Emergency & Disaster Planning

By Mary Oquendo, CMPTI, CCS

The days are gone where we can assume that emergencies and disasters happen someplace else. I have my local news station app on my cell phone. At least once a day I am notified of an evacuation, weather-related disaster, large-scale building fire, or road closures. Every single day.

So, why is there such an increase in the number of these incidents?

Weather patterns have changed dramatically over the last several years. Large cities built on fault lines are growing. We are overdeveloping land, which reduces or even eliminates natural protective barriers. Our interstate highway systems are transportation routes carrying toxic chemicals through heavily populated areas. All of these things add up to one fact; as a business that cares for other people’s pets, we should all be prepared for emergencies.

Why do you need an emergency and disaster plan?

As a business owner you invested time, money, and resources to be successful. A plan helps your business’s ability to recover from the financial loss due to building, equipment, and product damage, as well as business interruption.

It is a fact that 25% of businesses never re-open after a major disaster. A plan enhances your reputation with your employees and clients because it tells them you have their best interests at heart. Taking the time to prepare beforehand helps combats the 3 F’s of physiological response to emergencies.

The 3F’s are:

  1. Flight is the desire to run. There is no thought to where or what supplies might be necessary. It is panic.
  2. Freeze is where you cannot make a decision. You are stuck in neutral.
  3. Fighters stay put even when it is safer to leave.

The first step is to identify your risks.

Risks fall under five categories:

  1. Geological: earthquake, tsunami, volcano, landslide, mudslide, and sinkholes.
  2. Meteorological: flood, tidal surge, dam or levee break, drought, winter weather, windstorm, cyclone, hurricane, tornado, dust storm, extreme temperatures, and lightning strikes.
  3. Biological: foodborne illness, pandemics, infectious, and communicable disease.
  4. Technological: utility interruption: including telecommunications electricity, water, gas, sewage or other critical infrastructure.
  5. Human risks can be broken down into two subcategories:

a. Accidental: hazardous spills, nuclear power plants, explosions, fire, transportation accidents, and building collapse.
b. Intentional: robbery, lost person, workplace violence, civil disturbances, hacking, and terrorism.

Your local Emergency Management Office can tell you what types of disasters will most likely affect your business, as well as offer suggestions to prepare for such possibilities.
Your emergency and disaster plan should include provisions for:

Evacuating your clients and employees. Do you know where the pet emergency shelters are located? Can you transport the pets in your care to that shelter safely?
Sheltering in place. Are you prepared for grooming clients to become boarders?
Communicating with employees and clients. Whether you are sheltering in place or evacuating, you must have a way of contacting your clients to inform them where their pet is. Are your employees clear on their responsibilities?

Inventory lists. Insurance claims and business losses will be easier and faster to document when you have a detailed list, along with their value, of everything in your facility.

Client waivers. Waivers protect you from any decisions that are made on behalf of the pets in your care in the event the owner cannot be reached. You can add these paragraphs to a current general grooming waiver.


Sample Shop Waiver
In the event of inclement weather or natural disaster, (Your Business Name) is entrusted to use best judgment in caring for my pet. (Your Business Name) will not be held liable for consequences related to such decisions.

Sample Mobile Grooming Waiver
(The above plus) I also authorize, (Name of Business), to assume guardianship over the following pets in my household until which time, I can safely take possession of my pets.


Supplies. Bottled water and canned food for a week for employees and client’s pets. Other supplies include: flashlight, manual can opener, first aid supplies, bleach (10% to disinfect and 16 drops in a gallon to purify water), weather appropriate clothing, cat litter, portable radio, and batteries.

Insurance. In the aftermath of a disaster is not the time to realize your insurance policy is lacking. Read over your policy to determine exactly what is covered and what is not.
How exactly do you make an emergency and disaster plan?

It starts with education. Your local Emergency Management Office and/or Fire Department may offer or list Community Emergency Response Trainings (CERT), Human CPR and First Aid, as well as have available on-site resources to assist in writing a plan. Most pet industry educational conferences offer pet first aid and emergency and disaster planning workshops. Pawsitive Educational Training holds online emergency and disaster shop planning webinars.

Take advantage of the wealth of information at www.fema.gov and www.redcross.org.

Preparing for emergencies gives you the tools to think clearly, and therefore more effectively. It allows you to make decisions because you have ready-made plans. Given the facts, you can make an intelligent decision to leave or stay. It is why first responders continually practice schedule drills and update protocols. And so should you.