As temperatures start to dip across Northeastern Pennsylvania, the American Red Cross urges families to be cautious when using heat sources to heat homes, and to make a plan in case of a home fire. Heating sources are the leading cause of winter fires and usage increases during the winter months of December, January and February.
Heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard. To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends keeping anything that can burn such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least three feet away from heating equipment and fireplaces and to never leave these unattended.
“During the month of October, our region responded to 32 fires, 9 of which occurred during the weekend of October 25th to the 27th,” said Peter M. Brown, Regional CEO. “The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of a home fire.”
The American Red Cross offers the following fire prevention tips:
• Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
• 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.
• 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. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
• When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
• Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
• Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
• Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.
Most people don’t realize that home fires are the biggest disaster threat to all of us in this country – ahead of floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. The Red Cross responds to as many as 70,000 disasters every year and the majority of these are home fires.
Planning for fire emergencies is important. Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home, and set up a meeting place outside in case of fire. Practice escaping from your 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.
Smoke alarms save lives. You should:
• Install smoke alarms on every level of your 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.
For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information, visit www.redcross.org/homefires.