Don’t forget Fido in your safety plan

Published 8:58 pm Friday, February 4, 2011

It was an exciting day in my elementary school class when we arrived at our desks to find coloring books and a small boxes of crayons. But this was no ordinary book. Instead of ponies and dinosaurs, this book was filled with fire trucks, firemen and puzzles that all served one purpose — to teach us about fire safety.

Despite this underhanded method of forcing us youngsters to learn, we were often grateful for an excuse to spend a day coloring.

Coloring is one of those universal things — all kids love to color, regardless of their talent. So it’s no surprise that many groups choose the medium to help impart some important lessons.

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I admit that I don’t remember the fire safety tips very well, but I do remember the page that was labeled “Parents’ Homework.” What child doesn’t want the satisfaction of forcing their parents to do some homework?

The sheet was intended as a tool for parents to come up with an emergency plan that would help keep the whole family safe. From reminders to check fire alarm batteries to plotting out escape routes from each room, the coloring book was a treasure trove of fire safety.

One thing I definitely don’t remember was any mention of pets. Having grown up around a veritable menagerie of animals, it seems odd that such important members of the family were never mentioned.

And that’s really what our pets are — family members.

But being a child, it never occurred to me that our pets’ lives might one day be in my hands.

Now that I have a dog of my own, one that is totally dependent on the care provided by my husband and I, the thought of a fire in our home scares me.

What if we can’t get to the dog before we have to escape the house? What if we’re not even home to tell firefighters about our dog’s presence?

For one Suffolk woman, whose home caught fire while she was away at the end of January, luck was on her side when firefighters chose to enter her home and stumbled upon her dog while searching for residents.

But as the guardians of our “furry children,” we can’t always rely on luck.

One easy way to help emergency personnel keep your whole family safe is to post the number and kind of animals living in your home. The national branch of the ASPCA offers a free pet safety pack to help you keep your pet safe.

Visit and fill out a form to receive a window sticker that will tell firefighters and emergency personnel what animals you have.

And when you plot out your own fire safety plan, don’t forget all the members of your family.