Saturday, May 11, 2013

Animal Disaster Preparedness Day- By Hilary Grossman


FROM CAT CHAT- Animal Disaster Preparedness Day  2013 was May 8th. When thinking of the chances of a disaster happening to US, we often turn blind eyes and ears thinking that there is NO WAY that this will ever happen to any of us. Well, disasters CAN and DO happen.

When thinking of the importance of conveying this message, my thoughts immediately turned to Hilary Grossman of the blog Feeling Beachie who not only LIVED, but is STILL living the horrors of Hurricane Sandy. I thought it only fitting that Hilary be my guest blogger today, she can  convey the importance of Animal Disaster Preparedness better than I ever could. I am honored to feature Hilary's post:



I originally posted this on November 17, 2012 eighteen days after Hurricane Sandy slammed the beach community that I call home.  Let’s face it, life is so unpredictable.  We never know what tomorrow will bring... We get spoiled.  We never think that a disaster will happen to us or to our pets.  But sadly, sometimes they do. Two years ago I sat at a village meeting about hurricane preparedness.   I barely paid attention, after all, no bad storm would hit us, I naively thought.  But then, later that year as Hurricane Irene approached, we had to evacuate our home for the first time, along with our cat, Alex, who just had his tail amputated.  As a pet owner, I never thought prior about what would happen if a disaster hit.  But I quickly learned you have to be prepared for everything.  We left our home with not only Alex’s necessities (food, litter box, litter locker, medicine, bowls, and important papers) but also blankets and toys that smelled like home to help comfort him in an unfamiliar environment. Despite sharing a house with two dogs, he did great.  I am sure his evacuation was so successful because we properly prepared his “refugee room” to be as home like as possible.  We made it through Irene unscathed.  Unfortunately the year after we wouldn’t be so lucky.....  I learned the hard way, you really have to prepare in advance for a disaster because even though you think you understand what a situation may be like, until you live it you never really know...


Images on television don’t prepare you....

You had a very difficult day.  Nothing seemed to go your way.  You are tired, you are cranky, and you are stressed.  You are so looking forward to relaxing.  You want a break.  Scratch that.  You NEED a break! You put on some comfy clothes and perhaps grab a snack or maybe a glass of wine.  You sit yourself down on your couch remote control in hand.  You aim it at the television and let out a quiet sigh of relief.  Finally you are going to get the break you deserve.

Your favorite TV show is not on.  Instead every channel you select is featuring coverage of a tragic event - brush fire, school shooting, earthquake or hurricane.  You pause and watch.   You feel terrible for those affected.  You vow to make a contribution to help.  Maybe you end up doing it.  Maybe you don’t.  You sympathize with those affected and you feel like you understand their plight.  But do you?

I can tell you first hand, you don’t.  No matter how much you think you can relate to the heart ache and devastation you see on television you can’t until you lived through a catastrophe, like Hurricane Sandy. Trust me, I know…. And I hope that you never have to know….

Images on television don’t prepare you for how helpless you feel as you watch your brother-in-law’s home, the home you evacuated to, fill with over a foot of ocean and bay water within moments.  The images don’t prepare you for the panic and desperation your feel as you and your nieces help your sister-in-law elevate her antique chairs to try to protect them from the gushing water before you all move to another room to try and save her clothing that was on the bottom of her closet.  Keep in mind that all this is happening while the wall to wall carpet begins to sway in the waves.

Images on television don’t prepare you for the fear you feel as you and your husband get into your sister-in-law’s car, because his car was destroyed by the flood, to venture to your home to access your damages.  You know you will find major damages when you get there, but you don’t know how severe they will be, and you are afraid.  You pray that you will find your home where you left it.

As you drive you see images out of a television report.  You see down trees, missing roofs, pieces of boardwalk on people’s front lawn, and sand filling the streets.  While these images are similar to what you have seen previously on television from past catastrophes these images are different.  They are from your home town.   You know the people affected and your heart hurts.


Images on television don’t prepare you for the moment you arrive in front of your own home. If you are lucky your home is still standing.  Your breath hitches in your throat as you slowly open your front door, fearful of what you will find inside.  And when you walk in you wish you could walk right out.  Ocean in your den…. Major flooding in your basement….. Loss of property… Structural damage…. The list goes on and on.

Images on television don’t prepare you for the emotions you feel as you find your friends and neighbors.  You are relieved to see they are physically alright.  You are heartbroken to see that their homes are as devastated as is yours, or maybe even worse.  You hug each other.  You cry.  And sometimes you even find a reason to laugh.

