4 out of 5 Americans unaware that home fires are the greatest and most common disaster threat

By: American Red Cross of Augusta
By: American Red Cross of Augusta

AUGUSTA, GA, March 3, 2006---Eighty percent of Americans do not know that home fires are the most common disaster in the United States. Moreover, half of families with children are using high-risk methods to heat their homes this winter.

Those are some of the findings of a poll just released by the American Red Cross, whose local chapters helped families affected by nearly 67,000 home fires last year--92 percent of all Red Cross disaster responses. In fact, the Augusta Chapter responded to more than 189 home fires last year here in Augusta, and provided 484 families with immediate emergency assistance.

Despite the reality of this threat in Augusta and across the country, two-thirds of those surveyed cited floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and mudslides as greater threats to their family than home fires.

With heating costs rising as much as 25 percent this winter, the Red Cross poll found that four in 10 families (42 percent) say they are using alternatives such as a space heater, fireplace or wood/coal stove to stay warm. The figure is even higher--49 percent--among families with children under 18. The National Fire Protection Association reports that children are twice as likely as adults to die in a home fire.

Alternative heating sources are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, yet only 27 percent of those surveyed identified them as leading causes of home fires. In fact, only 10 percent of those who use fireplaces and 17 percent of those who use space heaters realize that both are leading causes of home fires.

“Every year in Augusta, home fires are the single most common disaster threat,” said Kathleen Kosmoski, Executive Director “and for a family that has lost everything, a home fire is just as devastating as a major tornado or hurricane.”

Nearly three times every week, the Augusta Chapter provides fire victims with assistance for food, clothing, prescriptions, temporary shelter and other special needs an affected family may have. This relief is made possible by generous donations from people throughout Augusta.

“The Augusta Chapter would greatly appreciate donations from people in Augusta to support our ongoing disaster relief efforts in our community,” said Kathleen Kosmoski, Executive Director of the Augusta Chapter. “And I encourage Augusta residents to contact the Augusta Chapter for vital information on how to make a family emergency plan and to keep your families safe from fire this winter and throughout the year.”

Simple Steps to Prevent Fires

  • Keep all sources of fuel (paper, clothing, bedding and carpets or rugs) at least three feet away from heat sources, such as when using alternative heating like a space heater and when cooking.
  • 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 by choosing a more productive activity 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, too. 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. Replace your smoke alarms 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 floor. Learn how to use them and store them near the window.
  • Select a location outside your home where everyone would meet after escaping. Practice your escape plan, especially with children, at least twice a year and revise as necessary.
Safety Tips in the Event that Fire Strikes Your Home

  • 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 it 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 bright-colored cloth at the window. If there is a telephone in the room, call the fire department and tell them where you are.

The American Red Cross is where people mobilize to help their neighbors -- across the street, across the country and across the world -- in emergencies. Each year, in communities large and small, victims of some 70,000 disasters turn to neighbors familiar and new -- the nearly 1 million volunteers and 35,000 employees of the Red Cross. Through more than 800 locally supported chapters, more than 15 million people gain the skills they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their homes, communities and world. Some 4 million people give blood -- the gift of life -- through the Red Cross, making it the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The Red Cross helps thousands of U.S. servicemembers separated from their families by military duty stay connected. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a global network of 181 national societies, the Red Cross helps restore hope and dignity to the world's most vulnerable people. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money and blood to do its work.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 newsroom@wrdw.com Fax: (803) 442-4561
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