Colder Outside Temps Threaten Home Safety

January 10, 2005

With the country bracing for some of the coldest months of the winter season, the potential for home injuries reportedly rises significantly with the abundance of common winter time threats.

The nonprofit Home Safety Council is urging families to pay close attention to three dangers that can produce deadly results for households: carbon monoxide poisoning, home heating equipment and power outages.

“The winter season is a time when families are especially vulnerable to
home injuries,” said Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council. “The increased use of alternative heat sources and weather-related power outages create multiple opportunities for dangers in the home. While we cannot change the course of nature, families can change their home safety practices to ensure a safer home environment during the winter months.”

Safety tips:

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning Precaution:
The Home Safety Council’s State of Home Safety in America report
revealed 67 percent of American households use fuel-burning appliances and equipment, such as gas, wood, or kerosene that can emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide, commonly known as “the senseless killer” because it is colorless and odorless, claims the lives of nearly 300 people in their homes each year according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Follow these guidelines to help keep the family safe.
– Install at least one CO alarm to protect sleeping areas.
– Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up central heating system and repair leaks or other problems; fireplaces and woodstoves should also be inspected each year and cleaned or repaired as needed.
– Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and serviced.
– Never use an oven or range to heat the home.
– Never use a gas grill inside the home or in a closed garage.
– Portable electric generators must be used outside only, never indoors, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. Follow usage directions closely.

Home Fire Precautions: Fireplaces and wood stoves
Colder weather typically brings an increased use of fireplaces, wood stoves and portable heaters for added warmth. The risk of home fires skyrockets during the winter season. In fact, January is the peak month for home fires in the United States.* The Home Safety Council recommends adopting the following fire safety precautions.
– Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home and near sleeping areas.
– Burn only wood — not trash, cardboard boxes, or Christmas trees because these items burn unevenly, may contain toxins, and increase the risk of uncontrolled fires.
– Have a professional chimney sweep inspect the chimneys one uses regularly every year for cracks, blockages and leaks and have them cleaned and repaired as needed.
– Keep all persons and flammable objects, including kindling, bedding, clothing and pets, at least 36 inches away from fireplaces and wood stoves.
– Open flues before fireplaces are used.
– Working fireplaces need screens or doors to keep embers inside.
– Keep young children away from working wood stoves to avoid contact burn injuries.

Portable space heaters
Heating equipment — especially portable and space heaters – requires careful use and proper maintenance. Follow these guidelines to help prevent fires, burn injuries and CO poisoning.
– Purchase electric space heaters that bear the mark of an independent testing laboratory, such as UL.
– Turn off space heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep.
– Supervise children and pets at all times when a portable space heater is in use.
– Kerosene heaters must be fueled outside; always use the recommended grade kerosene and never use an alternative fuel.
– Never use space heaters to dry clothing or blankets.
– Keep all flammable objects at least three feet from space heaters.

Power Outage Precautions: Lighting sources and perishable food
Winter storms can wreak havoc on households when power supplies are compromised, leaving millions of households cold and in the dark. The Home Safety Council recommends families plan for severe winter weather in advance to avoid situations that could have dangerous consequences.
– To avoid CO poisoning, portable electric generators must be used outside only, never indoors or in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. Always follow manufacturer’s guidelines.
– Never try to heat the home with a gas range.
– Stock up on batteries, flashlights, portable radios, canned foods, manual can openers, bottled water and blankets.
– Candles present a serious fire hazard. Use flashlights for emergency lighting. Do not permit children to keep or use candles in their rooms.
– Run water at a trickle to help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting if outside temperatures are below freezing for an extended period of time and the home has no heat.
– Store perishable food outside in the snow or in an unheated outside building if power goes out.

* NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)

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