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Top safety tips for heating your home during cold weather


Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Monday, January 11, 2016, 2:27 PM - As cooler conditions settle in, here are some safety tips to follow when heating your home.

Winter is the worst season for residential fires in the country, according to Fire Prevention Canada. At least eight people die each week due to fires, with almost three-quarters of those deaths a result of residential fires. 

As we gear up for the winter season, here are a few safety precautions courtesy of The Canada Safety Council to help minimize the risk of house fires when heating your home.

  1. Regular maintenance of all heating systems, including furnaces, by licensed technicians is important in reducing the risk of a residential fire.
  2. Do not dry clothes or shoes on or near a heater. Turn the heater off when you are not in the room, and do not leave children or pets unsupervised with a heater that is turned on.
  3. Periodically inspect the heater’s cord for damage and frayed or exposed wires, and do not use the appliance if any damage is present.
  4. If you use a fireplace or wood stove for heat, build your fire with a small amount of dry, seasoned wood to keep the flames under control.
  5. Resist the temptation to overload your fireplace or stove. Burning too much wood at once can cause tar and creosote to build up in your chimney or stove pipes, which creates a fire hazard.
  6. Never use highly flammable materials such as wrapping paper or gasoline in a wood stove or fireplace.
  7. Have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around open fires and space heaters. 
  8. If you have a frozen pipe, keep the faucet open and apply heat to the frozen section using an electric hair dryer, or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use any open-flame device, such as a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, or charcoal stove, to thaw the pipe. Call a licensed plumber if you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe. Do not leave a space heater unattended near the frozen pipe.
  9. Do not smoke in bed or in your bedroom. Ashtrays in the house should be kept on sturdy surfaces away from all combustible materials.
  10. When using candles, keep them on or in sturdy holders on a level surface, out of the reach of children and pets. Blow out candles when you leave the room or are going to bed.
  11. Store flammable liquids such a gasoline and paint safety, away from any heat sources, and ideally in a cool, dry place outside the house.
  12. Flickering lights? Blown fuses or a circuit breaker that keeps tripping? These may be a sign of electrical problems. Contact an electrician.
  13. Do not run an extension cord under furniture of under a rug. Traffic over the cord or the weight of furniture on it may damage the cord and create a fire hazard.
  14. Clean the dryer lint filter before and after each use to minimize the risk of a dyer fire.
  15. Test smoke alarms monthly.
  16. Have a fire escape plan for your house and regularly review it with your family.

During colder weather, people tend to use fuel-burning appliances more often. Carbon monoxide is called the "silent killer," as it is a odourless and colourless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of any fossil fuel; wood, oil, gas or coal.

The Canada Safety Council recommends following these tips:

  1. Eliminate CO at the source. Make the maintenance of your furnace, fireplace, and all fuel-burning appliances an absolute priority. Have them checked and cleaned each year.
  2. Install a certified carbon monoxide alarm in your home and check it regularly to make sure the battery is working.
  3. Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. If they appear, it is important to get everyone, including pets, outside to fresh air immediately.
  4. Never heat your home with a gas stove.
  5. Never use a barbeque, charcoal or hibachi grill in the home or in an enclosed area.
  6. During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow.
  7. Never use a gas-powered generator inside your home.

Source: Canada Safety Council

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