Tips for Creating a Pet-Friendly Fire Plan

Having a plan in place could save your fur family member’s life

In the United States, there are over a million fires reported a year—and the ASPCA estimates that at least 500,000 pets are impacted by home fires each year. Most pet owners consider their pets to be part of the family; a pet-friendly fire plan helps you protect the most vulnerable members of your family in case of an emergency.

5 Step Fire Escape Plan for Your Pet

When a fire erupts in your home, you may have as little as two minutes to get outdoors to safety. As frightening and overwhelming as this reality is for us, it’s even more frightening for our pets, who can’t reason with themselves and may have more difficulty remaining calm in the face of danger. For instance, you understand that, if one exit is blocked, you can find another or go out a window. If they can’t get out, our dogs are more likely to go hide in their favorite spot for comfort. Follow these five steps to help your pet make it to safety.

Step One: Put a Fire Plan in Place

Before you can create a pet-friendly fire plan, you need to have a general fire plan—which is something that many Americans don’t consider. Go through each room of your house and identify at least two exits, a window and a door, for example. You should also think through a couple of different escape routes for your family members, depending on where the fire breaks out, and buy window ladders for any second-story windows. Practice your escape plan with your family (including your pets!) until it becomes second nature, especially if you have young children. Finally, establish a meeting place that’s a safe distance from the house but close enough so that everyone can get there quickly.

Step Two: Get Pet Safety Window Decals

Pet rescue stickers are window decals that clearly show firefighters what kinds of pets you have and how many there are. Rescue workers are trained to look for these stickers when they arrive on the scene. Ask your local fire station if they have any decals available to the public. The ASPCA also provides a free Pet Safety Pack that includes rescue stickers. If you have already gotten your pets out of your house, be sure to let the firefighters know so they don’t waste time looking for them.

Step Three: Identify Your Pet’s Favorite Hiding Spots

Most animals are creatures of habit and have favorite places that they go to in order to feel safe. As you are creating your fire escape plan for your family, think about where these places are as well, particularly if you don’t crate your pets at night. Does your dog always run under a certain table during a thunderstorm? Does your cat have a favorite perch? Chances are, during a fire, your pets are going to make a beeline for their preferred spots in the house. Knowing where these places are before a fire breaks out can save you valuable time.

Step Four: Keep Pet Supplies Handy

If your dog is too heavy to lift or your cat is likely to fight you when scared, you may need to use a leash or carrier in order to get your pet to safety. Make sure that these items are in an easy-to-access place in the main part of the home, such as a hall closet or, even better, in a dedicated place in the mudroom or foyer. Being able to get to these items quickly could be a lifesaver.

Step Five: If You’re Not Home…

Pets can’t let themselves out in the event of a fire, so a little pre-planning can be critical. First, if you have pets, consider using a monitored smoke detection service, which will alert firefighters at the first sign of smoke, whether you are home or not. Second, if possible, confine your pets to a room that is near an entryway when you leave for the day, either by crating your pet, using gates, or closing off doors. Locating your pets in a room toward the front of the house, near the door, makes it easier for firefighters to rescue them.

The key to making your fire escape plan work for your entire family is practice. Not only will this get you comfortable with the plan and build your muscle memory, the repetition will help your kids and your pets stay calm and be cooperative in the event of an actual emergency. Make it fun for the whole family by practicing different scenarios, such as sleeping in bed, eating dinner, or watching TV, and timing your exit, trying to get it under two minutes.

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