Preparation is key.
dog looking out a window
Credit: Soloviova Liudmyla / Adobe Stock

Making pets a part of your home not only means giving them a cozy place to sleep and a belly full of delicious food. It also means doing what you can to make your home safer for your pet in case of a fire.

In honor of National Pet Fire Safety Day on July 15, we spoke with Luisa Rapport, information specialist at the Santa Clara County Fire Department in California, and Stephanie Austin, DVM, medical director at the Upper East Side branch of Bond Vet in New York. The following eight tips can help you improve home fire safety for yourself and your pets, both in terms of preventing fires and minimizing harm to you and your precious animals in case of an emergency.

1. Recognize Household Items That Pose Unique Fire Risks When Living With Pets

"It's important to know that some household items that are otherwise safe for us can cause a dangerous hazard when pets are present," Rapport says. Things like kitchen equipment and wires could easily be bumped or chewed on by a pet and potentially cause a fire, so be careful with the placement and overall presence of these items, and keep them out of reach of pets who may have a penchant for chewing things.

2. Be Extra Cautious With Open Flames

Related to the risk of ordinary household items, sources of open flames like candles, stovetops, and fireplaces also deserve extra caution when pets are around. Austin notes that her furry friend's fluffy tail tends to accidentally knock things over, which is why she simply avoids using any candles in her home. But pets with smaller, not-so-fluffy tails can cause accidents, too. "Pets are a little like moths to a flame," Austin says. "They're going to investigate and they don't know there are boundaries." To help mitigate the risk of knocking something flammable over by accident, do your best to keep open flames out of pets' reach ... or eliminate the source entirely.

3. Use Monitored Alarms and Cameras

As much as you might try to keep your adorable companion out of harm's way, sometimes fires do occur despite your best efforts to keep your home safe. In that case, you want to be prepared whether or not you're home. Always use monitored smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home that are able to directly alert emergency responders like firefighters (or at least send a notification to your phone). Likewise, pet cameras not only help you catch cute clips of your pet napping while you're out, but they also can alert you if and when alarms go off. They may also help you notice something looks risky, like an electrical cord that's been chewed on or an appliance that has been left on accidentally.

4. Know Where Your Pets Nap and Hide

Speaking of naps, Rapport advises pet parents to know sleeping and hiding places. Knowing where they may be more likely to hide or take a snooze can help you quickly—yet calmly—locate your pet and get them out safely in case of an emergency. "Remember that pets can be very difficult to round up if they sense stress—especially cats," she adds.

5. Practice Using Crates and Carriers to Evacuate

Knowing where your pets are likely to be located in an emergency is only half the battle. You then need to be able to evacuate them in a stressful situation. Putting your pet in a carrier or crate could be a good way to get them out safely, but you need to practice this in advance so that they can get comfortable with the space and the process in which you'll be evacuating. "Imagine trying to do that when you're freaked out during a fire," says Austin. Practice and preparedness are key, so organizing a fire drill for your household that includes this step could help you and your furry friends get more comfortable to the process.

6. Let Others Know You Have Pets

In case you're not home, or if you're unable to evacuate with your pet, it can be helpful to preemptively let first responders know you have pets at home, advises Austin. She says one way to do this is by placing stickers on doors and windows that say how many and the types of pets you have in your home. Austin also suggests keeping items like a leash or carrier near the front entrance that would be visible to first responders who may need to enter. That not only can help you locate them quickly in an emergency, but also signals to first responders that you live with pets in your home.

7. Keep Tags and Microchips Up-to-Date

Items like collars and name ID tags (even for cats!) do more than just help your pet look stylish and meet new friends at the park. They are also very useful in extreme circumstances. Austin notes that if an emergency situation like a fire strikes your home, if all you can do to stay safe is open the door and let your pet run out to safety, then having a tag on their collar is better than nothing at all. It's also always a good idea to have your pet microchipped—and make sure the chip and their tag include your up-to-date contact info to increase the chances that you are able reunite if necessary.

8. Establish a Clear Emergency Plan

While you can't get your pet to recite back an evacuation plan (unless you have a talented bird), you can still practice with them. Rapport advises all pet parents to have an emergency plan, and practice escape routes with your pet. "Include all members of the family in this plan, and make sure they know what to do and where to go," she says. Following these tips could help you prevent a fire or even save your pet's life in case an emergency does occur. Preparing ahead of time for pet fire safety can go a long way toward reducing your risk, so you can enjoy more snuggles with your companions ... just maybe not in front of a fireplace.