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Home Heating and Holiday Safety Advice from NFPA

LongIsland.com

Greetings, Hal here. This months article is all about winter months and the safety issues that are so very important to all of us in our homes. PLEASE take a moment to brush up on ...

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Greetings, Hal here. This months article is all about winter months and the safety issues that are so very important to all of us in our homes. PLEASE take a moment to brush up on the few things that all of us must do in order to insure the safety of our familys.

Home Heating and Holiday Safety Advice from NFPA

December, January and February are the leading months for U.S.
home fires and home fire deaths. On average, more than one-third
of home fire deaths in the United States occur during the winter
months.

Safer Home Heating
NFPA's latest report on U.S. home heating fire patterns indicates that
heating equipment fires are the third leading causes of fire deaths in
American homes and the biggest fire culprit, December through January.
An estimated 59,700 home heating fires occurred in 1999, killing 406
people and injuring 1,350. The experts at NFPA say that most U.S.
home fires caused by heating equipment could be prevented by taking
simple safety precautions.

"The home heating fire problem in America is largely one of human error,
particularly with the misuse of portable heaters, fireplaces and
woodstoves," says NFPA's vice president for public education, Meri-K
Appy. "The critical elements of home heating safety have to do with
correct installation, maintainence, fueling and operation of portable and
space heaters, as well as safely arranging household items around them."
According to NFPA's report, the major causes of U.S. home heating
fires are:

lack of regular cleaning of chimneys in fireplaces and woodstoves;
placing things that can burn too close to space and portable heaters;
flaws in design, installation or use;
fueling errors involving liquid- or gas-fueled heaters; and
leaving portable or space heaters unattended.

Tips for Preventing Heating Equipment Fires
When purchasing new heating equipment, NFPA advises selecting
equipment that bears the mark of an independent testing laboratory.
Install and maintain heating equipment correctly, and be sure it complies
with local fire and building codes. Where possible, have local building or
fire officials check the installation and maintenance.

"In many cases, you can actually prevent a fire just by reading and
following the manufacturer's instructions when using a heating device.
This is especially important when you are using a new heater for the first
time," says Ms. Appy. Here are some specific fire prevention tips from
NFPA to keep in mind when heating your home:

Portable and Other Space Heaters - Portable and space
heaters can be either electric-powered or fueled by gas, liquid fuel
(usually kerosene), or solid fuel (usually wood). All types must be
kept at least 36 inches (1 meter) from anything that can burn,
including furniture, bedding, clothing, pets and people. Space
heaters must not be left operating when you are not in the room or
when you go to sleep. Children and pets should be supervised at
all times when space heaters are in use. Ensure everyone is aware
of the high fire hazard associated with drying clothing or placing
combustibles over heaters. If you have an electric space heater,
check each season for fraying or splitting wires or overheating.
Have all problems repaired by a professional before operating the
space heater.

Portable Kerosene Heaters - If you have a liquid-fueled space
heater, use only the fuel recommended by the manufacturer.
Never use gasoline or any other substitute fuel, because the wrong
fuel could burn hotter than the equipment's design limits and cause
a serious fire. When refueling, always turn off the heater and let it
cool down completely before adding fuel. Wipe up any spills
promptly. If you are considering buying a kerosene heater, be sure
to check with your local fire department first to find out if it is legal
in your community. Store the kerosene away from heat or open
flame in a container approved by the local fire department, and be
sure it is clearly marked with the fuel name.

Fireplaces - Have your chimney inspected by a professional
prior to the start of every heating season and cleaned if necessary.
Creosote, a chemical substance that forms when wood burns,
builds up in chimneys and can cause a chimney fire if not removed
through cleaning. Always protect your home and your family by
using a sturdy fireplace screen when burning fires. Remember to
burn only wood - never burn paper or pine boughs, which can
float out the chimney and ignite your roof or a neighboring home.
Do not use flammable liquids in a fireplace. If you are purchasing a
factory-built fireplace, select one listed by a testing laboratory,
and have it installed according to local codes. If you decorate
your fireplace with Christmas stockings or other seasonal
decorations, don't burn fires in it.

Wood Stoves - Be sure your wood stove bears the mark of an
independent testing laboratory and meets local fire codes. Follow
the manufacturer's recommendations for proper installation, use
and maintenance. Chimney connections and chimney flues should
be inspected at the beginning of each heating season and cleaned
when necessary. Follow the same safety rules for wood stoves as
you would for space heaters. Burn only wood, and be sure the
wood stove is placed on an approved stove board to protect the
floor from heat and hot coals. Check with your local fire
department and local code officials before having your wood
stove installed.

Portable LP Gas (Propane) Heaters with self-contained fuel
supplies (cabinet heaters) are prohibited for home use by
NFPA fire safety standards.

Safer Holidays at Home
The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more
cooking, lots of entertaining, and an increased risk of fire. In 1997, 400
fires were started by ignition of Christmas trees in U.S. homes, causing
14 deaths, 24 injuries, and $10.3 million in direct property damage.
Decorating with candles can also be a fire hazard. Between 1993 and
1997, there were 8,690 home fires caused by candles, with 104
associated deaths and 947 injuries. Nearly $126 million in property
damage resulted from candle fires in that period of time. Follow these fire
prevention tips from NFPA to help keep your family safer during the
holidays:

Holiday Lighting - Take care when burning candles. Be sure
candles are placed in sturdy, non-combustible holders, and are
kept well away from decorations and other combustible materials.
Check candles frequently to make sure they don't burn down too
far or drip hot wax. Don't leave children unattended in a room
with lit candles, and always keep candles, as well as matches and
lighters, up high, out of the reach of children (preferably stored in
a locked cabinet). Don't display lighted candles in windows or
near exits in case you need these to escape. Under no
circumstances is it safe to use candles to decorate Christmas
trees! Keep flashlights and fresh batteries on hand to use for
lighting in the event of a power outage.

Holiday Entertaining - Use caution with holiday decorations
and whenever possible, choose those made with flame-retardant
or non-combustible materials. When cooking for holiday visitors,
remember to keep an eye on the range. Unattended cooking is the
leading cause of home fires in the U.S., so "stand by your pan!" If
there are smokers around your home, provide plenty of large,
deep ashtrays and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can
smolder and cause a trash fire, so completely douse cugarette
butts with water before discarding or flush them down the toilet.
After a party, always check inside and under upholstery and
cushions and inside trash cans for cigarette butts that may be
smoldering. If you have children in your home, keep matches and
lighters up high, out of their sight and reach (preferably in a locked
cabinet). Ask visitors who are smokers to keep their smoking
materials with them when they are visiting in your home.

Christmas Trees - Choose a fresh Christmas tree, and put it in a
stand designed not to tip over. Place the tree well away from heat
sources and exits, and water it constantly. If you purchase an
artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant. When
decorating with lights, be sure to purchase only those that bear the
mark of a testing laboratory. Replace any frayed or damaged
cords. For outside decorations, use only those lights labeled for
outdoor use. Bring outdoor lights inside following the holidays so
they are not damaged by extended exposure to harsh weather
conditions. Always unplug all lights before leaving home or going
to sleep and don't overload electrical outlets. Use only
battery-operated lights if you have a metal Christmas tree, or
decorate without lighting.