The Carolinas are expected to be bombarded with a life-threatening weather disaster as Hurricane Florence approaches. The Category 4 hurricane is projected to make landfall between northern South Carolina and North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Thursday. As people evacuate to safety, our partners at Purina have provided vital tips below to ensure pet safety during emergencies.

1. Know your region’s “native” disasters.

Is your region prone to hurricanes? Blizzards? Tornadoes? Wildfires? Most regions have “native” natural disasters that occur more frequently than others. Hurricanes are more common to the Gulf Coast, for example. Blizzards? Not so much.

In each case, simply identifying the natural disasters common to your region can serve as a good starting point for pet disaster preparedness. For pet owners living in a hurricane-prone region, it’s smart to look into your property’s elevation level and flood history, as well as local evacuation routes. This research will help you build an effective plan for yourself and your pet.

2. Plan to evacuate with your pet.

When natural disasters require an evacuation, every minute matters. That’s why it’s important to consider your pet when creating an evacuation plan. Set aside time to find safe places you might take him in an emergency situation:

  • Your Veterinarian’s Office
  • Animal Shelters
  • Pet-friendly Hotels/Motels
  • Boarding Facilities
  • A Relative’s House
  • A Trusted Friend’s House

Purina Veterinarian Kurt Venator also advises, “Keeping your [pet’s] medical records on hand is vital, since some pet-friendly emergency relief centers require proof of vaccinations in order for your pet to stay there.”

In some cases, evacuating pets simply isn’t possible, but your veterinarian can help you prepare so your pet stays as safe as possible in your absence. For example, waterproof “Pets Inside” stickers should be available at your vet’s office. Place them on your home’s front and back doors to alert rescuers that there are pets inside your home.

3. Prepare a pet safety kit.

Depending on whether you’re preparing a cat or dog emergency kit, it should include:

  • Bottled Water
  • Cans of Wet Food (1–2 weeks’ worth)
  • Blankets
  • Collapsible Bowls
  • Cat Litter & Pan
  • Leash & Collar
  • Life Jacket & Paw Protectors
  • Flashlight
  • Basic Pet First-Aid Kit
  • Vaccine Records/Medical History
  • Veterinary Contact Information
  • Medications List
  • Emergency Contacts
  • Photos of Your Pet (in case you are separated from your pet)

Dr. Venator also recommends making sure your pet wears a securely fastened collar with current identification tags in case you become separated. “Pet owners can consider having their pet microchipped to assure that the pet can be identified and found via an electronic device as well.”

4. Create a buddy system.

A disaster may strike your area while you’re away. Prepare for this scenario by choosing a trusted neighbor, family member or friend who’s willing to check in on your pet. You can do the same for their pet. You should also add this caregiver to your emergency contact list as someone who’s authorized to approve necessary emergency treatments if you can’t be reached.

Identify places where your pet can stay temporarily should a disaster hit while you’re out of town. And don’t forget to let your pet-sitter and “buddy” know where your cat or dog emergency kit is in case of an emergency.

5. Keep pet safety supplies up to date.

After completing Steps 1 through 4, it’s tempting to put your dog or cat emergency kit in storage and hope you’ll never have to use it. But this crash course in pet disaster preparedness isn’t complete without a commitment to keep everything current.

Any food or water items in the pet emergency kit will need to be replaced every six months. Write the date you prepared or checked the on all food and water containers so you’ll know when to replace them. Make sure all other items in the disaster kit are current as well, especially the emergency contacts and medical/vaccine records.

Purina cares about the health, safety and overall wellness of pets, which includes emergency preparedness for pets. We hope these five simple steps help you create a disaster plan that includes your pet so you can enjoy the longest, safest life possible together.

Photo credit: Michigan Humane Society