Nobody wants to think about a pet getting caught in a fire. But preparing for this type of emergency is one of the best ways of ensuring a happy outcome for you and your animal companions. That is why every family needs to include any pets in their fire safety plan.
Like people, the first step in fire safety for animals is prevention. If you do everything you can to keep your pet from accidentally starting a fire, there's less chance you – or they – will ever have to deal with such an emergency. Here are some critical steps to take to help safeguard your home and animals against pet-started accidents.
- Extinguish ALL open flames before leaving your pet unattended at home or even in a room. Animals are curious and an investigation of a candle, cooking appliance or fireplace can quickly turn into a tragedy.
- Keep electrical cords inaccessible to pets and unplug them when they are not in use. Many animals, especially young ones, will chew on inappropriate items. This can cause serious burns and start fires.
- Disable stoves and cooktops by removing, locking or protecting knobs before you leave the house. Don't leave items cooking while your pet is home alone.
- Secure heat-generating small appliances like hair dryers, irons and curling irons out of the reach of pets.
- Install barriers in front of fireplaces, portable heaters or other sources of heat that may attract pets to lie close.
Of course, all these steps do not guarantee that you will never have to deal with a fire. Should such a situation occur, always evacuate as quickly as possible by the nearest possible exit. Collect your pet on the way out if you can do so without delaying your own exit, but NEVER re-enter a burning building to rescue a pet. What should you do? Include your pet in your safety plan of what to do in case a fire does break out. This includes:
- When you leave pets alone at home, try and crate or pen them in rooms near entrances or external windows.
- Know your pet's favorite hiding spots and safe places. A frightened pet will often seek shelter in its “safe” space. Map them out on paper so rescuers who might enter the premises will know where to look.
- Include the map of likely hiding spots in an emergency kit that also contains a collar, leash, food, medicine, veterinary paperwork and a photo of your pet. Keep the kit by a commonly used exit so it's easy to grab on the way out.
- Place “rescue” stickers on doors and windows to alert firefighters about how many pets live in the home. Include the year on the sticker so emergency personnel know it is current information. If your pet is going to be away for an extended period, remove or cover the sticker so fire crews don't needlessly put themselves in danger looking for a pet that isn't there.
- Put your pet on leash or in a restraint when you evacuate to keep them from leaping away from you and hiding in a dangerous spot. Practice evacuations so your pet gets used to quickly leaving with you.
- If you have to leave your pet inside a burning building, note its last known location and share that with emergency responders. If you live in a house, leave the door open and call for the pet to find you. Apartment doors MUST be closed to help prevent a fire from spreading.
Chances are you will never have to deal with a fire in your home. But by taking these steps, you can further reduce the risk. Should a fire break out, having a plan helps you know what to do so you can stay calm and focus on helping your pet escape, too.