Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Safety Tips from Chief Hatfield: Preventing Home Heating Fires

Who can prevent home heating fires? You can.

When the mercury drops, the risk of home fires starts to rise. Readers take note: Your family could be in serious danger! Heating equipment is the leading cause nationally of winter home fires and those fires are a major threat here in Jerome.

Although most people think they are safest in their own homes, homes are actually where we are at greatest risk of fire death. The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that 3,145 people died in home fires in 2003. More than 80 percent of fatal fires occur in the home.

And while October is known for fire safety in schools and workplaces and fire stations, autumn also signals the beginning of the heating season here in Jerome.

According to NFPA, heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires in the months of December, January and February. The organization estimates that roughly 55,000 home heating equipment fires occurred in the latest year the organization studied.

The Jerome City Fire Department wants to keep our city safe and hold down the number of heating-related fires this season. But we need your help.

Here’s what you can do:

• Keep things that burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
• Use fireplaces, woodstoves, heaters and furnaces properly and carefully, with good maintenance.
• Get furnaces and chimneys inspected once a year and cleaned or repaired if needed.
• Closely watch children and pets in rooms with heating equipment, and keep them safely away.
• Turn off portable space heaters when you get ready to sleep or if you leave the room.

Who can prevent heating fires? You can. NFPA’s data show that most home heating equipment fires involve portable or fixed space heaters (including associated chimneys), because they require more attention. Central heating furnaces are usually installed by builders; space heaters are more likely to be installed or placed by occupants and here’s where caution should be observed.

The start of the holiday season is a good time to check out your home’s heating equipment because it comes just before the start of the heating season. Get your chimney inspected and the furnace tuned up. Make sure you have a fireplace screen. If you’re buying new heating equipment, always select products listed by an independent testing laboratory. Choose a qualified installer and follow all codes and manufacturers’ instructions. And save the user’s guide that comes with the heating equipment, so you can keep it properly maintained in the future.

As your fire chief, it’s my duty to tell you what I know about this seasonal fire hazard and provide you with the safety basics you need to prevent a heating equipment fire. Then it’s up to you. Preventing heating equipment fires is simple – just keep these safety tips in mind and you’ll be on your way to a safer heating season.

1 comment:

  1. Space heater fires are almost always totally avoidable. The number one cause of space heater fires is placing the space heater too close to flammable materials like drapes and bedding. Here's a good space heater safety guide I found that covers some things most guides don't.