
- Board up your windows or protect them with shutters or tape.
- Secure outdoor objects such as tools, porch furniture, garbage cans, and bicycles that could become deadly projectiles in hurricane winds. Store them inside if possible.
- Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, bottles, pans, and containers suitable for livestock. Remember to include enough for your animals.
- Ensure batteries are fresh and in sufficient quantity.
- Keep your car’s gas tank filled. Service stations may be closed for several days after a hurricane due to power outages and flooding.
Hurricanes: Mitigation Measures
- Retrofit your home to withstand wind and flooding. Consult FEMA’s Coastal Construction Manual (FEMA-55) for guidance.
- Support the adoption and enforcement of floodplain management requirements. In some cases the best mitigation may be not to build at all.
- In addition to your property insurance, buy a flood insurance policy. Renters also can buy a flood policy for personal property.
Hurricanes: Response Actions
If you are advised to evacuate before the hurricane, follow directions. Do not attempt to evacuate during a hurricane—stay indoors in windowless rooms or hallways. Keep your small animals in carriers or confined areas.
If the storm center passes directly overhead, the wind will calm. Don’t think the hurricane has passed while the eye is over your area. When winds begin again, they quickly grow to hurricane force and come from the opposite direction.
Severe flooding may follow hurricanes as they move inland. Stay away from riverbanks and streams. Monitor National Weather Service advisories on flood stages.
Hurricanes: Recovery Tips
Long-term hazards after a hurricane include interrupted gas, water, and electric power services; fires and explosions from gas leaks; fallen power lines; electrical short circuits; and contaminated food and water.
When recovering from a hurricane:
- Avoid contact with loose or dangling electrical wires, and report them to the power company. Inspect areas where animals are kept for loose wires.
- Report broken sewer or water mains to the water department.
- Check for gas leaks. Do not strike a match or relight appliances until they have been inspected.
- Open windows and doors to let the air circulate. This ventilation will help remove foul odors and protect you from collected gas. It also will help dry out the house.
- Pump out the basement if it is flooded, but do it gradually. Drain one third of the floodwaters each day to minimize further structural damage. Shovel out the mud while it is still moist, and dry rugs and carpets thoroughly. It is especially important to remove mud from barns as horses and livestock will develop foot problems if they stand in mud for too long.
- Dispose of perishable, contaminated, or water-soaked foods, including any water or food for animals. This will also ensure that stray or wild animals cannot eat it.
- If there is a boil-water order in effect, do not drink or give animals tap water unless you know it is safe. Official notices will be given about the safety of the water supply.
- Make any temporary repairs necessary to prevent further losses, including repair to fencing needed to keep animals confined. Ensure that substantially damaged structures are elevated above the base flood elevation or relocated when reconstructed.
Winter storms vary in size and strength. The National Weather Service issues watches and warnings for hazardous winter weather.
Drops four or more inches of snow in a 12-hour period or six or more inches in a 24-hour period. High winds may blow snow into drifts and cause poor visibility.
Heavy snow warning
A snowfall of at least four inches in 12 hours or six inches in 24 hours is expected.
Occurs when moisture falls from clouds and freezes immediately upon impact. Ice storms make driving and even walking extremely hazardous.
Ice storm warning
Significant, possibly damaging, ice accumulation is expected.
Winter storm watch
Severe winter weather may affect your area.
Winter storm warning
Severe winter weather conditions are expected.
The most dangerous of all winter storms. It combines low temperatures, heavy snowfall, and high winds that blow the snow into drifts and reduce visibility to only a few yards.
Large amounts of falling or blowing snow and winds of at least 35 mph are expected for several hours.
Severe blizzard warning
Considerable falling or blowing snow, winds at least 45 mph, and temperatures of 10°F or lower are expected for several hours.
High wind warning
Winds of at least 40 mph are expected to last at least one hour.
Ice and snow are expected to hinder travel but the anticipated weather conditions are not serious enough to require warnings.
Winter Storms: Threats
Winter storm threats may include:
- Heavy snowfall and blizzards can trap people and animals in vehicles or buildings.
- Ice storms and high winds can cause power outages and serious problems for dairy farmers or other farm industries that require power.
- Frozen water troughs and snow-covered feed bunkers and pastures predispose animals to malnutrition and dehydration.
- Fires during winter storms present a great danger because water supplies for fire-fighting equipment are no longer unavailable.
- Rapid spring thaws of snow pack can cause flooding.
Winter Storms: Readiness
Listed below are winter storm readiness measures.
- Construct barns to withstand typical snow accumulations in your area.
- Keep informed of current weather conditions in your area.
- Note that cold weather itself, without any physical exertion, puts an extra strain on your heart. Strenuous physical activity in cold weather such as shoveling snow, pushing a car, or even walking fast or far through deep snow can cause serious or fatal results.
- After the storm, check on your neighbors and their animals. Be sure they have proper heating and sufficient supplies to get them through the emergency.
Winter Storms: Protection Actions
- Keep informed of current weather conditions in your area.
- Store adequate amounts of fuel and extra feed before the severe winter weather starts.
- Be prepared for isolation at home, particularly if you live in a rural area. It is highly possible that a severe winter storm could isolate you for 1 or 2 weeks.
- If possible, insulate any buildings used to house animals. Dog houses should be built to withstand extreme cold—putting straw inside will provide added protection. Under extreme conditions, animals should be housed inside. Avoid leaving animals to rest on hard surfaces that are not insulated (e.g., garage floors).
- Have fuel and a safe type of emergency heating equipment available in case of power failures that would shut down standard furnaces—a camp stove with fuel or a supply of wood or coal for your fireplace could be used. Be prepared to keep at least one room of your house warm enough to live in for at least a week or two.
