Oxygen masks resuscitate pets suffering from smoke inhalation 

The number one cause of death related to fires is smoke inhalation. In King County, firefighters are all trained emergency medical technician (EMT) basic level qualified. This means they know how to apply oxygen, when to apply oxygen, and how to administer it in a safe manner to humans. However, what happens when a beloved animal has suffered from smoke inhalation?

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Pictured: Assistant Chief Chris Flores (Left) and Firefighter Apprentice Mark Goetsch (Right) of Tukwila Fire Department demonstrate how to properly apply a pet oxygen mask to a dog.

Thanks to an investment from Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC), emergency responders in Tukwila are now equipped with life-saving oxygen masks for pets.

The idea to ADD animal masks to Tukwila Fire Departments fire responding vehicles originally came about when RASKC met with Tukwila Fire Department’s disaster preparedness team to talk about sheltering pets and people. The fire department was interested in acquiring oxygen masks for their fire teams to use when responding to fires involving pets.

“RASKC was excited to be meeting in support of Tukwila’s disaster preparation efforts for pets,” said Gene Mueller, assistant division director of Records and Licensing Services. “We saw this as an extension of our goal to assist animals in emergencies, and an opportunity to work with Tukwila Fire to pilot their use locally.”

After receiving the masks, the next step was to develop training that could be implemented. Tiffany Hanson, a veterinary technician who also works within Tukwila Fire Department’s Emergency Management Division, collaborated with Tukwila Fire Department as well as local veterinarians in an effort to create this training program.

“The training program will be used by our department to make sure that our people understand the proper use of the mask, how it can be applied, and when it can be applied,” said Tukwila Fire Chief Jay Wittwer. “Those in the fire service that will receive this training already have training in these areas for human life and this is just an application for delivering oxygen to pets.”

Jay came from a previous fire department that used the pet resuscitation masks and was familiar with the impact they could have.

“I was in the city of North Las Vegas in Southern Nevada, and majority if not all of the fire agencies in that region used the pet oxygen masks,” said Jay. “I was very familiar with them and used them myself. These pet rescue animal masks really do a great job at assisting animals to overcome the effects of toxic smoke.”

As members of the South King County Fire Training Consortium, Tukwila Fire Department wanted to ensure that the training they developed was adequately reviewed before distributing it to the other departments. Tukwila Fire Department also plans to release a training video to accompany the workbook.

“We wanted to make sure that everyone had this orientation and received the training and went through it the proper manner,” said Jay. “We put it into the hands of the training consortium and allow them to go through their process. Then we will get it out as soon as everyone has had that training we will place those units on our fire responding units. I have used these masks dozens of times over the years and without a doubt have had phenomenal results.”

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