As North Carolina braces for what could be yet another round of winter weather this weekend, Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey urges everyone to keep fire safety in mind, especially when using portable heaters.
In the first four weeks of 2022, 11 people have already lost their lives in home fires in North Carolina. Last year, there were 134 fire deaths across the state.
Each year during the winter months, there is an increase in the number of home fires related to the various forms of heating.
In fact, Catawba County fire officials are currently investigating after 73-year-old Ronnie Mosteller died last week when a fire started near a kerosene heater inside his home.
“What happened in Catawba County is a tragic reminder of the importance of fire safety,” said Commissioner Causey, who is also the State Fire Marshal. “Injuries and deaths caused by fire are usually preventable if you know the dangers associated with home heating and take extra precautions before the winter weather hits.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating is the second leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in the U.S. behind cooking. Nearly 90% of home heating fire deaths involve stationary or portable space heaters. The leading factor that contributes to home heating fire deaths was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
Commissioner Causey offers these tips for home heating during the winter months:
- Place the heater on a hard, level, and nonflammable surface. These appliances are intended to sit on the floor, not on a table.
- Establish a 3-foot kid- and pet-free zone around the heater, and never put a space heater in a child’s room.
- Keep the space heater at least 3 feet away from combustible materials, such as furniture, bedding and curtains. A taller heater may need to be even further away.
- Don’t use a heater in a workshop or garage near paint, gas cans or matches.
- Turn space heaters off when you leave the room or go to bed.
- Unplug the heater when it’s not in use by pulling the plug straight from the outlet. Check the cord for damage periodically, and don’t use the heater if the cord is frayed or worn.
- Don’t plug another electrical device or an extension cord into the same outlet as a heater—that can cause overheating.
- Install working smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every bedroom and test them monthly.
Winter weather also increases the chances of carbon monoxide poisonings. Vehicles, generators and home heating devices can produce dangerous levels in your home in a short amount of time, enough to cause illness or even death.
Carbon monoxide is often referred to as the silent killer because it is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless poisonous gas that is produced when burning wood, propane, charcoal, or other fuels.
To prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning emergencies, Commissioner Causey recommends the following safety tips:
- Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area on every level of the home and in other locations required by law or code. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
- Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Never use portable generators inside homes or garages, even if doors and windows are open.
- Use generators outside only, far away from the home.
- Never bring a charcoal grill into the house or garage for heating or cooking.
- Never use a gas range or oven for heating.
- Learn the symptoms of CO poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.