- Be sure that all family members know how to use your emergency heating and lighting equipment. Proper ventilation in homes and barns is essential. Never use fuel in equipment that was not designed for that fuel. Burning charcoal indoors will give off deadly carbon monoxide. If you are trying to heat a barn, use something with a safely contained heating element. Do not place it near hay or any other combustible materials or leave a heater unattended in the presence of animals. Keep fire extinguishers nearby.
- Keep simple tools and other equipment to fight a small fire easily accessible. The chance of fire may increase when wiring and ventilation are inadequate. Winter storms may interrupt fire department services.
- Only keep animals outdoors that have had sufficient time to acclimatize to the cold weather. Provide extra feed and wind breaks for any animals kept outdoors.
- Keep your car winterized with antifreeze, but use it in a safe manner. Carry a winter care kit that includes food and water, a windshield scraper, a flashlight with extra batteries, a tow chain or rope, a shovel, tire chains, a blanket, a bag of sand, a fluorescent distress flag, and an emergency flare. If you have to travel, keep a supply of high-energy foods, candles, and matches with you. Keep extra warm clothing and blankets in the car. If you routinely take your dog in the car, be sure to keep a leash in the car.
- Consider making a windbreak for animals that live outdoors.
- Porous fences of 80 percent density offer the best wind protection for about 75 to 100 ft downwind.
- Solid fences provide the best snow barrier, because 90 percent of drifting snow moves within one foot of the ground.
- Buildings should be separated by at least 30 to 50 feet to prevent snowdrifts developing between them.
- Move livestock herds in close to ranch buildings and feed stores. It may initially be impossible to move feed to livestock if they are too far out.
Winter Storms: Mitigation Measures
- Construct barns to withstand typical snow accumulations in your area.
- Purchase a flood insurance policy to cover possible flood damage that may occur during the spring thaw.
Winter Storms: Response Actions
- Note that cold weather itself, without any physical exertion, puts an extra strain on your heart. Strenuous physical activity in cold weather such as shoveling snow, pushing a car, or even walking fast or far through deep snow can cause serious or fatal results.
- Avoid all unnecessary trips. If you are at home when a winter storm strikes, plan to stay there. Keep all domestic animals inside if possible. If they must be outdoors, be sure to provide them with proper sheltering to keep them warm and dry.
- If you must be outdoors, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, protective clothing rather than a single layer of thick clothing. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Hoods should be worn to protect your head and face. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from the extremely cold air.
- If you are traveling and your car breaks down or if you become lost, decide what is the safest and best thing to do and do it slowly and carefully.
- If you are stuck on a well-traveled road:
- Display a trouble signal.
- Turn on your flashing hazard lights.
- Raise the hood of your car, or hang a bright cloth from the antenna or car window.
- Stay in your car and wait for help.
- While in your car awaiting assistance, take the following precautions:
- If you run your engine to keep warm, remember to keep snow away from the exhaust pipe.
- Keep a window open slightly to provide proper ventilation and protection from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do not let everyone in the car sleep at the same time.
- At night, turn on the inside dome light so work and rescue crews can spot you.
- Do not leave your car to search for assistance unless you are absolutely certain you can find help within 100 yards of your car. It is very easy to become disoriented and lost during a severe storm. If you have animals in the car, leave them in the car while you go to get help.
Winter Storms: Recovery Tips
If the storm lasts more than a couple days or is accompanied by high winds, there is an increased possibility of utility failures and interruption of services. This can lead to extreme hardship and even death from extended exposure to cold temperatures.
Animals that live outside require additional feed and owners must make sure that the animals have water available. Although some livestock and horses will eat snow and ice in the winter as a source of water, this varies among animals and cannot be relied upon for all animals.
Use the following list of suggestions as you recover from a winter storm.
- After the storm, check on your neighbors and their animals. Be sure they have proper heating and sufficient supplies to get them through the emergency.
- Check roofs of your house and barns for damage from heavy snow. Remove the snow to prevent the roof from collapsing.
- Avoid overexertion while clearing snow by working slowly and taking frequent breaks, particularly if you become dizzy or tired.
- Check and replenish emergency provisions.
Drought and Extreme Heat: Threats
A drought occurs when there is no substantial rainfall for a long period of time. Because different areas of the country receive widely differing amounts of rainfall, the amount of time it takes for drought conditions to develop varies.
Extreme heat is defined as temperatures 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature, lasting for several weeks. When drought and extreme heat occur at the same time, the conditions can be very dangerous.
Local community officials will alert you through your local newspaper, radio station, or television station when drought and extreme heat conditions exist in your area. Although extreme heat conditions are easily recognized, drought conditions often develop slowly and can only be tracked through local weather advisories.
Drought and Extreme Heat: Readiness
A prolonged drought can have a serious economic impact. Shortages can result from increased demand for water and electricity. Droughts are probably the largest cause of death in livestock throughout the world. Some measures you can take include:
- Practicing personal water conservation measures to avoid depletion of water supplies both before and during periods of extended drought.
- Ensuring that all family members can recognize heat stress symptoms and administer appropriate first aid for animals. A sign of heat stress is when an animal’s body is 104°F or above.
- Keeping animals in areas where they have access to shade.
Drought and Extreme Heat: Protection Actions
- All family members should learn to recognize heat stress symptoms and administer appropriate first aid for animals.
- Never leave your pet in a parked car in the heat of the summer. Even with the window open, pets can quickly suffer heat stroke and die.
- The signs of heat stress in animals are identified below:
- Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
- Body temperature 104°F or above
- Increased heart and respiratory rate
- Depression, stupor
Drought and Extreme Heat: Mitigation Measures
- Practice personal water conservation measures to avoid depletion of water supplies, both before and during periods of extended drought. If you are a farmer, consider establishing alternative sources and supplies of water for your crops and your animals.
- Conserve electricity. During periods of heat and drought, people use a lot of power for air conditioning. Excessive drain on the community’s energy supply could lead to another emergency, such as a power shortage or outage. Insulating your home will reduce the demand for air conditioning. Keeping the thermostat set to 78°F will also reduce energy use.
