How to Prepare for Disaster: Our Pets, Livestock, and Animal Companions with Julie Atwood



“For every animal we rescue during an incident, we are all together going to save hundreds and thousands through education and preparedness.” -Julie Atwood



When an emergency strikes, we all want to do our best to take care of each other and our homes. But sometimes, the victims of a disaster are not humans—they’re our beloved animals. 

Our pets, livestock, and animal companions are part of our family, and losing them in a disaster is painfully devastating. But in an emergency, it can be hard to keep track of what’s happening and what you need to do. There is no time for anything during a wildfire. We may only have minutes to get out of the house and into safety before the fire engulfs it completely. 

So, how can we make sure that our animal companions are taken care of during a disaster?

In this episode, Jennifer sits with Horses and Livestock Team Emergency Rescue/HALTER Project founder, Julie Atwood. Julie started the HALTER Project in 2013 to provide local communities across the US with the resources they need to ensure the welfare of their animals during emergencies. 

Listen in as Jennifer and Julie share how to determine what we need and how much we need in terms of food, water, medication, sanitation, and documentation— both for us and our pets, how to plan for evacuation with our animals during the pandemic, and how to ensure the safety of our animals if we have no choice but to leave them during evacuation. They also discuss why we should set multiple plans in place in case of an emergency, how to failsafe everything in a disaster, and how to prepare for communication fails. 





  • 02:27: When There’s Nowhere to Go
  • 11:17: Why Have Multiple Plans in Place
  • 24:26: What You Need and How Much You Need  
  • 32:02: Evacuating with Your Animals During a Pandemic
  • 36:49: Taking Care of Your Livestock and Large Animals
  • 49:14: Preparing for Communication Fails
  • 57:50: Know the Warning Signs
  • 01:07:20: The Odin Story




Halter Project Ready Kit for Your Animals

Halter Project: Make a Plan (Planning Info and Templates)



Our pets and animal companions have become our best friends or even a part of our family— and losing them can be devastating. What can we do to make sure they, too, are protected in the event of a disaster? Hear it from @JenGrayThompson and Julie Atwood, Founder of @halterproject. #Recover #Rebuild #Reimagine #NorthBay #podcast #wildfire #DisasterRecovery #AfterTheFire #Season3 #HowToDisaster #livestock #hores #evacuationplan #emergencyservices #animalwelfare #animalrescue #communication #emergencyalerts



09:04: “Having a plan and being prepared to save yourselves and your animals in anything that you can imagine or might be likely to happen to you will save lives.” -Julie Atwood 

14:13: “We live in a very different time when the nature of wildfires is really different.”  -Julie Atwood 

16:14: “You have to have more than one of everything— You have to have more than one plan, you have to have more than one place to go, and you have to have more than one way to get there.” -Julie Atwood

24:51: “How much you need first is going to depend upon what you have, who you have to take care of.” -Julie Atwood   

26:28: “The kind of pet that you have is going to impact how you plan.” -Julie Atwood

37:03: “Become your own subject matter expert on the species that you have.” -Julie Atwood

47:12: “We have to train ourselves constantly to be situationally aware.” -Julie Atwood

54:51: “We are very fortunate to have technology working for us, but we cannot depend on that. And we can’t let ourselves get complacent by having just one way to get information.” -Julie Atwood

57:42: “It’s okay to leave when you think you might leave. You should leave even if you haven’t gotten an alert.” -Jennifer Thompson

57:50: “Knowing when to go and knowing when to plan to go, and preparing your animals is the key— That goes back to situational awareness.” -Julie Atwood 

58:11: “Don’t wait for somebody to tell you what to do. Know the warning signs.” -Julie Atwood

59:19: “Don’t talk yourself out of it. Just do whatever you need to do.” -Jennifer Thompson

01:09:17: “For every animal we rescue during an incident, we are all together going to save hundreds and thousands through education and preparedness.” -Julie Atwood


Meet Julie:


Julie Solomon Atwood founded HALTER (Horses and Livestock Team Emergency Rescue) in 2013 to provide rural communities with information and resources for horse and livestock emergencies. 

Julie has lived in rural California all her life and has been a Sonoma County resident for nearly 40 years. Julie is widely known for her unique architectural designs, and for over 20 years, her signature hospitality events helped define “Wine Country” entertainment. A lifelong horsewoman, in 2013, an emergency involving one of her ranch horses motivated her to develop resources for helping animals in emergencies in her neighborhood. What started as a small local project to help first responders acquire Animal Technical Rescue (ATR) skills, evolved into a “Train the Trainer” and scholarship program that now reaches the entire state, and beyond. 

Today, First Responders in the Fire, Animal Control, and Law Enforcement services, emergency managers, veterinarians, and numerous local NGOs are better able to collaborate in local emergencies and regional disasters to achieve safer responses and more happy outcomes.

In 2019, ATR Awareness and Technician training became a requirement for every CA Municipal Fire Department, and as a result of HALTER Project support and mentorship, training resources are now locally available. Since 2014, the HALTER Project has produced four “Home & Ranch Readiness Symposium” multi-day events in Sonoma County, featuring national and international experts on animal disaster safety, preparedness, and response. In June 2017, the event was the subject of a feature documentary, regularly televised nationally.

The HALTER Project does not accept donations but helps connect donors with organizations whose missions align with their philanthropy goals. It provides micro-grants to purchase rescue equipment, help equip animal disaster response trailers, and fund pet safety supplies for senior living and other underserved communities.

HALTER Project volunteers contribute more than 8,000 service hours each year to local and regional agencies and nonprofits, including disaster response, and it provides free educational materials to any group requesting them. Visitors to dozens of Community Preparedness and Wellness events visit HALTER Project outreach booths throughout the year and learn through HALTER Project Preparedness Workshops at Senior Residential Communities and service group gatherings.

The HALTER Project has a grass-roots mission: To inspire animal owners to be an emergency and disaster-ready and able to help others, by providing resources for Preparedness education and outreach. is recognized around the world as a reliable, go-to source of information for individuals and organizations



Jennifer Gray Thompson: We’re back for another episode of the How to Disaster Podcast where we help you recover, rebuild and reimagine. 

Today, our guest is Julie Atwood. Julie is the Founder of The HALTER Project, an international program based in Glen Ellen, California, which is also where we are in Sonoma County. We’re happy to bring Julie on the program today to discuss one of the most overlooked parts of disaster preparedness, our pets, family, animals and livestock, all of which the HALTER Project focuses on. Julie is an animal lover like myself and has many pets, including cats and horses. I really love my pets. As you can see right behind me here, there’s Gigi Grace Thompson, she is an English Mastiff. And I also have another rescue dog who’s about 55 pounds. She’s a little bigger than that little thick. And during fire season, not only do I put together go bags for my family, but also for my animals. Julie is going to give us a lot of great advice today on what should be in those go bags and how to prepare for it. Similarly, I have a sister, Michelle, and she has a trail riding company and owns about 13 horses. So it’s really important that she too be prepared for disaster and for evacuation. This is right in Julie’s wheelhouse, and so I’m really excited to talk to her about this. I think that you’ll get a lot out of it, whether you only have a house cat or if you have an entire farm. If you want to know more about Julie and The HALTER Project, please look in the description below or visit 

Welcome, Julie, to the podcast, How to Disaster.

