If you’ve spent any time around firefighters then you’ll know they tend to be the type of people that always want to help. So, why is it that during an emergency call to someone’s burning home, that they ignore the pet alert stickers that have been carefully stuck to the windows of that home? We think that the answer may surprise you.
Firefighters don’t intentionally ignore pet alert stickers at a house or car fire, but it isn’t their main priority. Firefighters always prioritize life safety (rescues), but human life is always going to be more important than animals. If they are able to save a pet, they will, of course, do so, but there are often other things to worry about.
As a firefighter, we always want to help anyone that needs it, and that includes the safety of your pets. Lets take a look at why a pet alert sticker may not be noticed or given priority at a fire. Take a look.
Your # 1 priority is keeping your family safe. As a firefighter, I recommend everyone has updated smoke detectors that don’t require battery changes, like these ones from Kidde, a fire extinguisher, like this one from Amerex, and a fire escape ladder if you have bedrooms above the first floor, I recommend this one from Hausse.
Do Firefighters Look For Pet Stickers?
No. In general, they don’t.
Until I was recently asked this question, I didn’t even know there were pet alert stickers. I understand the purpose now is to alert responders that you have a pet and they may still be inside and need saving.
This video shows what these stickers are designed for:
I have never gotten and training to look for these stickers.
That being said, if me or another firefighter notices a pet alert sticker at a house fire, that is good information to have. If we are able to save your pet without negatively affecting the safety of others and with only a small risk to ourselves, we will probably do so.
Firefighters approach a burning house in a systematic fashion. When the structural supports of a house burn through, the entire structure can become unstable. You will find that the joists (which support the floors above their heads) may weigh up to 50 lbs. each and that’s without all the stuff that the homeowner has put on top of them.
Thus, if the floor surfaces collapse onto firefighters below, there’s a very good chance that a firefighter might be severely hurt or even killed. Even if that doesn’t result in harm, all the stuff that comes down with it in terms of electrical cables, pipes from the plumbing, etc. might well finish the job.
Firefighters have a risky job, it just comes with the territory. But that doesn’t mean we are going into a fully-involved house fire to save a pet that may or may not be inside and if they are inside, are probably already lost due to the conditions.
We will risk a lot to save a lot (human life), risk a little to save things like pets and property, and risk nothing to save what is not saveable.
Human life has to take priority and that includes the lives of firefighters and other responders.
So, the ideal strategy from the firefighter’s point of view is to spend as little time in your burning home as is humanly possible. This maximizes the chances of the blaze being extinguished quickly and their chances of making it back to the fire station in one piece.
So, if we can safely save a pet, we certainly will and a pet alert sticker doesn’t hurt, but they can’t be our main priority.
If still want to, you can find pet alert stickers, here on Amazon.
Where Do You Put These Sticker?
Since a pet alert sticker could still have some value, if you decide to get one, the vinyl sticker is designed to be stuck on a ground floor window that is as close to the front door as possible.
You are also meant to remove the sticker when you move and take it with you.
Firefighters, Why Pet Alerts Sticker Are Ignored?
Well, the main reason is that firefighting is, as we’ve said, a systematic job designed to minimize risk to firefighters and provide the best results when it comes to extinguishing fires.
However, that’s not the only reason.
The big problem with these stickers is that they don’t give us the whole story.
The sticker, even if it is found, can’t tell the fire department if your pet is currently in the building or whether it’s out somewhere with you or whether it passed on 3 weeks ago.
In fact, often the sticker doesn’t even refer to the current occupier’s pet, because though you are meant to remove the sticker and take it with you when you move, almost nobody does.
Then there’s the issue that even if there really is a pet and it is at home, there’s no indication of where in the house your pet is – most animals tend to be pretty free-spirited and they don’t obediently sit under a rescue sticker in the middle of a fire.
So, it’s not that firefighters don’t care about your pet, of course, they do.
