Emergency plans could save your pets during a fire

Published: May. 12, 2016 at 8:40 PM EDT|Updated: May. 17, 2016 at 10:01 AM EDT
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(Source: NBC12)
(Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Our pets are a huge part of our families, and a pet parent's worst nightmare is a house fire while no one is home.

It happened to little Dustin. He's irreplaceable to Judith Hodgins.

"Dustin is now 13, and he has been our family pet since he was a baby," said Judith Hodgins.

That's why panic set in when her alarm company called 911 and told her they could see smoke in her home.

They called again to tell her the fire alarm was sounding - and Dustin was the only one home. They could see him on the security cameras.

"It's a gut-wrenching feeling, and the adrenaline kicks in," said Judith.

When a fire alarm triggers, CPI security system instructions pop up on the operator's screen, if you ask the company to keep record of your pets.

"If there are pets...what are they? Is there one dog, three dogs, what are they looking for?" said John Shocknesse with CPI Security. "And certainly where are they. That helps where they are going to respond, where they're going to look. If it's in the back bedroom, they're going to start by looking in the back bedroom."

Henrico Fire is no stranger to pet rescues.

"When we go in, do a search on a house when we haven't confirmed if anybody's inside or not," said Captain Taylor Goodman. "We're not just searching for human beings. We're also searching for pets."

Firefighters have oxygen masks on standby that will fit a dog or cat that may have taken in too much smoke. They say neighbors will often help out when an animal is pulled from a home.

"We certainly want the pets to be safe, and we know how much the pets mean to their owners and loved ones," said Captain Goodman.

Getting your pets to safety fast is as simple as doing just one of the following three things:

If you do have an alarm system, call today to make sure your pet information is updated.

Home security is a luxury for many, so if you don't have it, make sure your neighbors know how many pets you have and where they stay when you aren't home.

Or if you aren't friendly with your neighbors, consider putting a note on the door in case firefighters have to go in with no one home. Some places even sell stickers to put on your window. Just make sure you remove the stickers for the next homeowner if you leave the house. That way they won't get left up and send the wrong message to firefighters.

"There were tears of joy and I hugged every fireman when they had my dog and he was okay," said Judith.

Peace of mind in what otherwise could be a heart-wrenching situation.

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