Baltimore has seen a number of lost lives due to fire and carbon monoxide poisonings this year and state and local officials are passing along tips in hopes of preventing anymore this winter.
Governor Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined fire officials this week to promote safety during the winter months when fires are more common.
Holiday decorations and unsafe home heating are fire hazards this time of year. Generators and other appliances can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning if unmonitored, the officials said.
There have been 69 fire deaths across the state this year. The good news is that this is a slight decline from the comparable period last year.
O'Malley and Rawlings-Blake reminded people of home energy assistance information that can help people with their heating bills. Baltimore City residents can also get smoke alarms from their local fire department.
Here are some other tips that were passed along.
• Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from heating equipment.
• Have a three-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 instructions.
• Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
• 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 monthly.
Preventing Christmas Tree Fires
• Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent.
• Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
• Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
• Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
• Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove for disposal.
• When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
• Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.
• Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
• Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe.
• Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.
• Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.
• All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
• Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace.
• If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
• Avoid using lit candles. If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
• Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches.
• Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning. For extra safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas. Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
• If your smoke alarms are hard wired, that is wired into the electrical system, you will need to have a qualified electrician do the initial installation or install replacements. For battery powered smoke alarms, all you will need for installation is a screw driver. Some brands are self adhesive and will easily stick to the wall or ceiling where they are placed. For all smoke alarm installations, be sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions because there are differences between the various brands. Call your local fire department (on a non-emergency telephone number) if you have problems installing a smoke alarm.
Protect Yourself and Your Family from CO Poisoning
• Install at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal near the sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms. Make sure the alarm has been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Carbon monoxide alarms measure levels of CO over time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO is not present.
• Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once a year.
• Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
• Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
• When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. The presence of a carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.
• Draw a home escape plan and discuss it with everyone in your home.
• Practice the plan at night and during the day with everyone in your home, twice a year.
• Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily.
• Have an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) a safe distance from the home where everyone should meet.
• Practice using different ways out.
• Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
• Close doors behind as you leave.