Shorthair Dog lying in grass

If there’s one thing to learn from hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires and even man-made disasters, it’s that a crisis can happen at any moment, in any community. Just as you can’t leave preparing for your human family members to chance, you need a plan to ensure the safety of your pets. Here are some steps to get you started:

1. Make a Plan

Prepare for all possibilities, including the chance that you may be away from home when disaster strikes. Get to know your neighbors, and be prepared to help each other out. Find out from local emergency operation agencies, shelters, veterinary organizations and your own veterinarian what the local emergency response plans are and what help they can provide for you and your pet.

2. Keep IDs on Your Pets

Most animals survive a disaster, but many never see their families again. That’s because many owners don’t create a way to determine which pet belongs to which family. Pets should always wear a collar and identification tags. Better still, permanent identification, such as an imbedded microchip, can’t slip away. Make sure one of the numbers on your pet’s ID and chip records is your cell phone, as well as a friend or relative living out of the area. That way, if you can’t get to your home phone, you can still be reached and reunited.

3. Put Your Pet’s Records in One Easy-to-Grab Spot

Make a simple file with updated records of your pet’s vaccinations and other health issues, his license and microchip information and details on his pet health insurance provider. Include some pictures of your pet with simple, uncluttered backgrounds so if you need to make "lost pet" posters, you can. Put this material with the rest of your important papers in a place safe from fire or flood.

4. Have Carriers and Restraints at Hand

With disasters such as earthquakes, you won’t get advance warning. But if you know a storm is on the way or a wildfire is heading in your direction, make sure you get your pet inside. Sturdy crates and carriers belong on the list of "must-haves," along with restraints including comfortable box muzzles for dogs and soft face-shield muzzles and restraint bags for cats. While you may trust your pet to remain calm, it’s better to be prepared: An injured or scared pet may lash out in self-defense.

5. Include Your Pet’s Needs in Your Emergency Kit

Always keep ample supplies of your pet’s food, medications, litter and enough water on hand to cover your pet. (Don’t forget to rotate all supplies regularly!) A first-aid kit should cover your pet’s needs as well as your own — and should include a compact first-aid guide geared to pets. If your pet eats canned food, don’t forget to throw in a spare can opener and a spoon. Disposable dishes and litterboxes can be useful as well.

One of the best investments you can make when it comes to preparation is to know basic first aid for pets and people alike. For a directory of instructors in your area, check or ask your veterinarian for information.