Julie Atwood: Hey, Jennifer, it’s great to be here. I so appreciate the opportunity to share stories and help your community.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: We’re really excited because you have a particular expertise that it’s been lacking in this entire podcast, which is about animals. But the first thing I wanted to do was actually mention that you and I are both Sonoma Valley residents and have lived here for a very long time and know each other outside of this work. But I was hoping that you could actually start us off today by telling us your own fire story from 2017.

Julie Atwood: Thanks for the opportunity. I’m laughing a little bit because even though this October will be the 5th Anniversary of that incident, I cannot believe five years have passed. But I remember for over two years, probably until COVID hit, we were all still meeting and telling our fire stories. And of course, there have been one after another, and it seemed as though for a long time that was our primary topic of conversation and connection was swapping those experiences with our neighbors and with people that we hadn’t seen. 

So I like to introduce myself to people when I am teaching animals disaster preparedness by saying that I not only talk the talk, but I’ve walked the walk, and I’m here to share with everybody. The fact that it is really, really important to be prepared for everything, and I am proof. Because on October 8 of 2017, I spent the afternoon along with probably a couple of thousands of my neighbors at the Glen Ellen village fair. We were all having a great time. It’s an annual event. It’s a very, very small town as you were probably there, but it was hot, and it was really windy. It was windy in an unusual way that had us all on edge. Fortunately, you know that it ended at about 4:00 o’clock. I went home, my husband and I actually had to make a quick trip down to Marion County to run an errand. We got back before dark and the wind had gotten to the point where it was really frightening to me so I made sure that I knew where my animals were. We had at that time nine equines, and eight horses, and a mule on the ranch, several dogs, bunch of cats, barn cats, house cats, a lot of animals, and we also have people living on our ranch that were responsible for who helped, live here and take care of the ranch. And we did a quick circle up. I made sure that all the cats were in and all the horses were down in their lower pens and pastures, which is part of our standard planning for weather events, wind warnings, red flag days, all of the fire related weather warnings and alerts. 

And about, I don’t know, it was a little after 9:00, I heard something really crazy. It turned out to be the wind hitting my house and in a way I’d never experienced it. I opened the back door, and I say this all the time, and unless you’ve been there, done it, you probably can’t believe it. But it was like opening the door of your oven when you have it preheating to 450. I opened that door and it was like opening the door to the oven. This hot blast of air hit me in the face and almost knocked me over. I slammed the door. A few minutes later, a ranch foreman who lives across the street on the west side of Highway 12, between Highway 12 and Dunbar road for people who know this area. So he’s looking out toward the Mayacamas mountains, and I’m living right at the base of the Mayacamas mountains. He says: “Julie, there’s a fire behind you.” I go to the other door, I look out, I see red everywhere and I realize that fire is actually coming at me. The term firebrands, which I was familiar with, but had never personally seen or experienced hit home at that moment because I was seeing, feeling, hearing flying pieces of stuff, branches, leaves, bits of shingles, bits of fences flying through the air at what we later learned was 80 to 92 miles an hour, and they were on fire, and they were coming straight out me. So we very quickly gathered in our driveway, everybody got their marching orders, which we were able to convey over the roaring wind, over the diesel engines of the trucks quickly, and we got all our animals to a safe place. Now, our safe place happened to be not our plan A for fire, not our plan B for fire, but it was our plan C, which was our earthquake plan. What do we do, and where do we go in the event of an earthquake? And that’s what we did. There was no opportunity to evacuate. The fire was in this neighborhood as many people now know. 

Long before, there were any alerts before the fire service even knew. Many of our firefighters lost their homes in that fire while they were out trying to take care of us, so there was no opportunity to safely evacuate, there was nowhere to go. The highway was closed all around us. Fortunately, we had a plan, we had a safe place to go. That, again, would be really safe in an earthquake. But it was also pretty safe in a fire emergency. We got everybody out in seven minutes. It’s the animals, the cats, the dogs, the people we convened, everybody checked in, and then we divided up. And there were only five of us doing this. We divided up into our pre assigned, predetermined tasks, taking care of the animals, getting hoses, checking all of our equipment, making sure that we had enough safety gear on ourselves to stay safe. 


“Having a plan and being prepared to save yourselves and your animals in anything that you can imagine or might be likely to happen to you will save lives.” -Julie Atwood


The Fire Department came through and said: “We can’t save your house.” We said: “We know, we’re okay. Thank you for being here.” We thought that we would never see the Ranch House again, it turns out that it miraculously did survive through a lot of joint effort. But most important thing was all the people were safe, all our animals were safe, and they were safe because we had a plan. Could we have done it better? We now know, yes. And the next time, God help us if it does happen here to us in the same way, we will do it better. But we had a plan, we had a plan B, and we had a plan C. We had supplies, we didn’t have enough of everything. We did have a generator, but the generator ultimately was damaged by falling trees that left us without power, without water in a very vulnerable position. We were able to get that fixed. But if the fire had come back immediately, we would have been in much worse condition, and we wouldn’t have been able to save the structures that we did save. But basically, I’m here to tell everyone that having a plan and being prepared to save yourselves and your animals in anything that you can imagine, or might be likely to happen to you where you are and where your animals are will save lives.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I just want to stay in this personal for just a moment and we’ll move to all of your great advice for the rest of it. But one of the things that I can tell the audience is that as somebody who also lives in Sonoma Valley that the level of damage that was in your area was really striking. It was like a bomb and off. I mean, just a quarter of the housing stock was destroyed in that fire for Glen Ellen, and it was awful on both sides of the road. And from a person just as a personal note, like two weeks later when I went back to work at the county and I finally was in highway 12 was open again after the fire started, maybe three weeks later, I was actually, I was looking over your ranch and when I looked up, I said: “Okay, this is what I want my life to be about from here on out. I want it to be about helping this place rebuild.” So I always associate you with that moment in my life, just so you know.

