Winter weather is here and so are cold temperatures. With such cold temperatures, caution is advised by U.S. Fire Administrators, when heating homes. Statistics show the majority of fires happen during the winter season and during periods of severe cold. At these times, homes require more heat for longer periods making it essential to keep safe by adhering to some basic safety tips.
While operating any heating source, whether it is a fireplace, portable heater or wood stove, homeowners should be positive the heating element is turned off or extinguished before retiring for the evening. It is recommended that a space heater of any kind be at least three feet from flammable objects: bedding, curtains or clothing.
In the operation of portable heaters, it is suggested that people only use quality brands from certified dealers. A recommended safety feature to look for in a space heater is an automatic shut off if the heater falls over. It is also important to understand that it is dangerous to use a power strip or extension cord for powering a heater.
Another suggestion is to utilize a metal or glass fire screen with a fireplace to prevent embers from escaping the fireplace. Such sparks can cause a fire if they are not contained. The Fire Administration advises homeowners to transport fireplace ashes in a metal carrier and dispose of them at least three feet away from your home.
If a fireplace or wood burning stove is used during the winter, the USFA recommends that homeowners have their chimneys checked and cleaned each year by experts. A clogged chimney can create carbon monoxide and smoke backup in the home. Birds and other animals may become trapped in the chimney during the off-season, causing a blockage.
It is also noted by the U.S. Fire Administration that people protect themselves from poisonous gases that are released by any combustible heating sources. This is best done by utilizing carbon monoxide detectors.
Here are a few cold weather tips to consider:
- Establish a kid free zone, three feet from any supplemental heating systems.
- Always supervise young children near fire pits, or any other form of heating source.
- Keep flammable materials away from heaters. Space is the best way to avoid fire accidents. Keep curtains, bedding, and paper at least three feet away.
- Use heating products that are labeled by reputable testing laboratories.
- Do not use an oven for heating.
- Install stationary heating elements, central heating, or water heaters by adhering to local building codes.
- Hire qualified professionals to do the installation of your heating equipment.
- Vent all fuel-burning devices to the outside, this prevents carbon monoxide poisoning. CO develops when fuels do not burn completely and CO gases can cause illness or death. Make certain that exhaust vents are kept clear with no obstructions. Do this by removing ice, snow or other debris from outside vents.
- Install carbon monoxide alarms and keep them in working order.
Portable Electric Heaters:
- Before leaving an area or retiring for the evening, turn heaters off.
- Purchase heaters with auto shut off feature.
- Place the heater on level surface.
- Plug the heater into direct outlets; avoid extension cords.
- Check cords for damages. If damage is found on the cord, have the cord professionally replaced.
Fuel Burning Room Heaters:
- Never use improper fuel for heaters.
- Refuel in outdoor areas or well ventilated spaces.
- While in use, open windows and allow fresh air into the area.
- For Kerosene or other fuel space heaters, always adhere to manufacturers suggested operation and fuels.
- Newer models of gas fired heaters are designed to be un-vented and they have with oxygen detecting devices. These heaters have instant shut off devices before CO levels reach a dangerous level. If this feature is not a part of your present gas heater, replace it for an upgraded model.
- In the event of a gas pilot going out, wait five minutes before trying to ignite it again. Light match prior to lighting heater and do not permit gas to build up.
- The odor of gas is a warning sign and may be dangerous. Turn off any controls, open windows and call a professional. Do not try to ignite the heater.
Wood Burning Stoves:
- Install all heating devices according to manufacturer’s instructions. In the event you cannot, hire an expert.
- Check a wood stove for a certified label. This assures the stove meets specified guidelines.
- Use seasoned wood in wood stoves. Dry pellets are best in pellet stoves.
- Initially, start fires easily with paper or kindling. Never with volatile liquids, starter fluids, kerosene or gas.
- Close doors of a wood stove, unless loading or tending the live fire. Embers might escape an open stove causing a fire.
- Dispose of ashes correctly. Use a metal container as a receptacle for ash and place ash residue ten feet from any structure. To ensure that the ash is not smoldering, soak it with water prior to disposing it.
In severe temperature changes of any kind, the elderly are especially vulnerable. If there are any older people in the neighborhood, share your expert knowledge of heat safety tips and help them stay safe.
The idea of a having a fire is unpleasant. However, should it occur, a family needs an evacuation plan. Create a designated meeting place so all are accounted for. After getting out, call emergency services (911). Stay outside and let professional fire fighters do the rest. There are too many variables in a fire, all possibly deadly.