- For large animals, consider creating artificial shade and installing humidifiers and swamp coolers to keep animals cool.
Drought and Extreme Heat: Response Actions
- Keep animals in areas where they have access to shade.
- Provide animals with plenty of water. Hosing off an animal periodically will also help to cool it.
- Do not exercise animals when it is especially hot outside (e.g., playing Frisbee, jogging, or riding). If you have to work with animals, provide regular rest periods. This allows the body’s natural cooling system to work. Animals often are willing to please their owners to the point of endangering themselves.
- Because dogs don’t sweat, dogs must be allowed to pant to dissipate heat. Do not encourage them to carry objects in their mouths if they are hot.
- Do not dress animals with vests, blankets, and other materials that would prevent them from sweating.
- Provide caged animals with extra ventilation.
- Provide plenty of fresh cool water for all animals to drink. Offer it in a shady place as some species may not venture into the sun if it is very hot.
- Be sure to provide salt licks for animals that require them regularly.
Drought and Extreme Heat: Recovery Tips
- Continue to conserve water even after the drought appears to have ended.
- If you own a farm and your crop is lost, contact the county Farmer’s Home Administration Office for disaster assistance information.
- Avoid any activities that could precipitate fires. As the forest dries up, debris falls on the forest floor. Trees become prone to fire, even from the slightest spark.
A wildfire is any instance of uncontrolled burning in grasslands, brush, or woodlands. Wildfires pose an increasing threat to the residential United States.
On average, 7 million acres are consumed by wildfire each year. The increase in fires is the result of population growth in rural communities and in the wild land/urban interface.
Wildfires can occur at any time of the year, but usually occur during hot, dry weather. The National Weather Service, U.S. Forest Service, and State forestry agencies combine to give wildfire probability forecasts. Local radio and television stations broadcast information and warnings on local fire conditions.
Wildfire readiness includes:
- Learning to recognize dangerous fire conditions and consult with your local fire department on how to improve the safety of your house and barns.
- Having fire tools handy at your home and in your barn: a ladder, garden hoses, fire extinguishers, gas-operated water pumps, shovels, rakes, and buckets.
- If officials evacuate your area, leaving immediately. House pets should be leashed/crated and taken with you.
- Monitoring all animals exposed to fire for smoke inhalation pneumonia, the most common cause of fire-related death. Make sure to consult a veterinarian for any burn injuries.
Wildfires: Protection Actions
- Have fire tools handy at your home and in your barn: a ladder, garden hoses, fire extinguishers, gas-operated water pumps, shovels, rakes, and buckets.
- Purchase cotton rope or leather halters for horses and livestock because nylon halters can melt when they heat up in a fire. This may lead to deep burn wounds on the animal.
- Keep your horses’ tetanus vaccinations current.
Wildfires: Mitigation Measures
- Learn to recognize dangerous fire conditions and consult with your local fire department on how to improve the safety of your house and barns.
- Use only fire-resistant materials on the exterior of your home or barn, including the roof, siding, decking, and trim.
- Use fire-resistant plants on your property. Check with local fire officials or a nursery about the best species for your area.
- Clear leaves and other vegetation, including dead brush, from around your house or barn to serve as a fire break. The minimum distance for a fire break varies based on types of trees, the surrounding landscape slope, and the construction of buildings. You should consult with your local fire department or branch of the Department of Forestry to determine what is best for your property.
- Install sprinkler systems for buildings on your property, and lawn sprinkler systems outdoors.
- When constructing pools and ponds, make them accessible to fire equipment—they may serve as a source of water for fighting wildfires.
- Have hoses that are long enough to reach all parts of your building.
- Use fire carefully and wisely so that you do not cause a wildfire.
- Keep your chimney clean and install a spark arrestor.
- Avoid open burning during dry weather.
- Store firewood away from your home and barns.
- Store hay, sawdust, or straw in a building separate from where animals are housed. This is especially important during the summer when freshly cured hay can suddenly ignite from spontaneous combustion.
- Store gas and other hazardous materials in separate buildings from animals.
- Be extremely careful with open flame when shoeing horses or welding.
- Teach all personnel working with animals where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them. Practice a fire drill every month throughout the fire season.
- Implement and enforce no-smoking policies on your property.
Wildfires: Response Actions
- Wet down roofs and other surfaces that might be damaged by fire. Be sure that your efforts do not jeopardize the water supply and pressure needed by firefighters.
- If officials evacuate your area, leave immediately. House pets should be leashed/crated and taken with you.
- If you are evacuating horses when the fire is close, it may help to blindfold them. If there is time:
- Place pieces of cloth around the horses’ nostrils to reduce the inhalation of smoke.
- Wet the horses’ tails and manes.
- Remove blankets.
- If you are unable to take livestock with you, let them out of the barn and close all the doors. A horse may run back into a burning barn if it gets frightened.
- Turn off the power and gas.
- Disconnect any electrical fences.
Wildfires: Recovery Tips
- Monitor all animals exposed to fire for smoke inhalation pneumonia, the most common cause of fire-related death. Consult a veterinarian for any burn injuries.
- Check any areas where animals and people will be for dangerous debris. Galvanized metal heated during a fire may be coated with toxic residues. If this occurs to your pasture fences, they need to be cleaned before any animals come in contact with them.
- Don’t allow animals into areas where there may be ash pits (root systems that have burned underground).
- Take care when re-entering burned areas. There may be hot spots that could flare up without warning. Partially burned structures and trees can be very unstable, and may suddenly fall over.
- Do not tie animals to burned trees.
- Consult with your insurance agent and have damages assessed as soon as possible. Take pictures or a video of damages.
- Replant burned forests quickly and efficiently to reduce the soil erosion. Ask your State forestry commission for guidelines. Landslides, mud flows, and floods can follow wildfires due to vegetation damage.