Julie Atwood: Thank you for that.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: But it’s sort of remarkable that I think one of the things that when I hear your story, I’m sort of sitting back in that moment, I think for people who are not familiar with wildfire, they think of wildfires being somewhat orderly, and then it comes through, and it does one thing, but it really isn’t like that. It’s really like a game of ember casts, which you mentioned in the very beginning, it’s really canned. As soon as the winds shift, then it makes runs at different areas. And in our case, the fire was really perilous for about 10 days. It wasn’t like a three hour event, it was really over a 32nd event. They’re all different. Bad sides to every disaster, but fire is particularly terrifying in this one way. I’m really curious, we run into people all the time who even live in the middle of National Forest and they still don’t think it’s going to happen to them. But somehow, you had an A, B, and C plan. Can you talk to us about that decision, because it’s unusual for anyone to have three plans in place.

Julie Atwood: Well, three is sort of your minimum. I want to back up to something that you said a minute ago about the shocking visuals of the damage. And yes, as I said earlier, my home is about 300 yards from what was ground zero. The Nuns fire wasn’t actually on our property, it was on the property next door, but we actually owned a home at that time. We were now living in our little ranch house built in 1906, which by all odds shouldn’t still be here, but it is. And the home that we lost was directly across Highway 12 from us in a long established residential subdivision with about 132 homes and close to 90 of our neighbors, and we lost their homes in just that one area, just a few blocks. And of course, all around us, up and down the hills just right along Highway 12, there was such devastation. And then that happened again in 2019 during the Kincade fire when the fire came so close to Oakmont.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Glass fire in 2022?

Julie Atwood: Glass fire is in 2021, affecting the area across from Oakmont. In 2019, we had the Kincade fire, which was the largest fire evacuation ever in Sonoma County.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: For our audience who doesn’t know, 180,000 people in less than 24 hours, and it was when we saw a total change of how they do evacuations. Because on social media, we’re just like, go go, go, go go. And it was crazy, but nobody died.


“We live in a very different time when the nature of wildfires is really different.”  -Julie Atwood


Julie Atwood: This is such a big topic, and it’s easy to get off track. I know I’m getting away from your immediate question, but I will get back to that. The point is that, yes, people historically think of fire as something they can plan for, they’ve got time to get away from it. When I was growing up, I grew up in the Central Valley Foothills where fire happens all the time. I grew up in a Smokey, the bear generation, and it was something that happened, but it wasn’t terrifying. And that is because wildfire historically was an orderly nature, and had a plan for it. But we’re not going to get into a discussion of climate change, that’s not what this is about. But things are changing. They’re changing in our lifetime. And so the nature of wildfire now is very, very different than it was when we bought our property at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains in the early 1980’s. So we live in a very different time when the nature of wildfires is really different, and they create much more. Frequently, they create their own weather, they are more wind worn. We people live in those wild areas. So before, for most people, unless they were ranchers, or had a cabin, or they were homesteaders, they lived away from the wildfire. It was something that happened away from them that they could watch or get away from. But now, so many more people live right where the wildfires happen. And so we’re in it, and so we’re experiencing it in a different way.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: They’re mega fires, they’re not like your wildfires. There’s so much more fuel, it’s so dry. So there’s a whole land management issue.


“You have to have more than one of everything— You have to have more than one plan, you have to have more than one place to go, and you have to have more than one way to get there.” -Julie Atwood


Julie Atwood: It’s a domino effect of many, many, many factors. And for instance, you were talking about the ranchers in the Sierra’s. I spent six weeks just this last year 2022 deployed to the Dixie fire. So I lived in Plumas County for six weeks in 2018. I was up in Butte County working on the Campfires. I know you were there a great deal of the time, and I was there for seven weeks. And so these are very different fires. But the common denominator along with our fires is that they were much more powerful fires because they had a lot more fuel. They had a lot of fuel because there were more buildings to burn, more human habitation, more dead and dying trees from bark beetles, more dry vegetation because we’ve been getting further and further into a drought. And so all these factors combined, and that is exactly why we need to have multiple plans. So see? I’ve been getting back to your question. 

One of my mantras, sometimes people get annoyed with me because I tend to repeat it in presentations, you have to have more than one of everything, you have to have more than one plan, you have to have more than one place to go, and you have to have more than one way to get there. I always say that it’s like potato chips, you can’t have just one. And so, yes, were we less usual, less typical than a lot of our neighbors at that time? Yes. And now, it is because I got into this back in 2013, and I was aware of the growing need for emergency and disaster preparedness focused on caring for our animals, and what to do for our animals, and how to keep our animals safe. Me for 2013. But it took me that long to actually kick myself in the rear and do something about it. So why did we have more than one plan? Well, I don’t think I’m a lightning rod for disasters. However, I grew up in the cold war era. 

So I grew up with air raid drills in my elementary school, we had to go down into bomb shelters. I hadn’t thought of that in years, in years, in years until recently, sadly because of events that are taking place now. But we did have fires. Yeah, we all had fire drills in school. So I kind of grew up in a drill culture. It wasn’t completely foreign to me. But then in 1989, I was less than two miles from the epicenter of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. I lived in Sonoma, but I was actually working in San Francisco, and I was at a friend’s house in San Francisco when that happened. And a lot of friends. I had a friend who was in the top deck of Candlestick Park on the day today’s world series in Oakland in San Francisco. So I knew all these people.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: October 17, 1989, 5:04 PM, and I was in downtown San Francisco in my car. I had a sunroof, and I just remember like going, oh, no. And I was closing my sunroof. So that was going to protect me from all that.

Julie Atwood: I want to know, what were you seeing? What was the visual for you? What did you see–

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I’m on the street facing downtown. I was right next, I think Spargo, and in Union Square was like a half a block up on my right hand side. I was watching the buildings sway, because the really tall buildings sway like most do. But then on both sides of the street, there was glass falling because the building, the glass couldn’t do. And then when I finally was able to round the corner, Macy’s had all of their glasses broken, and there was a lot of people who were bloody, and then there were people who were homeless who were directing all the traffic. It was like a whole epic day. Later, somebody tried to steal my car. It was a whole thing, but I was traumatized for about a year after that.

Julie Atwood: So I was in the design industry at that time, and I would have been in the Galleria, that glass building. But I didn’t feel well and so I left early. And instead of driving to Sonoma County, my husband’s office, which was in Colma, down near South San Francisco, but my assistant, Heather, was working in my office which was actually in Marin County, and she was on her way home to Berkeley, she was on the Cypress structure. And of course back then, few of us had cell phones. I did, they weren’t working anyway. And her mother was absolutely terrified. Heather was fine. Turned out she was fine. But one of the really terrifying things about that incident, when we think about what it was like then and where we’re at now is just communications are so much better now. 

