The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department (PGFD) is reminding everyone that home fires are more prevalent in cold weather than in any other time of the year. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires. Winter storms can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources which also contribute to the increased risk of fire in winter. This reminder involves the safe use of space heaters and general heating safety tips.
The Winter Residential Building Fires report released by USFA in 2010, reports an estimated 108,400 winter residential building fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1.7 billion in property loss.
Cooking and heating are the top causes of fires during cold weather. “The winter season brings the highest number of home fires than any other time of year,” said Fire Chief Bashoor. “Each winter season, home fires increase in part due to cooking and heating fires. Fire safety and injury prevention must not be lost in an effort to stay warm. Stay warm and do so safely. Safety First ensures everyone goes home.”
The men and women, career, civilian and volunteer, of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department recommend the following safety tips for space heaters.
Electric Space Heaters
• Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
• Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
• Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater.
• Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater.
• Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use. Turn off at night or whenever you sleep. - - Never use an extension cord with space heaters - plug directly into wall socket.
Using a kerosene heater??? Never refuel indoors. Remove the kerosene heater outdoors, turn off and wait for it to cool down before refueling and only use the correct type of fuel.
General Heating Tips
Finally, ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are working by pushing the test button on the front cover. If you do not hear an audible warning, replace your alarm with a new 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature alarm. Having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. A working CO detector will protect you and your family from deadly "silent killer" fumes that may be building up in your home. Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.
Residents of Prince George’s County can contact our "Safety First" smoke alarm program at 301-864-SAFE (7233). A firefighter will install a working smoke alarm in your home free of charge. For additional information from the USFA on Winter Fire Safety; click here.usfire.gov