Now that cold weather is upon us, we should prepare for the winter ahead and know a few simple safety precautions to prevent fire from striking our homes.
More than 5,000 people die each year in the United States from injuries sustained in fires. Most of these deaths occur during the winter. The reasons often include carelessly using home heating equipment and storing flammable and combustible materials improperly.
With this in mind we here at the Fire Prevention urge you to take a close look at any portable heating appliances that may be in the workplace or in use at home. Heaters should be in good condition and used in a manner they were intended for.
Some of the requirements for use of portable heaters in the workplace are as follow:
- Use of portable heaters must be approved by the unit commander, the Fire Prevention, and civil engineering must ensure the electric circuitry is adequate.
- Heaters must be approved for each location. If a heater is moved it must go through the approval process again.
- In the workplace, the use of heaters fueled by flammable or combustible liquids is prohibited.
- Heaters must be labeled by an approved testing laboratory such as Factory Mutual or Underwriters Laboratory.
- Portable heaters must be equipped with an automatic tip over switch to shut the unit off if it is knocked over.
- Heaters must have a minimum of 18 inches of clearance on all sides.
- DO NOT plug portable heaters into modular furniture. Most system furniture does not have electrical wiring designed to handle the electrical load of a space heater.
- Portable heaters are prohibited in health care facilities, with the exception of non-sleeping staff and employee areas. When used in these areas the heating elements are limited to producing no more than 212 degrees F (Check the manufacturer’s label).
- In the home, be aware of the following:
- Change or clean the furnace filters as necessary, whenever a dust buildup occurs.
- Do not use rooms/closets with the furnace as storage areas, and do not place objects over or around the thermostat if that item might block the flow of air to the thermostat.
- Do not use portable heaters in an area such as a garage, which might have a buildup of gasoline vapors or other flammable vapors.
- Portable heaters that utilize flammable liquids for fuel, such as kerosene heaters present a very dangerous asphyxiation hazard. These heaters must be used in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not ever utilize fuels other than those recommended by the manufacturer.
In addition to the above tips, make sure all your smoke detectors are fully operational by testing them on a monthly basis. Have a family evacuation plan in place and PRACTICE that plan before an emergency occurs. Don’t wait until you have a fire to find out that the plan doesn’t work. Never leave a fire unattended. Keep an extinguisher or a supply of sand on hand to control flames if the flames get too large. Read instruction on how to use your extinguisher properly and never apply water to a hot stove or chimney as thermal shock cause damage.
To get assistance with this, or any other fire safety issue, call the Fire Prevention Section at (661) 277-3643/3124.