So I experienced under Loma Prieta, then in the end there were fires in the meantime that were a little bit further away. I got out of design and got into event planning, and I don’t remember exactly what year it was. I guess it was around 2008 or 2010, there was a big fire at the geysers, and it was very far away from us. It wasn’t a big wind event, but there was smoke and ash everywhere. I had a huge group of people from New York, and they were just all over me. But why can’t I do something about these big chunks of ash falling down from the sky at their party? So that’d be me a little more aware of, well, how would I plan for this as an event planner? And then I became, as you know, because that’s actually how we met. I became a fairly prominent event planner and charity benefit organizer in the Northbay in lots and lots of events. And I became increasingly aware of the need for planning. And what do you do when you have 300, or 500 or 1000 people? That was before the huge events in San Francisco like salesforce and things like that. But it’s big enough to cause me anxiety. 

And then in 2014, I had a really large group of people here in town for a week of events. And on August 24, 2014, we had the Napa Valley earthquake, which was relatively small. I think it was 5.6, but that had a huge impact. So that was another wake up call. So that’s the answer to your question, why do I have multiple plans? Because been there, done that, see the need, and the helpfulness, and the potential life saving capability of having more than one plan. Have as many as you can, stop and think about everything that can possibly happen. Yeah, it’s going to cause you some anxiety right now. But I can tell you personally, it will help you if and when something happens.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: So one of the things in my family is our planning, because one of the things about Sonoma County that the listeners may not be aware of, sure we had this devastation in 2017. We’ve had three megafires since then that we’re really just, so we expect it to happen, we know it’s going to happen. And also many of us have experienced compound disasters, you had COVID with mega fires, and then of course, earthquakes. So all of those things. I think about it in terms of, what do I need to take care of myself and my family for a minimum of three days. And so I’m wondering, I love some of the stuff that you put in your materials about thinking about your animals. If you have equines then your water needs are going to be one thing, but if you have dogs and cats, it’s going to be another thing. I have an English Mastiff, she’s a very large dog so I need to make sure that I am totally prepared to take care of her for three days. I evacuated with both my dogs and 2017. I just slept in my car with them because they loved it. They thought it was the most amazing time ever in their lives.

Julie Atwood: At least you are warm, right?

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Oh, my god, seriously? I have a video that I took that night when I did serious point, and my Mastiff is snoring and she’s spooning with me, and she is so happy. She was like, I can do this fire thing all the time, Mom. It’s all good. But I thought, oh, I could never have a vehicle again that I’m unable to sleep in. Every car I have has to be big enough to sleep in. Or communications plans that I have. We have a family radio network that everybody has their own two way radios that go 30 miles. It’s not going to always work, but let’s talk about smaller animals first, and then let’s move up to livestock. What’s your advice? Talk to us about a dog and a cat. I say let’s start with a cat because you have taught me a lot over the years. I’m a cat person.

Julie Atwood: I’ve always had dogs than a cat person.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I recognize that especially when our fire season really starts kicking up though. I think the things about having a pillow case, like there is some really practical advice that you share with people around cats. Let’s start with cats.

Julie Atwood: I want to back up for a second because I want to address something that you said in the very beginning, and I’m gonna stop you at three days because three days is so last decade.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Okay. I think it is a minimum of three days.

Julie Atwood: I’m gonna start with what do you need, and how much do you need? We have a ton of material that people can look at, access, download, print, put on their phones, whatever to help them plan, identify their needs. So first, going and staying. So what do you need to evacuate? How much do you need? What are you going to need for your stay crates or your shelter in place emergency supplies? So how much you need first is going to depend upon what you have, who you have to take care of. And we always start with two people. 


“The kind of pet that you have is going to impact how you plan.” -Julie Atwood


And yeah, in the old days, it was always enough for three days. So now for people, the general thinking is have enough for three to five days, or a week with animals. I tell people that if you’re evacuating, your basic needs for your small animals and who’s going to lunch, everything that is as a pet, a dog, a cat, a bird, your rattles, your bunnies. In general, if you are evacuating with your pets, your house pets, you should plan to have at least enough of all your basics for seven days. You need to have more things like special diets, medications, parasite control. I do say emphatically that for all of your special needs, things that you might not be able to get right away, you should have at least a month’s worth, or as much as you can safely and conveniently take with you or have it stored at another location. Keep all of your big pet, your 50 pound sack of special diet, your extra month’s supply of parasite control or medication at a friend’s house, the place that you have arranged to be a possible evacuation place or maybe a place that you stop on your way to somewhere else. 

So you talked about your really big dogs. So obviously, the kind of pet that you have is going to impact how you plan. If you have little babies and you’ve got teenagers, you’re going to plan for them a little bit differently. So it’s no different. And a lot of the things that we need for ourselves are the very same things that we need for our animals, but we need them in different quantities, we need them in different ways. The single most important supply to have with you at all times for everybody, the people and the animals is going to be water. It sounds obvious. But if you stop and look at information that tells you exactly what the water needs are for different species, many people are shocked. For instance, you have a mastiff. Your dog, do you know how much water your dogs need per day to stay healthy and happy in normal circumstances?

Jennifer Gray Thompson: No.

Julie Atwood: I can fix that for you.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Okay, you’re gonna fix that. I’m actually happy. I just put a lot of water in my car.

Julie Atwood: As much as you can carry, exactly, as much as you can take for all of you. Can I talk for a minute about our HALTER Project website?

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah. I want you to because this is all about you, Julie. I want you to, so do it.

Julie Atwood: Well, it’s not about me, everybody in the family thing. So when we started HALTER Project, it was a knee jerk reaction to the fact that it was just so hard to get exactly the kind of information that we’re talking about right now. And I wanted to find the best, most reliable factual information from the leading experts. I wanted to make it available to my community and to the whole world, which we’ve now done after nine years. Our website is widely considered to be among the leaders worldwide in providing information that’s relevant to animal owners, people who take care of animals, people who care about animals but may not have them. So information about everything we’re talking about, how much do you need food, water, medication, hygiene and sanitation. You go out without toilet paper, you’re sort of bummed out, no pun intended, after a few hours or a day. If you don’t have enough poop bags and a way to to manage them for your dogs, if you don’t have cat litter and a way to dispose of that, if you don’t have bedding, if you don’t have the right food for your animal, or your kids, or your grandmother, all of these things are going to ultimately have a much greater impact on the health of the people and the animals that we’re most concerned about and our well being. 

