The biggest disaster threat to American families isn’t floods, hurricanes or tornadoes; it’s fire. During October, the American Red Cross urges everyone to become aware of what steps they should take to help prevent a fire in their home.
The Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes and nearly all of these are home fires - the worst disaster threat to families in the United States. They can happen quickly, devastating lives and property. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), there are as many as 365,000 residential fires reported in the U.S. every year. These fires cause more than $6 billion in property loss.
Fortunately, most home fires can be prevented. Homeowners should check for items that can be hazardous such as candles and space heaters – common items that can turn dangerous very quickly. To help avoid a fire in the home, there are steps someone can take now:
SMOKE ALARMS SAVE LIVES Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area. Put a smoke alarm inside every bedroom. Because smoke rises, put the alarms on the ceiling or high on the wall.
Test the smoke alarms regularly by pushing the test button. If you don’t hear a noise, install a new battery. Install new batteries every year. Get new smoke alarms every ten years.
MAKE A PLAN The Red Cross recommends that households develop a fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year with everyone who lives in the home. People should know two ways to escape from every room and designate a safe place to meet outside the home in case of a fire.
Other safety steps include:
KIDS AT RISK Your children are most at risk during a home fire. Many fires in the home are started by kids playing with dangerous items such as matches and lighters. Keep these and other items which can ignite in a secure location out of your children’s reach. Use lighters with child-resistant features.
Use the new flameless candles which contain a light bulb rather than an open flame. This eliminates the danger of your child knocking the candle over.
Teach your child how to escape from a fire, what smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear one go off. Draw up a family escape plan and make sure everyone in your home, especially the children, know two ways to escape from every room in the house and where to meet outside. Practice the plan at least twice a year, at different times of the day. Make sure kids know how to dial 9-1-1.
Visit www.redcross.org for more steps people can take to lessen the chance of a fire in their home.