Images on television stop after the major event is over.  It isn’t their fault. No one wants to see old news.  Images on television don’t show the aftermath…. 

No one knows how your days and nights are spent cleaning up and throwing out all your destroyed belongings, in the cold and the dark, as your basement ceiling collapses on your head.  You are covered in dirt, muck, and sometimes sewage.  You feel filthy, but you can’t bear to take a cold shower on a New York November day, so you don’t.   You forget the basic necessities; you forget to take your medicine and brush your teeth.  Day turns to night and back to day again. You lose track of the hours and the days as you try to help your neighbors and friends who are in the same or worse condition as you are.  You share necessities – flash lights, batteries, bottle water, garbage bags, and even a car.  And if someone miraculously has a cell phone that works, you share that too…

You realize who your friends really are, and you see people’s true colors.  Some shock you in a good way, some in a bad way.  Regardless, you know you will never forget these moments, although you really want to.

Weeks pass and life returns to normal that is for most people, but not you.  You are a person who was hit hard.  You may be staying with friends or you may be struggling to stay at home.  Regardless you still are struggling….  You feel a wide mix of emotions.  You are sad and angry that you have to endure this.  You are jealous that others are going about their life as normal.  But you are also thankful that you are okay, and you know that in the future, one day too your life will return to normal….you just hope it happens soon.


34 comments:

  1. Wow, this made me think what to prepare in case an unforseen disaster happens. I've gotten sushi a plastic container box where i keep all her stuff in.

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  2. This made us sad to read. The Human had a little taste of what disaster might be like in the 1989 SF quake when she lost quite a few possessions to breakage and had some damage to walls and ceilings. It was NOTHING like the total devastation these people experienced, however.

    She had a very old kitty named BooBoo. When she finally got home from school that day, there was BooBoo, peacefully sleeping on the bed, surrounded by pieces of ceiling and covered with a fine coating of plaster dust. She opened her eyes and looked at the Human like, "What? Did something happen? Did I miss something?" The Human thinks she might not even have awakened during the quake, ha ha ha!

    P.S. Don't worry. I *may* feel pretty, but I haven't gone completely around the bend yet!

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  3. Wow. I don't think you ever are ready for a disaster, even if you are ready. We had a brush fire VERY close to our house last week, and while my human could have thrown together our basic necessities fairly quickly, I am sure there is lots she would have left out that she would have needed later! So there is work to be done in this area.

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  4. What an incredible story....most of us don't think it will "happen to us" but things DO happen and it's so smart to have A PLAN. Thanks for reminding us.....

    Pam and Sam

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  5. That was a very poignant post today. We feel so lucky that we have never experienced the like. But we too have had our problems with the bombings and riots. Still nothing is like ferocity of Mother Nature on the rampage. We hope all is well with Hilary and her family. Have a super Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  6. That is all so true. We always had to be prepared when we lived on the coast and the hurricanes were coming. It doesn't hurt to have all the supplies that you need just in case. And have all your papers in safe places.
    Hope you have a great week end.

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  7. Thank you for sharing this with us...it makes us sad eyes, but we get the importantest part, to be prepared. Headbonks to you and to Hilary and Alex
    Harry, Dexter and Tipp

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  8. Living in Florida, I have learned first hand to be very respectful of Mother Nature, but now the weather pattern in changing and areas that we never fathomed would be affected, now are. We can no longer shrug off the weather reports thinking that they are exaggerating the reportings and that it "won't happen to us." It might and it can - why risk it? Excellent post and thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. thanks so much Deb, we are honored to have featured Hilary!

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  9. I can't imagine what that must be like. Thanks for sharing the post.

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    1. we can't imagine either Rumpy and we pray we never have to live it as Hilary has. You are most welcome!

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  10. Caren, thanks so much for letting me guest post today.. it is an honor! I have learned so much from my experience - mostly how strong we are when we have to be, how you never understand something until you live it, and how you really have to be ready for anything... It is heartbreaking to know how many animals in my area were abandoned when their owners evacuated and how many animals became homeless after the storm. So many people still aren't able to return to their homes and it is almost seven months later....

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    1. Hilary it is truly MY HONOR, but you are most welcome! It is just devastating to think about the animals and people STILL without homes. I am guilty of being one of those who originally, was thinking of it constantly, then.....I am ashamed to say I had forgotten. That is inexcusable!

