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Red Cross Urges People to Stay Safe and Warm as Frigid Cold Covers Eastern U.S.

The Red Cross responds to an average of 170 home fires a day – that’s one fire every eight minutes

The new year is starting with a blast of cold weather, and the American Red Cross is supporting warming shelters in some areas and urging people to be cautious if using alternative heating methods to stay warm.

A giant mass of frigid air is blanketing the eastern half of the country all the way down to Florida, bringing with it snow squalls and temperatures dipping down into the single digits.

The Red Cross responds to an average of 170 home fires a day – that’s one fire every eight minutes. As home heating costs rise, many people are resorting to supplemental heating sources to cut down on costs. These alternate heating sources can be dangerous if not used properly. The Red Cross offers the following safety tips on how to prevent a fire in the home when turning to additional heating resources to keep warm:

  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected once a year.
  • Never use a stove or oven to heat the home.
  • Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended.
  • Turn off space heaters or extinguish the fireplace before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Place a space heater on a hard, level, nonflammable surface. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets, near bedding or drapes, and keep children and pets away. Look for a space heater model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • When using a fireplace, use a glass or metal screen large enough to catch sparks or rolling logs and keep the fire in the fireplace.
  • Keep all flammable materials such as newspapers, matches, bedding, clothing, carpets and rugs at least three feet away from heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces and stoves.
  • Smoke alarms save lives. People should:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of their 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 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.

    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 redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.