Pet Fire Safety Day was started in the early 2000’s through the combined efforts of the American Kennel Club and ADT Security Services. This special calendar day, which falls on July 15, is about creating awareness of how to help prevent your pets from starting fires and how to keep your pets safe if they’re caught in a house fire.
One of the hallmarks of responsible dog ownership is keeping pets safe and planning for unexpected emergencies, including house fires. Pet-proofing the home, developing pet-friendly escape routes, and alerting rescuers of your pets’ presence with ‘window clings’ is the best way to keep your four-legged family member from harm.–Lisa Peterson, AKC spokesperson
According to the National Fire Protection Association, pets are responsible for 1,000 house fires each year. In light of this statistic, below are some ways to pet-proof your home.
- Cover (or remove) stove knobs: Pets who like to jump on countertops could just as easily walk onto the stove, bump into a stove knob, and turn it on. If you don’t think this is a big deal, think again. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the leading cause of pet-started house fires is pets accidentally turning stove knobs.
- Keep appliances out of reach of pets: Some appliances such as irons and hair dryers can produce enough heat that, if knocked over by a pet, they could start a fire.
- Protect electrical cords from pets: Pets who like to nibble on cords can not only end up with serious burns but might even start a fire. Train your pet to not chew on cords and consider coating cords with a bitter agent for pets, such as Boundary or Bitter Apple, as a deterrent. Especially if you have young pets, you might consider unplugging cords when electrical devices aren’t in use, or crating your pets in your absence.
- Extinguish open flames: It just takes one playful or curious pet to knock over a candle. Cats in particular are notorious for starting fires when their tails turn over lit candles.
- Invest in flameless candles: Better yet, completely remove the danger of candles being knocked over by investing in flameless (electric) candles.
- Install a barrier in front of other sources of fire. Many pets like to lay close to a source of heat such as a fire place to stay warm. Lying too close to a fire could result in your pet’s hair catching fire. In addition, it’s possible for many pets to knock over a portable heater or a barbecue grill.
According to the American Kennel Club, 500,000 pets are affected by house fires each year. In light of this statistic, below are some ways to increase the chance that your pet will survive this emergency.
- Affix a pet alert decal to your window: 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. If you need a Pet Alert Window Cling, both the ADT and the ASPCA distribute free alert stickers on their website. (LINKS!) The National Volunteer Fire Council also distributes them for free through local volunteer firehouses nationwide.
- Keep pets and supplies near entrances when you’re out: Keep collars on pets and leashes and/or crates near the door in case firefighters need to rescue your pet. You might also keep pets in areas or rooms near entrances so that firefighters can readily find them.
- Practice escape routes with pets: Teach your pets to pay attention to the sound of a smoke alarm going off. The siren can be a nonverbal signal to your pets that they need to follow a predetermined plan, whether that plan is for them to retreat to their crate or to exit safely with you. Working with your pets to get them to respond to a fire alarm can be part of their basic training.
- Use monitored smoke detectors: Pets left alone can’t escape a burning house. Monitored smoke detectors, which are connected to a home security system, will result in emergency responders being contacted more quickly than battery-operated smoke alarms. This should turn result in less fire damage and greater survivability of pets.
If you browse through the responses to a question posted at Riley’s Place about the effectiveness of pet alert window clings, you’ll see that everyone had different ideas about how to maximize the chance of pets being rescued from a fire. For example, one poster suggested making neighbors aware of what pets you have, so that they can alert rescuers in the event of a fire. Volunteers with fire departments even weighed in, with one saying that pet alert decals should be made of high quality material to withstand outdoor weather, and that the best location for decals is on the window AND on the electric or gas meter where firefighters go initially to secure the utilities to the building.
After I shared my research with my husband, we had our own discussion about which of the above options were practical and viable for us. And I think that’s the point of Fire Safety Day. Pet owners should all take advantage of Pet Fire Safety Day to develop a concrete plan for handling such an emergency.