Natural disasters affect animals just as much as humans, if not more so. Often, pets are the first things left behind when danger threatens, but with a little planning ahead, you can ensure that your animals are as protected as you are, should a natural disaster occur.
What’s Your Disaster Plan?
Every family should have a disaster plan in place and it shouldn’t include just the people in the family, but also the animals. When putting food aside for your emergency kit, be sure to stock up on pet food, as well as water to keep animals hydrated. It takes very little to add your pets to your 72-hour survival kit and can mean the difference between life and death. However, keep in mind that human rescue efforts will not include pet food, so it’s a good idea to have a few days extra on hand for pets. Enough food and water, as well as any medicines your animals might require, for five days is usually sufficient.  
Don’t forget sanitary supplies in your kit. Kitty litter, newspapers and similar supplies can make all the difference if you are unable to get outdoors. As with a human survival kit, any supplies with expiry dates should be rotated out of the kit on a regular basis to ensure freshness.
After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of pets were left without owners, many of whom had been forced to evacuate without their pets. To this end, think ahead, and when planning your evacuation route, be sure to consider how your animals fit into the equation. Having pet carriers or a cage on hand can make it easier to transport a pet, especially if you are not driving yourself. 
A leash and/or muzzle for your dog is also a good idea. With the stress of an evacuation, even friendly dogs can become aggressive, but it’s also important to keep animals leashed the first few days after a disaster, since they can become disorientated by the changes in smells and landscape. 
In Australia, rescue efforts now include collapsible cages and other animal-friendly methods of evacuating humans who refuse to leave their pets behind. Queensland authorities now realize that pets must be considered in rescue efforts. 
You can also prepare any pets for the possibility of a disaster situation by ensuring that their vaccines are up to date and by having a microchip implanted in your cat or dog. This will make identification much easier should something happen to separate you and your pet. Always keep the information up to date, as well, so you can be found easily. 
Photo Source: flickr.com
Finding Your Pets After a Disaster
If the unthinkable has occurred and you have been separated from your animals during a natural disaster, you should know how to go about finding them again. This can be difficult, particularly in areas that have high pet mortality rates.
Keep a photo of each of your pets on hand. This should be in your wallet or with other important papers in a waterproof container or envelope that you would grab in case of emergency. Vet records and a copy of feeding and medication records can also be helpful to have on hand, even if your pet doesn’t go missing.
Check with local rescue efforts and animal shelters as soon as possible after the disaster and make sure that they get a copy of the pet’s information, as well as a photo. Let them know where you will be staying so they can contact you easily when your pet is found.
Most animals will tend to stay near their home or familiar areas, so this is the logical place to look. However, do not put yourself in danger by going into a damaged house. Instead, call your pet to you or leave out food and water to bring him out of the debris. 
Photo Source: arc-na.org
Keeping Humans Alive
While people might leave pets behind, dogs and cats around the country have proven that’s the last thing they’re interested in doing. In 2006, Eve and Norman Fertig were trapped outdoors against an outbuilding by fallen trees during a massive storm in New York. Unable to get back to their house and not dressed for the freezing weather, the couple feared they might not survive.
Incredibly, their adopted half-wolf, half-German Shepherd, Shana, came to the rescue, tunneling through snow under the trees to create a safe passage to the house. She didn’t stop there, though . . . the dog then returned for her owners, grabbed Eve and dragged her and her husband back to the house where she lay atop the couple to keep them warm until help arrived. The dog was awarded the Citizens for Humane Animal Treatment’s Hero’s Award for Bravery. The catch? That’s an award usually given to humans. 
Your pets deserve to be safe when disaster threatens, but many pet owners are completely unprepared. Don’t go any longer without a disaster plan in place that includes your pets and be aware that in an emergency situation, shelters and rescue crews rarely accept pets. This means you should have an evacuation plan ready to go so that you can get any animals out of the area safely should you need to evacuate.