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Prepare for Official Start of Fall Season

Home Fires
Remember the biggest disaster threat is not floods, tornadoes or even hurricanes - it’s home fires.

With the official start of autumn on September 22, the American Red Cross urges preparedness as the season changes and temperatures fall. 

As cooler weather starts to set in across the country, families and individuals will turn on heating sources such as furnaces, fireplaces, space heaters and wood or coal stoves to warm their homes. Remember the biggest disaster threat is not floods, tornadoes or even hurricanes - it’s home fires. In fact, the Red Cross responded to 63,000 in 2010. That’s one every eight minutes. But unlike other disasters, most home fires can be prevented.

PREPARING FOR A NEW SEASON Families should make sure to take necessary precautions when using heating sources and never leave portable heaters and fireplace unattended. Other safety steps when using alternative heating sources include:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
  • Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Place space heaters 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.
  • Learn more about how to prevent home fires.

    IT’S STILL HURRICANE SEASON While it’s important to prepare for seasonal changes, people should remember that hurricane season continues through November 30. Particularly residents living in areas which can be affected by tropical storms and hurricanes should stay prepared.

    The Red Cross has hurricane preparedness steps people can follow to make a plan, build a kit, and be informed. An emergency kit should include items such as a gallon of water per person, non-perishable food, a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, medications and copies of important documents. Talk with members of your household and create an evacuation plan. Learn about how your community responds to hurricanes and plan routes to local shelters. And remember family members with special medical needs and plan how you will care for your pets.

    The Red Cross Store has items available for someone’s kit, ranging from a hand-crank radio to a fully stocked deluxe emergency preparedness kit.

    People should also download the free Red Cross Hurricane App for iPhone and Android smart phones to access instant preparedness information. The app puts real-time information on hurricane safety at people’s fingertips while keeping individuals and families informed of the storm’s progress from the National Weather Service. The app also features information on Red Cross shelters, a toolkit with flashlight and alarm, and a one-touch “I’m Safe” button connecting to social media outlets to tell family and friends they are okay.

    Links to the apps can be found at The Hurricane and First Aid Apps can also be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.