As we near the end of September, our Prepare Kansas campaign soon will draw to a close. The goal of this K-State Research and Extension campaign has been to help Kansans become better prepared for emergencies and natural disasters.

Although many people are aware of these risks, few actually have a disaster plan for their families and homes. Even fewer have plans that include their pets.

This month, I worked with Alicia Boor, Cottonwood District ag agent based in Great Bend, to present disaster preparedness programs in our counties. While my presentations focused on preparing your home, family and finances for disaster, Boor's topic was developing a disaster plan for pets. Her former work experience in zoos has made her aware of the need to have a plan in place for the animals in our care.

Not having a disaster plan can be dangerous for pets, as well as for their families and first responders. Here are a few ideas to help pet owners develop an emergency preparedness plan that includes their pets and the necessary items they might need to quickly respond in the event of a disaster.

Just as people always should be prepared for a disaster, we should keep our pets prepared for an unexpected event as well. First, be sure your pets wear a collar at all times with your current contact information. Also, include an alternate emergency contact such as your veterinarian if possible. Proper identification is essential for reunification in the event your pet gets lost.

In addition, dogs and cats always should be kept up-to-date on their vaccines. If your pet has to be evacuated and sheltered with other animals, it might be more susceptible to infectious diseases and conditions. The most important vaccine is the rabies vaccine, since your pet might be more likely to come into contact with other pets and possibly even wildlife if sheltered or lost.

Regardless of the nature of the disaster, it is important to have a disaster kit with basic supplies that are important for a pet’s safety and well-being. An appropriately sized carrier or cage with your current contact information can be used to safely transport your pet, and it also can serve as a temporary means of housing. You also should include the following in a pet’s disaster kit:

• Copies of important papers (emergency telephone numbers, rabies vaccination certificate, vaccination record, microchip information, drug/vaccine/food allergies, list of current medications with doses, etc.) and a current photo of you and the pet together, labeled with identifying information such as species, color, sex and age.

• Enough of the pet’s food in sturdy containers to last for a minimum of three days, plus a three-day supply of clean water and bowls to use for food and water. Canned food is preferred for its storability and moisture content if your pet is not on a special diet, so be sure to include a can opener and utensils in your kit.

• Extra leashes/collars and sanitation supplies (cat litter, plastic bags, etc.) A long piece of gauze can be wrapped around the animal’s snout and tied behind its ears to create a temporary muzzle.

• Medications as needed and a basic first aid kit for the pet.

• Pet comfort items (blankets, towels, toys, etc.).

All of these supplies should be kept in a water-proof container that is easy to transport and appropriately labeled with your current contact information.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for owners to become separated from their pets during disasters. It is imperative that pet owners not enter affected areas or attempt to return to their homes until they are given permission to do so by emergency management authorities. If separated from your pet, contact animal control, your local animal shelters, area veterinary hospitals and the pet’s microchip company, if applicable. Social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) also have been used in recent events to reunite owners with their pets.

For more information about preparing pets for disaster, see www.ready.gov/animals and follow the Prepare Kansas blog at blogs.k-state.edu/preparekansas/.

Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.