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Cyclone Safety and your Dog

Updated: Nov 3, 2023



As more and more people become dog owners, the risk of dogs being affected by natural disasters grows.


You might have asked yourself: What on earth will my family do if we are affected by a catastrophic event such as tropical a cyclone? Scary stuff!


You cannot guarantee that your local Emergency evacuation centre will allow dogs in their facility, and so the question for all pet owners is, ‘Where will my pet stay’? ‘Who will be there to look after our pups’?


Other questions you will need to ask yourself are: ‘How will we evacuate safely with our dogs’? ‘What happens if I am at work and my dog is all alone’? ‘What if my dog runs off’?

This article will provide you and your family with prompts on how to prepare for, and respond to, cyclone risks in your area, whether that be at home or whilst you are on holidays. These prompts are not exhaustive, but they will put you in the mindset of how to manage before, during and after an uncontrollable event.


It is recommended that you communicate with your local Emergency Services Department if you are unsure about anything and that you research past events/disasters in your community. If at any time you are worried about vulnerable family members or not being able to cope, please, call Emergency Services for additional guidance!


The best form of defence is preparation and practice.


Never lose sight of the value of repetition in learning: the more your family practices evacuation, the more second nature it will be if the time comes when you need to leave.


FURSAFE® supports the decision to evacuate early where able. Listen to Emergency Services, weather stations and other local disaster management services in your area. Register for Early Warning Text message/notifications with those agencies to ensure you receive as much warning as possible to prepare, act and survive.


You can only prepare to the standard that is available to your family, not everyone can afford a cyclone rated house. Sometimes life happens out of the blue and we barely have a chance to act; but try to think of all the things you can do to prepare in advance, that brings you a sense of ‘I’ve done all I can do’, and that the most important thing is to keep ‘my family’ safe.


What is a Tropical Cyclone?

Simply put, a Tropical Cyclone is a high energy storm containing destructive winds and rains.


For those of us who live in South East Queensland, the likelihood of having a Cyclone on our doorstep is pretty low, however for the Tropical North of Qld, Cyclones are very common; think Larry and Yasi.


  • The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said in October 2021 that Qld may experience an average to slightly-above-average number of tropical cyclones for the 2021–22 Australian tropical cyclone season, a season which runs from November 21 through to April 22).1

  • BOM have identified, that on average, there can be 9 to 11 tropical cyclones each season in Australia, four of which have the potential to cross the coast.1

  • Historical data however dating back to the 1970’s show that at least 1 tropical cyclone per year crosses the coast.

What this means, Queensland dog owners, is that there is a possibility of four, with the likelihood of one Tropical Cyclone during this season, bringing with it wide spread devastation to people, homes, structures, landscapes, waterways, domestic pets and wildlife.


Ratings

Know your cyclone ratings; for example, Category 1, Category 2, Category 3, Category 4, Category 5 – the higher the rating, the more dangerous the conditions.


  • Category 1 wind speed of 63 – 88km/h, with wind gust of (less than) < 125 - Damaging winds

  • Category 2 wind speed of 89 – 117km/h, with wind gust of 125 - 164 - Destructive winds

  • Category 3 wind speed of 118 – 159km/h, with wind gust of 165 - 224 - Very destructive winds

  • Category 4 wind speed of 160 – 199, with wind gust of 225 - 279 - Significant roofing loss and structural damage

  • Category 5 wind speed (greater than) > 200, with wind gust of > 279 - Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction

Tropical Cyclone Advices

Tropical Cyclone Advices are issued whenever a tropical cyclone is likely to bring with-it gale-force winds, within the next 48 hours, in your community.


The Tropical Cyclone Advice lets you know when you might be affected. Each community in the path of the Cyclone will be issued with either a Watch or Warning advice.


  • A Tropical Cyclone Watch is issued for coastal communities when the onset of gales is expected within 48 hours; and

  • A Tropical Cyclone Warning is issued for coastal communities when the onset of gales is expected within 24 hours or are already occurring


While the threat remains, a Tropical Cyclone Advice will be issued every six hours, increasing to every three hours when cyclone warnings are required. In some circumstances, when a cyclone approaching the coast is under radar surveillance, the advices may be issued hourly.1


Hazards

Your dog and other family members may experience the following during and / or after a cyclone passes:

  • Loss of roof

  • Live electrical wires down

  • Eye injuries

  • Flying and falling debris

  • Illness from contaminated floodwaters from sewerage, chemicals, herbicides

  • Injuries from terrified and aggressive wildlife, snakes, spiders and rodents

  • Dog bites – dog / dog and dog / human

  • Increase in health risks from flies and mosquitos

  • Respiratory illness from mould / dampness

  • Fall from heights, i.e. Slipping due to buildup of mud

  • Injuries to paws walking on debris and / or through floodwaters

  • Council services such as waste management ceases due to blocked roads

  • Death

Safety Precautions

Think about the following:


  • Know your risk! Is your home in a cyclone strike zone? Is your home built to the highest standard to withstand a cyclone? Are you in a flood zone?

  • Know your local cyclone alert levels; for example, Watch and Warning

  • Register for alerts through your local Emergency Services Command and monitor the systems regularly. Make sure you have Cyclone notification alerts sent to all family mobile/cell phones

  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers on display

  • Stock up on non-perishable food, water, batteries, pet foods, hygiene products, plastic bags, (Consider your power may go out, so you will need products that don’t require electricity.)

