Summer is in full swing, bringing with it the possibility of flash floods or windstorms that might force you to leave your home. When preparing for emergencies such as these, don’t forget to include your pets in the plan. Read on to find out how to keep your animal companions safe during disasters.black_brown_and_white_dog

Have a plan. During an emergency, you may be panicking and not able to think of everything you need to gather up your pets and make a safe evacuation. It’s best to have a written checklist posted in an easy-to-find place that includes what to bring with you, where to go, and any emergency contact numbers. To help emergency responders, this list should also include information about your pets, such as their favorite hiding places.

Make a kit. When creating a family emergency kit, include essentials for your pet. Items to pack are food and water for at least five days, bowls, medications and medical records, leashes or carriers, litter boxes and litter for cats, toys, and written instructions on feeding and medication schedules, in case you need to leave your pet with a shelter or foster home. You should also bring a photo of you and your pet together, both to document your ownership of the pet as well as to aid in identifying him or her in case you become separated.

ID your pet. Make sure your pet wears identification tags at all times that give your name and contact number, including your cell phone number. Microchipping greatly increases a missing pet’s chances of being reunited with you. According to a study by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 38 percent of microchipped cats in shelters were reunited with their owners versus only two percent for un-microchipped cats, and 52 percent of microchipped dogs got to go home again, versus only 22 percent of un-microchipped dogs.

Use a pet sticker. Placing pet stickers on your doors and windows will notify emergency response workers that there are pets inside. You can order these for free from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. When leaving with your pets during an emergency, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers if time permits.

Use the buddy system. You may not be at home when disaster strikes, so work out a disaster plan with your neighbors or nearby friends and relatives to help out each others’ pets. Be sure to share with them the location of your emergency plan and kit, as well as your pets’ most common hiding places.

No pet left behind. If you need to evacuate your home, bring your pet with you. Bear in mind that when conditions are unsafe for humans, they’re also dangerous for pets. And don’t assume that you will be able to return home after a short time. During everything from gas leaks to large-scale natural disasters, the situation can evolve and worsen rapidly, meaning you might not be able to come home again for days or even weeks.

No pets allowed? In the event that you need to move into an emergency shelter, know that many times your pets will not be able to accompany you. You can contact your county emergency director ahead of time to learn whether there are pet-friendly shelters in your area. In making your plan, you can also call hotels to find out if they allow pets, or whether they would waive a no-pets policy in the event of an emergency. Finally, check with friends or family outside of your immediate area to see if they would be willing to foster your animal companions during a disaster.

For both your human and non-human family members, being prepared is the key to keeping them safe during disasters. It may be frightening to think about everything that could go wrong, but having an emergency plan in place can help you rest easier knowing that you’ve done what you can to keep your pets out of harm’s way. – Meredith Southard

An animal lover since she could shriek the word “doggie,” Meredith Southard has written for national and statewide publications on topics such as wildlife rehabilitation and rescue, conservation dogs, and the animals of Ohio’s wetlands. On warm spring nights she can be found traipsing around vernal pools with a flashlight, looking for salamanders and frogs.