Keep Warm, Keep Safe during this Cold Snap
“During the current cold snap, we will all be trying to keep warm, but it’s important we do so safely,” said State Fire Marshal Coan. “If you turn to alternative heating sources like wood and pellet stoves or space heaters, follow these tips to prevent fires and carbon monoxide poisoning,” he added, “ We want people to keep warm and keep safe.”
Space Heater Safety
- Space heaters are designed for temporary use, not to replace the furnace.
- Use them for short periods of time and be sure to shut them off when leaving the room or going to sleep at night.
- Remember that space heaters need space so keep a 3-foot circle of safety around them free of things that can catch fire such as furniture, newspapers, and bedding.
- Avoid using extension cords with space heaters, but when you must, make sure it is rated for the same amps as the heater.
- Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
- Burn only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets. Do not to overload wood, pellet and coal stoves; they cannot replace a central heating furnace.
- Be sure to store wood and pellets a safe distance away from stove.
- Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
- Never use flammable liquids.
- Check that the damper is open before lighting the fire. A closed damper will result in an accumulation of smoke and carbon monoxide in the home. Do not close the damper until the fire is out and the embers are cold.
- Use a fireplace screen to prevent flying sparks and embers from falling out into the room.
Ash Disposal Safety
- Many fires start from the improper disposal of fireplace and woodstove ashes. A single ember can stay “live” for several days even when the ashes seem cool to the touch.
- Dispose of ashes in a metal can with a tight-fitting lid, outdoors, away from the home. Don’t place them in the garage or breezeway, and don’t use plastic or cardboard containers, and don’t put anything besides ashes in the can.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
- When the weather is very cold outside, let the water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
- Heating equipment is the leading source of carbon monoxide in the home. Make sure your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are working properly and give them fresh batteries if needed.
- Never use your oven for heat. Leaving the oven door open while in use will pour carbon monoxide into the home.
- Other sources of carbon monoxide in the home are cars running inside the garage even with the garage door open or use of generators inside the garage.
For more information on fire safety, contact your local fire department or online at www.mass.gov/keepwarmkeepsafe.