Fire safety urged as Red Cross responds to home fires across the state

American Red Cross

Red Cross volunteers have responded to more than 80 home fires this past year in the Central and Western Nebraska area. With several of those occurring in the two or three weeks, it's a good time to review safety measures and fire prevention.

The Red Cross is calling on everyone to take simple steps that can save lives, especially during winter month when home fires are more common.

- Keep all potential heat sources of fuel (paper, clothing, bedding or rugs) at least three feet away from fireplaces, space heaters and stoves.

- Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.

- If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and non-flammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

- When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.

- Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

- Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.

- Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professional inspected and cleaned once a year.

- Install smoke alarms. At a minimum, put one on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.

- Install a carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home.

- Practice the fire escape plac, and keep traack of the time it takes. It should not be more than two minutes!

Nearly half of American families use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood/coal stoves to stay warm this time of year. Fixed and portable space heaters, including wood stoves, are a leading cause of home fires, and are involved in 74 percent of fire related deaths. Carbon monoxide is also a killer and each year over 200 people die from carbon monoxide produced by fuel burning appliances in the home including furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters.

"Eighty percent of Americans don't realize that home fires are the single most common disaster across the nation, Rachelle Lipker, Executive Director for the Central and Western Nebraska Chapter of the American Red Cross, said. "People can reduce their family's risk of being harmed in a home fie by using alternative heating sources safely, and by installing smoke alarms on every level of their home."