The first week of 2014 saw 49 daily record lows set across the county. A vicious cold snap brought the coldest weather in decades to the central, eastern, and southern states. In Vicksburg, Mississippi, a low of 13 degrees was recorded, breaking the previous record low of 17. In Meridian, it reached just 11 degrees, smashing through the record low of 15. Finally, here in Jackson, the temperature gauge read 14 degrees, two degrees less than the previously recorded low of 16.
These frigid temperatures present a host of dangers, and not all of them are outdoors. Keeping your home warm during these winter months comes with its own hazards. Heating equipment is involved in over 53,000 home fires across the U.S. each year and over 400 people die annually in heating related fires. Another 1,500 individuals are injured in these fires and over $893 million in property damage is incurred. Heating equipment fires account for 14% of all reported home fires. Fires are not the only perils associated with home heating. The following is a list of tips to help you heat your home safely and responsibly:
- Exercise grave caution when using space heaters—space heaters have become highly popular for home heating, particularly in the South where temperatures do not often reach extreme lows. However, space heater use can be dangerous. Four out of five home heating deaths are associated with space heaters. Further, thousands of children are scalded on the devices each year. Experts suggest purchasing space heaters with a grate on the front which can prevent children from getting burned and keep objects at a safer distance from heating elements. Move anything that could be combustible, including clothing and furniture, at least three feet away from the heater. Newer space heaters come with a “tip” safety device, which causes the unit to shut off if tipped over. This is a great safety feature and it is suggested you replace older units lacking this capability with new safety certified ones.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector when using gas fueled heaters—gas fueled heaters produce carbon monoxide. More than 400 Americans die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, another 20,000 are taken to the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. To help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, have your home heating system serviced by a licensed professional once a year. Ensure the heater is properly vented. Always back your vehicle out of the driveway if you intend to leave it running. Most importantly, install a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, and CO poisoning symptoms resemble that of a common cold. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to detect CO, which can lead to deadly results.
- Place generators in a safe, outdoor space—never use portable gasoline powered generators in an enclosed space, like the garage or a shed. Keep these generators as far away from your home as possible, being mindful to your neighbor as well.
- Check fireplace flues and chimneys—it is best to have a professional inspect your fireplace flues and chimneys each year to ensure there are no leaks or blocks. Further, always remember to open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire as this will prevent the buildup of poisonous gasses in your home.
The attorneys at the John D. Giddens Law Firm hope that these tips will keep you and your family safe and warm this winter. As temperatures plummet to new lows, it is important to exercise caution while heating your home. For assistance with any accident, call the Giddens Law Firm today at (601) 355-2022 to schedule a free consultation.