Phases of Emergency and Disaster Management

Typically when we think of emergencies and disasters we think of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes.   We often tend to believe that “It will never happen to me.”  Disasters and emergencies can happen at any time to anyone.  Millions of people can be affected is disasters and many of these people have animals, who trust their people to care for them.

A disaster cannot be prevented but can be managed through proper preparations.  Planning ahead can prevent the pets from suffering.  Pet parents and their pets will need shelter, water, food, and possible medical attention if an emergency strikes.  Being prepared will reduce the stress that will certainly come about during these circumstances.

Part of being a responsible pet parent is preparing for possible disasters and emergencies that may affect you and your pets.  Professionals who work with animals should be just as prepared to tend to those animals that are in their care.

Preparing for such events is as simple as making a plan that will allow you to mitigate and recover quicker from natural and man-made disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) indicates there are four main stages of emergency management: mitigating, preparedness, Response, and Recover.


Mitigating is actually a cornerstone of efforts that lessen the impact of emergencies and disasters on people, animals and property.  Mitigating involves reducing or eliminating risks from natural or man-made disasters and the effects of them.  Preventing the lost or deaths of pets in an emergency is a part of mitigating.  Mitigating will also include identifying all potential hazards and vulnerabilities that maybe encountered.

Preparedness will include preparing an emergency plan, evacuation and first aid kits, having a supply of water, etc.  Prepare ahead of time to save lives (pets and humans) and to minimize damages.  Part of preparedness will include: planning, training, and drills and including your pets in the training and drills is essential to their cooperation and survival. Be prepared develop an emergency plan and practice it with your pets.  Built an evacuation kit that includes everything you and your pet will need for a couple of weeks include a first aid kit, food, water, shelter.

Responding to an event is putting the plan into action can result in a safe and coordinated response to an emergency or disaster.

Recovery is just as important.  When the disaster or emergency has passed it is not uncommon to find normal surroundings disorienting and pet’s visual and scent cues will be affected because things are not normal in their environment.  As quickly as possible repair, replace or rebuild to regain a balanced environment.

Using the four phases of emergency planning: mitigating, preparedness, response, and recovery will allow pet owners to plan ahead of time and reduce risks. Emergency management is essential in reducing lost of life and preventing loosing a pet.  Disasters and emergencies can happen at any time to anyone.  Each of the four phases will be explained in detail in future articles.

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.


 The Holidays are upon us and these events can be rather hectic for our pets.  We need to stay alert to possible dangers to them.  These threats can be things like consuming an excessive amount of rich and harmful foods, inappropriate or even toxic items which can be the seasonal decorations, ornamental lighting and plants.


It is up to us to take the appropriate steps to protect them during the holidays.

  1. Keep your dogs busy with appropriate treats, toys and activities.
  2. Take steps to ensure dogs are maintaining their manners and that the guests are respecting your canine companions and are alerted to these dangers.
  3. Rich and inappropriate foods can create health problems. Avoid giving your canine friends chocolate, cooked bones, coffee, onions, alcohol, fatty foods, grapes, raisins, etc. Keep these foods out of reach.
  4. Be sure your guests know that your canine friends are part of the family and the festivities.
  5. Plan ahead and invite pet friendly people to avoid problems.
  6. Use baby gates or play pens to protect your dogs and still allow them to be a part of the activities.
  7. Some experts recommend including the young visitors (most children love animals) to occupy your dogs. My caution is that these children do need to have a responsible adult with them while with your dogs. Protecting your dogs from visitors regardless of age is important.
  8. I would never recommend bringing in a new pet into the household during the holidays; the festivities can be hectic and stressful for both the new comer and the household.
  9. Recommend pet gifts are pet products like toys, bedding, housing, dishes, brushes, collars etc.
  10. Plants that are poisonous to dogs are holly, poinsettia, lilies, mistletoe, etc. (Please do your research before bringing possible poisonous plants into the household. If they do make it in, keep these items above the reach of the dogs.
  11. Pine needles can create a problem with the digestive tract if eaten.
  12. Secure your Christmas trees and other decorations, these can be easily topple, knocked over, and climbed on.
  13. Protect your dogs from digesting the Christmas tree water, it will be stagnant and or contain chemicals that are bad for them.
  14. Keep others items like candles, liquid potpourri pots, menorahs, etc out of reach and secured. These scents could cause harmful breathing problems and if left unmonitored can cause fire and or burns.
  15.  Inappropriate items like tinsel, garlands, ribbons and food can cause either sickness, digestive obstruction, death, etc.
  16. Keep breakable items out of reach.
  17. Use pet gates and other containment items to prevent dogs from accessing electrical cords, heated bulbs, hooks and other various decorations.
  18. Nicotine is very dangerous to dogs, keep it out of reach.
  19. Keep the trash in containers that have tight lids, dogs eating trash can cause health risks.
  20. Secure foods in containers with tight lids and out of dogs reach to prevent accidental ingestion and or poisoning.
  21. Grapes and raisins are poisonous to dogs, keep these out of reach.
  22. Ingesting sufficient amounts of chocolate is toxic to dogs. Their metabolism does not allow this to be digested effectively. Theobromine can remain in their bloodstream for up to 20 hours. Chocolate can cause seizures, heart attacks, internal bleeding and even death. If digested vomiting needs to be induced within two hours of ingestion or a trip to the emergency room. A 40 lb dog can be affected after eating about 8.5 ounces of dark chocolate and it can cause intestinal distress. Dark chocolate and cacao bean shells are the most dangerous to dogs. Keep these away from the dogs. Carob treats which are similar to chocolate can be purchased through pet stores as chocolate treats, which I would recommend.

