Children are at a heightened risk for death or injury in home fires because they are often too young to understand the immediate risk and because they can’t always independently escape from a fire. Between 2007 and 2011, the leading factor contributing to home heating fire deaths was heating equipment being positioned too close to things that can burn, such as bedding or upholstered furniture.
This type of risk goes up in times of severe cold. Cooking fires and cigarette-related fires also are responsible for a high number of residential fire fatalities.
This past week in Kentucky, many fires – some resulting in the loss of life among children and adults – have been attributed to the improper use of alternative heating equipment.
“We are a high fire-death state,” said Dr. Susan Pollack, Kentucky Children’s Hospital pediatrician says. Pollack also directs the Pediatric and Adolescent Injury Prevention Program at the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center. “Fire prevention is the most important thing.”
Pollack cautions people to be safe as they try to keep warm. “Make sure that clothes, blankets, curtains and the like are at least three feet from any source of heat that you are using. Don’t try to dry wet hats and gloves on space heaters and wood stoves, because they can catch on fire.”
Woodstoves should only be installed by qualified heating professionals. It is difficult to safely install a woodstove in any mobile home. If you empty ashes from your woodstove or fireplace, put them in a fireproof container outdoors. Never store ashes indoors as many times they can ignite and smolder or even start a new fire.
When prevention fails, a smoke detector increases your chance of survival in a house fire by 50%, helping to alert you early in the few minutes that are all you have to escape before being overcome by smoke and carbon monoxide. If you are renovating your house, be sure to install smoke detectors at the start of your work, before the first night you sleep there.
Here are some other tips to help you stay safe during these cold winter months:
HOME HEATING FIRE SAFETY:
– Be sure that space heaters, wood stoves, baseboard heaters, etc. are at least 3 feet from anything that can burn (curtains, blankets, papers), and do not leave items drying on them.
– Always turn space heaters off when leaving a room or going to bed.
– Plug an electric space heater directly into an outlet with enough capacity. Never use an extension cord with any kind of electric heater.
– If the plug is hot, stop using the heater.
– When emptying ashes from a wood stove, wait until they are cool and put them in a fire-proof container outdoors; never store them indoors until morning.
– Because you only have a few minutes to escape a home fire, working smoke alarms reduce your chance of dying in a fire by 50%.
– Make a family escape plan and practice it.
– If you have small children, make a plan that includes which grown-up will rescue and carry out which child.
– Know two ways out of every room.
– Have a designated meeting place outside your house.
– Once outside, call 911 and never go back in to retrieve any household items.
– Your local fire department or emergency management organization has more information about fire safety. In Lexington, call (859) 425-2255 or visit www.BeReadyLexington.com.