January 26, 2015 - Long Island, NY - As Winter Storm Juno fast approaches, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urges the public to use added caution when heating their homes in the days ahead. Home heating equipment is the second leading cause of U.S. home fires and home fire deaths, with January being one of the three leading months for home heating fires. In addition, improperly used or malfunctioning heating equipment can create carbon monoxide (CO), a poisonous, potentially fatal gas in the home.
“As everyone hunkers down during the storm, home heating systems will be kicking into high gear,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “Using that equipment safely and properly is paramount to preventing fires and other hazards while riding out the storm.”
Unattended heating equipment is the leading cause of home heating fires, said Carli. She urges people to monitor all heating equipment carefully, particularly space heaters. Whether portable or stationary, space heaters account for one-third (33 percent) of home heating fires and four out of five (81 percent) of home heating fire deaths on average per year.
Also, with the potential for power outages, Carli strongly encourages people to have flashlights and battery-powered lighting at the ready; never use candles to light your home.
NFPA offers the following safety precautions to greatly reduce the risk of home heating fires and carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. This includes 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 right kind of fuel, as 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 leaving the room or going to bed.
- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. 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 to the outside of your home.
- If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
- If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
- During and after the storm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
- Test your carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they’re working properly.
- If you begin to feel sick or dizzy while your generator is running, you may be breathing in carbon monoxide. Get to fresh air quickly.
For homeowners who use portable generators during power outages, NFPA offers the following safety precautions:
- Turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling; don’t refuel it while it’s running.
- Make sure fuel, including gasoline and other flammable liquids, is stored in properly labeled safety containers. Place them outside all living areas and away from any 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, 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.
For more information on home heating and carbon monoxide safety, visit “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires”, NFPA’s winter safety campaign with the U.S. Fire Administration.
About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 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. NFPA develops more than 300 codes and standards to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other hazards. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed at no cost at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.