Home heating calls for safety

Published 8:32 pm Thursday, October 22, 2009

As the coldest months of the year approach, people are beginning to use space heaters and fireplaces to heat their homes. But there are safe and unsafe ways of using indoor heating equipment.

There are many potential hazards that can be easily avoided by following a few simple tips.

“You never want to leave an electric heater or space heater unattended,” said Clanton Fire Chief David Driver.

There are also common mistakes people make when installing or operating a heater, such as placing a heater too close to combustible materials, or vice-versa.

Combustible materials include but are not limited to furniture, clothing, curtains or even a wall. Driver recommended following the manufacturer’s recommendations, which should be posted on the product.

Frayed electrical cords can pose a major fire hazard if not replaced promptly. Driver suggested replacing the entire cord rather than wrapping it with electrical tape.

“If [the damaged cord] cannot be replaced, I would definitely not use the heater,” he said.

While extension cords may be convenient, they can also pose a hazard. A cord pulling too much current can become extremely hot and cause a fire.

“Those electric heaters pull a lot of electricity,” Driver explained.

Fireplaces should have a protective screen in front of them. This is a good tip for both real fireplaces and those with gas logs.

Screens have a twofold purpose — to prevent items from falling into the fire, and to prevent hot embers from popping out onto carpet or furniture.

Those who do not have heaters or fireplaces have resorted to potentially unsafe alternatives to heat their homes, such as opening the door of a hot oven. Driver said this can be dangerous.

Aside from general fire prevention, homeowners should have a working smoke detector on every floor of the home.

These should be regularly tested, and batteries should be replaced promptly.

One method is to change batteries twice a year, during time changes. Next Saturday night, Oct. 31, people will turn clocks one hour back for Standard Time.

“Smoke detectors need to be tested once a month, or once a week,” Driver said. “Change your batteries twice a year.”