PRYOR, OK —
With the onset of cold weather, Pryor Fire Department is urging residents to use their heaters safely.
“Stay warm, but stay safe,” said Assistant Chief B.K. Young.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that in 2011 alone, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 53,600 home structure fires.
Young said a common safety tip that is overlooked is to simply keep heaters clean and maintained.
“It's important to keep heaters of any kind clean and in good working order,” said Young. “It's also important to keep fire alarms in good working order.”
The NFPA reports that 28 percent of home heating fires were caused by a failure to clean the heater.
Young said it crucial to keep items away from a heater.
“We recommend a three-foot perimeter around the unit, it's vital to keep the area around the heater free of flammable items. Also, don't lay stuff on the heater to dry it out or warm it up,” said Young.
The NFPA says that placing items like furniture, clothing or bedding too near a heater is the leading factor contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounts for 53 percent of home heating fire deaths.
Getting in the habit of ensuring portable heaters are turned off when nobody is home is a good safety practice as well.
In regard to portable space heaters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency makes a few recommendations as well; buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Labora-tories (UL) and check and make sure the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
“Especially during the times of year when you're using a heater, having a CO detector is a great idea. And it's always a good idea to have working fire alarms, whose batteries are checked regularly, and fire extinguishers,” said Young.
Young said to be sure to keep holiday decorations away from heaters and to keep exits clear.
“Also with the combination of heaters and holiday decorations it's important not to overload power cords and outlets,” said Young, who also warned against plugging one power strip into another.
The FEMA website states that “frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.”
Be sure outdoor lights are being used outdoors and indoor lights are being used indoors, he said.
“Also, as cliché as it sounds, be sure to have an escape plan and practice it with the whole family,” said Young.