Who plans on having a house fire? No one does! Preparation and planning are the methods to increase the chances of a successful outcome. This applies to many other disasters too. July 15th has been designated as National Pet Fire Safety Day to help us review and prepare for these unpredictable events. We hope you never have to face this event, but we want you to be prepared in case it does.
Did you know that many fires are actually caused by our pets? Every year, numerous pets die in house fires, and over 1000 fires are started by our dogs and cats. Open flames left unattended are the most common cause. The candle that you love to smell, if left unattended, may be turned over by the cat or dog accidentally. Other fires are started by dogs jumping up on the stove, turning knobs leading to a fire. Electrical cords may be responsible if the dog or cat chews on them.
When I was in fourth grade, a new kitten chewed into the electrical lamp cord. The fire was quickly contained because my father was present. While the kitten suffered major burns to the mouth, it did survive but was never able to eat or drink properly. Pet proofing the home and discouraging these behaviors are vital safety measures.
An emergency escape plan is important. Create a plan as a family and practice it regularly. Assign a task to someone retrieve the pet. You should also know where the pet likes to hide when stressed. Have an emergency supply kit to retrieve quickly with leash and collar. For cats which have a carrier, retrieval is important. Have a meeting place designated outside as well. Immediately place dogs on leash and collar or small dogs in carriers and cats into carriers. When you are safely out of the fire and smoke, the blaze of fire, fear, and excitement may cause the pet to become stressed and try to escape.
Once you have an emergency plan and escape route established, practice the plan. While by nature we tend to resist role playing and practicing plans, there is a good reason. If you practice before the time of excitement, stress, and fear caused by the fire, we are able to respond calmly and carry out the plan.
Important side note: Teach your small dogs and cats to see the carrier as a safe place. Feeding the pet in the carrier regularly will encourage the pet to be ready to go in the carrier. If the only time the pet is placed in the carrier is to go the veterinarian, they are not excited to go into the carrier.
As important as our pets are to us, if the pet cannot be easily located, do not linger in the house. You do not want to endanger your life, leaving both you and your pet requiring rescue. Once safely outside, call your pet. Often they will respond by coming outside. Let first responders on the scene know of any pets in the house.
Place fire decals in a front window or door to identify type and number of pets in the house. Be sure to keep this updated! You do not want to endanger a first responder looking for a pet which you no longer have.
Be sure all your pets have microchips in case the animal escapes. Also keep the information of address current with the microchip company. The incorrect information can be as bad as no identification.
Preparing for the worst can make all the difference if the unthinkable happens!