Today is the first official day of winter and here in Florida we are expecting a high of 82 degrees, it sure doesn’t feel like Christmas! Around the country it has been cold and snowing since December so it is time for some safety reminders from the National Fire Protection Association.
‘Tis the season for rosy cheeks, button-down coats, and cranking up the heat. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), it’s also the time of year when home fires peak, many of which are caused by heating equipment.
“Half of all home heating fires occur during December, January, and February, when we are fully utilizing our heating systems” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA. “The public can reduce their risk of getting left out in the cold by following NFPA’s safe heating behaviors.”
In NFPA’s report “Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment,” in 2009, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 58,900 reported home structure fires, 480 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. Stationary and portable space heaters accounted for one-third (32 percent) of reported home heating fires, but nearly 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths, two-thirds (66 percent) of associated civilian injuries, and half (52 percent) of associated direct property damage.
Overall, fires, injuries and damages from fires involving heating equipment were all lower than in 2008 and fit into a largely level trend over the past few years. The number of deaths from heating equipment was virtually unchanged.
As temperatures begin to drop, here are some safe heating behaviors to follow:
- All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
- Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
- Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.
- 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.
- Test smoke alarms monthly.
In an effort to reduce winter fires, NFPA is partnering with the U.S. Fire Administration on a special campaign – Put a Freeze on Winter Fires.