Red Cross urges families to plan for fires

Tue, 11/20/2007 - 4:51pm
By: The Citizen

Cold weather increases chances of house fire

November is off to a tragic start for 28 metro Atlanta families who have lost their homes to fires. Red Cross disaster action team volunteers worked around the clock over the weekend to provide food, clothing, and shelter to over 100 people.

"From November 2-5 of this year, we responded to 16 home fires, half of which affected multiple families," said Stephanie Wright, manager of response for the Atlanta Red Cross. "Rarely have we had so many fires in such a short period of time, occurring in 4 of the 5 districts that we serve. It’s vital for all families to plan for a potential fire, and the good news is that it doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment or training," said Wright.

According to a recent poll by the Red Cross, four out of five Americans are unaware that home fires are the most common disaster in the United States, and only 26 percent of families have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. The Red Cross urges families to use Red Cross resources to develop a fire escape plan and to take steps toward fire prevention and safety.

According to statistics, home fires are more likely to start in the kitchen than any other room of the home, and the leading cause of home cooking fires is unattended cooking. Heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires.

A recent Red Cross poll found that nearly half of American families use heating alternatives such as a space heater, fireplace or wood/coal stove to stay warm, and the U.S. Fire Administration reports that alternative heating sources are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths.

To prevent heating-related fires, the Red Cross recommends that you keep all potential fuel sources, including newspapers, matches, clothing and bedding, at least three feet away from heat sources such as a space heater or fireplace. Also, read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how, when and where to safely use heating equipment, such as space heaters and water heaters.

In addition, the Red Cross recommends that a fire escape plan include at least two escape routes for every room in the home, and a convenient meeting place at a safe distance from the fire. Escape ladders should be stored near windows in floors above ground level, and all family members should know how to use the ladders safely.

Families should practice their escape plan at least twice a year.

"Colder weather is settling in and, sadly, we expect the incidence of home fires to continue," said Wright. "We're hoping that we can spare many families the painful experience of home fires by sharing some basic safety information now."

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