Today’s show on All My Children Wear Fur Coats featured Jen Leary, a 12 year veteran firefighter and founder of Red Paw Emergency Relief Team.  Her organization serves the pets and families in the Philadelphia, PA area when they are affected by a fire or natural disaster. She had some excellent fire safety tips for pet owners and lovers.

Winter is fire season – especially in northern climates where people are using space heaters and kerosene heaters to help ward off the winter cold.  These can be a source of potential home fires.  Since 63% of American families have pets, our pets can be vulnerable, especially if home alone.  Disaster preparedness is going to be your best defense to insure your pets and your family have the best chance of survival.

Here are a couple of good tips:

  1. Working smoke alarms in all rooms – especially those where pets might be housed.  Alarms should be tested regularly (monthly is best) and batteries should be replaced when daylight savings begins.  If your smoke alarms are monitored, even better.
  2. Always sleep with your bedroom door closed.  This can mean up to an additional 30 minutes, precious time when survival is at stake.  If you are concerned about being able to hear other family members, use a baby monitor type system.  She recommended Close Your Door  for more information.
  3. Have a family fire escape plan and practice it.  Even pets can be taught what to do when they hear the fire alarm.  Use treats and positive reinforcement to encourage them to go to an escape route.  Consider that a scared pet is more likely to hide than to run toward fire trucks with sirens and firefighters crashing through doors and breaking windows.  Most pets that don’t survive were hiding because they were frightened and went to a place they felt safe.  This is especially true for house cats and dogs that rarely go outside.  Part of your plan should include a family meeting place so all members go to the same place.  More fatalities occur because family members return to the burning home in search of family members or pets.
  4. Keep kids and pets out of the kitchen.  Both can get burned or injured if hot food stuffs are pulled off of stoves/counters.
  5. Have emergency carriers for pets within easy reach and stocked with staples you might need.  Practice putting cats in and out of the carriers.
  6. Always have two ways out.  This should be part of your family emergency plan.
  7. Create a buddy system with neighbors so they can be on alert in the event of a disaster.  Make sure they know where they can reach you in an emergency.

    Jen also shared some stories of hero pets that warned owners of a fire so that family members could get to safety.  She said it is not only dogs, but also cats, birds and even rabbits that have been credited with sounding the alarm.

    Being prepared is the ultimate name of the game.  Whether it is planning for a fire or other disaster, planning ahead is key.  Estate planning that includes your pets in the event of a disability or death is also an important part of making sure all family members are protected in the event of an unexpected event.  Animal Care Trust USA and our team of legal professionals can help you protect your pets today!