Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Deadly Northampton Fire a Sobering Reminder

Last week a devastating fire swept through a Northampton apartment building, killing pets and leaving dozens of people homeless. Thanks to fast-thinking neighbors and hardworking firefighters, many pets were rescued from the blaze or found wandering nearby shortly afterward.

The good folks at the Pioneer Valley chapter of the American Red Cross were on the scene to help families find temporary housing. After reading about the plight of so many people and their animals made homeless, I called the Red Cross and offered the assistance of the DPVHS in providing pet food and supplies to people in need.

It wasn't long before I heard from Lisa. She and her family were lucky to escape the fire with all of their animals. While neighbors cared for the smaller pets, Lisa and some of her family were staying at a local motel with their dog, Blue. Blue was eating off paper plates, drinking out of an inverted Taco Bell container and had no collar or leash. We quickly put together a care package of food, leash, collar, bowls, and a temporary i.d. tag and headed off to deliver them to Blue and his family.

This tragic incident reminds me of the importance of having a disaster plan for your family and pets. The Humane Society of the United States has wonderful information about making your own plans--whether for large scale disasters like hurricanes, ice storms, floods, and chemical spills or smaller disasters like house fires.

If you had to evacuate your home quickly, how easy would it be for you to snap a leash on your dog? Wrestle your cats into a carrier? Lug your gerbil cage out the door? Would you have their medications? Their special foods? A can opener? What if all those things--and more--were ready to go in your family's disaster kit?

We all think it won't happen to us. Until we meet people like Lisa and her best buddy, Blue.

The best time to plan for a disaster is before the disaster strikes. Join me in making this pledge: "I will get my family (including my animal family) disaster plan in place before the end of May."


  1. what a wonderful idea! creating an extra tote that has my pets needs inside - i will do it today! a little extra food and some bowls collars and leashes is not expensive even if some items are from the dollar store until better ones can be obtained. thanks for opening my eyes and educating me for my dogs cat and lizard!

  2. Reading this makes me wonder if our local fire departments are equipped with oxygen masks for pets, such as: