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Dec 15

Stay Warm Safely

Posted on December 15, 2014 at 4:14 PM by OCOM Specialist

By Kim Varner, Development Services Inspector/Technicia

Extreme cold temperatures pose a substantial danger during the winter season. However, although using a fireplace or an electric heater will keep you warm, you need to use precaution when using them. Carbon monoxide can build up and electric heaters can cause serious damage if unattended. Please take a moment to review these very important details about staying warm this winter season.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is produced by combustion. Common causes are:

  • Defective gas or oil furnaces and water heaters
  • Cracked chimney flues
  • Indoor use of charcoal grills
  • Use of a gas oven or range to warm a room
  • Closing the fireplace damper before the fire is completely out

Carbon monoxide accidents are preventable. Actions you should take to protect your family are:

  • Every autumn you should have a qualified technician inspect your gas furnace and appliances
  • Make sure your fireplace is in good repair and do not close the damper before the fire is out
  • Install CO (carbon monoxide) alarms to give your family a warning if CO is building up in your home
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. Carbon monoxide combines with hemoglobin in our blood and robs the blood of its oxygen. Early symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, and confused thinking. Without treatment, the victims will lose consciousness, and if no help is given, lose their life.

Carbon monoxide alarms should be located on every floor and mounted according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If the alarm goes off, everyone should get out of the house at once and call the fire department by dialing 911 from a neighbor’s house. Do not ventilate your house by opening doors and windows.

Fireplace Safety Tips

  • Buy the right size fireplace and one with an ODS (oxygen depletion sensor)
  • Purchase a carbon monoxide detector
  • Inspect the fireplace. Make sure it has adequate protective lining and smoke ducts
  • Ensure the chimney is clean and in good condition
  • Keep the top clear of tree limbs or debris, install a chimney cap
  • Always open the damper before lighting the fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool
  • Fuel the fire safely. For burning firewood in fireplaces, choose wood that has been dried properly
  • Never use gasoline, charcoal light or other fuel to light or relight the fire
  • Never keep flammable fuels near a fire. Vapor can travel the length of a room and explode
  • Do not use coal or charcoal in a fireplace because of the danger of carbon monoxide buildup
  • Do not burn trash or gift wrap in the fireplace because polystyrene foam and other coated materials can generate deadly fumes
  • Store ashes in a metal container. Dampen with water and seal tight. Allow four days of cooling in metal container, then locate a proper dumping area, like garden beds

Heater Safety

  • Keep at least three feet of clearance between your alternate heat source and anything combustible
  • Never have a heater on when you are not in the room or when you go to sleep, and never leave children or pets unattended near heating sources
  • Only use heaters that have been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features, such as automatic shut-offs
  • Install and use heaters according to manufacturer’s recommendations