Tips on being safe when heating your home
With the arrival of the coldest weather in years, many residents especially those without central heat and air will be struggling to keep their homes warm.
The Chattanooga Fire Department offers some pertinent safety tips related to the cold weather and keeping your home warm, as safely as possible:
- When it comes to heaters, remember the three foot rule. Keep anything that can catch fire at least three feet away.
- Make sure your alternative heaters have "tip switches." These devices are designed to automatically turn off the heater in the event they tip over.
- Never refill a kerosene heater while it is operating or still hot. Refuel those heaters only outdoors.
- Only use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer and follow the suggested guidelines.
- Make sure wood stoves are properly installed, and at least three feet away from anything that can catch fire.
- Use a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby carpets, furniture or other items that can catch fire.
- If you have wall and/or floor heaters, make sure that anything that can burn is at least three feet away from them. If you have moved furniture around over the summer, or just moved into a house or apartment that has these types of heaters, make sure nothing that can burn is within three feet of them. Many of these heaters don't have "on" and "off" switches, but rather a control knob for a thermostat that ranges from "low" to "high." When the temperature in the house drops low enough, these heaters will turn on, whether or not you have furniture in front of it. (This very thing happened on November 23, 2005 at a house on Lee Highway and it claimed the lives of a mother and her two daughters.)
- Do not use the kitchen oven range to heat your home. In addition to being a fire hazard, it can be a source of toxic fumes.
- Use the appropriate sized and type power cords to carry the electric load. Overloaded cords can overheat and are often the cause of home fires in extreme cold weather.
- Portable electric generators must be used outside only, never indoors, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow carbon monoxide to collect. Follow usage directions closely.
- Make sure you have working smoke alarms on all levels of your home, and outside your sleeping areas, and at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.
- Have a fire escape plan for your home. If fire does break out in your home, everyone in your home should know two ways out, and have a meeting place where everyone can be accounted for.
- Candles present a serious fire hazard. If your power goes out, use flashlights for emergency lighting. Keep extra batteries in your home to power those flashlights.
- Run water at a trickle to help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.
Facts about home heating fires
- In 2011, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 53,600 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 400 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries, and $893 million in direct property damage. These fires accounted for 14% of all reported home fires..
- Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third (33%) of home heating fires and four out of five (81%) of home heating fire deaths.
- The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28%) was failure to clean, principally creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.
- Placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment or placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding, was the leading factor contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half (53%) of home heating fire deaths.
- Half (50%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February.