MIAMI, DECEMBER 12, 2017 — The American Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters a year -- one every eight minutes -- and most are home fires. As temperatures start to dip across South Florida, the Red Cross urges families to be cautious when using space heaters and other heating sources, and to make a plan in case of a home fire. Heating sources are the second leading cause of home fire deaths, and fatal home fires increase during the winter months.
“Last year, the South Florida Region responded to 684 home fires” said Carlos Castillo, Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross. “But the good news is that there are steps you can take when using heating equipment to reduce your risk of a home fire.”
Heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard, and fatal fires peak 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 things 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.
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. Children can earn points and incentives in a fun, gaming environment while learning how to prevent a home fire and other emergencies in the Monster Guard: Prepare for Emergencies App. 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.
HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN Seven times a day someone in this country dies in a fire. The Red Cross has been working to reduce that number through its Home Fire Campaign, a multi-year effort to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. Launched in October of 2014, the Red Cross and thousands of campaign partners have helped save many lives through the effort, as well as installing hundreds of thousands of smoke alarms in homes all across the country. Here in the South Florida region, the Red Cross has installed over 7,500 smoke alarms.
WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO People can visit redcross.org/homefires to find out more about how to protect themselves and their loved homes from fire. They can become a Red Cross volunteer by registering at redcross.org/volunteer. They can also help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting redcross.org, 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 redcross.org/southflorida or visit us on Twitter at @SFLRedCross.