National Fire Prevention Week

WASHINGTON, October 9, 2012 - As National Fire Prevention Week gets underway and much of the country is experiencing its first cold weather, the American Red Cross wants people to know how to use space heaters safely, and what they should do if a fire occurs in their home.

Home fires are the biggest disaster threat people face in this country. Improper use of alternate heaters increases that threat as people turn to other ways to heat their homes as the temperatures drop. Everyone should have their furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves inspected and cleaned before another winter of use.

SPACE HEATERS Many people are considering using alternate sources of heat to cut down on heating bills. The Red Cross recommends that people look for a model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over, and that they place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface in the home. Other safety tips include:

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.
Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
A FIRE EVERY NINE MINUTES About every nine minutes the Red Cross responds to a fire. Over the weekend as many as 100 people were displaced after a fire in a condominium complex outside of Philadelphia. A weekend fire in an apartment building in Phoenix, Arizona left more than 50 people homeless. In both cases, the Red Cross responded, offering those affected a place to stay until they can put their lives back together.

“We respond to about 63,000 home fires every year,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “Home fires can strike quickly and without warning, so the best thing families can do to be protected is to install smoke alarms and develop and practice a fire escape plan.”

The theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week is “Have Two Ways Out,” and the Red Cross recommends that households develop a fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year with everyone who lives in the home. People should know two ways to escape from every room and designate a place to meet outside the home in case of a fire.

Other safety steps include:

Follow the escape plan in case of fire. Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
Install smoke alarms on every level of the house and inside bedrooms.
Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Test each alarm monthly by pushing the test button.
Download the Red Cross First Aid App to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies. The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android.
Visit for additional fire safety tips.

Fire is also the most common disaster to affect businesses and owners and employees should also know what to do should a fire occur. According to the United States Fire Association, non-residential building fires resulted in $2.4 billion in losses in 2010. Companies, schools and other organizations can learn how to prepare for fires and other emergencies by becoming a member of the Red Cross Ready Rating™ Program. They can complete a free, online assessment of their current readiness level and receive customized feedback with tips to improve preparedness.

You can help people affected by disasters like fires, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

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