Disaster can strike in an instant. That’s why it’s so crucial to be prepared so you can act quickly to keep your family and pets safe. September is National Preparedness Month and there are several steps you can take to prepare your pets for emergencies.

Prepare: Ensure your pets are always wearing collars with ID tags. Also make sure your pet is microchipped and that information is up to date. Keep current photos of your pets in case they go missing. It’s also a good idea to include a photo of the pet with you to help prove ownership. Always have a list of pet-friendly hotels and establishments in case you need to travel in a hurry. It’s also a good idea to have a list of friends and family who can care for your pets in an emergency.

Organize: Just like how you prepared a care kit for your family – it’s essential to do the same for your pets. The following are items to include in a kit. Be sure to regularly check the kit to ensure the contents stay fresh.

Food: Keep at least three days worth of food in an airtight, waterproof container.

Water: Store three days worth of water specifically for your pets in addition to the water you will need for your family.

Medicines and Medical Records: Keep a copy of current vaccine and medical records along with any medications your pets need in an airtight container.

First Aid Kit: Most kits should include cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors, antibiotic ointment, flea and tick prevention, latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Talk to your veterinarian about any specific needs for your pets. A guide on animal first aid would also be handy to include.

Crate or Pet Carrier: A crate or carrier will be essential if you need to stay in a busy location.

Sanitation: Include litter (if applicable), newspapers, plastic bags, paper towels and trash bags in your kit to clean up after your pets.

Plan: During an emergency you will be faced with the decision to stay put or get away – it’s important to plan ahead to prepare for both scenarios.

Create a Plan to Get Away: Think about how you will assemble your animals and anticipate where you will go. If you must evacuate your home, take your pets with you if practical. Keep in mind that some animals may not be allowed to stay at some public shelters. If possible, secure lodging in advance. Think about whether or not friends and family will be available to help house you or watch your pets.

Develop a Buddy System: Communicate with friends, neighbors and family members to see who might be able to help care for or evacuate your animals if you are unable to. Share important information about your pet’s with them and show them where the pet emergency kit is located. Have a plan in place about where you will meet in case of an emergency.

Stay Informed: Watch local television, listen to the radio and check emergency agency’s websites to stay up to date on the emergency. Also make sure you understand what could happen depending on the type of emergency you are facing. Listen to authorities and make every effort to follow evacuation or shelter-in-place instructions.

While we can’t always prevent disasters from happening, we can prepare for them. These steps will help you, your family and your pets to act quickly and effectively in the event of a disaster. It’s always better to plan ahead then try and do these steps while an emergency is unfolding.