Media Contact: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
The Prince George's County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department is sharing fire safety and injury prevention advice from our friends at the United State Fire Administration (USFA). The high cost of home heating fuels and utilities has caused many Americans to search for alternative home heating sources such as wood burning stoves, space heaters, and fireplaces. Heating is one of the leading causes of residential fires. Over one-quarter of these fires result from improper maintenance of equipment, specifically the failure to clean the equipment.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is another danger when using heating equipment fueled by fossil fuel. It occurs most often when equipment is not vented properly. CO deaths have been on the rise since 1999. On average there were 181 unintentional non-fire deaths from CO poisoning associated with consumer products per year from 2004-2006 compared to 123 from 1999-2001 (Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission). Carbon monoxide poisoning is most fatal to adults age 65 or older.
PREVENTING HOME HEATING FIRES
In 2003-2006, the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28%) and deaths (46%) was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding (Source: NFPA). Many heating fires can be prevented by following basic safety tips when dealing with any heating equipment:
Wood Burning Stoves and Fireplaces
Use a metal or glass fireplace screen to keep sparks from hitting nearby carpets or furniture.
Be sure the fireplace or stove is installed properly. Wood stoves should have adequate clearance (3 feet) from combustible surfaces and proper floor support and protection.
Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn - including furniture, blankets, curtains, and paper products.
CARBON MONOXIDE SAFETY
Each year unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning claims hundreds of lives and sends several thousands of people to the emergency room for treatment. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health, and the concentration and length of exposure.
You can protect yourself and your family by following a few easy steps:
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste, or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill before you are aware it is in your home.
CO can come from several sources: gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces, and motor vehicles.