The Annapolis Fire Department wants to remind everyone that home fires are more prevalent in winter than in any other season. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires. Winter storms that can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources also contribute to the increased risk of fire in winter. Winter fires can be prevented! Chief David L. Stokes, Sr. wants to remind everyone to plan ahead for the adversities of the winter season by taking a few simple preventative measures.
Wood Stoves and Heating Systems
Make certain your wood stove and heating system are always properly maintained and ready for extended use:
- For maintenance of your heating system, contact a professional to inspect and clean your electrical heating systems, fireplaces, chimneys, vents and solid wood-burning appliances to ensure that all parts are working and free of combustible materials before using them. Do not try to repair them yourself;
- Use only UL approved electrical heater and gas appliances;
- Check electrical cords often and replace cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords;
- Use caution when operating appliances and follow the manufacturer’s specifications;
- Provide adequate ventilation when using these appliances;
- Use a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace. This will prevent sparks from escaping the fireplace and landing on flammable carpets;
- Extinguish the fire in the fireplace before leaving the house or going to bed; Scoop the hot ashes into a fire-safe metal container and take it outside away from the house, or pour sand onto the ashes to smother the fire;
- Do not close the damper when there are still hot ashes in the fireplace. Closing the damper may reignite the ashes and force the carbon monoxide (CO) into the house instead of being released up the chimney;
- If you smoke, use only fire-safe cigarettes and smoke outside.
Natural Gas Safety
Natural gas is odorless; therefore, BGE adds a “rotten eggs” odor to help you identify a potential leak. If you are not sure what natural gas smells like, call BGE, and they will gladly send you a scratch-and-sniff sample of the odor. It is vital to remember, that even if your home does not use natural gas, gas can still penetrate from outdoors. If you suspect a natural gas leak, leave the building immediately and, from a safe location, report it by calling 911 or BGE, at 1-410-685-0123 or 1-800-685-0123.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning is usually caused by incomplete combustion and inadequate ventilation. Signs of buildup of this colorless, odorless gas include: stuffy, stale or smelly air, or high humidity and soot from fireplaces or furnaces. Overexposure to carbon monoxide gas can cause headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting and loss of muscle control. Prolonged exposure can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage and even death. The best treatment for overexposure is to get lots of fresh air and immediate medical treatment.
To reduce the risk of CO poisoning, gas and oil manufacturers recommend a yearly safety check-up by licensed and qualified heating technicians or contractors. To prevent CO poisoning, keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Never operate a CO-producing engine or heating source in a confined area that lacks ventilation. Examples include leaving a vehicle running in a closed garage, operating a grill indoors or leaving a cooking range on for warmth;
- Have all heating systems, gas water heaters and chimneys, checked annually by licensed and qualified technicians or contractors;
- Install CO detectors (meeting Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standard #2034 requirements) above your home’s furnace and outside of all bedrooms; and lastly,
- If you suspect a CO problem with your furnace or water heater, call a licensed and qualified technician or contractor.
Should pipes become frozen do not use torches or other flame-producing equipment. This can cause home fires too. A hair dryer often will thaw pipes, as will the application of warm water. Pay close attention to the north and east sides of the house as they are vulnerable to freezing due to prevailing winds. In the event a broken pipe occurs, plan ahead by locating the main shut-off to the house and be prepared with a proper-fitting wrench. Broken water pipes need not occur if precautions are taken. Protect your water pipes from freezing by planning ahead:
- Turn off all outside faucets (preferably from an inside shut-off to each faucet). If no inside shut-off is provided, wrap the pipe with approved (UL) heating tape;
- You may also turn on any inside faucet, letting water drip slightly, allowing for expansion.
- Make certain that all vents from the crawl space under the house are closed or sealed to keep out cold air.
Keep ice melt (salt) available for icy steps and sidewalks in front of your home. Also, beware of “Black Ice.” “Black ice,” sometimes called glare ice or clear ice, refers to a thin coating of glazed ice on a surface. While not truly black, it is virtually transparent, allowing black asphalt roadways to be seen through it, hence the term “black ice.” The typically low levels of noticeable ice pellets, snow, or sleet surrounding black ice means that areas of the ice are often practically invisible to drivers and they aften do not know to reduce their driving speeds and be more cautious.
For more information about Cold Weather Safety, the causes of winter fires, winter storm fire safety, and tips that will help prevent the incidence of fire in the home, please contact the Annapolis Fire Marshal’s Office, at 410-263-7975.
For more Safety Tips, please visit the following link: http://www.annapolis.gov/government/departments/FireDepartment/SafetyTips.aspx
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