Winter Fire Safety Tips for the Home
Space heaters and heating stoves are used throughout the nation to increase the warmth in rooms. They do the job but can be dangerous. In order to use them safely, follow these guidelines.
- Never use a fuel burning appliance without proper vents to the outside. Burning fuel (kerosene, coal or propane, for example) produces deadly fumes.
- Be sure your heater is in good working condition. All room heaters need frequent checkups and cleaning. A dirty or neglected heater is a critical fire hazard.
- Use only the proper fuel for each heater. Never introduce a fuel into a unit not designed for that fuel.
- Never quicken a fire with kerosene or gasoline.
- Keep gasoline or other flammable liquids stored outside of the home at all times.
- Maintain adequate clearance in all directions around space heaters and heating stoves. (Surrounding surfaces should not become too hot for your bare hand.) Three feet is the minimum.
- Use a screen around stoves or space heaters which have open flames. Give the heater adequate clearance from walls and combustibles such as clothes racks, curtains, beds, or other furniture.
- If you use an electric heater, be sure your house wiring is adequate. Avoid overloading the circuit and overloading extension cords.
- Avoid using electric space heaters in bathrooms and certainly do not touch one when you’re wet.
- Avoid the use of Kerosene Heaters.
- When refueling an oil unit, don’t overfill it. If cold fuel is used, it will expand as it warms up inside your home and may cause burner-flooding; this could cause flare-ups. Don’t fill your heater while it is burning.
- Keep young children away from space heaters-particularly when they are wearing nightgowns. The nightgowns can be sucked in by a draft created by the heater and ignited.
- If you are using an approved, UL labeled space heater or heating stove in your bedroom, turn off your heater or turn it low before going to bed. When using a fuel burning heater in the bedroom, open the window. Ventilation prevents suffocation that can be caused by a heater consuming oxygen.
- Use ONLY safety listed equipment. If you choose an oil heater, look for the UL label; a gas appliance, the AGA or UL label; or an electric heater, the UL label.
When temperatures inside are kept down, a crackling fire in the fireplace is a cozy and cheery way to keep warm but these fires, if not carefully tended, could cause tragedy. To use them safely, follow these guidelines:
- Do not use flammable liquids to start the fire.
- Keep a metal screen in front of your fireplace. Flying embers can start fires.
- Don’t use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite soot in the chimney by overbuilding the fire.
- Never burn charcoal in your fireplace, in a charcoal broiler or in a hibachi unit inside your home. Burning charcoal gives off deadly amounts of carbon monoxide.
- Be sure no flammable materials hang down from or decorate your mantel. A spark from your fireplace fire could ignite these materials and cause a fire.
- When you go to bed, be sure your fireplace fire is out. Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper can help hot ashes build up heat to the point where a fire could flare up and ignite the room while you are asleep.
- If your fireplace hasn’t been used for some time, have it and the chimney checked before using.
- Follow the directions on the package if you use man-made logs. Never break a man-made log apart to quicken the fire.
It’s important that you have your furnace checked out and cleaned regularly, and that it be in good working condition. Furnace fire safety tips need to be observed all year round. Some things you should know:
- Be sure all furnace automatic controls and emergency shutoffs are in good condition.
- Leave furnace work to experts. Don’t attempt repairs unless you are qualified.
- Have the repair man check the wall and ceiling near the furnace and flue. If they are hot, additional insulation or clearance may be needed.
- Check the flue pipes. Are they well supported? Free of holes and clean?
- Is the chimney solid? No cracks or loose bricks? All unused flue openings should be sealed with solid masonry. Are they?
- Keep trash and combustible storage away from the heating system.
- Don’t store hot ashes in the home; take them outside immediately.
- Never use a gas range or an oven to heat your kitchen. Any un-vented fuel burning appliance is capable of producing deadly levels of carbon monoxide.
- Don’t leave lit oven doors open. Children could burn themselves on the heating elements.
Detection and Escape
All homes, condominiums, and apartment residences (including hotel rooms) are required by law to have smoke detectors installed. Install a smoke detector outside the bedroom areas on the ceiling and on every living area of your home. Have a fire escape plan and have the entire family practice it. If windows are emergency exits in your home, train your family to use them in case a fire should strike and see that the storm windows open easily. Plan a meeting place outside for all family members to meet after practicing your drill. This will help to ensure that everyone has escaped the building safely.
Frozen pipes? Don’t try to thaw them with a blowtorch or other open flames. Use hot water or a UL labeled device for thawing; otherwise a fire could be the result. Is there a fire hydrant outside of your home? If there should be a fire, firefighters need to be able to hook their hose up to that hydrant. Shovel the snow away from the hydrant. It may save your home or that of your neighbors.
If a Fire Strikes, Sound the Alarm, Leave the Building Quickly, and Stay Outside.
Notify the Fire Department by Dialing 911 and Say
“I Want to Report A Fire.”