The recent wave of bitterly cold weather, which led to school closings in Atlanta and north Georgia, brought to mind the types if injuries that happens in cold snaps. I remember every winter during my rural childhood some kid in my school would lose their home in a fire. These were generally old, simple country houses heated by wood stoves that caught fire due to flue or chimney fires. We don’t see that too much today with homes that have gas or electric heating systems. But in bitterly cold weather, a lot of people supplement with space heaters which have their own safety issues
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 32% of all home fires are caused by space heaters. Even worse than that, space heaters are responsible for 79% of all home heating deaths. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of some simple precautions that can help reduce risk of injury or even death.
Space heaters often fall over, are left near flammable items like linens, or are left turned on unattended for long periods of time. If any one of these things happen, it can make what once seemed like a sensible heating solution into a dangerous and deadly fire risk. If you or a loved one is using a space heater this frigid time of year, make sure they follow a few simple precautions.
- Never leave a space heater unattended. If you leave the room for an extended period of time, make sure you turn the heater off. If you are leaving the house for any reason make sure the heater is turned off.
- Do not leave heaters close to flammable items. These items can include everything from bedding to clothing. Make sure you do not place the heater on a carpeted surface. Follow the heater’s instructions on safe distances and location/placing of the heater to help prevent overheating and fires.
- Space heaters are a danger to children due to the fact they are very hot to the touch. Make sure children understand they shouldn’t operate or touch space heaters for any reason.
- Make sure you keep track of any recalls on space heaters. Make sure your space heater has also been professionally tested for safety.
- Make sure you have the proper amount of some detectors in your home just in case of fire. You should also make sure all smoke and CO2 detectors in the home have working batteries.
- Make sure your home stays well ventilated. If you have a chimney, make sure you maintain your chimney and keep it open when using.
Ken Shigley is past president of the State Bar of Georgia (2011-12), double board certified in Civil Trial Advocacy and Civil Pretrial Advocacy by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification, and lead author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation and Practice. His Atlanta-based civil trial practice is focused on representation of plaintiffs in cases of castastrophic personal injury and wrongful death.