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Turn Your Snow Day into a Fire Safety Day

Home Fire Escape Plan
Important tips to stay safe in cold weather.

The Red Cross is urging winter warriors to turn their snow day into a fire safety day by taking two quick steps that could save lives. In addition, the Red Cross is urging people to stay safe in the aftermath of the storm.

“Take just a few minutes while you are home to check your smoke alarms and make an escape plan,” said Russ Paulsen, executive director, Community Preparedness and Resilience Services at the Red Cross. “In a fire, you may have only two minutes to escape, so you need the early warning a smoke alarm provides and a plan that lets everyone get out quickly.”

Winter is the season that brings the most deaths from home fires, so Paulsen also encouraged people to take steps to keep fires from starting in the first place.

Use space heaters and other heating sources safely. Follow these fire prevention tips to ensure you and your loved ones stay safe and warm.

  • Keep things three feet from the heat. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, draperies, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as a ceramic tile floor) - not on rugs, carpets, near bedding or drapes.
  • Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
  • Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces and chimneys inspected annually by a professional and cleaned if necessary.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Use flashlights, not candles.
  • For households with children, the Red Cross Monster Guard app is an entertaining way for kids to learn about safety while having fun. People should also download the Red Cross Emergency app for additional information on safety and what to do in an emergency. Both apps are available in your favorite app store or through

    Winter storms have other risks besides home fires, and Paulsen urged people to stay safe by following some other basic safety rules:

    If the power goes out.

  • Do not use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device inside the home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which are headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, move quickly to a fresh air location, and then call 9-1-1
  • Do not hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. People should connect the equipment they need to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Use perishable food from the fridge first, then use food from the freezer. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours if the door remains closed.
  • If it looks like the power will be out for more than a day, prepare a cooler with ice for freezer items. Keep food covered in a dry, cool spot.
  • If you have a carbon monoxide alarm, treat the alarm signal as a real emergency each time: get to fresh air by moving outdoors, or near an open window or an open door. Make sure everyone in the home gets to fresh air, and then call 9-1-1 from a fresh air location.
  • If you must drive

  • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter with a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Pack high-protein snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications, blankets and important documents or information you may need.
  • Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  • Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
  • Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.
  • If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.
  • Support the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign and help people affected by disasters by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Donate by going to, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.

    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.