This story is part of a series for National Preparedness Month. Stay tuned for more stories, preparedness tips and tools all month long as we help you be ready for disasters large and small. Head to preparesocal.org to take our “I’m Ready” quiz to test your preparedness.
By Mimi Teller, Red Cross LA volunteer
The night the Lake Fire broke out, I responded to the Red Cross temporary evacuation point as a public information officer and photographer. My role was to document the activities supporting the affected community and provide information to our media partners.
Late into the night, a woman pulled into the evacuation point parking area, and during her intake interview with volunteers, she told us her physical limitations had made it impossible for her to carry her cats in their carriers to her car. Upon hearing this, my heart dropped – I looked in the direction of her home and saw the night sky glowing orange from a 10,000-acre fire that was only growing.
Ten days later, I spent my Saturday with the Red Cross team that was distributing emergency supplies, again as a photographer to document our community support work. The team spent their day packing up and delivering recovery items to Lake Fire evacuees, who had been staying in a nearby hotel. The first person they delivered supplies to was the same woman who had to evacuate without her cats. I stood aside for the few minutes as the team interacted with her, listing the supplies they brought and asking follow-up questions on her needs and well-being.
Once the team left, her hotel door remained opened, so I peeked in and announced myself with a timid knock-knock. The woman saw me and welcomed my inquiry. I told her I was present the night she first came to us and overheard that she had to evacuate without her cats. Were her kitties were OK? To my great relief, she broke into a giant smile and said, “I get to pick them up today! I am so happy!” Turns out, an animal shelter had stepped in to help and kept them safe for her while she remained evacuated.
I immediately ran back to the Red Cross team and blurted out my happy news: “The cats are safe!” I’m not sure they understood the full context of my random outburst, but they saw my joy and shared it.
Our mission at the Red Cross is to alleviate human suffering. We also do our best to ensure the safety and well-being of the pets of the humans we serve.
So, I must ask: Are you prepared to evacuate with your pets? To keep them happy and fed following an earthquake? A wildfire? A flood? Do you need to brush up on the latest in pet safety?
Start by downloading the Red Cross Pet First Aid app to your phone, then click the Prepare tab. The app is available via Google Play and the App Store and includes a packing list for your pet emergency kit, how to safely evacuate with your pet and much more.
If you also need to prepare humans for disaster, please download the Red Cross Emergency App, or go to PrepareSoCal.org.