If a fire is spreading rapidly through your home, you could have as little as two minutes to get out safely. This is where your previous fire safety drills will be life-saving, as you won’t have to think about what to do in the middle of a crisis, you’ll already have your plan in place.
Start by identifying two ways out of each room (such as a window and a door), and establish a meeting location outside where all family members should gather. The best way to protect your pets in the event you have to evacuate is to bring them with you. Keep a collar on your dog, and leashes and cat carriers in an easy-to-access spot near an exit point so you can grab them on your way out.
Pets will probably panic at the smell of smoke and sight of fire, so secure dogs on a leash and put your cat in a carrier if at all possible. Otherwise, they may bolt once you get outdoors. Having a few “kennel slip leads” (those thin nylon leashes with a metal ring on the end that you double back through the nylon rope to create an easy-on, easy off collar and leash, in one) are invaluable in emergency situations.
You probably already know your pet’s favorite hiding spots, but if you don’t, make it a point to locate them now. If a fire starts, your pet will likely make a bee-line for her ‘safe’ spot as soon as she hears the alarm, so check there first.
If you have birds or other caged animals, decide ahead of time who will be in charge of taking them to your outdoor meeting spot – assuming you can safely do so, of course.
It might not always be possible for you to find or reach your pet before you evacuate. In this case, leave an outside door open and call your pet’s name. Hopefully, he will hear your voice and make his way out to you. Be persistent and loud … and don’t give up. It may take time for your pet to work up the courage to come to your voice.
What if a Fire Starts When You’re Not Home?
Pets can’t let themselves out if a fire starts, which is why a bit of pre-planning can be life-saving if a fire starts when you’re away from home. You may even want to consider using a monitored smoke detection service, so firefighters can be called at the first sign of smoke (even if you’re not home).
When you’ll be leaving your pets home alone it’s a good idea to secure them in rooms near entrances. You can do this using your dog’s crate or with the use of gates to close off a certain room, for instance.
This will be more challenging with cats, but if your home allows you to close off a front room or section of the house to contain your cats while you’re away, it will be easier for firefighters to locate them in an emergency.
Another simple life-saving trick? Affix a pet alert window cling to a front window, in an easy-to-spot location. This decal includes the number of pets in your home so rescuers know who to look for when they enter your home. Firefighters are trained to look for these stickers, so be sure to keep it up to date if you add another pet to your family.