It’s that time of year when the cold temperatures settle in and people turn the heat back on to warm their homes. Heating a home is one of the leading causes of home fires and the American Red Cross has steps people can follow to heat their home safely.

ALTERNATE HEAT SOURCES: Almost half of the families in the United States use things like space heaters, fireplaces, or coal or wood stoves to stay warm. These supplemental heating sources can be dangerous if not used properly.

The Red Cross offers the following safety tips:

1. Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

2. Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.

3. Never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended.

4. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.

5. Place space heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.

6. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

7. When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.

8. Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.

9. Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.

10. Other safety steps - Check electrical appliances before you leave home. Do not leave food cooking on the stove. Blow out candles before going to bed. Do not overload electrical outlets.

MORE WAYS TO STAY SAFE: Make a fire escape plan and ensure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home. Set up a meeting place outside in case of fire. Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Teach household members to stop, drop and roll if their clothing should catch on fire.

Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Check monthly that smoke alarms are working properly by pushing the test button. Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year or as directed by the manufacturer. Replace smoke alarms every ten years.

HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN The Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters every year and most of these are home fires. Every day in this country, on average, seven people are killed in a home fire and another 36 people injured.

To end these tragedies and help save lives, the Red Cross launched its Home Fire Campaign in 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. As part of the campaign, Red Cross volunteers and partners canvass high-risk neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms and help families create fire escape plans.

As of November 1, one million free smoke alarms have been installed across the country and 285 lives have been saved due to the efforts of all those who have participated in the Home Fire Campaign. Join the campaign today by volunteering to install smoke alarms in your community, make a financial contribution, or take steps to protect your own family from home fires.