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Heating Safety Tips to Help Keep NJ Families Safe this Winter

Heating Safety Tips to Help Keep NJ Families Safe
We encourage families to take steps when using heating equipment to reduce the risk of a home fire.

The region has been enjoying mild December weather, but as we approach the official start of winter, the American Red Cross urges New Jersey families to be cautious when using space heaters and other heating sources when the temperatures begin to dip.

The American Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters a year -- one every eight minutes -- and most are home fires. Heating sources are a leading cause of home fire deaths, and fatal home fires increase during the winter months.

“The greatest disaster threat isn’t hurricanes or flooding, it’s home fires,” said Steven Sarinelli, regional disaster officer, American Red Cross New Jersey Region. “We encourage families to take simple steps when using heating equipment to reduce the risk of a home fire.”

Heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard, and many fatal fires occur in the early morning hours when most people are sleeping. To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends the following tips:

  • All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and items that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
  • As colder weather rolls in, the Red Cross typically sees an increase in home fires. You can help protect yourself and your family should a home fire occur by practicing your fire escape plan and testing your smoke alarms.

    PRACTICE YOUR FIRE ESCAPE PLAN Fire experts agree that when a fire breaks out families have as little as two minutes to escape from their burning home. Regularly practiced fire escape plans ensure all members of your household know what to do should a fire occur. Make sure everyone is able to exit the home in less than two minutes. If you don’t have a fire escape plan, develop one today.

    CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARMS All residences should have properly installed, functioning smoke alarms. Check the batteries in your smoke alarms monthly and replace any that aren’t operational immediately. At minimum, smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.

    For more information or to access free fire safety tools and resources, visit