how you can help furry friends survive house fires

Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on Jul 31 2015

Every 20 seconds, somewhere in America a fire department is responding to a fire, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Any fire is a tragedy; it’s even more devastating whenever a human or pet life is lost. The sobering truth is most fire-related deaths and injuries are caused by smoke, not burning blazes. That’s where pet oxygen masks can help.

You’ve seen the iconic images: Brave firemen administering oxygen to a person suffering from shock draped in blankets as toxic smoke swirls around them. What you might not’ve considered is what happens if a first responder rescues a dog or cat? What treatment do pets receive? Unfortunately, those life-saving human oxygen masks are a poor fit for a furry face. Even worse, many emergency personnel aren’t trained to properly care for animals harmed in a catastrophe.

How to help

Start by contacting your local fire department and EMS. Ask if they have pet oxygen masks. If not, consider donating a set. Hold a fundraiser, dog wash, bake sale or ask local businesses to chip in. This life-saving equipment is relatively inexpensive and there are numerous styles and makes available today. Before you buy, ask your veterinarian to help select the best choice for your emergency services and perhaps order them for you (wholesale, anyone?).

While you’re requesting assistance, gently suggest that your veterinarian offer a training session for emergency personnel. Even if your local EMS and fire departments have pet oxygen masks, they can always benefit from training. Animal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), rescue breathing and supplemental oxygen therapy probably weren’t covered during traditional EMS education and annual refresher courses are vital to rescue the public’s pets. Any veterinarian is capable of providing this instruction and emergency personnel treasure these opportunities to learn.

Also encourage friends and family to download and customize the Pet Rescue Alert with their pet's photo, name and favorite hiding place. In case of a fire, the alert can help notify first responders that there's a pet inside that needs rescued.

As a practicing veterinarian, I’ve seen firsthand the painful wounds of fire. Pet oxygen masks,proper EMS and fire department training and the pet rescue alert can save lives and lessen injuries in our animal loved ones. Your help today may save the lives of loved ones in the future.