Nationally, The American Red Cross responds to 70,000 disasters each year – one every eight minutes. Most are home fires.
Here in western Pennsylvania, the Red Cross assisted more than 3,000 people following nearly 1,400 disaster cases this past year.
Over the next several days, temperatures are expected to dip to the teens and single digits with wind-chills falling well below zero in much of the area.
The Red Cross urges families to be cautious when using space heaters and other heating sources to keep warm.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment fires are the second leading cause of home fires (cooking is the first) and are responsible for 19 percent of home fire deaths.
Space heaters, the type of equipment most often involved in home heating fires, account for 84 percent of home fire heating-related deaths.
In addition to having working smoke alarms and home fire escape plans, the Red Cross recommends the following when using heat sources, such as space heaters, fireplaces, or wood and coal stoves:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
You can learn more about fire safety by visiting redcross.org/homefires or by downloading the free American Red Cross Emergency App from your devices’ app store.