640x364It’s roughly estimated that around 1 in 2 households own a pet (excluding fish) in the UK.  And the most recent fire statistics (covering 2013-14) tell us there were 39,600 dwelling fires in Great Britain.  That means an awful lot of pets were likely to be around when fires broke out and very sadly not all of them will have survived. In many instances owners, neighbours or passers-by will have put themselves in danger too while trying to rescue the animals and sometimes that’s left people seriously injured or worse.

And it’s not only an issue for pets kept in the home either. There are plenty of businesses around where animals are present. Vets’ surgeries. Kennels. In fact, you’ll probably recall the devastation caused by the fire that broke out due to arson at Manchester Dogs’ Home in 2014 when 60 dogs were killed.

Reducing the risks

If you’re a business with animals around, you must factor in how to keep them safe as part of your fire risk assessments. But it’s really important that people give some thought to fire safety when it comes to their pets (or any other animals they’re responsible for) in the home too.

Electrical Safety First offers some useful suggestions about how you can reduce risks – in fact they’re important fire safety tips even if you don’t have pets. They include making sure that plugs, lights, cables and sockets are in good condition and that sockets aren’t overloaded.  Don’t leave gadgets unattended while they’re charging and never leave appliances like washing machines or dishwashers running when you’re asleep or out of the house. And don’t store things that could easily ignite on top of microwaves or near fuse boxes either.

But as well as keeping animals safe from the hazards we might create, it’s vital to be aware that pets can potentially start fires too. Portable heaters or lights are easy to knock over and cables can look delicious to a dog looking for something to chew. Never leave your pet unattended near any kind of open flame; maybe consider flameless candles which use bulbs instead. Otherwise make sure candles are well out of reach of animals and can’t be knocked over by an over-enthusiastic tail.

Think about your oven and hob too; large dogs in particular can reach up and accidently knock oven controls to ‘on’ so it’s worth buying covers for them – they’re readily available as a child safety accessory. Or you can leave the main power switch off when you’re not using them.

How can you keep pets safe when you’re out?

Where might pets go when you’re not around? Put them near external doors if possible and keep them away from potential fire hazards by using baby gates in secure areas. You could use a window sticker that states how many animals are in the house to help save rescuers’ time and reduce the risk to them. There are also several different types of monitored smoke detector systems you can consider installing.

Should we have a pet fire safety day?

We’re a nation of pet lovers. Even fire services are responding to campaigns to have pet oxygen masks on board fire engines to help save animals caught up in fires. But unlike America we’re yet to take on the idea of a Pet Fire Safety Day. There are several annual safety days and weeks that act as vital reminders to people about key fire-related safety issues. Should pet fire safety be the focus of another one to make owners more mindful of fire-related hazards in the home?

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