As temperatures continue to fluctuate, residents could find themselves looking for ways to keep warm. And, while people continue to use alternative methods to heat their homes, it is imperative to keep safety in mind when doing so.
“During cold weather, if you don’t have central heat a lot of people use space heaters. Space heaters have been used forever and ever. If used properly they can be safe,” Waxahachie Assistant Fire Chief Randal Potter said. “The main thing is having plenty of space around them with no combustibles up close. Make sure they have the protective guard up front.”
Potter explained the issue that people face when using an older space heater in the home is not having proper ventilation. These types of heaters can cause a build-up of carbon monoxide, which can poison a person due to the burning of fossil fuels.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning includes headaches, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Breathing in this gas can make a person pass out or it can kill them.
“A central heating system is vented to the outside. Those older heaters are not vented to the outside. So you need a little bit of ventilation in the house,” Potter stated. “I would also recommend getting a carbon monoxide detector anytime you are burning any kind of fossil fuel whether it is a central heater or a space heater.”
Potter cautioned residents only to use devices that are strictly designed for in-home use. The use of those devices can cause unforeseen health problems.
According to a 2009 Daily Light article, firefighters were dispatched to a call that involved a child having chest pains. It was later discovered that the family was suffering from the effects of carbon monoxide poising due to the use of an indoor hibachi grill. The family of 10 was able to make full recovery after being checked out by medical personnel.
Assistant Ellis County Fire Marshal Gary Cochran advises residents to use caution when using electric heaters and avoid the use of extension cords. He recommends plugging the heater directly into an outlet. Extension cords are designed for temporary use only.
He explained that plugging the heater into the wall provides better protection for the home. If an electrical issue happens, the home’s breaker box will be tripped cutting off the power. He noted that an extension cord could sometimes prevent that from happening.
It is also advised to have portable heaters, furnaces and fireplaces inspected at least once a year by a professional to make sure that there are no potential problems. Chimney sweeping should be done once a year by a professional chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote build up.
Working outside in the frigid weather can also have its own set of dangers.
“If you are going to outdoors just take the adequate precaution," Potter said. "If you are going to be out any length of time wear gloves and a knit hat."
Potter advises if residents to call 9-1-1 if they are experiencing an issue in their home and not to wait.