Fire Safety Plan With Monkeys

By Mary Lynn Campbell

fire safety plan with monkeys
Silly Willy, one of the special loves in my life.

How to prepare for a possible fire in our home when we have monkeys?  On Monday, before Thanksgiving of 2014, I had some friends that awakened to this happening to them. When I spoke to my friends the next evening after the fire, one of the first things that the man of the house said to me was, “I have always been afraid of a fire breaking out and how in the world would we be able to get all of our animals out.” This statement was what made me know that I had to write a blog post about this subject.   Please take a moment to send this family of four some much needed prayers. Even though their were no humans that lost their lives in this fire (which is certainly a miracle), they did lose 2 monkeys from their troupe. We know that it will take a very long time for them to recover from this trauma filled experience.  Many of the animals who were lost in the fire had been with them for years and years. Thank you everyone.

So, let’s talk about things that we can do to be more mindful of what we could do in case this type of thing happens to you or me. Let’s go to the famous “Safety First” lists.

Fire Safety First List:

  • Smoke Alarms: this is what saved his family and some of the animals.
  • Fire Extinguishers: for small fires
  • Bolt Cutters: to quickly have access to the animals that might be locked in
  • Strong Catch Net: these are very helpful during many emergency’s with monks
  • Travel Crate(s): you should have a crate for each monkey available
  • Phone: having a phone that is right by your bed could prove to be very helpful
  • Make A List of the things that are important to your rebuilding your life
  • Make A Run-through of an actual fire happening and time how long it takes you to get your loved ones out of your home and into a safe place.

I know that you readers can add many other things to this list, but this is a good start to a list which could be truly helpful in case a fire broke out in your home. Smoke alarms are priceless during situations like this and as I mentioned above this is the very thing that saved many lives that night. I know I hate the way they go off so easily but they are so important especially during times that your family is sleeping. They honestly can make the difference in life or death when it comes to fires. Fire extinguishers are something that every home should have. I like having soda and salt handy by my stove too for small fires. We all know that in the case of a house fire that is in full blaze that the very best thing that we can do is to call 911 with the phone that is right by your bed.

house fire with monkeys
Another Photo Of The House That Was Destroyed By Fire

Smoke is a very hard thing to over-come quickly when you have been exposed to it in a fire.

The smoke from a fire of any size can be totally debilitating when you are trying to get your loved ones out to safety. Remember to stay low to the ground if you ever find yourself in this same situation.


One of the first things that I purchased after my friends lost their home and many of their animals was to get an extra pair of heavy duty bolt cutters. I now have a place that they live and my husband and I both know where they are located. Bolt cutters can cut locks and cage wires in less than half of the time it will take to get the keys and unlock the cages.

Recently, USDA has requested that I make a plan in the event a disaster were to happen here at my home.

I spent time on my document and realized that catch nets were very important for me to add to my supplies. Having a catch net would be worth so much if I needed to catch a monkey quickly or if one were to come out of the cage and start bolting around. So, after making this plan for them I went out and purchased two catch nets and then listed having them in my disaster plan. These catch nets can of course be used in my home or easily taken with me when I travel.

The catch net and the bolt cutters made me feel that I was much more prepared for an emergency. Time is very important when a fire breaks out in your home. You would wish to be prepared to remove your monkeys very quickly and these two valuable things could prove to be very important in case of a fire.

I can honestly say that it was very good for me to make the document for the USDA. Having a plan that you have written down and put some thought into is very helpful when an emergency does arise. So many emergencies will happen so quickly that you only have time to do certain things. Many things are just not thought about in case of an emergency. However, making a list, practicing what you would do, and timing your plan are all wonderful things to do to help you be prepared for a fire. All of these things that we have mentioned can definitely give you a sense of peace.

primate in travel cage
The First Time I Saw Andrew’s Face
In His Big Travel Cage At The Airport (1990)

Note: The size of this cage is much to big for a temporary travel cage. I would not use this size of crate/cage to use during short “time out behavioral adjustments” either. This type of cage is great for your longer travel plans. The latch on this type of cage would also need to be wired closed for safety when you choose to use this cage with the squeeze type latch. Monkeys can learn very quickly how to open this type of latch. I know because Andrew did this and spent 32 hours out in the cold before I was able to get him back into my arms.

I, of course, have spoken about travel crates in many of these posting here on the Primate Care site. I believe no matter if your monkey spends every moment out of a cage with you that it is imperative that every monkey be trained to go in and out of a travel cage. This is a must do for many purposes but I feel as if the most important reason to train them to go into a travel cage or crate is because of emergency situations that might arise.

