Guest Editorial by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York
New York is well into the winter months and residents have been doubling up on the heat – bringing out their space heaters and curling up next to their fireplaces on top of their heating. The Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY) wants to remind everyone to follow some simple tips when preparing their homes for winter.
With more people staying home for longer periods due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Yorkers may face an increased risk for home fires. Heating is one of the leading causes of fires in the United States. According to data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February. Fire departments across the U.S. responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment each year from 2014-18. These fires resulted in 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. As of this week, New York state is fifth in the nation in fire deaths for the year with 105.
“Many people continue to work from home, leading to an increased use of heat appliances,” FASNY President John P. Farrell said. “Fire departments throughout the state typically see an increase in the number of fires they respond to this time of year, with many caused by improperly operated or poorly maintained equipment.”
Space heaters and fireplaces can increase the risk of a home fire when used improperly. Homeowners should check that all their heating equipment is functioning properly, and double-check that their carbon monoxide and smoke detectors have fresh batteries.
“Always make sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are operational and have fresh batteries,” Farrell said. “We recommend everyone place carbon monoxide alarms outside of sleeping areas in the home. It is also important that they check the exhaust pipes of their heating units as they could become blocked with snow or debris. We want all New Yorkers to be fire-safe this winter, and remember: If your smoke or carbon monoxide alarm goes off, get out quickly, stay out and call 911”
Here are some home heating tips from FASNY and the NFPA:
√ Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
√ Have a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
√ Never use your oven to heat your home.
√ Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
√ Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
√ Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
√ Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.
√ Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
√ Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
Founded in 1872, the Firefighters Association of the State of New York represents the interests of the approximately 85,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in New York state. For more information, visit www.fasny.com.