NCFS warns about risks of home heating

COVINGTON - Although temperatures are balmy right now, it won't be long before you wake up and find you need to turn on the heat.

Newton County Fire Service's Safety Educator Lt. Cydnie Taylor is reminding residents of the importance of home heating safety.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the latest research shows that heating equipment was involved in 62,200 U.S. home structure fires in 2005, with associate losses of 670 deaths, 2550 injuries and $909 million in direct property damage.

"While these numbers are frightening, nearly all of these fires are preventable," Taylor said. "We can reduce the number of home heating fires in our community by taking some simple precautions and using heating equipment properly."

Below is a list of safety tips Taylor recommends:

· Space heaters need space. Keep all things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.

· Turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.

· Plug power cords for heaters only into outlets with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.

· Inspect for cracked, frayed or broken plugs or loose connections. Replace before using.

· Have your chimney inspected each year and cleaned if necessary.

· Use a sturdy fireplace screen.

· Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose of ashes in a metal container.

· Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home - when one sounds, they all sound. Test smoke alarms at least once a month.

· Install and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area.

· Never use an oven to heat your home.

· For assistance purchasing home heating fuel, contact the National Fuel Funds Network at 202-824-0660 or your local provider.

"Additionally, Newton County Fire Service doors are always open for visits from the local community for any questions about preventing home heating fires," Taylor said.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com