Don't wait until a hurricane is bearing down on the Tampa Bay area to make decisions about:
• Where you will go if you evacuate. A hotel or a friend or relative on high ground are better choices than public shelters, which should be your last resort. If you must stay at a special-needs shelter, call your local emergency operations center now (look in the blue pages in the front of the phone book) to register and arrange for evacuation. If your medical condition requires that you be hospitalized during a disaster, your doctor must make those arrangements in advance.
• Who among out-of-town relatives will be the family information center. Use that person as a clearinghouse for other concerned relatives.
• Where you will go if you take your pet. Most public shelters will not accept pets. Here are the shelters that do:
Pinellas County: Oak Grove Middle School, 1370 S Belcher Road, Clearwater; Thurgood Marshall Middle School, 3901 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg; Dunedin Highland Middle School, 70 Patricia Ave., Dunedin. These shelters will accommodate more than 700 pets total. Preregistration is required: online, at pinellascounty.org, click on "Departments A-Z," then on "Animal Services"; or call (727) 582-2150. Visit pinellascounty.org/emergency/petpreparedness.htm for more information about hotels and motels that take pets.
Pasco County: No pet-friendly shelters.
Hernando County: Animal Services facility next to the county fairgrounds on U.S. 41.
Hillsborough County: Burnett Middle School, south of Interstate 4 in Seffner, 200 pets and owners; Sickles High School, 7950 Gunn Highway, Tampa, 200 pets and owners. No exotics. No reservations necessary.
If you do take your pet, store in plastic a photo of you and your pet in case you are separated, as well as vaccination paperwork, which is required by shelters and boarding facilities. Label the items with your name and your pet's name, including a carrier or crate large enough for your pet to move around. Some other important items:
• ID collar and rabies tag/license and a leash.
• Enough food and treats for two weeks, and food and water bowls.
• Medications and care instructions in a waterproof container.
• Newspapers, cat litter, scoop, plastic trash bags for handling waste.
• A comfort item such as a favorite toy or blanket.
• A manual can opener.