State fire marshal's office issues storm safety warnings
BOSTON — State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan issued fire safety warnings with the approaching storm.
“Start your storm preparations by making sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working and stock up on battery-operated candles and flashlights in case the power goes out,” he said.
Prevent Fires from Alternative Lighting, Heating and Cooking: “It can be difficult and frustrating to be without light, heat or the ability to cook for an extended period of time, but it is critical to stay safe and not make a bad situation worse,” said Coan. “After storms, we often see many fires from woodstoves being overloaded, improper disposal of ashes, candles, and improper re-fueling of generators.”
Wood, Coal and Pellet Stoves: “Prevent serious fires from the improper disposal of ashes from fireplaces, wood and pellet stoves,” said Coan. “A single ember can remain hot for days, so put ashes in a metal container with a lid away from the house, the garage, the deck,” he added. Already this heating season, many fires started with ashes put into plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and plastic trash bins, in the garage, under the deck or even in the family room. Don't over fire your woodstove as they are not designed to replace central heating systems. An overtaxed woodstove can easily start a chimney fire taking advantage of creosote build-up or minor cracks in the flue or causing a breakdown in the chimney liner,” said Coan. Heating appliances are the leading cause of carbon monoxide in the home and the risk increases when they are working harder. For more information go to www.mass.gov/keepwarmkeepsafe.
Use Flashlights and Battery-Operated Candles
Use flashlights and battery-operated candles for safety. If you must use flame candles, remember to burn them inside a one-foot circle of safety free of anything that can burn. Place them on a non-combustible surface or in the sink; blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed; and use jar candles or place a globe over stick candles. Keep pets and children away from candles.
Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: “Carbon monoxide poisoning is a great risk at times like these,” said Coan. “Don't use your oven for heat and don't bring a hibachi or gas grill inside to cook, doing so can cause carbon monoxide poisoning,” he said. Coan warned, “Using propane or charcoal grills or generators inside the garage – even with the door open – poses a serious risk of CO poisoning.” People need to know they could electrocute utility workers by “back feeding” (plugging the generator directly into an outlet) and that they need to have an electrician install an appropriate transfer switch first.
Make Sure Smoke Alarms and CO Alarms are Working: One of the simplest steps for safety you can take is to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working. “During an extended power outage the battery-back-ups in hard-wired smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors may need replacing in many cases in order to continue to provide protection. Listen for a low battery chirp or look for an ‘lb' readout,” said Fire Marshal Coan.
Clear Snow from Furnace and Dryer Vents: Keep outside furnace, hot water and dryer vents clear of drifting snow, to prevent flue gases from backing up into the home and creating a carbon monoxide hazard.
Consider Going to a Shelter to Charge Up Cell Phones: Many people may lose the ability to make emergency calls when cell phone batteries and the battery-backup for fiber optic telephone/cable/Internet services become depleted. “I would urge people without lights and heat to consider staying with friends and family have power or go to an emergency shelter for a short while, even if it's just to charge up cell phones, get a hot meal and warm up,” Coan said. “
Prevent Freezing Pipes: “Let hot and cold water faucets drip a trickle to prevent pipes from freezing and open cupboards under sinks to let heat circulate around the pipes,” said Coan.
Gasoline Safety: “If you're filling up your snow blower, be sure to transport gasoline safely in an approved container in the trunk of your car,” said Coan. Fire officials recommend placing the container on the ground to avoid any static electrical charge igniting vapors. State regulations prohibit transporting more than seven gallons without a permit. Gasoline should be stored outside the home in small quantities in approved containers. “Remember to allow equipment to cool before refueling to prevent vapors from ignited,” said Coan.
For more information on safety go to www.mass.gov/dfs click on fire safety topics then Storm Safety.
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