It's Here--Hurricane Season 2018! Preparing for Two and Four-legged Evacuees

The 2017 hurricane season was exceptional in many ways – one especially was seeing so many hotel properties open their doors to two and four legged evacuees. During Hurricane Irma, Governor Rick Scott urged hotels to waive the rules and welcome pet owners fleeing the storm so that no pets were left behind. The industry not only responded but embraced the opportunity to welcome pet families. The results were tremendous. Some properties held yappy hours that took the edge off the storm for pets and pet parents alike. There were social media posts of pictures of pets in upscale hotel lobbies. The positive experience even resulted in several properties going pet friendly full time. From a pet parent perspective, it created a brand loyalty to those properties beyond measure.

Another hurricane season is here, and while we hope for a quiet year, it’s important to consider your pet friendly plans and including pet safety in your emergency planning.  

 

As we learned last year lodging destinations welcoming weary evacuees, potentially facing great unknowns, mean more than you can ever imagine—especially when you are welcoming their furry children, too. Your incoming guests are stressed. They are rushed. Their worlds are turned upside down. Their furry children are picking up on those stressors. They are in unfamiliar places with new scents and other furry and winged babies they have never met before.  Both pet parents and their furry children need to know it’s going to be okay.

Here are a few recommendations to consider with your emergency pet friendly planning.

What is your property’s evacuation plan?

  • Most importantly will you be open? Pet parent guests who know you are normally pet friendly will turn to you first.

  • If you are open and welcoming pet families, it's important to get the word out as soon as possible. Communicate boldly on your website, signage, and travel connection sites you use.  

  • Let emergency management and local shelters know pets are welcome at your property.

  • If possible, expand your pet friendly room availability.

  • Consider exceptions to your rules and pet fees during evacuation conditions. With emergency evacuations pet parents may have more than one furry baby, larger sized pets, birds, etc. If you can make exceptions pet parents will be forever grateful.

Preparing for your evacuating guests -- in an evacuation needs could be greater than your normally prepared traveling pet family and some necessities left at home.

  • Pet friendly rooms—are there items that you can provide such as food & water bowls, towels, blankets, pet beds, pet wipes, waste bags, litter boxes, even baby gates to keep pets secure in rooms?

  • Designated relief and walking areas--clean, safe, well lit, preferably near your pet rooms.

  • Leashes, collars, temp tags or pet recovery tags on hand to help to ensure all pets have current identification and mom and/or dad can be reached, if needed. Companies like PetHub.com have tags with QR codes that link to a mobile app that pet parents can update real time.

  • Pet food, water and treats available—also a great way to win over new furry friends.

  • First aid kits that will hopefully not be needed.

  • Meeting room options for overflow (if needed) where pet parents can stay near their pets. If possible pet sitters or walkers available to watch furry & winged loved ones when mom or dad need to step away.

  • Consider things to help take the edge off the anxiety. Ideas can range from the very successful yappy hours to calming distractions like chew toys, white noise devices, even thunder shirts.

Clean-up -- with nerves come accidents. 

  • There are several pet friendly cleaning products that take care of accidents while keeping your property clean by removing the scent to deter repeat markings. Standard cleaning materials could be harmful to pets and not remove the source of the markings and compound the issue.

Information on local pet services & pet friendly places 

  • Pet Emergency Clinics, Veterinarians

  • Pet walkers, sitters

  • Pet friendly restaurants

  • If you are outside of the storm’s track having a list of nearby dog parks can help give a place to burn off extra energy. A tired pup is a quiet pup.

Length of stay -- most evacuee stays will be short but there could be longer term displaced guests. 

  • How can you and your team make their new home away from home more comfortable?

  • If your hotel is not suited for longer stays, can you help get your guests booked with nearby long term stay lodging that is pet friendly?

Thank you for all you do to help make sure no pets are left behind--and they stay safe with their families in the season ahead. A positive experience will bring pet parents back again with or without their furry children. You have been their safe zone and given them peace in the eye of the storm. The good will, word of mouth and social media praise could be immeasurable. Most importantly, though, is you have made a difference in a furry family’s life and for that we are all forever grateful.

Woof!  Meow!  Chirp!  In other words, Thank You!

Karen Bartoszek is a Pet Friendly advocate, speaker, blogger and consultant helping hospitality businesses embrace pet friendly to enhance their brand and profitability. She is also the owner of PetsLivingtheDream.com, the travel and hospitality industry’s partner for fun, pet safe, eco-friendly products needed when welcoming furry guests. Karen can be reached at info@petslivingthedream.com.

 Copyright © 2018 Karen Bartoszek

Karen Bartoszek