Firefighters are human beings too and many of them have their own pets that they would be distraught to lose in a fire. It’s that the stickers don’t provide enough useful information and that acting on any information that they do provide would interfere with a firefighter’s ability to do the job that they have been sent to do and possibly risk their own lives.
Your pets are important, but they’re not worth the life of a single firefighter or other human beings.
Do Firefighters Save Animals?
We know, that’s a frustrating answer but it’s the truth, all the same.
Firefighting teams are happy to help their communities and one way that they are often called upon to help is by intervening with an animal rescue – this normally involves an animal that has become trapped in something and needs to be freed.
However, there are budgetary constraints to this and there are other agencies and bodies that can often deal with the situations as effectively. For example, the ASPCA is much better trained to remove a cow from a broken fence than firefighters are, that’s because the ASPCA’s officers tend to spend time learning how to deal with cows, sadly, this is an area that the fire academy glosses over.
So, sometimes, when it is clear that the fire service can make a positive contribution to the rescue of an animal and there are no other priorities to deal with first, firefighters will be dispatched to save animals, but it’s not as common as you may think from watch TV shows about the fire service, either. Pragmatism is an essential part of managing a successful public service.
As an example, I responded to a house fire where we found two dogs inside. Because human life safety and fire containment priorities were taken care of and we had enough personnel to do so, we were able to spend some time working to save these dogs.
They had been exposed to smoke and had stopped breathing. We attempted to resuscitate these animals but were unable to do so. In situations like these, we will certainly try our best to save pets, but we don’t always have the time, resources, or expertise to do so.
Here is a video that shows a few instances of firefighters saving pets during a fire:
If you’d like to see some positive interactions between firefighters and animals that they have saved check out this somewhat misleadingly entitled article on Bored Panda, it should make any animal lover’s day and will prove that though firefighters do have to make tough decisions regarding animals, they’re not at all heartless.
Will Firefighters Save Pets?
Firefighters, when in the context of a burning home or building, do not take an active role in saving pets if there is any risk to the health or safety of a human being for doing so (and, in fact, the chief officer might be liable for neglect of their duties if they did).
However, that doesn’t mean that pets are a zero-priority item. Most of the time, firefighters will try to clear a path so that a pet can flee from a fire all by itself (and this also avoids firefighters being bitten by scared cats and dogs, who are often understandably distressed by being caught in the middle of an inferno).
They may also, if they don’t feel that it’s problematic to do so, pick up the animal and remove it from the scene if they choose, but no firefighter is compelled to do so.
Will The Fire Department Rescue My Cat?
No. This is for many reasons but the biggest of them is that cats don’t tend to get stuck in trees in the first place.
Everyone has heard of firefighters being called to rescue cats from trees and I get asked this question quite a bit, but it really doesn’t happen much, if at all.
If they’re up there, they got there under their own steam and are perfectly capable of getting down again. Yes, it may cause you to worry about them but they’re perfectly fine.
Secondly, the reason people call the fire department for this is that nice ladder on the truck that fire departments use. The trouble is that this ladder can often not be maneuvered into a tree safely for a firefighter to climb up and fetch a recalcitrant cat. You’d be better off grabbing a household ladder and going for the cat yourself.
Thirdly, firefighters are meant to respond to medical emergencies and fires. There may be a little latitude on this, but not a lot, and cats in trees don’t qualify, except very occasionally in the smallest of towns where the fire department has the time to try to help.
Firefighters, why pet alerts stickers are ignored? It’s not because firefighters are heartless monsters that don’t care about animals, that’s for sure. It’s that stickers often provide out of date or inaccurate data and the priority is to extinguish the blaze and not to search out Mr. Tiddles who may be hiding in another room or be outside playing at the time of the fire.
This isn’t to say that firefighters won’t try to save an animal if they can during a fire, but they will not go out of their way to do so and they especially will not put their own health at risk to do so. Firefighting is a dangerous job and the priority, as drilled into every firefighter, is to focus on their own safety, the safety of their team and the safety of the general public.