September is Campus Fire Safety Month, while October will continue to raise awareness as Fire Safety Month nationwide. But while those events give people an opportunity to think about what they should do in case of a fire, they rarely pause to consider their pets’ safety as well. To help remedy that, the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine and the Auburn University Office of Risk Management and Safety have teamed up to provide the following tips to make sure your dog, cat, or other pet doesn’t accidentally start a fire—and is safe in the case of one.
Before a Fire:
- Have a plan that includes your pet. Assign a family member to grab your pet and know of any favorite hiding spots or hidden areas your pet likes to frequent.
- Keep items such as a pet carrier, leash, and important documentation such as vaccination records near the front door so that they can be grabbed easily as you exit.
- When you leave your home, make sure your pet is at or near the front entrance. This will help firefighters locate your pet easier and allow it a quicker escape if need be.
- Train your pet to answer to its name and come quickly when called.
- Affix a “pet inside” cling decal to your front window. This will let rescuers know there are animals in the house.
- Make sure your pet always wears a collar with identification tags and has a microchip implanted. This will help you locate your pet in the event of an escape.
- Know where to go in the case of a pet emergency. This includes having a list of local veterinarians or after-hours animal hospitals. Program the numbers into your phone. Identify pet-friendly hotels or boarding kennels in your area.
- Keep a digital “lost-pet” kit. Pre-make flyers and graphics in case your pet escapes or can’t be found. These can be stored online so they can be immediately posted/activated.
- Some services offer remote monitoring for smoke detectors. These can be used to immediately notify responders when your pet is home, but you are not.
Around the House:
- Secure electrical cords. Some pets tend to chew through or play with wires and cables. If a cord is damaged, replace it immediately.
- Watch your fireplace. Use a glass fireplace guard and never put pet beds near the hearth. Be aware of stray embers that may leap onto fabrics and upholstery or be knocked into flammable areas by a pet’s tail.
- Cats especially can be curious around open flames. Avoid providing the temptation by using electric candles.
- Watch your cooking space and never leave a flame unattended, even for a minute. Secure stove knobs (which can be accidentally turned on by cats) by either removing them when not in use or purchasing safety covers.
- If you have a wood deck, avoid using glass bowls for pet food and water. These water bowls can act as a magnifying glass and focus the sun’s heat, starting a fire.
In Case of a Fire:
- Although difficult, your first priority should be your own safety and evacuation. Attempt to take your pet if safely possible, but never endanger yourself or your family.
- Never delay your escape or attempt to “go-back” inside for pets. Once you are safe, leave this responsibility to firefighters.
- When escaping, leave the front door open and call for your pet once you are outside and at a safe distance from the fire.
- When firefighters and first responders arrive, alert them to pets still inside the house. If you are not home, a window cling “pet inside” decal will alert these same groups to the presence of pets.
Mike Jernigan — College of Veterinary Medicine