DEMS provide handy winter safety tips to curb fire incidents

FILE PHOTO: The aftermath of a fire apparently caused by a gas heater. The Ekurhuleni’s Disaster and Emergency Management Services (DEMS) is calling upon all Ekurhuleni residents to be very careful this winter.

With the winter season fast approaching, and bringing with it a drop in temperatures, the Ekurhuleni’s Disaster and Emergency Management Services (DEMS) urges residents to be careful when using heating appliances to stay warm during the cold season.

The department says winter usually brings with it an increase in fires incidents, shack fires in particular.

As part of the municipality’s winter safety campaign, aimed at preventing fire incidents, DEMS shares the following tips people must follow to prevent fires, especially those who are using heaters, braziers and fireplaces.

  • Heaters:

When setting up a space heater, remember to keep it away from any flammable or combustible materials and place it on the floor, unless it is designed otherwise.

The heater shouldn’t be left unattended. It is still common practice that many people leave their heaters on while no one is present either at home or in offices through the day or overnight.

Areas, where heaters are used, should be free of flammable liquids. Do not put them on easily ignitable or combustible surfaces, such as rugs or carpets, or use them to dry wet clothing.

FILE PHOTO: Firefighters extinguish a fire.

When using a fuel-fired heater in an enclosed area, it is a good idea to leave a window or door partially open to allow for fresh air to enter. This will help prevent carbon monoxide (CO) build-up or a depletion of oxygen levels. Never take a gas-fired or kerosene heater into a confined space as the results could be deadly.

All unvented fuel-fired heaters should be equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). The ODS will shut off a heater if it detects a reduced level of oxygen in the area where the heater is being used.

  • For natural gas or propane-fired space heaters, remember the following safety tips:

If you smell gas, do not attempt to light the heater. Turn off all controls, open a window or door and leave the area.

Remember that, unlike natural gas, propane is heavier than air and does not dissipate rapidly. If you smell gas, do not touch any electrical switches or use an electrical appliance, radio or telephone in the area where you smell gas. Do not smoke. A spark could ignite the gas.

Electric heaters should be kept out of wet or moist places like bathrooms as water could lead to a fire or shock hazard. Also, be sure to plug electric space heaters directly into an outlet since using extension cords could result in overheating and fire.

Keep the interior of your home or business safe with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

  • Detectors

Many other people still use Braziers or coal stoves to keep warm during winter.

Carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide are part of other gases emitted out of the burning coals. They are marked to be killer gases because they are not easily detectable. The use of a carbon monoxide detector is advisable in this regard.

The golden rule is to keep the window or doors opened and never sleep with a burning coal stove, brazier or even the fireplace.

To help make your winter even safer, DEMS recommend that you take the time to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

A smoke detector is the most effective way to detect smoke from a fire and signal an alarm so that you and your family can get out safely. A carbon monoxide detector can alert you to the build-up of this dangerous, odourless and colourless gas.

Make sure you test the detectors monthly and after you change the batteries to ensure they work properly.

Contact numbers for life-threatening emergencies: 011 458 0911 (charged at normal call rates), 10177 (toll-free from a landline), 112 (free from any cellphone).

ALSO READ; Tragedy strikes Joe Slovo settlement as brothers die in shack fire

  AUTHOR
Fanie Mthupha
Journalist

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