Winter Safety Tips from the Building Official



Plug Directly into an Outlet

As a rule of thumb, plug a portable electric heater directly into an outlet with sufficient power capacity. Attaching an extension cord to the unit increases the chance of overheating, fires, and electrical shock injuries. If an extension cord must be attached, use one that is properly rated and sized for the portable heater appliance.

Regular Inspection and Maintenance

You should occasionally inspect your space heater, particularly when you first purchase it. Frequently clean and maintain it to ensure it’s working safely. Wiping yours down will also help reduce the amount of dust and allergens that may be dispersed around your space. Of course, never use a defective heater.

Shut Off and Unplug if Not in Use

Upon leaving an area, turn off the portable space heater and unplug it. Many models feature programmable timers that can be used to program automatic on and off times for when you sleep or head to work.

Keep Heaters Away From Water

Unless it is specifically designed for use in damp spaces, refrain from running a heater in a bathroom or a humid basement. Moreover, do not touch the heater if you are wet or have wet hands, as this increases the risk of electrical shock. Some heaters feature GFCI (ACLI) plugs that makes them safe for use in bathrooms.

Educating yourself about the safety hazards that come with the improper use of portable heaters will help you achieve better peace of mind as you keep your home warm, comfortable, and fire hazard-free this winter.



• If possible, keep a window cracked open while the fire is burning.

• Be certain the damper or flue is open before starting a fire. Keeping the damper or flue open until the fire is out will draw smoke out of the house. The damper can be checked by looking up into the chimney with a flashlight or mirror. Do not close the damper until the embers have completely stopped burning.

• Use dry and well-aged wood. Wet or green wood causes more smoke and contributes to soot buildup in the chimney. Dried wood burns with less smoke and burns more evenly,

• Smaller pieces of wood placed on a grate burn faster and produce less smoke.

• Clean out ashes from previous fires. Levels of ash at the base of the fireplace should be kept to 1 inch or less because a thicker layer restricts the air supply to logs, resulting in more smoke.

• The chimney should be checked annually by a professional.

• Even if the chimney is not due for cleaning, it is important to check for animal nests or other blockages that could prevent smoke from escaping.

• Make sure the area around the fireplace is clear of anything that is potentially flammable (ie: furniture, drapes, newspapers, books, etc.). If these items get too close to the fireplace, they could catch fire.

• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Make sure it is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house. If you leave the room while the fire is burning or the fireplace is still hot, take your small child with you.

• Minimize your child’s chance of burns from the hot glass front of some fireplaces. Safety screens can be installed to reduce the risk of burns.

• Put fireplace tools and accessories out of a young child’s reach. Also, remove any lighters and matches.

• Install both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.

• Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.

• Communicate to children as early as possible the dangers of fires and the heat generated from them.



• The NFPA recommends testing your smoke alarms at least once a month.

• Make sure everyone in the home knows the sound of a smoke alarm and how to respond.

• Follow the user manual instructions for cleaning and maintaining smoke alarms for proper functionality.

• Smoke alarms require you to replace the battery every six months or if a low battery chirp occurs.

• Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10-years. Alarms with a 10-year sealed battery should be replaced once it exceeds its life expectancy or if a low battery chirp occurs.

• When replacing a battery, follow the user manual which includes a full list of approved batteries.

(National Fire Protection Association)