The American Red Cross Wabash Valley Chapter recently offered a series of tips to help people stay safe and warm during the winter months.
Fires related to heating are the second leading cause of home fires in the country and fixed and portable space heaters are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths.
The Wabash Valley Chapters has already responded to 14 home fires in December.
The American Red Cross urges all to use caution when turning to these different methods of keeping their home warm and offered the following safety tips on how to prevent fires:
* Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least 3-feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces,
* 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 be or leaving home,
* If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable 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 as another safety measure,
* 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, and
* Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.
Most people don't realize that home fires are the biggest disaster threat in the country -- ahead of floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. The Red Cross responds to as many as 63,000 home fires every year. That's 170 fires a day -- or one fire response every eight minutes.
In the Wabash Valley, the local chapter responds to more than 140 home fires each year.
"Planning for fire emergencies is important," Wabash Valley Chapter Emergency Services Director Stephanie Land said. "Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home, and set up a meeting place outside in case of fire.
"Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Teach household members to stop, drop and roll if their clothing should catch on fire."
Smoke alarms save lives, and people should install smoke alarms on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Check the alarms monthly in order to make sure they are working properly by pushing the test button. Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year and replace smoke alarms every 10 years.
For more information about fire safety and steps to take to be prepared, log on to www.redcross.org.
The Wabash Valley Chapter serves Clay, Greene, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties in Indiana and Edgar County in Illinois.