Heating Safety Encouraged in Extreme Weather
Everybody loves a fire in a traditional fireplace with the smell of hickory wood burning and the crackling sound. The warmth and the calming, tranquil feeling of an open fire can be very enjoyable. Fireplaces not only provide an evening of relaxation and holiday gale and cheer, but also serve as Santa’s traditional route of travel into your children’s heart. We are captivated in our homes by the romance and thrill of an open fire. However, this enjoyable tradition of an open fire can bring its share of problems if yearly maintenance is neglected. Briefly I’d like to discuss some fire safety issues concerning heating your home as we enjoy the upcoming fall weather.
Fireplaces and space heaters are truly nice additions that make a house a home. They can make a bitter-cold winter bearable. Let’s face it, the substantially increased cost to heat your home this winter might even further influence your decision to use supplemental heating such as with your fireplace or space heaters. The Clinton Fire Department, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) are urging consumers to use caution when using these types of devices.
Please check carbon monoxide detectors or install them in your home and office to prevent the "silent" killer.
A recent news release by the National Fire Protection Agency offered some interesting but sobering facts:
There were 57,100 home structure fires related to heating equipment reported by U.S. fire departments in 2010. These fires caused 490 deaths, 1,530 injuries and $1.1 billion in property damage. These numbers have generally declined over recent years, but with natural gas and oil prices rising each year, those who never used supplemental heating sources may elect to do so, which may result in more fires. As you watch the news this fall, you will probably see more and more fires in the United States that will occur due to improper heating methods. The NFPA reports that half of all home heating fires occur in the months of December, January, and February. The leading factors contributing to ignition in home heating equipment fires were failure to clean (27%), heat source too close to combustibles (14%), and unclassified mechanical failure or malfunction (12%). Heat source too close to combustibles was a factor in half (51%) of associated fire deaths. I can’t tell you how often we see people using heaters improperly to dry clothing or to keep animals warm in their garage. Animals can very easily knock over the heater or cause combustibles to get too close to the space heaters.
One should always clear the area around space heaters at a minimum of three feet in all directions. We always use the rule “give space heaters space” as the leading cause of space heater fires was combustibles too close to the heaters. Usually fires related to Central heating units were primarily caused by mechanical failures, malfunctions typically related to maintenance issues while most fireplace and chimney fires were caused by creosote build-up.
Heating equipment can be used safely if you follow these recommendations from the (NFPA):
- When buying a new space heater, make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory, and be sure to have fixed space heaters installed by a qualified technician, according to manufacturer’s instructions or applicable codes.
- Give space heaters space. Keep or maintain a 36-inch clearance between space heaters and anything that can burn.
- Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors and all other solid-fueled heating equipment inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned as often as inspections suggest. Use only wood that is properly seasoned to reduce creosote build-up.
- Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Allow fireplace and woodstove ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container.
- Have any gas-fueled heating device installed with proper attention to ventilation.
- Test smoke alarms monthly; install a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area.
- Following a violent storm, earthquake, flood or lightning strike, have your chimney inspected for damage -- inside and out. This includes checking for cracks and fallen bricks. For safety's sake, DO NOT USE YOUR CHIMNEY until it is checked by a certified chimney sweep (CSIA).
Clinton Emergency Responders Urge Residents to be “Storm Ready”
Residents encouraged to register for CodeRed Alerts
In Central Mississippi, severe weather can strike at any time and Clinton Fire personnel are reminding residents to prepare for severe weather.
The City will activate Outdoor Warning Sirens when severe weather, such as a tornado, threatens the community. If severe weather is approaching Clinton and the warning sirens are heard, seek shelter immediately and monitor TV and radio for further instructions.
Clinton Fire personnel point out that Sirens are designed to alert those outside of imminent severe weather and not designed to be the only source of a severe weather warning inside a structure. Current standards in building construction, have made it difficult for the sound waves from the sirens to penetrate houses. Additionally, weather conditions can contribute to the ability of sirens to be heard indoors. Finally, TV’s, radios and devices can distract those indoors to impending severe weather outdoors.
Chief Jeff Blackledge reminds residents that Outdoor Warning sirens are a line of defense, but should not be a resident’s primary source of warning. "They (sirens) are exactly what it says. It's an outdoor warning siren system. In other words, it's designed, if you’re outside, to get your attention, to seek shelter," stated Clinton Fire Chief Jeff Blackledge.
The sirens themselves aren't a guaranteed way to save lives. It's up to those who hear them, to acknowledge the sound and take the warning seriously.
In the event of a storm, the city provides CodeRed weather alerts to your e-mail, cellphone and home phone. Code Red is an emergency alert system that sends weather warnings and other emergency messages to residents through their landlines, cell phones and e-mails.
Citizens of Clinton that own a landline have automatically been enrolled to receive emergency notifications through the 911 database, meaning they will receive a phone call from the automated system when an emergency message is broadcasted. Code Red also offers an emergency alert system that sends emergency notifications through text messages.
