How to Prepare for Home Fires

Redbarn June 07, 2018
Pet Parenting-How to Prepare for Home Fires-redbarn-blog

Home. It’s where your heart is! 

And for most of us, we share our homes with our four-legged family members, too.. 

But as relaxing as your home can be, it can also pose a deadly threat to your pet if a fire breaks out. 

According to The National Fire Prevention Association, U.S. fire departments respond to an average of one home fire every 88 seconds! Would you know what to do in the event your home catches fire with you or your pet inside?

In honor of National Pet Disaster Preparedness Month, Redbarn reached out to Jake Heflin, fire captain, paramedic, and public information officer for The Long Beach Fire Department to answer our questions on pets and fire safety. Having worked at the LBFD for 20 years, Jake has a wealth of knowledge to share with pet parents in order to better prepare them, just in case disaster strikes.

Create an Evacuation Plan Ahead of Time 

Many people create evacuation plans for their families in times of disasters, such as home fires. The best way to protect your pets from the effects of a fire is to include them in that evacuation safety plan. Take the time to practice taking your pets with you as you practice- have an escape route and practice with your pets and your family. 

“Pets can be more difficult to round up when they are scared,” Jake says. “Practice evacuating with crates to safely gather and protect your pet(s). Your ability to do all of this effectively and in a timely manner can be the difference between life or death for your furry family members.”

Forty-thousand pets die every year in house fires. And the sad part is, a large majority of house fires are completely preventable. 

“Pets are curious and like to investigate,” Jake explains. “To prevent home fires from occurring, pet parents can secure loose wires and put covers on stove knobs. Enclose fireplaces with preventative screens, and use flameless candles.”

Did You Know? Accidental switching on of the stove knob is the #1 cause of fires. 

(Source: American Humane Society, Jake Heflin LBFD)

How To Prevent Your Pet From Starting a Fire

The smell of cooked food often entices unattended cats and dogs to jump on top of tables or stovetops, where toppling items can ignite combustibles, such as towels, tablecloths, and curtains, or even activate a switch or burner. Cooking, smoking, heating, electrical and candle issues remain the most common causes of house fires, including those that kill pets and people. 

Ashtrays, space heaters, and barbecue grills also pose a hazard to rambunctious pets. Remember to remove used smoking materials and coals from accessible areas and place them in a metal can. Be sure to promptly and drown them completely. Metal cans with metal lids kept away from pets and combustibles make for safe outdoor storage spaces. 

Some pets have compulsive chewing habits. These bad habits can cause them to chew on anything and everything, including loose wires. Pets can become electrocuted when biting into extension cords or power strips, so it’s also important to secure loose wires and remember to never use an electric heating blanket for a pet bed.

Keep Pets Safe From Open Flames

According to Jake, in order to keep pets safe from open flames, “Pet parents should follow The Rule of 3. Simply put, this rule means combustible items should be at least 3 feet away from open flames and heating devices to avoid starting a fire.” This even includes space heaters when they’re turned on. 

“It also comes down to a matter of properly training your pets,” says Jake. “Cats should not be jumping on kitchen countertops – they can knock things down and create other serious and even fatal disasters.” Pet parents can mark off their 3-inch minimum pet-free zone near stoves and other appliances with a non-slip floor mat. It’s important to teach pets that the mat is off limits at all times, and never offer food from the stovetop.

Essential Fire Prevention Tips

  • Reduce open flame exposure.
  • Put covers on stove knobs.
  • Secure loose wires. 
  • Get a rescue alert sticker. 
  • Know where your pets hide. 
  • Arrange a safe haven. 
  • Make an emergency kit. 
  • Have an evacuation plan. 
  • Remember the rule of three. 

(Source: Dynamic Veterinary Marketing)

What to Do During a Fire

Pets often escape on their own, while owners or respondents are left searching in deadly smoke. 

“It’s important to know where your pets like to hide when they’re frightened.“If you and your pet get separated, inform firefighters about the animal and where you believe they may be. This cuts down on the amount of time respondents spend in the home,” Jake said. “If you’ve already collected your pets from the home, you can write on your window decals to indicate the number of pets left in the house, if any. Also, make sure the updated contact if updated on their collar microchip database.”

