The images coming out of Kentucky after historic flooding recently devastated the eastern part of the state are simply heartbreaking: Entire homes lie in shambles, streets and bridges are still impassible and tall trees have been snapped like twigs from the force of the water.

Our Kentucky state director, Todd Blevins, has been working with our Animal Rescue Team on the ground to support people with pets. This includes, among other activities, organizing and distributing ongoing donations of pet food and supplies to local residents. So far, we’ve distributed several thousand pounds of pet food as well as outdoor kennels for use by residents who cannot provide adequate pet housing due to flooding.

We have also been cooperating with other organizations that are working tirelessly to help people and animals in the aftermath of the flooding. We have purchased critical supplies for the Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter, and we’re helping the staff with daily tasks, such as cleaning dog kennels and dog-walking. We have also visited a local Red Cross shelter to provide pet food and supplies for several pets with families displaced from their homes.

A donation of supplies from Vicki Crook and Edwina Burkhart from Kentucky Mutts Animal Rescue arrives at the Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter.
Brian Bohannon/AP Images for the HSUS

I’m reminded of our work late last year, too, helping communities in Kentucky recover after deadly tornadoes struck the Mayfield area. I’m honored that our team is able to help communities whenever disaster strikes. As we head into hurricane season, I want to emphasize how important it is to have a preparedness plan in place for your family, including your furry family members.

Here are some simple things you can do today to make it easier to keep your whole family together if disaster strikes:

  • ID your pet: Make sure that cats and dogs are wearing collars and identification tags that are up to date. Include your cell phone number on your pet's tag and consider including the phone number of a friend or relative outside your immediate area.
  • Have necessary supplies ready to go:
    • Make sure you have supplies to transport your pet safely, such as a crate, leashes, food and water for at least five days for each pet, bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food.
    • If your pet needs medications, make sure they are stored in a waterproof container along with your pet’s medical records. Also bring the name and number of your veterinarian, in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.
    • Have on hand current photos of you with your pets and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case of separation—and to prove that they are yours once you're reunited.
  • Find a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to be a backup caretaker for your animals and give them a key. Make sure this backup caretaker is comfortable and familiar with your pets (and vice versa). Make sure your backup caretaker knows your pets' feeding and medication schedule, whereabouts and habits. If you use a pet-sitting service, find out in advance if they will be able to help in case of an emergency.
  • If you have a room you can designate as a “safe room,” put your emergency supplies in that room in advance. Keep any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies.

And remember: Disaster plans aren't only essential for the safety of cats and dogs. If you're responsible for other kinds of animals during disasters, disaster plans for feral or outdoor cats, horses and animals on farms can be lifesavers. A little preparation goes a long way toward ensuring the safety of our beloved companion animals, as well as other animals imperiled by disaster or emergency.

See our comprehensive resource to prepare for disasters for your animals.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.