The American Red Cross and the National Fire Protection Association recently released results of a survey showing 79 percent of Americans are concerned about the rising cost of heating their homes, and many will use an alternative heating source to reduce their bills this winter. The survey identified additional behaviors related to appliance maintenance and cooking that could also present home fire hazards this winter.
"If people use alternative heat sources to reduce energy costs, it is critical they use devices that are new or in good working order, and they turn off units when they go to bed or leave the room," said NFPA President James. M. Shannon.
"We hope this survey will encourage more people to take the simple steps necessary to protect their families and homes from fire," said Gail J. McGovern, president and chief executive officer of the American Red Cross.
Last year, the North Country chapter of the American Red Cross responded to 37 home fires, providing comfort, shelter and aid to help families pick up the pieces.
"Home fires can be just as devastating as any other type of disaster," said Jeanie C. Roberts, executive director of the local American Red Cross. "The Red Cross is here to help anyone affected by a home fire, but also to provide information that helps people prevent and stay safer in a home fire."
According to NFPA reports, cooking and heating are the leading causes of home fires. In addition to showing the majority of Americans are concerned about rising home heating costs, 48 percent said they will use an alternative heating source to reduce their bills this winter. Alternative heating sources include portable space heaters, stoves, ovens and fireplaces. One-third of people interviewed with fireplaces - 36 percent - reported they never cleaned or inspected their chimneys. The survey also found 23 percent of respondents did not consider it essential to make sure someone is home when food is cooking on the stove.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents also revealed another unsafe behavior, which is disabling smoke alarms when they go off in a non-testing situation. Fifty-three percent have not taken any of three common actions in most home fire escape plans, which includes discussing with family members how to get out of the home, deciding on an outdoor meeting place and practicing the plan.
The NFPA and the American Red Cross offer these and other safety tips:
• Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you must leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.
• Give space heaters space by keeping them at least 3 feet from anything that can burn. Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
• Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
For additional fire safety tips, contact the North Country chapter of the American Red Cross at 561-7280 or visit www.redcross.org/homefires.