September is the perfect time to check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as fireplaces before the inevitable cold weather hits.
“With the heating season right around the corner, checking and maintaining your furnace is a vital safety tip as it relates to carbon monoxide production,” Chagrin Falls Fire Chief Frank Zugan said.
“Each one of us should have our furnaces and/or boilers checked for proper operation yearly. If this simple maintenance procedure was performed by all of us, in my opinion, carbon monoxide incidences would be drastically reduced,” Chief Zugan said.
Firefighters across the Chagrin Valley agreed.
Bainbridge Fire Chief Lou Ann Metz said that chimney flues should be cleaned to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in the house, a leading cause of accidents. She also recommended that residents have natural gas appliances serviced now when there are better rates.
If the furnace is running and there is moisture in the house, it could mean the flue is blocked, she said.
Natural gas has a residual odor, and if it is detected, she advises residents to shut the windows and doors and leave the house. “Call us if you smell something, and we will check it out,” she said.
“Get your chimney’s cleaned out and inspected. They can cause attic fires,” she said. “Don’t burn shiny paper, such as magazines and cardboard.” Cardboard burns very hot, she said, advising people to only burn seasoned wood.
Ashes from the fireplace should be stored outside and not in the garage. She recalled how someone emptied fireplace ashes in the garage near a gas can, igniting an unwanted blaze.
Residents interested in more tips could attend the Bainbridge Fire Department Citizens Academy on Wednesdays beginning Oct. 16. Residents can call the fire station to sign up, Chief Metz said.
Russell Fire Chief John Frazier said checking household heating appliances for safe operation is advised. He also recommended having the chimney swept by a professional, whether wood or artificial logs powered by natural gas are used. “We get a lot of calls on malfunctioning systems,” Chief Fraizer said of the gas logs.
Smoke detectors should be replaced when they are 10 years old, he said, adding that photoelectric smoke detectors are quicker to respond to smoldering fires. “And some have 10-year batteries.”
In addition, “Some detectors talk to each other. If one goes off, they all go off,” Chief Fraizer said. “They are available locally.”
Smoke detectors should be on each floor and outside each bedroom, Chief Fraizer added. Children’s bedrooms should be equipped with one inside and outside the room so the parents are notified. For the elderly, a detector should be in each room, even the basement, so they can hear it, he said.
Everyone should sleep with the bedroom doors closed. It buys time, preventing smoke from getting inside and overcoming those sleeping, he noted.
Carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every five years and placed on every level of a home. Change batteries regularly, Chief Frazier noted. The device typically chirps when batteries are running low and need to be replaced, he said.
“It’s a good idea to change batteries when the clocks are changed in the fall and spring,” Chief Frazier said.
He recommended family and neighbors help the elderly with changing batteries in the detectors. “We don’t want them falling off ladders,” he said.
“Try to avoid extension cords for appliances such as space heaters,” he said. And with the holidays coming, limit holiday lighting so it doesn’t overload the electrical cords.
Auburn Fire Chief John Phillips advised buying detectors approved by Underwriters Laboratories and replace them every 10 years. “They have dates on them.”
The dual ionization and photo electric detectors are the most responsive, Chief Phillips said. Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed on every floor especially in the basement, near the furnace.
Wood burners used year-round to heat water should be cleaned and inspected as well, he said.
It is bad news when a furnace or other appliance goes down in winter, he said, advising safety checks before temperatures drop.
Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand, who is also chief of the Hambden Fire Department, said one of the most important actions is to have the chimney cleaned if it is used for burning wood during the winter.
“We get many chimney fires that turn into house fires,” Sheriff Hildenbrand said. When creosote builds up in the chimney, it burns extremely hot. “It can crack the chimney flue and you have a fire,” he said. “And make sure your furnace has nice clean filters, Sheriff Hildrenbrand added.
Even if your detectors are fairly new, test them, the sheriff said. They have a test button on them, Sheriff Hildenbrand said. Press it for peace of mind.