Home fires see increase in holiday months, get prepared with tips from the Red Cross

This past Fire Prevention Week (October 3-9), the American Red Cross of San Diego and Imperial Counties urges you to test your smoke alarms and practice your home fire escape plan.

During the holiday season, there is an increased risk of home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association — which is sponsoring Fire Prevention Week with the theme “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety” — home fires are most common in cooler months when people spend more time inside, and cooking and heating equipment are the leading causes of these crises. Holiday cooking and baking can lead to an increase in kitchen fires, and holiday decorating can also pose an increased risk for home fires. The American Red Cross Southern California Region responds to 15% more home fires in November-March than in other months.

“Every day, people’s lives are devastated by home fires — a threat that tends to increase during the holiday months,” said Sean Mahoney, Regional CEO of the American Red Cross Southern California Region. “Help keep your family safe now by testing your smoke alarms and practicing your two-minute fire escape drill.”

This year, the Southern California Region has already responded to over 660 home fires, helping over 3,300 people affected by these fires. After a home fire, Red Cross volunteers provide families with essentials such as food, clothing, comfort items, health services, emergency financial assistance, casework and recovery support and more. The Red Cross is a shoulder to lean on for families who may have lost everything in a fire.

How to Protect Your Family: During Fire Prevention Week, test your smoke alarms and practice your two-minute home fire escape drill — the amount of time that experts say you may have to get out before it’s too late. Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like and talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency. Visit redcross.org/fire for more information.

Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it.

Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced because components such batteries can become less reliable. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.

Include at least two ways to exit every room in your home in your escape plan.

Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet.

Tailor your escape plan to everyone’s needs in your household. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, install strobe light and bed-shaker alarms to help alert you to a fire. When practicing your plan, include any devices or people that can help you to get out safely.

If you cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one, the Red Cross may be able to help. Visit SoundTheAlarm.org/SoCal to request a free smoke alarm installation. Due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, smoke alarm installations are limited to where they’re safe to do so.

Preparing now may save your life. Since October 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign with community partners has saved more than 1,000 lives across the country — including five individuals in San Diego County — by educating families about fire safety, helping them create escape plans and installing free smoke alarms in high-risk areas. In San Diego and Imperial Counties, Red Cross volunteers and partners have installed over 30,000 free smoke alarms and helped make over 11,000 households safer since the Home Fire Campaign launch.

To learn more about the campaign and how you can get involved, visit redcross.org/HomeFires.

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