By Linda Dillman
It is time to turn up the heat, put up the decorations, and take a good look around the home to make sure this holiday season is as safe as possible.
Hamilton Township Fire Chief Martin Hafey said now is the time to have furnaces, fireplaces, wood burning stoves and chimneys inspected, cleaned and repaired as temperatures drop and thermostats are turned up.
“Electric heaters should be placed at least 36 inches from combustible materials like furniture, curtains and bedding,” said Hafey, “and should never be left unattended. Use the same rule for kerosene heaters. Children should never play around these devices.”
Hafey advises putting a fire safe screen in front of the fireplace to protect from flying embers and to keep children and pets from injury. Have working carbon monoxide detectors in the home as well.
From Nov. 1, 2020, until March 1, 2021, there were four carbon monoxide runs by the township that had positive readings. Two were from faulty furnaces, one from a bad exhaust pipe from a water heater, and one from a car being warmed up in the attached garage.
There were several other reported carbon monoxide runs, but Hafey said many were due to signals indicating that the battery was low in the detector.
“The batteries should be changed twice a year, just like smoke detector batteries, unless it is a new style with permanent 10 year batteries,” said Hafey, who also said there were two fire runs related to space heaters. “One was where a space heater was too close to some furniture and had started to scorch the material and smoke. The other was where the space heater was plugged into a cheap brown extension cord. The electrical draw from the heater caused the extension cord to overheat and began to smoke and melt.”
Hafey said electric space heaters should be plugged directly into the wall or into a larger size extension cord and kept at least three feet from combustible materials like curtains, furniture and beds.
“There was also a fire related to a child playing with a lighter in a closet and causing the house to catch on fire,” said Hafey. “Matches and lighters should put up and out of the reach of children.”
December is a prime time for the ambiance of candlelight and while they set a festive mood, candles must be in proper holders or containers. Never leave burning candles unattended. They should always be out of the reach of children and the wagging tail of a happy canine.
“Check all holiday electrical lights for damage,” said Hafey. “Repair properly as needed or discard when necessary. Unplug them when you leave the house or go to bed. Make sure your artificial tree has a fire-retardant rating. It should say so on the box.”
A freshly decorated fir or pine is an icon of the season, but live holiday trees need to be watered frequently and no flame or heat sources should be located nearby. Discard them when needles become brittle or fall off in substantial amounts.
Do not overload electrical outlets or extension cords with more light strands than for which they are rated.
While there are special situations to look out for during the holiday season, fire safety awareness is a 365-day concern.
Hafey offers the following tips to follow throughout the year—have working smoke detectors in all bedrooms and on all levels of the home; buy a fire extinguisher and learn how to use it; if you smoke, use non tipping ashtrays and never smoke in bed.
“We do have a program for Hamilton Township residents to be provided with and have installed a smoke detector,” said Hafey. “Captain Edwards, our community paramedic is in charge of the program and can be contacted at Station 172 at 614-491-1042. At this time, we do not have a program for CO detectors. The life expectancy of both type of detectors is about 10 years. After that, the sensors in the detectors don’t function as well or not at all which cause the detector to not activate when needed.”
Clearly post your house number on your house or mailbox in the event of an emergency. Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children and do not leave anything cooking or baking unattended.