Furnaces and fireplaces have been used so far this season on a limited basis. But, as the cold weather approaches, furnaces and fireplaces will be called upon to provide heat on a daily basis.
The use of winter heating devices also increases the risks of fire and carbon-monoxide poisoning. The U.S. Fire Administration reported more than 54,000 home heating fires occur each year across the country. Home heating fires is the second leading cause of all residential building fires, following cooking.
The number of home heating fires has decreased from 200,000 in 1983 down to about 54,000 mainly due to safer heating equipment and public awareness of the dangers associated with heating a home.
Home heating fires are often caused by human error, particularly through the misuse of portable heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces.
It is important this time of year to make sure home heating systems have been inspected by a qualified professional. Furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and chimneys should be inspected and cleaned prior to the start of every heating season. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless deadly gas produced by fuel-burning equipment, such as furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces and kerosene heaters. Residents with at least one of these should install a carbon monoxide detector near sleeping areas.
Other sources of heat, such as portable electric and kerosene heaters and wood-burning stoves must be used according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Space heaters can provide additional warmth in a room but such heaters can be extremely dangerous. Never leave a space heater plugged in when not in use. Check electrical cords on a regular basis and discontinue use if the cord is damaged. Never use an extension cord with a space heater since the electrical draw could melt the cord and pose a fire danger.
The most important rule about space heaters is space. Fire safety officials recommend space heaters be placed at least 3 feet from anything else that can burn. Space heater-caused fires occur when a heating unit is left unattended during the night or with a child or family pet is present. Fireplaces can provide aesthetic charm to a home and additional heating but also can provide danger. Make sure to use a screen to prevent the escape of sparks, which can ignite nearby objects. Burn only dry, seasoned wood and properly dispose of cooled ashes. Never leave a fireplace unattended, especially at night.
The safest items to have in a home any time of the year are working smoke detectors.
Also, plan and practice fire escape routes with the entire family.
Winter is about to set in and we all need to be prepared so we can stay warm and safe this season.