Injury Prevention Leaders Offer Tips on Keeping Warm While Staying Safe

November 2, 2015

Temperatures in Georgia are slowing cooling and families are spending more time in the warm comforts of their home. During these months, there is a significant increase in house fires resulting from cooking equipment and alternative heating methods.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is working to better prepare Georgia residents with fire safety tips to educate them on how to keep their families and loved ones protected during the fall and winter months.

Carol Ball, program consultant for DPH’s Injury Prevention Program, stresses for Georgians not to overestimate how quickly fires can threaten your safety or even your life.

Once a fire has started, it spreads in a matter of seconds. While its scorching flames are serious, an even bigger concern is the resulting smoke, which is one of the most dangerous factors of fires.

“Smoke makes it impossible to see,” said Ball. “It’s the thing that kills the most – even more so than the flames.”

Home cooked meals bring people together in cold weather, but safety provisions are needed to ensure cooking doesn’t pose safety or property damage risks to residents.

“Cooking fires are one of the biggest areas of home fires,” said Ball. “People assume they can contain it themselves, but don’t realize how quickly the situation can get out of control.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking fires were the leading contributing factor to home fires with 67 percent of home cooking fires starting with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.

Ball explained that if found in a situation with a cooking fire, the best action to take is to call 911 and throw a lid or pan on top of the fire. This will remove the oxygen and prevent the fire from growing larger and get out of the house.  

Space heaters and alternative heating methods can also be hazardous as they are the second leading cause of home structure fires and the number one cause of civilian deaths due to fire.

Ball advises users to keep all space heaters three feet away from anything combustible. For other alternative heating methods, such as a fireplace, it is important to make sure the fireplace has been inspected and the chimney is cleaned before being used.

To protect yourself and loved ones, smoke alarms should be a household requirement. NFPA recommends that a smoke alarm be in every bedroom as well as the living room and common areas.

“A lot of people sleep with their doors closed,” said Ball. “If a fire starts in the bedroom and there is a smoke alarm in the room, it will better ensure they hear the alarm and are able to get out quickly.”

It’s important to check and test every smoke alarm often. The normal lifespan of a smoke alarm is 10 years and the NFPA recommends that people test the device monthly.

Even when taking trips during cold weather seasons, fire safety is still an important factor to ensure you have safe travels. Ball encourages people to have a safety plan for every location they stay during a vacation.

If staying with a relative, make sure you know their escape plan in case of a fire, including whether the windows are locked and what doors might have extra bolts. These seemingly small details can be life-saving in the event of a real emergency.                   

To learn more about fire safety and keeping warm this fall and winter season, visit DPH’s Residential Fire Safety section online. Additional tips and information can be found at www.usfa.fema.gov

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