Lesson 6: Geological Hazards
Geological Hazards: Overview
As with meteorological hazards, hazards related to the geology of an area can be predictable or unpredictable and cause minimal to major damage.
You should learn about geological disasters most likely to occur in your area. Geological hazards include:
- Landslides and mudflows
Landslides and Mudflows: Threats
Landslides can be triggered during earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, storm-generated ocean waves, or other landslides. Landslides also can result from freeze-thaw cycles, shrink-swell cycles, root wedging, animal burrows, natural erosion or deposition, or the thaw of ice-bearing soils such as permafrost. While most landslides are single events, more than one third of the cases are associated with heavy rains or the melting of winter snows.
Mudflows are defined as flows or rivers of liquid mud down a hillside. They occur when water accumulates under the ground, usually following long and heavy rainfall. If there is no brush, trees, or ground cover to hold the soil, mud will form and flow down the slope. For this reason, mudflows often follow wildfires.
Landslides and Mudflows: Readiness
Readiness measures for landslides and mudflows include the following:
- Before buying land or building on any property, check with the county land commissioner or the local office of the U.S. Geological Survey for ground composition, drainage, and stability.
- If you suspect a slope is unstable, have it examined by a specialist.
- If you are warned of an impending landslide or mudflow, evacuate at once with your animals to stable ground. Do not leave your animals behind. However, do not let the movement of animals delay your own evacuation and endanger your safety.
- If a landslide or mudflow has occurred near your home or barn, thoroughly check the foundation, chimney, and surrounding land.
Landslides and Mudflows: Protection Actions
If you suspect a slope is unstable, have it examined by a specialist.
If you live in an area where landslides or mudflows can occur, and you notice any signs of slope failure, be prepared to evacuate your home, barn, and stables. Possible signs of slope failure include:
- Doors or windows sticking or jamming for the first time;
- New cracks appearing in plaster, tile, brick, or foundations;
- Outside walls, walks, or stairs beginning to pull away from the building;
- Slowly developing, widening cracks appearing on the ground or on paved areas such as streets or driveways;
- Underground utility lines breaking;
- Fences, retaining walls, utility poles, or trees tilting or moving; and
- Water or bulging ground appearing at the base of a slope.
Landslides and Mudflows: Mitigation Measures
Before buying land or building on any property, check with the county land commissioner or the local office of the U.S. Geological Survey for ground composition, drainage, and stability. Surveys of land that may be susceptible to landslides should include grazing land.
Practical things you can do on your property are:
- Plant ground cover on slopes, or build retaining walls.
- Reinforce the foundation and walls of your home and barn.
- Install flexible rather than stiff pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks in the event of a landslide or mudflow.
- Construct channels or reinforced masonry walls to direct the mudflows around your home, buildings, or barns. Clear obstructions from waterways.
Mudflow is covered by flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Buy flood insurance through your local property insurance agent.
Landslides and Mudflows: Response Actions
Several actions can be taken to ensure a safer and more effective response to a landslide or mudflow. Listed below are some of these actions.
- If you are warned of an impending landslide or mudflow, evacuate at once with your animals to stable ground. Do not leave your animals behind. However, do not let the movement of animals delay your own evacuation and endanger your safety.
- If you are inside a building during a landslide, stay inside and get under a desk, table, or other piece of sturdy furniture.
- If you are outside and cannot get into a sturdy building while scattered rocks and debris tumble toward you, curl into a tight ball and protect your head.
- If you are in a valley, once you hear rumbling from upstream or feel the ground tremble—leave. These may be signs that indicate that a mudflow is coming your way. Do not try to outrun a landslide; instead, move at right angles to the direction of flow.
Landslides and Mudflows: Recovery Tips
Annual economic losses from landslides are estimated at $1 to $2 billion. These losses include the replacement and repair of damaged facilities and associated costs such as:
- Lost productivity,
- Disruptions to utility and transportation systems,
- Loss of revenue for affected communities,
- Loss of livestock and horses, and
- Damage to or loss of buildings that house equipment and animals.
Associated dangers include broken electrical, water, gas, and sewage lines. Damaged electrical wires and gas lines may also start fires. Other long-term dangers from this hazard include the continued threat of landslides due to unstable land. Erosion from the loss of adequate ground cover could be very damaging and lead to flash flooding during periods of heavy rain or following heavy snows.
If a landslide or mudflow has occurred near your home or barn, take the following steps to ensure a safe recovery.
- Thoroughly check the foundation, chimney, and surrounding land to be sure no damage has occurred.
- Check for damaged gas, electrical, or water lines. Do not strike a match or attempt to turn on electricity until you are sure it is safe. Report damages to the appropriate utility companies.
- Stabilize new land as quickly as possible to reinforce against secondary slippage. Replanting damaged land will help tremendously in both short- and long-term recovery.
An earthquake is a wave-like movement of the earth’s surface. The earth’s crust and upper part of the mantle push and move against one another along fault lines. When rock masses slip along a fault, the energy of an earthquake is released in seismic waves.
While earthquakes are sometimes believed to be a West Coast phenomenon, there are 45 States and territories throughout the United States that are at moderate to high risk for earthquakes, including the New Madrid fault line in the Central States. Because it is impossible to predict when an earthquake will occur, it is important that you prepare ahead of time.
Earthquake monitoring is conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and universities throughout the United States.
Understanding the Richter Scale
The damage caused by an earthquake depends on its magnitude and intensity. The Richter scale measures the energy released by the quake. A change of one full point in the Richter scale represents a difference by a factor of 30 in energy released. Thus, an earthquake of magnitude 7 is roughly 30 times as powerful, in terms of energy released, as one of magnitude 6. The Modified Mercalli scale indicates intensity.
Some actions you can take to protect yourself, your family, and your animals from earthquake hazards include:
- Support local safe land use and building codes that regulate land use along fault lines. Modern engineering can produce structures that resist earthquake damage; existing buildings can be retrofitted to better withstand tremors.
