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October 10, 2012

Safety urged during Fire Prevention Week

NEW CASTLE — As overnight temperatures dip, the heat is coming on in houses across western Pennsylvania.

However, with furnaces, space heaters and fireplaces come the increased risk of house fires, which hit more than 362,100 American homes in 2010. Figures from that year, the most recent available, show those fires resulted in 2,555 deaths, 13,275 injuries and more than $6.6 billion in property damage.

National Fire Prevention Week — Oct. 7 to 13 — is designed to draw attention to fire safety and raise awareness of the dangers of fires and ways to prevent them.

The best and simplest thing a homeowner can do is install smoke alarms, according to Patricia Waldinger, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross’ western Pennsylvania region. Families also should develop and practice a fire escape plan, she said.

The American Red Cross assists families affected by disasters, providing food, shelter and emotional support.

Recommendations to avert home fires include:

•Smoke alarms — Every home should be equipped with alarms containing both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors. Alarms should be placed on every level of the home. Smoke alarms should be tested once each month and batteries replaced once each year.

•Fire escape plan — Every member of the household should know and practice what to do if they hear the smoke alarm. Plans should include at least two ways to escape from every room and a designated meeting place outside the house where the family can meet up.

•Safe heating — Turn off space heaters and extinguish fires in the fireplace before going to bed or leaving the house. Make sure to place space heaters on a level, hard, nonflammable surface, not on a rug or carpet. Keep paper, clothing, bedding and rugs at least three feet away from heaters, stoves or fireplaces.

•Candles — Never leave a burning candle unattended. Place them on hard surfaces where they will not be knocked over by pets or children, keep candles at least 12 inches from flammable materials.

•Cooking — Stay in the kitchen if frying, grilling or broiling food. Turn off the stove when leaving the kitchen. When simmering, baking, boiling or roasting, check regularly and remain at home while food is cooking. Use a timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.

National Fire Prevention Week was started in 1925 by the National Fire Protection Association, an international nonprofit organization that advocates for fire prevention and public safety.

(Sources: American Red Cross, FEMA, U.S. Fire Administration at www.usfa.fema.gov, National Fire Protection Association at www.nfpa.org)

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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