By CRISTIN REECE
PALESTINE — Jack Frost hasn't been nipping noses in this area for very long yet, but as temperatures continue to drop, emergency management officials are urging people to keep their heating sources from becoming fire hazards.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports on its website, www.nfpa.org, “while only 32 percent of home heating fires involve space heaters, they are involved in 79 percent of home heating fire deaths. Heating equipment continues to be the second leading cause of home fires behind cooking and the second leading cause of home fire deaths behind smoking.”
Anderson County's Emergency Management Director Tammy Lightfoot said the most important thing to remember about using electric space heaters is... space.
“Make sure any electric heater is at least three feet away from any potential fuel source — that's paper, wood, bedding, furniture, curtains, rugs, books, anything,” Lightfoot said. “Make sure they're sitting levelly, out of the way of regular foot traffic, especially if there are children or pets in the area. Keep an eye on them, too. If they are old, replace them; if they start to make a weird sound, replace them; and never leave them on if you leave the house.”
According to the NFPA's website, home fires are more prevalent in winter and winter storms that can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources also contribute to the increased fire risk.
“Whether your chimney supports a wood or coal stove or just a fireplace, be sure to have it cleaned and inspected at least once a year to reduce your risk of having a fire,” NFPA Vice President of Communications Lorraine Carli said in a release published at the NFPA website. “Heating fires and the deaths they cause can usually be prevented with awareness and a few simple actions.”
NFPA offers the following general heater safety tips, and a few for different types of heaters, as well:
• Supervise children when a fireplace, fire pit, or other space heater is being used. Use a sturdy, metal screen to prevent contact burns, which are even more common than flame burns.
• Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
• Never use your oven for heating.
• Make sure all fuel-burning vented equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is created when fuels burn incompletely. CO poisoning can cause illness and even death. Make sure the venting for exhaust is kept clear and unobstructed. This includes removal of snow and ice around the outlet to the outside.
• Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
Fuel burning space heaters
• Always use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer.
• When refueling, allow the appliance to cool and refuel outside or in a well-ventilated area.
• When using the heater, open a window to ensure proper ventilation.
• In portable kerosene or other liquid-fueled space heaters, always use the proper grade of the proper fuel.
• All new unvented gas-fired space heaters have an oxygen depletion sensor that detects a reduced level of oxygen in the area where the heater is operating and shuts off the heater before a hazardous level of carbon monoxide accumulates. If you have an older heater without this feature, replace it.
• If the pilot light of your gas heater goes out, allow five minutes or more for the gas to go away before trying again, do not allow gas to accumulate, and light the match before you turn on the gas to the pilot to avoid risk of flashback.
• If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not attempt to light the appliance. Turn off all the controls and open doors and window. Call a gas service person.
Wood burning stoves
• Install the stove, chimney connectors and chimneys following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation.
• Wood stoves should bear the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
• In wood stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
• Start the fire with newspaper or kindling, never with a flammable liquid, such as lighter fluid, kerosene or gasoline.
• Keep the doors of your wood stove closed unless loading or stoking the live fire.
• Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose of ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from the home and any other nearby buildings. Douse and saturate with water.
• Chimneys and vents need to be cleaned and inspected at least once a year.
NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education, according to its website.