Know Your Disaster Threats

A good first step is to know your disaster threats. It's hard to prepare when you're not clear on what you're preparing for.

Once you know your disaster threats, including whether you can expect to receive notice before it arrives, you can start your planning.

You'll find below a list of the most common and/or dangerous disasters, followed by a list of organizations and agencies that can help you plan and prepare.

Sorting Disasters

There are several ways to categorize possible disasters.

One category is the location.

Someone living in Central America does not need to worry about blizzards and avalanches.

Someone living in northern Canada does not need to be concerned with preparing for hurricane season, unless they live in the southern US or the Caribbean for the winter.

Someone in arid Arizona does not need to worry about winter melt, but does have to worry about flash floods from thunderstorms.

The most general division is between natural and man-made disasters.

Natural Disasters

  • avalanches

  • blizzards and extreme cold

  • earthquakes

  • forest fires (caused by lightning strikes)

  • flooding from ongoing rain or winter melt and flash floods (from thunderstorms)

  • hurricanes and typhoons

  • mudslides and landslides

  • tornadoes

  • tsunami

  • volcanoes

Man-Made Disasters

  • forest fires (accidental or arson)

  • hazardous materials spills

  • nuclear accidents

  • terrorist attacks (mechanical, nuclear or biological)

Another characteristic to help you know your disasters is the amount of warning provided. The more warning you have, the better your chances of escaping the danger with your dog.

If you have no warning, your chances of survival are slim. They are much improved, however, if you have a plan and know your disaster/evacuation kit, and keep a clear head.

Lots of Warning

  • blizzards and extreme cold

  • flooding from ongoing rain or winter melt

  • hurricanes and typhoons

  • volcanoes (usually)

Some Warning

  • forest fires

  • tornadoes (if you live in a tornado-prone area, any stormy weather could bring a tornado)

  • hazardous materials spills

No Warning

  • avalanches

  • flash floods

  • mudslides/landslides

  • tornadoes (where they touch down)

  • tsunami

  • nuclear accidents

  • terrorist attacks

Also take into account the geographic boundary and the number of people involved in the disaster.

These will determine how long it will take you to get out of the affected area, how far you'll have to travel to be safe, and perhaps how long before you can return to the area.

Limited Area and Small Number of People Involved

  • avalanche

  • mudslide/landslide

  • tornado (the touchdown site)

  • hazardous materials spill

  • mechanical terrorist act (explosion, plane crash)

Regional Area and Moderate Number of People Involved

  • blizzard and extreme cold

  • forest fire

  • tornadoes (if several tornadoes touch down)

Large Area and Large Number of People Involved

  • earthquake

  • hurricane

  • tsunami

  • nuclear accident

  • terrorist act (nuclear explosion or biological agent release)

Finally, know your disaster and its after-effects will determine how long you will be away from home and how much gear you may have to take with you.

Short (hours to days)

  • avalanche

  • blizzard and extreme cold

  • earthquake

  • flash flood

  • forest fire (a specific threat)

  • hurricane (a specific threat)

  • tornado (specific threat)

  • tsunami (although the after-effects could keep you out for days or weeks)

  • mechanical terrorist act (explosion, crash)

Medium (days to weeks)

  • blizzard and extreme cold (changing weather patterns could make this more common)

  • flooding from prolonged rains or winter melt

  • forest fire season, especially if several fires are burning in your area

  • hurricane season (hurricanes are becoming more common and more violent as weather patterns change)

  • tornado season (changing weather patterns might make some areas more prone to tornadoes)

Long (weeks to months, or never)

  • nuclear accident

  • nuclear attack or biological terrorist attack

Emergency Management and Disaster Response Agencies and Organizations

A great resource to help you know your disasters and plan for them is the emergency management and disaster response organizations and agencies in your area. Get to know your disaster assistance personnel.

Ask them questions.

Ask for advice.

Many of these people are trained to deal with emergencies of all types, including disasters, so if they can't answer your questions, they'll know who can.

Please note, however, that not all these agencies and organizations deal with pets; some, like Red Cross shelters, do not accept animals but do accept assistance dogs.

What follows is a list of the types of agencies and organizations that could be operating in your area.

Determine which of these resources are available there, then create a contact information sheet.

Keep it handy in case you need to contact someone quickly.


  • Red Cross (in primarily Christian countries) and Red Crescent (in primarily Muslim countries)

  • Salvation Army

  • breeders organizations

  • local kennel clubs

  • local boarding kennels

  • local animal shelters


  • local animal control agency or department

  • city/town/county emergency management or disaster response agency

  • region or state/province emergency management or disaster response agency

  • national emergency management or disaster response agency (for example, FEMA in the US

  • local or state/province or national law enforcement agency (for example, the RCMP in Canada, Scotland Yard in Great Britain)

  • local fire department

  • local ambulance or EMT personnel

  • military/militia/National Guard/Coast Guard

  • local or state/province or national government

Once you know your disaster threats, you'll be able to create an effective disaster evacuation plan that will get you and your dog to safety, with everything you need.

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