Capt. Mike Killingsworth of the St. Louis Fire Department and Kim Traylor of Central West End Pet Sitters with a couple of canine friends in front of the Residences at Forest Park Hotel on West Pine Boulevard.
photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
September 12, 2012When Kim Traylor saw smoke rising from the top of the apartment building at 3949 Lindell Blvd. on July 17, her heart sank.
Traylor's business, Central West End Pet Sitters, served many clients in that building and as she stood watching the structure burn, she knew animals inside were doomed.
When the fire started about 7 p.m., many residents, some of whom were students, were out working, having dinner, shopping or doing something else. A pet-friendly complex, many of the building's 250 residents had companion animals, Traylor said.
"When the residents came out, they couldn't go back in," she said. "They had no idea what kind of fire it was." It was only later that residents learned the severity of the five-alarm blaze.
Traylor called her clients and found two that had gotten their pets out of the building safely. The fire department found 10 pets alive amid the rubble the following day. Still, Traylor said she believes many pets perished in the fire.
Out of that tragedy, Traylor developed a new program called the Pet Buddy System. She is taking the information to area apartment buildings and condominiums.
"It's taking a paw and saying, 'I'm going to be your buddy in a disaster or emergency situation,'" she said. "When I was at the fire and what I saw and experienced, it changed me in a sense that there was not an urgency for the animals. While I was standing there, I talked to people and asked if they knew their neighbors and many of them said 'No,' but they had seen pets."
She said sometimes apartment residents don't realize there are 200 other people living in a building, and that maybe 75 to 100 pets are part of that community.
"The Pet Buddy system is saying, 'Hey, I live on the sixth floor and I'm going to be conscious of the pets and people who live on my floor. We're all neighbors,'" Traylor said. "So, if I can say I know that Mugsy lives across the hall from me, maybe I can be his pet buddy."
If a fire or other emergency arose, the pet buddy would call the pet's owner, and if the person was not at home, the pet owner would tell the buddy where their pet was, Traylor explained.
Kim Traylor has operated her business, Central West End Pet Sitters, since 2005. She also talks with apartment dwellers about getting themselves, and their pets, out of a building safely in the event of a fire or other emergency.
photo by Lynn Terry (click for larger version)
"If I had to leave, I could tell firemen that Mugsy is in 605 and the owner isn't home," she said. "If they knew that, they would know where to go to get the pet out."
Traylor, who has had her pet sitting/walking business in the Central West End since 2005, wants to bring "pet consciousness" to the community.
One of her goals is to get apartment managers to create master lists of pets in the building. In case of fire, the manager could give the list to firefighters.
"I'm also working with a marketing firm to create a National Pet Finder Sticker that would be placed on the door under the door knob," Traylor said. "I've talked to some managers and they said they would welcome such a sticker."
Capt. Mike Killingsworth of the St. Louis Fire Department was on the scene during the Lindell apartment fire and has accompanied Traylor on her Pet Buddy program talks.
"She came down to headquarters and wanted some recommendations on how pets could be saved during emergencies such as this," he said. "I think her biggest success will be having the apartment managers create the master list of their occupants – list the pets and how many."
Killingsworth added that placing the stickers under the doorknob would help. Since smoke rises, they would be easier to see, he said.
"There are also stickers you can put on the windows that tell firefighters where pets are," he said. "We do not have those, but I believe you can find them on the Internet."
Killingsworth also said fire trucks carry oxygen masks for pets.
"I've seen it used and we've revived animals that were near death from smoke inhalation," he said.
Traylor and Killingsworth got a good response when they spoke about the Pet Buddy program to people living at the Residences at Forest Park Hotel.
"This is my mission," Traylor said. "I love animals. I'm all about safety, and if I can talk to people and put a little seed in their head and save one or two or three animals down the road, or even hundreds, that's something I want to do."
For more information, contact Traylor at 882-5365 or visit www.cwepetsitters.com.