I was made aware of the disastrous flood situation being suffered by so many in Australia by reader and concerned citizen, Mel Vincent. She asked me to post on the subject of evacuation for those of you with birds and other pets. I had done a post several months ago on the subject and will link you to that. I asked her if there was anything that could be added to my post to make it more relevant to your situation. In addition to supplying this helpful link, her poignant reply was this:
“I guess if I’m to draw from a news story here the other day. A man nearly died trying to rescue his 200 birds. All of his birds died. While 200 is more than most people would be dealing with, one thing that he said just resonated with me. He couldn’t catch the birds. They were just too terrified as the situation unfolded. People don’t think about their pets reactions. In fear, a bird will bite so it pays to have a towel or something to grab them with, don’t anticipate that they’ll cooperate – assume they won’t.
The other main thing that we’re seeing in Australia is that people are tending to ignore evacuation warnings and put their emergency plans into action too late. People tend to think that they’re in a high area/they’re safe in the inner city. (Toowoomba is basically up a mountain so why would it flood? Brisbane is huge – the damn should protect them. The whole it has never happened before thing…) People have a tendency to change their minds and leave at the last second which is how so many end up sitting on their roof, being swept away in their cars. People don’t realize that a helicopter will not take the animals from their roof, the animals die.
The television news just told some areas of Brisbane to “GET OUT NOW. It’s worse than we predicted. You no longer have hours, don’t stop for possessions, just go, there’s a wall of water coming your way, you literally have seconds- go.”
That’s a terrible thing to hear on the news when hours ago they said be on alert. If I was there I’d have left hours ago. So maybe advise people to err on the side of caution? Act early? The worst thing that can happen if you put your emergency plan into action is you leave for no reason for a while. The worst thing that can happen if you don’t is that your animals die.
So I guess in a nutshell three things I’d add:
1) assume your animals won’t be cooperative and plan accordingly.
2) Don’t hesitate. Enact your emergency plan when the first warning comes out. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
3) Have two different emergency plans. The one where you have seconds (after all, anyone’s house can catch fire) and the one that you have time to evacuate properly (such as flood, bush fire, gas leak in area…)”
Please be safe and heed her advice. We’re thinking about all of you…
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.
I live in North Queensland where cyclone Yasi passed over and the first thing i thought about was my peach faces budgies and my conure. I cant understand how people become so relaxed when it comes to their pets. I made sure I had my birds into smaller cages early in the afternoon. THere was plenty of warning!!!! And plenty of time and if you dont have enough travel cages you can always hire from your local vet or pet stores.
Preparedness is SO important. As I often say to my students, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”. Living in So Florida we always have to have our hurricane supplies on hand. Mine include four very small travel cages for the birds – maybe not comfy but certainly fast and lightweight. I keep them easily accessible in the bird room’s closet – no digging about in case of sudden evacuation. I also believe it is very important to get your birds accustomed to being toted out. Whenever I visit a feather-friendly friend, such as my daughter, I pop a bird in a carrier and away we go. Now they are never stressed out by a car trip, even a long one. It means they are going to get to go somewhere new and they don’t mind being cooped up for the trip. They get excited. In practice for an extremely sudden dash for safety, I will regularly stuff a bird into my shirt and go outside. The Meyer’s & the Caique even enjoy having their daily “snuggle” and I will often walk to the nearby drugstore with one of them safely bundled inside. (I call them my “bosom buddies”!) Of course, as soon as I enter the store, Inca has to pop out and wave Hi! to all he sees. Even my Cape tolerates this temporary confinement, although she much prefers my shoulder. Since I always have a large dog cage in my car, I could grab birds and toss them into the dog cage for momentary safety. My dogs are trained for the command “In the car!” and will bolt in the moment they hear it. My heart goes out to those who lost birds, dogs, horses, any companion animal. We must do whatever we can to be prepared for such terrible events.
