The fire started on a frigid January day with a spark in the chimney, leaving a gap to the outside and the home temporarily unlivable. Paul King and Mariah Bazile, disaster service workers with the American Red Cross, were there to make a tough situation easier. They listened. They offered blankets and clean-up kits, financial help and a folder full of resources. They promised that a case worker would call in the next few days to make sure recovery is on track for the people affected by this home fire.
Home fires are the most common disasters the Red Cross responds to, and heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires during the winter months. The Red Cross offers the following fire prevention tips:
- All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
- If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as a ceramic tile floor) – not on rugs, carpets, near bedding or drapes.
- Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
- Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces and chimneys inspected annually by a professional and cleaned if necessary.
- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
- Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
For more fire safety tips, visit http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire.
If a Fire Starts:
- Know how to safely operate a fire extinguisher
- Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number.
- Yell “Fire!” several times and go outside right away. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself.
- If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your primary escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
- If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit. Close doors behind you.
- If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.
- Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department. If you cannot get to your meeting place, follow your family emergency communication plan.
If you remember just two things about home fire safety, remember to install and maintain smoke alarms in your home, and make and practice your home fire drill so that everyone in your home can escape in less than two minutes.