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Home fires become most common disaster threat

The American Red Cross urges families to prepare for a home fire. According to a recent poll by the Red Cross, four out of five Americans are unaware that home fires are the most common disaster in the United States, and only 26 percent of families have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. Since fires kill more Americans each year than all natural disasters combined, the Red Cross urges families to use Red Cross resources to develop a fire escape plan and to take steps toward fire prevention and safety. Every year in the Pioneer Valley, home fires are the single most common disaster threat, Brenda Brouillette, Director of Disaster Services at the Pioneer Valley Chapter, said. Preparing for a home fire doesn t require a lot of expensive equipment or training, Brouillette said. In addition to smoke alarms, one of the easiest ways you can prepare is to develop and practice a home fire escape plan so that every family member can escape quickly and safely. The Red Cross suggests that a fire escape plan include at least two escape routes for every room in the home, and a convenient meeting place at a safe distance from the fire. Families are encouraged to pay particular attention to developing and regularly practicing escape plans for children and the elderly because of their increased risk of injury or death from fire. According to the NFPA, children and adults 65 and older are twice as likely to die in a home fire as the American population at large. Every time the American Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter responds to a fire in our region, they provide fire victims with assistance for food, clothing, prescription medications, temporary shelter and other special needs an affected family might have. This relief is made possible by generous donations from people throughout the region. Simple Steps to Prevent Fires: Keep all sources of fuel (paper, clothing, bedding, and carpets or rugs) at least three feet away from all heat sources when cooking, or using alternative heating like a space heater. Provide constant adult supervision during cooking or in rooms with lit candles or fires. Do not leave burning candles unattended. Keep matches and lighters away and out of reach of children. Teach young children to tell an adult if they see matches and lighters and not to touch them. Teach adolescents to resist peer pressure and not to play with fire if curious or bored. Simple Steps to Make Your Home Safer: Smoke alarms save lives. Install a smoke alarm outside each sleeping area and on each additional level of your home. If people sleep with doors closed, install smoke alarms inside sleeping areas. Use the test button to check each smoke alarm once a month. When necessary, replace batteries immediately. Replace all batteries at least once a year. Smoke alarms become less sensitive over time, so replace your smoke alarm every 10 years. Consider having one or more working fire extinguishers in your home. Get training from the fire department in proper use of your extinguishers. Consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your home. Determine at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. Consider escape ladders for sleeping areas on the second or third floors. Learn how to use escape ladders and store them near windows. Select a location outside your home where everyone would meet after escaping. Practice your escape plan, especially with children and older adults, at least twice a year and revise as necessary. Safety Tips During a Home Fire: Once you are out, stay out! Call the fire department from a neighbor s home. If you see smoke or fire in your first escape route, use your second way out. If you must exit through smoke, crawl low under the smoke to your exit. If you are escaping through a closed door, feel the door before opening it. If the door is warm, use your second way out. If smoke, heat, or flames block your exit routes, 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 room, call the fire department and tell them where you are. For more information, visit www.redcrosspioneervalley.org, or contact Paige Thayer at 233-1003 or thayerpa@usa.redcross.org.

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