  • Do you have a ‘Grab & Go Kit’ for every family member?

  • Do you have an Emergency ‘Grab & Go Kit’?

  • Do you have a Family First Aid Kit for family?

  • Do you have a Fursafe Emergency Dog First Aid Kit?

  • Think about what you will do if a Cyclone approaches your home before you have a chance to evacuate

  • Get yourself a local map of your area if you don’t already have one; consider the safest routes, listen to news broadcasts, or speak with emergency services about road closures.

  • Always leave early. Leaving late may put you in danger.

Home Preparation

  • Are you prepared to evacuate if your local emergency services instruct you to leave your home?

  • Are your pet’s immunisations up to date? Only immunised dogs can lodge at kennels, pet day care or minding services

  • Ensure a Family Communication Plan is completed and handed out to each member of family

  • Check that the walls, roof and eaves of your home are secure

  • Trim tree tops and branches well clear of your home, to reduce risk of them falling on your roof (may require Council permission)

  • Preferably fit shutters, or at least metal screens, to all glass areas. Get wooden boards ready for installing

  • Clear your property of loose material that could blow about and possibly cause injury or damage during extreme winds

  • In case of a storm surge, tide warning or other flooding, know your nearest safe high ground and safest route to it

  • Source and fill sand bags; store in garage or shed until you are on Cyclone Warning; then distribute around home

  • Check neighbours, especially if recent arrivals, to make sure they are prepared

  • Fill vehicles’ fuel tanks

  • Ensure household members know where the strongest part of the house is

  • Practice your drill when a Cyclone Warning or an imminent Evacuation is issued

Cyclone Warning

  • Tune into your local radio/TV for further information and warnings

  • Check that neighbours are aware of the situation and are preparing

  • If requested by local authorities, collect children from school or childcare and dogs from doggy day care, and go home

  • Ensure your home has sufficient water, food, and other survival items to support your family for a minimum of 72 hours (preferably 2 weeks). Placed in the same area you will be waiting out the storm

  • Park vehicles under solid shelter with hand brake on and in gear

  • Put wooden or plastic outdoor furniture in your pool or inside home with other loose items

  • Close shutters; board-up or heavily tape all windows

  • Bring pets inside and secure in safe room/carrier/crate with water and food

  • Place sandbags at doorways, or where your property requires them to stop water from entering your home

  • Remain indoors. Do not go outside until officially advised it is safe to do so. Tune into local radio stations for official warnings and advice

Cyclone Imminent - Evacuation

  • Consider these questions: When will you go? What will you take? Where will you go? Do you know how to get there and alternative directions to take? What happens if you become separated or are away from the home?

  • Ensure Duty Cards/family action, task cards are filled in, with tasks handed out for completion by family members

  • Wear strong shoes, long-sleeved shirts and jeans for protection

  • Take bedding, books and games for children when evacuating to shelters

  • In the car, pack your kits and other items for staying in a shelter or with family/friends

  • Whenever you evacuate, it is always wise to do so at the ‘Watch’ stage to ensure it is safe to travel and all vulnerable members of your family are secure before the cyclone/hurricane hits

  • If you choose to evacuate to a public shelter, make sure you follow police and emergency services directions. Remember, you cannot rely on a shelter accepting pets, so make plans for them before evacuating

  • Re-check your property for any loose material; tie down or fill with water all large, relatively light items such as boats and rubbish bins

  • Lock doors, turn off power, gas and water; take your Grab & Go kits

  • Remember! Never drive through flooded river crossings

After Cyclone Passes

  • Check for household gas leaks

  • Do not use electrical appliances that have been exposed to water

  • Beware of damaged power lines, bridges, buildings, trees

  • Do not enter flood waters

  • Heed all warnings and don’t go sightseeing

  • Check neighbours and see if they need help

  • Don’t make unnecessary phone calls. Text if you need to advise family members of your wellbeing

Dogs

  • Have your Fursafe Emergency Grab & Go Kit planned, packed and ready near exit

  • Have Fursafe Emergency Dog First Aid Kit packed with an Emergency Grab & Go Kit

  • Make sure that if you must leave your dog at home during a Cyclone Watch period you keep the pet in the safest room in the house. Provide water, food, carrier/crate, leash and his/her Grab & Go kit; then, if the dog is collected by emergency services or a neighbour, everything including your pet is in one safe area

  • Include dog’s travel documents, completed pet details form, vaccination passport/records, medications, ownership documents (including photo of dog and photo of you with dog) in Fursafe Emergency Grab & Go Kit

  • DO NOT tie your dog up – doing so may cause your pet to become hurt

  • Evacuate your dog early on the ‘Cyclone Watch’ day to a third-party minding location if you plan to evacuate the household.

  • After the storm has passed, release your dog, initially in the home. Survey the outside area to ensure there are no hazards such as sharp objects, dangerous materials, live wires, contaminated water, and feral wildlife before letting them outside after the ALL CLEAR is given by the authorities

  • If your pet has been traumatised by the event, consider putting the dog in a crate or carrier in a quiet area with fresh water available. Call your vet if your pet doesn’t seem to be settling down


For further information, please go to www.bom.gov.au; www.getready.qld.gov.au


PREPARE, ACT AND SURVIVE


References

1 Bureau of Meteorology

Fursafe Emergency Dog First Aid Guide

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