So you can find this information on our website. Once we get off, I’m going to email you some links. We have charts that you can print out that tell you exactly how much water you might need. So they’re all recommendations. You need to take care of your own animals’ health, weight, activity level. The climate, what is the weather doing, but it will tell you exactly how much you need. And most people are shocked when they learn how much water they really need to take care of everybody. And of course, with people, it’s not just drinking water, but sanitation becomes important. And if we’re taking care of animals, hygiene and sanitation are important. Not just for them, but also to keep ourselves healthy. So how much do you need? It’s going to depend upon what type of incident you’re planning for. What’s the weather doing? Today in our area, it’s beautiful. It’s really cool, it’s cloudy, none of us need it. There’s humidity in the air, it’s moist, it could rain. You don’t need quite as much water or nearly as much water as we would as if the weather was in the 80’s or 90’s. And then, of course, as we get further into summer, our relative humidity is going to drop. Or if we live in the mountains, we live in a dry climate, if we’re going on vacation with our pets and we’re going from, you and I live in a coastal Valley, it’s got more moisture. If we’re headed up into the Sierra’s, we’re going from a coastal climate or a semi coastal climate up into very dry climate, and altitude really has an effect as an impact on our animals just like it does us.

 So you need to think about all of those things. And so having a plan not just for evacuation, which of course is a good place to start, but having a plan for vacation, where am I going on my vacation? Do I know the evacuation zone for where I’m going to be? Or if I’m boarding my animal somewhere, do I know everything I need to know about that location? Do the people taking care of my animals know everything they need to know about them?

Jennifer Gray Thompson: All of this, really, if I can just interrupt you for one second, I think it’s also really important to know where you live and where you’re going to be, where are you able to actually evacuate with animals. Because when we evacuated in 2017 for 10 days, this serious raceway was the best option because we had like 14 chickens, three ducks and a pig. You know what I mean?

Julie Atwood: Absolutely.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: You have to think about that.

Julie Atwood: Part of your planning is gonna circle back, and this is why I start repeating myself because you have to, it’s a lot of information, and I didn’t learn all this in one chunk by any means. So having more than one plan means having a plan for what you need to take, how you’re going to get there, where you’re going to go, who might help you or your animals, and a plan B, and A, plan C. What if that evacuation destination that you were planning on is full? Or what if suddenly, and this has happened a lot in the last few years. You have a really great friend or relative who lives out of state, a fire area or in a place not likely to get affected by an earthquake and they say, yes, bring it on. You’re welcome here anytime. Oops, except now, we’re in a pandemic, and you might not be able to go with your animals to that person’s home because you might be medically compromising one another. And so that was another really big layer that we had to add into our planning the last two years. Evacuating with your animals during a pandemic. And it is still a big part of the picture because it could come back. 

So yes, have more than one, everything for many, many reasons. Where you go in a fire might not be the same place you want to go or could go if we have an earthquake or if we’re flooding. We do live in an area that historically gets flooded. Our water goes up quickly, it usually comes down quickly. It’s not like we live on the Mississippi River here, but many of our listeners do live in areas where flooding is their reality, and they may not be able to evacuate to the same place every time. The floodwaters may impact different roads, different communities in completely different ways. The same applies for people who live in areas prone to severe winter storms. So the importance of knowing where you’re going to go, and how you’re going to get there, what the various routes might be, and knowing how to get that information, which is another part of the picture.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: So Julie, I’m gonna pause for just a minute and we’re gonna do a quick commercial break. And then when I come back, I would love for you to talk to us about livestock and equine, because my sister is, you probably know own Sonoma Valley Trail route, she’s got 12 or 13 horses. This is definitely something that–

Julie Atwood: I did not know she was your sister.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: That’s my sister. Yeah. Isn’t that cute?

Julie Atwood: Michelle is your sister? I did not know that.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah, she’s my sister.

Julie Atwood: I’ve been trying to connect with her for a very long time.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Okay, well, I can probably help you out there. So first, we take a quick commercial break, and listeners, remind you that we are speaking with Julie Atwood. She is the Founder and Executive Director of HALTER Project, and we will be right back.

And once again we are back, we’re here talking with Julie Atwood. I’m really excited because we are talking about how to safely go and stay with your animals evacuate and then have to be away from your home, perhaps for several days, and how to do that safely. And Julie is an expert in everything from your house cat, dogs, all the way up to equine, horses, livestock, such things like that. So Julie, can you take us through, you do a lot of work with training firefighters, training a lot of different people on how to safely evacuate livestock and horses. I’m not sure that most people realize that that’s actually, a lot of times, the livestock has to be left behind when people evacuate. We have a high mortality rate which has happened in the past several years with livestock, but there are things that people can do, including like you are always, I love that you talk about this all the time, have many plans, A, B, C. Talk to us about best practices, then when you have horses or livestock, llamas, goats, whatever.


“Become your own subject matter expert on the species that you have.” -Julie Atwood


Julie Atwood: So a couple of things. I just want to say, because a lot of people may be interested in listening to this, even me. So I am not an expert in everything, but I do know a lot about a lot of animals. I’m something of an expert like we all should be in the animals that I have become your own subject matter expert on the species that you have. I do help facilitate training for firefighters to do different things. There are a number of programs around the state evolving as we speak to help. I’m going to start with the production livestock people because you sort of emphasize that, back into equines and large companion animals. But yes, we live in California and many of our listeners live in equally or even more agricultural areas across the country that are frequently impacted by weather events. It could be a fire, it could be a tornado, it could be a hurricane, it could be a blizzard, it could be all of those in the same year. And so yes, often, our large animals need to shelter in a place that is going to be sometimes the only option. In many cases, it’s the best option for a variety of reasons. And I do want to say that one of the things that we stress as part of us have more than one plan for everything is that plans for sheltering your pets as well as all other animals in place is just as important as having an evacuation plan. Because there may be times for instance after an earthquake when evacuation is not an option. But right now, we’re going to talk about the large animals. 

So starting with livestock and then backing up in many areas in California. There are local, sometimes county specific programs, sometimes statewide programs that help ranchers gain access to their properties to take care of their livestock. Sometimes, it’s to evacuate out key production animals like mamas and babies. But most of the time, it’s to get in, check and see if they’re safe, take care of the animals that are injured, get in there with a vet or other resources, check on fencing, and most importantly, get water and feed into them. So there are training programs and Ag Pass programs across many parts of the West, and other parts of the US, and other countries like Australia and Canada were ranchers and their resources. So they’re people who bring them hay, they’re people who might bring them water in trucks, they’re people who can come in and fix their generators or keep their dairy equipment running can get in to help them if they are participants in Ag Pass programs. 

So right now in our area, those programs are not standardized. Many counties have a slightly different program, but they all have one thing in common, and that safety training for the ranchers, their workers, their family and their resources so that they have a credential that’s registered with the jurisdiction that their animals are in, that’s identifiable to emergency services such as the Sheriff, Highway Patrol, the fire agency, which could be National Forest Service, it could be CalFire, it could be a local fire agency that identifies them as people who have safety training and they’re not going to jeopardize the safety of themselves, their workers are first responders. So that’s really important, and it’s a really great, beautiful thing that so many people are coming together and working on those programs. I know that one of the areas that you’re alluding to where there was really high mortality, because I know you were up there a lot was, Sierra and Plumas Counties in 2021 during and after the North complex bear fires was very, very, very difficult.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Very sad.

