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Fire Safety Tips for the Winter Months

12/10/2015

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Each year, thousands of people suffer injuries in home fires in the U.S. The majority of fire-related deaths (about 70%) are caused by smoke inhalation of the toxic gases produced by fires. Fires and burns are a leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths among children ages 14 and younger.

By taking appropriate steps to make your home safe, you can protect your children and your family from fires. The INTEGRIS Paul Silverstein Burn Center, which has been operating since 1975, is one of only two adult burn care centers in Oklahoma. The staff would like to pass along these fire safety tips when you heat your home during the winter months.

Smoke Detectors

First, the most important aspect of home fire safety is making sure every home has a working smoke detector, and that these detectors are checked monthly with batteries being changed every six months, or at daylight savings time in spring and fall.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

These alarms are easy to install and can save lives. They do not take the place of smoke alarms but having one is the next important step to a safe environment in the home. Any open flame heater creates carbon monoxide gas, and if your home’s heating devices are not functioning properly, this gas can be deadly. These alarms are becoming more affordable, more effective and if you have a flame operated heating device in your home, indispensable.

Space Heaters

Dust and lint may have accumulated in the space heater. Be sure to clean them thoroughly with a vacuum cleaner. Here are some additional warnings.

  • For gas space heaters adjust the flame to blue to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide build up.
  • Caution children not to stand too close to a space heater to warm up, as their clothing could catch fire.
  • Give space heaters their space! Be sure that all combustible material is away from the heater, at least three inches in all directions.

Floor Furnaces

Floor furnaces are safest when they are equipped with a thermostat and automatic shut off device. Clean the floor furnace by removing the grate and using a vacuum to remove dust and lint from inside the unit.

During the summer months, people often place throw rugs on the floor furnace. As the weather cools, they may remove these rugs and turn the furnace on. During warm days following a cold spell, people often throw the rug back onto the furnace without turning the unit off. Then, when it becomes cold again, the floor furnace automatically comes back on and ignites the throw rug. Be sure to remove rugs whenever the unit is switched on.

Central Heater

Clean or replace the furnace filter. Also, be sure to clean the entire furnace area using a vacuum to remove dust and lint. Finally, remove any brooms, boxes, magazines, newspapers or any other combustible material stored in the heater closet.

Fireplaces

It is very important to keep a good quality metal fireplace screen in front of the fireplace whenever it is being used to prevent burning logs from rolling out or embers from flying out. At the beginning of fall, inspect the fireplace and chimney (do it at least once a year), looking for cracks in the firebox, flue and chimney. Also check for build-up of soot and creosote inside the flue. Here are some additional tips.

  • Open the damper enough to allow the smoke and gases to escape up the chimney.
  • Never start a fire with gasoline, kerosene or any other flammable liquid.
  • Keep a three-foot area in front of and to the sides of the fireplace clear of any combustibles including, logs, kindling wood, paper, rugs, clothing or furniture.
  • Never leave a fire unattended. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving your home or going to bed.
  • Never burn charcoal in a fireplace. Charcoal gives off deadly carbon monoxide gas that can fill a room and overcome the occupants.
  • Never cook in a fireplace. Grease from the food can build up inside the flue and catch fire.
  • Never burn more than two or three natural logs at one time.
  • Artificial logs made of compressed sawdust and wax should be handled differently from natural logs because they generate more heat. Burn only one artificial log at a time and do not burn an artificial log with natural logs.
  • Always make sure fireplace ashes are placed in a metal container. Never place hot embers in a combustible container such as a trashcan. Allow ashes to cool thoroughly before disposing of them.

Kitchen

While not related to heating your home, here are some important kitchen safety tips.

  • Keep pan handles turned away so a child can’t reach up and grab it, or cook on back burners instead.
  • Use caution when removing hot liquids from the microwave. This is especially for baby safety when microwaves are mounted high or above stove tops.
  • Do not set your hot water heater higher than 120 degrees. Keep it just below the medium setting.

There are many potential problems when we are heating our homes during the cooler months. If you need professional assistance with heating equipment preparation, google “OKC Heating Contractors” or “OKC Chimney Cleaning.” With a little caution, we can all remain safe and healthy during the winter season.

Check back to I On Your Health next week for holiday fire safety tips from the INTEGRIS Paul Silverstein Burn Center.

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