It is important to be prepared for natural disasters and emergencies. The safety of your family depends on preparing a disaster plan, and this includes your pet’s needs as well. Prior to an emergency, gather information and compile a pet disaster kit. Determine safe rooms in your home. Know your evacuation zone and which county shelters allow pets.

In an emergency, if it is unsafe for you to stay in your home, it is also unsafe for your pets to stay. If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately; never wait until the last minute. Have a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians in your community that shelter animals in an emergency. On your list, include friends, relatives or others outside your area that may let you and your pets stay with them. Also include pet-friendly hotels outside your area. A good reference is www.petswelcome.com.

Public sheltering should be your last option. All shelters will allow service animals, but you will need to plan ahead and even call for reservations for family pets once the county announces that a shelter has opened. Shelters provide a safe refuge, but pets are kept in a separate area from their owners. You are expected to provide a cage and care for your animal while you are at the shelter. Counties reserve the right to refuse admittance to any animal.

A pet disaster kit is invaluable if you find yourself in this situation. Start assembling your kit by taking photos of your pets and write their names, identifying marks, rabies tag number and microchip number on the back of photos, along with your complete contact information. Store pictures and current copies of vaccination records in a sealed plastic bag in the disaster kit, and ask your vet for written prescriptions to include in the sealed bag.

The kit also should include: a carrier, bedding, two-week supply of food, collar, harnesses and leashes, water, disinfectant, handy wipes, paper towels, plastic bags for waste, latex gloves, sturdy bowls, treats/toys, can opener, small litter box, disposable pans/liners, scoop, ample supply of litter, 14 day supply of medications, comfort items, blanket or sheet for privacy in crate and a muzzle if necessary.

After a storm or natural disaster, proceed with caution and watch for downed and dangling power lines, broken glass and other debris that could pose a danger. Always walk pets on a leash until they become reoriented to their homes and yards and all dangers have been cleared.

Visit mapsscgov.net for evacuation and shelters list.