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10 Fire Emergency Preparedness Tips for Pet Owners

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While the odds are in your favor that nothing will happen, a fire could destroy your home at any time, particularly by misuse of space heaters in  fire-sticker.jpg the winter, or by a natural fire in the summer.  Many families have evacuation plans already in place that include their pets.  If you haven’t created a plan or have forgotten to include your pets, consider some of these points for your plan:

1. Alert firefighters to indoor pets  - Place a pet rescue fire safety sticker in a window on each side of your home. These stickers, which are available free from most pet stores and non-profit humane organizations, inform firefighters to “Please rescue my pets!”  They let fire crews know that you have pets inside the house, how many, and what kind.  Free stickers can be obtained through the ASPA here.

Since many fires have occurred when the resident was not home, these stickers have saved many pet lives.   Also, if you no longer have a pet, be sure to remove the stickers.

2. Keep outdoor pets away from danger - If you have a doghouse or a pen for a rabbit, pot-bellied pig or other outdoor pet, make sure it’s at least 20 feet away from any brush that could possibly become fuel in a fire. That way, you’ll have time to go out and rescue your pet if such a fire does threaten your property.

3. Know your pet's usual hiding places - During a fire, your pets will be terrified and they’ll most likely run to in the places they feel most safe. If you don’t know their common hiding places, you could run out of time to save your friend. Find all the best cubbyholes and niches, map them out on a piece of paper, and include the map in your fire escape plan in case you need others not familiar with their hiding spots to help you find them.  

4. Have an emergency kit  - When preparing an emergency kit for your family, include pet-friendly items as well.  GrabPak offers ready-made kits designed especially for cats and dogs – MeowPak and BarkPak.  In addition to the items included in these kits, you may want to consider adding some additional necessities including:

  • Your pet’s prescription medication
  • Cards with the vet’s phone number and the location of the nearest emergency animal hospital
  • A copy of your pet’s medical history
  • Photos of your pet in case he is missing after a fire
  • Towels or blankets
  • Saline solution to flush debris from eyes

5. Secure your pet during danger   - Always evacuate your pets on a leash or in a pet carrier. Just as with fireworks, pets will panic at the smell of smoke, and they may bolt when outside, making them impossible to find. Put your dog on a leash; put your cat in a carrier.

6. Create an pen access   - Leave an outside door open. If you must evacuate and can’t find your pet in the house, leave a door open that leads to the outside, and then call the pet’s name once you get out. With luck, he’ll hear you and head for your voice, although this works better for dogs than cats. Be prepared; he’ll be panicked. Be sure to have a designated meeting place near your home for everyone to meet so everyone will be accounted for away from the fire.

With a little planning, you can ensure that everyone on two and four legs will be safe in case there is a fire in your home.

7. Practice, practice, practice  - Yes, we all know rehearsing your family’s fire escape plan can feel a little silly, and it may even elicit giggles from your young ones. But practicing the drill with pets will help children better understand the consequences of a potential emergency. As part of your evacuation plan, divide and conquer. Decide which family member will be responsible for which pet. Then decide what you have to do in order to get each animal out of the house safely. Account for dogs that need to be let out of crates or gated areas. Place cats in carriers and lead dogs to safety using a leash. Animals are likely to flee in the midst of a terrifying situation like firefighters showing up at the doorstep. Revise your plan when the health status of anyone in the house (human or pet) changes.

family-dog.jpg8. Collar and current tags  - Keep your pet’s current license and vaccination tag on their collar to help with identification if you become separated. Keep in mind that the best way to ensure easy identification is to have the animal micro chipped.

9. Pet-proof your home  - We know your furry friend is perfect, but don’t forget that your kitty or pup could be the cause of a fire, too. According to the National Fire Protection Association, pets accidentally start nearly 1,000 house fires each year. Here’s what you can do to fire-proof your pet’s surroundings:

Extinguish open flames. Whether it’s a candle, fireplace or your gas stove’s heat source, a warm, glowing light is attractive to curious cats and dogs. Make sure they are not left unattended around open flames. Also, since pets are notorious for knocking over candles with one swoosh of their tail; consider purchasing flameless candles, which contain small light bulbs instead of wicks. At the very least, you’ll prevent the unsightly and uncomfortable whisker singe.

Choose outdoor pet dishes wisely. Don’t leave glass water bowls on wooden decks. When filtered through the glass and water, the sun’s rays can heat up and ignite the wood. Opt for stainless steel or ceramic bowls instead.Remove or cover knobs of older model stoves not equipped with start safety features when you’re not around. Amazingly, according to the NFPA, cats or dogs jumping on top of an older stove and inadvertently turning on the cook top is the most common way a pet can start a fire in your home.

Keep curious paws away from cords. Cats are especially interested in exploring anything that looks like string. Keep electrical wires and power cords secured and out of your pets reach.

10. Hard-wired and monitored smoke detectors - Lastly, remember that pets left alone can't escape a burning home. Consider using monitored smoke detectors that are connected to an emergency response center with people on hand who can call the fire department in your absence.