CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - One of the biggest fears for a pet owner would be a fire in their home while the dog, cat, bird, rabbit, guinea pig or other animals were the only ones in the house.
It happened to Judith Hodgins. A fire alarm tied to her security system started to sound while she was away.
"It is a gut-wrenching feeling and the adrenaline kicks in. I was probably going over the speed limit to get home because it was terrifying," Hodgins told us.
Before calling Judith, the security company called 911 to report the alarm and told the operator they could see Judith's little dog Dustin walking around the house. 911 was able to pass that information on to firefighters.
"When a system is set up we ask the homeowner if there are pets, what kind they are, where are they kept when you are not at home. When an alarm sounds that information appears on our operator's screen and that is information they can pass along to emergency responders," said John Shocknesse, the Vice President for Customer Care with CPI Security.
If there is a pet in a home when we respond we make every effort to get that pet from the house," said Captain Jackie Gilmore with the Charlotte Fire Department.
Once that pet is out, Charlotte Fire counts on neighbors to secure the pet until you return or Animal Care and Control is called in to watch your pet until you are able to pick them up.
"The more information we have the easier it is to do our jobs safely," Gilmore said.
Providing that information is as simple as doing one of the three following things. If you have a security system it is important to make sure your pet information is updated within their system. If you don't have the luxury of a system that alerts you while you're away in case of a fire, make sure your neighbors know how many pets you have and where in the house they are kept when you aren't home. If you aren't close with your neighbors, you can get a sticker to put on your door or windows that alerts firefighters there are pets inside if they are called to your home. You can specify how many pets there are and what type. You can get these stickers from various rescue groups or online.
For Judith, the peace of mind knowing someone was looking out for Dustin when she couldn't was priceless.
"There were tears of joy and I hugged every fireman when they had my dog and he was okay," she said.