As the first cold weather of the year approaches, many people will be turning on their heaters for the first time. Since colder temperatures result in longer operating time for heating equipment, there is more opportunity for that equipment to cause a fire. Chattanooga Fire Chief Lamar Flint reminds everyone to follow these important fire safety tips to avoid a tragedy in your own home:
· Have your furnace inspected and serviced by a qualified professional, if you haven’t done so already this year.
· Have your chimneys and vents cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional. (Not cleaning your chimney is the leading cause of chimney fires from built up creosote.)
· Use a glass or metal screen in front of a fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting carpets or nearby furniture.
· Dispose of hot ashes in metal containers placed away from the house or building.
· If you have wall and/or floor heaters, make sure that anything that can burn is at least three feet away from them. If you have moved furniture around over the summer, or just moved into a house or apartment that has these types of heaters, make sure nothing that can burn is within three feet of them. Many of these heaters don’t have “on” and “off” switches, but rather a control knob for a thermostat that ranges from “low” to “high.” When the temperature in the house drops low enough, these heaters will turn on, whether or not you have furniture in front of it. (This very thing happened on November 23, 2005 at a house on Lee Highway and it claimed the lives of a mother and her two daughters.)
· Never use a range or oven to heat a home or building.
· The three-foot rule also applies to space heaters. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from them.
· Plug electric space heaters directly into a wall receptacle. Never plug it into an extension cord.
· For kerosene heaters, follow all manufacturer’s instructions in using that heater, and be sure to refuel the heater outside, away from the house and never refill it while it is operating or still hot.
· Never use fuel burning appliances without proper room venting. Burning fuel (coal, kerosene, propane, etc.) can produce lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.
· Do not overload any electrical outlet or power strip. Be sure all cords are not frayed or stripped.
· Wood stoves should be of good quality, solid construction and design. Purchase wood stoves evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
· Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, and in every occupied bedroom. Test them monthly.
· If you have fuel burning appliances, install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home. Like smoke alarms, they will protect you while you sleep.
· Make sure you have a fire escape plan for your family. You should have two ways out of every room, and two ways out of your home.