PET FIRE SAFETY IS CRUCIAL
Pet fire safety is serious business. We have to not only protect the lives of our loved ones but also the lives of our family pets. It is important to understand that, like infants, pets can not open windows or doors to escape a fire or by climbing down a ladder. They are totally dependent on humans to take care of them in this situation. It is imperative that all homes have functional fire alarms. If they are not hard wired into the electrical system, make sure all batteries are routinely changed and the system tested on a regular basis. I recommend also, a carbon monoxide detector. These are often mounted at about 3-4 feet off of the floor. Most problems with carbon monoxide are when people and pets are sleeping; which is at the level of a bed at 3-4 feet!
Pet fire safety entails making a plan of action. The first thing to do is to figure out how family members will get out of the home and who will be responsible for taking care of the pets. One person may be designated for finding a dog or cat if it is the only one in the house. If there are multiple pets, assign each person to a pet. Another important pet fire safety thing to do is to put stickers on as many exterior windows as possible that alert firefighters and other personnel that there are pets inside the home. Free stickers may be obtained from the ASPCA or from Pet Rescue Stickers for a nominal charge.
UNDERSTANDING DOG AND CAT PSYCHOLOGY
If a fire erupts and a pet smells smoke it is going to panic. They are no different than people. Smoke triggers a hard wired response for survival. People can rationalize but pets can not. A dog or cat will often hide in an area that it knows to be a secure spot. It may be under a certain bed, under a sofa, on a certain lounge chair and the like. So it is important to know where each pet in the household “hangs out”. Where is that pets favorite place to chill? That is where you will probably find the animal. The big problem is what happens if you can not find the pet? It may have escaped without you knowing it but if uncertain, leave a front door open just in case a pet is inside. Call its name and try to get the animal to hear your voice. That may be enough to coach him outside to you.
PRACTICE THE PET FIRE SAFETY PLAN
It is a good idea to periodically practice your pet fire safety plan when family members and pets are home. When moving pets to the outside always use a leash or a cat carrier. In a pinch, a pillow case tied up at the top can serve as a carrying container for cats and small dogs. Each time you do a dry run, you will get better at it and you will speed up each time you do it. Animals must be restrained; otherwise the panic mode will take over again and they will try to hide. Also, make sure you have an emergency kit on hand as written about under Pet Emergency Care.
The whole point of pet fire safety is all about saving lives; human and companion animals. The best way to prevent fires is prevention. Don’t keep stacks of combustible items like newspapers, gas cans, paint cans around as any spark can start a fire. Even a spark from a home with an ancient electrical system can start a fire. More information can be obtained from your local fire department or police.