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Pet Emergency Preparedness Tips & Memories of 9/11

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)

UPDATE: 2021 with new emergency checklist graphics.
When I published this three years ago, the memory of 9/11 had softened with time or so I thought. Collective trauma can get triggered during a milestone like this. If that’s you, please take extra care and reach out to someone. You are not alone.

Twenty years. A generation. A life time. It feels fresh and remote, hazy and a sharp as a pinprick all at once. Certain memories of that day and the months that followed are indelible, but so much has shifted in my own life, I wonder who am I now.

Twenty years ago I’d just moved to New York to get married. A few days before 9/11 on a warm September day, I roamed near the towers, shopping, picking up my wedding dress feeling excited. It was an unfamiliar neighborhood but I felt safe as the impossibly tall towers loomed as my compass keeping me on track.

I made a mental note to make reservations for the restaurant with the million dollar view. After the shock of that day, I fell into a deep depression questioning my decision to get married a few weeks later. Day after day the horrific scenes played out on television and in our minds in an endless loop. Everyone has their own seminal memory moment: the billowing smoke, people running caked in white dust, an airplane slamming into the glass wall of windows and the surreal image of the tallest building collapsing in seconds, vanishing in from of our very eyes.

There is one image, a very human one I remember most. It aired early on and was never aired again. It showed a fireman on the street taking his helmet off and slamming it to the ground. The gut-wrenching moment captured his anger, helplessness and despair. He must of known his job of saving people was moot. There were no bodies to be rescued alive including his fellow firefighters. How does anyone ever get over something like that. 

This October we are celebrating our 20th anniversary and it feels more like 200 years and many lifetimes ago. But here we are and I’m mulling over how deeply 9/11 impacted not only me but everyone in my life. We’re all older of course. Some have done inner work and grown spiritually. Some have not. I feel hugely blessed despite everything and feel at peace.

When I look back, I hardly recognize that firebrand, ready to take on New York, a new country and a new life. There was a sassy “can do” innocence that got squashed on that September morning. I never got it back but it was replaced in time with something resembling a tempered wisdom. My healthy ego softened with humility and I found a different calling.

For many of us, it’s a time of reflection and I’ll be in deep contemplation today.

Who would have guessed 20 years later our resilience would be tested yet again with a pandemic, global unrest and shocking natural disasters.

Will we endure? Survive as always? If this isn’t a wake-up call I don’t know what is. I have no answers except this prayer.  Be gentle with yourself and others.
Metta prayer

The original post with a few edits and additions.

When the Twin Towers tumbled on this day 17 years ago, I watched the TV in horror with my cats on my lap. I’d moved a few weeks earlier from Canada to a safe and leafy suburb 20 miles north of Manhattan. My concept of safety changed that day forever.

Many pets perished when owners who lived in the evacuated area in lower Manhattan were forbidden to enter the zone. I dedicate this post to all the pets who died on and in the aftermath of 9/11.

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There is nothing anyone could do to prepare for that level of catastrophe but there is plenty we can do for other emergencies.

ASPCA emergency stickers

The likelihood of us experiencing a nuclear threat or terrorist attack is tiny. More likely are natural disasters.

Most geographic areas have an increased risk of certain natural disasters i.e. hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes or flooding. Everyone who lives in an earthquake zone or place like “tornado alley” must familiarize with their specific risks.

Then there a flukes of nature creating the unexpected like Super Storm Sandy. In my home, we were prepared with everything including a generator but nothing could prepare us for a sudden blast of hurricane force winds breaking open a window, leaving broken glass and debris in its wake. Thankfully our cats were in another room.

Emergencies aren’t always on a giant scale. They can be small like a temporary power outage, a basement flooding, a cooking fire, a burglary, a broken window, a sudden illness, a family emergency necessitating travel or any other sudden change in the household. You may or may not be there when an emergency strikes but chances are your pets will be home.

September is National Preparedness Month. If you don’t already have a pet emergency plan, take a few minutes to make one from the info in this post. If you have kids, get the whole family involved. Make it a fun weekend project.

No one thinks clearly in a panic.

