During Fire Prevention Week , the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region urges you to test your smoke alarms before the threat of home fires increases with cold weather.

The Red Cross responds to 27 percent more home fires from November through March than in warmer months. According to the National Fire Protection Association—which is sponsoring Fire Prevention Week with the theme, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety”–home fires are most common in cooler months when people spend more time inside, and cooking and heating equipment are the leading causes of these crises.

“Every day, people’s lives are devastated by home fires — a threat that’s increasing as winter approaches,” said Thomas Hill, regional disaster officer for the Red Cross Los Angeles. “Help keep your family safe by testing your smoke alarms and practicing your two-minute fire escape drill.”

Since the beginning of 2021, Red Cross volunteers have responded to 265 home fires in Los Angeles, providing more than 1,600 residents support and guidance through their disaster recovery journey. Home fires account for 90 percent of all disaster responses.

Test smoke alarms and practice two-minute home fire escape drills — the amount of time that experts say families may have to get out before it’s too late. Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like and talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.

Place smoke alarms on each level of the home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year, if the model requires it.

Check the manufacturer’s date of smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced because components such as batteries can become less reliable. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions.

Additionally, families should include at least two ways to exit every room in the home in your escape plan; select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from the home, such as a neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet; Tailor the escape plan to everyone’s needs in your household. For the deaf or hard of hearing, install strobe light and bed-shaker alarms. When practicing the plan, include any devices or people who can help the family get out safely.

If families cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one, contact Red Cross LA for help. Due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, smoke alarm installations are limited to where they’re safe to do so.

Visit redcross.org/fire for home fire safety information, including an escape plan to practice with your family.