As area residents cope with extremely cold temperatures, the City of Greenville is asking for the public’s help to prevent needless tragedies. According to state and federal fire authorities, home fires occur more in winter than in any other season, with half of all home heating fires occurring in the months of December, January and February. Winter home fires occur mainly in the early evening hours, peaking between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and heating equipment is involved in one of every seven reported home fires and one in every five home fire deaths.
“While the statistics are frightening, nearly all of these fires are preventable,” said Fire Chief Steve Kovalcik. “When temperatures are this low, residents are going to use whatever means they have to stay warm, but we can reduce the number of winter fires in our community just by taking some simple precautions and using heating equipment properly.”
Fire Safety Tips:
· Check your smoke alarms to make sure they work. Replace any that do not work or that are more than 10 years old.
· If there is a fire, get out and stay out. Call 911 as soon as you are safely outside.
· Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment such as furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and portable space heaters.
· Keep kids and pets away from open fires and space heaters.
· Turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
· Never use an oven to heat your home.
· Only use heating equipment that bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory and has an automatic shut-off.
· Place space heaters on a solid, flat surface and keep them and their electrical cords away from flammable items, high traffic areas and doorways.
· Plug space heaters directly into wall outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
· Inspect space heaters for damaged cords, broken plugs or loose connections, and replace them before using the heater.
· If you use fuel-burning space heaters, use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer.
· When refueling, allow the appliance to cool first and then refuel outside.
· When using a fuel-burning space heater, open a window to ensure proper ventilation.
· If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the building immediately and call 911.
· Only use wood stoves that bear the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
· Burn only dry, seasoned wood in wood stoves, and burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets in pellet stoves.
· Keep the doors of your wood stove closed unless loading or stoking the live fire.
· Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from the home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.
City officials are also urging residents to check on friends, neighbors and the elderly, who may be vulnerable during the winter months, to ensure that they are in safely and adequately heated dwellings. Cold temperatures make senior citizens susceptible to hypothermia, so it is also important to know the warning signs of cold-related illness:
Frostbite is a serious condition caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures. Warning signs include:
· White or grayish-yellow skin area
· Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.
Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it is produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature. Warning signs include:
· Adults: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness
· Infants: bright red, cold skin, very low energy
If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.
- “We want to make sure all our residents are safe and warm during this bitterly cold weather and urge everyone to take the proper precautions, including for their pets,” said Mayor Knox White. “Additionally, it only takes a moment to check on our neighbors, and making a phone call or knocking on a door could save a life, so we encourage residents to look out for one another to ensure everyone is faring well in the cold.”