You smell smoke—where’s your pet? Are you prepared? Though you’ll hopefully never need it, having a pet fire safety plan in place will help you avoid future tragedy. We’ve got it all broken down for you. Before you jump in, keep in mind: for maximum pet fire safety, it all comes down to prevention and planning—and practice, for your dog and your whole family. Read on to make sure you aren’t missing anything!
Pet Fire Safety Facts
- Approximately 500,000 pets are affected by home fires each year.
- A recent study revealed an estimate of 1000 fires started due to pet-related causes each year.
- With July being a month marked by heat, dry grass, and outdoor fires (not to mention fireworks) throughout the country, the AKC and ADT have been raising awareness since 2008 with National Pet Fire Safety Day, July 15th.
Having a fire safety plan is key for any household—but what should the plan be for your dog? Use this informative guide for helpful advice on pets and fire safety.
Fire Prevention for Pet Parents
The best way to deal with a crisis is to do everything humanly possible to prevent it in the first place. Factoring a furry friend into the mix adds extra preventative measures. The first two are basic no-brainers:
- Smoke Detectors: Canine resident or not, these should be distributed throughout your residence and tested regularly. The Red Cross breaks down the statistics for fires and prevention and simply says it best: smoke alarms save lives.
- Dog Identification: Even if flames aren’t the issue, having up-to-date information on your dog’s identity is important from every angle. Proper ID tags, and being microchipped will prove vital if they’re lost (or you’re injured) due to a fire or other crisis.
- Candles: They’re great for a romantic evening, but with a curious canine or a wagging tail they become a hazard in your home. Dogs get curious about flickering flames. No longer should you leave a candle unattended, even for a minute. Your best bet, in case you doze off on the couch or have to get something from another room, is purchasing dog-friendly flameless candles. Make the change now and save your pooch and property needless harm.
- Fireplace: That classic image of the dog sleeping in front of an open fire is actually quite the danger. Upgrade to an enclosed gas fireplace or more secure option, or at least never leave that fire unattended, heading to bed and assuming it will die out. A small spark or coal can get through a mesh fire screen, and that’s bad news for carpet fibers and dog hair.
- Stovetop: While you might think this applies to smaller, mischievous pets, one firefighter reported that a dog bumped a burner on with his paw and caused a fire. Ever found your dog on the kitchen table or somewhere they’re not supposed to? A cover for those knobs may be a smart idea when the range isn’t in use.
- Secure wires and cords: Most people think of a cat chewing Christmas lights or other wires, but a dog can be just as determined to see if that cord tastes good. Lamps and other electrical objects should be secured so they’re cords aren’t up for grabs as a chew toy.
- Dog house location: If your dog has a home in the yard for outdoor time, make sure it’s clear of brush or flammable material, freestanding and clear. It could be a place a scared dog could run to in a fire, so make sure it’s clear of the home, nearby trees, etc.
- No glass bowl: A simple glass bowl on a wood deck can act like a magnifying glass for the sun’s rays and can reflect and start your deck, or wall, or other object on fire. Play it safe and purchase an approved dog bowl.
Pet Fire Safety Procedures for Dog Owners
While the great hope is never facing a fire, planning scenarios is pivotal to protect your pooch—and you and any other family members. Implement the following as they apply to your home situation that includes canine occupants:
Pet fire safety starts with the whole family
Escape Plan. Every house is different, so plan your escape based on a few likely fire scenarios. What is the best door? What do you do if the fire is outside your door? If you get out through a window and the dog isn’t in the room, what’s the plan to follow up and get to your dog? The National Fire Prevention Agency provides great information on planning.
- Know Your Role. Maybe it’s just you and the dog, but if you’ve got roommates or siblings, spouses or extended family, not everyone should be scrambling for the dog. Assign roles: one of you is on dog duty, while the other grabs important additions like carriers and kits.
- Leash and Carrier. Getting everyone outside will be important, but with the likely panic and noise, you’ll need these. Make sure they’re located along the planned fire escape route and easy to extricate in an emergency.
- Know the Hideaways. When your four-legged friend panics, where do they hide? It’s critical that you know the usual places they consider “safe” when there’s noise, or they hurt a paw, etc. You might not be worried about it now if they have a “cute habit” of disappearing and reemerging later, but in a crisis that’s not a good secret to let stand.
- Open Access. You might face a scenario where you have to exit and are unable to find your dog. In that case, you’ll leave a door open and call for them (the NFPA advises that a fire escapee never go back into the house). Ideally the open door should be one they’re accustomed to, i.e. the one they use regularly.
- Fire Drills. Considering the above scenario, it’s important that the dog be included in your family fire drills. Run a scenario where you find them and get them out of the house, and also practice the open access possibility above: Exit the house with the door open and then call for them so they get used to the idea. They’ll be more likely to do so in the event of a fire.
- Secure During Danger. In a real fire, there will be firefighters, noisy trucks, and lots of people. Make sure your fire drills include getting their leash or carrier outside and ready for them, and that you secure them safely away from the home and likely high-trafficked areas in the event of such an emergency.
- Canine Emergency Kit. An emergency scenario might also mean mild injuries for your dog, or at the very least some time away from comforts, not to mention food. Have a kit ready that serves as a go-bag as well as a first-aid kit for your pet.
- A Place to Stay. Have some strategic conversations, because depending on the situation you might have to make a number of choices on where your dog stays as the imminent crisis is dealt with and the days to come resolving where you reside. Ideally, have a conversation with a neighbor who would help watch and care short term, as well as a family member or close friend who could help accommodate longer term needs.
Pet Fire Safety if You’re Away…
In the case a fire breaks out when you’re not at home, observe the following:
- Park Pets Near Exits. You may enjoy giving them free run of the house, but containing them so they’re near the exits provides a better chance of firefighters helping your dog in an incendiary event. If they’re downstairs in a basement and the fire rages above, they’ll be trapped and first responders won’t know they’re there, or where they are. Crating the dog, or creating a space in a foyer with dog gate, may ease their escape in a fire.
- Pet Fire Sticker. Having a sticker in your window that alerts responding personnel you have a canine resident is an invaluable addition in case you’re gone, or even if your mind’s just foggy from smoke inhalation. The ASPCA provides a free pet rescue pack for this and other emergencies.
- Smoke Alarm Upgrade. The ASPCA also makes a great suggestion about using monitored smoke detectors. For dog lovers, this could be a great benefit beyond losing material goods. In a situation where you weren’t home, it would mean the minute a smoke alarm went off, someone would be alerted and dispatched immediately to rescue your dog. Check your local companies for options.
Use this year’s annual Pet Fire Safety Awareness season to assess your home situation and raise the bar for prevention and precautions for your precious pet. That way, if someday things get hot, you and your canine companion will be cool under fire.