Mid Michigan has seen its share of snow and brutally cold weather this winter season and the threat of winter home fires and personal injury are real. As you stay cozy and warm this winter season, be fire smart and use some common sense.
Did you know home fires occur more in the winter months than any other time of the year? Half of all home heating fires occur in the months of December, January and February. According to the United States Fire Administration, heating is the second leading cause of home fires following cooking and more than 900 people die annually in winter home fires across the United States. Home heating fires peaked in the early evening hours between 5 and 9 p.m. This four-hour period accounted for 30 percent of all home heating fires.
Also, the risk of having a heart attack and stroke increases during the winter months due to overexertion when shoveling, pushing a car or walking in deep snow. Take frequent breaks or ask a neighbor, family member or friend to shovel your driveway or sidewalk.
Here are some safety tips to help prevent winter fires where you live:
• Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet from all heat sources including fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators, space heaters or candles.
• Never use an oven to heat your home, especially during a power outage.
• Turn space heaters off and unplug them when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Consider using flameless candles or battery powered flashlights if the power goes out.
• Never use an extension cord or power strip with a space heater. Always plug the device directly into a wall outlet and after 10 or 15 minutes of use, feel the cord and outlet. If either are warm, discontinue use of the heater.
• Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected each year by a licensed or certified professional.
• Clear snow drifts from furnace exhausts and air intakes to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and invisible gas produced from heating and cooking equipment, vehicles and portable generators.
• Test your smoke alarms monthly, change non long-life batteries annually and replace alarms over 10 years old.
• Help your local firefighters by shoveling a 3-foot circle of snow and ice away from the nearest fire hydrant.
And consider following these cold weather safety tips:
• Check on your neighbors as well as family and friends who are at risk and may need additional assistance during this dangerous cold spell.
• Watch pets closely and keep them indoors when possible. Animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold-weather injuries.
• Be aware of children playing in the streets, particularly climbing on or running out from behind large snowdrifts. Parents should remind their children to be aware of plowing operations and traffic and avoid these dangerous areas.
• Be aware of the hazards of wind chill. As the winter wind speed increases and the outdoor temperature drops, heat is carried away from a person’s body more rapidly, which will lead to severe hypothermia. Wind chill indices are forecasted to range from -22 to -48 degrees below zero Fahrenheit on Wednesday January 30th causing exposed skin to freeze in a matter of minutes.
• Signs of hypothermia includes uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, drowsiness and exhaustion.
• Signs of frostbite include loss of feeling or pale appearance of fingers, toes or the face.
• Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outside, wear protective clothing, such as hats, mittens, gloves, scarf and a warm coat.