Space Heaters: American Red Cross urges families to heat their homes safely

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As temperatures drop across the region, the Central and Northern Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross urges families to take several steps to heat their homes safely.

“Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires in this country,” said Rebecca Gordon, executive director of the Central and Northern Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross. “However, there are steps people can take to avoid having this happen to them. Help keep your family safe by providing at least three feet of space around all heating equipment, testing your smoke alarms monthly, and practicing your two-minute home fire escape plan.”

Overall, home fires account for most of the more than 60,000 disasters that the Red Cross responds to each year. Home fire responses are 30% higher during cold months than in warmer times of the year.

HOW TO SAFELY HEAT YOUR HOME According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters are most often responsible for home heating fires. Follow these tips on how to safely heat your home:

  • If you must use a space heater, never leave it unattended. Place it on a level, hard, and nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor. Don’t place it on rugs or carpets, or near bedding and drapes.
  • Plug space heater power cords directly into outlets — never into an extension cord. Turn the space heater off every time you leave the room or go to sleep. • Keep children, pets, and anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Never leave a fire burning in the fireplace unattended. Ensure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home. Use a glass or metal fire screen to keep embers in the fireplace.
  • Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood, and coal stoves inspected annually by a professional and cleaned if necessary.

PREVENT HOME FIRE TRAGEDIES To help protect your family year-round, test your smoke alarms monthly and practice your home fire escape plan until everyone can escape in less than two minutes — the time you may have to get out of a burning home before it’s too late.

IF YOU NEED HELP If you cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one, the Red Cross can help. Visit this link to sign up for a smoke alarm installation.

Visit this link for more information, including an escape plan to practice with your family. Download the free Red Cross First Aid app so you’ll know what to do if emergency help is delayed and the free Emergency app for weather alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations, and safety steps for different emergencies. Choose whether you want to view the content in English or Spanish with an easy-to-find language selector. Find these and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or by going to

HOW TO PREPARE YOUR HOME FOR COLDER WEATHER Now is the time to drain the water in your outdoor water hoses and bring them inside for storage. Also, prepare your outdoor faucets by winterizing them. Bring any outdoor plants that need to winter indoors.


  • Carry the following in your vehicle: windshield scraper, small broom, sand or cat litter for traction, warm blankets and coats, and an emergency kit with bottled water, non-perishable food, and medications.
  • Check your tire pressure. Colder temperatures typically mean that air needs to be added to your tires. Take the time to ensure that your tires are aired up to the tire pressure recommended in your user manual.

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