With Winter Storm Juno bearing down and home heating systems kicking into high gear in January, one of the year's worst months for home heating fires, the NFPA urges caution in the days ahead. Safe and proper use of heating equipment is key to preventing fires and other hazards such as carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
Most home fires are started by heating equipment left unattended, so Job #1 is to closely monitor all heating equipment, particularly space heaters, which cause 33% of home heating fires and an average of 81% of deaths in home heating fires per year.
Following these NFPA safety precautions will cut your risk of home heating fires and CO poisoning:
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, including furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and portable space heaters.
- If there are children in your home, create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around space heaters and open fires.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- For fuel-burning space heaters, always use the kind of fuel specified by the manufacturer.
- Plug only one heat-producing appliance (such as a space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time.
- Remember to turn off portable heaters when you leave the room or go to bed.
- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Cool the ashes before putting them in a metal container and keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
- Keep portable generators outside, away from windows and as far away as possible from your home.
- All fuel-burning equipment should be vented outside your home.
- Do not light your gas heater if you smell gas. Get out immediately and call 911 or the gas company.
- If you need to warm up a vehicle, leave the garage immediately after starting it. Never run a fueled engine or motor indoors, even with the garage doors open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is clear of snow.
- During and after the storm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow.
- Test your CO alarms to make sure they’re working properly.
- If you start feeling sick or dizzy while your generator is running, it could be carbon monoxide. Get to fresh air ASAP.
- Before you refuel, turn the generator off and let it cool down; don’t refuel a generator while it’s running.
- Make sure fuel, including gasoline and other flammable liquids, is stored in properly labeled safety containers. Place the containers outside living areas and away from fuel-burning appliances such as a gas hot water heater.
- Always use extreme caution when operating electrical equipment in a damp or wet environment.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy duty outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure the cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Do not try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.