Fire Safety Tips for Pet Owners

18 Jan


Baby, it’s cold outside! So cold that we’ve finally fired up the beautiful wood-burning fireplace in our new house (oh yeah, we moved over Christmas because that’s what sane, responsible adults do!) and have given up our fight with Mother Nature. Winter is a time for cozy blanket mountain, a warm crackling fire, and candles. It’s about ambiance, man.

But, you know, be careful about that. Especially with pets. It’s estimated that nearly a half million pets are affected by fires in the United States, with over a thousand being caused by the pets themselves. Yikes! So what do you need to know, and what can you do? Read on!

Fire Prevention

As always, be smart. Don’t overcrowd outlets, remember to extinguish all fires (fireplace, cigarettes, candles) when unattended, don’t forget to turn off your hair curler/straightener, remember to regularly clean the lint trap on your dryer… these things should be common sense, right?

Well, throw a pet in the mix, and everything just got more complicated. How do I know? Because when Ace was just a kitten, she singed her tail while walking by a candle. She was fine, but the “What smells like burnt hair?” conversation should never end with “Oh crap, it’s the cat!”—learn from my mistakes. Always be aware of where your pets are in relation to anything that might burn them or catch fire. This includes the elements on the stovetop, too!

In Case of Emergency

What do you do in case of emergency?

  • Ensure all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order. At minimum, you need one on each floor of your home.
  • Have two plans in place: one if you’re home at the time, and one if you’re not. If you are home, know which pet you’re responsible for, but remember safety first! If you’re not home, be sure you can notify first responders that pets may be inside the house.
  • Be sure you have a first aid kit for you and your pet(s). Lucy put together a great list to make your own Dog First Aid Kit.
  • A good idea is to regularly limit where your pets can go when you’re not home. Close bedroom doors and limit your pets to the main arteries of the house—that way, in case of a fire, they are already funnelled toward the exits.
  • If you have shy pets, make a mental note of where they may hide in case of emergency. Under your daughter’s bed? In the closet? This information can help for a quick rescue.
  • If you live in an apartment, part of your plan (in the event you are not home at the time) should include already notifying your landlord that you have pets. If needed, they can notify first responders on your behalf.
  • Always keep your dog’s collar/leash accessible by an exit. If you have to leave in a hurry, you need to be able to grab these and get out. If possible (and if you have a cat), leave your cat carrier close to an exit as well.
  • Keep a photo of your pets on your phone (or in your wallet) along with their medical information in case they get loose during the evacuation.
  • Keep your vet’s contact information with you, and know which offices offer emergency visits and after-hours.

Rescue Alert Sticker

Did you know you can order a free Pet Safety Pack from the ASPCA to notify others at the door that you have pets inside? The rescue alert sticker gets placed on your front door to notify firefighters that pets may still be inside should you not be there to tell them when they arrive.

Obedience is Key

Never stop training your dog with regards to critical commands, most importantly recall and stay. Whether it’s a fire or something else, these two commands can be the difference between life and death. If you feel your training isn’t up to snuff, consider our article on basic commands (and another with hand signals!), or seek the help of a professional. More than anything, good recall is crucial.

For more information on fire safety, consider reading the ASPCA’s Disaster Preparedness information.