Fire and carbon monoxide poisoning are the two greatest winter dangers in the home. To prevent these threats, Central Emergency Services Fire Marshal Gary Hale recommends the following:
Install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Smoke detectors should go on the ceiling as smoke rises. Carbon monoxide detectors can go anywhere between the floor and ceiling, as the gas weighs about the same as air.
Make sure all detectors have a reliable power source. Hard-wired detectors with battery backup systems are best, but battery powered systems work as well. Change batteries twice a year, and check batteries every month.
Keep chimneys and stove pipes well-swept and free of creosote buildup, which often ignites to cause chimney fires. Chimney brushes are available at area stores and can be borrowed, free of charge, from most area fire departments. Professional services also can be hired to clean chimneys.
Equip fireplaces with screens to keep embers from leaping onto carpet or linoleum.
Do not use gas or other flammable substances to accelerate fires.
Dispose of hot ashes in fireproof containers stored away from the house. Do not use paper or plastic bags and do not keep ashes in garages or closets.
Use space heaters to manufactures' specifications. Allow at least 36 inches of open space around heaters, and purchase units that have a trip switch which turns the unit off if it tips over.
Make sure natural gas appliances are in good working condition to avoid carbon monoxide leaks. Systems should be maintained once a year by professionals and should always be used as per specifications.
Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The colorless, odorless and potentially lethal gas can cause flu-like symptoms -- but symptoms often disappear when a person is no longer in contact with the gas.
In the event of a carbon monoxide leak or fire, get out of the house and stay out. Call 911 immediately from a cell phone or neighbor's home.
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