By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio
November 14, 2019- Did you know that heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires, and fixed and portable space heaters, including wood stoves, are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths?
As the cold weather continues to creep into Northeast Ohio, residents continue to take efforts to keep their homes warm from the freezing temperatures. Unfortunately, some of those efforts can lead to tragic consequences.
Over the past two winter-like days, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio responded to 8 home fires, several related to alternative home heating sources, resulting in 23 residents being assisted and $3,695 in immediate financial assistance.
Nearly half of American families use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood/coal stoves to stay warm. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, every year, more than 200 people die from carbon monoxide produced by fuel burning appliances in the home.
If you and your family use alternative heating sources to stay warm, here are some prevention tips to help keep you safe this winter:
- Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.
- Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended.
- Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
- Place space heaters on a level, hard, nonflammable surface, like a ceramic tile floor, and away from bedding and drapes.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.
- NEVER use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
- Use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
- Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.
How to keep family and friends safe from carbon monoxide?
- Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness and confusion. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, move quickly to a fresh air location and then call 9-1-1.
- Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Test the alarm every month.
- Treat the alarm signal as a real emergency each time. If alarm sounds and you are not experiencing any symptoms, press the reset button. If the alarm continues to sound, call the fire department.
Visit redcross.org/homefires for more information on how to prevent heating fires.