Prior to a recent vet visit my husband tore up and down the stairs looking for a certain cat carrier. He forgot he’d moved it to another closet without telling me. With an updated written plan, we’d have known the location.

  • Our latest tip is the easiest way to create an ID if you’re cat is not micro-chipped and does not or cannot wear a collar.

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pet evacuation sign

After reading and digesting the prep list, carefully think through what applies to you. Cross out what doesn’t and add personal details. No one knows your home or cats better than you!

Be Prepared Checklist:

  • Create your personal plan from this checklist and make a hardcopy.
  • ID: All pets should be microchipped and their information updated yearly. Have collars with tags (regular or tags with id with QR.)  Have leashes and harnesses for each pet. If pets don’t usually wear collars or harnesses store them in an emergency storage container).
  • Buy a sturdy 25 gal airtight and waterproof container, a regular Tupperware type or fancy like one with wheels. Store the container in an easy to access location.
  • Use a marker to mark each item on the checklist after you complete each item on the list.
  • Review or update the list yearly.
  • Keep a copy online and a hard copy in a protective plastic cover.
  • Store inside your emergency kit container.
  • To save space there are folding/stackable containers. We store ours along with a 10 gallon bottle of water and other supplies in a ground floor shower stall we don’t use.
  • If you have multiple pets or large dogs, you may require more than one emergency container.

Pet emergency kit items: First-aid kit specifically for pets (store bought or assemble your own) towels, foil/space blanket, familiar toys, litter, scoop and small litter box, food in watertight containers,Pet emergency kit items: First- aid kit specifically for pets (store bought or assemble your own) towels, foil/space blanket, familiar toys, litter, scoop and small litter box, food in watertight containers, can opener, bottled water, unbreakable food and water bowls, all meds and prescriptions, copies of vet records and/or proof of ownership, natural stress remedies like Rescue Remedy, Feliway or Comfort Zone spray, small plastic garbage bags for used litter and garbage, paper towels, plastic tarp, large plastic garbage bags, flashlight, extra batteries in sealed plastic bag. If you don’t want to store items with expiry dates like meds, keep them separate and note them on your PLAN.

  • In case you lose cell phone contact, keep a hard copy of important info with a waterproof cover or Ziploc bag including: vet contact info including emergency vets, animal control agencies like HSUS, ASPCA in your area and/or destination area.
  • Keep carriers, one carrier per pet with bedding near the emergency container or other easy to access location.
  • Tape your pet’s photo with contact info inside the carrier.
  • Do a home hidey-hole test. Inspect every inch of your home for possible inaccessible spaces for pets to hide. In an emergency, a stressed animal will hide. Block, stuff or protect inaccessible locations in advance.
  • Make or purchase a “Rescue Me” and “Evacuated” signs to place on your front door in the event you have evacuated the premises. You are welcome to print out ours and add your number of cats.
  • Make an exit plan in advance. Find out which motels or hotels in your area accept pets. TripsWithPets.com has quick info for the U.S. and Canada.
  • Keep a list of pet sitters, boarding facilities, friends or neighbors who can care for your pet if you’re not there. Emergencies can happen in the home while you’re out. Make sure a pet sitter or someone you trust has a key/security codes to your home.
  • Listen to the radio for weather reports. You can’t rely on social media if there is no Internet service. A battery or crank-operated radio works well and there are ones with built-in cell phone chargers and flashlights.
  •  If given orders to evacuate your home do not leave your pet. Don’t wait until the conditions are more extreme. If you have no choice, leave “Pets Inside” stickers or notes on doors and windows with contact info. If you have evacuated with your pets, leave a note on the door saying “Evacuated with pets”. Have a buddy plan with your neighbors to check up on each other.
  • If staying put, keep all pets (with their carriers and supplies) in one room or part of the house where the doors and windows are secured. Remove any sharp, toxic or dangerous items from the room.
  • Keep your vehicle serviced and gassed up. If you are taking public transportation or other means, place as many needed items possible in a large wheeled suitcase with the pet carrier on top. Bungee cords are handy for securing.
  • Place an article of clothing like a worn T-shirt that smells of you inside the pet carrier. The familiar scent will bring comfort to your pet especially if you are separated from them.
  • Above all, stay calm and be prepared. Humans and animals have survived every kind of disaster for millennia and always will.

