For Immediate Release - February 11, 2013

Staying Safe After the Storm: Preparing for Power to Return

State Fire Marshal Coan issued a fire safety warning for people who continue to experience a power outage from this storm. “It is important to take steps to stay safe and prevent fires and carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Coan.

Prepare for Return of Power: Make Sure Appliances Are Turned Off

“People who suffered a power outage should take precautions to prepare for restoration of the power,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan. “Make sure heat producing appliances like stoves, ovens, and space heaters, that might have been on when the power went out are turned off and clear of items that might catch fire.”

Clear Snow from Furnace and Dryer Vents

Clear the outside furnace, hot water and dryer vents of snow to prevent flue gases from backing up into the home and creating a carbon monoxide hazard. “This is especially important if the power has been out,” said Coan. The law requiring carbon monoxide alarms in Massachusetts was named after 7-year old Nicole Garafolo of Plymouth who died in January 2005. Several family members suffered carbon monoxide poisoning when a snow storm had knocked out power. When the power was restored, carbon monoxide filled the house because the vent was blocked by snow. The heat from the furnace can keep a vent clear, but it is often not enough to melt a blockage.

Other Carbon Monoxide Risks

“Don’t use your oven for heat and don’t bring a charcoal or gas grill inside to cook; doing so can cause carbon monoxide poisoning,” he said. Generators are a common source of carbon monoxide poisoning during extended power outages. Coan warned, “Use generators outdoors only. Using generators or gas or charcoal grills inside the garage – even with the door open – poses a serious risk of CO poisoning.”

Prevent Fires from Alternative Lighting, Heating and Cooking
“It can be difficult and frustrating to be without light, heat or the ability to cook for an extended period of time, but it is critical to stay safe and not make a bad situation worse,” said Coan. “After storms, we often see many fires from woodstoves being overloaded, improper disposal of ashes, candles, and improper re-fueling of generators.”

Wood, Coal and Pellet Stoves

“Prevent serious fires from the improper disposal of ashes from fireplaces, wood and pellet stoves,” said Coan. “A single ember can remain hot for days, so put ashes in a metal container with a lid away from the house, the garage, the deck,” he added. Already this heating season, many fires started with ashes put into plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and plastic trash bins, in the garage, under the deck or even in the family room.

“Don’t overload your woodstove as they are not designed to replace central heating systems. An overtaxed woodstove can easily start a chimney fire taking advantage of creosote build-up or minor cracks in the flue or causing a breakdown in the chimney liner,” said Coan. Heating appliances are the leading cause of carbon monoxide in the home and the risk increases when they are working harder. For more information go to www.mass.gov/keepwarmkeepsafe.

Use Flashlights and Battery-Operated Candles

Use flashlights and battery-operated candles for safety. If you must use flame candles, remember to burn them inside a one-foot circle of safety free of anything that can burn. Place them on a non-combustible surface or in the sink; blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed; and use jar candles or place a globe over stick candles. Keep pets and children away from candles.

Adopt a Hydrant If You Can

“In a fire seconds count,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan, “so help your fire department protect you and your neighbors by removing snow from nearby fire hydrants.” Fire officials are urging those who are able to do so, to shovel snow away from fire hydrants in case access to them is needed quickly.