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Prevent Home Fires This Winter

Home Fires
It was amazing. You just turn around and the Red Cross is there

The most common disaster the American Red Cross responds to is single-family house fires—roughly 60,000 a year on average.

Many people who have gone through a fire later reach out to the Red Cross to share their story and express their appreciation, as Lorraine Reiter did.

Reiter and her daughter were out of town when her husband came home from work to find their St. Peters, Mo., home on fire. The Red Cross arrived and provided the family with counseling, food and vouchers for clothes.

“They just took care of everything,” Reiter said. “It was amazing. You just turn around and the Red Cross is there.”

Be Prepared

Follow these steps to help prevent and prepare for a fire in your home:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your house and inside bedrooms.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Test each alarm monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Develop a fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year with everyone who lives in your home. Everyone should know two ways to escape from every room. Designate a place to meet outside the home in case of a fire.
  • If a fire does start in your home, follow your escape plan. Get out, stay out and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

    Visit for additional fire safety tips.

    Heat Your Home Safely

    During the cold winter season, many people turn to space heaters and fireplaces for additional warmth. Unfortunately, the improper use of these heat sources increases the possibility of a fire in your home.

    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.

    Follow these additional tips to keep your home safe:

  • Place your space heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface.
  • Look for a space heater that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • Keep all potential sources of fuel at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves and fireplaces. This includes paper, clothing, bedding, curtains and rugs.
  • 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.