Shelter-in-Place & Evacuation Preparedness with Pets

Wow...what a couple of months it has been...

The whole world has been affected by the coronavirus, but for us in Utah, the drama hasn't stopped there.

Last week, I pulled out our shelter-in-place kit to double check the contents in anticipation of a possible lockdown to limit the spread of this virus and the very next morning - EARTHQUAKE!

My first reaction was to grab the cat so she couldn't get under the bed where I couldn't help her, then yell for my family members to see if they were ok, while moving toward shelter of a doorway. We were very lucky that the earthquake was short and relatively minor. The entire Salt Lake Valley had only minor damage (a few spilled bricks and broken windows) and no injuries. But that didn't make it any less scary, especially with my nerves already on edge with the virus.

Due to the earthquake, we also pulled out our evacuation kits. The irony is not lost on me that we had just been talking about sheltering in place and boom, now we had to think about evacuations. Thank goodness I had assembled these kits before so it would have just been a matter of putting the cats in their kennels and a leash on the dogs if we had to leave our home.

In this article, I will share with you about general preparedness around the home including a shelter-in-place kit, evacuation kits, training and other ways to be sure your pets are included in disaster planning. This article is a little bit long, so feel free to bookmark or print it and read as you have time.

One thing to note before we get into this: PLEASE DO NOT GO PANIC BUY THE ITEMS RECOMMENDED BELOW! Panic buying harms our whole system, creating shortages and possibly a complete lack of these items for people who can't get to a store often or well or cannot afford to bulk buy. For now, simply buy according to official recommendations and build up your kits over time!

If you are reading this after the COVID-19 crisis is over, you may disregard the above. But still be kind.


A lot of us are already experiencing this (mandatory or not) - extended stays in home, only leaving to go to the grocery store/doctor or exercise. First of all, this is SUPER-DUPER important. Humans are social creatures so naturally, social distancing is hard for many of us. I urge you all to participate fully in social distancing out of love for your fellow humans, not out of fear. We have a decent chance at minimizing the death toll of this new virus if we give our healthcare system the best chance to treat the highest number of people. Flattening the curve so we don't burn through our medical system capacity - that's when terrible things happen like running out of essential medical equipment (read: ventilators). We can't control exactly what this virus does, but we can give as many people the best fighting chance possible by doing our part. my soapbox now...

When you start to put together a 72-hour (or more) kit, keep a few things in mind...

What items do you already have around the house that can be used? Of course you may not be able to access your whole house, but for something like this virus, we won't reach for the shelter-in-place kit until all our normal items are gone (highly unlikely). You primarily want food, toiletries, and a few extra tool items. This is a basic list (not comprehensive):

3-5 days of food per person (this can be built up to 7-14+ days over time if you wish). This should be long term food storage like MRE's, backpacking food, canned goods. Include drink items like instant coffee and tea if you drink it.

Alternative cooking source such as a small backpacking or camping stove with fuel. Please take care to store and use fuel in a safe manner. A small mess kit is sufficient for heating up MRE's, boiling water, etc.

One week of water per person (1 gallon per person per day). A 55 gallon drum is useful for this, just be sure you store and sanitize it correctly and change it out often. Also be sure you have a pump system to get water OUT of the barrel. Canned, bagged and bottled water is useful too.

Toiletries like toilet paper, tampons/pads, soap, toothpaste, etc (Think about what you buy from the toiletries section on a monthly basis). Wet wipes are great for "showers" and keeping hands clean for eating. A bottle of hand sanitizer. A bottle of cleaning wipes for surfaces (like Clorox). A solar shower is also pretty luxurious in a shelter-in-place kit.

Plastic sheeting (heavy duty, large roll) for covering windows broken out by an earthquake/tornado

Thick work gloves, safety glasses

Staple gun/nails

Full roll of heavy duty duct tape

Candles/lanterns and matches/lighter

Flashlights and batteries in original packaging

Sewer treatment (essential if plumbing is interrupted) & shovel for digging latrines

Crank radio (or similar)

Can opener (in case you can't access your normal one)

Pet food

Cat litter and poop bags

Water for your pets (1/2 gallon per pet per day will be more than enough)

Extra leash/harness

Rope and cord (50' each)

Hand tools like extra screw driver and pocket knife

Roll of garbage bags

First aid kit

Small bottle of bleach

Rags for cleaning

Small bucket (lots of uses)

Box of nitrile gloves

Box of N95 masks

Solar panel or generator (optional)

Evacuation kits

These would be grabbed, if safe, when leaving your home to go stay with family or in a community shelter because your home isn't safe.

Something else to consider is that IF THERE IS TIME, what else would you grab? Things such as keepsakes and valuables, heirlooms, passports and documents, items in a safe. Make a list of these, in order of priority, with their exact location and description, so a family member could grab them if you weren't home. Share these lists as a family in a common place like your phone notes app.


One meal that requires no cooking - MRE with a utensil to eat with

Ideally a full day supply of water, but at least 1/2 gallon

Change of clothes (long sleeve) including underwear and socks

Small first aid kit

Small toiletries kit

Small book or deck of cards

Family picture and notes (optional, but great for morale)

Earplugs, safety glasses, N95 mask, a pair of work and nitrile gloves (easily accessible)

Bottle of eye wash

Mini hand sanitizer

Flash light with batteries in original packaging (easily accessible)

Copies of essential items like passport, divers license, etc

Poncho (easily accessible)

Emergency blanket

25' of basic cord

Small bag of wet wipes


Hand warmers


Several days worth of food (they will focus on feeding humans first)

Ideally one gallon of water, but whatever is reasonable to carry

Collapsable bowl

Canned food lids (if needed)

Poop bags

Wet wipes

SLIP LEASH (not a regular leash please)

Copies of vaccination and ownership records

Small blanket

Comfort item like toy


Several days worth of food (they will focus on feeding humans first)

Water (at least a couple bottles)

Collapsable bowl

Canned food lids (if needed)

Small litter box

Gallon bag of litter


Poop bags

Wet wipes

Harness and leash for using litter box (train on this before hand!)

Copies of vaccination and ownership records

Small blanket

Comfort item like toy

Be mindful of where these items are stored - don't let your kits be ruined by heat/cold, rodents, or become inaccessible because stuff was stored on top of them. Keep your evacuation kits in a closet by an exterior door and your shelter in place kit in a shed or outbuilding.

Check your kits every 6 months ideally, but al least once per year.

In conclusion, being prepared can at least offer a little sense of relief and degree of control over situations that are out of our hands. Including your pets in your preparedness planning will give them the best chance at surviving a disaster just as it does for you. Remember to include your pets in your household evacuation drills as well, in addition to normal training (especially crate training for cats).

If you have specific questions or would like a free consultation on building a customized kit, please feel free to reach out!

More information about preparedness and kits can be found here:


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