Turning up the Heat
When the weather outside is frightful—or in Florida standards, when the weather is less than 70 degrees!—there is nothing more delightful than curling up inside next to a toasty space heater or a roaring fire. But be careful, or else you might end up with way more heat than you bargained for!
Indoor Heating Hazards
Space heaters, not candles or Christmas lights, are actually the biggest fire hazard during the holiday season. In fact, they cause 1/3 of all house fires during the winter, and account for 80% of all fire-related deaths. In one tragic example from 2014, nine members of Kentucky family died when their home’s space heater caught fire overnight. Earlier this month in Valrico, a space heater was the suspected cause of a fire that severely damaged a mobile home.
Space heaters, which are small, often portable devices used to heat a single room, like an office or bedroom, seem innocuous, but as these statistics show, can actually be quite dangerous. If left unattended or left on for long hours, they can easily overheat, leading to a rapidly spreading fire if the sparks come into contact with other objects. When other objects, like blankets or laundry, come into contact with the heater, they can also catch on fire.
Similarly, chimneys and fireplaces lead to around 25,000 fires in the United States every year. They cause more than $125 million in property damage. Chimney fires can ignite when the fire comes into contact with debris in the chimney, like leaves, or if the fire manages to escape from the fireplace. Fireplaces also have the added danger of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, which occurs when fuel in a fireplace, car, grill, or stove produces CO, an odorless, colorless, and potentially fatal gas.
Stay Safe, Stay Warm
In Florida, fires related to space heaters and chimneys might not be very common, since our pleasant weather means we don’t have much use for them! But when that one cold snap rolls into town, follow these tips to keep your home and family safe:
- Keep the heater away from all furniture and other objects, including drapes and mattresses
- Never pile anything, like laundry, on top of the heater
- Avoid using the space heater in the bathroom, and always keep it away from water. If your hands are wet, wait until they are fully dry before touching the heater
- Find a space heater with an automatic switch that will turn the heater off if its tips over
- Keep at least three feet of space between the heater and other objects
- If you have a chimney, have it checked at least once a year by a professional
- Keep kids and pets away while heaters and chimneys are in use
- Keep any combustible materials away from the chimney
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home, and test it frequently, along with your smoke detectors
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