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'Tis the Season for Safer Home Heating

Winter weather has arrived across the country, with arctic temperatures in Florida and expected snowfall in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The American Red Cross has shelters available for those in need in the affected areas. People will also be cranking up their thermostats to stay warm and toasty. Because fires related to heating are the second leading cause of home fires, the Red Cross wants everyone to know how to safely keep their home warm during the cold months ahead.

“Many people use alternative sources to heat their homes, such as space heaters, fireplaces, or coal or wood stoves. These heating methods can reduce heating bills, but can also cause dangerous fires if not used properly,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of Red Cross Disaster Services. “We want to make sure people understand the steps they should take to safely heat their homes.”

The Red Cross offers these steps people can follow to safely keep their home warm this winter:

  • Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected once a year.
  • Never use your stove or oven to heat your home. • Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended.
  • Turn off space heaters or extinguish the fireplace before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Place your 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.
  • Keep the fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working properly and practice your home fire escape plan so every member of your family, including young children and elderly, can get out quickly and safely. Your escape plan should include at least two routes out for every room in the home, and a meeting place outside your home.
  • 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.

For more information on how to get prepared for winter, visit