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Sunday, October 18, 2015

PGFD Cold Snap Prompts Safety Tips to Stay Warm Safely

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
mebrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

Prince George's County is currently experiencing the first cold period of the season.  Temperatures are dipping into the 30's overnight causing residents to break out the "warm" items.  We would like to remind everyone that staying warm in your home without keeping "Safety First" is one of the leading causes of residential fires.  Cold weather also could be unhealthy if you venture outdoors unprepared.
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.  This reminder involves the safe use of space heaters and general heating safety tips.

Stay Safe

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 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 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. 

“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. 

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.

Using a 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 and a planned and practiced home escape plan dramatically increases your chances of surviving a home 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. 

For additional information from the USFA on Winter Fire Safety; click here.usfire.gov.
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.

PGFD - Stay Warm Safely - Have HVAC and Other Appliances Inspected

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

mebrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

An annual check of your fossil fueled appliances by a certified technician are highly recommended by firefighters as we have our first spate of cold temperatures .  These appliances include your furnace, water heater, fireplace and cooking equipment.  Technicians will check that combustion of the fuel is occurring correctly and that the toxic fumes, carbon monoxide (CO), are being ventilated to the home exterior.  Many HVAC and plumbers provide special discounted pricing this time of year for these check-ups.

CO is a by-product of combustion and is normally removed from your home through ventilation pipes.  CO is called the "Silent Killer" because you can not see, smell or taste it.  It can overwhelm everyone in your house and will cause our youngest and oldest family members to become sick first.  CO is unhealthy and can kill you if the toxic gas builds up in your home by way of a faulty ventilation system or if the combustion process malfunctions.  CO can be generated by burning wood in your fireplace and wood burning stoves and fuel fed furnaces, water heater and cooking appliances.

CO is inhaled and will displace oxygen in your blood cells.  When this occurs your vital organs are receiving toxic gas instead of oxygen which will make you sick.  If the CO levels are high enough, the CO will kill you.

A Prince George's County law requires every home, apartment and hotel/motel that has a fireplace, natural gas service and/or an attached garage to have a working CO detector installed on every level of your home and in each room for commercial residences.  Firefighters highly recommend the use of 10-year CO detectors that will not require changing the battery twice a year.

There are two ways a homeowner can detect the presence of CO in their home:

1. Feeling sick inside their home with a sudden relief of flu symptoms once outdoors.  This could go on for days until the CO will make you sick enough to make you unconscious and possibly die.

2. A CO detector will detect the presence of CO; a toxic gas which is invisible and has no smell.  A CO detector will emit an audible warning before the levels of CO reach unhealthy levels.

I prefer Choice #2.

These images are of a HVAC technician visually inspecting the ventilation of a furnace and water heater.