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Home Fires Especially Dangerous for Children


Young children face the greatest danger of being killed or injured in a residential fire, according to a new report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration. The American Red Cross responds to as many as 170 home fires every day or one fire every eight minutes, proving many children across the country are at risk if a fire strikes their home.

This winter, the number of home fires has grown as many people use alternate heating methods during the bitter cold weather. Supplemental heating sources can be dangerous if not used properly. The Red Cross urges caution when using heating alternatives and offers the following safety tips on how to prevent fires:

  • Keep all potential fuel sources like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.

Smoke alarms save lives. You should:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • 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 10 years.

Planning for fire emergencies is important. Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home, and set up a meeting place outside in case of fire. Practice escaping from your 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 www.redcross.org or check out the information available on fire safety on FEMA’s ready.gov.