- Prepare a family earthquake plan and conduct family earthquake drills, including drop, cover, and hold.
- In the event of an earthquake, above all, remain calm. Try to reassure others. Think through the consequences of any action you take.
- After an earthquake, if you are unsure of a building’s safety, do not enter until it has been inspected by a qualified person. Aftershocks may cause additional damage to buildings.
Earthquakes: Protection Actions
Prepare yourself, your family, and your animals for earthquakes by following the guidelines listed below.
- Prepare a family earthquake plan and conduct family earthquake drills, including drop, cover, and hold. Take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture (such as a heavy desk, table, or bed) and hold onto one of the legs. Include animals in these exercises.
- Discuss earthquakes and other possible disasters so that younger members of your family understand how to take action without fear. Instructional videos are available for this preparation activity.
- Know where the safest places are at home, work, or school.
- Teach responsible members of your family how to turn off gas, electricity, and water at main switches and valves. Check with your local utility offices for instructions.
Earthquakes: Mitigation Measures
- Support local safe land use and building codes that regulate land use along fault lines. Modern engineering can produce structures that resist earthquake damage; existing buildings can be retrofitted to better withstand tremors. Often there are tax advantages for these types of improvements.
- Check your local emergency manager for potential earthquake and fire risks.
- Purchase earthquake insurance for your home and its contents. Renters can also purchase earthquake insurance for their belongings.
- Have an expert investigate and repair any deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations and ensure the house is firmly anchored to its foundation.
- Bolt down or reinforce water heaters and other gas appliances.
- Use flexible gas line and appliance connections wherever possible. Know where to turn off the gas supplies to your house or barn.
- Place large and heavy objects on lower shelves and securely fasten shelves taller than 5 feet to walls. Brace anchor all tall or top-heavy objects.
- Do not place dog runs or other animal enclosures underneath things that might fall on them during an earthquake, such as a chimney or a heavy retaining wall.
- Include a pair of bolt cutters in your disaster kit. Gates can sometimes become damaged and unable to be opened.
- Affix tabletop equipment (such as computers or fish tanks) with industrial-strength Velcro.
- Anchor overhead lighting fixtures solidly in place.
Earthquakes: Response Actions
Earthquakes usually occur without warning. If an earthquake is occurring in your area:
- You will feel a trembling in the ground or floor,
- You may notice hanging lights or planters starting to sway,
- You may even feel slightly dizzy, and
- Many animals will become very nervous and apprehensive—they can bite, kick, or scratch.
The actual movement of the ground is seldom the direct cause of death or injury to humans and animals. The following commonly cause earthquake-related casualties:
- Partial or total building collapse, including toppling chimneys or walls, falling ceiling plaster, light fixtures, and pictures;
- Flying glass from broken windows and skylights (this danger may be greater from windows in high-rise structures);
- Overturned bookcases, fixtures, and other large furniture and appliances falling on people and animals;
- Fires resulting from broken chimneys and broken gas lines;
- Electrocution from fallen power lines; and
- Exertion and fear leading to heart failure.
To reduce injury and death to people and animals, special precautions should be taken and include the following:
- Above all, remain calm. Try to reassure others. Think through the consequences of any action you take.
- If you are indoors, stay indoors, and remember the safety routine to drop, cover, and hold.
- Stay away from objects that can shatter (such as windows, mirrors, or skylights) and chimneys.
- If you are in a high-rise building, a crowded store, or a mall, do not run for exits. Stairways may be broken or jammed with people. Power for elevators may fail so do not use them. Stay away from store display windows that may break. If you must leave the building, choose your exit as carefully as possible.
- If you are outside, get away from buildings, walls, utility poles, downed wires, and all other objects that could fall.
- If you are in a car, stop as quickly as safety permits but stay in the vehicle until the shaking stops. Avoid bridges, underpasses, and tall buildings.
- Check for injuries and attend to them. Seek medical help if necessary for humans and animals. Check for fires or other hazards.
- Remember that animals can be frightened by an earthquake, too. Be alert to any aggressive behavior displayed by an animal. An animal may bite out of fear and stress.
Earthquakes: Recovery Tips
Earthquakes can cause damage to buildings, utility lines, bridges, or dams. Water supplies can become contaminated by seepage around broken water mains. Damage to roadways and to other means of transportation may create food and other resource shortages for people and animals if transportation is interrupted.
Use the following guidelines to aid in safe recovery from earthquakes.
- If you are unsure of a building’s safety, do not enter until it has been inspected by a qualified person. Aftershocks may cause additional damage to buildings.
- Check to make sure that fences used to confine animals are intact. If animals have escaped, they will often return to their regular feeding site at mealtime and may be recaptured.
- Keep animals safely confined until debris is removed.
- Check utilities. If you smell gas, open windows and shut off the main gas valve. Shut off electrical power if there is damage to your house wiring. Leave the building and report damage to the appropriate utility companies. Do not use matches, lighters, or open-flame appliances until you are sure there are no gas leaks. Do not operate electrical switches on appliances if gas leaks are suspected; e.g., if lights are on, leave them on. If they are off, leave them off.
- Do not eat or drink from open containers near shattered glass and do not offer water from such containers to animals. Remove any contaminated sources of food or water so that animals cannot get to them. If there is a boil-water order in effect, do not drink or give animals tap water until the officials announce that it is safe to do so. Let water from pipes run several minutes once the boil-water order is lifted.
- Open closet and cupboard doors carefully, watching for falling objects.
- Clean spilled medicines and potentially harmful materials, wearing gloves to protect yourself.
- Check to be sure that sewage lines are intact before flushing toilets. On farms, check to see that the waste-handling facilities have not been disrupted and manure is not leaking into the environment or ground water.
- Be prepared for additional aftershocks. While the aftershocks are usually smaller than the main shock, some may be large enough to cause additional damage.
- Do not use your telephone except for emergency calls. Listen to your radio for damage reports and information.
