The office of state Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has issued an advisory about ways to avoid house fires caused by heating equipment as cold weather moves in this week.

The tips include:

  • Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires in Georgia. Portable space heaters, open fireplaces and wood stoves can be dangerous if misused. Keep portables away from curtains, draperies and other flammable material. Always follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
  • If you use kerosene space heaters, make sure each heater has an automatic shut-off in case it tips over. Use only K-1 kerosene in a space heater; gasoline can cause an explosion.
  • Have your home heating unit checked annually to be sure it is working efficiently and safely. Make Make sure all fuel-burning appliances and fireplaces are properly vented.  If you suspect a gas leak in your home, leave immediately and call the gas company from elsewhere.
  • Install an adequate number of smoke alarms. Most fatal fires start between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., while the family is asleep.  The warning of a smoke alarm may mean the difference between life and death. Nine out of 10 fire victims are already dead before the fire department is even called, mainly from smoke and toxic gases.
  • Each household should have a well-rehearsed family escape plan. All rooms, especially bedrooms, should have two escape routes. Have a predetermined meeting place outside the house, so you can be sure everyone is out safely.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.