It is important for your monkey to know where their place is for travel and emergencies.

The last thing you wish to be doing when you have an emergency, is fighting with your beloved monkey about going into their travel cage. My advise has always been to encourage everyone to consider training their monkeys to use the travel crate as soon as possible.

What things should you consider putting on a list to help rebuild after a fire?

During the time that I was able to speak with my friends who had the house fire they also spoke about this very issue. So many things that could have been easily picked up were just not even thought about such as the keys to the cars. They said that it would have made it so much easier during the early days after the fire if they had been able to drive their cars. Without them having any form of identification on them it made it very hard to even get keys made for their vehicles. We all of course know that their minds were on getting their beloved family members out to safety.

A list of the most important things you would to help rebuild your life after a fire will without any doubt be different for every person. I do think that having certain things like keys is something very important to think about in case any of us found ourselves in the same position. I have always believed in a fireproof locked box to keep video of the content of your home along with your insurance papers is a good idea also.  In my case this list includes medicine for all of us, insurance papers, my records for USDA and Maggie’s insulin history book. I am sure Bob’s list would be very different but together I do think we would choose the most important things to help us rebuild our lives.  Getting the monks and the cats out of the house would be at the top of the list for both of us or course.  When I spoke to the lady of the house that burned down she said, “I sure wished that I had at least taken my purse. This would have helped tremendously in moving forward and rebuilding our lives if we had proper identification. My purse was just something that I didn’t even think about when we were trying to get our entire family and the animals out of the house.”

Spending a little extra time checking on things before I leave the house or go to bed, has become a new thing for me to do, since the fire happened to my friends.

It was very hard for me to leave my monks alone for several weeks after this fire happened. That was why I knew we needed to start doing positive things to insure if it happened to us, that we would at least have an idea about a plan for us to follow. I hope and pray that we never have to think about this plan or have to use it in an emergency, but I do feel it will help us greatly to have one to follow if it is ever needed.  Fires do happen for many reasons in our homes.  Being prepared is one of the most important things that we can do. Putting our head in the sand and not spending time thinking about what we would do if this happened to us, would be totally unacceptable to me now that I know how terribly wrong things can go when a fire in out of control.

I like to say that I am good in emergencies, but I know that with lots of animals it makes us very concerned when we think about fire breaking out in our home too. I must say that since I have written this post for the primate care site that I feel much more prepared.  I hope that you will feel the same way after reading this and that you’ll start creating your own list as well.

So, let’s all check the stove many times before we leave our homes. Let’s remember to turn off things that do not need to be running while we are gone such as dryers, dishwashers, washers, and other electrical items in our homes. Check lights often to make sure that they are not touching lamp shades.  If you have a smoker in your home make sure that all ashtrays do not have any burning part of the cigarettes.

Note: I recently read something on Facebook about cell phone charging cords needing to be unplugged when not in use. This is becoming a new habit that I am choosing to do in my home. Evidently they can catch on fire very easily.

monkey ladies
Margaret Medders (without a monk) and Mary Lynn (without a monk)
We were two very tired Monkey Ladies this night!

No matter how tired we are after a day of caring for our monks….

please take the time (in your mind) to go over your “Fire Safety List” before you retire for the night.

Make sure matches and lighters are safely placed away from children or your monks. Check those fire extinguishers out. Are your catch nets in place and how about your bolt cutters? All of the things listed above are important things to remember in case of a fire. The smoke is what killed the animals in this fire that I have been speaking of so remember to take every necessary precaution to prevent a fire from ever happening to you.

We hope that you will be prepared with plans in your mind as to what you would do. This posting was written to motivate us all to be “Safety First” monkey caregivers.

chewie common marmoset
Mary Lynn and Chewie

I am so glad to report that I have not had any type of fires since I have had my monks. I have had smoke fires in the kitchen such as leaving a bag of popcorn in the microwave for 70 minutes to cook.  If at any time, I have a smoke fire the first thing that I choose to do (after the fire is out and I removed the smoking pan) is to turn and reach for Chewie (our Marmoset). His little lungs are so fragile. I am so thankful that I have not had to follow“The List” for this type of emergency.

Please consider becoming a “Safety First” Monkey Caregiver!

Thank you for visiting us here at Primate Care. We are committed to bringing good information for you to think about and share with your family, friends, and other monkey caregivers. In the next posting on the Primate Care site I will be speaking about another great “Safety First” issue and that will be: “Traveling With Monkeys In Your Vehicle”

Written by Mary Lynn Campbell author of  “Living With Monkeys”


Related Posts

Leave a Reply