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May is Wildfire Awareness Month

The home of HALTER Project is Sonoma County, CA, where Living with wildfire is a big part of our lives, as it is in many other beautiful places around the world. While many of us grew up in the “Only YOU can prevent forest fires…” era, we’re now part of a new paradigm: We must adapt ourselves to life where wildfire is part of the cycle of the seasons.We also live, work, and play in the ever-present shadow of earthquakes, giant ancient trees, and mostly mild but fickle weather.

So, rather than get amped-up about a particular threat, we prefer a mindset of constant, calm preparedness. Really, it’s so much easier than brief bursts of frantic, frenzied action following months of blissful ignorance. So, what does Wildfire (or earthquake, flood, or other natural disaster) Preparedness really look like?

Because we here at the HALTER Project focus on emergency and disaster preparedness for our animals, we often refer to prep in terms of situational awareness. Animals live in a near-constant state of situational awareness. Our critter companions are using their array of specialized sensors every moment to process what’s going on around them. Just for starters… What is it? Where is it? Can I eat if? Will it eat me? Will it taste good? Is it a good place to hide?

Ears, eyes, noses, and whiskers— every species possess unique adaptations that evolved to keep them alive. Modern humans living in urban and suburban environments have lost much of our awareness of dangers. We’ve evolved to be aware of hazards like hot stoves, sharp objects, and running with scissors. Country dwellers develop greater awareness of the natural hazards around them, usually wildlife, i.e., skunks, rattlesnakes, stinging insects, poison oak, predators.

Life in the WUI, (Wildland Urban Interface – a term coined for the express purpose of raising awareness), requires those of us living in it to train ourselves to be conscious of hazards that are present year-round and the need to understand and plan for their impacts.

Unless we’re trained, humans living in relative safety and comfort have lost most of our sensory perception of potential hazards. We take risks every day, without much, or any thought. However, when faced with concern for loved ones, including our animals, we tend to feel more compelled take action to keep them safe.

Circling back to the topic at hand, “Wildfire Awareness Month”, we can think of it as a great prompt to ready ourselves, our homes and our critters for spring frolics and summer fun, but doing it mindfully, as part of your animal disaster prep. Whether it’s seasonal home maintenance or planning gatherings and travel, you can integrate animal (and personal) prep actions into just about every activity on your To-Do List. Many spring-cleaning chores go hand-in-hand with improving the safety of your home. And, as we constantly remind our audience “if your home is defensible, your animal home is safer”.

Before starting a project, think about ways to combine it with animal safety/prep activities. Making readiness actions part of planning for the coming season helps you build up your awareness, and the “chore” becomes part of your practice, with your animals, family, and emergency buddy network.

Need some inspiration? Here are a few ideas:

-- Prepping for a vacation: Great time to refresh your pet Go-Kits, rotate food, water, and meds. Add extra dose of parasite control. Check ID tags.

-- Hanging out with friends during longer afternoons and warmer evenings: Practice getting pets in carriers, walking on a harness, and doing these things for someone other than you.

-- Working in the garden: Great opportunity to clear grass and weeds around fences and gate, and trim branches encroaching on driveway or outbuildings.

-- Cleaning up the porch, deck and patio: Is always important. Be careful now, when baby rattlesnakes abound and are looking for cool hiding places.

-- These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about the concept of “situational awareness” and how it applies to everyday life AND planning for emergencies and disasters.

Remember— every prep step you take improves your awareness and safety, for all the animals, and people, in your life.

HALTER Project provides a plethora of easy-to-use guides, checklists, and workbooks to help animal owners plan, prepare and practice for all kinds of natural disasters and everyday emergencies.

Here are some good tools to check out now.

Barn & Property Safety Checklist
Pet Prep for Sonoma Seniors
Animals in the WUI Guide

VIDEO: Farm/Ranch/Backyard Readiness 101 - How to Prepare - Evacuate or Shelter-in-Place?