House Fires: Don't Let Your Pet Become a Statistic

I worry about my pets when I’m not home. I’ve never left them alone for more then 24 hours as a result. On the rare occasion that my husband and I take a little vacation, my mother stays at our house to scoop the litter boxes, distribute the treats, break up any tussles that get out of hand, and scratch ears and chins. I’m particularly concerned about house fires (and tornados, but that’s another post).

House fires occur with alarming frequency. In 2009, the most recent year for which I could find data, U.S. fire departments responded to 362,500 of them. Total civilian injuries because of house fires were 12,650, while civilian deaths were 2,565. The fires resulted in $7.6 billion in direct damage. But what about the pets? The U.S. Fire Administration does not keep an official tally. However, several animal protection groups have estimated that as many as 500,000 pets perish in house fires each year.

Fortunately, worrywarts like me can obtain a little piece of mind by preparing for emergencies such as a fire. Consider these tips to keep your pets from perishing:

1. You can never have too many smoke alarms. There should be at least one on every floor of your home as well as one near each bedroom. Check their batteries every month.
2. Know your pets’ hiding places. Map them out if necessary. In the event of a fire, pets may retreat to one of their favorite “secret” locations.
3. Include your pets in your organized evacuation plan, and in all practice drills.
4. Keep collars, leashes and carriers near your door to make rescue easier. Always evacuate pets in a secure manner to prevent them from bolting in fear.
5. When pets perish in house fires, it is often because they were confined to a cage or crate. If you must contain them when you are not at home, keep their crates on the ground floor for easier rescue.
6. Place a sticker on your door or a ground floor window to notify firefighters that you have pets. Include the number of animals and their species as well. Request a free Pet Safety Pack from the ASPCA that contains a pet rescue window decal and Animal Poison Control Center magnet.
7. Have your pets microchipped. If they become lost during a fire or other emergency, it will be easier to recover them.
8. Prepare an emergency kit for each pet, including some food, veterinary paperwork and medications.

I agree with the old adage “better safe than sorry.” I plan to implement all of these steps in my own home as soon as possible to ensure that my babies are as safe as possible in the event of a house fire.

Do you have an emergency kit packed? What's inside? Share it with us in the comments!

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