Depending on the facilities a shelter uses, natural disasters such as hurricanes can be a logistical nightmare. If your local group will shelter in place for the duration of the event, they will need drinkable water and possibly some help caring for animals when staff and volunteers can’t make it in due to emergency conditions in their own neighborhoods.

A generator to borrow or lease might be a lifesaver. Rescue groups can always use towels and linens. In a disaster, disposable litter boxes and feed trays are a big help because there may not be any water or hot water to wash dishes or laundry.

If your local group has to relocate or temporarily house pets from the community, emergency shelter supplies include all of the above plus folding cages or portable pens or corrals, water troughs, and weatherproof shelters. We recently received a donation of military HAZMAT decontamination tents that can withstand high winds when staked down. These make great staging and triage areas for emergencies and come in handy during outdoor events in bad weather all year around.

Recordkeeping can be complex in emergencies. Computers may be down or networks unavailable. Sometimes cell and phone service is spotty. CB radios, walkie-talkies and just good old information runners make getting information from one group to another possible. Consider inverters for camping that allow you to recharge cell phones or 120V items from operational cars. Camp stoves and fuel may also be useful.

Develop a relationship now with your local groups and their vendors. Sometimes supplies are easy enough to get, but moving them from the warehouse to the shelter becomes difficult when shipping companies and road crews are tied up with delivering materials for hospitals and relief shelters. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle or a towing truck you may be able to help.

Some government shelters are part of the emergency management team in cities and counties. These groups will be able to staff their shelter and get supplies. But they may need help getting the word out to local pet owners. You can volunteer to monitor a web page or Facebook site and direct people in need to the proper action or location.

There are so many ways to help in an emergency but the one thing everyone can do is be prepared to care for your own so you won’t rely on the emergency services that less able-bodied people and pets will need.