MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady; Public Information Officer, 301-883-7154
Colder temperatures are in our forecast. The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department (PGFD) is reminding everyone that home fires and incidents involving carbon monoxide (CO) are more prevalent in cold weather than in any other time of the year. This is due in part to an increase to people staying warm in their homes and in cooking and heating fires. This reminder involves the safe use of space heaters and general heating safety tips.
Before the really cold winter weather arrives, NOW is a good time to call a heating, ventilation and are conditioning (HVAC) technician to check your furnace and ventilation system to ensure they are in good working order. This check-up will make sure the proper combustion is taking place and the by product of combustion, carbon monoxide(CO) is being properly ventilated to the exterior atmosphere.
The civilian, volunteer and paid men and women of the Fire/EMS Department want to remind everyone that fire safety and prevention are especially important during times of cold temperatures.
“Temperatures drop and fires increase,” said Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor. According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics space heaters account for about one third of the home heating fires yet more than 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths. The Winter Residential Building Fires report released by United States Fire Administration (USFA), 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.
“Colder temperatures during the Fall and Winter Season brings the highest number of home fires than any other time of year,” said Fire Chief Bashoor. “Each 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 Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department recommend the following safety tips for 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 or if placed too close to an object.
· 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.
Kerosene space 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
• Furnaces, fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned and checked each year by an appropriate professional prior to using. Clear away any clutter from these heating devices, at least 3 feet away.
• Only use seasoned wood in fireplaces, never use ignitable liquids to start a fire and do not overload your appliance.
• The 3-foot rule also applies to furnaces and fireplaces. No combustibles items within 3 feet of these heating appliances.
• Dispose of fireplace ash into a metal container and store outdoors away from structures on a concrete surface. Fireplace ash can ignite a fire days after they have been discarded.
Finally, ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are working by pushing the test button on the front cover. Your alarms should be tested monthly on the first day of every month - Safety First Day of the Month. 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 on every level of your home, in hallways just outside of sleeping areas and in every bedroom in addition to a exit drill in the home plan and practiced dramatically increases your chances of surviving a burning home. Remember to sleep with your bedroom door closed.
A working CO detector will protect you and your family from deadly "silent killer" fumes that may be building up in your home. County Law currently requires a working CO detector on every level of your home if you use a gas service, have a fireplace or an attached garage. All apartments, dorms, motels and hotels are also required to maintain working CO detectors.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home including just outside of sleeping areas. The Fire/EMS Department also recommends a working smoke alarm in every bedroom and to sleep with your bedroom door closed.
Everyone should replace older battery powered smoke and CO alarms with a newer 10-year alarm that does not require a change in batteries.
Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.
For additional information from the USFA on Winter Fire Safety; click here.
Residents are encouraged to utilize Prince George’s County’s County 311 system to obtain information about public services and obtaining a smoke alarm installed in your home, free of charge.