Test smoke alarms now before cold weather brings increased threat of home fires; Red Cross responds to 27% more US home fires a month in winter than in warmer seasons

This Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 3 to 9), the Eastern New York Region of the American Red Cross urges you to test your smoke alarms before the threat of home fires increases with cold weather.

In the past year, Red Cross volunteers in Eastern New York responded to nearly 700 local disasters, most of them home fires, assisting 1,360 families. The Red Cross responds to 27 percent more home fires in November-March than in warmer months. According to the National Fire Protection Association, which is sponsoring Fire Prevention Week with the theme, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety,” home fires are most common in cooler months when people spend more time inside, and cooking and heating equipment are the leading causes of these crises.

“Every day, people’s lives are devastated by home fires — a threat that’s increasing as winter approaches,” said Kevin Coffey, Regional CEO, Eastern New York Region. “Help keep your family safe now by testing your smoke alarms and practicing your two-minute fire escape drill.”

During Fire Prevention Week, test your smoke alarms and practice your two-minute home fire escape drill — the amount of time that experts say you may have to get out before it’s too late. Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like and talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.

  • Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.  
  • Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced because components such as batteries can become less reliable. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions. 
  • Include at least two ways to exit every room in your home in your escape plan. 
  • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark, like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet. 
  • Tailor your escape plan to everyone’s needs in your household. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, install strobe light and bed-shaker alarms to help alert you to a fire. When practicing your plan, include any devices or people that can help you to get out safely. 

Visit redcross.org/fire for more information. 

If you cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one, the Red Cross may be able to help. Contact your local Red Cross. Due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, smoke alarm installations are limited to where they’re safe to do so.

Since October 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign with community partners has saved more than 1,000 lives — including 26 in Eastern New York — by educating families about fire safety, helping them create escape plans and installing free smoke alarms in high-risk areas. Locally, Red Cross volunteers and partners have installed nearly 35,000 alarms and helped make 15,000 households safer. To learn more about the campaign and how you can get involved, visit redcross.org/HomeFires.

By martha

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