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Fighting the Cold Indoors Can Ignite Home Safety Hazards

UL Offers Safety Tips to Help Families Stay Protected from Alternative Heating Methods and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

During the winter months, heating equipment is responsible for the majority of residential fires, notably space heaters which pose the greatest risk.  According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2004-2008, most home heating fire deaths (82%) and injuries (64%) and half (51%) of associated direct property damage involved stationary or portable space heaters. That’s why UL (Underwriters Laboratories) warns it’s important to safeguard against possible fire and carbon monoxide dangers.

“January and February are the top months for home fire deaths, “says John Drengenberg, UL’s consumer safety director. “By taking precautions and making sure you’re using indoor heating sources correctly, you can save lives.”

UL recommends these simple steps to help keep your family safe from potential home fires this winter season:

• Keep flammable objects at least three feet away from indoor heat sources such as space heaters and fireplaces
• Always shut off space heaters when leaving the room and before going to bed
• Check your home’s smoke alarms and make sure models and batteries are up to date
• Purchase home heaters that bear the UL Mark to make sure it has been tested to appropriate safety requirements

“By understanding where fire hazards exist, and taking some simple preventative steps to avoid them, people can greatly reduce their risk to fire this winter,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of communications.

Along with home fires, carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and poisonous gas that also threatens family safety - a risk associated with using alternative methods of winter heating. Dubbed the “silent killer,” the gas kills 500 people and sends 20,000 more to the hospital each year.

In an effort to raise awareness about CO poisoning and how to make a home safe, UL is urging homeowners to INSPECT for, PROTECT and DETECT against CO hazards with the following tips:

• INSPECT for potential signs of CO leaks such as carbon streak or soot around fuel-burning appliances
• INSPECT furnace rooms for moisture collecting on windows or wall
• INSPECT fire repositories (chimneys and fireplaces) as well as fuel-burning appliances (furnaces, hot water heaters and stoves) annually with a qualified technician
• PROTECT your home by purchasing and installing a CO alarm on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas
• PROTECT the efficiency of CO alarms by testing them monthly and replacing batteries once a year
• DECTECT the source of CO by having a professional inspect and fix the problem after a CO alarm sounds
• DETECT CO by watching for symptoms of gas poisoning including headache, dizziness and other flu-like complaints and evacuate the house, call the fire department and seek medical attention

For more information on home heating and CO safety tips, go to