KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — ‘Tis the season of light and heat sources getting used more often. What do space heaters, smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, furnaces, fireplaces, chimneys, generators, flashlights and candles have in common? They’re all named in a recent U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report that warns consumers to be vigilant about fire and carbon monoxide (CO) hazards in the colder winter months ahead.
Fire loss and fire death numbers as well as carbon monoxide poisoning deaths remain a top concern for the CPSC, plus reported issues of hyperthermia (overheating) among the elderly population.
Here are some tips shared by CPSC regarding the use of heat and light sources during the winter months, as well as some statistics:
CPSC estimates that portable heaters are involved in about 1,700 fires per year, resulting in about 80 deaths and 160 injuries annually. A CPSC staff report found that space heaters can also present hyperthermia (overheating) hazards to consumers, particularly children, people with disabilities and senior/elderly citizens, who may be more susceptible because of their limited ability to act or react to the elevated ambient temperature. Hyperthermia can result in death. DO NOT leave space heaters running unattended in a confined space around infants, or individuals with reduced physical, sensory or mental capabilities.
Remember, the following if you choose to bring out the space heater:
- Make sure to keep flammable materials at least three feet away
- Always plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet and never into a power strip, to prevent overloading and causing a fire
Furnaces, fireplaces and chimneys
Start by having fireplace flues and chimneys and other fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces, inspected by a professional before the heating season.
From 2010-2020, CPSC estimates that more than 700 people died from CO poisoning associated with generators, over 50 in 2020.
CPSC says most CO deaths associated with portable generators occur in the colder months of the year, between November and February. Also remember:
- The exhaust contains poisonous carbon monoxide, which can kill in minutes
- Use portable generators outside only and place them at least 20 feet from the home
- Never use a generator inside a home, basement, shed or garage
Smoke and CO Alarms
Fire officials, as well as CPSC, say working smoke and CO alarms save lives. They recommend the following:
- Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and inside each bedroom
- CO alarms should be placed on every level of home outside sleeping areas
- Test the alarms every month to make sure they are working
- Replace batteries at least once every year, or install smoke and CO alarms with sealed, 10-year batteries
Check for recalled products
CPSC says before using household products as the colder weather arrives, check to see if the products have been recalled at www.cpsc.gov/recalls. If a product has been recalled, stop using it immediately and contact the recalling company.
In a Dec. 7 news release warning consumers about using these items during the colder winter months, the report also touches on how the dangers, although present across all populations, disproportionally affect certain communities. According to CPSC’s Residential Fire Loss Estimates report, African Americans have the highest rate of fire deaths, nearly twice the overall rate across the population. CPSC also says African Americans represent 22% of portable generator-related CO deaths, nearly 170 from 2010-2020.