July 13, 2010

When Disaster Strikes: Pet Owners Need a Plan

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Honey the chihuahua-mutt mix looked comfortable in her role as demo dog yesterday. As Derry Fire Battalion Chief Jack Webb talked about the importance of pet safety in times of unexpected disaster, Honey sat quietly in his arms, waiting for her closeup.
“Pets are an important part of my life, too. As a member of a two-dog, two-cat family, we're the ones who get evicted from beds by our pets. So I do understand the importance of having these resources available here in Derry,” said Webb.
He took a plastic oxygen mask and held it over Honey's snout to show how such masks could be used to help a pet overcome by smoke during a house fire.
Honey wore it well.
The mask was one of three donated by Friends of the Derry Library – small, medium and large – the first of what library staffers hope will be a total of six sets of oxygen masks purchased with funds raised by local kids who are dedicating their summer reading efforts to raising the $65 per set needed to equip local fire crews with masks.
Webb told a small crowd of kids, parents and town officials gathered yesterday on the library steps that the gift of the mask sets was a timely reminder for families to have a plan in place for their pets.
“July 15 is National Pet Awareness Safety Day. From a firefighter's perspective, you really need to pet proof your house,” Webb said.
According to National Fire Protection Association statistics, some 500,000 pets are affected by house fires annually – about 1,000 of those are started by pets, who have been known to accidentally turn on a stove trying to get at food left out by their owners, or by knocking over candles left burning.
In addition to pet-proofing your home, Webb said there are some helpful things pet owners can do to keep their pets safe in an emergency, while making the job of firefighters a little easier.
  • When away from home, keep pet crates just inside the entrance to your home, where they can be spotted easily by firefighters in the event of fire.
  • Confine young animals, particularly puppies, when no one is home, using crates or baby gates, to prevent them from getting into potential fire-starting hazards.
  • Practice escape routes with your pets – collars and leashes should be near the door, along with a doggie bag of supplies – food, treats, bottled water, extra pet dishes, health records, something that can be grabbed if you should ever have to run out of the house in a hurry with your pet during a fire.
  • Get a pet alert window cling to put on a front window with the names of family pets and where they are likely to be found, so rescuers know to look for a pet inside. For more information on how to get a free window cling go to www.adt.com/pets.

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