Stay warm safely this winter

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

We all have used them at one time or another. Just that added little bit of heat can make a nice difference on a really cold day. But did you know that space heaters account for four out of every five home heating fire deaths?

With the forecast calling for overnight temperatures dipping into the 40’s this week – and into the 30’s next week in Northern Ohio, you may be tempted to break out your space heaters.  And there are some things to keep in mind.

Any time you are using a portable electric heater, it’s important to remember to keep them at least three feet – from EVERYTHING. Look around and anything that’s liable to burn should be well away from those hot elements. Bed linens, blankets, socks, children’s clothes, draperies, newspapers and magazines, cardboard boxes, paper bags . . . they are all able to ignite easily if they contact the heating elements of a space heater.

Also, remember that space heater cords are designed to safety transmit the electricity needed to operate the device itself, but often, household extension cords are not. Many cords have wires that are a smaller gauge than required to transfer all the electrical current required by the space heater. That can cause inexpensive extension cords to literally melt and start a fire just from continued use.

To view a video with tips from the National Fire Protection Association, CLICK HERE.

The ‘three-foot’ rule

Space heaters aren’t the only things that benefit from the three-foot rule. The same goes for fireplaces, wood stoves, candles and your furnace. It’s best to teach young children that it’s a “Kid Free Zone” around anything flammable and that they are not allowed to be any closer than that.

And while half of home heating fires happen in the months of December, January and February, it’s also a good rule all year long. With windows open in the summertime, a breeze could easily blow draperies or loose paper into a burning candle if set too close. We need to be vigilant all year long.

Sweep and service

Other heating appliances also need your attention each year. Your furnace should be routinely serviced each year before heating season. Heating coils should be cleaned professionally. And don’t forget to change filters in your furnace every couple of months at least. With routine cleaning and new filters, your furnace will not only last longer, but you’ll feel warmer and have cleaner air to breathe.

Lastly, don’t forget that fireplace. Chimneys can get coated with creosote, and with as little as 1/8 to 1/4 inch of creosote on the walls of your chimney, when temperatures reach 451 degrees, creosote can catch fire.  A chimney fire has the potential to burn down an entire house, so check your chimneys if you haven’t had them cleaned recently.

Alarms save lives

On top of your home safety checklist should be to make sure that you have installed working smoke and CO2 alarms throughout your home. You need to check regularly that the batteries are fresh and that any alarm manufactured before 2011 is replaced. Even if the batteries are new, the actual detection mechanisms in smoke alarms cease to function after 10 years. Replace them immediately.

If you need alarms and can’t afford them or can’t install them, call the American Red Cross to be put on our complimentary free alarm installation list. Visit this site to learn more or to get on the list.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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