2013-09-18 / Front Page

FDNY Offers Winter Weather Fire Prevention Tips

By Liz Goff

Queens fire officials this week said electric space heaters are the “Number One Cold Weather Killer,” saying they are the leading cause of fires during cold weather months.

Sparks from electric heaters set off the majority of fires each year during cold weather months,  an FDNY spokesperson said.

“They are, without a doubt, the main cause of house fires during the winter months,” the spokesperson said.

Fire officials advised Queens residents that they “have the right to demand” that their landlords install smoke detectors in apartments. “Landlords are required by law to provide and install smoke detectors,” the officials said. “After that, it’s up to the residents to check batteries in the smoke detectors and to replace batteries when needed,”  officials said.

FDNY officials said homeowners should install a smoke alarm on each floor of a home. Test and clean the alarms each month and check batteries to determine that they are working, the officials said.

FDNY officials are offering the following tips for residents who use electric heaters:

  • Never connect space heaters to extension cords because the heater can overload electrical circuits, sparking a fire.
  • Do not use space heaters for long periods of time. Space heaters are designed to provide temporary warmth, fire officials said. When not in use, the heaters should be unplugged.
  • Keep space heaters at least 3 feet from furniture, cleaning products and any other combustible materials.
  • Keep space heaters away from water. Never use the heaters in bathrooms or other rooms where they might come in contact with water, fire officials said.
  • Always open a window slightly when using space heaters, to improve ventilation.
  • Check heater cords to determine if they are frayed or damaged. Heaters with defective cords should be discarded, officials said.
  • Never use space heaters to dry clothing. Clothing can ignite and spark a blaze.

What should you do if your smoke detector goes off, if you notice a fire at home or in a home or apartment in your neighborhood?

FDNY officials urge you to stay calm, follow these suggestions – and NEVER try to fight a fire on your own.

  • If your clothes catch on fire, stop in your tracks, drop to the floor, and roll over and over to smother the flames.
  • If a fire breaks out in your home, or in a non-fireproof apartment building, GET OUT as quickly as you can.
  • If you live in a multiple dwelling and the fire is not in your apartment, STAY in your apartment. Do not run into smoke-filled halls or stairwells.
  • Call 911 from your apartment, if you can.
  • If you must leave, feel doors with the back of your hand before you try to open them. If they are hot, find another way out. Keep as close to the floor as you can. Smoke and heat rise, and the air is clearer and cooler near the floor.
  • ALWAYS CLOSE DOORS BEHIND YOU!
  • If you are unable to get out, stay near a window and near the floor. Close the door and stuff a towel in the bottom of the door to prevent smoke from entering the room. Signal for help if you can – wave a cloth or sheet out the window, and yell for help. MAKE SOMEONE ON THE STREET KNOW YOU ARE THERE!
  • When leaving a burning home or apartment, do not stop to take any material possessions with you.
  • Always try to take your pet(s) with you, if you must leave a burning building.
  • Never use the elevator.

Fire officials suggest that you keep a home fire extinguisher, and learn how to use it.

A note for renters: contact your insurance carrier to discuss available “Renters Insurance” plans, which will provide coverage for losses caused by fire.

For additional information, call 311 or logon to the FDNY website at www.FDNY.nyc.gov

Queens residents who cannot afford to buy a smoke alarm are urged to call the Queens Borough President’s Office for information on how to obtain them at low or no cost. Residents can also call their local Community Board or 311 to learn how to obtain free smoke alarms, FDNY officials said.

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