Oswego County News Release
Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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Oct. 6, 2008

Dr. Norfleet Suggests Tips for Heating Your Home Safely

Now is a good time, as cold weather approaches, to start thinking about heating your home safely this winter. The Oswego County Health Department reminds people that safety should be the number one priority when deciding on any type of alternative heating source.

Some popular alternative sources of home heating are fireplaces, space heaters, wood-burning stoves, and kerosene heaters.

"While chances of freezing to death in your home are small, there's a greater risk of death by fire or carbon monoxide poisoning," noted Dennis Norfleet, MD, Public Health Director for Oswego County. Fortunately, most tragedies are preventable by following a few safety steps.

  • Install smoke alarms that are equipped with a battery back up in your home. Make sure that smoke alarms are on every level of the home as well as near every bedroom in the home. Test the alarms monthly, and change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Purchase and install a carbon monoxide alarm for your home. Make sure it is marked with the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) safety listing. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for placement in your home.
  • Children should not have access to portable heaters, electric or fuel powered.
  • Do not burn anything larger than candles inside your home without providing good ventilation. There should be a source of fresh air such as an open window, door or fireplace flume.
  • All heaters that run on fuel (natural gas, kerosene, butane, oil) should be vented. The only exception to this rule is electric heaters.
  • Do not use the kitchen oven or stove top to heat your home. This can be a fire hazard as well as a source of toxic fumes.
  • "Space" heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away from them.
  • If you are using supplemental portable electric heaters, never use an extension cord. Plug them directly into the electrical outlet.
  • Before purchasing a portable heater, make sure it has "tip switches." These switches are designed to automatically shut off the heating unit in the event it tips over.
  • Never refill a space heater while it is in operation or is still hot.
  • ONLY refuel heaters outdoors! Use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer, and follow instructions carefully.
  • Glass doors or a metal screen should be placed in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks or hot ash from igniting carpets, furniture, or other combustible items.
  • Do not burn outdoor barbeque charcoal in your home -- not even in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. It releases odorless, but toxic, carbon monoxide fumes and can cause death!

Weather-related power failures are a fact of life in our region, and a generator will provide the backup electricity you need to get through the crisis. But any fuel-fired device can be a carbon monoxide (CO) hazard. Be sure to place permanently installed generators away from your house so that engine-exhaust gases, including CO, do not migrate back into the living space. Do not operate any portable generator inside of a building, particularly your home, where exhaust gases can be drawn inside. This includes garages, basements, or other confined spaces around your house.

In addition, county residents that need assistance with winter fuel costs can contact the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). For information on HEAP, residents age 60 and older may contact the Oswego County Office for the Aging at 349-3484 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3484. Other households should contact the Oswego County Department of Social Services at 963-5000 or 1-888-963-5377.

For additional winter safety tips contact the Oswego County the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547, or visit the health department's Web site at http://oswegocounty.com/health.shtml

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