Survey: Downturn In Economy May Lead To Increase In Home Fires

The American Red Cross and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recently released results of a survey showing the majority (79 percent) of Americans are concerned about the rising cost of heating their homes, and many will use an alternative heating source to reduce their bills this winter. The survey identified additional behaviors related to appliance maintenance and cooking that could also present home fire hazards this winter.

"As we head into, what by all accounts is likely to be a very costly heating season, these survey results and Fire Prevention Week provide a critical opportunity for us to remind people about the things they can do to prevent home fires and keep their families safe and warm this winter," said NFPA President James. M. Shannon. "If people use alternative heat sources to reduce energy costs, it is critical they use devices that are new or in good working order, and they turn off units when they go to bed or leave the room."

"We hope this survey will encourage more people to take the simple steps necessary to protect their families and homes from fire," said Gail J. McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. "Of the more than 74,000 disasters the American Red Cross responds to each year, approximately 93 percent are fire related, but unlike natural disasters, most home fires can be prevented."

According to NFPA reports, cooking and heating are the leading causes of home fires. The survey revealed the majority of Americans are concerned about the rising cost of heating their homes (79 percent), and that 48 percent of households will use an alternative heating source to reduce their bills this winter. Alternative heating sources include portable space heaters, stoves, ovens and fireplaces. A third (36 percent) of people with fireplaces reported they never cleaned or inspected their chimneys. The survey also found 23 percent of respondents did not consider it essential to make sure someone is home when food is cooking on the stove.

Young adults, ages 18-24, were more likely than other respondents to state they will use the oven to keep the kitchen warm this winter (17 percent versus 7 percent for all households).Young adults were also less likely to take precautionary steps such as removing the lint from the dryer filter after every load (one in three do not remove the lint after every load).

Respondents also revealed another unsafe behavior, which is disabling (37 percent) smoke alarms when they go off in a non-testing situation. More than half (53 percent) of the households surveyed have not taken any of three common actions in most home fire escape plans, which includes discussing with family members how to get out of the home, deciding on an outdoor meeting place and practicing the plan.

"On any given night in America, the Red Cross is out responding to hundreds of home fires, providing comfort, shelter and aid to help families pick up the pieces," said Red Cross President McGovern. "That's why the Red Cross is working during Fire Prevention Week, and each and every day, to help people prevent and stay safe in the event of a home fire."

During the month of October, Red Cross chapters will distribute information, provide educational presentations and partner with first responders to share fire safety and prevention messages in communities across the country.

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