Winter is here, bringing cold temperatures to the country. With the frigid days and nights, the American Red Cross is responding to a large number of winter home fires – more than 5,000 in one month alone.
At this time of year people have the heat turned on and many use space heaters and other sources to keep their homes warm. Home heating is the second leading cause of fires in this country, and the Red Cross has steps people should follow to avoid a fire in their home.
To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends these 5 steps (More home fire safety information available here):
- All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, 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 ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets - never into an extension cord.
- 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.
IF THE POWER GOES OUT
If electrical power lines are down, don’t touch them. Keep your family and pets away. Report downed lines to your utility company.
- Use flash lights in the dark, not candles.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
- If you are using a generator be sure you understand the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to use generators safely.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. First use perishable food from the refrigerator. Perishables should have a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) or below to be safe to eat. Then use food from the freezer.
- Use your non-perishable foods and staples after using food from the refrigerator and freezer.
- If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.
- Keep food in a dry, cool spot and keep it covered at all times.
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.
- Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
- Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF, LOVED ONES AND YOUR HOME
There are two things everyone can do to increase their chances of surviving a fire and protecting their home.
- Create and practice a fire escape plan. Include two ways out of every room. Pick a spot to meet outside. Practice the plan at least twice a year with everyone in your household.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms. Place smoke alarms on every level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms. Test smoke alarms once a month. Change the batteries at least once a year - if your model requires it.
RED CROSS APPS People can learn how to help prevent a home fire and what to do if one occurs by downloading the Red Cross Emergency App. They can use the app’s Family Safe feature to help stay in touch with loved ones. The First Aid App provides expert advice including what to do for burns, broken bones, and breathing and cardiac emergencies. The apps can be downloaded for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.