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Did you know that an average half a million pets are affected by house fires each year? Of those, at least 40,000 die from smoke inhalation, and up to a thousand of those fires are started by cute and loving pet fur-iends?
That’s no exaggeration…
Here’s how easy a dog can accidentally start a house fire:
That’s just one scenario. A greasy pizza box that smells luscious to a dog, attracting them to see what the whiff is coming from it, then accidentally hitting the pilot light on the stove causing the grease in the pizza box left atop a gas stove to go up in flames.
It’s not just dogs. Cats are keen at counter surfing too.
A festive advert for a supermarket titled “Mog’s Christmas Calamity” tells the story of how fires can start by a wagging tail. Not the point of the story in this video, but still, it does a stellar job raising awareness of fire safety – and has a happy ending.
How many fire hazards did you see in that video?
The good news for pet parents is there’s many things you can do to protect your home and your family including your four-legged furry family members.
Top 9 Fire Safety Tips for Pets at Home
1 – Check your electrical wiring
Cats are nibblers. Just as they’ll chase after a piece of string, they can find hours of amusement nibbling on the cords of fairy lights or any other electrical cable.
Check your wiring for signs of wear, any loose wires and preferably store them out of the way of pets using a plastic cable tidy system.
Kittens are more prone to chewing cables than older cats and dogs.
2 – Minimize naked flames
Pets tails are flammable making naked flames a no-go for pets. If you’re going to be burning candles, make sure it’s only when you’re in the room, they’re put out when you leave the room and that they’re only used on shelves that are out of the reach of pets.
Don’t forget that pets can climb and jump. Your highest shelf with nothing beneath it could still be accessible. A cat can climb your curtain, scale the curtain pole and leap from there to a shelf.
Don’t underestimate them. If they’re curious enough to get somewhere, chances are, they’ll find a way.
Don’t leave open flames unsupervised! Safer is to use flameless candles.
3 – Install safety knobs on stoves
The kitchen is the most dangerous place in all homes due to the vast number of flammables around. Combine that with pilot lights that’ll spark with the tap of a paw, it’s easy to understand why there’s a huge need to pet proof your kitchen.
One of the best things you can do is install safety knobs on stoves or just remove the knobs completely so there’s no risk of accidentally lighting the cooker.
4 – Use heat-resistant water bowls outdoors
In the summer months, the warm weather will cause your pets to want more water. It’s a good choice to keep fresh water accessible, however, what’s not so clever is putting that water in a glass or metallic bowl on an outdoor deck.
The reaction of strong sun rays can intensify heat to a high enough temperature for wood decking or other flammables around the area to catch fire.
If you’re using stainless steel bowls for water, keep them out of direct sunlight. If that’s difficult, go with a ceramic water bowl.
5 – Fireplace safety
Any open fires in homes with pets is an accident waiting to happen. Fire guards, screens and hearth protectors are ideal to protect from any sparks coming from the fire.
Training your pet to stay away from an open fire can be difficult as the warmth is inviting. Instead, place a fire guard around the fire to prevent pets getting too close.
Another precaution is not to have anything dangling above a fireplace, such as hanging decorations from a mantel as kittens are likely to want to play with them.
6 – Install pet fire rescue stickers on windows
Pet fire safety stickers can be put on windows and doors. It’s handy to inform the fire service that pets may be in the property, but they’re going to search for human lives first.
As one firefighter put it, they aren’t going to stop a search to save a pet to “miss a kid in the next room.” The problem firefighters have with stickers is the information can be outdated. Child present stickers have the same problem. They could have been there for 20 odd years.
For pet safety stickers to be any use, date them and keep them updated and also include information relating to where your pet hides.
Example: 5-year old beagle present – (date). Hides behind sofa (in lounge 1st left door from hallway) when frightened.
With this information, the fire service would be in a better position to know the first room to check would be the lounge and where the pet’s likely to be found.
The ASPCA offer free window decals as part of their pet safety pack. More information here.
7 – Microchip your pets or use pet ID tags in case they get separated
Not all pets are going to stick around with you until the whole family’s out safely. Some will scamper at the first sign of danger. If you do get separated from your pets, you need a way to find them. That’s where microchipping comes in handy, and if not that, use pet ID tags.
For ID tags, a name isn’t enough. Try to use an ID tag large enough to include your pets name, and a contact telephone number. Some are large enough to include an address, but if that’s not an option, at least get the contact number onto the tag.
8 – Install monitored smoke detectors
There’s a variety of different smoke detectors available, all with various features. The ones that work best in homes with pets are either monitored smoke alarms or those that send an alert to your smart phone if there’s an alarm going off at your home.
With a monitored alarm, fire services can be notified so they can check on your premises. A smart smoke detector can send you an alert to your phone, so you can ring a neighbor or friend to check your property.
9 – Pet proof your home with baby gates
Any area of your home where you store flammables is best protected from pets. A strong snap of a dog’s jaws can cause an aerosol can to explode. The slight tug on a cooker ignition can create a spark, ignite a flame and cause the contents from a burst container to explode.
Like happened when this dog punctured an aerosol can…
Contain your pets to the most pet-safe room in your home with a baby gate. And definitely put kitchen cabinet safety locks where there’s aerosols and flammable liquids stored.
A 5-Step Plan to Evacuate Your Pets in an Emergency
1 – Be Prepared
Preparation for an emergency evacuation will save lives. You’ll find a handy printable you can download and print from NYC.gov when you’re ready to put a plan together:
There are areas on that form to put your vet’s information, emergency contacts, animal shelters, medication your pet needs, vaccination history, microchip ID numbers and a number of tips for various small animals.
If you need to get out in a hurry, that’s a plan with the information to have on hand in your go bag.
2 – Plan your route with your kit handy to grab
The first and best route out of your home is the way you usually get in and out of your home. Your front door. Keep leashes for your dogs close by your escape route.
If you have cats, or other small indoor pets, keep a spare pillow case (one per small pet) close to your emergency exit route. The reason to have a spare pillow case is because it’s much easier to put a cat into a pillow case in a hurry than it is to get pets into a carrier.
The faster you can take control of your animals, the faster everyone gets out safely.
3 – Practice for evacuating
For homes with dogs or cats, both can be trained to come when called. It takes time because it’s done by association using treats they love. This is something that needs to be done continuously for it to be effective.
You can see the process for training a cat to come when you call its name in this video:
4 – Plan for losing your pets
This is not a nice scenario to consider, but it needs to be done. In an emergency, pets can get frightened and make a dash for safety. Faced with danger, they can become disorientated, causing them to get lost. If they do, how are you going to find them?
Make the next gift you get them a collar with location tracking. They’re available for both cats and dogs.
5 – In family homes with pets, make sure everyone knows their role
The more people and pets there are in the home, the longer it can take to get everyone out safely. The fastest way (as with everything) is to work together.
An example could be that you’re responsible for getting the family dog, while your partner gets the cat, or you get the bird cage, while your partner grabs the gerbils from the cage. The kids can grab the go bag on their way out the door and head to the neighbor’s house to call the fire service.
If you can’t find your pet, don’t risk trying to. They sense danger so leave at least one door open for them to escape, and they’ll find their way out. Or, the fire service will find their way to them to get them out.