AUSTIN (KXAN) — Natural disasters can happen at any time, so there’s no wrong time to start preparing for one. Just be sure not to forget something important before bad weather hits: your pets.

“You still see stories of pets being left behind and they’re in crates at home or they’re tied to trees, and this breaks my heart.”

That’s the message from Cheryl Nelson, meteorologist, and author of the website “Prepare with Cher” specializing in disaster preparedness. She says too often pets are left out of a family’s disaster preparedness plan.

Helping your pet survive a flood

Here in Central Texas, flash flooding is one of our greatest threats and it doesn’t always happen when you’re at home.

“If you live on a ground floor of a building and that water starts to rise quickly, always know your risk,” said Nelson, who is also a FEMA-certified disaster preparedness instructor.

Consider where your pet is located in your home and whether your pet is able to move to higher ground to escape flooding if you’re not around.

Finding your pet after a disaster

If you and your pet do get separated during a disaster, having your pet microchipped can help you track them down.  But it may not be enough.

“Make sure that information is up to date, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that a pet is found and they’re microchipped, but the phone number is out of order and they can’t get in touch with the owner,” Nelson said.

When making a disaster kit for your family, don’t forget to grab things for your pets like vaccine documentation, toys, food, and water — enough for three days or longer. Keep this disaster kit in a safe room, and if you need to be in that room during severe weather, bring your pets in there too.

Nelson summarized how you should consider pets in your disaster preparedness plan, “treat the pet like a kid that is going to be with you for life.”