With October being National Fire Safety Month, the Wichita Fire Department is teaming up with the Kansas Toy Dog Club, Invisible Fence Brand of Central Kansas and the National Volunteer Fire Council to help reduce the number of pets killed or injured in home fires each year.
Nationally, that number is about 500,000. In Wichita in 2008, more than 40 family pets died in home fires.
On Oct. 21, Lt. Tim Deneen from the Wichita Fire Depart-ment will speak at the Kansas Toy Dog Club about fire safety tips for pets. Also at the meeting, the club, together with Invisible Fence Brand of Central Kansas, will present to the Wichita Fire Department eight sets of animal resuscitation masks.
Tragically, the numbers of pets killed or injured in home fires are expected to rise this year as more people spend time away, leaving pets alone.
We at the Kansas Toy Dog Club feel all fire departments should have animal resuscitation masks because smoke inhalation or burns can have the same catastrophic effects on animals as on people.
Working dogs such as police, sight-assistance and other service dogs that have medical emergencies also can be assisted by having oxygen administered to them.
In the case of a fire, once human life is safe, attention may turn to the four-legged victims. When given the opportunity, many rescue personnel would like to help pets but have not had the proper equipment to do so.
Without special masks for animals, rescuers have often been forced to try novel ways to revive animals affected by smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning. One innovative firefighter created a makeshift oxygen mask by poking a hole into a Styrofoam cup and inserting the air hose into one end.
Firefighters have tried adapting human oxygen masks to fit an animal. Unfortunately, human masks don't fit properly on animals and can't be used to provide them with much-needed oxygen. Paramedics also have tried placing the oxygen hose right next to the affected animal's snout. These attempts were generally not effective.
The plastic, cup-shaped animal resuscitation masks, which come in three sizes, were originally developed for use by veterinarians. They seal around the muzzle of an animal tighter than a human mask. This helps firefighters deliver the right amount of oxygen to the pet and also protects firefighters from an injured animal that may try to bite out of fear.
In a fire, pets are often more vulnerable to smoke inhalation than people because they hide, and their humans spend precious time hunting for them. Now, with firefighters armed with these special oxygen masks for pets, homeowners are encouraged to get out of burning houses as fast as they can, and leave the rescuing of their pets to the firefighters.
"People should equip their homes with the latest in fire safety technology and be vigilant about practicing escape procedures for all family members, including our furry, four-legged friends," Deneen said.
"We also encourage pet owners to use a window cling, posted near the front of the home, to help our firefighters quickly identify the accurate number of pets inside so they can be rescued once the humans are safe."
As part of a public service to the community, ADT Security is offering the window clings for free at www.adt.com/pets.