Flooding in Thailand Reiterates the Need for Emergency Preparedness

Various news reports have recently reported on the most recent flooding in Thailand. Flooding is nothing new in Bangkok, the city itself is built on a swamp and the city’s elevation is approximately seven feet above sea level. Combine these facts with heavy monsoon rains and Bangkok is a recipe for disaster.

The monsoon season of 1984, when I was in Bangkok was also brutal. I waded in knee deep water for at least a month, busses had to be modified so that the exhaust pipes were channeled up the sided of the bus above the flood water. I had friends who had to hire a boat to get home and when they floated up, the neighborhood kids were fishing in the driveway.

This year is however particularly dire and as of November 7, 2011 the high water has claimed the lives of over 500 people. In addition to the loss of human life, thousands of domestic animals had have fallen victim to the deluge. Most disaster shelters will not allow animals, so many of the Thais have been forced to abandon their pets.

This is not unlike the situation many people found themselves in when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August of 2005. As a result of Katrina about 600,000 thousand animals died or were displaced. Although there is no way to quantify numbers, it is supposed that some people were not willing to evacuate without taking their pets and died as a result.

Volunteers are trying their best to recover and care for stranded animals under very difficult circumstances. Part of the challenge in Thailand is the overwhelming population of stray dogs in the country. Bangkok is an exotic city full of intriguing sights and sounds, but seeing these stray animals in ill health is heart-wrenching. In 2009 The National Geographic estimated that there were approximately 300,000 feral dogs in Bangkok alone. These stray dogs pose a huge problem for rescuers as most to them will be difficult, if not downright dangerous to handle. In addition to their behavior problems, many will be infected with various diseases including rabies, which will make the situation even more dangerous.

Including animals for future natural and manmade disasters must be part of international, national and family plans. Since Hurricane Katrina “Rep. Tom Lantos introduced H.R. 3858, which would require local and state emergency preparedness authorities to include pets and service animals in evacuation plans.”

Part of your individual family approach should include making plans to transport and shelter your pets. The website petfriendlytravel.com is an excellent source of information to help you to plan for upcoming disasters with your pets in mind. Properly identifying your pet increases the probability that you will be reunited in the eventuality that you are separated from your pets.

You cannot plan for every eventuality or for every unexpected event in your life. You will, however, be better equipped to respond in a positive manner to any emergency if you have a plan in place.