If a disaster happened, would you be ready and able to protect your pets? They can’t protect themselves, so you need to be prepared to help your four legged family members.

As a professional safety educator, I stress the importance of what it takes for people to stay safe, but I’m also passionate about making sure animals are cared for too.

While you may know what to do when disaster strikes, pets don’t. Our furry friends rely on us to make sure they’re safe when the unthinkable happens.

Whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, forest fire, winter storm or just a long term power outage, preparing your pets for unexpected emergencies is pretty much the same as how we prepare as humans.

It just takes a little thought and consideration to be sure they’ll be well cared for.

Before a disaster or severe weather strikes, you should do the following:

Learn what threats could potentially happen in your area and plan accordingly.

Include your pets when practicing emergency drills with your family. 

If you’re not conducting emergency drills, now is the time to start!

Have a plan of where you’ll go if evacuated. Know your escape routes and know secondary routes in case your primary route is blocked.

Not all emergency shelters accept animals. The same goes for hotels and other lodging. If you know your evacuation route and destination, call ahead to ask hotels if they allow pets.

Consider family or friends who are located outside the danger area who could assist with caring for your animals in case you can’t be together, or locate a pet care facility where you’ll be going.

In a worst case scenario, you may be forced to leave your pets behind. If this happens, leave a sign on your door or some type of notice to let rescuers know animals are inside. This will increase the chances of your being safely reunited with you after the disaster if they are picked up.

If you’re not able to make it home during a disaster, designate a neighbor or someone else who you trust ahead of time who might be able to help evacuate or care for your animals if needed.

Always have a back-up plan!

Be sure your pet’s vaccinations and medical records are up to date and keep a record of them. If you need to board your pet in a kennel or veterinary facility, they will most likely need your records.

Have your pet microchipped and keep a tag on its collar with your current contact information in case you should become separated. Be sure the registration information on file with the microchip company is up to date also.

Have a recent photo of your pet. This will help to identify your animal if it’s lost.

Emergency Supplies

Humans should have a “go-bag” and your pets should too. A “go-bag” can be as simple as a backpack or duffle bag which is stocked with at least 3 – 5 days of supplies which can be grabbed as you head out the door in an emergency.

The following items are basics you should have in your pet emergency kit:

Water – Have a supply of fresh bottled water and a collapsible bowl to drink from.

Food – Keep a supply of canned or bagged food in case you’re on the go and don’t have access to resources. Don’t forget a collapsible bowl for the food and a can opener too!

Medicine – If your pet requires medication, bring it along!

Records – Have a copy of your pet’s medical records and a recent photo of your pet (preferably with you also in the photo so you can identify the pet as yours if needed). Store these items in a waterproof container.

Treats / Toys – Disasters can be just as stressful for pets as they are for humans. Have something to help ease their anxiety.

Plastic Bags – You’ll need something to pick up waste.

Paper Towels / Wet Wipes – These are good to have in case of messes.

Towel – Should your pet get wet, it’s good to have a towel to dry off.

Collar / Leash / Harness / Carrier – Have the appropriate tools to contain or restrain your pet.  Consider a muzzle if needed too.

Blanket / Bedding – Be sure to have some comforts of home.

First Aid Kit / First Aid Guide – Have some basic emergency supplies to care for your pet in case of injury. Bandages, gauze, tape, hydrogen peroxide, scissors and tweezers are good to have in your kit.

For Cats – Don’t forget a litter box, litter and a scoop.

Sheltering in Place

Sometimes it might be safer to stay where you are. This is called sheltering in place.

To be prepared for sheltering in place, use the same rules as if you’re evacuating. Just plan on being in your home for up to 3 – 5 days without assistance. This means making sure you have adequate supplies for both you and your pet!

After the Emergency:

Before releasing your pets into your yard, check the area for safety.

Look for debris which might be sharp or hazardous. Be sure to check for any downed power lines, fallen trees, contaminated water, damaged shelters or anything else which might be dangerous.

Be aware of snakes, insect infestations and other critters which may have ended up in your yard.

Be sure fenced areas are not damaged.

Disruption of normal activities can be very stressful for pets. Keep an eye on them to be sure they’re doing okay.

If you were separated from your pet, know where to look for them. Animal care workers often search disaster areas looking for lost pets. Contact authorities to see where animals may have been taken to. You can also create fliers or use social media to share your information.

With these simple tips, you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.

Your pet will thank you for it!