Avoid home fires while heating homes this winter

As winter approaches and the weather turns colder, people will be turning up their thermostats to stay warm or resorting to alternate heating methods to cut down on costs. These different methods of heating can be dangerous if not used properly and the American Red Cross urges everyone to be cautious when putting them to use.

Home fires are the biggest disaster threat to people in this country worse than floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. Every day, the Red Cross responds to as many as 170 home fires that’s one fire every eight minutes.

The Red Cross offers the following safety tips on how to prevent fires:

Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected once a year.

Never use a stove or oven to heat the home.

Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended.

Turn off space heaters or extinguish the fireplace before going to bed or leaving home.

Place a space heater on a hard, level, nonflammable surface. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets, near bedding or drapes, and keep children and pets away. Look for a space heater model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over.

When using a fireplace, use a glass or metal screen large enough to catch sparks or rolling logs and keep the fire in the fireplace.

Keep all flammable materials such as newspapers, matches, bedding, clothing, carpets and rugs at least three feet away from heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces and stoves.

Smoke alarms save lives. People should:

Install smoke alarms on every level of their 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.

Planning for fire emergencies is important. Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of the home, and set up a meeting place outside in case of fire. Practice escaping from the 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.

For more information on what you can do to keep you and your loved ones safe, visit the “Home Fires” section on www.redcross.org/swny. The American Red Cross of Southwestern NY is a United Way Organization.