Colder weather coming - act now to stay safe

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The start of a New Year is a time for celebration, but it’s also a time to be vigilant so we can all stay safe.

As you set your resolutions for 2017, we hope you will take a few minutes to consider a few steps that will lead to a safer year.

Last week, two Barnwell County citizens suffered burns requiring emergency transport to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., according to Barnwell City Fire Chief Tony Dicks. One was a child who was burned by boiling water in the kitchen.

That’s why Chief Dicks urges people to remind children to stay away from cooking areas when in use.

However, kitchen accidents are not the only issue to watch for to keep your loved ones safe. With colder temperatures on the way again, officials encourage residents to use heating appliances cautiously and carefully because this time of year brings an increased number of house fires, often caused by using alternate heating methods.

The American Red Cross is trying to combat this through its Home Fire Campaign. By working with fire departments and community groups across the state, the Red Cross is installing smoke alarms in homes in neighborhoods at high risk for fires. They are also teaching residents about fire prevention and preparedness.

Since implementing the campaign in 2014, it is already responsible for saving more than 110 lives, including 11 in South Carolina, according to the Red Cross. Learn more about the campaign and home fire safety at redcross.org/homefires.

The Red Cross encourages everyone to take two simple steps that can save lives: create and practice their home fire escape plan and check their smoke alarms.

In addition, the Red Cross offers the following steps people should follow as they get their homes ready for 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 that people look 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.

-Electric space heaters use a lot of electricity. Always plug them directly into a wall outlet to avoid overloading circuits, which can lead to fire.

-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 redcross.org/apps for more heating safety and winter storm tips.