While having fun with family and friends, don’t forget your companion animals and have  fun with and protect them during the holidays festivals.

Happy Holidays!

Joyce is a nationally certified pet care consultant and trainer and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disaster. She is also a federally certified for FEMA’s “Animals in Disasters” and is based out of Southern Illinois.

Knowing When To Let Go!

I recently took a workshop on Caring for Senior Dogs and several times I started to write this article and found it a difficult one to write. I have had to euthanize my dogs when they got to a certain point in their lives and I have my own senior dog a 12-year-old Carolina Dog.  Even years later I still miss them!  My heart still aches for them.

This is the hardest part about being a pet owner. Many of us prefer that our pets go peacefully in their sleep. Unfortunately this rarely happens and pets owners are tasked to do the hardest thing ever, euthanize their pet.

Listening to your pet when they ask to let go is more than difficult especially when they have that moment of showing their youth it leaves us feeling guilty for thinking about releasing them. Before euthanizing your pet take them to a veterinarian and be sure that there isn’t anything that is treatable. Don’t make the decision with out your veterinarian’s advice.

When the veterinarian gives that definitive diagnosis of a terminal disease or a very painful unproductive life of the pet it becomes important for the pet owner to recognize and accept their responsibility and not let the pet suffer for the pet owner’s desires.

This is a tough decision to make especially when dealing with dogs who generally do not often vocalize when they are suffering.

With the guidance of your veterinarian you can identify the crossover point and it usually is when the dog is living to merely exist even when it is painful and with no quality of life. This will always depend on individual circumstances and can range from the inability to rise or walk, to pain, an unrelenting cough especially related to cancer or other terminal disease.

Signs that a dog will show that they have reached their limit:

  • Not acting like their self
  • No longer interested in playing
  • Stopped eating
  • No enthusiasm for family members
  • Quality of life for the dog is over

Before hand decide what you want to do with your pet’s body and keep in mine the various laws regulating burials of animals. The options you may have:

  • Taking the body home and putting it in a grave in the backyard. Some states have laws about the required depth of the hole and some states have laws about animals being buried in the yard check first, it would be just as traumatic to have to dig your dog’s body up to bury someplace else.
  • Cremation and the return of the ashes in a box within a week can range from $150 to $350 and it all depends on the size of the dog’s body.
  • A Mass cremation is when the dog’s body is burned with those of other dogs and the ashes are not returned, this is usually less expensive ranging $50 to $150.
  • Interring your dog in a pet cemetery, one of the more expensive options.

It’s a good idea to pay for the services before hand and getting all the paperwork done so you can go home immediately and not have to deal with talking to others while holding your composure.

Some may want to delay the moment through hospice care at home which is very expensive. Not all dogs would do well with this. Most veterinarians participate in hospice care by teaching the family members how to:

  • Administer pain medication analgesics
  • Getting the pet to eat and drink
  • Giving fluids
  • Assess the dog’s pain level
  • Turning a pet over
  • How to keep the pet clean
  • Recognizing organ system failure

Euthanasia is typically thought of as a choice between suffering and death — and, indeed, it can offer relief from unyielding pain and can help us ease our animals into the valley of death its better than leaving the dog to deal with pain that is not treatable and having the dog suffer or having the dog live the life that is no longer of any quality. Before making that decision seek counsel with your veterinarian.

Joyce is a nationally certified pet care consultant and trainer and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disaster. She is also a federally certified for FEMA’s “Animals in Disasters” and is based out of Southern Illinois.