Learn how to keep your pets safe with these tips from the Luzerne County Animal Response Team
On National Pet Fire Safety Day, it’s important to remember to include your furry family members into your emergency plan should a fire ever occur and Fido needs to find a way out. Each year, more than 500,000 pets are affected by house fires, with 1,000 house fires started by pets themselves. It’s no fun to think about, but it’s necessary to take a few minutes and make sure you are doing all you can to ensure your pets get out safely.
PREPARING FOR A FIRE
To ensure your pets get as much help as they can even if you are not home, install smoke detectors connected to emergency response services so that even if your pet is home alone, should a fire occur, help can still be signaled and dispatched.
The number one step in preparing your pet and family for a fire is to talk with your family to determine an emergency plan that includes your pet. Make sure to practice this plan with the whole family as well so that everyone knows whose job it is to grab your pet and whose it is to grab your emergency supplies (food, medication, water, a photo of your pet, leashes, and carriers, and medical records). Assigning roles will reduce scrambling when efficiency is needed. To act quickly when searching for your pet, make sure you know where he or she likes to hide and how to get him or her out of that hiding spot quickly, making it easier for you to locate and retrieve your pet as quickly as possible.
PREVENTING A FIRE
Prevent your pet from starting fires
- Extinguish open flames – Pets are generally curious and will investigate cooking appliances, candles, or even a fire in your fireplace. Ensure your pet is not left unattended around an open flame and make sure to thoroughly extinguish any open flame before leaving your home.
- Remove stove knobs – Be sure to remove stove knobs or protect them with covers before leaving the house. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a stove or cooktop is the number one piece of equipment involved in your pet starting a fire.
- Invest in flameless candles – These candles contain a light bulb rather than an open flame and take the danger out of your pet knocking over a candle. Cats are notorious for starting fires when their tails turn over lit candles.
- Beware of water bowls on wooden decks – Do not leave a glass water bowl for your pet outside on a wooden deck. The sun’s rays, when filtered through the glass and water, can actually heat up and ignite the wooden deck beneath it. Choose stainless steel or ceramic bowls instead.
- Beware of loose wires – As your pets wander around the house, they may chew on loose wires, making areas with lamps and plugs possible fire hazards. Secure loose wires and ensure they are out of reach from your pets.
KEEP YOUR PETS SAFE
- Keep Pets Near Entrances When Away From Home – Keep collars on pets and leashes at the ready in case firefighters need to rescue your pet. When leaving pets home alone, keep them in areas or rooms near entrances where firefighters can easily find them.
- Secure Young Pets – Especially with young puppies, keep them confined away from potential fire-starting hazards when you are away from home such as in crates or behind baby gates in secure areas.
- Since Pets Left Alone Can’t Escape a Burning Home – Consider using monitored smoke detectors which are connected to a monitoring center so emergency responders can be contacted when you’re not home. These systems provide an added layer of protection beyond battery-operated smoke alarms.
- Affix a Pet Alert Window Cling – Write down the number of pets inside your house and attach the static cling to a front window. This critical information saves rescuers time when locating your pets. Make sure to update the number of pets listed.
DURING A FIRE
As part of your emergency response plan, make sure to grab your pet’s leash or carrier as you grab your pet and escape the building. Outside your home will be chaotic, and your pet may try to escape to a safer area, so it is important to keep them nearby and secure. If it takes too long to locate or secure your pets, as much as you may not want to, leave, open the door, and call for them once you are outside and at a safe distance from the fire. If they do not come out, once responders get there, immediately inform them your pet is still inside so they can continue looking for your pet.
In case your pet escapes during the course of a fire, make sure that the contact information on their collar and microchip is up to date.
AFTER A FIRE
It is very important that after a fire you get your pet checked out by a veterinarian. Pets can take in smoke into their lungs and may need oxygen. Our team and most fire departments and ambulance crews will have a pet oxygen mask on the scene to give your pet oxygen, but they may suggest taking your pet immediately to the pet emergency hospital for proper care.
It is important to take your pet’s health seriously and get them checked out. Even if they look and seem fine, let your vet or the emergency hospital make the call on their health.
If you need assistance with pet supplies after a fire, please do not hesitate to contact the Luzerne County Animal Response Team for help.
What To Do When Your Pet Goes Missing During a Fire
First, Remain Calm
We understand losing a pet can be overwhelming. First, you need to understand a little about lost pet behavior before looking for your lost pet. Now both cats and dogs are going to be scared and run away from all the noise of the fire scene.
Lost Cat Behavior
Cats will generally find a spot with 1-5 house away to hide, so it is important to talk to your neighbors and get permission to search their property or if they won’t let you do it alone ask them to join you in the search. Lost cat behavior also changes depending on if they are an indoor-only cat, outdoor -access cat, or an outdoor cat. Indoor-door only cats will stay closer, while outdoor and outdoor-access cats will travel farther away because they are used to roaming around outside are more familiar with the outside the house environment.
More on Lost Cat Behavior
Cats may not make a sound of called and some can hide for up to 13 days. It may be helpful to use a flashlight at night to search for your missing cat and look for their glowing eyes. If you are having difficulty finding your lost cat you may need to set up food stations with a trail camera to see if your cat is coming back near the house. If so, you may need to set up a humane trap to get your lost cat home safe.
Lost Dog Behavior
Many dogs, even dogs that normally are not fearful at home, become terrified when they become lost. While some dogs will ultimately calm down and then approach people, other dogs will continue to run from everyone, including their owners! One of the worst things that you can do is CALL a stray, loose, or panicked dog. That’s because if too many people have already tried to capture the dog, calling him becomes a “trigger” that can cause him to automatically take off in fear when anyone, including his owner, calls him.
Our first major tip is Don’t Call Your Dog! We know. It sound’s crazy-stupid to say “Don’t Call Your Dog!” after your dog has escaped and is running loose (or when you encounter a stray dog). You’re probably thinking, “But he always comes to me when I call him” or “So HOW will I get the dog to come to me if I see him but I can’t call him?” The answer is BY CALMING HIM and ATTRACTING HIM to come to you, and we will explain how to do that. But first, we need to explain that CALLING A DOG CAN CAUSE IT TO RUN FROM YOU. Your instinct, when the dog runs, is then to chase after the dog and this is the WORST thing that you can do! Thus, when you hear or see the words “DO NOT CHASE YOUR DOG if it is lost” this includes DO NOT CALL your dog (since calling a dog can create chasing).
If your dog is still in sight after running away, please do the following:
- Slowly get low or lay flat on the ground
- Avoid eye contact
- Speak softly with a calm voice
- Do not reach for your dog, if it comes close let your dog touch you first, for some that are very skittish we will let them touch us multiple times. If you reach, the dog may run away.
Give your dog time to recognize your voice or your smell.
For more tips on Lost Pet Help visit this link below for a complete resource on lest pets.