Just as we make provisions for all family members, particularly children, in the event of fire, it is also important to plan for the family pets and make sure that they will be rescued or have adequate means of escape. In the United States, over 40,000 pet deaths were reported from fires in 2006 – and smoke inhalation is one of the biggest threats to life.
So here are some tips to help you keep your pets safe in the event of fire:
Plan ahead and devise a fast exit strategy including your pets Make sure that your pet is readily accessible in case you need to make an emergency evacuation, in other words keep them in an area where they can be easily rounded up or secure with a leash or in a carrier. However, this does not mean leaving them tied or chained up, especially during the night, because precious time can be lost trying to free them and if you are unable to release them and take them with you, they cannot escape by themselves.
Prepare an Emergency Pet First Aid Kit
It is always a good idea to prepare a first aid kit for your pet, ready for any emergency. You can either make one up yourself by collecting the necessary equipment in a waterproof box or purchase a commercial one – this would be a good investment.
Things to include in a pet first aid kit include: ID tags, contact information for your vet and local animal shelter, towels, bottled water, some of your pet’s usual food, leash or harness, bowls for food and water, plastic bags, updated photo of your pet, medications and a copy of any prescriptions, blanket or bedding plus a favourite toy if there is space. Don’t forget that if you own an “exotic” pet, such as a reptile, you may need to include additional specific provisions.
Confirm Your Emergency Pet Sitter
It’s a good idea to have a network of neighbours or friends who would be willing to take care of your pets temporarily in an emergency. In addition, you should arrange for one of your neighbours to be able to have access to your house, to evacuate your pets, should you be away from home at the time of the fire and unable to return in time.
Take Your Pet With You
As much as possible, always try to take your pet with you when evacuating. Don’t leave them behind in the hopes that the fire brigade or someone else will rescue them – often, emergency services will have very limited resources for rescuing pets. And animal welfare organisation may not be allowed to enter the area once it has been blocked off by the fire brigade or the police. Even if you are not sure about where you are going and whether it will allow pets, if you have removed your pets safely from the danger zone, you can then make arrangements for them to be temporarily looked after by an animal welfare organisation, friend or other.
Pet Alert Signs
It may also be a good idea to have signs or stickers posted where they will be visible to the fire rescue crew and neighbours, so that they are aware that there are pets on the premises that need rescuing, even if humans might not be home. In particular, if you are away from home, you may not even be aware that there is a fire and therefore unable to remind others to rescue your pet. Remember to state on the sign how many pets you have and what kind of pets they are.
Keep ID and Contact Details Updated
Pets can become very frightened during a fire and in the confusion, may become separated from their owners or escape and get lost. Therefore, it is crucial that they are always wearing up-to-date ID tags on their collars, with your contact information. Remember, however, that ID tags and collars can also be separated from your pet so the best way to ensure that they can be identified is to make sure that they are micro-chipped.