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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Take extra precautions when using space heaters this winter

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

As Old Man Winter begins his trek through the area, many people may be battling to stay warm.

However, those utilizing space and kerosene heaters in lieu of their furnace, must be aware of the potential hazards they bring.

"The most important thing to remember is that space heaters must never be left unattended," Brazil City Fire Department Assistant Chief Roy Kellar said.

Kellar added another major safety component when using space heaters is to avoid placing potentially flammable material around them.

"The majority of fires involving space heaters happen when they are too close to clothes or curtains," he said. "Leave a clearance area when using a space heater to lessen the risk of a fire. Plus, with Christmas coming up, residents should remember not to place their tree -- real or fake -- near the heater as well."

Along with typical safety check measures, like ensuring the wiring is in good shape and the heater itself is in good working order, Kellar told The Brazil Times residents should take extra precautions, especially when using a kerosene heater.

"Kerosene heaters should always be filled outdoors to avoid potentially spilling the fuel inside the home," he said. "Spilling kerosene inside the home may be dangerous when lighting the heater, as well as creating adverse health conditions for the rest of the people in the home."

Kellar said with the economy down, some residents may decide to utilize space and kerosene heaters more this winter to offset using their furnace, which is not a favorable idea.

"Space heaters are good for supplementing the heat from a furnace," Kellar said. "I know some people may decide to use the heaters more to save some money this year, but it should not be the main source of heat in the home. Also, residents need to make sure the heaters they are using are for indoor use only."

While some heaters may be set up to automatically shut off when tipped over, Kellar said not all have the ability, and additional care must be taken when little ones are running around.

"It goes along with not leaving a heater unattended, but everyone should watch out for children or pets running through the house when it is on," Kellar said.

Kellar said residents should have their furnaces serviced and filters changed if possible, and provided some safety tips for furnace safety, including:

* Follow all instructions when lighting the pilot light (if equipped),

* Make sure the area around the furnace is clear of debris,

* Check the ventilation in the flue pipes, and

* Do not stack items near the furnace if it is located in the basement.

"Above all, make sure to read the instruction manual that comes with the heater because they all have different safety features," Kellar said. "So many people forget to look at the safety manual and just throw it away with the box, but there are always important instructions included in the manual."

Kellar added using space heaters -- electric or gas -- or furnaces to heat the home also bring about potential health risks, including Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Some sources of CO inside buildings -- whether residences, garages or businesses --include faulty furnaces and/or heaters, unclean fire places, wood- or propane-fueled stoves, vehicle exhaust, clothes dryers, and gasoline-powered tools such as leaf blowers, lawn mowers, high-pressure washers, welders and generators.

The colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating gas forms when organic matter has an insufficient oxygen supply to burn completely, or is burned in an enclosed space where there is no airflow.

Symptoms of mild acute CO poisoning include flu-like symptoms like headaches, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness and confusion, while larger exposures can lead to significant toxicity of the central nervous system and heart, and even death.

Following an acute poisoning, long-term aftereffects or other adverse health conditions often occur.

"Residents should have at least a smoke detector in their homes, and CO detectors -- which are available at hardware stores -- will help alleviate potential Carbon Monixide hazards," Kellar said. "Also, make sure the detectors are in good working order and have fresh batteries in them at all times."

Kellar said the Brazil City Fire Department has some smoke detectors available for residents to pick up at no charge.

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