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Red Cross provides tips to prevent holiday home fires

Posted: December 11, 2009 1:25 p.m.
Updated: December 13, 2009 12:27 p.m.
LOS ANGELES (PRNewswire-USNewswire) -- The biggest disaster threat to families across our nation every day isn't floods, wildfires
or earthquakes; it's home fire.

As temperatures drop, the danger becomes even more imminent.

American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles officials urge families to be cautious when using space heaters and other heating sources and to make a plan in case of a home fire. Heating sources are the leading cause of winter fires and increase during the winter months.

The Red Cross advises residents to prepare for a variety of cold weather emergencies. The first step is to assess your current home heating sources and correct any problems. Finally, make a plan with your family on how you would escape a fire in your home.

Please follow the necessary precautions:

Portable Heaters
* Make sure you have at least 36 inches of empty space between all heaters and everything else, like curtains, furniture, papers, and people.

* Never leave children unattended in rooms with portable heaters.

* Be sure the heater has a tip-over shut off function.

* Never use an extension cord with portable electric heaters. It is a common cause of fires.

* Check the cord on your electric portable heater. If it is cracked or frayed or gets hot, have the heater serviced.

* Be sure to clean the dust from all heaters. If left to build up, dust and lint can ignite and cause a fire.

* Be sure to turn portable heaters off when leaving the house or sleeping.

* Avoid using portable heaters in the bathroom.

* Leave furnace work to experts. Have a qualified technician check and clean the input and controls every year. Have the technician check the walls and ceiling near the furnace and flue. If they are hot, you may need additional clearance or insulation.

* Be sure the emergency shut off and automatic controls are in good condition.

* Always keep trash, papers, paint, etc. away from the furnace area.

Cold Weather Fire Safety
* Never use an oven or a range to heat your home. This is a safety hazard and could cause a build-up of toxic fumes.

* Be certain that all windows that are used as emergency exits can still be opened in the winter. Practice your escape plan at this time of year.

* If there is a fire hydrant near your house, help keep it clear of snow and debris. The fire department needs to be able to access it in case of a fire.

Smoke Detectors
* Install a smoke detector on each level of your home.

* Test smoke detectors once a month.

* Keep your smoke detectors dust free.

* Change your smoke detector batteries twice a year. When you change your clock is a good time to change your smoke detector batteries.

Escape Planning
* Develop a home fire escape plan with two exits from every room.

* Establish a meeting place in a safe location, to ensure all family members are present.

* Call the fire department from a safe location. Never re-enter a burning building for any reason.

* Practice your home escape plan every six months and consider practicing it at night when most home fires occur.

* Consider installing carbon monoxide detectors on every level of the home, near sleeping areas where the audible alarm can be heard. If the alarm goes off, exit the home and call 911.

* Recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and exit the home immediately if you suspect the presence of carbon monoxide. Call 911 from a safe location.

Last year, the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the American Red Cross responded to 266 disasters and a majority of those were home fires. Remember, more fires occur during the winter months than at any other time of year. However, most fires can be avoided by taking a few simple precautions.

Now that you have carefully read through these tips, it's time to make sure your home is fire safe so you can have a warm,
worry-free winter!


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