@Hester, I don’t think the helicopters had much choice. So many people were being pulled out by helicopter that they needed every inch of space and literally had no time. They had to make people the priority. I know one town had 300 people to get out by helicopter. They did take the animals when they could, but there were situations where they couldn’t even take all the humans in one go and they couldn’t be sure if the ones they’d left would still be alive when they got back. @Georgina, I should clarify, the wall of water that the News I was watching was referring to, was not the one that had hit Toowoomba. I didn’t mean to imply that Toowoomba residents had time to prepare for that specific scenario. You’re 100% right, their situation was very different to Ipswich and Brisbane. The ‘inland tsunami’ had well and truly hit Toowoomba by the time I sent that last message to Patty. The News listed Brisbane areas and said "Get out now’’ because they were unhelpfully panicking about the possibility of another wall of water hitting some areas of Brisbane. They were wrong as there wasn’t a literal wall from what I hear, but it was the point in time where the water rose to a point where road access to some areas was cut off and this happened earlier than they had predicted. I was saying that unlike Toowoomba, those areas had been warned, so it shouldn’t have got to that point. I was incredibly frustrated sharing info online to bird owners I know. Some of them had water in their yards (in Brisbane) and they were being told by authorities to evacuate. They still wouldn’t even consider packing up their birds because it was never going to happen… except it did. @anyone, it is definitely too late for some Aussies in these floods but the floods continue to spread and disasters crop up everywhere. They are saying that the flood water has to go somewhere, so at least part of it will continue to spread through the river systems. When I wrote that original email, I was in a comfortable house, sitting with a coffee, in Victoria – no thought of a flood threat. In contrast, on Friday my street was cut off by flood waters overflowing from a run off. (Effectively what is normally an empty concrete river/drain filled and overflowed in 30 mins). Luckily it receded as fast as it came and the result was only 2 houses with minor damage in the neighbouring street. Still, the road filled with fast flowing water very quickly. 15-30 mins more rising at that rate and I would have had water in my house. Ideally that’s the timeframe I’d need to comfortably pack up 7 parrots, 3 dogs, a cat and a sick grandmother with her dog as well. I live in the suburbs in an area that isn’t supposed to flood. Like in Toowoomba it just isn’t an area that you’d expect to deal with a flood emergency. I must stress that flood is the most unlikely thing that I should have to face. (Bushfire is likely considering the neighbouring reserve.) My area wasn’t even listed as one of the areas with a lot of rain on Friday. It was nothing compared to Qld (it was never going to be a climb-on-roof situation thank goodness) but still a shock to have to put my birds in evac. cages just in case I needed to leave. Who knew? The irony after writing that other post… I’m pleased to say 6/7 birds cooperated. The other isn’t hand trained (yet). Bright side, I got practice catching a bird with a pillowcase (hand in pillowcase, grab bird, turn pillowcase inside out over the bird, tie a knot and you have an angry bird in an impromptu travel case that they can breathe in.) I use them a lot in wildlife rescues (great for possums). I’ve always got at least one in my car. I also keep a stack near my aviaries. They are my ‘If I only have seconds and can’t carry six cages but can carry six pillowcases in one go’ plan. I can always empty the pillowcase contents into a cage later. I guess I just really want everyone to think and to not wait for a specific threat before you come up with a plan. I would have been so stressed on Friday if I hadn’t bought those evac cages in the past. I don’t want anyone to live with “If only I had…” running through their heads over and over. I’ve seen people do that and it’s truly awful.
You’re wrong that everyone thought they were safe. No one got a quick enough warning to evac & were pretty much left to the last minute to get out & the floods hit faster than were expected. Not everyone had a choice of evacuating in time. Hester, it isn’t as simple as heli just taking the animals off the roof. Just to let you know animals are being saved everywhere so what is cruel? the fact you think animals aren’t being saved because you haven’t seen that part on TV? And using a heli & a lot of time in planning some animals were actually saved. I would like to see you in that situation yourself & then say it’s cruel. The animals are getting as much help as everyone else but like humans, it’s unfortunate that some animals don’t survive, not cruel.
