TRENTON, NJ – With the onset of colder temperatures, the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety encourages residents to keep their heating systems in good working order and to avoid unsafe heating practices such as using a kitchen stove to keep warm.
“People are now starting to turn the thermostat up and perhaps use portable heaters to warm cooler parts of their home,” said Richard Mikutsky, State Fire Marshal and Division of Fire Safety Director. “In both cases, people should exercise caution and be mindful that simple carelessness or improper maintenance can lead to fire.”
For example, just after Christmas last year, the worst fire in New York City in more than 25 years took the lives of 12 people, including three children. The ensuing fire investigation found the cause had been a child playing with the kitchen stove, which may have been used as a heating source.
“The use of kitchen stoves and other non-conventional sources for heating are many times a factor in fires,” Fire Marshal Mikutsky said. “A kitchen stove should never be used to heat a room because of the incredible danger it presents.”
The following are safe practices for the home heating season:
CONVENTIONAL HOME HEATING SYSTEMS
- Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected each year by a professional.
- Make certain your heater has an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS). ODS sensors are found in portable heaters made after 1984 and will turn off the heater if it senses high levels of carbon monoxide (CO).
- Look for an independent lab label such as UL which sets minimum safety standards for manufacture.
- If the heater is electric, make certain the cord is #14 gauge or larger. Do not run the cord under a rug.
- Make sure the unit has a protective grill in front of the heating element, which is the part that glows.
- Turn the heater off when you leave the room.
- Enforce the “3 Foot Rule” with young children. Keep them at least three feet away.
- Keep flammable materials such as bedding, curtains, and clothing three feet away.
- Plug the heater directly into wall outlets, and never use with a household extension cord.
- Make sure the device has a “tip over” switch that turns the heater off if it is knocked over.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that can kill even before you are aware it is in your home or apartment. At low levels it can mimic flu symptoms, including nausea, fatigue, headaches, and dizziness.
- CO sources include gas-fired appliances, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, generators, and motor vehicles.
- Though CO can be a danger at any time of year, it is most hazardous when windows and doors are closed.
The most effective fire safety tools continue to be a working smoke and CO alarm on every level of the home, coupled with a family escape plan.
Consumers should also know that by law in New Jersey kerosene heaters are banned in all commercial establishments and multiple unit dwellings. Further, there may be local ordinances that prohibit their use in single-family homes. It is best to check with your municipal fire official before purchasing one.
The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the State. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing community risk reduction and firefighter training programs.
For more information about DCA, visit https://nj.gov/dca/