Julie Atwood: And a lot of lessons learned. But again, that goes back to one of the things that we were talking about earlier that that fire moves so incredibly quickly, and the ranchers in that area are legacy ranchers. They’ve been ranching on those allotments for decades, most of the 20th century. They know their way around backwards and forwards, their animals know that territory, but the fire moved so fast that nobody was able to do anything safely. And I just can’t express my admiration enough for those ranchers who just kept going back for days and weeks searching for every single animal to make sure that the animals, if they were deceased, could verify if they were alive. And many of them found little pockets at the bottom of a stream, or they found a patch of green grass. So there were some happy stories, but many lessons learned. And so if you have commercial production livestock, you definitely need to get in touch with your County Ag Commissioner. And sometimes, your Farm Bureau and find out what is the program in your area. Moving away from production livestock and talking about the backyard farm animals, our equines, our horses, and our mules, and our mini donkeys and all the other critters that so many people have in our areas. So they are different. We pretty much treat them as pets, but they may not respond. I like to say that a lot of our backyard livestock or backyard farm animals, pretty much in the same category as cats are not going to do what we want them to do when we want them to do it.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: But a pillow case won’t work on a horse.

Julie Atwood: So clearly you have watched my punches pillow case. He was my cat and he rode out the 2017 fires with us. He was one of the cats. He was the least happy because he got, unfortunately, everybody had just gone to the vet that week and I had not put all the carriers back in the right places. And he was really big, he was about 18 pounds. But somehow, his carrier ended up in the barn with the little 10 pound cat and the little six pound cat, and the only carrier I had immediately at hand at that moment was one of the little ones so he got stuffed in it and he was not happy. And then when I realized that I needed to not only have the cats in the safe place, that was my original plan, but I wanted to get them all out into the arena with all the other animals to keep an eye on everybody together. He was really not happy because they set all the carriers next to each other. So it means that the barn cats who didn’t really know that house cats were all in a row and they were basically because people have cats know what I’m talking about. Eventually, I was able to go separate to put towels and blankets over them. Things calmed down. The horses were all fine. They had their food. They watched things from a distance. 


“We have to train ourselves constantly to be situationally aware.” -Julie Atwood


So cats, equines, chickens, you mentioned pigs, all those animals, they’re animals, and most of them are prey animals. Some of them like our cats and dogs can also be predators, that in many circumstances, they’re not the apex predator, which means they become the prey, which means that they are going to respond and react accordingly. They are way more situationally aware than we humans will ever be. We have to train ourselves constantly to be situationally aware. It’s a favorite term in the fire service and emergency services. It means, have your head on a swivel, look up, look down, look all around, you know everything that’s going on around you. Well, animals are the experts. They are the subject matter experts in situational awareness. They have evolved that way. Their senses are way more acute than ours are. 

Their bodies are designed to, horses for instance have really long necks. Their eyes are set on the sides of their heads, and their heads and necks are designed to be very mobile, very pliable, and so they see in ways that we don’t. They’re designed to be able to see what’s coming from the sides, as well as what’s coming in front of them, and they can’t see behind them. They have blind spots. They have a very narrow blind spot directly in front of them. But the rest of their bodies, their anatomy is designed so that they can whip around. A horse can turn 180 degrees in a split second. It can whip its head around and see what’s going on behind it. Cats have whiskers and extremely acute vision that can adapt very well to dark conditions. Our dogs have an extremely acute sense of smell. So everybody has a specialty. But they know when something’s up way before we do. We know that because they always know hours before that it’s that day. They always know. We might forget if we don’t have an (inaudible), but what they should know. So when something’s up, when something’s happening, it is going to take longer, be more challenging to evacuate our animals, get them unloaded, get them into the car, the carrier. And sometimes, we just run out of time, we can’t do it. And so it’s really important to have a plan when that happens. Or when we just can’t move, it could be a winter Blizzard and we’re going to be snowed for three or four days, something that’s not quite as scary, but it’s still going to make life challenging and difficult. And our goal is always to keep everybody healthy starting with ourselves. So when you can’t evacuate your animals, you’re talking about sheltering them in place. 

And so when we’re talking about shelter in place, that’s the same as having our emergency supplies for ourselves. Our emergency services, Red Cross, they’re always reminding us to have a stay box or a state crate with our emergency supplies. So our emergency supplies, the stuff we need to stay home or stay in place safely with animals as with people, I am telling everybody now what I know from personal experience is to have as much as you can store and make sure that it is at least four to six weeks worth. You talked about 2017. So 2017, where I live, we were without power. We were without PG&E power, without public utility power for 22 days. We were under a mandatory evacuation order for 21 days. Now we were able to move around because we had access as disaster service workers to get in and out of our area. But how do we not we’re in the same fix as everybody else. I was really prepared for my animals. But you know what I wasn’t very prepared for in that instance? I really didn’t have a lot of emergency food. And I will tell you that I can now identify which horse cookies taste better than human trail bars. I know that from personal experience. And when a firefighter brought us some tomatoes from somebody’s garden that they had passed through, and a loaf of bread he got at the storage stopped at, that tomato sandwich was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t have a bath for eight days. I didn’t have a good meal for eight days. And now, I am much better prepared.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I know that it surprised many of us to have lost WiFi and they have since fortified them more, but often, cell towers burned all the time in these mega fires. And so people have to think about that too. And really think about like, how do you stay in touch in a duplicate way? If you needed something for your animals, and if you had somebody in a network that you could ask for, I don’t know. I just want to throw that out there.

Julie Atwood: It is a perfect segue. Again, what’s the key is to have more than one of everything. Have a backup. Sure, we’re all connected to our phones. But I think most of us everywhere know that in any type of emergency, usually a weather emergency, our phone is not the most reliable source of communication. And yeah, in 2017, I think it was 42 or 44 cell towers went down. Now, that situation is better. It doesn’t take much to knock us out in our area. Long before those fires, again, we live in an area where every single winter, we would be without power for 2, 3, 4 or 5 days. Back in the day before, we had cell phones, we wouldn’t have phone service. I mean, we have so much more now than we did, say 10, 15, 20, 30 years ago. But the flip side of that is that we are much more dependent, and that is a really scary thing. So you’re talking about, how do we get information? So have more than one way. Definitely keep all of your emergency contacts on your phone, but also keep them in a notebook. Go old school, get one of those cute little address books that we all grew up with. Keep it in your backpack, keep it in your purse, put everything on a memory stick even though they’re kind of going out of style. You never know.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: The point is an app and a cloud so you can access it. Your dogs, they should have their rabies on their collar, make sure they’re microchipped. But also in case for some reason you don’t have the rabies on their collar, if you go someplace, they may want proof that they are fully vaccinated too.

