Recently I completed an interview with the local fire safety prevention officer who offered some insightful advice on staying safe this winter. Normally we focus on physical therapy related topics, however occasionally if the quality of information warrants a veer from the norm…then we are going to take it. Two main ideas were conveyed in the interview, and they seem quite simple, be careful with space heaters and be aware of your exposure to carbon monoxide. However, when you dig a little deeper you will find that you (and more than 50% of the rest of us) are guilty of violating these simple rules thus placing ourselves and our families in unnecessary danger. Let’s get started with some information on space heaters, the leading cause of winter fire deaths.
- All space heaters used in your home should be labeled with “tip over protection”, which means exactly what it sounds like it means, if the heater should be tipped over it will shut itself off. Most heaters are equipped with “overheat protection” which means before they get hot enough to catch on fire they will shut off, but not all are equipped with tip over protection which is just as important.
- Any space heater should be plugged directly into a wall outlet and not into an extension cord or a power strip.
- Space heaters should not be used within 3 feet of ANYTHING…#3feetfromheatThe second biggest danger most of us will face in the winter time is exposure to carbon monoxide. CO is a poisonous gas that has no odor, it is a bi-product of incomplete combustion which is produced by any fuel burning device. It kills you by not allowing your blood to carry oxygen to vital organs like your heart and brain. Here are some examples of items that can generate this dangerous gas: generator, gas stove, gas furnace, gas water heaters, cars, and non-electric space heaters. Here are some things you can do to limit your exposure to this dangerous gas. Don’t warm up your car in the garage, even if the garage door is open. Don’t set up your generator outdoors near a furnace intake vent. Don’t use cooking appliances to heat your home. Don’t use a gas grill in an space attached to the house like a garage. Do inspect your vents to ensure that nothing is blocking your ventilation to outside prior to firing up the furnace or wood burner for the winter. Do open your fireplace damper completely and ensure chimney is clear prior to starting a fire. Most importantly have CO detectors installed in your home, there are products available that are both smoke and CO detectors.