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Home Heating Safety Tips from the American Red Cross

Fire Safety
The risk of home fires increases as temperatures decrease, keep your family warm & safe this winter

With some of the coldest days and nights so far this winter hitting South Carolina, the American Red Cross wants families to be safe when heating their homes. Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fire deaths and the Red Cross has home heating safety tips for families to take as colder weather moves in. 

“The risk of home fires increases as temperatures decrease,” said Louise Welch Williams, CEO for the Palmetto SC region of the Red Cross. “In South Carolina the Red Cross responds to a home fire six times a day and by following a few easy steps, you and your family can stay warm and safe this winter.” 

HOME HEATING SAFETY Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves inspected and cleaned before another winter of use. Test batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Other good steps to take to get one’s home ready for winter include:

  • Make sure flashlights are available throughout the house and they have fresh batteries. Winter storms can lead to power outages.
  • Insulate the home by installing storm windows or covering the inside of windows with plastic to keep cold air out.
  • Develop a fire escape plan and practice it with everyone who lives in the home.
  • Prepare a disaster supply kit to have ready should winter storms hit. The kit should include a three-day supply of food and water per person, flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries. Other things to have on hand for the winter include:
    • Sand, rock salt or kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery
    • Warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots and warm clothing for all household members, along with extra blankets.
  • Consider buying emergency heating equipment, such as a wood- or coal-burning stove or an electric or kerosene heater. 

SPACE HEATERS Nearly half of the households in this country use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, or wood/coal stoves to stay warm. Fixed and portable space heaters, including wood stoves, are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths. 

If someone is using a space heater, the Red Cross recommends that people look for a model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over. Space heaters should be placed on a level, hard and nonflammable surface in the home. Other safety tips include:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
  • Electric space heaters use a lot of electricity. Always plug them directly into a wall outlet to avoid overloading circuits, which can lead to fire.
  • 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.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters. 

Download the free Red Cross Emergency App at  for more heating safety and winter storm tips. 

HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN The Red Cross and its partners have undertaken an effort to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25%. The Home Fire Campaign began in 2014 and is already responsible for saving more than 110 lives, 11 of these were in South Carolina. 

Working with fire departments and community groups across South Carolina, the Red Cross is installing smoke alarms in homes in neighborhoods at high risk for fires and teaching residents about fire prevention and preparedness. The Red Cross is calling on everyone to take two simple steps that can save lives: create and practice their home fire escape plan and check their smoke alarms. 

Here in South Carolina, more than 38,000 smoke alarms have been installed across the state by the Red Cross and its partners and more than 5,000 children have been reached through youth preparedness education programs, such as The Pillowcase Project

To learn more about the campaign and home fire safety, visit