After an unusually mild December, winter has finally arrived as much of the Northeast is blanketed by icy winds and sub-freezing temperatures. Here, we share some tips — courtesy of our friends at the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) — to stay safe (and warm) in the chilly months ahead.
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Fireplaces and space heaters can be useful in keeping warm, but they must be properly and safely utilized. It’s important to double-check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to minimize risks. Statistics from the NFPA show that there is a higher risk of dying from a fire during the winter season, with December through February ranking among the deadliest months for fires.
“As the weather is growing colder and colder, we encourage New Yorkers to follow these simple steps to remain as safe as possible,” says FASNY President Robert McConville. “The numbers don’t lie: there are more fires and fire deaths during the winter, many of which can be avoided. Stay warm, and stay safe.”
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Portable Space Heaters
- Never leave a portable space heater in a room unattended, and always follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and maintenance.
- Use space heaters for a limited time each day.
- Never connect a space heater to an outlet with an extension cord.
- Unplug the unit when not in use. Let it cool down prior to storing the unit.
- Keep a window ajar or the door open in a room where an unvented heater is in use.
- Never use heaters to dry clothing or other combustibles.
- Make sure the flue is open before using a fireplace for the first time this season.
- Remove any and all obstructions from your chimney. Obstructions will cause carbon monoxide to back up into your home.
- Never leave a fireplace unattended.
- Chimneys and vents should be inspected and cleaned annually.
- Take care when stoking a fire. Do not burn newspapers or trash in a fireplace. Doing so may ignite a chimney fire or send flaming embers into your home, causing fire.
Gas or Electric Furnaces
- If smoke emanating from the furnace turns black and the furnace starts to rumble, leave the building immediately, and call your local fire department.
- All heating units should be tuned up by a professional certified technician. Regular inspections and cleanings of your heating system help to ensure maximum efficiency during the winter months.
Coal and Wood Burning Stoves:
- Use coal only if specifically approved by the stove manufacturer.
- Gasoline or other flammable liquids should never be used to start a wood fire.
Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors:
- Test your home smoke alarms at least once per month. Do this by pressing the “test” button on the unit.
- If your detectors are battery operated, check the batteries often to make sure the units are operational.
- If you do not have one already installed, install a carbon monoxide detector to detect production of potentially lethal carbon monoxide by gas fireplaces, gas stoves, barbecues, gas furnaces.
- Use Daylight Saving Time as a bi-annual reminder to change your smoke detector and CO detector batteries twice a year.
For additional information on home heating safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website at www.nfpa.org.