Experience has shown that sometimes people will risk their own safety to care for a beloved pet even during a life-threatening emergency.
"People will not evacuate unless they have a safe place for their pets. We learned that from Hurricane Katrina," said Tony Guerra, disaster program manager for the American Red Cross in Duluth.
Nodding in agreement, Dewey Johnson, St. Louis County's emergency management coordinator, said: "Pets are part of your family."
Given the attachment many people feel to their pets, perhaps it's no surprise there has been a growing awareness that successful emergency response efforts must account for animals, as well as humans.
Toward that end, the Arrowhead Region Emergency Management Association - an organization that serves 11 counties - recently purchased a trailer set up with all the gear it would need to set up an emergency pet shelter.
The unit is stocked with 48 pet crates of various sizes, generators, fans, lighting, animal care supplies, collars, leashes, bowls, cameras, a microchip scanner to make sure animals are reunited with their rightful owners, and even a large tent canopy that allows for the creation of an outdoor temporary shelter.
"It has everything except food and water, which we get at the time," Johnson said.
Animals generally aren't allowed inside emergency shelters for humans, but Johnson said the trailer could allow for a temporary animal shelter to be set up nearby, providing people with access to their pets at a stressful time.
The trailer and gear cost about $22,000, and was purchased with the help of a $10,000 national grant from AKC Reunite. Each of AREMA's 11 county members chipped in another $1,000, and the final $1,000 was donated by the Duluth AKC.
Alex Alexsevich, medical manager for Animal Allies, met with Johnson on Thursday to talk about how the temporary shelter might be staffed.
"I think it's pretty awesome," she said. "At the shelter, we care for animals every day, so we're all for providing safe places for animals in an emergency."