Winter-time fire safety tips
- Do not plug space heaters into extension cords or surge protectors, but directly into wall outlets.
- All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
- Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
- Install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to Georgia code and manufacturer’s instruction.
- Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is created when fuels burn incompletely. Make sure the venting for exhaust is kept clear and unobstructed, including removal of snow around the outlet to the outside.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms inside your home to provide early warning of carbon monoxide.
- Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
Source: Hall County Fire Services, National Fire Protection Association
The past three major fires in Hall County have been caused by space heater misuse, Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said.
And balmy January temperatures don’t help the situation, he noted.
“Sometimes this weather is the worst for space heaters because they use that little space heater to heat up that area where they’re sitting, instead of warming up your whole house in the significant cold weather,” he said.
Space heaters plugged into extension cords can sometimes overload circuits, causing problems. Kimbrell said he uses space heaters, too, but the important thing is to power them correctly.
“If I’m in my office at home working or something, I’ll turn on the little space heater momentarily while I’m in there, instead of heating up the whole house, or in the mornings getting up to shower,” he said.
He recommends plugging the heater directly into an outlet, not into a surge protector and especially not into cheap two-pronged extension cords.
“They’re not made for something like a heater, and the load that a heavy heater pulls,” he said.
He added that there should be a radius of at least a yard of empty space surrounding the heater.
“Put a yard stick, spin it all the way around. Three feet,” he said.
It’s also important to have smoke alarms for when something does go wrong with a heater, or anything else that could cause a fire.
“Medical studies show that basically your nose is asleep for the most part, so that’s why smoke alarms are so important,” he said. “Your ears are still hearing but your nose is not smelling.”
Although building codes require a smoke alarm in every residence, some are neglected, he said.
“A lot of residences don’t have them; a lot of rental properties don’t have them because they’re there when they’re rented, and then the occupants sometimes take them down, remove the batteries, for different things,” he said.
“They are required, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be intact.”
Carbon monoxide can also be an issue during the winter, he said.
“Anything that burns — coal, oil, gas, anything that has a flame to it — can cause carbon monoxide,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about that in a totally electric home, unless you have a car in the garage.
“But any of those if they’re not properly maintained, or something’s wrong with them, could cause carbon monoxide, and that happens quite a bit,” he said.