Heather Johnson – September 27, 2022

In a disaster, when an evacuation order is issued, it is time to go! The Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS) has been part of the UC Davis School of Veterinary medicine for twenty years. A critical part of our mission is training and educating communities about the importance of being prepared when a disaster that impacts people, animals, crops, and the environment strikes. September is  Disaster Preparedness Month. This year’s theme reminds us to make a plan and build a kit so when the time comes, there will be no delay in getting you, your family, and your pets out the door and on the road to safety. Your family’s health and safety depends on it.

“The life you have built is worth protecting. Prepare for disasters to create a lasting legacy for you and your family.” - FEMA.gov/September

Family disaster preparedness kits are easy to put together, don’t take up much space, and can make a big difference in ensuring everyone in your family, including your four-legged or feathered family members, have everything they need when you’re away from home in an emergency. If you’ve already built a kit for your family, take the time this month to check it and refresh any items that may need to be updated.

Planning and preparing is so important

Having a plan and disaster kits ready to go is a way to ensure the health and safety of the people and animals in your home when disaster strikes. Recent history shows that when pets are left behind in an evacuation, they are likely to be injured or killed because dogs, cats, horses, and other animals may not be able to find safety from fires, floods, or other disasters on their own. Even if they are able to find shelter, food and water supplies may not be sufficient for them. The best thing to do is take everyone, pets included, with you when you evacuate your home. Because not all hotels and shelters will take in animals during an emergency evacuation, it is very important to contact potential shelter locations in advance during the planning process. Find a place where everyone in your family will be welcome, including pets. For large animals such as horses and other livestock, it may be necessary to coordinate with nearby sheltering locations, or friends and family outside of your community to find a place where your animals will be allowed and will be comfortable and cared for.  Making a plan and building a disaster kit takes a bit of time and effort, but FEMA has created many resources that are easy to access and use. Check out https://www.ready.gov for more information.

What to include in a kit for people and pets:

  • Non-perishable food and water for each person that will last several days
  • Manual can opener, utensils, paper plates and towels
  • Basic toiletries and a change of clothes for each person
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, small plastic baggies (for personal hygiene/sanitation)
  • Flashlight, radios & extra batteries
  • Basic tools (wrench, pliers, pocket knife, duct tape, scissors)
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust masks (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Cell phone chargers and portable power packs (keep these charged and add them the bag right before you leave)
  • First aid kit
  • Labeled prescription medications for people (and animals, if applicable)
  • Identification for each person in your household (driver’s license, passports, birth certificates)
  • Local maps
  • Identification tags, collars, and shot records for each pet
  • Photos of each member of your household, including a photo of you with each of your animals
  • Leashes and harnesses for each pet
  • Grooming supplies
  • Plastic bags for collecting feces and/or litter and litter box
  • Food and water bowls
  • Pet carriers or cages


For additional ideas and information on building disaster supply kits for people and animals visit FEMA’s websites below:

FEMA Build a Kit webpage: https://www.ready.gov/kit

FEMA Prepare your Pets for Disasters webpage: https://www.ready.gov/pets

FEMA video General Information for Preparing for a Disaster: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D_MmRz8gsU 

FEMA video on how to prepare for your pets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUbSF_S20bE