(BPT) - Americans living in areas prone to severe storms, floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters may be well aware of the philosophy, 'Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.' Families with a disaster plan in place will be better equipped to stay safe and recover from an emergency. Too often, however, even the best planners forget to include provisions for the four-legged members of the family.
'When disaster strikes, families may not have much time to act,' says Dr. Ellen I. Lowery, associate director of U.S. professional and veterinary affairs at Hill's Pet Nutrition. 'While organizations like Hill's, through our Disaster Relief Network, strive to help families and pets in the wake of natural disasters, it's important to have a disaster plan ready, including a well-stocked Pet Emergency Go-Kit with food, water and other essentials for your pet.'
Dr. Lowery offers some guidance for putting your 'Pet Emergency Go-Kit' together:
* Include first aid supplies and a first aid guide book for pets.
* Keep three-day supplies of both your pet's favorite food - in a waterproof container - and bottled water.
* Store an extra safety harness and leash because even the best-behaved pet may be frightened in an emergency, causing him to run and hide.
* Include waste cleanup supplies. It's important to properly dispose of pet waste to avoid adding health concerns to an already difficult situation.
* If your pet is on any medications, keep a few days' worth in your kit. Also include an up-to-date copy of medical records, as well as contact information for your veterinarian and additional veterinary and pet care organizations in your area.
* You should have a brief, written explanation of your pet's feeding routine, personality and any behavioral issues. In a disaster, your pet may receive care from someone who doesn't know him as well as you do.
* Don't forget comfort - include a few toys and a favorite blanket to keep your pet comfortable.
Keep your Pet Go-Kit somewhere readily accessible in an emergency. Be sure your pet always wears his/her identification - a microchip or collar ID tag with up-to-date information may help reunite you with your pet if you become separated in the confusion of a disaster scene.
If an impending disaster requires you to evacuate, take your pet with you. Be aware of your pet's favorite hiding places so you'll know where to look when you're in a hurry to leave.
Before disaster strikes, identify locations where you could take your pet during an evacuation; not all disaster shelters for people will be open to pets. Look for pet-friendly hotels or motels, or ask relatives and friends if they could accommodate you and your pets.
Despite your best efforts, it may not be possible to take your pet with you. To alert first responders to the possible presence of a pet in the house, place a pet rescue decal on your front door or window. It should include your veterinarian's contact information and any special notes about your pet's personality or medical needs. Carry a picture of your pet in case you become separated.
'Pet displacement during natural disasters is such a serious issue, the federal government has even enacted standards for evacuating and transporting pets during disasters,' Dr. Lowery says. 'One widely quoted report cited Hurricane Katrina as an example of what can happen to pets during a natural disaster. The report said more than 200,000 pets were displaced during the storm, and the majority of them were never reunited with their families.'
Last year, Hill's launched the Disaster Relief Network, a first-of-its-kind national system that allows the company to quickly coordinate pet food deliveries in response to natural disasters. Since its inception, the network has delivered free food to more than 50 shelters and veterinary clinics in response to floods, forest fires, tornados and mudslides. To learn more about the network, visit http://www.hillspet.com/food-shelter-love/emergency-help.html.