- Do not go sightseeing. Stay away from beach and waterfront areas where seismic sea waves (tsunamis) may strike.
- When it comes time to repair your house and farm buildings, ensure that the repairs will increase the structure’s ability to withstand future quakes.
A tsunami is a series of giant ocean waves produced by a major underwater or coastline disturbance such as an earthquake or volcanic eruption. Tsunamis can occur in all oceans, but they are most common in the Pacific. Areas thousands of miles from an earthquake can be struck by a resulting tsunami.
The waves appear to be normal ocean waves until they approach the coastline, where a gigantic wall of water can build on the ocean surface. Tsunamis reaching heights of more than 100 feet have been recorded. The waves may last several hours, with 20 or 30 minutes between waves.
The most effective mitigation measure to avoid property damage is not to build or live in buildings within several hundred feet of the coastline. Other measures are as follows:
- If you live near a coastal area and have experienced a recent earthquake or volcano, listen for tsunami warnings. Tsunamis may be detected well before they strike land.
- Be prepared to evacuate low-lying coastal areas immediately. Evacuate all animals that you can.
Risks associated with tsunamis include broken sewage lines, polluted water supplies, damaged gas lines, and downed power lines and fences.
Tsunamis: Protection Actions
Approaching tsunamis usually are preceded by a pronounced rise or fall of coastal water. Many people have been trapped while exploring the newly uncovered sea bottom for marine life as the sea retreats before the giant wave strikes.
Follow these general guidelines to prepare for tsunamis.
- If you live near a coastal area and have experienced a recent earthquake or volcano, listen for tsunami warnings. Your community may be warned by radio or television announcements or outdoor sirens. Local police, fire, or emergency officials may go door-to-door in threatened areas.
- Plan several escape routes to high ground. Your primary escape route might be damaged or destroyed if a local earthquake strikes.
- If you hear of a tsunami warning, do not go down to the beach to look for the tsunami. If you can see it, you will be too close to escape it.
Tsunamis: Mitigation Measures
The most effective mitigation measure to avoid property damage is not to build or live in buildings within several hundred feet of the coastline. Even the strongest buildings can be damaged or undermined by a powerful tsunami.
Tsunamis: Response Actions
- Be prepared to evacuate low-lying coastal areas immediately. Evacuate all animals that you can. If you must leave animals behind, do not confine them.
- Because a tsunami is not a single wave but a series of waves, stay out of dangerous areas until an all-clear is issued.
- After the tsunami, check for injuries and seek medical help if necessary for humans and animals.
Tsunamis: Recovery Tips
- Risks associated with tsunamis include broken sewage lines, polluted water supplies, damaged gas lines, and downed power lines and fences.
- If your home, apartment, business, or farm has been damaged, document the damage with photos and videos and call your insurance agent, who will advise you what to do next.
- Follow water, food, and building safety recommendations, such as those for floods and earthquakes.
Volcanoes form where weak spots or breaks in the earth’s crust allow magma to push toward the surface. When the pressure of gas and magma becomes too great, the volcano erupts. Magma may pour through the vent opening in lava flows or shoot into the air as dense clouds of gas and dust (ash) fall.
Volcanic eruptions can generate mild to moderate earthquakes, mudflows, flash floods, tsunamis, and huge ash clouds that can create intense lightning storms.
In the United States, the chance of eruptions that could damage populated areas is greatest in the active volcano range of the Pacific Rim. The danger area around a volcano can extend hundreds of miles.
As with tsunamis, the best mitigation strategy for avoiding property damage from a volcano is to restrict building in areas that are most likely to be impacted by a lava flow.
Because areas far from a volcano may be affected, you should listen for advisories as to whether your area will be impacted. Warnings include predictions of the approximate time, place, and extent of the effects. Remember to:
- Heed official warnings of imminent volcanic eruption. If told to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Wear an approved respirator and clear roofs of ash fall as soon as possible to avoid collapse.
Volcanoes: Protection Actions
- Because areas far from a volcano may be affected, you should listen for advisories as to whether your area will be impacted. Warnings include predictions of the approximate time, place, and extent of the effects. Determine evacuation routes for yourself and your animals in advance.
- Contact your local emergency management office or the U.S. Geological Survey to learn about methods of protecting your family, animals, and home from ash fall.
Volcanoes: Mitigation Measures
The most effective mitigation measure to avoid property damage from volcanoes is to not build or live in buildings in areas that are most likely to be impacted by a lava flow.
Volcanoes: Response Actions
- The degree of hazard to human and animal life and property resulting from a volcano depends on the type and distance from the eruption. Hazards include lava flows, rock falls, ash falls, earthquakes, mudflows, and flash floods.
- Heed official warnings of imminent volcanic eruption. If told to evacuate, do so immediately.
- During ash fall:
- Close all windows, doors, and dampers in your home and where your animals are housed.
- Turn off all machinery and put it inside a garage or barn.
- Bring animals into closed shelters.
- Stay indoors until the ash has settled.
- If caught outside, wear an effective face mask to reduce inhalation of ash particles.
- Cover your eyes and keep your skin covered to avoid irritation or burns. Do the same for animals where possible and practical.
- Do not attempt to drive in heavy ash fall; it will stir up more ash and clog and stall your vehicle.
- If caught in a small rock fall (not a landslide), roll into a ball and protect your head.
Volcanoes: Recovery Tips
- Secondary eruptions and lava flows can occur in the days, weeks, or months after a volcanic eruption. Ash may be carried by winds for thousands of miles and affect distant areas long after the eruption. Heavy ash fall can darken the sky as if it were nightfall. The increased demand for lighting could result in power failures.
- A one-inch layer of volcanic ash weighs 10 pounds per square foot. Ash can clog waterways, reservoirs, and machinery and its weight can cause roofs to collapse.
- If you have to work in an environment where there is volcanic ash, be sure to take the following actions:
- Wear an approved respirator.
