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FIRE PREVENTION EDUCATION

New Year, New Fire Safety Habits?

As we enter the new year, we are getting some winter weather and temperatures across the State. Various ways of getting and staying warm are being used, from electric and kerosene space heaters to electric blankets. Here are some links to simple tips to help keep you and your family safer while dealing with the cold. And always remember to check that your smoke detector is working properly.

Heating safety tips

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • 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’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.

Carbon monoxide

Although the popularity of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms has been growing in recent years, it cannot be assumed that everyone is familiar with the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.

Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

  • The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim’s health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body’s ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.
  • A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
  • In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 80,100 non-fire CO incidents in which carbon monoxide was found, or an average of nine such calls per hour.  The number of incidents increased 96 % from 40,900 incidents reported in 2003. This increase is most likely due to the increased use of CO detectors, which alert people to the presence of CO.

    Safety tips

    • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
    • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
    • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
    • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
    • Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
    • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel.
    • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
    • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
    • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
    • Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO — only use outside.

    Symptoms of CO poisoning

    CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches. High levels of CO can be fatal, causing death within minutes.The concentration of CO, measured in parts per million (ppm) is a determining factor in the symptoms for an average, healthy adult.

    • 50 ppm: No adverse effects with 8 hours of exposure.
    • 200 ppm: Mild headache after 2-3 hours of exposure.
    • 400 ppm: Headache and nausea after 1-2 hours of exposure.
    • 800 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 45 minutes; collapse and unconsciousness after 1 hour of exposure.
    • 1,000 ppm: Loss of consciousness after 1 hour of exposure.
    • 1,600 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 20 minutes of exposure.
    • 3,200 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 5-10 minutes; collapse and unconsciousness after 30 minutes of exposure.
    • 6,400 ppm: Headache and dizziness after 1-2 minutes; unconsciousness and danger of death after 10-15 minutes of exposure.
    • 12,800 ppm: Immediate physiological effects, unconsciousness and danger of death after 1-3 minutes of exposure.

    Source: NFPA’s Fire Protection Handbook, 20th Edition.

    Click here to get some more safety tips from the NFPA


The Delaware State Fire School is also available to assist you with your fire prevention activities this time of year and also year round! We offer children’s fire safety presentations, displays for your fire company open houses, and a variety of programs in schools and child care facilities.

You can have a tour at one of our divisions or we can have our presentations at your school or event. Contact us:



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