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Portable Heater Causes Fire, and Great List of Top Home Fire Safety Tips

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April 10, 2013
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Portable Heater Causes Fire, and Great List of Top Home Fire Safety Tips

Spring may be upon us, but there are still cold nights in many regions of the US – and every day I read more reports of residential fires. Some of these blazes cause fatalities, and what’s especially tragic is that many of these fire-related deaths are avoidable. Following standard safety precautions for items like portable heaters would be a good start.  And when I read stories like this one from Petaluma, California, a distant northern suburb of San Francisco, I am reminded of why FrontPoint recommends fire monitoring to every one of its customers.

A fire that claimed the life of an elderly Petaluma woman in her mobile home Thursday may have been caused by an electrical cord or portable heater. Petaluma Fire Marshal Cary Fergus said Friday the origin is undetermined, but likely involved a heating device being used in the living room of Elizabeth “Betty” Ferry. Ferry, a feisty Texan who turned 88 on New Year's Eve, had lived at the Leisure Lake Mobile Home Park for about a decade, neighbors said. Neighbors called 911 around 3 p.m. Thursday to report Ferry's single-wide coach on fire at the north Petaluma mobile home park. A next-door neighbor said he tried to open Ferry's door but it was too hot.

No Alarm System to Begin With

Most of the homes involved in these fires do not have a monitored security system, let alone fire monitoring, but fire monitoring is one of the most important reasons to have a home alarm system in the first place. And for those with intrusion alarms, adding fire monitoring to a wireless home alarm system is such a logical course of action, it’s amazing that more people don’t do it – especially when they have children and pets.

Then again, there are plenty of alarm companies who expect you to pay a lot for the smoke & heat sensors, and who add an unnecessary surcharge to the monthly fee for a service that does not cost them any extra. The best alarm companies include fire monitoring at no additional cost to you.

More on Portable Heaters

Often cited as one of the primary causes of residential fires, portable heating devices carry their own risks. But there are safety tips that can help, as shown by this article form Watertown, in upstate (and often chilly) New York.

Space heaters as well as personal home heaters may be a potential threat to home safety. The City of Watertown Fire Department has set out this advisory regarding home fire safety and preventing potential home fires.

1)      Remember, smoke detectors are our first line of defense preventing injuries from a fire. Smoke detectors should be installed on each level of your house including any area where occupants sleep. Detectors should be cleaned and tested often and the batteries should be changed at least twice a year.

2)      Carbon Monoxide detectors are just as important, especially this time of year, when we are using wood burning stove, oil, natural gas and propane furnaces and kerosene heating appliances. Carbon Monoxide is called the silent killer since it is a colorless and odorless. The buildup of this hazardous gas can accumulate in your home from loose, rotten or broken vent pipes from any of your heating appliances. Sickness and even death can occur to anyone exposed to hazardous amounts of carbon monoxide. It is recommended that your heating appliances are cleaned and inspected annually by a reputable repair company to be sure none of these defects are in your home.

3)      Portable heaters are required to be kept at least 3’ from any combustible item including curtains, wood molding, furniture, walls and even children who play in this area. Children can be severely burned if allowed to play too close to these appliances. These portable heaters should be plugged directly into the wall and the use of extension cords is not recommended.

4)      Automatic shut off buttons should be a main component of your heater. If the appliance is old enough not to have one of these safety components, it’s time to retire the unit for a new safer model.

5)      All heaters should be turned off when you are not in the room, and the proper type of fuel should be used only for these appliances.

6)      Fireplaces should also be inspected as well as the iron screen and glass doors on the fireplace. Cracks or damage to these items may allow hot embers to drop out of the unit onto the floor causing a fire. If a generator is used, it should only be used outside and in a well-ventilated area away from any opening door or window to your house.

7)      All generator units should be allowed to cool completely before you attempt to refuel the appliance. If we all practice fire safety measures, we can all have a safe winter.

Most reputable alarm companies (including FrontPoint) recommend at least one monitored smoke and heat sensor for every system they sell. The main reason is that your standard non-monitored smoke detector is really just a noisemaker. Yes, it’s much better than nothing, and we know it has saved lives – but don’t you want to know the fire department is being summoned as soon as possible? You may be away, or - much worse - overcome by smoke in your own home. That’s when you definitely want a system that quickly and proactively reaches out the people who can help. For more information, here’s a link to my previous post on monitored fire protection.

FrontPointcontinues to provide the latest in interactive, wireless home security, including 24-hour fire monitoring for no additional monthly fee. We are proud members of the NFPA, and fully support their goal of protecting us in our homes and workplaces - just one more reason why FrontPoint is known as the #1 ranked alarm company in the US.

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