It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but the sad truth is, losing a family pet in a house fire is a very real possibility. We teach our children all about fire safety, so that they are as prepared as possible if ever such an emergency should occur. But, sadly, we often overlook preparing for the safety of our furry friends during the same crisis.
July 15th is National Pet Fire Safety Day. It’s a stark reminder of the danger that home fires pose to pets. The National Fire Protection Association recently (and heart-wrenchingly) reported that house fires affect somewhere around 500,000 pets every year. Imagine a fire breaks out in your home in the middle of the night or worse, while you’re at work. Would your pets make it out safely? Is there any kind of plan in place? Chances are, there isn’t. (*This is simply hypothetical, so please don’t forget to breathe)
So, now that you’ve calmed down and made sure your furbabies are safe and sound, let’s talk fire safety tips for pets. The good news is most fires are completely preventable. And fire prevention is THE top priority in preventing injury and loss of life. So, .
5 Must Haves to Protect Pets in the Event of a House Fire:
- (Working) Smoke Detectors – Do you have smoke detectors? Great! Do they work? Ummm…not only should you have smoke alarms installed on every floor of your home, you need to make sure the batteries are changed regularly! Next, you’ll want to test your smoke alarms monthly as well, to be sure they are in good working order. You may also want to consider a monitored alarm service that will alert you and the fire department as soon as it detects an alarm going off. This ensures the fire department will get to your home quickly, whether or not you’re present. It can save precious time if you’re like us and have to work for a living, thus leaving your loved ones at home alone. According to Safewise, the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half if you have working smoke detectors. Smoke alarms can save lives, don’t skip a single step!
- Stick to the Plan – Whether or not you have pets, you should have a fire escape plan and practice getting out of the house in the event of an emergency. Not to sound dramatic, but this could be the difference between life and death. Advance warning from your smoke alarms is imperative! Look over the floor plan of your home to determine the best escape route from each room. Be sure the escape route is clear of trip hazards and that windows and doors can be easily opened. Have a back up route in case the primary route becomes blocked by fire. Assign a family member to each of your pets to be sure they get out as well. Bear in mind, this is not a job for small children, as they will need help getting out themselves. Keep leashes, carriers or other accessories in handy locations near doors to grab quickly for when you do get outside. Choose a meeting place outside of your home where your family can gather, so you know everyone got outside safely. Most importantly, hold a home fire drill a couple times a year, so everyone in your family knows what do, and be sure to include your pets in these drills as well. Remember those good old-fashioned fire drills we had in school? Yah, that’s exactly what we’re talking about here.
- Always Carry ID – Be sure your pet is always wearing a collar with contact ID. If you so choose, consider having your pet microchipped. To microchip a pet, a needle is used to place a tiny chip under the animal’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. The chip contains a unique number that can be read by a scanner. Register the chip and keep the information updated. You can find information on local microchip clinics by contacting the SPCA of Luzerne County. Certain pet stores also host microchip clinics throughout the year, so keep an eye out for information there too. If you’re adamant about it, you can get your pet microchipped even faster by contacting your vet, who can usually do it as well. In the chaos of a fire, a pet may be lost after getting out of the house, so having ID will be instrumental in reuniting you quickly, should it come to pass. Better safe than sorry as they say!
- Know Where They Hide – When they hear thunder or another loud noise does your buddy get frightened and hide? If so, where? It’s important to know the hiding spots your pets consider safe if you need to find them quickly in the event of a fire. If you have a pet that is crated or gated in an area at night or during the day when you are not home, it’s best to keep them near an exit. This will make it easier for you to grab them on the way out or for a firefighter to find them in the event of an emergency. If you have the crate hidden away in a back room somewhere, your pet will become harder to get to, which could be very dangerous to all parties involved.
- Mark the Windows – Having a sticker or window cling alerting emergency responders as to the number of pets in your home is an invaluable, albeit often overlooked asset. It’s a huge help to responders trying to locate a trapped pet. The ASPCA provides a free pet rescue pack (with the aforementioned stickers). Get yours now!
Yes, pets can actually start fires!
Did you realize that pets cause approximately 1,000 house fires? Neither did we! Now, now we’re not saying they’re secret pyromaniacs or anything, but they may accidentally cause a fire, just from being a bit too inquisitive. What can you do to help prevent this type of fire from starting? Ask and ye shall receive…
No Open Flames: A dog or cat can easily knock over a lit candle without even noticing (waging of a tail, anyone?), thus quickly starting a hazardous fire. Never leave candles or other open flames unattended, especially if you have pets. You may even want to consider replacing regular candles with flameless ones, as they are much safer. Be sure to extinguish all open flames before leaving your home or going to bed. This goes for fireplaces as well. Last thing you want is to be awoken from a deep sleep by the smell of smoke and heat of fire!
Stop Counter-Surfing: Who hasn’t seen this play out? A dog jumps up to see what’s on the stove or counter and accidentally turns the ignition knob and releases the gas. This is a leading cause for pet-started house fires. If you are going to be away and have pets that like to counter-surf, it might be best to remove the knobs, cover them or simply block access to the kitchen, in order to prevent an accident. Try to discourage your pets from putting their paws up on counters or anywhere near the stove to help minimize this potentially life-threatening behavior. A little obedience now can save a lot of problems later.
Frayed Wires: Check your home and appliances for frayed or gnawed electrical cords. Does your kitty or pup think your lamp cord is a chew toy? If you have a pet that is chewing on cords, you need to work to stop the behavior. Like, NOW! Not only could that easily start a fire that could burn your entire home to ground, it could just as easily electrocute your pet. Neither are good scenarios. Keep your furbaby in a safe area away from cords and be sure your wiring is inaccessible from chewing pets, until, at the very least you know they won’t try to eat it when you turn your back!
Don’t use glass food or water bowls on your wooden deck: Did you realize that glass bowls can actually magnify the sun’s rays, starting a fire? It seems like something out of a cheap fiction novel, but believe it or not, it’s actually happened! #mindblown
In short, don’t do it!
Keep Your Pets Safe: There is absolutely nothing wrong with confining puppies or other inquisitive pets to a crate or other safely gated area or pet proof room when they can’t be supervised. Many will akin it to their home (or den), where it becomes a safe space for them. Furthermore, it can actually keep them safer and reduce the risk of them accidentally starting a fire by turning on the stove, knocking over a candle, etc. So, if you have to leave the house, for work or otherwise, this is a strong option to consider.
In the event of a fire, try to stay calm! The most important thing is for you to get everyone out safely. As tough as it might be to think about, if the fire is spreading quickly and you cannot find or easily reach your pet on the way out, get your family out and leave pet rescue to the professional firemen. Alert a firefighter immediately if your pet is still inside, and DO NOT go back in once you are out. Firefighters are prepared and equipped for this exact type of emergency, you likely are not. Fire experts estimate you only have a few short minutes to get out of a burning home safely, so don’t panic and act quickly. Thankfully, you will have followed the above fire safety tips for pets, so you can not only minimize the risk of fire but have a smart plan to get out with everyone in tow, should one occur.
At Choice One Community Credit Union, we love our furbabies as much as you do! So, be safe, be smart and above all else, be prepared!