Have a plan in place for caring for your pets during natural disaster

With the unprecedented effects of Hurricane Harvey and the horrific news still coming out of Texas, it’s more important than ever to consider what plans you have in place should a natural disaster occur in your area.

Natural disasters occur when we least expect, and often we find we are unprepared to care for ourselves, let alone our pets, in the aftermath.

Planning is crucial because in an emergency, local authorities might not immediately be able to gain safe access to the area affected or provide direct information on what is happening and what you should do. If possible, watch TV, listen to the radio or check the internet for instructions.

The federal government advises citizens to be prepared to sustain themselves for the first 72 hours of a disaster.

Emergency plans need to spell out the “who, what, when, where, why” and whose job it is to complete safety tasks in the most efficient and timely manner.

Make an emergency kit complete with anything that will make you operational. Families may also want to practice their emergency plans, even going so far as living without electricity for 24 hours.

1. Pet Preparedness

Create a pet emergency supply kit — Just as you do with your family’s emergency supply kit, think first about the basics of survival, particularly food and water.

Make two kits: In one, put everything your pets will need to stay where you are. The other should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you and your pets have to get away.

n Food — Put food in an airtight, waterproof container. Have a three-day supply.

n Water — Three-day supply.

n Medications, medical records.

n First aid kit — Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs. Include a pet first aid reference book. Keep a list of names of vets or veterinary hospitals in cities where you might need to seek temporary shelter.

n Collar with ID tag, harness or leash.

n Crate or other pet carrier.

n Sanitation — Include litter, box, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, household chlorine bleach. You can use bleach as a disinfectant (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach).

n Picture of you and your pet together — If you become separated, a picture will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet (include details about species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics).

n Familiar items — Fav-orite toys, treats and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet.

Obtain “PETS INSIDE” stickers and place on doors and windows. Include the number and types of pets in your home, along with a phone number where you could be reached, to alert firefighters and rescue workers. If time permits, remember to write “Evacuated with Pets” across the stickers, if you flee with your pets.

2. Plan.

What you will do in an emergency. Assess the situation. Depending on circumstances and nature of emergency the first important decision is whether you stay or get away. Plan for both possibilities.

Create a plan to get away. Plan ahead how you will assemble your pets and anticipate where you will go. If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if practical. If you go to a public shelter, keep in mind your animals may not be allowed inside. Secure appropriate lodging in advance for your pets. Consider family or friends, a hotel that accepts pets or a boarding facility or veterinary hospital.

Develop a buddy system. Plan with neighbors, friends or relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be sure they know your evacuation plans and where you keep your pet emergency supply kit. Designate specific locations, one close by and one farther away, where you will meet in an emergency.

3. Stay informed.

n Make yourself familiar with what types of emergencies are likely to affect your region.

n Learn about local and state emergency plans.

For more information about how to prepare, visit or call 1-800-BE-READY.

Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode is the author of “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna

@altoonamirror.com or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.