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Home Fires A Threat To All Of Us


The American Red Cross and its 650 chapters respond to more than 63,600 home fires every year, or about 170 fires a day. Fire in the home is the most common threat to families in this country, and that danger increases as the weather turns colder and people turn to alternate sources to help heat their homes.

HOME FIRES: Be Red Cross Ready!
  • Home fires pose the biggest threat to U.S. families
  • The Red Cross responds to about 170 fires a day – one fire response every eight minutes.
  • Follow these steps to be prepared for fire emergencies.

The use of such items as space heaters, fireplaces or coal or wood stoves can be dangerous if not used properly. Fires related to heating are the second leading cause of home fires in this country, and fixed and portable space heaters are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths.

Smoke alarms are one of the best ways to protect you and your loved ones in the event of a fire. They provide a few minutes of advance warning, and that extra time can save lives. According to the National Fire Protection Association, from 2003 to 2006, forty percent of all home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms, while 23 percent resulted from homes in which smoke alarms were present but did not operate.

The Red Cross recommends you install the alarms on every level of the home, as well as inside bedrooms, and outside sleeping areas of the home. They should also be tested once a month by pushing the test button, and batteries should be replaced yearly or as soon as you hear a low battery warning, which appears as a "chirping" noise for many alarms. Other tips include:

  • Keep smoke alarms clean by vacuuming over and around it regularly. Dust and debris can interfere with its operation.
  • Smoke alarms wear out. Replace your alarms every 10 years. If you can’t remember when you last replaced them, buy new alarms that are interconnected, if possible.
  • Teach children what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear it.

Only 26 percent of families have developed a family escape plan. To ensure the safety of your loved ones, make sure that all household members know ways to escape from every room of your home. Designate a meet-up spot outside the home in case of fire. This fire escape plan should be practiced at least twice a year. Each household member should also know how to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.

For more information on Fire Safety and Prevention, visit www.redcross.org.