WEST ESSEX, NJ — The region has been enjoying mild December weather, but as the official start of winter weather approaches, the American Red Cross is urging New Jersey families to be cautious when using space heaters and other heating sources when the temperatures begin to dip.
The American Red Cross said it responds to nearly 70,000 disasters per year—once every eight minutes—and most are home fires. Heating sources are a leading cause of home fire deaths, and fatal home fires increase during the winter months.
“The greatest disaster threat isn’t hurricanes or flooding, it’s home fires,” said Steven Sarinelli, regional disaster officer, American Red Cross New Jersey Region. “We are encouraging families to take simple steps when using heating equipment to reduce the risk of a home fire.”
Heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard, and many fatal fires occur in the early morning hours when most people are sleeping, according to the Red Cross. To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross is recommending the following tips:
- All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and items that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
- Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
- Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned if necessary.
- If a space heater is absolutely necessary, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
For more information and to access free fire safety tools and resources, click HERE.
Accordig to the Red Cross, hundreds of times a day in a multitude of ways, the Red Cross is there to bring help and hope to those in need. Last year in New Jersey, the Red Cross was there to help:
- Provide comfort, support and emergency assistance to 1,820 families displaced by 889 local disasters, mostly home fires;
- Collect 88,439 units of blood donated by New Jersey residents to help patients in need;
- Install more than 3,300 free smoke alarms in homes that needed them;
- Empower 117,088 residents with life-saving health, safety and preparedness information and skills through courses such as First Aid and CPR;
- Deliver 3,920 humanitarian services to veterans, active military and their loved ones.
HOW TO HELP: The Red Cross depends on the generous support of the American public to assist people affected by disasters. To make a donation, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.