With colder weather setting in across North Carolina, Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey urges families to exercise fire safety when it comes to heating their homes.
“Prevention is the first step in protecting our families from fire,” said Commissioner Causey. “That’s why Fire Prevention Week is so important to bring awareness to the risk of death in case of a fire and provide educational resources to keep everyone safe.”
Each year during the winter months, there is an increase in the number of home fires related to the various forms of heating. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating is the second leading cause of home fires, deaths and injuries in the U.S.
“Half of home fire deaths occur in the night and early morning hours when people are asleep,” said Commissioner Causey. “That’s why it is imperative for family members to be mindful to use the furnace with care and know the dangers space heaters present.”
So far in 2018, 116 people have lost their lives in North Carolina because of fire.
In addition to fires, winter weather increases the chances of carbon monoxide poisonings. Carbon monoxide is often referred to as the silent killer because the gas released is colorless and odorless. Vehicles, generators and home heating can produce dangerous levels in your home in a short amount of time, enough to cause illness or even death. Carbon monoxide poisoning mimics common illness such as the flu or food poisoning with symptoms to include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches.
The North Carolina Department of Insurance, Office of State Fire Marshal and Safe Kids NC recommends the following NFPA safety tips to prevent fire, injury or poisonings:
~Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment.
~Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
~Never use your oven to heat your home.
~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, placed on a non-combustible area and stored a safe distance away from your home.
~Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
~Generators should be operated in well ventilated locations outdoors away from all doors, windows and vent openings.
~Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.
~Place generators so that exhaust fumes can’t enter the home through windows, doors or other openings in the building.
~Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is running.
~Store fuel for the generator in a container that is intended for the purpose and is correctly labeled as such. Store the container outside of living areas.
~A portable ethanol burning fireplace, and the fuel, should only be used by adults.
~Clean up any fuel spillage and be sure all liquid has evaporated before lighting the fireplace.
~Light the fireplace using a utility lighter or long match.
~An adult should always be present when a portable fireplace is burning.
~Place the portable fireplace on a sturdy surface.
~Never try to move a lit fireplace or one that is still hot.
~Don’t pour ethanol fuel in a fireplace that is lit or still warm. It may result in a fire or injury.
~Extinguish the flame in a portable or permanent fireplace when you leave the room, home or go to sleep.
~Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area on every level of the home and in other locations required by law or code. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
~Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
~Choose a carbon monoxide alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
~Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
~If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
~If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for.
~If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engines or motors indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
~During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
~Use gas or charcoal grills outside.
File photo: Firefighter at a house fire in Seven Lakes.