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USFA Offers Tips to Prevent CO Poisoning
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is urging residents to be safe as cold weather blankets the United States, including areas recently impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a serious threat in cold weather. Any fuel-burning appliances in the home, including furnaces and fireplaces, are a potential CO source. Carbon monoxide is called the "invisible killer" because it is an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are an important line of defense in the home, and they give consumers valuable escape time. About two-thirds of fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or in homes where consumers have removed the alarm’s batteries or where the batteries are dead.
The USFA recommends that in addition to having working smoke and CO alarms, all residents should follow these safety tips to prevent fires and CO poisoning during the recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy:
- Schedule a yearly professional inspection of all fuel-burning home heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
- Never operate a portable gasoline-powered generator in an enclosed space, such as a garage, shed, or crawlspace, or in the home.
- Keep portable generators as far away from your home and your neighbors’ homes as possible – away from open doors, windows or vents that could allow deadly carbon monoxide into the home.
- When purchasing a space heater, ask the salesperson whether the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater has a safety certification mark. These heaters have the most up-to-date safety features. An unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
- Do not use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space, unless they are designed specifically for indoor use. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use.
- Never use gas or electric stoves to heat the home. They are not intended for that purpose and can pose a CO or fire hazard.
USFA Releases Report on Intentionally Set Fires in Residential Buildings
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) has issued a special report examining the characteristics of intentionally set fires in residential buildings. The report, Intentionally Set Fires in Residential Buildings (2008-2010), is based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).
According to the report:
- An estimated 16,800 intentionally set fires in residential buildings occur annually in the U.S. These fires result in an estimated average of 280 deaths, 775 injuries and $593 million in property loss each year.
- Intentionally set fires accounted for 5 percent of all residential building fires.
- The majority (76 percent) of intentionally set fires in residential buildings occurred in one- or two-family dwellings. An additional 19 percent of fires occurred in multifamily dwellings.
USFA would like to remind everyone that intentional home fires can be prevented. Start by regularly inspecting your home for fire hazards and removing materials that can be used to start a fire. Additional steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of an intentional home fire are:
- Remove trash, debris and other materials that can catch fire from the front and back of your home.
- Remove from your home or securely store flammable material and chemicals.
- Secure abandoned and vacant homes with additional locks. Board up broken windows or other openings with plywood.
- Support Neighborhood Watch programs and report suspicious people and activity to law enforcement officials.
For information regarding other topical reports or any programs and training available at USFA, visit www.usfa.fema.gov.