Home fires are the most common disaster that the American Red Cross responds to and also the most preventable. According to the United States Fire Administration, an estimated 500,000 pets are affected annually by fires. Today marks the third annual National Pet Fire Safety Day, and there are several ways to help your pet stay safe.
Photo of "Buster" courtesy of Mary Klapmust
The best way for to protect pets from the effects of a fire is to include them in your family plan. In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them, too.
Take Your Pets to a Safe Place:
- Local and state health and safety regulations do not permit the Red Cross to allow pets in disaster shelters. Service animals which assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of an evacuation, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes!
- Contact hotels and motels outside your local area to check their policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask if "no pet" policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers, with your other disaster information and supplies. If you are alerted to an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations.
- Ask friends, relatives or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable if kept together, but be prepared to house them separately.
- Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.
- Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets during a disaster. Animal shelters may be overwhelmed caring for the animals they already have as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.
Assemble a Portable Pet Disaster Supplies Kit:
- Whether you are away from home for a day or a week, you'll need essential supplies. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily (a duffle bag or covered trash containers, for example). Your pet disaster supplies kit should include:
- Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can't escape.
- Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
- Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.
- Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
- Pet bed or toys if easily transportable.
The ASPCA recommends using a rescue sticker alert to let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers, and that it includes 1) the types and number of pets in your household; 2) the name of your veterinarian; and 3) your veterinarian's phone number. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write "EVACUATED" across the stickers.
Prevent Your Pet from Starting Fires:
The National Fire Protection Association estimates that nearly 1,000 house fires each year are accidentally started by the homeowners' pets.
The American Kennel Club and ADT Security Services have joined forces to provide the following tips.
- Extinguish open flames - Pets are generally curious and will investigate cooking appliances, candles, or even a fire in your fireplace. Ensure your pet is not left unattended around an open flame and make sure to thoroughly extinguish any open flame before leaving your home.
- Remove stove knobs - Be sure to remove stove knobs or protect them with covers before leaving the house - a stove or cook top is the number one piece of equipment involved in your pet starting a fire.
- Invest in flameless candles. These candles contain a light bulb rather than an open flame, and take the danger out of your pet knocking over a candle. Cats are notorious for starting fires when their tails turn over lit candles.
- Keep pets near entrances when away from home. Keep collars on pets and leashes at the ready in case firefighters need to rescue your pet. When leaving pets home alone, keep them in areas or rooms near entrances where firefighters can easily find them.
- Secure young pets; keep them confined away from potential fire-starting hazards when you are away from home such as in crates or behind baby gates in secure areas.
- Affix a pet alert window cling and write down the number of pets inside your house and attach the static cling to a front window. This critical information saves rescuers time when locating your pets. Make sure to keep the number of pets listed on them updated.
Visit RedCross.org for additional fire prevention and pet safety guidance.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.