- Clear roofs of ash fall as soon as possible to avoid collapse.
- Remove ash from any areas where animals will be confined. With ash covering the ground, livestock cannot graze.
- Throw away any food or water, for both humans and animals, that has been contaminated by the ash. Ash is commonly contaminated with heavy metals that are toxic to humans and animals. In addition, pyroclastic material contains glass-like particles that can cut or irritate lungs and intestines.
Lesson 7: Technological Hazards
Hazardous Materials: Threats
Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) are common in many households and animal-care facilities. Compounds such as detergents, cleaning materials, herbicides, and pesticides are potentially dangerous if persons or animals are exposed through incorrect handling or spillage.
People and animals may be threatened by hazardous materials as the result of an accident on the farm property or an incident offsite.
Depending on the scale and type of HAZMAT release, local, State, or Federal offices may become involved in the security and cleanup operations. Often these groups are assisted by industry.
Hazardous Materials: Readiness
Some measures you can take include:
- Preventing a HAZMAT release on your property through the safe use, storage, and disposal of these materials.
- Mitigating smaller HAZMAT incidents by implementing safety measures, including installing eye wash stations and placarding.
- Being prepared for a HAZMAT incident in the community by first finding out what the local hazards are and the appropriate response steps to take.
If you are asked to evacuate, bring your household pet(s) and service animal(s) with you, if possible. If at all possible, try and restrict livestock from potentially contaminated areas before evacuation. After an incident, if you suspect an animal has been exposed or could be contaminated, contact your veterinarian or other authority for advice.
Hazardous Materials: Prevention Measures
The following steps will help prevent a hazardous materials incident:
- Use all materials in accordance with their instructions.
- Store pesticides and other hazardous chemicals in safe places where children and animals cannot be exposed. Storage areas must guard against freezing and overheating of hazardous materials. They should also have separate locks.
- Store chemicals on the floor or on lower shelves to prevent spills. Lips are recommended for all shelving upon which hazardous materials are stored.
- Properly dispose of any unsafe or excess materials and containers.
Hazardous Materials: Protection Actions
- Ask your local fire department or emergency management agency for information on hazardous materials in your community.
- Find out what clinical signs these toxins may cause if a person or an animal has been exposed.
- Take a training course in hazardous materials.
- FEMA may provide resource information and technical and financial assistance to States for developing emergency plans for hazardous materials accidents and other types of emergencies, and assist State and local governments in hazardous materials training.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also conducts technical and environmental training programs related to hazardous materials. At the request of community officials, the EPA can provide technical expertise on the full range of environmental contamination issues.
Hazardous Materials: Mitigation Measures
Mitigation measures for a hazardous materials incident on the property include:
- Install and label sinks and eye wash stations.
- Store appropriate absorbent materials near hazardous materials in the event of a spill.
- Post warning signs on storage areas.
- Post and review Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for commonly used chemicals.
Hazardous Materials: Response Actions
- In the event of a large-scale hazardous materials release, the area will be secured and owners may not be allowed into the secured areas to retrieve or care for their animals. Emergency services personnel will notify you as to what steps to take.
- If you are asked to evacuate, bring your animals with you if possible.
- A major hazardous materials incident may require the response of various levels of government (Federal, State, and local). Responsibilities for all levels of government include:
- Safeguarding the public.
- Ensuring responders are properly equipped and safe.
- Ensuring the safety of food, water, and buildings.
- Containing, cleaning up, and properly disposing of the hazardous materials.
Hazardous Materials: Recovery Tips
- If you suspect an animal has been exposed, consult a veterinarian. In addition, the National Animal Poison Control Center (in Urbana, IL), any college or school of veterinary medicine, State animal disease diagnostic laboratory, and some human poison control centers can provide needed information on how to deal with animal poisonings. There may be a charge for these services.
- For animals that graze or live outside, hazardous materials can present additional problems. Animals exposed to low levels of hazardous materials may not appear clinically affected, but their meat, milk, and eggs may contain residues that present health risks for humans. Consult with a representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service or other qualified personnel.
Radiation Hazards: Threats
Contemporary radiation hazards include problems associated with nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons accidents, and the manufacture, transport, and storage of nuclear and other hazardous materials.
Utility companies in the United States generate about 20 percent of our electricity by nuclear power. Fixed nuclear facilities (e.g., power plants, storage facilities, and research reactors) are generally safe and constructed to contain any radiological release. However, there is a possibility that an incident could cause a release of radioactive materials. To prepare for this possibility the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires that all power plants and State emergency response agencies plan for such problems. The agency must also periodically conduct practice exercises to determine the effectiveness of the plan.
Glossary of Radiation Terms
Alpha Particle – Two neutrons and two protons typically arising from the decay of heavy metals such as uranium, plutonium, and radium. The large mass and two positive charges result in large direct ionization potential but little ability to penetrate. Alpha particles cannot penetrate through a piece of paper or skin.
Beta Particle – Negatively or positively charged particle emitted from the nucleus as an unstable atom. These particles can penetrate the skin.
Biological Half-Life – The time it takes for the body to reduce the amount by one-half its original amount through elimination.
Electromagnetic Wave – Energy resulting from changing electric and magnetic fields. Long wavelengths are x and gamma rays, where the shorter wavelengths are ultraviolet and visible lights, and the shortest wavelengths are radar, radio, and television.
Fallout – The descent of airborne particulate matter. Although this could refer to soot, dust, etc., it is now generally used in reference to radioactive materials incorporated in particulate matter such as dust and sand as the result of a nuclear detonation or release of radioactive materials from a nuclear power plant.
Gamma Rays – A nuclear electromagnetic ray with no mass or charge. Gamma rays can penetrate many centimeters into the tissue.
Ionizing Radiation – Radiation as a result of radioactivity.
Irradiation – The submission of an object to radiation whether it is solar, radioactive, or heat.