Julie Atwood: That’s something that I usually get to. Since you mentioned that, I’ll jump in to the absolute importance of making sure that, especially in your go kits, your evacuation supplies, you include all of the same information for your animals and about your animals that you have for yourself. So starting with health records, vaccination records, microchipping is so important and microchip registration. If you got your animal from a rescue, you adopted someone else’s animal, make sure that you’ve updated that microchip registration. And where do you keep all that stuff? Keep it in the cloud, keep it in a binder, or grab a goal folder. I just taught 140 students at Windsor High School who are in a public safety and health program about the importance of animal emergency kits and stay crates. And we did a whole demo on all different ways to keep your family documents and your animal documents. I always include the animal documents as part of the family documents. But again, you can’t just rely on it. What if you have it in the cloud, but now you have no access? What if you have it on your phone, but your phone’s not working for whatever reason? What if you had it only in a little address book, but oops, it’s in the purse or the backpack that you didn’t get? You need failsafe for everything.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think it also cuts down on the level of anxiety that you have–

Julie Atwood: It does for me. My husband makes fun of me because I have so, and sometimes, I’ve sold things in so many places. Sometimes, I do forget. But in case I forget where I put one thing, I know I can find it somewhere else. Here is a story, again, from 2017 and 2018. From a really, really good friend of mine. Some of you probably know, but we won’t mention names. So she’s a person who is fortunate to have houses in a couple of different states, and she, her dog is probably equally important to her husband, which is saying a lot, and her grandkids. And because I’m her friend, I beat her up and made sure that she had a plan for her dog. Both of the places she lives are places that burn frequently and historically. And she also has a really cute dog and they taught her to be really photogenic, and I really wanted to build some great ready resources for him. 


“We are very fortunate to have technology working for us, but we cannot depend on that. And we can’t let ourselves get complacent by having just one way to get information.” -Julie Atwood


When 2017 happened, she was actually not here in Sonoma County. She was in a place in another state that was also having really major major fires, and she did have to evacuate. Afterward, when we’re all swapping our fire stories. She said, I had everything for my dog. He was so well equipped, but I ran out without my reading glasses, my underwear, and I didn’t have any socks. So now, I got an extra pair of glasses, underwear and socks with my dog’s ready kit. And you know what? A lot of my important stuff is with my animal ready kits because I know that they’re there, I know where to find them. And if I’m taking care of my animals and I need eye drops, or I need to change my contacts, or I need sunglasses, I don’t want to have to stop and go someplace else to get those things. I have my own little kit right there. I also have a little bit of cash in small denominations. Cash machines that work. 

You might be fine, you might be evacuating. But what if you have to stop and get something at the drugstore, stop at the market to get food, stop and get gas. So we are very fortunate to have technology working for us, but we cannot depend on that. And we can’t let ourselves get complacent by having just one place, one way to get information. While we’re talking about it, let’s talk about emergency alerts. Because if you have animals, you need to know what’s happening out there in the world beyond what I can see, or feel, or sense. And I need to be thinking about evacuating. Is it time for me to put my shelter plans into place? And we got away from that, we didn’t ever get to horses, and we will. But how do you get that information? So you should be signed up, first and foremost, for your county emergency alerts wherever you live. It’s not a one size fits all system. Every place has a different way of doing it. What’s important is that you know where to go and who to get that information from in your county. 

Most counties, in our country, and Australia, New Zealand and Canada, most places have what’s called a ready website. Might be countywide, might be statewide, or it might be your county’s emergency services. Everybody has one. And just about every place around, I think where this audience is listening will have a local agency website. It might still be even in old school phone books, it might be printed on your newspapers website, know where to go to get the information, and know how to sign up for local emergency alerts. If you don’t know, walk into your local police station, or sheriff’s substation. Often, the local fire department might know. Call up the Red Cross. Many of our faith based organizations, so our church groups, are masters at emergency and disaster preparedness. I don’t care who you go to, just go somewhere. If you don’t know how to get emergency alerts where you live, where you work, where your kids go to school, where you board your horses, where you might be taking a vacation with your pets, or going horse camping, know how to get those emergency alerts.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think it’s so important though, because I was just talking to a woman yesterday, we’re working in the Marshall fire in Colorado, and their alert system was not activated in the way that in the most optimal ways, the best way that I can–

Julie Atwood: Which has happened to us.


“It’s okay to leave when you think you might leave. You should leave even if you haven’t gotten an alert.” -Jennifer Thompson


Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah, which happens just about everywhere, we see it over and over again. Now we’re much better, but we’re like four magnifiers in, so this is why we’re much better. But it’s okay to leave when you think you might leave. You should leave even if you haven’t gotten an alert.


“Knowing when to go and knowing when to plan to go, and preparing your animals is the key— That goes back to situational awareness.” -Julie Atwood


Julie Atwood: Knowing when to go, and knowing when to plan to go, and preparing your animals is the key. So again, that goes back to situational awareness. Okay, so the Emergency Alert System failed or was sub optimal, it happens because they’re run by people. And it happens all the time. But don’t wait for somebody to tell you what to do. Know the warning signs. If you smell smoke, if you see smoke, you should be paying attention. If you can see smoke and you have animals or you have grandparents, you should be making tracks now. If you see that something is happening in the distance but close enough that you can see it and your plan is to leave your animals in place, now is the time. Go through that checklist and do all the things that you have decided or planned for ahead of time that will help your animals stay as safe as possible while the incident runs through. So don’t wait for someone to tell you when to go. If you wait for an evacuation order that’s mandatory, and that can mean different things in different areas. But whatever the order is, where you live and where you’re listening, if they are saying you have to go now, that is very often gonna be too late for you to get your big animals out, or even your cats, or your chickens, or your pigs safely.


“Don’t wait for somebody to tell you what to do. Know the warning signs.” -Julie Atwood


Jennifer Gray Thompson: And don’t talk yourself out of it by saying, oh, I’m being a spaz. Don’t do that. Just do whatever you need to do. One of the things that, because we only have a few minutes left that I really did want to come back to is, I think it’s been very alarming for us because I actually, this is not even a leading question because I’m genuinely curious about the answer. When we see these videos of people with horses trying to, and they need to get them out of the barn, and then the decision is, do you just let them run if you can’t move them because you see them freaking out in this enclosed space.


“Don’t talk yourself out of it. Just do whatever you need to do.” -Jennifer Thompson


Julie Atwood: It’s a really big topic. I happen to be very close friends with two of the subject matter experts in the world. A fire training instructor and expert in animal technical rescue. Here’s the short answer. 

