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Red Cross: How to safely heat your home as frigid temps come to Alabama

Heating equipment is the leading cause of home fire deaths


BIRMINGHAM, AL. (Dec. 21) — As temperatures drop in Alabama, the American Red Cross of Alabama and Mississippi urges everyone to safely heat their home by following critical steps to avoid a home fire.

Heating equipment is the leading cause of home fire deaths, with most occurring from space heaters. In Alabama, 37% more home fires occur during colder months. Since January, the Red Cross has responded to over 1,500 home fires. Overall, home fires account for most of the 60,000-plus disasters that the Red Cross responds to each year across the U.S. — where home fire responses are 30% higher during cold months than warmer times of the year.

“Colder temperatures often bring the increased risk of home fires, which are the most frequent disaster in our country,” said chief executive officer, Mark Beddingfield. “Help keep your family safe by providing at least three feet of space for all heating equipment, testing your smoke alarms monthly and practicing your two-minute home fire escape plan.”

HOW TO SAFELY HEAT YOUR HOME Follow these safety tips and visit for more information, including an escape plan to practice with your family. You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency app by searching “American Red Cross” in app stores.

  • Keep children, pets and anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment.

  • If you must use a space heater, never leave it unattended. Place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor. Don’t place it on rugs and carpets, or near bedding and drapes.

  • Plug space heater power cords directly into outlets — never into an extension cord. Turn the space heater off every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

  • Never leave a fire burning in the fireplace unattended. Make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home. Use a glass or metal fire screen to keep embers in the fireplace.

  • Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves inspected annually by a professional and cleaned if necessary.


  • Wear layers of clothing, a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.

  • Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures.

  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.

  • Bring pets indoors. If they can't come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.

  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion, and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.


Stay off the road if possible, during severe weather. If you must drive in winter weather, follow these tips:

  • Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road.

  • Don't follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.

  • Don't use cruise control when driving in winter weather.

  • Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.


People can download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for their area and where loved ones live. Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps. Both apps are available to download for free in app stores or at

IF YOU NEED HELP If you cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one, the Red Cross may be able to help. Contact your local Red Cross for help.

HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN SAVES LIVES Since October 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign with community partners has saved at least 1,478 lives — including 75 in Alabama — by educating families about fire safety, helping them create escape plans and installing more than 2.4 million free smoke alarms in high-risk neighborhoods across the country. Visit for more information.

About us:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @RedCrossAL.


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