Since we became foster parents of our 18-year-old son with autism (our biological son–it’s complicated) we had to complete a once-a-month fire drill for the state of Texas. We decided to include our dog, Boomer, in the drills because we would NOT be leaving our dog behind if we had a fire. The agency who receives our fire drill reports was amused that we listed Boomer Bowen (the dog) in our list of people participating in the required fire drill.
July 15th was National Pet Fire Safety Day. Do you have a plan for your pets if a fire should occur? From the time you hear the smoke alarms or smell smoke, you likely have about 2 minutes to get to safety. Have you sounded your fire alarms while your pet is in the home so that they will get conditioned to the noise?
1. Start by identifying two ways out of each room (door/window).
2. If you have other people in the home, establish a meeting location where you will all meet up.
3. Keep a collar on your dog, leashes and cat carriers in an easy-to-access place near an exit point. If you don’t like keeping a collar on your dog, a kennel slip lead would work as well. Pets will likely panic at the smell of smoke and sight of fire, so secure the dog on a leash and put your cat in a carrier before exiting your home. If you have multiple family members, sometimes it is good to assign certain pets to different individuals, but that is not always foolproof. Practice with a pretend fire in a certain location in home (tell your family the fire will be in a certain location the next time you have a drill.
4. If you have birds or other caged pets, decide who is taking charge of them (assuming they can safely do so).
5. If you cannot find or reach your pet before you evacuate, leave an outside door open and call your pet’s name. Be persistent and loud and don’t give up.
What If A Fire Starts When You Are Not At Home
1. You can consider a monitored smoke-detection service so that firefighters can be called at the first sign of smoke (even if you are at home).
2. If you are leaving your pets at home alone, secure them in rooms near entrances. You can use the dog’s crate or use gates to close off a certain room (or the doors to other rooms).
3. Affix a pet alert window cling to the front window. This decal includes the number of pets in your house so first responders know who to look for when they enter the home. Keep them up-to-date as the number of pets increases or decreases in your household. Click here to order your free decal from the ASPCA.
Pets As The Cause of Fires
The National Fire Protection Association says that more than 1000 house fires every year are caused by pets. Pet proof your home against potential fire hazards. This was one case scenario: “Your dog was home alone and saw cake on the stove top. As the dog tried to get a taste, their paw accidentally hit the stove knob and turned on the gas burner that was under the cake pan. ”
1. Don’t leave pets unattended around any open flame: Candles, cooking appliances, fireplaces. Of course extinguish open flames if you are leaving the home.
2. Remove stove knobs: A stove or cook top is the most common piece of equipment involved when a pet starts a fire. Removing the knobs or protecting them with child and pet-proof covers is the easiest way to prevent this.
3. Choose flameless candles. It will give you the ambience without the danger.
4. Avoid glass water bowls on a wooden deck. This surprised me as well. If it is hot outside, the sun’s rays can heat up the bowl enough to actually ignite a wooden deck. A stainless steel or ceramic bowl won’t cause this problem.
5. Pet proof your home including electrical wires and power cords which should be secured out of your pet’s reach.
The other day the power went out in the evening at my house and stayed out for many hours. I always consider myself prepared for hurricane season, but was I really? That evening for me was a trial run. I failed. We had flashlights but where were they? I used my new keychain light to try to find them. Because it was in the evening, I needed a light that could light up the room. I have a lantern-type flashlight but it took a lot of effort to locate it. When the electric company said it would be at least midnight before it was fixed (and it was more like 2 a.m.), I had to find a better solution than candles. I needed a bathroom lantern in case my son got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. As many of you know, he has severe autism. He would not be able to be told, “Here’s a flashlight for you to use if you have to get up and the power is still off.” I found my battery-operated candle and put that in his bathroom. I certainly did not want candles burning all night so I put a regular hand-held flashlight up against something so it could light up the room.
I realize that we would have some advanced warning about a hurricane or tropical storm approaching, but if one whipped up from the Gulf of Mexico down near Mexico, we might not have much warning. Anyone who lives in the path of a potential hurricane knows the rush on supplies at the store. During Hurricane Ike, we were without power for 7 days. After that event, we bought a small generator–enough to power a refrigerator and plugs to charge things. My son still has toileting accidents, so we can unplug the refrigerator plug temporarily to plug our washer in to that same generator. The dryer plug would not work, but we can put his things outside. I have found that buying bottled water and storing it for the whole summer makes it taste pretty terrible, especially since we have to store it in the garage. Instead, I wash out milk containers starting in May and keep their lids. As a potential storm approaches I fill all the bottles. If the storm bypasses us, I just use that water on my plants. I also start making ice and lots of it (when the storm might still be in the Atlantic).
We generally focus on ourselves, but as pet owners it is our responsibility to prepare ahead for them. I could use a little work on that.
Let’s go past a hurricane. Let’s say the fire department comes to your door and says you have 30 minutes to get out of the area. Are you prepared? The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters has good tips for you.
1) When developing your family plan, add specific plans for your pets.
2) Assign each family member a pet to locate and care for.
3) Decide where you will go and pick a meeting place for your family in case of separation.
4) Think of whom you can call outside your area. An out-of-state contact can be helpful if communications are down in a disaster zone. Let this contact know your disaster plan and family meeting place should you be evacuated.
5) The best emergency plans include many people and systems that can back each other up. Please include family, friends, neighbors, your veterinarian, and pet sitter.
6) Contact hotels and motels in advance to check which ones accept pets as well as local humane societies and emergency clinics.
7) Build a phone tree. One person phones two people to see if they need help. Those two people each phone two more and so on.
8) Prepare a Disaster Supply Kit.
9) Stay current on vaccines.
10) Make your home safe (or have a safe zone in your home) for your pet in a disaster.
11) Accustom your pets to sudden actions as would be needed in a disaster.
12) Check with your pet sitter to see what their emergency plan is for your pet. Make sure you have your pet disaster kit ready and let your sitter know exactly where it is. Make sure your sitter has all your emergency contacts so in case you are not reachable they can let someone know your pet is safe. The sitter can secure your home and let your neighbors know where your pets will be. Most sitters keep keys to their clients’ homes so if you are not traveling but cannot get to your house due to work or road conditions your pet sitter may be able to secure your pets when you can’t.
Disaster Supply Kit
This is a minimum checklist for your pet should an emergency strike.
1) Prepare a list for each pet. Kits should be easily retrieved and kept in a water tight container.
2) Crate or carrier for each pet large enough to turn around in, and cat carriers large enough for a small litter box.
3) Rotate all foods into use and replace with fresh food every 2 months.
4) Collars and leashes for all pets (including cats) with ID, microchip number, and rabies tags on all collars.
5) Pet first-aid kit including bandaging material, antiseptic ointment, alcohol, gloves, tweezers, muzzle and gauze (You can buy these through the ASPCA if you don’t want to create one for yourself).
6) Vet information and vaccination records and current pictures of each pet.
7) Three-week supply of each pet(s) medications.
8) Sedatives for pets that frighten easily.
9) Disposable litter boxes with extra cat litter.
10) Plastic bags, paper towels and cleaning supplies.
11) Three-week supply of food and drinking water for each pet.
12) Manual can opener and food and water bowls for each pet.
13) Toys or blankets your pet will find familiar.
14) Towels and grooming items.
15) Detailed instructions for animal care and rescue workers.
16) Copy of emergency numbers and family evacuation plan.
17) Flashlight and batteries.
18) A simply plastic tub to carry everything for each pet helps organize in times when it is difficult to think clearly.