Number one, never leave animals of any type locked inside anything whether it’s a barn, a shed, a chicken coop, never leave them locked inside a structure that can burn. Number two, when you turn your animals out, especially horses, make sure you close the doors, close the gates behind you because the animals still consider that structure to be their safe place. They don’t understand that it may be the most dangerous place, so close those gates, close those doors. Do you let your animals out? Do you cut defenses as a last ditch effort? Ideally, in our area, and again, the thinking is different in different parts of the country, in different parts of the world. You need to use your common sense. Ideally, you’re going to discuss this in advance with your local fire service and emergency services. If that pasture, if that fence, that corral is near a really busy road, that’s likely to be a road highly utilized by emergency services. No, it’s much more dangerous for the animals as well as the first responders to have less livestock. If the fence is going to burn, then you need to let emergency services, you need to let animal services, or in the case of commercial livestock, the county agency that is dealing with commercial livestock know that livestock in this location is very possible. That defense down there could be loose livestock. Having that awareness is going to help save the animals lives and it’s going to save responder lives. What to do with those animals? If you turn them loose, try to have created a place that’s defensible. If it’s fire, where the fire can pass through quickly. Grassfire generally isn’t gonna hurt, take off their masks, they’re halters, their leg wraps, their blankets, do not leave anything on them. If they are not microchipped, take a few minutes to put some type of visible ID on them that won’t burn. Usually, it’s going to be strict spray paint, or a livestock crayon. 

As soon as you yourself get to a safe place, get on the phone and get in touch with the animal hotline to alert emergency services that there are animals in the area. How do you get that hotline number? You check with your local county animal welfare agency, your Ag Commissioner, sometimes your Department of Agriculture, Department of Emergency Services. Again, it’s going to be different in different locations. Here where we live in most of California, for pets and companion animals, that hotline is going to be under the authority of our local animal control or animal welfare, and often our community Animal Response Team. And if you have commercial animals, it’s going to be the Department of Agriculture Commissioner. So how to make that decision depends entirely upon where those animals are. Where are the hazards? How close are they going to be to hazards? We have a lot of information about that. I’ve been having a video about it, we have some great graphics that we can share. And again, we have this gigantic resource library called halterproject.or where everyone listening can find information about everything we’re talking about plus a whole lot more to help keep animals safe.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I love that we’re gonna actually link that so we’re going to make it so easy that people aren’t even going to have to google, we’re just going to send them right to your resource library. I was thinking, my second cousin, Gary and his wife Jean, they lost their home in the Woolsey fire and they actually lost like three mastiffs. And one of the hardest things for them, especially for Jean to get over is the loss of those animals and the suffering that occurred because of the fire. They’ve been through a lot of fires in Malibu Canyon, but they just move fast. They’re not your normal wildfires of yesteryear. It’s a totally different animal, so you have to be prepared for that. I really want to thank you, Julie, you are a wealth of knowledge and passion, and it’s really great to turn around and see somebody from here who’s been so personally affected, but also who takes this to it’s, you’re very passionate about this, and you’re very driven. I don’t often see people still in this space years later. You were in it before too, but it can be a very grueling profession if you are to be in disaster.

Julie Atwood: My new 24/7 job.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Oh, yeah. I hope that I would love to have you on as a refresher again at another point, especially as we are gearing up for the fire season which is getting longer and longer. I really appreciate the time, talent that you bring to it, and the dedication, and the personal experience. It really does matter when you’ve had the experience of actually being sort of terrorized by a disaster because you’re never quite the same for better and for worse, and I appreciate that

Julie Atwood: We know that. Coming from you, a person from my own community, it has also taken what has been dumped in our (inaudible) and run with it and turned it into so much positivity, and paying it forward and helping other areas, I really appreciate the opportunity to share with your audience and reach as many people as possible. So thanks for having me, and let’s do it. And by the way, April is earthquake preparedness month in our area.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I remember right after our fires, you guys in 17, and someone’s like, well, any minute, we could have a giant earthquake. And I just turned to my husband and I’m like, if that happens, I’m just gonna get into my car and start driving away because I can do it. But I can’t do like mass devastation after–

Julie Atwood: You know what? We’ll talk offline. You can’t, because we live in an area where every couple hundred yards, there’s bridges, the roads will be closed everywhere.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah, 70 bridges and 17 private bridges in the 2017 fires so we have been in the Creek system. So anyway, what I would like to also do is say that it’s on our social pinpoint map where we put resources across all the states to make sure that HALTER is on each of those. So yeah, if they’re looking in their own state, or because I love that sort of universality of subject matter information and so I want to make sure that we work on that. We’ll make sure that that gets up in the next couple of weeks, and we would like to continue to use you as a resource and to amplify the great work that you do, and the really important cause of animals. I can just end with this little story that I loved so much that was so moving, and it’s from Glen Ellen is the dog Odin. Do you know that story?

Julie Atwood: I absolutely know Odin.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Tell that story to our audience, then I will do a follow up to that and then we will be done. Go ahead.

Julie Atwood: Well, so the Odin story, and I have a similar story from the Campfire. But Odin basically was a livestock guardian dog who would not leave his herd. And because I have my own experiences with a similar livestock guardian dog, sometimes they mix their stories. But there are animals who cannot be evacuated for many reasons, and the importance of being able to identify those animals after a long period of time through microchipping and other sources of identification can’t be emphasized enough. The Odin story ended up being a happy story. I think everybody was reunited. Odin was reunited with some of his herd and they were all reunited with their people, right?


“For every animal we rescue during an incident, we are all together going to save hundreds and thousands through education and preparedness.” -Julie Atwood


Jennifer Gray Thompson: In Glen Ellen, in these cities, people have Odin, their livestock guardian dog. I think he was great (inaudible).  So I think he had goats, they were leaving, they tried to evacuate and they just couldn’t get all the goats and Odin would not leave. Our fires happened at night very quickly, and so they left and they were sure that Odin was going to die. They came back a week later, and there was Odin with his flock and had a font that had also, yeah, I forgot about, yeah, I love that part. So it was just one of those things that was just so moving, the importance of animals. And so I have two dogs, and for the next year, I would be like, oh, my God, who’s the best dog? And they would look, they get all excited. Look, you’re like, well, it’s Odin, but you’re the second best dogs for the next year.

Julie Atwood: Some other time, I’ll share with you my story about Opal up in the Camp fire. There are hundreds and thousands of stories, and I would like to leave everybody with this. For every animal we rescue during an incident, we are all together going to save hundreds and thousands through education and preparedness. And that is the truth. That’s what I’d like to leave you with.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: We can go ahead and end there. And please do visit Julie’s organization. We’re going to put all the links in free resources, vetted resources. Getting good information is so important for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. So once again, thank you so much, Julie, for being on How to Disaster.

Julie Atwood: Thank you guys. That was fun.

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