The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, New Jersey’s only certified burn center, wants to keep your family safe in the winter. Each year, there are thousands of residential fires that start as a result of portable or fixed space heaters, and thousands more associated with fireplaces and chimneys, that result in the loss of hundreds of lives each year.
Michael A. Marano, MD, Medical Director of The Burn Center, warns residents of the dangers associated with heaters and fireplaces and urges everyone to use caution with these heating devices. “Because this is the season when deaths and injuries occur from heaters and fireplaces, every home must have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms,” he said. “Heaters that are placed too close to flammable materials such as curtains, furniture or bedding can cause fires. Fireplaces with cracked, blocked or dirty chimneys are also a fire hazard, as are embers that escape and reach flammable materials.”
Dr. Marano said in addition to portable space heaters and fireplaces, residents should be careful when using ovens/ranges and water heaters too, as these can also produce fires and emit carbon monoxide.
“Any fuel-burning appliance emits carbon monoxide, and if these devices are improperly installed, poorly maintained, damaged or are not properly vented, they can cause serious health issues or dangerous fires,” he says.
Dr. Marano offers the following safety tips for using portable heating devices this winter:
- Only use new space heaters that have been tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory and shown to have met the latest safety standards and features. Older electric, kerosene and vented and un-vented gas space heaters may not be safe or have such features as automatic shut off mechanisms if the unit were to tip over.
- Always place heaters on a level, hard, non-flammable surface. Never place these units on carpeting, rugs, bedding or similar materials. Keep the heater a safe distance from flammable materials (at least three feet) such as drapes, furniture or even the Christmas tree.
- Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or near a sleeping person.
- Keep all children and pets away from space heaters at all times. Never leave a space heater on when you leave the house.
- Do not use an appliance such as a kitchen oven to heat the house as it could overheat and generate excessive carbon monoxide.
When using fireplaces, Dr. Marano offers these safety tips:
- Inspect chimneys, flues and the interior box of fireplaces before each season. Clean and remove all blockage, creosote or debris.
- Keep the damper open before lighting a fire and keep it open until the fire and embers are completely out. Closing the damper before the fire is completely out can cause dangerous gases to build up and release in to the home.
- Do not use accelerants such as gasoline or lighter fluid to start or restart a fire as it can explode.
- Keep a screen or glass enclosure around a fireplace to prevent sparks or embers from escaping and igniting nearby flammable materials.
- Extra precaution should be taken to prevent children from touching the glass door of a gas fireplace. These doors can heat up to more than 200º F. It would take just six minutes to cause a serious burn to a little ones’ curious hands. Proper adult supervision and the use of a screen or gate can help keep children safe.
“I cannot overstate the importance of having working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the home,” Dr. Marano said. “There should be smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of the home and in each bedroom or sleeping area.”
For more information about burn prevention and fire safety, please call the Saint Barnabas Burn Outreach and Education office at 973-322-8071.
Date: November 12, 2013
Contact: Samantha Anton
Assistant Director Marketing/Public Relations