Falling Winter Temperatures Bring Rise in Number of House Fires

by on October 23rd, 2010
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The fall seasonal drop in temperatures across the United States is already proving to be deadly. On November 3, 2011, three children perished in a house fire in Atmore, Alabama. November 28, 2011, three children died in an apartment fire in Union Springs, Alabama. December 7, 2011, three children expire in a mobile home fire in Broaddus, Texas. To avoid your family from becoming a tragic headline, take a few minutes to review the following home fire safety tips.

Space Heater Safety

According to statistical data compiled by the United States Fire Administration (USFA), space heater fires are the number one cause of home heating fire deaths in the United States. Space heaters include electric, gas, and kerosene, and can be portable or stationary.

An important factor in choosing either a portable or stationary space heater is that the choice be Underwriters Laboratory tested and bears the UL seal of approval.

If you are in the market for a portable space heater, make sure it has a tip over feature that automatically shuts off, when accidently tipped over. Stationary heaters should also be UL approved. Stationary space heaters, which include wood stove and gas, should be installed by a qualified technician.

If you’re bringing out a space heater from previous season use, clean it thoroughly before use. Check for frayed or cracked cords on electrical space heaters, and if damaged replace. Do not attempt to repair.

Keep at least a three foot clear perimeter between the heating equipment and any flammable material, including clothing, paper products, furniture, or curtains.

Never retire for the night leaving a space heater on.

Kitchen Stove Safety

Another leading cause of home fires involves the kitchen stove. Food should never be left unattended on a lit stove top or cooking in the oven.

The kitchen stove should only be used for what it was intended to do; cook food. The kitchen stove should not be used to heat the home, or dry clothes.

Fireplace and Wood Stove Safety

The high cost of home heating fuel and the potential for power outages due to bad weather has made fireplaces and wood burning stoves attractive alternatives for winter heating. But with these rustic and cozy heating equipment choices caution should also be taken.

As with other stationary heating equipment, a fireplace or wood burning stove should be installed by a qualified technician, and annual chimney cleanings should be scheduled to prevent the accumulation of creosote.

No accelerates should be used to start a fire in the stove or fireplace, and care should be taken when using large amounts of paper to start a fire, as a huge fire could ignite creosote in the chimney.

And before you settle in for a nice romantic evening in front of the fireplace, be sure to place a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to catch any fire sparks that might escape from its confines. Failure to do so could lead to burns to humans, pets, or furnishings.

Odds and Ends Fire Safety Tips

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed throughout the house, on each floor, inside each bedroom and the common area outside the bedrooms. Be sure to change alarm batteries annually, on a significant date for easy recall.

Only use manufacturer’s recommended fuel type for your heating equipment, and never store heating fuel inside the home. Store unused fuel in approved containers.

It probably can go without saying, but to be on the safe side, the obvious will be stated. Don’t use a charcoal grill or hibachi inside the home.

Keep lit candles away from children and pets, and never leave a burning candle in a room unattended. Remember to put out any lit candle before retiring for the evening.

Regularly practice family fire escape drills that include a designated meeting place outside the home, and never go back inside a burning structure.

With careful, proactive planning, and smart heating equipment purchases the fall and winter months can be a lot safer.

Sources

http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/focus/winter.shtm

http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/focus/smoke_alarms.shtm


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