Heating Fire Safety
The high cost of home heating fuels and utilities has caused many Americans to search for alternative home heating sources such as wood burning stoves, space heaters, and fireplaces. Heating is one of the leading causes of residential fires. Over one-quarter of these fires result from improper maintenance of equipment, specifically the failure to clean the equipment.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is another danger when using heating equipment fueled by fossil fuel. It occurs most often when equipment is not vented properly. CO deaths have been on the rise since 1999. On average there were 181 unintentional non-fire deaths from CO poisoning associated with consumer products per year from 2004-2006 compared to 123 from 1999-2001 (Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission). Carbon monoxide poisoning is most fatal to adults age 65 or older.
Preventing Home Heating Fires
In 2003-2006, the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28%) and deaths (46%) was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding (Source: NFPA).
Many heating fires can be prevented by following basic safety tips when dealing with any heating equipment:
- Keep or maintain a 3 foot clearance between all heating equipment and anything that can burn.
- Inspect and maintain heating equipment regularly for safety.
- Be sure to have fixed space heaters installed by a qualified technician, according to manufacturer’s instructions or applicable codes. Or, make sure a qualified technician checks to see the unit has been properly installed.
- When buying a new, portable space heater, make sure it has the label showing it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Space heaters should be turned off every time you leave the room and before going to bed.
- Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn – including furniture, blankets, curtains, and paper products.
- Choose space heaters that turn off automatically if they tip over.
- Never use a space heater to dry clothing.
- Do not use your oven to heat your home.
- Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
- Test smoke alarms monthly.
- Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid risk of carbon monoxide poisoning