Protecting Your Pets: Have A Plan

IF YOU CAN’T FIND YOUR PET and your house is on fire, leave. When firefighters arrive, let them know your pet is still inside and where you think they might be hiding. PHOTO COURTESY WEST METRO FIRE RESCUE

An estimated 360,000 residential house fires occur in the U.S. every year, claiming the lives of nearly 40,000 beloved pets. And 1,000 of those fires are unintentionally started by the pets themselves. Prevention is an important part of fire safety, and so is having an escape plan to keep your family and your pet(s) safe in an emergency.

Pets are naturally curious and can easily get into trouble if given the opportunity. Look around your home and make sure there are no areas where accidental fires can start. 

To keep your pet from starting a fire:

• Put covers on stove knobs or remove them. Pets drawn by the smell of food may nudge the knob just enough to ignite a burner.

• Don’t leave candles unattended: extinguish all open flames when you leave the room, so they are not tipped over by a tail or paw. West Metro Fire Rescue highly recommends using flameless candles.

• Always use a fireplace screen. 

• Pet-proof your home: go through each room and eliminate any loose wires that could look like a tempting chew toy.

• Secure young pets: keep young puppies or kittens confined away from potential fire hazards, using crates or baby gates.

If your pets are home alone:

• Secure pets near an exit if they are crated while home or keep them confined to the first floor so firefighters can reach them faster. 

• Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date information.

• Consider getting a monitored smoke alarm. If your pets are home alone, they won’t be able to get out without help. A monitored smoke alarm alerts a monitoring center whenever the alarm is triggered, and firefighters are dispatched to the address. 

Expect your pet to be scared if a fire breaks out. They may run from the noise/smell/commotion and hide in what they think is a “safe” place – in a closet, under a bed or under the couch. If you and your family need to escape and you can’t quickly find your pet, you need to get out. Don’t delay. Leave the house and then call to your pet repeatedly from a safe distance. When firefighters arrive, let them know your pet is still inside and where you think they might be hiding. 

The best way to protect your loved ones – including the four-legged ones – is to have an escape plan. Take the time to practice and when you do, take your pets with you. Train them to come to you when you call. You should practice your plan at least twice a year. 

A structure fire can double in size every minute, leaving little time for you to escape. Have a plan and be prepared to keep everyone you love safe.

Ronda Scholting is the Public Information Officer for West Metro Fire Rescue.

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