Winter has arrived and as the temperature dips below normal levels across the country, many people will strive to ensure they do whatever it takes to stay warm in their home during a frigid season.

Despite not being the primary heating source, heating equipment has always been a popular choice for those seeking to supplement their primary heating system.  When the new found happiness of being comfortably warm in one’s own home sets in, unfortunately, when the safety factors of these secondary heating mechanisms are neglected, disaster can strike at any time.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment specifically space heating, is a leading cause of winter fires and poses a much higher risk of fire, death, injury, and property loss per millions than central heating devices.  The most recent NFPA data from 2010 shows heating equipment was involved in an estimated 57,100 reported home structure fires, 490 civilian deaths, 1,530 civilian injuries and 1.1 billion in direct property damage.  NFPA additionally cites that from 2006 – 2010, most home heating fire deaths (80%) and injuries (67%), and just above half (52%) of associated property damage involved stationary or portable space heaters.

NFPA and the Red Cross offer the following helpful hints to avoid increasing one’s chances of initiating a fire:

•    Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected once a year
•    Never use a stove or oven to heat the home
•    Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended
•    Place a space heater on a hard, level, nonflammable surface. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets, near bedding or drapes, and keep children and pets away.
•    Be sure to turn off any portable heater when exiting a room or before heading to bed and look for a space heater model that shuts off automatically if the heater were to fall over.
•    When using a fireplace, use a glass or metal screen large enough to keep the sparks or from entering the room
•    Keep all flammable materials such as newspapers, matches, bedding, clothing, carpets and rugs at least three feet away from heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces and stoves
•    Specific to fuel-laden space heaters or heating equipment, always use the appropriate fuel specified by the manufacturer and appropriately vent to the outside to avoid the potential for CO2 poisoning
•    Test smoke alarms monthly
•    Blow candles out before exiting a room or heading to bed and avoid the use of candles in an area which may be used for sleep purposes
•    If the unthinkable were to occur, make sure everyone in the household is well aware of the applicable emergency escape routes within the home

Heating equipment safety is of the utmost importance during the winter months and if a pro-active approach is taken, one can alleviate or even eliminate secondary heating system hazards to keep yourself, your family, and your surrounding community members safe. Please do your part..