Kathy BabbittRecently, I got to have first-hand accounts from a several veterinarian involved in tornado outbreaks. The amount of devastation is amazing but so is the community effort to take care of the residents and their pets. Event though many of the veterinarians in the area had their own clinics destroyed, some even lost family members, they came together to take care of the needs of pets. They, with the help of other disaster rescue organizations, built a makeshift hospital, supplied it and staffed it. These accounts made via mobile phone in the first few days made me think about how we would handle such a disaster. I encourage everyone to have a disaster plan and to practice that plan so that you can be ready.For many reasons animals are not allowed into public emergency relief sites. Being prepared and having arrangements before a disaster occurs can prevent you from having to leave your pet at home.The first thing is to make sure your pet has a form of permanent identification. The only permanent ID forms available are either tattoo or microchips. Collars and tags can be lost or removed making it difficult to reunite owners. In addition, your pet may no longer recognize you and you may not recognize your pet. Microchips are easy to implant and the number can be registered with several national databases. This allows for easy return to the owner. Many veterinarians carry and can implant microchips in a simple office visit. The Humane Society of the United States secondly recommends you put together a disaster supply kit. Into a waterproof box, place three to seven days worth of your pets food, medications, extra leash and collar, a recent photo kept in a sealed plastic bag, veterinary records, and litter and litter box (for cats). The food should either be in easy flip top cans or include a can opener. In addition, the group recommends having a carrier for each of your pets. Cat carriers should be big enough to include a small litter box, food, water and bedding. By having this all ready to go your pet can be transferred to an emergency care facility and be taken care of easily.Make sure to update your box as needed and rotate the food so that it does not spoil. If your pet has a medication that needs to be kept cold, you can use small plastic baggies filled with ice from the Red Cross during the disaster. Having a buddy system can also be useful. This should be a person that you can rely on to take care of your pets in an emergency if you are not home. You can also include additional tags in your supply box with alternative caretakers names and phone numbers if you can not be located.When leaving your home because of a disaster do not leave your pets behind. This even includes when you are being evacuated for only a small amount of time. The severity of the disaster changes quickly and you may not be allowed back in to get your pets. It is also important that if you are sheltering in place to bring outside animals inside as animals will often hide when scared.Unfortunately, sometimes even with good planning, your pet may need to stay home alone for a while. It is recommended to have a supply of dry food, even if it is not what you pet normally eats, and leave a two-to-three-day supply in a sturdy container that cannot be knocked over. Also, leave water in a similar container. Larger dogs can get water from a partially filled bathtub. You can leave a faucet dripping into a container for a continual supply.It is recommended to confine the pet into the safest room in the house such as a bathroom or basement. Other animals such as birds, reptiles and small mammals should also be moved. Birds should be moved in sturdy carriers. Line the carrier with paper towels or absorbent padding, mist the bird with water several times a day, and feed fruits high in water. Small mammals should be moved in housing or carriers that allow for normal bedding, food, water and comfort. Snakes can be transported in pillow cases and transferred to other housing once at the evacuation site. Reptiles can be transported in sturdy carriers. Make sure to bring a bowl big enough for soaking, a heating pad and food.Being prepared in a disaster can make your pet more comfortable and make sure that you and your pet can be reunited. Following simple plans and practicing those plans will make an emergency situation much easier.