During Winter The American Red Cross Responds To 30% More Home Fires Than in Warmer Seasons

Cooler weather brings increased threat of home fires

ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA — As temperatures decrease and Pennsylvanians enter ‘home heating season’, the American Red Cross urges you to familiarize yourself with home fire prevention steps to help keep you and your family safe and warm this winter.

Home fires are the nation’s most frequent disaster and tragically take seven lives every day in this country.

The Greater Pennsylvania Region responds to 30% more home fires in November through March than in warmer months. According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires are most common in cooler months when people spend more time inside. Cooking and heating equipment are the leading causes of these crises.

“It’s critical to take action now to be as safe as possible this winter,” said Mary Rogers, Executive Director, American Red Cross Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter. “Since October 2020, Red Cross volunteers from the Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter have responded to more than 150 home fires throughout the area. We don’t want to see that number continue to climb, so­­­ we are encouraging everyone to take these steps to help protect your loved ones and your home.”

Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires — a risk that increases with the upcoming cooler weather. Always be sure to provide at least three feet of space for all heating equipment.

• This is critical because most home heating fire tragedies occur when flammable items like furniture, rugs and drapes are too close.

• In addition, never leave space heaters unattended — as they’re involved in most fatal home heating fires.

• If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor. Don’t place it on rugs and carpets, or near bedding and drapes. And turn it off every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

Working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half. That’s because an alarm increases the chances that you can get out in less than two minutes — the amount of time that fire experts say you may have to escape a burning home before it’s too late.

• Help keep your family safe by testing your smoke alarms and practicing your two-minute home fire escape drill. Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like and talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.

• Include at least two ways to get out of every room and select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone can meet.

• Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year if your model requires it.

• Also check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced because components such as batteries can become less reliable. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.

During a fire, early warning from a working smoke alarm plus a fire escape plan that has been practiced regularly can save lives. 

It’s important for everyone to be prepared for home fires. Depending upon the need of those in your household, there may be additional circumstances to consider as part of your home fire escape plan.

· If you are deaf or hard of hearing, install strobe light and bed-shaker alarms to help alert you to a fire.

· When practicing your escape plan, include any devices or people that can help you to get out safely.

If you cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one, the Red Cross may be able to help.

• Contact your local Red Cross for help.

• Due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, installations are limited to where they’re safe to do so.

For more information, including safety tips and free resources, visit redcross.org/homefires or download the free Red Cross Emergency app by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in app stores.

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