Baby, It’s Cold Outside
A heating-season resource kit to help people stay warm — and safe — inside.
NFPA Journal®, January/February 2009
My brother recently purchased a great house by the ocean. It’s a fixer upper, but it has great bones. In preparation for our New England winter, he installed new insulated windows and had his chimney inspected and cleaned before installing a new wood stove in his living room.
It’s a good thing he had the chimney inspected, because a squirrel had made its home in the flue, filling it with debris and leaves. You never know what may be lurking inside your home’s chimney, which is why it’s crucial to have it checked yearly.
The new woodstove my brother had professionally installed is keeping his cozy seaside house nice and warm. As a family, my brother and nephews tested all their smoke alarms, practiced their home fire escape plan, and installed carbon monoxide alarms. With everything inspected and cleaned, he’s set for the winter.
The cost of heating our homes is rising, and this winter promises to be tough for many of us. A lot of people are already prepared with alternative ways to stay warm. But while my brother has me to remind him of the importance of fire safety, not everyone has me looking over his shoulder. Last October, for example, a family from Detroit lost a mother and three children in a devastating house fire started by a space heater that was being used to keep the family warm.
As NFPA members, you know the importance of safe heating practices, but we need to educate our communities so they stay safe this winter. NFPA recently released a new heating campaign kit, More Ways to Keep Your Community Safe and Warm, and mailed it to 32,000 fire departments in the United States last November. The kit is filled with resources that help fire departments conduct a cohesive campaign that will prepare their communities for the tough winter. A few things you will find include community outreach ideas, heating fact sheets, talking points, printable heating safety spots, news releases, and ready-to-run op-ed pieces for local newspapers.
We’ve also included a public service announcement (PSA), “Dan Doofus in Hot Flashes,” which presents important information on heating equipment maintenance, space heater safety, and chimney inspections. This PSA can be used during community presentations, on local cable stations, or in local stores or businesses.
While the kit was mailed to fire departments, businesses and others interested in fire safety may find the materials useful. In case you did not receive a community tool kit, it is available at www.nfpa.org/education. Let us know how you use the materials and any ideas you may have for future community kits.
With the heating season upon us, it’s important to remind everyone to:
- Keep heaters at least 3 feet (0.9 meters) from anything that can burn.
- Turn off space heaters when you leave the room or go to bed.
- Make sure heating equipment and chimneys are in good working condition. They should be inspected every year.
- Use a sturdy fireplace screen to prevent embers from flying into the room.
It’s also important to stress the need for working smoke alarms, a home fire escape plan, and carbon monoxide alarms.
Let’s continue to get the word out about heating safety so that everyone in our communities can face the oncoming winter like my brother: informed, prepared, and secure in the knowledge that he’s done everything he can to ensure a safe heating season for him and his family.
Lynne Winnett is a public education specialist for NFPA’s Public Education Division.