There is something about the winter months and curling up with a good book by the fireplace. But did you know that heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fire deaths? On average, 120 people die in accidental residential fires across Ohio each year. Many of these fires occur during the winter heating months of December, January, and February. With a few simple safety tips and precautions, you can prevent most heating fires from happening.

Wood burners are a common source of heating for many residents of Perry County. If you heat with a wood burner, have your chimney inspected yearly by an expert, don’t burn paper, and make sure that your wood burner is three feet from anything that can burn. Space heaters should have an automatic shut-off in case of the heater being accidentally tipped over. Never plug a space heater into an extension cord or a power strip. They should be plugged directly into an outlet. Make sure to turn a space heater off before leaving the room and before going to bed. Just like a wood burner, keep things that burn at least three feet away from the heater, including blankets, curtains, and clothing.

Only use kerosene heaters from a recognized testing laboratory. Allow a kerosene heater to cool before re-fueling them outside of the home. Make sure that the kerosene heater you are using has a shut-off on it if it should accidently be tipped over. Keep a glass or metal screen in front of fireplaces to prevent embers or sparks from landing on the floor. Make sure the ashes have cooled completely before placing them in a metal container and placing them outside at least three feet from the house. Always put the fire in a fireplace out before going to bed. Make sure to have your furnace, heat pump, or baseboard heating system inspected yearly by a professional.

Remember that smoke alarms safe lives! Smoke alarms, when properly installed and maintained, provide early warning when fire occurs. For the greatest protection, install a smoke alarm on every level of your home and inside each sleeping area. Be sure to test smoke alarms at least once a month to ensure that they are working properly. Vacuum the dust from inside the alarm at least once a year. Batteries in battery-operated alarms should be changed twice a year or whenever an alarm “chirps” to signal low battery power. Never “borrow” a smoke alarm’s battery for another item’s use. A disabled smoke alarm cannot save your life. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years, or according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Develop an escape plan with two ways out from each room. Practice your fire escape plan with the family – include fire drills in the middle of the night – to ensure that everyone knows what to do if there is a fire and the smoke alarms sound.

The Perry County Health Department is working to keep you healthy where you live, work and play. For more information about any program or service offered by the Perry County Health Department, contact us at 342-5179, visit us online at www.perrycountyhealth.info and follow us on Facebook! For COVID-19 vaccination/booster or to get a flu shot, walk-in appointments are available Monday-Friday from 7:30-3:30.

Deborah Raney is the director of health education at the Health Department and is a weekly contributor to The Perry County Tribune.

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