For people who adore their pets, the prospect of their home catching on fire while they’re away is horrifying. Many people rely on the window and door stickers that say something along the lines of “firefighters, save our pets” to alert the firefighters to the presence of animals in the house. But we don’t know if those really work. Although it never hurts to have a sticker like that, many times the location of a fire forces firefighters to enter through side windows where stickers are not present or visible. Smoke from the fire can render stickers black and unreadable as well. There are many reasons why the stickers may go unnoticed in the urgency of the moment.
Your pets are your treasured family members and they need protection as much as your own family in the event of a fire. Some 500,000 pets are affected by fire every year and many of them die. Most fire victims died from smoke asphyxiation. Fires need oxygen to burn, so the lack of oxygen or inhaling smoke is more often a killing factor rather than the fire itself.
Important Tips for Homeowners with Pets
- Make sure you have working smoke detectors on each level of your home. Place the detectors close to bedrooms and the kitchen, either on the ceiling or 6 to 12 inches below a ceiling on the wall, away from air vents. Make sure the detectors are in good working order. Mark your calendar to remind yourself to check the batteries on a regular basis.
- Another good home safety measure is to install carbon monoxide detectors in your house. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that causes severe illness or death to pets and people.
- Put window decals around your house so firefighters know there are pets inside. Do this all the way around the house and not just on one window. You can get decals from the ASPCA or your local fire department.
- Fire experts say that many dogs die in fires because they are put in crates or a room they cannot escape. Make sure your fire plan accounts for dogs in crates.
- Keep leashes on hand so you can leash your dog to prevent them from escaping in panic. Keep your pets on the ground floor of your house to make a rescue easier. Keep exits and hallways free of clutter to let you get out of a burning house more safely.
- Make sure pets wear current visible identification tags, and are microchipped and registered.
- Research safe places to take your pets. Ask friends if they can shelter you and your pets, and check with local boarding facilities, animal shelters, and humane societies.
- Put together a dog disaster kit with dog food and medications, copies of health records, your vet’s phone number, and a list of facilities you can take your animal to. It’s also helpful to include recent photos, favorite toys and bedding, and an extra leash/collar with the pet’s ID.
- Give a key to a neighbor, and make sure they know where the dog is located within the house so they can inform firefighters.
- Listen to your dog and watch their behavior. Canines have keen senses of smell and can detect smoke before humans. If your dog acts strangely, look into the situation immediately and be prepared to get your family, and follow your plan of evacuation.
- If you have to evacuate and can’t find your dog in the house, leave the outside door open and call your dog’s name when you get out. They may be able to hear you and escape. If your dog was in a smoke-filled room or area, get them to the vet for a thorough exam.
- Neighbors are your first defence. Firefighters say in most cases a successful pet rescue is brought about by a neighbor quickly alerting them to the fact that there are pets inside the home. The same goes for children. Please make sure you and your neighbors know each other’s pets to be sure. It might be a good idea to put together a directory of neighbor’s addresses, names, number and type of pet, and the number of family members in each home and distribute them to everyone on the street. Your pets will not only thank you, but also the firefighters who save lives. Plus, it’s a great way to meet and greet your neighbors!