Temperatures are dropping, and this weekend we turn the clocks back to Central Standard Time - good reminders to replace batteries in smoke detectors and review basic fire and home-heating safety guidelines. Home fires are the most common – and preventable - disaster to which the Red Cross responds Heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires, and research shows that only 26 percent of families have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
• Have working smoke alarms on every level of the home, and change the batteries every fall. Sixty-five percent of home fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms.
• Vacuum cobwebs and dust from your smoke alarms monthly.
• Replace smoke alarms every 10 years because they become less sensitive over time.
• Have one or more working fire extinguishers in your home, and get training from the fire department on how to use them.
• Have an escape plan and practice it at least twice a year so that everyone in the household knows what to do.
• Have two ways to escape from every room in the home.
• If you see smoke or fire in your first escape route, use your second way out.
• If smoke, heat or flames block both of your exit routes, stay in the room with the door closed. Place a rolled towel or other bulky item underneath the door to help keep smoke out. Signal for help by waving a brightly colored cloth or by shining a flashlight at the window. If there is a telephone in the room, call 911 and let them know your exact location inside the home.
• Select a safe location away from the home where your family can meet after escaping.
• Consider purchasing and storing escape ladders for rooms above ground level and learn how to use them.
• If you must exit through smoke, crawl low under the smoke.
• If escaping through a closed door, feel the door before opening it. If it is warm, use your second escape route.
• Once you’ve escaped, stay out! Call 911 or the fire department from a neighbor’s home.
Home Heating Safety
The Red Cross recommends having your home heating system inspected by a licensed professional every year to insure that it is working properly and that it is not leaking deadly carbon monoxide.
• Have your chimney inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season. Creosote, a chemical substance that forms when wood burns, builds up in chimneys and can cause chimney fires.
• Always protect your family and home by using a sturdy screen in front of the fireplace. Burn only wood, never paper or pine boughs which can float out of the chimney and ignite a neighboring home.
• Never use flammable liquids in a fireplace.
• Have factory-built fireplaces installed according to local codes.
• Purchase only those that have a trusted testing laboratory labels and meet local fire codes.
• Follow all manufacturer’s recommendations about use and maintenance. Have chimney flues and connections inspected and cleaned each year prior to heating season.
• A wood stove should be installed only on an approved stove board to protect the floor from heat and hot coals.
• Burn only wood.
• Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything combustible, including wallpaper, bedding, clothing, pets and people.
• NEVER LEAVE SPACE HEATERS OPERATING WHEN YOU ARE NOT IN THE ROOM OR WHEN YOU GO TO BED.
• Don’t leave children or pets unattended with space heaters, and be sure everyone knows that drying wet mittens or other clothing over space heaters is a fire hazard.
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.OklahomaRedCross.org and join us on Facebook and Twitter.