Putnam County residents urged to prepare for below-zero temperatures

Saturday, January 4, 2014

With temperatures expected to dip below zero, along with an expected 7 to 10 inches of snow, Putnam County residents are reminded to stay fire safe this winter.

Greencastle Fire Safety Prevention Officer Christy Glass along with the U.S. Fire Administration remind residents that they should be prepared to stay inside and observe safe heating practices.

"Our biggest concern is space heaters," Glass said. "With the cold temperatures coming up this weekend our biggest worry is people resorting to alternative heating sources such as space heaters, ovens, turning burners on and salamanders."

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in 2011, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 53,600 reported home structure fires, with associated losses of 400 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries and $893 million in direct property damage.

Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third of home heating fires and four out of five of home heating fire deaths in 2011.

The leading factor contributing to home heating fires was failure to clean, principally creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.

To prepare for the freezing temperatures, people should get stocked up on food and drinks; it would also be good to have an emergency kit put together with plenty of blankets and flashlights.

Putnam County law enforcement will also have extra manpower scheduled starting on Sunday.

"The best place for people to be is inside," Glass said. "The best thing for people to do is get everything done before the weather hits. So, that way they can stay at home and be safe and stay out of this cold weather."

Glass also noted that if a person were to have to go to the hospital, rather than driving, to call 911 and emergency personnel will come and get them.

"The lower the temperatures the higher the risk," Glass added. "You've just got to be really careful. A lot of people won't look at what's safe, they'll look at what's cost effective."

Generator Safety

* Follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines when using generators.

* Use a generator or other fuel-powered machines outside the home.

* Use the appropriate sized and type power cords to carry the electric load. Overloaded cords can overheat and cause fires.

* Never connect generators to another power source such as power lines. The reverse flow of electricity or 'backfeed' can electrocute an unsuspecting utility worker.

Furnance heating

It's important that you have your furnace inspected to ensure that it is in good working condition.

* Be sure all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs are in proper working condition.

* Leave furnace repairs to qualified specialists. Do not attempt repairs yourself unless you are qualified.

* Inspect the walls and ceiling near the furnace and along the chimney line. If the wall is hot or discolored, additional pipe insulation or clearance may be required.

* Check the flue pipe and pipe seams. Are they well supported, free of holes, and cracks? Soot along or around seams may be an indicator of a leak.

* Keep trash and other combustibles away from the heating system.

Kerosene Heaters

* Be sure that kerosene heaters are legal in your area.

* Be sure your heater is in good working condition. Inspect exhaust parts for carbon build up. Be sure the heater has an emergency shut off in case the heater is tipped.

* Never use fuel burning appliances without proper room venting.

* Use ONLY the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer. NEVER introduce a fuel into a unit not designed for that type fuel.

* Keep kerosene, or other flammable liquids stored in approved metal containers, in well ventilated storage areas, outside of the house.

* NEVER fill the heater while it is operating. When refueling an oil or kerosene unit, avoid overfilling. DO NOT use cold fuel for it may expand in the tank as it warms up.

* Refueling should be done outside of the home.

* Keep young children away from space heaters- - Especially when they are wearing night gowns or other loose clothing that can be easily ignited.

* When using a fuel burning appliance in the bedroom, be sure there is proper ventilation to pre-vent a buildup of carbon monoxide.

Wood stoves

and fireplaces

Wood stoves and fireplaces are becoming a very common heat source in homes. Careful attention to safety can minimize their fire hazard. To use them safely:

* Be sure the fireplace or stove is installed properly. Woodstoves should have adequate clearance (36") from combustible surfaces, and proper floor support and protection.

* Woodstoves should be of good quality, solid construction and design, and should be UL listed.

* Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary, especially if it has not been used for some time.

* Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.

*Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening, to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out, unwanted material from going in, and help prevent the possibility of burns to occupants.

* The stove should be burned hot twice a day for 15-30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.

* Don't use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite creosote in the chimney by overbuilding the fire.

* Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.

* Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. NEVER close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.

* If synthetic logs are used, follow the directions on the package. NEVER break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire or use more than one log at a time. They often burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.

Other fire safety tips

* Never discard hot ashes inside or near the home. Place them in a metal container outside and well away from the house.

* Never use a range or an oven as a supplemental heating device. Not only is it a safety hazard, it can be a source of potentially toxic fumes.

* If you use an electric heater, be sure not to overload the circuit. Only use extension cords, which have the necessary rating to carry the amp load.

* Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater.


*Be sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm, and be sure to check and clean it on a monthly basis.

*Plan and practice a home escape plan with your family.

*Contact your local fire department for advice if you have a question on Home Fire Safety.

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