Hidden dangers: How to stay safe when heating your home this winter

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– With temperatures dipping and more people turning on their furnaces, there are certain steps you’ll want to take to keep your family safe while keeping your home warm.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating is the second leading cause of home fires and injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. Most of these fires occur in December, January, and February.

From 2014-2018, NFPA reports fire departments responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment. As a result, 500 people lost their lives, more than 1,300 were injured and damage was estimated to be over $1 billion dollars.

Here are some of their tips to keep your loved ones safe this winter:
• Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
• Never use your oven to heat your home.
• Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
• Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
• Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be
cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
• Test smoke alarms at least once a month.

Dominion Ohio Energy is also releasing tips to save energy and stay safe. The company said an annual gas heating inspection can ensure safety and increase efficiency.

The most important thing: If you smell the odor of natural gas inside a house or building, leave immediately and call Dominion East Ohio’s 24-hour emergency service at 1-877-542-2630. Do not try to locate the gas leak, open the windows, use your phone, turn any electrical switches or use lighters.

Dominion Energy Ohio also encouraged customers to get a carbon monoxide detector as a second line of defense. CO exposure produces flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion, or irritability at low levels and vomiting, drowsiness, and loss of consciousness or even death, at high levels.

If you suspect carbon monoxide, get everyone out of the house, seek medical attention and call the fire department.

The company said meters and vents should be kept clear of snow, ice, and bushes.

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