Picture yourself around a warm fire in your fireplace on a cold winter day. This is normally a time of family conversations, cozy gatherings, or a way to save money while heating your home.
This is a wonderful part of this time of year as it makes us comfortable as we are home more due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, as the winter temperatures are among us it is important that we are remaining safe, while trying to remain warm.
Here at the Roanoke Rapids Fire Department, we would like to give you a few tips to help you stay as safe as possible while enjoying this season. A few of these tips are to remember to have our chimney inspected and cleaned every year to remove creosote which can easily be ignited by simply having a fire in your fireplace or wood stove. Something else to keep in mind, especially if you have children, is to have either tempered glass or a metal screen over the fireplace opening to keep sparks inside. This will also keep small, curious hands from reaching in to touch the bright light of the fire.
As for any source of heat we want to be sure we keep at least 3-foot of clearance from anything that can catch on fire. This includes not only your fireplaces or wood stoves, but also any space heaters as well. The 3-foot clearance will allow the heat to disperse before reaching product that can catch fire.
Now for the children, these are some simple tips when dealing with heat sources and children:
• Never leave children unattended around fire
• Prevent burn injuries by keeping children at least 3 feet away
• Store matches and lighters out of children’s sight and reach
• Never let children see you play with fire
• When roasting marshmallows or other foods, never allow children to be unsupervised
When using portable heaters ensure they have been tested by a testing laboratory. This will ensure the product has been put through a series of tests ensuring its safety features operate properly. Portable heaters are the second leading cause of home fires in the United States. Evenings are the peak times for heater fires to occur. We can combat this by never leaving a room with a portable heater still on, and also not falling asleep with one on. Never use extension cords or power strips to plug a heater into the wall. Make sure heaters are plugged directly into the wall. Older adults are at a higher risk of fire death, and heating is the second leading cause of fire deaths for people ages 65 and older.
If you care for an older adult, plan for this increased risk. Check space heaters throughout the season. Make sure that bedding, throws and clothing are kept at least 3 feet away. Verify that fixed heating equipment is inspected every season and professionally cleaned when necessary. Talk with older adults to make sure they understand their risk of burns and fire. Plan for emergencies. Older adults may move more slowly or have trouble hearing a smoke alarm because of hearing loss. Make a home fire escape plan around their abilities. Keep the telephone, hearing aids and eye glasses next to the bed. If someone in your care uses a cane or wheelchair, decide who will help him or her get out in an emergency.
Now let’s discuss smoke alarms. A smoke alarm should be installed in the area of or inside of every bedroom and at least one on each floor of your home. Smoke alarms should be tested once a month to ensure they are working properly and your family knows how to react in case of an emergency. Smoke alarm batteries should be changed every 6 months if your alarm has the ability to change the batteries. Newer alarms come with a 10-year battery that should be replaced when the 10-year time frame has lapsed. Make sure the alarm you purchase matches your family’s needs. For example, if you have a family member that is deaf, they make smoke alarms with bright lights to alert that person. If you have a family member who is autistic and panics under extreme sounds or lights, there are alarms that you can prerecord your voice into the device to get the person safely out of the house. The Roanoke Rapids Fire Department has a program where we will come to your house if you are unable and we will install alarms in your home for you. Our mission is to ensure the safety of all of the citizens and visitors in the City of Roanoke Rapids.
Now I leave you with this thought: every fire we prevent is the potential of a life saved or property protected. Please follow these guidelines sited from FEMA to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones. If at any time you have questions about any safety concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 252-533-2880.