By Don Hanson, PCBC-A, BFRAP
We have all heard news stories about tragic home fires where the pets did not survive. Sadly, incidents where the pet woke the family, and everyone was spared are the exception. A fire is scary for everyone involved but listed below are several facts that are especially important for those of us with pets.
- Approximately 80% of all fires occur in a private home; therefore, if your pet encounters a fire, it is most likely to do so in your home.
- We often leave pets alone in our homes, at least some of the time, and they typically cannot rescue themselves.
- Nearly 1000 fires a year are started by a family pet.
- Typically, you only have about 2 to 5 minutes to escape a house fire. That's very little time to get yourself out, much less your pets.
- Home fires are the most common disaster the American Red Cross responds to and the most preventable. Unfortunately, they also typically require a family and pets to relocate for at least a few days.
Fire safety tips specific to all
- Install smoke and fire alarms in your home. Monitored alarms that automatically call the fire department offer the best protection, especially if your pet is left home alone. Test your alarms monthly and replace batteries and alarms per the manufacturer's recommendations.
- Install fire extinguishers in your home and ensure all know how to use them.
- Develop a family fire plan and have a practice drill at least twice a year. The plan should include two ways to exit every room, where you will meet once outside, how to call 9-1-1, how to Stop, Drop & Roll if on fire, and which adults will be responsible for the pets.
Fire safety tips specific to pets
Keep your pet away from and NEVER leave the pet unsupervised near:
- Cooking equipment, especially stoves. More than one dog has turned on a stove which caused a fire.
- Wood stoves and fireplaces. Fireplaces must have a metal or heat-tempered glass screen.
- Candles, lamps, and space heaters that could ignite a fire.
- Electrical cords, especially if your pet is a chewer.
- Use crates, baby gates, and pet-proof rooms to protect your pet from hazards when you are not home. It will also make it easier for first responders to rescue them if they are in a specific area.
- Acclimate your cat to its carrier to make it easier to rescue your cat.
- Know where your pet likes to hide so that you or first responders can quickly find them.
- Ensure your pet's microchip and tags are updated with current information if they run off during the fire.
- Post a red Pet Alert sticker on each entrance to your home. Minimally the sticker should indicate the number of dogs, cats, and other pets and include at least one emergency phone number in case you are not home. Please remember to update this sticker any time the pet population in your home changes.
- Keep a collar on your dog and have leashes and carriers (for your cat) prepositioned near each exit to your home.
- Have your car set up so you can use it as a temporary shelter for your pets once they are out of your home.
- Have contact information for emergency veterinary clinics in your area readily available in case your pet needs immediate emergency care.
- Have a" go bag" ready for each pet containing: an extra leash and collar, vaccination records, medications, and contact information for local boarding facilities in case your pets need to be sheltered after the fire.
- Include your pet in your biannual home fire drills.
When a fire occurs
- Call 9 1 1.
- All family members should evacuate the home, only attempting to gather the pets if safe to do so. Do NOT endanger yourself; wait for emergency responders to arrive.
- Never go back into a burning home but leave the door open so your pet can escape.
Most of us never expect to be in a fire, but those that plan on what to do will have a better chance of survival.
Resources – Pet Fire Safety
American Humane - https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/pet-fire-safety/
National Fire Prevention Association - https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/Public-Education/Resources/Safety-tip-sheets/PetSafetyTips.ashx
Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) and the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), serving on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairing the Advocacy Committee. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show podcast, available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
©10-Nov-22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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