What To Include in Your Fire Emergency Kit

Assemble a portable emergency kit with enough supplies to last 7 days. 

Your Fire Emergency Kit Should Include: 

  • Any medications your pet needs.
  • Leashes and collars with contact information.
  • Current photos of your pet.
  • Bowls for food and water.
  • Plastic bags and paper towels for waste.
  • Toys and pet beds.
  • Emergency contact number.
  • Food and fresh bottled water. 

The Three W’s of Fire Survival

When it comes to surviving fire, you need to have the 3 W’s: A Warning, A Weapon, and a Way Out!

1)Your Warning 

The notion that your pet will awaken you to a home fire is a deadly mistake. The same smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms that will save your life, will also save the life of your pet. Make sure you have both types of alarms installed and maintained in full compliance with local regulations.

Test every smoke and CO alarm monthly and change any replaceable batteries at least once each year, or when indicated by the device. Replace the entire device immediately if it fails a test despite fresh batteries or when it reaches the end of its service life, which is typically no more than ten years after the date of manufacture printed on the back of the device.

2)Your Weapon

Knowledge is power, and fire prevention is the key. If, despite your best efforts, a small fire erupts in your presence, it may be possible to keep it from becoming a large one through the safe and proper use of a fire extinguisher. 

We recommend keeping at least two multipurpose (A:B:C) fire extinguishers in your home, learning how to use them properly, and storing them for quick access near the kitchen and garage.

Never fight a large fire, one that creates a large volume of smoke or interferes with your direct exit from a room. A pot lid or cookie sheet can often be used as a covering to squelch flames from a simple pan or skillet fire. Be sure to call 9-1-1 if there is any doubt about full control of the fire, or if anyone is injured. Pets, especially birds, can be sensitive to smoke from even a small fire. Safely get your pets to fresh air and consult with your veterinarian if you believe they are ill.

3)Your Way Out 

Plan and practice your home fire escape plan with your pet. You may even have fun teaching your pet the behavior you anticipate when a smoke detector sounds, and that includes joining you for a safe escape via the two exits available from each room. 

If you are awakened or alerted by a smoke detector, there are two simple things to remember: Get low and go. Get out and stay out. 

What to do if Your Cat or Dog Catches Fire

Fire pits, fireplaces, barbecues, and candles are among the most common waysour furry friends catch fire. Though we enjoy our companion animals, there are times when they should be sequestered from the flame.

“If a pet catches fire, do what you can to prevent them from running, and seek to completely smother the flame with a towel, blanket or jacket,” Jake advises. “ You can keep a bowl of water and a cloth handy near the fire, so you’ll have a damp cloth ready to go, just in case! Avoid pouring water directly on your pet, especially if they’re a cat. This will only freak them out.” 

The next step is to take your pet to the vet— even a minor burn should be looked at and treated promptly.

Your commitment to home fire safety is an important gift to your pet and the firefighters standing ready to protect them. If you have additional questions about fire safety and your pet, we encourage you to visit the firefighters who proudly protect your community.

Get Involved (h2)

Long Beach Fire Ambassadors (55+)

The Long Beach Fire Department is proud to be the home of the Long Beach Fire Ambassadors,  retired adults providing fire safety education to children in schools across the Long Beach Unified School District.

The Mission of the Long Beach Fire Ambassadors, in partnership with the Long Beach Fire Department, is to increase awareness of fire safety at home and in the community and to educate children and adults in ways to prevent injuries to persons and property damage as a result of fire. Representing the Fire Department at many functions throughout the city and providing fire education to children is a major responsibility. 

The Long Beach Fire Ambassadors are always seeking new members. Volunteers must be retired and over the age of 55.

Special thanks to the Jake Heflin at The Long Beach Fire Department for sharing these life-saving tips about house fire preparedness for pets. We encourage you to share these valuable tips with your friends and family on your favorite social media platforms!

Did you learn something new about pet disaster preparedness? Let us know in the comments below!