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Home Fires Are Biggest Disaster Threat


The American Red Cross responds to big disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires each year, but the most frequent threat people face is a fire in their home - last year Red Cross chapters responded to nearly 63,000 fires.

Recently the Greater New York Region Red Cross Chapter responded to a fire in the Bronx which left 31 people homeless. In Bridgeport, the Connecticut Red Cross Chapter gave assistance to ten people after a recent fire.

On the other side of the country, the Mount Rainier Red Cross Chapter is assisting 26 people after a fire destroyed several units at an apartment complex near Tacoma, Washington. The Greater Salt Lake Area Chapter is helping tem people who are homeless after a fire destroyed a duplex in Midvale. The Red Cross provided shelter, food, and other necessities after all these fires.

Fire Safety Checklist.

SAFETY INFORMATION The Red Cross responds to an average of 170 home fires a day – that’s one fire every eight minutes. People can take the following safety steps to prevent a fire in their home:

  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Talk to children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.

Many fires begin on or around the kitchen stove. People should remain in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. Other cooking safety steps include:

  • Stay in the home while simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food. Check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that food is cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire—like pot holders, towels, plastic and clothing— away from the stove.
  • Keep pets off cooking surfaces and countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.

SMOKE, CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS Install carbon monoxide and smoke alarms on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas.

  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area.
  • Check monthly that smoke alarms are working properly by pushing the test button.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year.
  • Replace smoke alarms every ten years.

Making sure all members of the household know what to do during a fire is one of the most important steps people can take to stay safe. Everyone should know two ways to escape from every room of the home, and set up a meeting place outside in case of fire. Practice escaping from the home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Teach household members to stop, drop and roll if their clothing should catch on fire.

For more information on what you can do to keep you and your loved ones safe, visit the “Help Prevent Home Fires” section of our website.