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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 31 March 2003 Issue


By Judith Marie Gansen

Article 21 - Protecting Those We Love From Terrorism

Whether we are for or against this war, whether we live in a city, small town or in the country, terrorism unfortunately is something we all added to our crime prevention list after 9/11 in the US Yet how do we protect ourselves, our families and our companion animals from an often invisible threat? My first thought after hearing from our government that we should stock some duct tape and plastic is how the heck will our dogs go outdoors should an incident occur and how will we breathe when we use up our air in our safe room? How would any of the terrorists' weapons affect our dogs should something be released in our atmosphere?

Determining risk assessment is something I have always lived by--what are the statistical chances of something happening to me if I do this or that. I am very safety conscious and often get teased about this. Yet I recall a story on one of the late evening news shows where a young father took years to build a tornado shelter in a housing development where there were no basements. His family was the only one to survive when a tornado hit their area. Perhaps he was teased too but not anymore. I also attempt to find the truth in any situation, not the political truth--there is often a difference. Fear can sell a lot of products and I would rather not part with our money unless I have to especially in these economic times.

I originally had difficulty finding information in detail about what we should do to help our animals especially. The first time I went on a national website it said to prepare for our people families with 3 days of supplies--well, I prepare longer for that at our house just to cover other disasters so I knew the government and I were not on the same page with that issue! Plus if you think through the possible scenarios and how people may react to them supplies for only 3 days is a bit ridiculous. I admit to being one of those people who did some extra stocking for Y2K--what was the harm in that? My brother-in-law made a tornado shelter for his family in their basement but doesn't get teased because a tornado has not hit their house yet. Being prepared reminds me of an often repeated phrase my wonderful Mom used to say "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Thank You Today Show and Thank You Dr. Angelo Acquista!

The Today show once again to the rescue. I listen and/or watch whenever I can and saw Dr. Acquista being interviewed. His book is called:

The Survival Guide - What To Do In a Biological, Chemical or Nuclear Emergency

Dr. Acquista is the Medical Director of the New York City Mayor's Office of Emergency Management since 1999 and following the attacks on 9/11 he served on Mayor Giuliani's task force on bioterrorism. Upon hearing of the book I checked our bookstore and they told me it would not be out until April 15 but I double checked and found it online at Barnes and Noble (in paperback to get the word out so more people can afford it):

Order The Survival Guide

I was very happy to find that Dr. Acquista wrote a small chapter on "Animal Care" and it covers such things as evacuation, emergency response, evacuation kit and sheltering-in-place for animals, etc. Some helpful sites that need repeating:

American Red Cross- Animal Safety or  

HSUS Emergency Preparedness or  

UAN Pet Tips or  

Disaster Preparedness Series - AVMA or  (the original link listed in the book didn't work for me so I found this one)

While I am not medically trained and you should check with your health care provider on this, I was trying to think of other things to do and I spoke to our health food store and he suggested for people keeping a bottle of kelp for people in the event of a nuclear attack. This would give you something to protect the thyroid (children are most at risk for this type of cancer) that is more natural than potassium iodide tablets which are easier to get now but I like having something in the house instead of relying on the government. Maybe it just gives me some peace of mind but that alone makes it worth it. I also keep first aid books for people and dogs in my bags--they won't do any good in your library at home if you evacuate.

Along with animal rescue supplies, I keep a disaster kit in both car trunks, I gave my husband one for work and we keep emergency supplies at home. Is this obsessive-compulsive or good planning? I have only used these supplies on rare occasions but when I needed them they were priceless. I once rescued a seagull and needed the blanket (the worn, old ones that I don't give to animal rescue or humane societies, I wash them and keep them in plastic bags in the trunk). I passed out another blanket at a car accident scene to help prevent shock, a child was helped after being injured at a Little League game when they couldn't find their emergency kit, etc., etc. I keep Bach Flower Rescue Remedy just about everywhere for my family and the dogs. A few drops is calming--our dogs get some just before a vet visit. People have told me they have stopped dogs from going into shock after a car accident by using it.

Where Do You Keep Those Darn Emergency Bags Anyway?

Okay, I got organized and put safety kits into sport bags, backpacks or whatever other kind of container easily carried I could find (find them on clearance, etc.). Now where do you put them? In the basement to have for a tornado is fine unless your basement floods. In the car is great unless your car is in the shop and a disaster occurs. The best thing to do is have emergency supplies in the basement, in the house, at your work (schools should have them anyway--contact your school and ask that they have plans in place as well as supplies) and your vehicle. How often to check the supplies? I don't check mine as often as I should to update but to me an old bandage works as well as a new one. For emergency food I think dried things are best along with water--in the old days before refrigeration people relied on dried items to stock up on food (things like raisins). A good choice is also those pop top cans of fruit designed for school lunches along with canned nuts. Be sure to keep things in plastic bags or something better than cardboard in case you get infestation (there are bug eggs in most processed food)--only one thing will get infested and not your whole kit should they hatch [yuck)!

The "It Won't Happen to Me Syndrome"

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard people say this I would be rich now! People don't like to think bad things can happen. It scares me when I hear people say "the government will watch out for us" or "that is what we have emergency response teams for." It's sort of like thinking if you don't prepare a will, you won't die. Believe me, there are things I like doing better than planning for disasters but I have always believed in facing things head on as I think this makes me a stronger person and I never want to feel helpless in any situation. Plus, in an emergency the better prepared we ALL are, the easier it makes it for emergency response people because the present situation in our country HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE IN OUR HISTORY! Please think about this when you are deciding--do I go see that movie I have been wanting to or spend time creating my safety kits. How much do you love your family and your animals?

Know the area where you live, work or travel. Are you close to a nuclear power plant and therefore a possible nuclear leak? Close to a major highway or road where a chemical spill could happen? A railroad--do they carry toxic substances--of course they do. People are evacuated all the time for non-terrorist issues--it just doesn't always make it to national evening news. These things can happen anywhere at anytime to anyone.

If You Decide to Do This But Are Short on Cash

Believe me, I have been there before. There are wonderful sources for buying the safety bags as I mentioned--thrift stores, dollar and outlet stores, charities like Goodwill stores, garage sales, sidewalk sales, etc. A good time to find backpacks on sale is after school has started. Ask a friend with children to pass on their worn schoolbags or sports bags. Always check the ends of aisles and the center aisles in the store--this is where clearance items are most often put. I also find large cosmetic bags on sale and use them to subdivide things (plastic Ziplocs help too) in the bags to find things faster. If you patronize fast food places, save the condiments and wrapped plasticware you don't use for your kits (we have donated these to schools before too). If you find something like first aid cream on sale, buy two if you can (one for your kit). Keep the kits handy and add to them as you can. You can go to bulk areas and bag your own emergency food too.

Learn first aid and CPR. Certified classes are best but if a neighbor is a trained person maybe put together an informal neighborhood class for people who don't have time to go to classes--remember first aid for pets too. Give blood so our blood banks are full--we have wounded soldiers now to think of.

Finally, believe in yourself. In your ability to handle any situation that arises. Push your own envelope to the max. I have forced myself to learn things in my life that I feared or had phobias about. Knowledge and the ability to handle emergencies with a cool head are wonderful gifts to give to your family!


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