Editorial: Make sure you home is ready for the cold days of winter

Dec. 27, 2012 @ 11:19 PM

Have you noticed how cold it’s getting? Winter is here, and while it may not stay frigid every day, the season in East Tennessee usually means low temperatures and a need for heat.

Tennessee Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak urges residents to be cautious in the use of alternate heat sources. Fire is a risk for some residents who try to heat their homes in unconventional or even dangerous ways.

“The colder weather means many people will begin to heat their homes with fireplaces, woodstoves and space heaters,” said McPeak. “Cold weather months typically have a higher number of accidental fire injuries and deaths, due to the use of these alternate heat sources.”

Then there is smoking. Far too many house fires start because a smoker falls asleep before putting out a cigarette. Tennessee is among the highest ranked states in the number of fire deaths. McPeak urges people not to smoke in bed or in a chair, where a smoker could fall asleep with a lit cigarette still lunched in their hands.

Here are some other safety tips to make your einter tragedy-free:

Make it a “house rule” to test your home’s smoke alarms, before using a space heater or fireplace. All smoke alarms should additionally be tested once a month. Doing so could save your life.

Space heaters need space. Never put a space heater within three feet of anything combustible, including furniture, bedding or aerosol cans. Make sure your space heater bears the mark of an independent testing lab such as UL or FM. Look for models with automatic shutoff features, when purchasing space heaters. Never use extension cords with space heaters.

Where independent lab logos are concerned, try to purchase surge protectors from established retailers. Some bargain retailers have unwittingly sold lower-quality surge protectors bearing counterfeit markings of independent testing labs. Some labs have begun using holographic labeling to combat the counterfeiting of their seals.

Before you use your fireplace, make sure the chimney has been professionally cleaned to remove the buildup of combustible materials that accumulate inside the flue. Be sure any kerosene-fueled heating device is installed with proper ventilation. A portable kerosene heater must be filled only in a well-ventilated area, free of flame and other heat sources, and only when the device has cooled completely. Use only the type of kerosene specified by the manufacturer, and never use gasoline in place of kerosene.

Never leave a fire, space heater or flame unattended – this includes decorative candles.

Additionally, make sure furniture, clothing and other combustible materials are not placed in front of permanently mounted heaters like those in walls or on baseboards. That way, if the vents blow warm air, there will be little worry of the items catching fire.