Last month, Hurricane Isaac didn’t end up doing as much damage here in South Florida as forecasters had initially predicted early in the storm watch cycle — when the dreaded “cone of probability” was trained on my backyard.

And seeing as I have 18 animals in my care, this occasioned serious preparations on my part.

Thankfully, Isaac deviated significantly to the south, sparing my critters and me a potentially scary experience.

In the end, we suffered tropical storm-force winds, two downed trees and no power for a day. Still, anyone with a menagerie of animals like mine has lots of work to do before, during and even after the mere possibility of any serious storm. After all, you never know how bad it will get . . . until it’s too late.

That’s why everyone should have a plan for emergencies, whether you're prepping for hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes or any other life-threatening situations.

As a native Miamian, I’ve been through the drill plenty of times, which is why I have a checklist taped to the back of my medicine cabinet door, so I never forget anything!

Here’s how this storm veteran veterinarian handles emergency preparedness:

Commit a Plan to Paper for You and Your Pets

Think out the possible scary scenarios and write them down before you’re faced with a threatening event or an evacuation notice. Know where you're going and always take your pets with you! There's never a good excuse to leave your pets home alone during an evacuation-worthy event. Let me repeat: If it's unsafe for you, it is considered animal cruelty to leave your animals behind!

Decide Whether to Stay or Go

Before I do anything else, I make a yea or nay decision as to whether I’ll evacuate with my pets or not. Everyone should have a metric that defines his or her decision-making on this issue — mine is anything over a category 3 hurricane. And if you live in an evacuation-order zone, you shouldn't stay. Period.

Double-Check Identification

Is everyone well identified? In my case, it's tags for four dogs, four cats and two goats. (This year, I had to buy a tag for Miss Chivi, my new goat. You never know when a goat will get loose and lost!) Microchips for the dogs and cats, too. It's a great idea to ask your vet to check the microchip annually with a scanner to be sure that it’s in the right spot and working well. Once a year or so, you should also go online to confirm that all of your microchip provider’s info is correct and up-to-date.

Find a Spot for Each Pet

Determine the best locale in your home where you can isolate each animal in the event that a sudden storm gets rougher than you expected. Crates and cages are a must for most pets. Well-protected small spaces, like closets and bathrooms, can work well, too.

All of my dogs have crates, but my two outdoor cats get to hang out in my newly litterbox-equipped bathroom. The two indoor cats have the most protected room in the house, so they’re already set. Meanwhile, the goats get to share the guest bathroom.

And my eight chickens? I’ve honestly never had a great plan for this. The chicken coop may be sturdy, but it’s no match for a serious hurricane. So catching as many of my hens as I can, and crating them in my hurricane-secured shed, is as far as my chicken planning goes. It's messy — but lifesaving.

Store Plenty of Clean Water

You need to plan for enough fresh water for your pets, too. I recommend filling bathtubs. This is great animal drinking water that will last more than a few days, in most cases. You should also plan to have plenty of empty containers on hand that you can fill with clean water.

Stock Up on Food and Other Supplies

I always have enough pet food, medication and other pet supplies on hand to last a minimum of two weeks in advance of a severe weather event. A basic first aid kit is always a good idea, too. At a minimum, it should include basic bandage materials, gauze pads, hydrogen peroxide, disinfectant solution and antibiotic ointment.

Whether you include all of my tips in your own repertoire or not, just remember that your animals are relying on you to keep them safe when emergencies arise, so be sure to keep a cool head by planning well in advance.

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