Texas winter storm contributes to tragic fires and CO poisoning

The massive winter storm and resulting power outages in Texas have contributed to home fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other tragedies as millions of people work to stay warm, keep rooms lit, and prevent pipes from freezing. Unfortunately, news reports indicate that more treacherous conditions are on the way for the region.

Keeping communities safe under these circumstances is no easy task, but providing fire safety tips and recommendations to as many people as possible can make a substantive difference in helping people stay safe. As news stories continue to report on fires and other tragedies in recent days, here are messages that can help reduce the risk of fire and associated hazards, which include links to additional resources and information:

Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide (CO) is often called the silent killer because it can’t be seen, heard or smelled, but it can be deadly. Make sure CO alarms are installed and working properly. To prevent CO poisoning, make sure your home’s heating system is in working order; if it isn’t, do not use it. If the heat stops working, use extra layers of clothes and blankets to stay warm.

If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.

Generators: Generators should be used outdoors and placed well away from windows and doors. Do not run a generator inside your garage, even if the door is open.

Candles: Use battery-powered flashlights to light your home, not candles. However, if you must use candles, make sure they are attended at all times and kept out of reach of children and pets. Place candles on a sturdy surface that’s clear of clutter and keep them at least one foot away from anything that can burn. Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.

Fireplaces: When using a fireplace, use a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Monitor a fireplace fire at all times; make sure it is completely out before going to sleep or leaving your home. When the fire is completely out, let the ashes cool and put them in a metal container that’s placed at a safe distance away from your home.

Space heaters: If you have power and are using a space heater to keep warm, make sure it’s in good working order and placed at least three feet away from anything that can burn and in a location that it won’t be bumped into or knocked over. Keep children and pets well away from space heaters and never leave them unattended. Turn them off when you leave the room or go to sleep.

Also, never use an oven or other cooking appliances to heat your home.

Frozen pipes: The American Red Cross offers a wealth of consumer tips and recommendations for preventing frozen pipes and safely thawing them.

NFPA and USFA work together each year to promote the “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires” campaign, which provides a wealth of information and resources that can be shared with communities to help prevent winter fires.

Sign up for the NFPA Network Newsletter
Susan McKelvey
Communications Manager

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