Top Tips On Keeping Your Pets and Your Family Safe In A Fire Emergency, by Melissa Tompkins

Fire danger in Southern California is very real and right now fires have consumed more than 100,000 acres and 6700 structures in Northern and Southern California this month.

If you are in a fire zone, get prepared immediately to protect your pets and loved ones.

Before the fire

  • If you are near a wooded area make sure that any dead or dry brush is cleared from around your home.
  • Make sure all of your smoke detectors work.
  • Have a fire extinguisher on hand (especially for small house fires).
  • Make an evacuation kit.
    • Have some old shoes and a flashlight for a night evacuation.
      • If you think you might be evacuated get personal hygiene stuff together as well as an overnight bag of essential clothing.
      • Have your pet’s safety pack ready and easily accessible, see my previous blog for kit info
      • Have at least one gallon of water per person available.
      • Have small snacks for easy travel food available to bring with you if needed.
    • Keep the “six” P’s ready in case immediate evacuation is required.
      • People and pets
      • Papers, phone# and important documents
      • Prescriptions, pills and eyeglasses
      • Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
      • Personal computer (information on hard drives and disks)
      • “Plastic” (credit cards and cash, should have around $400 in cash)
  • Make a plan
    • Keep your car’s fuel tank full and your car facing out.
    • Have a family emergency plan and re-unification plan.

When The Fire Approaches

  • Evacuate if directed by authorities, or if fire is headed toward your home.
  • Close heavy draperies, but remove lightweight curtains.
  • Leave lights on in the house to mark your home for emergency responders.
  • Turn off propane gas supply at the tank.
  • Evacuate using pre-identified road “escape routes”.
  • Watch for downed power lines – treat all wires as energized and lethal.
  • Most importantly, don’t wait until it is too late to evacuate!

What if my kids are in school?  Firefighters will prioritize protecting and evacuating school sites. Know your school’s evacuation plans and where they will take your student. Develop an emergency plan for baby sitters and other care providers for in home care.  Make sure they have emergency contact information for multiple family members.

What should I do with my animals?

You should take small animals with you.  If possible keep them in a pet travel crate for their own safety.  If you have livestock please take them to alternate stables and do this as soon as possible.  It is not recommended to release large stock animals to run wild as they may become injured.  But if you are not able to relocate them and the fire is coming it is better to let them loose than leave in a locked stable.

After the fire

You should wait until you are told by local authorities before coming back to your home.  If your home is damaged please contact your insurance company or landlord.

Do not wait until you or your home is at risk to be prepared, get started today.

Red Cross Fire Prevention Check List

Red Cross Frequently Asked Questions

If you need help after a fire

Recovering after a fire

Melissa Tompkins, BS, CVPM

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Photo by Adam Kontor on

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