How to Evacuate with your Pets!


Are you Prepared to Evacuate with your Pets!

Friendly dog and cat on hind legs look ahead
Our pets are counting on us to make sure they get out of our home safely when facing a disaster!  Below are tips to help you evacuate your home with your pets.


Flames shot through the roof of the apartment building leaving residents and their pets mere minutes to evacuate to safety.  Some residents were forced to leave their pets behind simply because they were not prepared to evacuate with their pets.

On-scene for several hours to help the residents were Emergency Support Services Volunteers.  Residents waited in a Reception Centre for hours to find out, what the outcome would be for their building.

  • Would their pets be OK? 
  • Would they be allowed to return home to get their Pets? 
  • Would they need to look for a new place to live? 

The questions were endless.  When faced with an emergency or disaster there will be unknowns.  Being prepared before the disaster strikes will definitely help!

Orange long haired cat lying on a carpet look at something
Not a care in the world – until it comes time to evacuate. Then what?

Pineapple, an 8-year-old cat had jumped out of her owners’ arms as they tried to flee the burning building.  Understandably, Pineapple was scared to death with the sirens and commotion that come with a blazing fire.   Julie, Pineapple’s owner was worried sick.  All she could do was hope and pray Pineapple would safely return home.

Julie was one of the fortunate residents with little damage to her unit and was able to return to her apartment that night.  She spent hours walking the streets searching for Pineapple – who was nowhere to be found.

Arriving at the scene the following day,  I found Julie sitting outside on the steps of her building.   As I got closer  I saw her tear-stained face and immediately knew Pineapple had not yet returned.

Sitting down beside her I tried to explain that Pineapple was likely “freaked out” by the events of the fire and therefore could be in hiding until he felt it was safe to return.  From my experience responding to fires, it is typical to see cats disappear and hide for several hours before making their way home.

I had an idea!  What if we posted a Missing Cat Poster – that could possibly help find Pineapple.  Fortunately, Julie had a photo of Pineapple on her phone, so we were able to create the Posters which Julie put around the neighborhood.

A well-meaning neighbor suggested Julie go out on her patio once all the commotion had died down and shake a bag of Temptations (Pineapple’s favorite treat).  Pineapple may hear the familiar rustle of the bag and hopefully entice him to come home.  Julie was up to trying anything.  Later the night she stood on the patio and shook the bag for several minutes.

3 Racoons climbing over balcony looking for food
Careful what you find when looking for your pet after a disaster!

Julie’s heart started to pound – she heard the rustle of grass and then to her surprise a Racoon family climbed onto the deck looking to claim the treats.  Still deeply concerned for Pineapple Julie had to laugh – this was not the outcome she had expected.

Pineapple did find his way home later that day.  His fur tangled with pine needles and dirt, but all in all, Pineapple was a little hungry and thirsty, but he had survived it!


This fire taught me valuable lessons when it comes to evacuating with pets.  Consider the following tips to help you develop your Family and Pet’s Earthquake and Disaster Plan to help ensure you are prepared to evacuate with your pets.


Train your pets so they are not afraid of the pet carrier! Cat Owners – leave the pet carrier with the door open so they become familiar with going inside.  With seconds to evacuate in a fire, you will not have the time to be fighting with your cat trying to get them into a carrier.

Some folks swear that the only way they will ever get their cat out of their home in a fire is to put them in a pillowcase.  As you evacuate you will be holding your cat close to you and this should provide comfort.  Not sure this would work for my cat – but still a consideration.

Dog owners – don’t waste time looking for the leash and collar when you have to evacuate – keep a spare by the door. For small dogs, a pet carrier may be a better solution.

Have a Grab & Go Kit for your pet with all the required items they will need.  Food, water, medications, blanket, photo are a few of the items you may need.  This link Grab & Go Kits will take you to a list of items you can consider for your pet’s Grab & Go Kit.

When evacuating grab your pet and your kits as you flee to safety!!!


When you shake a bag of Temptations – be careful – you just don’t know what will show up!


False Alarms are a common excuse we hear for why people did not evacuate with their pets.  They did not want to put their beloved pets through the trauma of carrying them down 24 flights of stairs.  What happens to your pet when this turns out not to be a false alarm and you are unable to access the building to get to them.  Don’t take chances, if safe to do so evacuate with your pets!


Young couple with golden colour dog taking a selfie.
Its easier to identify your pet with a photo – rather than trying to explain what your dog looks like!

A photo of your pet on your phone and a copy in both your Grab & Go Kits is critical.  You never know when you will need to describe your pet.  It is difficult to describe a yellow lab, however, a photo is worth a thousand words.

Ensure you have a photo of you and your pet together in your kit and on your phone.  This will be of great assistance should you have to prove you are the rightful owner of your pet.


With a Disaster Plan in place – it ensures you, your family and pets will be better prepared for disasters.  Outlined in the plan will be the steps to take to best protect your family and pets when faced with any emergency or disaster.

It is important to remember, above all – Don’t put yourself in danger.  Your life safety comes first.   Many injuries and even deaths have resulted when people panic and take risks trying to save their pets. Don’t let this happen to you.


When it comes to planning – this is the tip of the Iceberg.  There are additional steps you can take to make sure you, your family and pets are prepared for whatever disaster comes your way.   Start by checking out these sites for additional info on Pet Disaster Preparedness

     American SPCA             BC SPCA             Survive-It

Visit to sign up to receive Earthquake Preparedness Tips delivered to your InBox twice a month.

Stay Safe!

Jackie Kloosterboer

Jackie Kloosterboer – BIO

Jackie Kloosterboer head shotJackie has been leading the way in earthquake preparedness for 2 decades presenting Earthquake & Disaster Preparedness workshops to groups and businesses. Frequently interviewed by media outlets across Canada Jackie promotes the importance of earthquake and disaster preparedness.
An Emergency Preparedness Specialist and Instructor with the Justice Institute of BC Jackie travels across Canada teaching people how to respond to disasters to help those who have been displaced. Throughout British Columbia Jackie has taken on leadership roles helping assist people impacted by disasters.
Contact Jackie to speak at your next event. Jackie will lead you through the necessary steps to identify what is important to you, your family or business to do to be prepared for whatever disaster comes your way.
To reach Jackie with questions or to book her for your next event contact her at or call 604.355.2414

Jackie is available for:
  • Earthquake Preparedness Workshops
  • Preparedness Plans
  • In-Home Walk-Throughs
  • Preparedness Kits
  • Media Interviews