Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fire Prevention and Safety Tips for Pet Owners

By Julia Williams

October is National Fire Prevention Month, so I thought now would be a good time to brush up on some things we, as responsible pet owners, can do to keep our furry friends safe. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) estimates that 500,000 pets are affected by home fires each year. However, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association, pets accidentally start nearly 1,000 of those house fires themselves!

Below are some tips to keep your pet from starting a fire, as well as some ways you can help keep them safe should a house fire occur. Simple fire safety measures can mean the difference between life and death for our beloved pets. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Prevent your pet from starting fires

•  Do a thorough walk through of your home to look for places where a pet might inadvertently start a fire. These potential fire hazards include, but are by no means limited to, loose wires, frayed cords and stove knobs.

•  The kitchen stove is the number one way that pets accidentally start fires. Pets have also been known to unintentionally fill the house with gas fumes by turning the burners. The easiest way to prevent both of these things from happening is to put childproof covers on the stove knobs. Some people remove the knobs when they’re going to be away, but you have to remember to do it every day. 

•  Never leave your pet unattended around open flames of any kind – from candles, the stove, or the fireplace (which should also be covered by a pet-proof screen).

•  Flameless candles are a much safer alternative to regular candles. The twitch of a tail or an inquisitive nose can knock over a lit candle and spark a blaze in a nanosecond.

•  A glass water bowl on a sunny wooden deck is a fire waiting to happen (though this is not really your pet’s fault). The sun’s rays can heat the glass and ignite the wood, much the same way a magnifying glass becomes a fire starter when placed in direct sunlight. Choose stainless steel or ceramic pet bowls for outdoor use instead. 

Fire Safety Tips

•  When leaving your pet home alone, consider keeping them in an area or room near an entrance, so firefighters can locate them more easily. Also keep a collar on your dog and a leash by the door to assist in their rescue.

•  Young puppies are especially curious and exuberant, so while you’re away they should either be secured in a crate or confined to a pet-safe room.

•  Families with children are encouraged to hold mock fire drills so that everyone knows the plan in case a fire breaks out, and pet owners should too. Practicing escape routes and procedures with your pets can help you stay calm and focused during a house fire, so that everyone gets out safely.

•  Consider using a fire safety monitoring service, so emergency responders can be dispatched if a blaze breaks out when your pet is home alone.

•  Put up a “pet alert window cling” listing how many pets are inside, and what kind. Animals often run and hide during a fire, and this critical information helps rescuers know who to look for. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has a listing of U.S. fire departments where you can obtain a free pet alert window cling. Click here to find a location near you.

•  You can also download a free Pet Rescue Alert window cling online from the insurance provider Petplan, customized with your pet’s name, photo and possible hiding spots. For every 100 Pet Rescue Alerts created on their site, Petplan will donate a Wag’N Oxygen Mask Kit to a rescue company in need.

No one likes to think of the possibility that their home might catch on fire one day. Nevertheless, planning for unexpected emergencies like a house fire, and taking simple fire safety precautions, is a fundamental aspect of responsible pet ownership.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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