Red Cross offers steps to heat your home safely and be ready for cooler weather

The days are getting shorter and the temperatures cooler, signs that it is the time of year when many people turn the heat on again in their homes. This is also the time of year when the number of home fires goes up, often times caused by the use of alternate heating methods. The American Red Cross provides a list of steps people should follow as they get their homes ready for cooler weather.

“It’s important to take steps to get your home ready for winter,” said Celena Roldán, CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “The Red Cross responds to about 64,000 disasters every year across the country and most of them are home fires. We urge people to follow these steps to be ready for the cooler weather.”

Home Heating Safety - Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves inspected and cleaned before another winter of use. Test batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Other good steps to take to get one’s home ready for winter include:

  • Make sure flashlights are available throughout the house and they have fresh batteries. Winter storms can lead to power outages.
  • Insulate the home by installing storm windows or covering the inside of windows with plastic to keep cold air out.
  • Develop a fire escape plan and practice it with everyone who lives in the home.
  • Prepare a disaster supply kit to have ready should winter storms hit. The kit should include a three-day supply of food and water per person, flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries.

Other things to have on hand for the winter include:

  • Sand, rock salt or kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery
  • Warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots and warm clothing for all household members, along with extra blankets.
  • Winterize your vehicle.
  • Consider buying emergency heating equipment, such as a wood- or coal-burning stove or an electric or kerosene heater.

Space Heaters - Nearly half of the households in this country use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood/coal stoves to stay warm. Fixed and portable space heaters, including wood stoves, are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths.

If someone is using a space heater, the Red Cross recommends looking for a model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over. Space heaters should be placed on a level, hard and nonflammable surface in the home.

Other safety tips include:

  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.
  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

Download the free Red Cross Emergency App at for heating safety and winter storm tips.

Home Fire Campaign

The Red Cross and its partners have undertaken an effort to reduce deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent. The Home Fire Campaign began in 2014 and is already responsible for saving more than 470 lives.

Working with fire departments and community groups across the country, the Red Cross is installing smoke alarms in homes in neighborhoods at high risk for fires and teaching residents about fire prevention and preparedness. The Red Cross is calling on everyone to take two simple steps that can save lives: create and practice their home fire escape plan and check their smoke alarms.

To learn more about the campaign and home fire safety, visit

About the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois serves 9.5 million people in 21 counties including Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or on Twitter @ChicagoRedCross.


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