Patty, my heart goes out to you and everyone in Queensland – including the animals. I keep updated with the news to see if there is anything I can do to help (apart from donating money which I have already done). I cannot believe the sheer devastation of parts of your state. Let me know if I can be of help.
A very thought provoking subject for discussion. A must to be planned by everyone who is keeping pets.
Hi Kirk, Thank you for taking the time to share your personal experiences and drive home important points. All excellent advice! Patty
Amen to both postings! Such great advice! I had considered the big details as in this post, but not all the little things from the earlier posts. I’ve been thinking about these things myself because we had a fire alarm go off in our apartment building the other day. SOMETIMES IT’S REAL! So many alarms in so many buildings turn out to be false alarms; so, nobody leaves the building. Well, on a swim team trip to Florida many years ago, the fire was for real. If was such a chore getting everyone out of the building in the middle of the night—-pounding on doors trying to wake people up (most of them probably thinking it was just a bunch of drunk, trouble-making kids—and many of the guests being drunk and passed out themselves). There were people in wheel-chairs needing to be carried downstairs. It all was so intense!. The building was cleared; everyone got out safely, and we all stood across the street as THE ENTIRE 2ND FLOOR WAS COMPLETELY GUTTED! All that to say, many years later, when the alarm goes off in any building I’m in, I’m the first one out! If we hear it, we have to treat it as real. YIKES! STAIRS ARE TOO SKINNY! I live in Ontario, and our apartment building’s recent fire alarm was on a very cold day.You have to evacuate via these skinny stairwells. You barely have room for travel cages when the stairways are empty. When you’re carrying a cage in each arm, you’re essentially 3x bigger than normal. I realized that with a mass evacuation, you’d have to have emergency cages that were almost a paint-on fit to ensure safety for birds, self and other tenants. My cockatiel rode in a little (vet trip) box I made for him and our Amazon rode in a little budgie cage. Still, these were unwieldy for the task. For next time I hope to have even smaller cages (“containers” really) that I can stuff the birds into and a carry them on my back. It’ll take up less room in the stairwell and it’ll leave my hands free if i need to help people. WITHOUT PLANNING, I SCRAMBLED TO FIGURE HOW TO DEAL W THE EXTREME COLD!I All I could do was throw some blankets over them. I was frightened that wouldn’t be enough protection if I had to walk 5 min at that temp. and that wind. Next time, if needed, the boys are going to be wrapped up like burritos in heavy towels and tight-fitting cages until I can get them to safety. (no they won’t like it, but their chances will be better.) QUICK-THINKING CHALLENGE…. I was going to put them in the car until I remembered I didn’t have it that night. Oops. No one else is coming out, so I can’t hop in with one of the other tenants. Now the mental scramble…. well, there’s a plaza across the street; two of the shops are open ‘til midnight.. What time is it? Oh dear. Well, after midnight, there’s a gas station about a minute away… a 24/7 grocery store, donut shops, neighbours… faaaaaiiiiirly close, but can’t be good for exposed tropical birds in brutal cold. I considered all the options. MY BRAIN RAN ALL THE SCENARIOS… it’s amazing what a focused brain can accomplish in a crisis. The alarm turned off before “the boys” and I were out the door, BUT, already my mind had been thinking ahead to other possible scenarios. As Mel said, there are various strategies for different situations and time frames—-building on fire summer, building on fire winter, extended winter power-outage for an entire power grid). Like Buffalo, we have had ice storms where power was lost to entire areas—regions even—sometimes for more than 24 hours. In Montreal one year, power was out for seven days! I could only think of two things: (1) Own a generator (2) make sure you ALWAYS have at least a half tank of gas in case you need to travel far to find a safe haven. You might have to travel a couple of hours (distance plus driving conditions plus traffic congestion, and If power’s down, you can’t get gas from the station. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF TOO! I once saw a documentary about a lady who survived abduction in WWII (Russia, I think) when she was a young child. Her dad was taken away first. His parting words were, “if they come for you, wear your boots!” As others got frostbite, gangrene, toes breaking off as they trekked for miles in the extreme cold. Her snow boots made her one of the few survivors. Dress like you’re going to be stuck outside for 2 hours. Take mitts. PEOPLE FIRST! Some of you may think this is a “no-brainer”, but I really struggled with this issue. We can be so attached to our pets that it would be easy to be the first to flee an apartment complex in the event of a fire. But what about the old lady in a wheel-chair down the hall, or the poor old couple that can hardly walk, or the single mom with 4 toddlers to get out the door. Will we just grab our beloved birds and leave the neighbours to fend for themselves, hoping the firemen get there in time while we stand across the street? That’s why I thought of the emergency backpack—I can help birds and neighbours. If the birds are well-prepped, it’s easy to hand one off to a neighbour and say, “here, take him”. Somehow, you have to prepare your mind IN ADVANCE to make the right ethical decisions. I would absolutely barf if my little friends died in a fire, but I’ve decided in advance how I will manage things in a best and worst-case scenario. ISorry this is so long. I don’t think well when I’ve been working all night. ‘m so glad this discussion is on the table. There’s quite a little checklist of things I didn’t think of. Thanks!
Sorry to say butyou were not informed of exactly whatt happened here in Australia. Toowoomba did not have any time to react to what happen. In between Toowoomba and Ipswich there is many farming properties which have livestock which had not hope against the floods. It was completely different for Ipswich and Brisbane who had plenty of time to evacuate. Many people who were in the floods did not know about the how bad the floods would be be as they were not in the 1974 floods. Also Brisband has come along way since ther and many new suburbs have evolved and were unsure if the floods would affect them. The RSPCA have made a place available in Brisbane for people who have pets. It has been broadcasted.
Thanks for these tips. One second your okay. the next second your not. I think having traveling cages that are in an outside storage shed, along with temporary perch stands and a container full of emergency supplies and food and water is a must. I live in Hawaii. When we had the threat of a Tsunami a few months back, I had all of the supplies out and ready to go in our truck. I moved the birds to their emergency traveling cages, just in case we had to evacuate immediately. Also, people have to make sure they have space for their animals in their vehicle(s). Again, I thank you for taking the time to put this email together. I have 5 large macaws and one mini-macaw. They rely on my husband and me to be thoughtful, well prepared guardians.
Thank you so much for posting this! I managed to get myself and my birds out all right but I know that there are so many who haven’t. I doubt anyone effected will have a chance to read this until its over but it’s great knowing that there are others out there who know how aweful it is. I had to put my two ringnecks in my handbag but there was no chance of grabbing the poor canaries, i opened the aviary door and hope for the best. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be with any more birds, and 200?? Best of luck to everyone out there. Ari
Why don’t helicopters take animals from roofs? It’s so cruel!!! :’(
Thanks for putting this up Patty! It’s much appreciated because the flood will continue to spread so more people will continue to find themselves in this situation. Also considering there are new flood alerts in other states and a serious bushfire in Perth… One more thing that has happened since I sent you the above is that is that some people have contacted me after being turned away from evacuation centers because they have pets. There is a website that can help people in this situation and the link is: http://www.qldfloodpetoptions.com.au/ Thanks again, Mel
I think people also should try to plan on a place they can go and bring their pets. Like a relative or a friend who can accommodate them. Obviously this isn’t always possible, but it’s good to have an idea of where you are going rather than just leaving in a random direction. I live in Australia in a bushfire prone area and I keep a spare cage for my parrot as well as food and toys at my boyfriend’s place. I also have spare clothes at his place. If I have to evacuate, that’s where I have to go.
Mel, I added your link to the post. Patty
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