Neutrons – A manmade nuclear source of nuclear radiation resulting from a fission process. There is no electrical charge and neutrons can travel considerable distance in the air and penetrate the body tissues.
Radiation – Kinetic energy being emitted in rays such as heat, light, sound, and radioactivity.
Radioactive Decay (Half-Life) – The amount of time it takes for an element to reach half of its initial value. The decay rate is the rate of disintegration of a radioactive material. Each isotope has its own specific half-life and most have an affinity for specific tissues. For example, the half-life of iodine-131 is 8 days. After 8 days, it reaches one half of its original radioactivity. In another 8 days, the radioactivity is again reduced by one half. The longer the half-life, the more persistent the isotope is in the environment.
Radioactivity – The spontaneous disintegration of atoms from an unstable form to a more stable form; the transformation rate of an atom resulting in the emission of radiation in the form of alpha, beta, or gamma rays.
Radionuclide – Any radioactive material. Radioisotope should be used in referring to a specific element.
Radiotoxicity – The relative hazards of the various radionuclides and electromagnetic rays and their effect within the body.
X-rays – An artificial source of ionizing radiation. It has the same physical properties of gamma rays but this form of radiation is used in diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
Nuclear Power Plant Incidents
Incidents at nuclear power plants are classified into four escalating categories or levels:
- Unusual Event
- Site Area Emergency
- General Emergency
Unusual Event – Any mishap that occurs at the plant. This could be a worker falling off a ladder and breaking a leg. Any unusual event must be reported to the State emergency response agency because an ambulance sighted at the door of the facility could cause the circulation of false rumors. Unusual events are usually minor mishaps of any kind, not necessarily involving the reactor, with no radiological release requiring offsite response or monitoring.
Alert – A reactor accident that involves an actual or potential substantial degradation of the plant safety level. Any releases are expected to be small fractions of the Federal (EPA) protective action guideline exposure levels. Alerts do not represent a threat to the public.
Site Area Emergency – A reactor accident that involves actual or likely major failures of plant functions needed for protection of the public. Any releases are not expected to exceed Federal (EPA) protective action guideline exposure levels except near the site boundary. The public will normally be notified and given instructions.
General Emergency – A reactor accident that involves actual or imminent substantial core degradation or melting with potential for loss of containment integrity. Releases can be reasonably expected to exceed Federal (EPA) protective action guideline exposure levels offsite for more than the immediate site area. These are incidents that call for immediate protective action. Follow all official instructions.
Nuclear facilities provide people living within 10 miles with written instructions of what to do in all eventualities (what the sirens mean if they go off and where to listen on their radio and television for instructions).
If incidents do occur, the plant notifies the appropriate authorities of the event classification. The lowest classification that applies is designated. As the event continues, classifications may change depending on the problem and the actions taken to correct it.
Depending on the progression of the event, emergency management officials will recommend necessary protective action to the public. Public notification is made through sirens and the emergency alert system (EAS) on radio and television.
Radiation Incidents: Readiness
Because the primary response to a radiation hazard is evacuation, incident management should focus on planning and practicing evacuation routes.
In the event that animals cannot be evacuated, measures to help improve their safety include having shelter for the animals and covers for feed supplies.
Response and recovery actions must be taken under the guidance and approval of specifically trained personnel.
Radiation Incidents: Protection Actions
The following actions will help prepare you to respond to a radiation hazard incident:
- Determine if there are any nuclear facilities in your area and what their emergency plans are.
- Know the siren alerts and situations under which they are activated. The emergency alert system gives specific directions for actions, announcements describing the incident at the nuclear facility, evacuation routes, emergency shelter locations, and other actions to be taken.
- Plan and practice evacuation routes.
- Know where the emergency shelters for your area are located to prevent searching at the time of the incident. (Shelters are also called congregate care centers or mass care centers.) Shelters may not take pets so having a pre-arranged place to take them is important and will reduce concern for animals left in jeopardy.
- Make prior arrangements for the evacuation and protection of horses and livestock. If there is not time to evacuate animals, a barn, thick grove of trees, or trench silo might shelter them against radioactive fallout.
Radiation Incidents: Mitigation Measures
Mitigation for radiological incidents includes providing adequate shelter on the premises for animals, and protective covers for feed and water resources.
Radiation Incidents: Response Actions
- If the sirens in the area are activated:
- Listen on radio or television to the designated emergency alert station.
- Follow the directions closely and as soon as possible.
- Follow local instructions as to whether to take your pets with you when you evacuate.
- Close up the house and leave quickly.
- The preferred protective action for people is evacuation, but in some limited circumstances sheltering in place may be recommended.
- Note that recommendations for livestock are usually made before a recommendation is made for people. This protects the people who need to carry out the actions to protect the animals. The State agriculture department and U.S. Department of Agriculture provide information on the radiation risks to livestock.
- When animals are sheltered they should be fed only stored covered feed and water that is protected from radioactive fallout. If animals are left outside and become exposed to radioactive material, a veterinarian should evaluate the animals as soon as safety permits.
- Controlling fallout onto water and feed supplies may be difficult. Because most radioactive fallout particles are heavier than water, in bodies of water with little or no turbulence the surface water consumed by animals will be safe to drink within 10 to 14 days. Other water sources such as water troughs can be covered temporarily to protect the water from immediate fallout. Rolls of plastic sheeting can be stored for this purpose.
Radiation Incidents: Recovery Tips
- Before anyone is permitted to re-enter the area, careful monitoring will ensure the safety of residents wanting to return.
- Re-entry might be permitted under supervision to care for animals left behind.
- Animals and feed and water supplies should be checked for radioactivity. Decontamination of any object is difficult and can be hazardous; only people specifically trained in that field should do decontamination.
- Some forms of external contamination on animals can be washed off. If none of the material has been absorbed, the animal may no longer be contaminated. It is important that a veterinarian check animals for exposure, especially farm animals. No products should be used until appropriate laboratory tests for radioactivity are performed.