Pets are just as affected by home fires as their people, and the last time you want to be thinking of disaster prep is when something is already wrong. Take a moment to form your pet fire safety plan.
Thousands of pets are affected annually by home fires*. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to prepare yourself and your pets to get to safety in case of a fire. Here are ways you can prepare for a fire in your house and help protect your pets from such a disaster.
The biggest thing you can do to prevent your pet from being injured in a home fire is to have working fire alarms and extinguishers. Alarms with current batteries (checked regularly) should be placed on each floor or area of the home. If you’re out of the house a lot of the time, you might consider installing fire alarms that are connected to a monitoring unit able to alert the fire department directly.
You should also be aware of these common pet-related fire hazards:
- Never leave unattended candles or open flames lit around pets. Your dog or cat could accidentally knock them over and start a fire. The ASPCA reports that more than 1,000 fires are started accidentally by pets each year.
- Chewed electrical cords are another common cause of home fires. If you’ve got young pets who haven’t learned this is unacceptable behavior yet, be sure you’ve puppy- or kitten-proofed your home by hiding loose cords away.
- Stovetop burner fires can be caused by a pet (usually a cat) playing in the kitchen area. Consider using stove knob covers, available in the baby-proofing section of a store, to prevent accidental burner fires.
- Pet alert stickers listing the number and type of pets in your house will help first responders rescue your pets in an emergency. Place stickers at access points like front and back doors. Many stores and non-profit shelters have these stickers available for free, including the ASPCA.
- Create an emergency kit for your pet. This should be kept in one central location—preferably near an exit—and should include a leash or carrier, food, and any necessary medications. For cats, consider including a small litterbox. You may also wish to secure your pet’s veterinary records with this kit—if you need to board your pet after an emergency, you’ll have current vaccination records available.
- Pets can be lost in the chaos of a home fire, whether they escape the house or get lost during the aftermath. Microchipping your pet can help ensure he or she is returned to your care.
- Home fire drills will help avoid unnecessary panic or confusion in the event of a fire. Your whole family should participate in the planning and execution of the drills.
- Many first responders’ equipment now includes pet-sized oxygen masks. If your local fire department doesn’t have these tools, consider coordinating a neighborhood fundraiser to help purchase some for the unit.
In Case of Emergency
- Remember your drills and don’t panic! Your pet will be able to sense your state of mind and this can make them more agitated.
- If possible, always use a leash or carrier when evacuating the home. Your pet can panic in an emergency and can get lost or run away during the chaos.
- If you need to escape your home before you’ve secured your pet, leave multiple access points open for them to escape on their own. Calling to your pet from a safe distance through an open door can help draw him or her to you.
*The Fire Department Network News reports that an estimated 500,000 pets are affected by home fires every year.
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