Fire safety measures are essential yet often overlooked. In addition to outlining the proper action to take should a fire break out, a fire safety evacuation plan can be an invaluable, life-saving tool. A fire safety plan should include all members of a household — including pets.
The American Humane Society says each year more than 500,000 pets are affected by house fires. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that nearly 1,000 home fires each year are accidentally started by pets. Pets are curious animals and they may investigate open flames from unattended candles, fireplaces or grills. Pets may start fires by accidentally turning stove knob covers or biting on or playing with electrical wires and outlets. Young pets may be especially inquisitive and boisterous, so fires may be prevented by keeping young animals behind gates or in secure areas when there are open flames.
There are many ways to safeguard everyone in the event of fire. Here are some steps to include in a fire safety plan.
- Check and replace smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. Monitored smoke detectors can be helpful if you regularly leave pets home alone, since firefighters will be alerted and can respond.
- Take inventory of where pets like to hide or nap. This can prove helpful if you need to evacuate a home quickly due to fire. Remember that pets can sense stress and may be more difficult to catch if they feel something is amiss, advises the ASPCA. Therefore, try to remain as calm as possible.
- Keep pets near exits when you are not home to make it easier for firefighters to enter the house and save the animals. The Red Cross also recommends placing collars and leashes as well as pet carriers near the exits.
- Invest in a pet safety sticker and hang it in a visible window to alert firefighters that you have pets inside. The sticker includes important information, such as the number of pets, type of pets and veterinarian contact information.
- Plan escape routes and practice evacuations. Make sure at least one family member is in charge of grabbing pets and getting outside safely so others can focus on evacuation. Identify all exits and what to do if one or more exits is impassable.
- Have a game plan should the house be damaged and uninhabitable. Line up a place to meet outside and explore pet-friendly accommodations at a hotel, friend or family member’s house.
Fire safety plans should include all members of the household, which includes companion animals.