To sign up for this free service, head online to clintonms.org/codered and click on the Code Red logo, which will redirect you to the official Code Red registration page, where you will be asked to fill out a few pieces of contact information, including a cell phone number and the city/state in which you live.
Chief Blackledge suggests residents plan on utilizing multiple tools to be alert during severe weather. Blackledge suggests the purchase of a Weather Radio with a battery backup or download a severe weather warning or weather radio app for their phone. Weather radios can be programmed to alert those inside of approaching weather in a specific geographic location.
Blackledge also stated that local media outlets are effective tools for monitoring approaching severe weather. “Our local media outlets are extremely knowledgeable in regards to severe weather, we encourage our residents to tune into TV and Radio during severe weather,” Blackledge stated.
For individuals with smartphones, there are multiple free or low cost severe weather warning and tracking apps available for both IPhone and Android platforms. Weather apps that are great for a quick glance at the weather, but those apps won't help you much in severe weather conditions. For more-serious weather activity, you will need apps that track the storms with the latest radar data, give up-to-the-minute information, and give you some forewarning for what's happening in your area. Metro area TV stations all have effective mobile apps that provide live radar included.
Turn your smartphone into a NOAA emergency weather radio. Get storm-based alerts for tornado, hurricane, flood, thunderstorm, winter storm seasons and other life-threatening weather events via voice and push notification. Weather radio apps deliver storm-based alerts. Receive critical alerts via voice and push notifications.
Code Red also has a mobile app, giving you additional access to emergency notifications and general information directly from your smart phone. The app is geo-aware, meaning it will only give you notifications for your specific area. Once you have finished registering your profile, you are set up to receive the latest weather alerts and emergency messages directly on your phone.
For more information regarding CodeRED, please visit www.clintonms.org/codered.
"Technology has been wonderful in getting warnings to people. The unfortunate part is that there’s still the human aspect, of people making wrong decisions. Technology won't save that. It won’t solve that problem; it still comes down to a human factor," Blackledge said.
In the end, it's up to you to decide to be “Storm Ready.”
The city website (clintonms.org) and social media sites will be utilized in the event of severe weather to alert the community of response and recovery information. Follow the city at www.facebook.com/clintonmiss or www.twitter.com/city_of_clinton.
Outdoor Burning Guidelines
As the weather turns colder, limb, leaves and yard debris disposal needs increase. While many in Clinton choose to dispose of yard refuse through the city’s contract with waste management by bagging leaves and bundling limbs, others residents choose other methods to dispose of yard waste.
Some turn to the ages old method of “open burning”. Choosing to dispose of their limbs and twigs in a small burn pile or burn barrel.
Simply thought of as burning things outside, “open burning” has residual effects well beyond the scope of the naked eye.
“Before lighting that fire, remember to protect yourself, your neighbors, and your wallet by knowing what and where you can burn”, stated Chief Jeff Blackledge of the Clinton Fire Department. “If not controlled, fires can destroy property and endanger lives”.
Only dried twigs or limbs and branches that originate from the property of the homeowner may be burned for disposal purposes. No burning may take place after dark or before sunrise. Permits are required for residents wishing to burn on their property. Permits may be obtained by calling the Clinton Fire Department 601-925-1001.
Chief Blackledge suggests the following precautions be taken when burning on your property.
- Maintain a means to extinguish the fire at all times while burning
- Attend the fire at all times
For residents not wishing to burn debris, other options exist.
The city’s waste management contractor is responsible for removing all yard waste that meets specific criteria concerning weight, length and packaging. Yard waste such as leaves, trimmings and pine straw must be placed in bags and tied.
Limbs and other trimmings should not exceed five feet in length and no greater than eight inches in diameter. Limbs and/or bundled branches may not weigh more than sixty pounds or exceed two cubic yards and should be placed next to the trash receptacle.
Yard debris will be collected on the last collection day of the week.
It is against city ordinances to blow or rake leaves into storm drains or into the gutter and prohibit the piling of leaves and yard refuse curbside for more than 14 days.
Additionally, blocking traffic lanes or creating line-of-sight hazards for motorists can result in liabilities to the homeowner.
Residents who contract with a tree service or hire an individual for the removal of trees on private property will be responsible for the disposal of such debris.
Leaves make an excellent mulch for use around trees and shrubs, or in flower and vegetable gardens. They help retard the growth of weeds, help retain soil moisture, help maintain lower soil temperatures in the summer, and protect against temperature fluctuations and some types of low temperature injury during winter. They eventually decompose, adding their nutrients to the soil and improving soil structure.
Whatever means of limb and leaf disposal is chosen, please follow city fire and disposal codes. For burn permits or information about outdoor burning please contact the Clinton Fire Department at 601-925-1001. For information about garbage and trash collection, please contact the Clinton Public Works Department at 601-924-2239.