The American Red Cross Putnam County Unit is taking steps this week to urge families to prepare for home fires as it observes Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 8-14.
According to a recent poll conducted by the Red Cross, four out of five Americans are unaware that home fires are the most common disaster in the United States, and only 26 percent of families have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
Since fire kills more Americans each year than all natural disasters combined, the Red Cross is urging families to use Red Cross resources to develop a fire escape plan and to take steps toward fire prevention and safety.
The theme of this year's week, sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is "Prevent Cooking Fires -- Watch What You Heat." According to the NFPA, home fires are more likely to start in the kitchen than any other room of the home, and the leading cause of cooking fires is unattended cooking.
To prevent kitchen fires, the Red Cross recommends that all potential fuel sources, including potholders and food wrappers, are kept at least three feet away from heat sources while cooking. In addition, stoves and ranges should be turned off when leaving the kitchen.
"Every year in Putnam County, home fires are the single most common disaster threat," said Christine Klinger, Putnam County Red Cross Development Director. "In fact, the Wabash Valley Chapter responded to more than 20 home fires last year here throughout Putnam County, and provided over 35 individuals with immediate emergency assistance.
"Preparing for a home fire doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment or training, and Fire Prevention Week is a great time for families to plan for a potential fire," Klinger added. "In addition to smoke alarms, one of the easiest ways you can prepare is to develop and practice a home fire escape plan so that every family member can escape quickly and safely."
The Red Cross suggests that a fire escape plan include at least two escape routes for every room in the home, and a convenient meeting place at a safe distance from the fire. Families are encouraged to pay particular attention to developing and regularly practicing escape plans for children and the elderly because of their increased risk of injury or death from fire. According to the NFPA, children and adults over 65 are twice as likely to die in a home fire as the American population at large.
At least one time per month, the local Putnam County Unit provides fire victims with assistance for food, clothing, prescription medications, temporary shelter and other special needs. The relief is made possible by the financial and volunteer support from people in the county.
For more information on the local unit, call Klinger at 653-4614.