With winter weather in full swing, and temperatures reaching into the 20s regularly, it's tempting to just curl up and home with the heater up or the stove blazing. But as local firefighters know and emergency personnel know, there are hazards that can occur from fuel-burning appliances not functioning properly, and plenty of blazes can still occur even when it's cold and raining.
PG&E wants you to know some simple safety tricks that can ensure you and your family stay both warm and safe this winter, including making sure your stove flue is clean, installing working carbon-monoxide (required in single-family homes), keeping flammable materials away from heating devices and open flames, not using fuel-burning devices such as BBQs inside — and not using your home stove and appliances as heat sources — and making sure your space heaters are turned off before bed.
If you think there might be a problem with your natural gas appliances, you can call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 and a representative will be "dispatched to do a thorough inspection." If you detect carbon monoxide in your home, you should get out immediately and call 911.
If you are having difficulty paying your heating bill, PG&E offers a variety of programs to assist with costs and make sure your heat stays on this winter. These include the low-income CARE program, discounts for those requiring medical assistance, and more. Many are easy to apply for online and can help ensure your family stays warm even if you are having trouble making ends meet. More information here.
Here's the full press release and tips from PG&E:
EUREKA, Calif. — With temperatures expected to drop to the 20s throughout parts of Northern and Central California this week, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is urging customers to take safety precautions when heating their homes.
Fuel-burning appliances, such as gas furnaces, stoves, ovens and water heaters, can increase the risk of carbon monoxide, a toxic gas, when they are not working properly. According to the Center for Disease Control, every year in the U.S. at least 430 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and approximately 50,000 people will be sent to the hospital. If unsafe concentrations of carbon monoxide are present but not detected, the result can be fatal.
“Safety is always our top priority. We want to ensure that our customers stay safe and warm during the coldest days of winter. That’s why we’re asking families and businesses to be particularly careful, and follow a few key safety tips, when using both gas and electric appliances this season.” said Carl Schoenhofer, Manager of PG&E’s Humboldt Division.
Electric heating devices, such as space heaters, can also be a safety hazard when used improperly. Improper use has been known to cause fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States and from 2009 to 2013, accounted for 56,000 structure fires per year. Nearly half of these fires occur from December through February. The leading contributing factor to space heater fires is heating equipment too close to objects that can burn, such as furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
PG&E urges customers to focus on safely heating their homes as temperatures dip and offers the following tips:
- Never use products inside the home that generate dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, such as generators, barbecues, propane heaters and charcoal.
- As of 2011, all California single-family homes are required to have carbon monoxide detectors.
o Installation of the devices will warn when concentration levels are high.
o Check the expiration date – most carbon monoxide detectors have a shelf life of five to seven years.
o Replace the batteries at least twice a year.
- Place space heaters on level, hard, nonflammable surfaces, not on rugs or carpets.
- Don’t put objects on space heaters or use them to dry clothes or shoes.
- Turn off space heaters when leaving the room or going to sleep.
- Keep all flammable materials at least three feet away from heating sources and supervise children when a space heater or fireplace is being used.
- Never use cooking devices such as ovens or stoves for home heating purposes.
- When using the fireplace to stay warm, make sure the flue is open so that the byproducts of combustion can vent safely through the chimney.
If customers suspect there is a problem with a natural gas appliance inside their home, they should call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000. A gas service representative will be dispatched to do a thorough inspection. If you detect carbon monoxide in your home, you should get out immediately and call 911.