The American Red Cross, the National Fire Protection Association, and Florida Fire Marshal Alex are warning Florida residents about the risks of using alternative forms of fuel. The move comes after a survey conducted in late September showed that Florida residents were concerned about rising fuel costs. In fact, many Florida residents surveyed planned to supplement their heating with stoves, ovens, portable space heaters and fireplaces to keep fuel costs low.
According to Sink, home fires already cause far too many fatalities and serious burn injuries as well as other forms of personal injury. Those residents considering using alternative sources of energy should proceed with caution, he notes. Stoves and ovens should be used for cooking only and families should be cautious and use space heaters with automatic shutoffs only to prevent fires. Anyone planning on using a fireplace to stay warm this winter should have that fireplace cleaned professionally and checked by a professional – items stuck in chimneys and build-up can cause fire.
Sink is worried that Florida residents hoping to use alternative forms of fuel are not careful enough with their heating options. According to the September survey, 36% of participants with fireplaces never cleaned or had their chimneys inspected. Another 23% of survey participants did not think it was vital that someone is home when the stove or oven are on or when food is cooking on the stove.
More than 23 700 Florida homes were affected by fire in 2007. More than 144 Florida residents died from fires last year. Another 592 suffered burn injuries and other personal injuries as a result of fire. To prevent such high numbers in 2008, Sink suggests that Florida residents:
*Install smoke detectors and ensure that those detectors are in working condition.
*Develop a fire escape plan that is familiar to everyone in the family.
*Avoid using extension cords with space heaters and portable heaters.
*Install a carbon monoxide detector if fireplaces or wood burning stoves will be used in the home.
*Turn out lights, turn off appliances and blow out candles before leaving the house and before retiring to bed.
*Monitor candles carefully the entire time they are lit, especially if children or pets are present.
*Keep a working fire extinguisher or two in the home.
*Contact the gas company to re-light the pilot light or to do any other furnace maintenance.
*Practice a fire escape plan regularly.
*Avoid placing space heaters in bedrooms, especially children’s bedrooms.
*Keep space heaters and alternate forms of heat at least three feet away from walls, curtains, furniture, and other flammables.