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Your pets are treasured family members and need protection as much as your own family in the event of fire. Sadly, some 500,000 pets are affected by fires each year, and over 40,000 of them die. Most fire victims die from smoke asphyxiation. A fire needs oxygen to burn, so lack of oxygen or inhaling smoke is more often the killer than the fire itself.
Following are some tips to help you know how to prevent fires and what to do if a fire breaks out in your home.
Be sure you have working smoke detectors on every level of the home.
Have an emergency exit plan that includes your pets, and practice the plan regularly. Once a fire starts, it spreads rapidly, so everyone should know what to do to escape.
Make sure pets always wear current identification. Consider subscribing to a service like 1-800-HELP-4-PETS, whose Pet Protector System will help to reunite you and your pet if he becomes lost (www.Help4Pets.com).
Research a safe place to take your pets. Ask friends or relatives if they can shelter you and your pets, and check with local pet-boarding facilities, humane societies and animal shelters.
Assemble a dog disaster kit with dog food and his medications, copies of his health records, your veterinarian's phone number and list of facilities you can take your pet, recent photo taken of you with your dog, favorite toy or bedding, and extra leash and collar affixed with the pet's I.D.
Give a key to a trusted neighbor, and make sure he knows where the dog might be located within the house so he can inform firefighters.
Ask your local fire department if the fire trucks carry pet oxygen masks. If they don't, ask neighborhood pet owners to join you in making a donation to buy masks for the fire department.
Listen to your dog! Canines have a keen sense of smell and can detect smoke long before humans. If your dog is acting strangely, look into the situation promptly and be prepared to gather your family and follow your evacuation plan.
If you must evacuate and can't find your dog in the house, leave an outside door open and then call your dog's name once you get out. He may be able to hear you and escape.
If your dog was in a smoke-filled building or if you can smell smoke on his fur, take him to your veterinarian. Toxic fumes can be deadly.
Prevent fires from happening by ensuring your dog doesn't have access to dangerous combustible items.