July 15th is National Pet Fire Safety Day, a day devoted to spreading awareness about how pets can start home fires, but more importantly, how to prevent them and keep your pets safe! An estimated half-million pets are affected annually by home fires, and nearly 1,000 house fires are accidentally started by our animal companions, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association. Pet owners often fail to consider that their pet can be the cause of a devastating fire, but taking simple preventive measures can mean the difference between life and death for both you and your pets!
To prevent your pet from accidentally starting a fire, remember the following tips:
- Extinguish open flames – You know your furry friend gets into everything! Make sure he is never left alone around an open flame, and be sure all cooking appliances, candles, and fires in the fireplace are completely extinguished before leaving your house.
- Use covers on stove knobs if at all possible – According to the NFPA, a stove or cook top is the #1 piece of equipment involved in fires started by pets!
- Use flameless candles – Cats are notorious for swishing their tails around and turning over lit candles, so “burning” a candle that contains a light bulb is much safer and still an attractive source of light.
- Don’t use glass water bowls for your pet on wooden decks – You might be surprised to know that when the rays of the sun are filtered through the glass and water, the deck underneath can actually heat up and ignite! Use stainless steel pet dishes instead.
To help ensure your pet’s safety, follow these safety hints:
- Consider using monitored smoke detectors which are connected to a monitoring center so emergency responders can be contacted when you’re not home. These systems provide an added layer of protection beyond battery-operated smoke alarms.
- Keep young pets (those rambunctious bundles of energy!) confined in a pet crate or in a secure area behind a baby gate away from potential fire-starting hazards when you are away from home, or when you’re home but busy with other activities.
- Whenever possible, keep collars on your pets, and keep leashes and pet carriers at the ready near entrances to your home. This will make it faster and easier for firefighters to get your pets out safely in the event of an emergency.
- Put “pet alert” stickers or window clings in a prominent place on windows or doors at both the front and rear of your house. You can get a free decal from the ASPCA or purchase stickers from any number of online sources. The information provided on these stickers can save rescuers precious time in locating pets. Keep the info updated!
- Be sure to include your pets in your fire escape plan! (You do have a plan, right?) Make sure you know all of your pet’s favorite hiding places, so you can check there first if a fire starts and your smoke alarm goes off. If you do have to evacuate and can’t reach your pets safely within a few minutes, get out of the house, leave a door open, and call your pet’s name. Be persistent, loud, and don’t give up!
- Find out if your local fire department has oxygen masks designed especially for pets. If they don’t and you’re able to help donate masks, find out if the department is interested and see how many they would need and what sizes they’d like to have on hand.
Remember, responsible pet ownership includes a commitment to planning for unexpected emergencies, so be safe and be prepared!