By Langley Cornwell
A fire breaks out in your kitchen and quickly becomes larger than your fire extinguisher can handle. Or maybe you wake up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke and the blare of smoke detectors. You need to get your family out fast – including your pets.
No one is ever fully prepared for the reality of a house fire, but those who are best prepared have an evacuation plan, a go-bag with important documents, and a meeting place for everyone in the house, including pets. These suggestions could help save your pet in case of a house fire.
Proper Pet Identification
Make sure all of your pets are wearing collars and/or have microchips. The sound of a fire alarm is scary and may send a skittish pet into hiding, as will the smell of smoke. Your pet may accidentally end up outside the house, or may bolt out of your grasp in the chaos. Identification will make it easier for him to be returned home if he’s found.
Having a pet identification sticker on your front window is important because it will alert the fire department that there are pets inside the house, if they don’t come out of the house with you. Write the number and type of pet (dogs, cats, etc.) on the sticker.
Leashes and Carriers
Have your leashes and carriers in easy-to-find locations. For most dogs, the leashes should be kept in common areas or near doors so you can quickly attach them before you leave the house.
Your cat carrier should be kept in a safe place, but preferably one that gives the cat constant access rather than anxiety. Many cats fear their carriers and will panic, bolt and become defensive when it comes into sight. Cats that have access to their carriers all the time are less likely to panic when you try to put them inside. If your cat is the anxious type, you may want to leave some heavy gloves near your carrier to protect you from the bites and scratches of a panicked pet.
The Family Plan: Identifying Hiding Spots
What type of plan do you have for the members of your household? It’s a good idea to have someone designated to grab the go-bag, someone responsible for making sure the kids are out of bed, and someone designated to locate the pets and usher them to safety. If there is chaos, will that person know where to look?
Pay attention to the places your pets hide when they’re scared – especially during storms. Many animals have a place where they feel safe. Your dogs and cats are likely to go to those same places, many of which – especially in the case of cats – are small and confined.
With dogs, you may try to train them for emergencies. The Emma Zen Foundation, for example, offers dog safety games you can use to teach your dog how to react in an emergency. You can train him to respond to specific commands or even a smoke detector. Training your dog to go to a specific spot will give you a great starting point when it comes to locating him in a true emergency.
If you for some reason can’t locate your pet, leave a door open when you exit the house. Your pet may run outside by himself.
Have an Emergency Kit on Hand
You should have an emergency kit for both your family and for your pets. In the pet emergency kit, include a few days’ worth of premium quality CANIDAE pet food, bottled water, copies of vaccination records, a first aid kit, an extra leash, and photographs of your pets. Some experts recommend having pictures of your pets alone in case you need to make “missing” flyers later, but also pictures of your pets with your family in case collars and tags are lost and you need a way of proving ownership.
Where Will You Go?
Finally, where will you go once you are out of the house? There will be quite a bit of chaos outside, especially after the police and fire department arrive on the scene. Do you have a pet-friendly neighbor or nearby family member who can take your pets, preferably indoors? Your pets will need a safe, quiet place where they can be kept calm throughout the ordeal.
Over 500,000 pet deaths occur each year during house fires. Taking a few precautionary measures and having a plan in place will help prevent your pet from adding to that number.
If you want to know more about the dog that inspired the Emma Zen Foundation, check out our RPO article: Meet Emma Zen, Fundraising Canine for Pet Oxygen Masks.
Top photo by Angela Antunes/Flickr
Middle photo by Robin Zebrowski/Flickr
Bottom photo by Joel Kramer/Flickr
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell