VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - If your pets aren't included in your family's fire safety plan, now is a good time to add them.
July 15 is National Pet Fire Safety Day, a day dedicated to helping ensure all family members can escape a house fire safely.
According to the American Humane, 500,000 pets are impacted by house fires each year, with roughly 1,000 fires started by pets.
During a fire the American Humane recommends:
- If you can't find your pet quickly, leave the home and allow first responders to search.
- Grab leashes and carriers
- If your pet is still inside, open doors and call them to the exit.
But what happens if a fire ignites and you're not home?
Virginia Beach Animal Control responds to all house fires involving animals. Supervisor Meghan Conti says window decals with pet information, including type and number of pets, can help first responders. But make sure they have the correct information so firefighters aren't looking for a pet that's not there.
Conti also suggests getting to know your neighbors.
"Make sure your neighbors know, 'Hey, I know there are two dogs that live in that house.' Have a familiar person around your neighborhood that has access to your house to be able to unlock a door and get the cats and dogs out, or can notify the fire department of what's in there," she said.
It's also important that pets have proper ID, including a collar with tags and up-to-date microchip information so Animal Control officers have an easier time reuniting pets with owners.
"Especially with living in a military transient area, people come and go and so some microchip information is still registered to their last station in California or some other state so we don't have current contact information," Conti said. "[The correct information] speeds up the process."
There are also phone apps that can help first responders keep track of pets.
Virginia Beach partners with Smart 911, a free app with room for information about animals in your home. That information can then be passed from dispatchers to firefighters in the event of an emergency.
And, Conti says, if there is a fire and you're forced out, contact your local animal control office to see if they have funds to help you take care of pets while getting back on your feet.
Click HERE for more information about fire safety plans involving pets.