Red Cross urges cold-weather safety

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 13, 2013

As area temps are expected to drop to below freezing again tonight, Red Cross officials are urging local residents to use caution when cranking up the heaters.

Don Johnson, director of the Covington County chapter of the American Red Cross, said his organization typically sees a boost in house fires this time of year.

“We see more fires, but we see a lot of kitchen fires,” Johnson said. “People are cooking more because it’s colder and people aren’t going out (to eat). People are cooking with grease or oil, and they may go out of the room for a minute to check on the kids and come back and the cabinets are on fire. Then it’s too late.”

Johnson said another leading cause of home fires this time of year is the misuse of heating devices and a lack of preparation – both of which, he added, are easily preventable.

“A lot older homes, especially in rural areas, are not wired for modern conveniences,” Johnson said. “People use space heaters and may put them up against something. They leave them near curtains or the kids knock something over.”

Johnson said he has also seen fires originate from ovens being used as heating devices, something, he added, that should never be done.

Johnson said, while the Red Cross is designed to aid people facing disaster situations, the key to really helping is to teach prevention.

“Most of it is just common sense stuff,” he said. “Be aware of what you’re doing. Check your smoke alarms once a month and change the batteries when the time changes.”

Since time “fell back” earlier this month, Johnson said residents should take the opportunity to change out their alarms.

But, even when taking all of the necessary precautions, Red Cross officials say fires can still occur. In such a situation, one should get out of the home as quickly as possible; stay out of the home no matter what; and call 911.

For additional information and tips on how to avoid fires; what to do in the case of a fire emergency; and how the Red Cross can offer assistance in the event of a fire, visit or call the Covington County chapter of the American Red Cross at 334.428.2680.