State Fire Commissioner Cautions Public to Put Safety First When Heating Homes

HARRISBURG – As winter approaches, Pennsylvania’s top fire fighting official reminded the public to exercise caution when heating their homes.

State Fire Commissioner Edward Mann urged citizens to follow 10 tips he outlined as part of the state’s ReadyPA campaign, which encourages Pennsylvanians to be informed, prepared and involved before a disaster strikes.

Mann said the tips can be lifesaving because residential fires can pose a considerable risk to homes and using unconventional heating methods can be even more dangerous.

“Of all the man-made fires in the state, residential fires have historically been the most costly in terms of lives lost,” said Mann. “Although most Pennsylvanians will use conventional methods such as furnaces, baseboard heaters or radiators to heat our homes this winter, some may look for less-expensive ways to stay warm. This can be very dangerous and even deadly.

“Regardless of which heating method you choose, remember to be smart about the decisions you make and keep safety a top priority.”

Mann urged Pennsylvanians to follow these tips this winter:

1. Never use ovens, ranges and grills as a primary or supplementary heating device. They may overheat and cause a fire, and they can produce deadly fumes.

2. Install carbon monoxide detectors in every home to warn of deadly gas levels.

3. Keep all heating devices at least three feet away from other objects, such as combustible walls and furniture.

4. Never fill kerosene heaters while hot and inside your home. Avoid overfilling the unit as cold fuel may expand in the tank as it warms up.

5. When using a space heater, never use an extension cord, never hang items to dry above the heater and never leave the space heater unattended.

6. Keep candles at least one foot away from anything that burns, especially highly flammable objects like Christmas trees, curtains and papers.

7. Make an escape plan that shows two ways out of every room and have everyone practice the plan before an emergency strikes.

8. Test your smoke alarm at least monthly by pushing the test button or by blowing smoke into the detector. Vacuum out the alarm at least once a year and make sure to replace the battery twice a year.

9. Inspect and clean your chimney before each heating season.

10. Burn only clean and dry hardwood in a wood stove or fireplace. Never burn plastics, trash or wood that has been treated with a preservative, paint or other chemicals.

The list, as well as other winter heating safety tips, is available at online.

ReadyPA also reminds Pennsylvanians to be prepared for other threats like winter storms, which create the potential for icy roads, power outages and prolonged exposure to the cold. There are several steps individuals can take to be prepared for a winter storm. Families should make an emergency plan so that everyone will know what to do and where to go in the event of an emergency.

In addition to a plan, Pennsylvanians should be prepared for winter emergencies by having an emergency supply kit at home, as well as a to-go kit (a smaller version of the home kit that is easily transportable) and a roadside emergency kit for their vehicles. Each of these kits should include basic necessities such as water, food and first aid supplies.

Other items can be specific to each kit. For example, roadside emergency kits should include basics like flares and jumper cables. Complete checklists for each kit are available at www.readypa.org.

For a free family emergency plan template, checklists for preparing emergency kits, or for information about winter heating safety, emergency preparedness or to sign up as a volunteer this winter, visit online.

For more information about the Office of the State Fire Commissioner and the fire service in Pennsylvania, visit www.osfc.state.pa.us.

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