Emergency pet cats sign

 

What are your memories of 9/11? Do you have an emergency tip to add? Stay safe everyone during this hurricane season and beyond.

We’re donating proceeds from our book sales to hurricane relief.

32 Comments

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    Layla,
    thank you for the tips.
    This seems like a million years ago yet it seems like yesterday……………..a wound with the scab ripped off.
    Luvs and peace to all. Together we can make it change……………
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang and the Angels >^,,^< ~^,,^<~

  • Caren

    Layla, this was a most heartfelt and thought provoking post…….I loved it. You summed up so well what many of us are feeling. We are watching Live Coverage all day and are reflecting as well (((hugs)))

  • Brian Frum

    One can never be too prepared for an emergency, practice, practice, practice. We felt safe until recently but we will always think about what might happen. So many have forgotten now and 9-11 is trying to be erased.

  • Erin the Cat Princess

    Disaster can strike in many forms, and it pays to be prepared with the things you have suggested. Just because it never has, doesnt mean it cant. I shall action you ideas as best I can.
    Such sadness that day and this. But who can ever forget, or really want to forget. The biggest sadness of all is that things havent really changed.
    Our hearts ache for those that were lost, and reach out to help those that remainded and fought and rebuilt every day since.
    Gentle purrs
    ERin

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    17 years….it seems like yesterday. We remember all who perished for any reason associated with this event, so needless, so wrong.
    Thank you for the reminers for emergency preparedness!!!!
    We send out love and prayers and purrs to all that are enduring traumatic events and disasters any where in the world past ,present or future.
    Luvs
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig & Peanut & Romeo & the Angels >^..^^..^<~

  • Cathy Keisha

    Very important info. TW dreads to think of any emergency here since they don’t have a car and it would be next to impossible to evacuate with me and the many days of supplies needed. Where would they go?
    Every year we share our 9.11 memories on our blog. It’s long but no apologies. Pop got accepted into the 9.11 Health Program this year. Feel blessed that you were watching on tv and not in person.

  • easyweimaraner

    we currently work to find a solution for emergency cases… it is more difficult now with two dogs… but we will find a way.
    We remember with the people of the US what happened 17 years ago… it is hard to believe and it is still in our mind as if it was yesterday…

  • Cathy Keisha

    All great ideas. I’m glad you posted about the storage box on wheels cos TW has been wondering about how she was going to carry all the emergency supplies we’d need. Unfortunately, we don’t have room or enough closets in this condo to keep large storage items. My PTU was taken out of the furnace room and put in full view after there was the small fire on our floor. As far as 9/11, since the bridges and tunnels were closed, TW called a close friend who had their key to feed Nicky and Autumn. Later Pop did make it home by boat and he fed them again. HAH!

  • Sometimes Cats Herd You

    The pets lost in lower Manhattan is something that upsets the head peep a lot. When she read Homer’s Odyssey back when it was originally published, that was the hardest part of the book for her to get through.

    We like the idea of an “evacuated with pets” sign. We’ll add it to our hurricane kit! Everyone who evacuates should take their pets. We know that our human family won’t evacuate without us, no way.

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    Thank you Layla!!! This is the best information!!! You can never be completley prepared for everything but the more you prepare the better. I would also suggest a practice drill at least once a year. The short term stress on the “kids” is worth it in the end because it becomes a memorized routine and you are far less likely to panic in the event of a real disaster/ emergency.
    We will remember with a prayer and a purr all those that perished, tonight when my gang is together.
    Luvs
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig & Peanut & Romeo >^..^<

  • da tabbies o trout towne

    doodz…a grate post N thanx for de tipz…N yes itz troo, in an emergencee
    kids & catz will hide N adults N dawgs will run…it bee a natural instinct…de food gurls dad iza ree tired fire fighter N can tell ya thiz furst hand.

  • Sammy

    This is an excellent list of things to do, things to be prepared for, how to handle emergencies of all kinds…….it still breaks our heart that so much life was lost on 9/11 – human and animal alike.

    Hugs, Sammy and Mom

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