Fire safety and prevention tips for pet parents
October is National Fire Prevention Month. As a building safety professional, you have likely already created a fire safety plan for your family, home and workplace, but what about man’s best friend? Whether your dog is patiently awaiting your arrival at home or he’s with you on the job, creating a pet fire safety plan will help you keep your favorite furry friend safe in case of an unexpected fire emergency.
Preparing for a house fire when you have pets
A pet fire safety plan starts with the tenets of a general fire safety plan and builds from there. The tips below assume you have already installed smoke detectors or fire alarms and test them monthly. You also have working fire extinguishers, a planned and practiced escape route, and other fire safety protocols in place. Now let’s talk about how to protect your dog, cat, rabbit, bird, ferret, guinea pig, goldfish, iguana or whatever other pets share your life and your home.
Tips for designing a pet fire safety plan:
- Create an evacuation kit for each pet. Kits should include a copy of your pet’s medical records, food, bottled water, medications, emergency contact numbers and other items as needed like crates, leashes, harnesses, litter, litter box and toys. Label the kits by name and description (e.g., Jake, Yellow Lab) and keep them in a safe and accessible location.
- Make sure your pets are identifiable. For dogs and cats, this means collars and tags with up-to-date contact information. It’s also a best practice to microchip your pets in case the collar comes off. For other pets, you may need to get creative. Think luggage tag attached to a birdcage or your phone number taped to a fishbowl.
- Arrange for temporary housing. Know where your pets will stay if you must evacuate your home and they can’t stay with you. It could be with a friend or family member or at an animal hospital or boarding facility. Never leave your pets behind. If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for them.
- Practice evacuating your pets. When humans are practicing the fire escape plan, pets should practice too. Train them to come when you call, so it’s second nature in case of an emergency. For pets in aquariums or cages, identify who is responsible for evacuating them and practice moving them outside.
- Make it easy for first responders to help. Use pet alert window clings as close to the front door as possible to let others know what type of pets you have and how many. Keep the information current to save first responders from risking their lives searching for pets that no longer live in your home.
These tips apply to the workplace, too. If you bring your four-legged colleagues to work with you, keep identification on them at all times, maintain an evacuation kit in your vehicle and make it easy for others to help by sharing emergency contact information with colleagues.
Now that you know how to protect your pets, let’s talk about how to keep them from setting your home ablaze.
How to pet-proof your home to prevent house fires
As cute and loveable as your pets are, they can also accidentally cause house fires. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that pets or wild animals play a role in starting approximately 750 house fires per year. The good news is, there are steps you can take to mitigate that risk.
Tips for reducing the likelihood that your pet will set fire to the house:
- Keep pets away from stoves and countertops. When you go out, remove the stove knobs or use child-proof covers to protect them. Otherwise, cats climbing on the counter or large dogs counter-surfing for treats may accidentally ignite the stove.
- Extinguish open flames before leaving the room. Even if you are only going to the bathroom or running upstairs for a minute, blow out candles and turn off the stove. It only takes a second for a curious nose or a happy tail to start a fire.
- Use flameless candles. Battery-operated candles use a light bulb rather than an open flame, making them safer for pet-friendly homes. Consider replacing your candles with flameless candles.
- Keep pets away from lamps, space heaters and hot irons. Any of these items can easily ignite a fire if they are knocked over while plugged in.
- Use a protective screen on your fireplace. Whether you use metal, heat-tempered glass or mesh, spend some time researching screens to ensure the one you have will block sparks and embers while also creating a barrier for curious animals.
- Keep pets from chewing on electrical cords. Rabbits are notorious for this! So are puppies and kittens. Not only can damaged electrical cords start a fire, but they can also seriously injure your pet. Check all cords regularly and replace them immediately if they are damaged.
- Crate young pets when you’re not home. Depending on your house layout, you may also be able to use a baby gate. Securing young and energetic pets while you’re away will protect them and your house by keeping them out of mischief.
We hope you’ll never need to use your pet fire safety plan but spending time on preparation and prevention will help you keep your favorite furry friends safe in case of an unexpected fire. Once you’ve pet-proofed your home and put your plan into place, give yourself (and your pets!) a treat. In honor of National Fire Prevention Month, share these tips with family, friends and colleagues to keep all of the animals in your life safe and happy.