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Officials offer safety tips for cold weather

COVINGTON -- Lt. Cydnie Taylor, fire safety educator with the Newton County Fire Service, and Chief Don Floyd of the Covington Fire Department, offer the following tips on staying warm, especially when a winter storm may require that alternate heating methods be used.

Of course, at the top of the list is to be sure smoke alarms are properly installed and in good working order with fresh batteries in case of power outages.

But, not only is the possibility of fire of special concern, residents should be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to a press release from the U.S. Fire Administration, each year unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning (CO) claims hundreds of lives and sends thousands of people to the emergency room for treatment. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu such as headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.

Tips on how to protect yourself include:

* Install at least one CO alarm with an audible warning signal near sleeping areas. Alarms are designed to sound before a normal, healthy adult would experience symptoms.

* Have heating system, water heater and any other gas-, oil- or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every 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 door is open.

Heating units

* Place heaters at least 3 feet away from flammable materials. Make sure the floor and nearby walls are properly insulated. Keep open flames away from walls, furniture, drapery and flammable items.

* Space heaters should be turned off every time you leave the room and before going to bed.

* Use only the type of fuel designated for your unit and follow manufacturer's instructions.

* Store ashes in a metal container outside and away from your residence.

* Have heating units inspected and cleaned annually by a certified specialist.

* Never use gasoline, benzine, naptha or similar flammable liquids indoors.

* Store flammable liquids in approved containers in well-ventilated storage areas. Never smoke near flammable liquids.

Floyd shared the following safety advice from the USFA on specific types of alternative heating.

Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces:

* Use a metal or glass fireplace screen.

* The stove should be burned hot twice a day for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.

* Don't use excessive amounts of paper to build fires in fireplaces.

* Keep flammable materials away from mantels.

* Before going to sleep, make sure fire is out. Never close a damper with hot ashes in the fireplace.

* If synthetic logs are used, follow directions on the package. Never break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire or use more than one log at a time.

* Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate a fire.

* Never burn charcoal indoors.

Kerosene heaters

* Learn the safety and maintenance procedures necessary to safely operating the unit.

* Always use water clear K-1 grade kerosene

* Never use gasoline or any other volatile fuels in the unit.

* Never refuel the heater indoors, when it is hot or when in use.

* Do not fill the fuel tank past the full mark as it will expand.

* Always provide adequate ventilation for the unit.

Electric heaters

* Never dry clothes or store objects on top of the heater.

* Never use extension cords with electric heaters

* Never allow children to play with or around the heater.

* Never place anything inside the grill on the front of the heater.

* Choose a heater that turns off automatically if tipped over.

Home preparation

* Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

* Clear rain gutters and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.

* Insulate pipes and allow faucets to drip a little to avoid freezing. And, learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe does burst.

* Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them.

Protection from

elements

* Be aware that extremely cold temperatures can be especially harmful to the elderly or disabled. Develop a plan of how you will keep them warm should the power fail.

* When outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves, and a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.