Fires are one of my biggest fears. When I was in the first grade my family’s barn burnt down, luckily for us, there were no horses in the barn at the time, but our beloved dogs were being kept in the horse stalls as a temporary kennel. I’ve blogged about this in the past, it was a windy day, the barn manager had a friend over whose car backfired causing sparks, the wind picked up the sparks, and a fire quickly began. A few things went wrong in the tactics being used to fight the fire, and the barn burned completely to the ground. The firefighters thought they had rescued all of the animals in the barn, but had overlooked my black lab, Rex. He perished in the blaze.
A few years ago I discovered decals made to notify emergency responders of any pets in the building. These decals can be placed on your front window or door, and give you space to write the number of dogs in your house to help ensure they are rescued in the event of an emergency. Of course, I loved this idea! My animals are like family to me, and I would hate to lose another beloved pet to a fire. Immediately I ordered one online (you can get them free through the ASPCA, or purchase one at your local pet specialty shop).
As you may know, one of my brothers is a firefighter, so I turn to him for all fire-related questions. One day we were talking about dogs in emergency situations, and how a normally docile dog may turn violent or aggressive when surrounded by the stress of a fire, first responders in full gear, sirens, etc. He explained from a fire fighter’s perspective the first priorities are saving human lives and putting out the blaze to save the building, but they do try to save animals, when they can. Many fire trucks are even equipped with oxygen masks for dogs to combat smoke inhalation. When I learned this I asked his thoughts on these decals, mentioning I always keep one in clear sight at the entrance to my house.
I was saddened to learn that decals like this are rarely noticed or relied upon by fire fighters… of course, this could be different for each department or area. He told me in the event of a fire the firefighters are focused on clearing the building and putting out the fire. With this in mind, they do everything possible to search for lives (including pets), but it is unlikely they would have the time to look for said decal in such instances.
I’ve blogged about the decals in the past, and I will continue to hang a decal notifying emergency crews of my animals, but I now have a more realistic view of how effective this tool is in saving the lives of my pets in a blaze. Fires are terrifying, and I pray none of my readers ever has to go through one, but there are some tools you can have in place. Practice for an emergency. Plan your exit strategies, and factor your pets into them. My brother said practicing is far and away the best preparation tool! Keep collars and leashes in an easily accessible place, but also keep in mind you may not be able to access that spot in a blaze. Your first priority should always be getting you and other humans out, but if time allows do try to bring your pets with you. As fires are an incredibly high stress situation for pets, work on socialization and obedience with distractions. Take your dogs places they may encounter loud noises, sirens, or people in full gear and practice your basic obedience. The last thing you want is your dog to hide in fear during an emergency like this. So work heavily on your recall, as well as your stay command.