Does your family have a fire evacuation plan? Does it include your pets? If you have not yet created a plan, it is essential to do so immediately. House fires affect 500,000 pets every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Having a tested evacuation plan in place can save the lives of your children and animals.
If you don’t know where to begin, contact your local fire department for tips. In some cases, they may even be willing to come to your home and offer advice on evacuating with animals. The following tips will help ensure you and your pets make it out of your home safe.
1. Include everyone in your plan. If you own multiple pets, you should designate one family member to be responsible for each pet. This prevents everyone in your home going after the same animal while other animals are neglected.
2. Let firefighters know about your pets. Place pet rescue stickers on your front door or on a window near your front door. These stickers are available at most pet stores and from your local humane society. Include the number and type of pets you have inside.
3. Check hiding spots right away. Pets are likely to panic during a house fire and retreat to their favorite hiding place. Check those places first. Make sure pet sitters know of your pet’s hiding spaces.
Keep outdoor pets away from your home.
4. If you have outdoor pets in cages, place them at least 20 feet from your home and from any dry brush or other flammable material. This helps ensure you are able to reach your outdoor pet in the event of a house fire.
5. Leave a door open. If you cannot locate your pet, it is important to get yourself and your family outside. Do not continue searching for your pet. Doing so may be fatal to both of you. Instead, go outside and leave a door open. Continue calling your pet’s name once you are outside, and hopefully your cat or dog will hear you and come running.
6. Practice. Practice evacuating your home with your pets. First, have a fire drill with your children that does not include your pets. Once your children know their way out of the house, have a drill where members of your family save the pet they are responsible for. Leave leashes near your exit points to assist when bringing dogs and cats outside.
Remember that saving one life is better than saving none. If looking for an animal puts your life or the life of your children at risk, you must evacuate. If you cannot find your animal with a quick (and safe) look through the house, leave the job for properly equipped firefighters.