As pet parents, we never want to imagine a scenario where our furry family members are in danger. However, with so many pets affected by house fires each year, the most loving thing we can do is plan ahead… just in case. A fire is scary for everyone – including your li'l buddy – but following these steps can help prepare you for an emergency fire situation, making you and your pet feel safer and less stressed.
1. Take Basic Safety Precautions
Everyone knows that smoke detectors are a necessity. However, a lot of people forget to change the batteries. Your pet fire safety plan should start with making sure you have multiple smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home and taking care to change the batteries twice a year.
As a pet parent, you may also want to consider purchasing a monitored smoke detector, especially if your furry friend spends a lot of time home alone. A monitored smoke detector will notify the fire department if a fire starts while you’re away.
Basic safety also includes ensuring that your pet pal is wearing a collar with proper identification (including their up-to-date license) at all times. If you haven't yet, it's a good idea to consider microchipping your pet just in case you ever get separated during an emergency.
2. Prevent Your Pet from Starting a Fire
Did you know that somewhere around 700 house fires each year are actually started by pets? This means that a big part of your pet fire safety plan should be eliminating risks in terms of your dog or cat. Here are some of the primary risks and how you can help mitigate them:
- Fireplaces – Pets love to cozy up near your fireplace, so you may want to consider a pet gate to ensure they keep a safe distance. If not, make sure you have a screen in place and never leave your pal alone in the room while the fire is crackling or the embers are hot.
- Candles – Curious kitties and pups can easily knock over a candle and start a fire. You may want to switch to battery-operated flameless candles to play it safe. Otherwise, never leave a lit candle unattended with a pet in the home… not even for a moment.
- Space heaters – Again, curiosity (or wagging tails!) can lead to tipping these over, which could result in a house fire. Also, switch your space heater off and unplug it when you leave the room.
- Stovetops – If your pet can reach it, assume they will touch it. Pets accidentally turning stove knobs is a leading cause of pet-generated house fires. It's much safer to use protective covers or simply remove the knobs.
- Electrical cords – Sometimes dogs and cats think that electrical cords are chew toys. Of course, it's best to train them to stay away, but also take the extra step and secure all wires and cords.
- Water bowls on wooden decks – This one may sound surprising, but if you keep glass water bowls on your deck for your dog, the sun's reflection could actually be strong enough to spark a fire. Switch to plastic or ceramic.
3. Protect Your Pets When You're Away
In an ideal scenario, if a fire breaks out, you’ll be home to lead your pet to safety. However, you should take a few precautions in case your pal is home alone when a fire starts.
If you can, keep your pet near an exit while you’re away so they will have a better chance of getting out. You can use pet gates to keep them in a designated area close to an exit.
It's also smart to get a pet fire safety sticker. You can hang this cling in a visible window to alert firefighters that you have furry family members inside. The sticker will list important information, such as the number of pets, type of pets, and veterinarian contact information.
Get a free sticker today from our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®)!
4. Plan Your Escape Route
Just like your typical escape plan, your pet fire escape strategy starts with identifying all of the exits and planning your evacuation route. If the main doors are blocked, which windows can you use to get out? If a staircase is impassable, how else can you evacuate? Also, designate an outside meeting place for all household members that is a safe distance from the home. Here are a few fire escape tips specific to pet parents:
- Designate one family member to be in charge of the pets so that the rest can focus on evacuating
- Know your pal's hideaway spots because they will likely retreat during the chaos
- Keep a leash, an accurately labeled carrier, and treats near your exits (but take care never to block the path)
- Practice with fire drills, and always include your pet when you're running through the escape plan
It's important to remember that no matter how much we love our pets, we shouldn't put our own lives, or the lives of our human family members, in danger during a fire. If you cannot locate your pet, you must evacuate. Once you're out of your home, you should not go back inside for any reason, but you may inform the fire department that your pet is inside. The professionals will work their hardest to rescue your four-legged friend.
5. Line Up a Place to Stay
If your home suffers fire damage, chances are it will be uninhabitable for a period of time. It's a good idea to plan ahead for where your dog or cat can stay during this time. Do you have a family member, neighbor, or close friend who would be willing to take in your pet until you can move back home? If not, you may want to research your options in advance.
Emergency Care Tips
If your pet suffers an injury during a fire, you should take them to a veterinarian or emergency veterinarian clinic as soon as possible. However, knowing some basic pet first-aid can make a big difference in an emergency situation.
It's a good idea to assemble a pet first aid kit ahead of time with items such as gauze pads, alcohol wipes, ice packs, antibiotic ointment, and towels, just to name a few. Learning how to perform CPR on your pet can also be a life-saving decision. In the meantime, here are some first-aid basics to remember:
- External bleeding – Apply pressure to the wound and elevate.
- Seizures – Keep your pet away from objects that may harm them, but do not attempt to restrain them in any way.
- Shock – Restrain your li'l buddy, keeping them as warm and quiet as possible.
- Loss of consciousness – Keep the head level with the rest of the body.
Looking for another way to help protect your pal? Don't wait for a disaster to strike – get an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan to help cover routine visits and unexpected costs. Begin by getting a personalized quote.
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.