It is getting downright frigid at night. The calendar still says fall, but the blanket of frost on the lawn and cars tells a different tale. Regardless, there’s not much to do about it but try and stay warm as best we can.
If you are like me, your winter plans consist of hunkering down, bundling up and waiting it out.
But keeping warm goes hand-in-hand with fire prevention and safety. Last week, we talked about cooking safety, but today we are focusing on heater safety.
Because heating your home is more challenging than ever this season, you may be tempted to get a space heater. These little contraptions can do a world of good for chilly feet, but they also can be dangerous if not handled properly.
Here are some space heater safety tips:
• Place space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything combustible. Keep clothes, curtains, pet beds, books and newspapers away from the heater.
• Heaters that use wood, coal, natural gas or kerosene can produce carbon monoxide gas, so ventilation is essential. Opening a window may seem like defeating the purpose of trying to heat the house. However, fumes can be fatal so it is best not to take chances. Also, be sure to refuel the heater outside, and be mindful that the heater should be cooled. If fuel spills onto hot surfaces, a fire could result.
• This is a good place to mention the importance of a carbon monoxide detector. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is one of the most common causes of poisoning in the country, include headache, nausea vomiting and sleepiness. If you experience any these, call 911.
• Use only heaters with the Underwriters Laboratory safety listing.
• Don’t use extension cords with space heaters, but if you absolutely must, choose one that is marked “12-gauge” or “14-gauge.” Make sure nothing is resting on the cord, keep it out of the way so you don’t trip on it and never put the cord under a rug.
• Use only the fuel recommended by the manufacturer.
• Be sure that portable heating devices are turned off whenever you leave the room, even if you will be gone only for a minute. This is especially true if you have pets. If they are anything like mine, they can cause trouble in a matter of seconds.
Fireplaces and wood stoves are another heating option. But, just as with space heaters, there are precautions that need to be heeded:
• Burn only seasoned wood, not cardboard or trash. I know how tempting it is to burn junk mail and the like, but don’t. It is a good way for a fire to get out of control.
• Use a fireplace screen big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace. Watch out for crackling, flying embers as they can ignite flammable items that may be near by.
• Remember the smoke detectors which can be lifesavers. Change the batteries twice a year and test the detector to make sure it is working. If you have trouble getting or maintaining a smoke or carbon monoxide detector, call Eastern Area Agency on Aging’s EAA-Z Fix minor home repair program at 941-2865. Our volunteers are always at the ready to help keep you safe.
There is a simple way to take the chill off. A paramedic friend of mine told me that 40 percent of your body heat is lost through your head. She encourages everyone to wear a hat outside. I have taken this advice a step further and wear a pretty little knit cap around the house. It truly does make a difference.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at EAAA. E-mail Carol Higgins Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865 or toll-free (800) 432-7812, or log on www.eaaa.org. For TTY, call 992-0150.