How to prepare pets and livestock for fire evacuations
MISSOULA, Mont. - During a disaster, what's good for you is good for your pet. Emergency officials have several tips for people with pets and livestock.
"Fire season is the fifth season in Montana, really," said Missoula Animal Control supervisor Jeff Darrah. "And every year I've been here we've had evacuations close by."
First, you need to make sure you have arrangements ahead of time. In Missoula County, the Animal Control shelter will take animals during evacuations, but they only have so much capacity. They say it's better to make other plans first.
Ready.gov says to create a buddy system in case you're out of town. Also, have your pet microchipped and make sure you have their medical records handy in case you need to board them.
For livestock it's trickier. In years past, local fairgrounds have accepted livestock. But emergency officials say that's not a guarantee, especially in cases like when the fair might be in town.
"We'll help," Darrah said. "We don't have a livestock facility, but we will coordinate with other shelters, private citizens and fairgrounds."
"Ready, Set, Go" is a brochure from the Montana State Fire Chiefs Association. It recommends unlocking and opening gates so livestock can escape flames and allow firefighters to get in. It also says to close barn doors and shut off gas supply and propane tanks. If you're able to, move your animals to a safer location during pre-evacuation orders.
"Generally, you have enough pre-warning," Darrah said. "The sheriff's departments are really good at evacuating in a timely fashion. Fire does move fast, but you do have some time to try to make arrangements for your pets."
To further help emergency responders, you can get a "pets inside" sticker and put it on your door or window. You should include the number and types of pets you have to alert rescue teams. You can also input this information in the Smart911 system.