University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service
Safety is of prime importance in a heating emergency
Your chances of freezing to death in your home are small. Fire, asphyxiation from lack of oxygen and carbon monoxide poisoning are much greater dangers. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas, but highly poisonous.
Follow these tips to keep your family safe:
- Never go near a downed electrical line. Phone your utility company and 9-1-1 to notify authorities.
- Do not ever operate generators indoors, not even in the garage. Operate them outside and connect them to your appliances via cables. There are also ways to connect them directly to your home’s electric system, thereby allowing you to run all your appliances as you usually would. Ask a professional for guidance, if this is your choice.
- Do not burn anything larger than candles inside your home without providing adequate ventilation to the outside. All heaters (except electric) should be vented. Connect the stove pipe to a chimney flue if at all possible. (Many older homes have capped pipe thimbles in rooms once heated by stoves.) Or hook up your stove to the flue entrance of the non-functioning furnace pipe (after removing the pipe). Sometimes a stove pipe can be extended through a window if no other alternative exists. Replace the window glass with a metal sheet, and run the temporary stove pipe through the metal.
- Do not run emergency stove piping close to flammable materials. Be particularly careful with window-mounted flues. Sashes, curtains and shades are especially flammable.
- If you use a catalytic or unvented heater, provide plenty of ventilation in the room. Whenever the device is in use, cross ventilate by opening a window an inch on each side of the room. It is better to let in some cold air than to run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do not burn outdoor barbeque materials such as charcoal briquettes inside, even in a fireplace.
- Do not try to use bottled gas in natural gas appliances, unless you have converted the appliances for such use. Flues and piping suitable for gas burning appliances may be unsafe for use with higher temperature oil, coal or wood smoke.
- Designate one person as a fire watch whenever alternative heat sources are used. One person should stay awake to watch for fire and to make sure ventilation is adequate. If the fire watch feels drowsy, it may be a sign of inadequate ventilation. Get everyone in the house out to fresh air immediately. Keep a carbon monoxide monitor close.
- Keep firefighting materials on hand. These may include dry powder, fire extinguishers, tarps or heavy blankets, sand, salt, baking soda and water.
- Discuss emergency procedures with all the members of your family. Go over fire fighting techniques like operating a fire extinguisher. Include a home evacuation plan with a meeting place everyone should go to in the case a fire forces you out of your home.