September 1997 Magazine
The hard lesson that I learned from this experience was how ill prepared I was to handle such as emergency even though I was blessed to have 45 minutes to prepare. Will I be so lucky the next time?
My first order of business was to get all of the pets which include 3 dogs, 1 cat, and about 20 birds into the basement. My breeding pairs are set up in bird rooms in the basement already. First I grabbed the egg incubator and set that up. Next, I grabbed the brooders and took them downstairs. I only had 25 minutes left. My first problem was that all of the carriers were stored in the garage attic. As I ran to the garage, I could see the storm heading our way. The sky was beginning to darken, the wind was was increasing in intensity, and a light rain had begun to fall. Now, I was beginning to panic as my fear of storms was taking hold over me. I began to shake and I was having difficultly breathing. I was lucky to survive a tornado in 1964, in New Baltimore, MI. That fear has never left me. I wanted to hide in the basement where I could feel safe but I had to overcome my fear in order to get my pets to safety first. I kept repeating to my self..stay calm...breath....you can do this...you have to do this!!!!
I grabbed the ladder and positioned it so I could climb into the attic of the garage. It took several trips to get all 14 of the carriers. I was angry that I had to waste valuable time retrieving the carriers. It took several more trips to get them into the house. I only had about 15 minutes left.
As I ran into the house with the last load of carriers, my cat was pacing by the door. I hurriedly tossed him into a carrier and ran downstairs. I ran back up the stairs taking the steps 2 at a time. I grabbed several carriers and ran into the back bedroom to get the birds. Quickly, I grabbed the keys and began unlocking all of the cages. The birds could sense my panic. As I opened the last cage, I put my hand in the cage and I said to Red, my Congo Grey to step up. He ran from me and tried to bite me. I ran to the closet and grabbed a towel. Upon returning, I found all of my birds scared and shaking. I used the towel to grab Red and put him the carrier. One by one, I grabbed the birds and put them in the carriers. I couldn't believe it. I didn't have enough carriers!!!! I didn't know what to do. I only had a few minutes left so I grabbed the carriers two at a time and put them in the basement. On my way back upstairs I noticed a few empty boxes by the stairs, so I grabbed them as I ran back upstairs. I put the remaining birds into the boxes and took them downstairs.
My time ran out. The tornado sirens sounded. I could hear the hail pelting the house. The wind was a deafening roar. I began to cry and pray....Please God.....keep us safe.
My 3 dogs were still outside in their kennels. I didn't have time to get them. I didn't have time to get candles, matches, a portable radio, water, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, etc.
Then the sound of deadly silence filled the air. The storm was over in a matter of minutes. I hurriedly ran upstairs to check on the dogs and inspect the damage. We were fortunate that the dogs were fine, a little shaken, but uninjured. Luckily, we suffered only minor damage to our fence and out buildings, and most importantly of all, I learned a valuable lesson.
Being so unprepared for the severe storms contributed to my panic. Time is of the essence when any type of evacuation is required. Being prepared and having a workable plan will minimize panic and the sense of helplessness.
I realized my biggest problem was lack of travel carriers. I didn't even have enough for the pet birds let alone all of the breeder birds. What if I had to evacuate everyone because of fire, flood, nuclear power plant problem? So, the next day I went out a purchased more carriers. I, now, keep them right in the rooms with the birds. I also have large towels in the room to capture uncooperative or frightened birds. I will be purchasing a few nets in different sizes just in case they are needed to catch one of the flighted breeder birds.
I also purchased 2 large Rubbermaid plastic containers. One contains supplies such as: an extra emergency first aid kit (for us and the pets), candles, matches, flashlight, batteries, a credit card, a blanket, a few toys, etc. In the other container I put food items that include pellets, seed mix, bird treats, dog food, cat food, and bottle water. I will be changing the items regularly to ensure freshness.
Now, that we are prepared with our emergencies supplies, our next problem to tackle is how we are going to get all of the birds, dogs, and cat out of here if it becomes necessary. I ran a test to see if all of the carriers and containers would fit into our truck and my car. Unfortunately, they didn't fit. My other concern is that I will be home alone and I can only drive one vehicle anyway. We are looking into purchasing a used full size panel van. I won't know if everything will fit until we find one, but I know that it will hold more carriers than my car. In the meantime, we figured we would have to take our chances and double up on the number of birds per carrier, hoping they will be too frightened to be aggressive with each other.
Another problem we need to address is where will we go in the event of a complete evacuation. We haven't completely figured this problem out yet. Most shelters do not welcome the family pet, let alone a hundred birds, 3 dogs, and a cat. My mother-in-law said that all of us (including the birds and pets) could stay with her, but she lives several hundred miles away. She loves our birds and I know that she will do everything that she can for as long as we needed. I just wish she lived closer.
Being prepared for unexpected emergencies saves time and lives. During most emergency situations time can be the most important critical factor in determining whether you can get out safely. Now that we have a plan and are better prepared for emergencies, I feel we have a better chance of getting ourselves, pets, and all of our birds to safety.
Winged Wisdom Note:Anne Johnson has been a companion bird owner for 12 years and has been breeding birds for the past 6 years. Anne is the owner and creator of Avian Antics Bird Toys, a well known manufacturer of bird toys.
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