"The largest percentage of home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or alarms that don't work," Wabash Valley Chapter Executive Director Carol Stevens said. "Smoke alarms provide a few minutes of advance warning in the event of a home fire, and that extra time can save lives."
People who do not have smoke alarms in their home should have them installed and those with smoke alarms should make sure they have been properly maintained and updated.
Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home, as well as inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas of the home. People should test their smoke alarms once a month by pushing the test button and replace alarm batteries at least once a year. Other smoke alarm safety recommendations include:
* Installing a new smoke alarm battery immediately if an alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low,
* Teaching children what the smoke alarm sounds like, and what they should do when they hear it,
* Keeping the alarm clean by vacuuming over and around it regularly. Dust and debris can interfere with the alarm's operation. Do not paint over the smoke alarm, and
* Moving the alarm farther away from the kitchen or bathroom if the device is sounding nuisance alarms. Never disable a smoke alarm.
The Red Cross also recommends that families create and practice a home fire escape plan, which should include at least two escape routes for every room in the home. Families should choose a convenient meeting place outside of the home and practice their escape plan at least twice a year with all family members.
Nationally, the Red Cross responds to thousands of local fires throughout the country every year. Last year, the Wabash Valley Chapter responded to 143 home fire providing financial assistance to 175 families. The local chapter also provided disaster preparedness workshops to 2,738 people.
The Red Cross reminds people of the following fire safety tips they should take:
* Keep all sources of fuel (paper, clothing, bedding and carpets or rugs) at least 3-feet away from all heat sources when cooking or using alternative heating like a space heater,
* Don't leave the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food and don't leave home while cooking,
* Keep matches and lighters away from and out of reach of children,
* If a fire occurs, get out and stay out. Call the fire department from a cell phone or neighbor's home,
* If smoke or fire blocks the first escape route, use a second way. If someone must exit through smoke, they should crawl low under the smoke to exit. If escaping through a closed door, feel the door before opening it. If the door is warm, get out a different way, and
* If smoke, heat or flames block the way out, stay in the room with the door closed. Signal for help using a brightly colored cloth at the window. If there is a telephone in the foom, call the fire department and tell them the location.
More information on home fire safety is available at www.redcross.org.
The American Red Cross Wabash Valley Chapter delivers services throughout Clay, Greene, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties in Indiana and Edgar County in Illinois.