In south Louisiana, we don’t have to use heaters as often as much of the country. But that doesn’t exempt us from heating-related tragedies.
In the Baton Rouge area, Acadiana and southeast Louisiana from Nov. 1 to Nov. 23, the American Red Cross has responded to 100 fires, aiding 129 families. The fires caused six fatalities and two hospitalizations, said Nancy Malone, public affairs director for the Red Cross Louisiana Region. Heating-related fires are the No. 2 cause of home fires, second only to kitchen fires.
“We know Americans have a false sense of security about surviving a fire, are overconfident in their ability to escape and actions of their children to escape, and engage in risky behaviors that can cause a home fire even after knowing someone who died or suffered injuries in a fire,” Malone said.
Safety organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration offer tips to prevent such tragedies during cold weather.
Keep children and anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater.
Have chimneys and heating equipment cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional. If using a chimney, place a spark-preventing screen in front of it.
Never use your oven to heat your home.
Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
Install smoke alarms, and test them monthly.
If you use an electric heater, be sure not to overload the circuit.
Only use extension cords which have the necessary rating to carry a sufficient amperage load. Choose an extension cord the same size or larger than the appliance’s electrical cord.
Avoid using electrical space heaters in bathrooms or other areas where they may come in contact with water.
Never try to thaw frozen water pipes with a blow torch or other open flame, otherwise the pipe could conduct the heat and ignite the wall structure inside the wall space. Use hot water for thawing or a heating device like a hand-held blow dryer, evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Have an escape plan, and practice it.
If windows are used as emergency exits in your home, practice using them in the event fire should strike. Be sure that all the windows open easily.
Home escape ladders are recommended.