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  11. Good article. we have lived thru hurricanes but luckily it never damaged our home like this. So very important to be ready! Come on over to Yoko's party day two.

    cats of wildcat woods

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  12. We followed Hilary's story and were moved with every word. Through her words, we were able to better understand the depth of heartbreak the victims of this horrible storm endured. Her images, words and especially her positivity is inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing this today.
    : ) GG

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    1. Thanks so much Glogirly! We did too and then felt guilty because Hilary is right, the media stops showing the images to the rest of the world and we just all assume that things are ok when they still aren't. Thanks so much for reading and I am honored and thrilled to have featured Hilary today.

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  13. We really need to take it seriously!

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  14. Hilary, this was as heart-breaking to read now as it was back then. People don't realize how far reaching these types of disasters are and that in some cases you still struggle years later. And yet, somehow you have to go on and life live the best way you can!

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  15. Thank-you!!!This is a good time to remind everyone with summer around the corner and hurricane season.

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    1. you are most welcome Layla and thank you for reading!

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  16. Living in the part of Florida that was hit by three hurricanes in six weeks back in 2004, we know that preparedness is important. Normal can take a long, long time to return. But even so, it's easy to get complacent. We're pretty sure that if we had to do the fifteen minute evacuation drill today, the head peep would get our food, litter, and even toys, and would probably forget her own unmentionables.

    Thanks for the reminder, especially with hurricane season on the way, that you can never be too prepared.

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    1. Ohhh yes and didn't you have Andrew in, was it 1995? I can't remember. I am happy and honored to have had Hilary as my guest today

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  17. This is a very timely warning. None of us know when disaster will hit! Thank you Caren .. and Hilary for writing such a vivid piece!

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    1. you are most welcome, thank you for reading. I am honored to have had Hilary guest blog today!

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  18. Thank you for reminding us of the need to be prepared.

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  19. Hilary and Marc went through so much and we were so very worried about them. I will do a happy dance when "almost really normal" gets to their place.

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    1. We were too and we will be "happy dancing" with you!

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  20. What an important message. We fortunately have not had disaster strike, but you never know...and we need to be prepared.

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  21. This is something every cat and their peeps need to think about. Keep a bag of needed supplies next to the pet carriers and think ahead.
    Sad about what happened but good to know how to be ready

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  22. Thank you Hilary for sharing your story.

    Sadly, more often than not, most people do not prepare for the reasons you shared and more. I am born and raised in Florida and consider myself an expert in Hurricane preparedness and take each one seriously. Sadly, I have seen those who rarely face natural disasters, and those cities, like Miami, where we face them regularly, YET both sides take little precaution. Hurricanes brew constantly during our hurricane season and often "turn" and miss Miami. But they can always turn again at the last second and hit us head one, as what happened during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I did not live in Florida at the time, but it's always my nature to respect Mother Nature and take all warnings seriously. When hit by Hurricane levels 1-3 in past decade, I was prepared and survived unscathed. I even purchased a battery powered generator...

    Even here in my new condo building in Miami I'm shocked how few people fully prepared for Sandy. I warned them, issued my list of supplies and things to do on Facebook. Yet many ignored my warnings. They were lucky we were not hit.

    We will continue to hear stories of those hit by hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy and there will be those who still do not prepare. All we can do is share stories like yours and pray it will strike a chord in one's conscious and heart.

    sorry for long reply but this is an important issue that I felt I could add to your message.

    As we enter hurricane season, I will definitely share this story on Twitter and Facebook.
    Thank you!
    Christine

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  23. Thank you also Caren for asking Hilary to share her story. Brilliant on your part!

    Christine

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  24. I still remember how I felt when it flooded here (only a couple feet of water in the basement) and me single-handedly trying to save all my husbands slides and negatives that were on the floor in boxes having recently moved from another house or the two different times we came home after work to see the entire side of our house covered in thick ice from pipes that had burst on the second floor, or when the 100-yaer old oak tree in our front yard came down in a freak windstorm and fire shot out of the microwave as I was standing near it. And as I read Hilary's words that same sick feeling washed over me again. I cannot image living through the devastation so many have endured from hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters in the past few years. As we mess around with our climate, more and more seems to be happening. We were never put out of our house for any of these four events, and I have never had a disaster plan. With eight cats, I think it may be time to wake up and do something about that. I can only imagine how crazy leaving home would make them when they don't even like furniture being moved. Your post and Hilary's words, I hope will be the wake-up call I need. I am sending all my prayers to Hilary and her neighbors and the kitties are, as usual, sending all their purrs and hugs, the kitties at The Cat on My Head, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Josette

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