National Pet Fire Safety Day

July 15 is National Pet Fire Safety Day, sponsored by the American Kennel Club and ADT.

We spoke with local firefighters from DCFD Engine16 Tower3 "The Midnight Express" about how you can protect your dogs in the event of a fire, and how to help prevent your dogs from starting a fire. Read on more for more.

According to the United States Fire Administration, as many as 500,000 pets are affected by fires each year. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that pets are responsible for starting more than 1,000 fires per year.

First things first: how can you best protect your dog in the event of a fire? Our firefighters told us that their protocol is to rescue any life—humans first, but also dogs, cats, and other pets. Many stations have someone specially trained in pet CPR as well as special masks to administer oxygen to pets who have inhaled smoke. They also carry heat sensors to detect bodies of both humans and animals during search and rescue.

What about those Pet Alert stickers that say there's a pet inside—do they work? The answer is yes. It's helpful for firefighters to know if there is a pet inside a house or a specific apartment. Even if the protocol is to check every home for people and animals, a sticker can help prioritize their searching. We asked whether the stickers would work for condo and apartment dwellers, and our friends at DCFD recommended putting stickers on both your windows and doors to maximize the chance that the fire department sees them.

We were also reminded to keep our pets in easily-accessible areas of our homes when we're away. The faster a firefighter can find your dog, the better for everyone! Having a collar or leash near the door also helps firefighters who need to lead a dog out of a building.

Finally, be sure to practice fire drills with your pets just as you would with your family. If your dog's response is to hide under the bed when he hears a siren or alarm, you'll want to train him to come to you instead so that you can make a quick exit together.

Next up: How to secure your home against fires started by pets!

The good news is that most of us are familiar with fire safety rules. For instance, don't leave candles or other open flames unattended; don't leave hot appliances (like curling irons!) unattended; and don't leave items (ahem, pizza boxes) on top of the stove. Invest in a good smoke detector, and change the batteries every time the clock changes to daylight saving time from standard time and back.

Here are some pet-specific tips: 
- Don't put glass bowls out on wooden decks. They can magnify sunlight and start fires. 
- Secure electrical wires and, if possible, hide them so that aggressive chewers can't get to them. 
- Consider removing your stove knobs or using stove knob covers when you're not cooking if you have a tall dog or one that can jump onto your counter.

For more tips, visit the pages of the American Red Cross or the American Kennel Club. Also, don't hesitate to stop by your local fire station and ask for advice—we loved visiting ours!

And now, we want to hear from you. Do you have a sticker on your window(s) and/or door? Do you feel they are easily obtainable? If not, we encourage our apartment-dwelling followers to work with their management offices to ensure that stickers are made available to all pet owners in their buildings. And can you think of a better way to ensure that your pet will be safe in the event of an emergency if you aren't home? Are stickers on windows and doors the best solution, or can we do better? We know that the#dcdogmoms community is an innovative one and look forward to hearing any ideas, questions, or concerns you might have about pet fire safety in the comments below!

Heather Vaughan