The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that approximately 750 accidental home fires annually can be attributed to the actions of pets or wild animals. These incidents frequently involve everyday household items, such as cooking equipment, fireplaces with chimneys, space heaters, lamps, bulbs, wiring, and even candles. The NFPA further estimates that nearly half a million pets are impacted by these home fires each year in the U.S. Tragically, around 40,000 pets lose their lives to these fires, primarily due to smoke inhalation.
In order to prevent and prepare for a possible house fire, it is important to remember your pets when thinking about your fire preparedness plan.
PREVENTING A FIRE
- Pets are curious. They may bump into, turn on, or knock over cooking equipment. Keep pets away from stoves and countertops.
- Keep pets away from candles, lamps, and space heaters.
- Always use a metal or heat-tempered glass screen on a fireplace and keep it in place.
- Keep pets away from a chimney’s outside vents. Have a “pet-free zone” of at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the fireplace. Glass doors and screens can stay dangerously hot for several hours after the fire goes out.
- Consider battery-operated, flameless candles. They can look and smell like real candles.
- Some pets are chewers. Watch pets to make sure they don’t chew through electrical cords.
PREPARING FOR A FIRE
- Include your pet into your family emergency plan and practice taking them with you. Talk with your family members to determine who is responsible for grabbing your pets and who should grab their supplies (food, medication, photo, leashes and carriers, medical records) during an emergency so you can reduce scrambling and redundancy when speed and efficiency are needed.
- Put a decal in your home’s front window indicating the number and type of pets you have – Providing this information can cut down on the time responders spend searching your home in the case of a fire. If you can evacuate with your pets, remove the sticker on your way out, this minimizes 1st responders looking for pets that are no longer there.
- Make sure your pet’s updated contact information is reflected on their ID collar and in the microchip database – If your pet gets lost during a fire, this will help rescuers get him or her back to you.
- Use monitored smoke detectors that are connected to emergency responders – Should a fire start while you are away from your home, you’ll rest assured that your pet has access to emergency response services even if no one is home to call them.
- Know your pets’ hideaways and create ways for you to easily access them in case of an emergency – It’s nice that your pet can get away if he or she wants to, but in an emergency, you need to be able to locate and extract your pet as quickly as possible.
DURING A FIRE
- Attempt to grab your pet and exit the home as quickly as possible, but if it takes too long to locate or secure them, leave. You should never delay escape or endanger yourself or your family. Once responders get there, immediately inform them your pet is still inside so they can enter your home and continue looking for your pet.
- Grab leashes and carriers on your way out of the house. Outside, it may be chaotic and that could cause your pet to try to escape to a calmer, safe area.
- Never go back inside a burning house. If you can’t find your pet, leave, open the door, and call to them repeatedly from a safe distance away. Let firefighters take over the task of locating your pet.