Getting your family prepared for emergencies should be your first preparedness concern, but what about the family pet? Once you are sure that your family is prepared for any disaster that may occur in your area, turn to the task of preparing your family pet to survive a disaster. Believe or not, preparing your pet is similar to preparing your child.

Because of various laws, Red Cross shelters are not allowed to take in animals during an evacuation, so advanced planning is a must.

In the case of an emergency, you may not have a great deal of advanced warning. For pet emergency preparedness, here are some things you can do:

Have an emergency kit for you and your pet stored in a location that is easy to access, such as by an exit door or garage. Your pet disaster preparedness kit should include the following items:

  • Food and water for at least three days in airtight, waterproof containers.
  • Medical records and emergency contact numbers in a clean plastic bag or waterproof container.
  • Your pet's medications.
  • Pet first-aid kit that includes cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors, antibiotic ointment, flea and tick prevention, latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. You should be familiar with all of the items in the kit and know how to use them.
  • A pet carrier or crate is essential in an emergency.
  • Be sure to have nearby a litter box, litter, newspaper, paper towels, plastic bags and household bleach.
  • In case you become separated from your pet, a photo of your pet will help other identify the pet they are looking for.
  • Favorite toys, treats, familiar bedding and other items will help your pet handle the disruption of the normal routine.
  • Pet ID tags that list pertinent information, such as your name and telephone number, are crucial so rescuers can more quickly reunite you with your pet if you become separated. Your cell phone number and/or the number of where you're planning to go is a good idea to be able to track you down quicker should you and your pet become separated. Also, list contact information on your pet's carrier.

More and more people microchip or tattoo their pets as a means of more permanent identification. Some microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted in a pet's shoulder area. Special scanners are used at animal shelters and pet hospitals to read the identity of your pet.

When disaster looms, bring pets inside so they won't become fearful and run away.

And don't forget to make arrangements to board your pet in a kennel, friend or relative's house, or pet-friendly accommodation outside of the affected area as far in advance as possible.

Bottom line: Be prepared and your chances are much greater for you and your pet to survive in the event of a disaster or emergency situation.