It’s National Fire Prevention Month – Are You Prepared?

October is Fire Prevention Month and the American Red Cross is encouraging families and businesses to learn how to protect themselves and others from fires.  Last year, the  Red Cross responded to about 63,000 home fires across the country by providing comfort and basic necessities to more than 82,000 families.

“We respond to a disaster every eight hours across the Columbia Region,” said Scott R. Salemme, regional chief executive officer, American Red Cross, Columbia Region.  “The best thing you can do to protect your loved ones is to install a smoke alarm and develop and practice a fire escape plan. Fires can spread very quickly, so everyone at home, school and work should know what to do when they hear the sound of a smoke alarm.”

Additional recommendations include:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the house and inside bedrooms.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Test each alarm monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Ensure that household members know two ways to escape from every room and designate a place to meet outside of your house in case of a fire. Practice your plan at least twice a year.
  • Follow your escape plan in case of fire.Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • Download the American Red Cross First Aid App to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies. The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android.
  • Visit www.redcross.org/homefires for additional fire safety tips.

The Red Cross is there to help those in need when disasters strike. The Columbia Region, which serves 28-counties in South Carolina, responded to 1,035 disasters and assisted 1,090 people last year.

In conjunction with National Fire Prevention Month, the Red Cross has kicked-off, “Fire Hurts – Red Cross Helps,” a local initiative to encourage community members and businesses to make a financial donation of $1,250 to support a family following a home fire.  The average cost to provide Red Cross disaster relief services to a family of four is $1,250.  Click here to learn more about this initiative.

“In order to respond to disasters in our community the Red Cross depends on the generous financial support of individuals and businesses,” added Salemme.“Giving through Fire Hurts – Red Cross Helps will ensure that our essential services are provided everyday to families who have been devastated to a home fire.”

Be Safe this Thanksgiving in the Kitchen!

The kitchen is the place where family and friends love to gather, but it is also the setting of more fires than any other room in the house.

Cooking is the number one cause of home fires in this country and during the holidays, the American Red Cross wants everyone to be aware of steps they should take to avoid a fire while cooking.

Click here to take a Red Cross quiz to see if your cooking safety knowledge is up to snuff!

Start by not wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.  Never leave cooking food unattended – stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food.  If you must leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.  Other safety steps include:

  • Check your food regularly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  • Keep the kids away from the cooking area. Enforce a “kid-free zone” and make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains—away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  • Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  • Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen.  Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.
  • Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  • Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed.  Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

The Red Cross responded to more than 62,960 home fires during the 2011 fiscal year.  House fires are the worst disaster threat to families in the United States.  To learn how to prevent a fire in your home and how to keep members of your household safe, you can download The Red Cross Fire Prevention and Safety Checklist.  Downloadable fact sheets are also available at www.columbiaregionredcross.org on how to be fire safe over the holidays, how to avoid home heating fires, candle safety, proper use of smoke alarms and teaching your children what to do in the event of a fire.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.columbiaregionredcross.org.