BRAZOS VALLEY, TX — This winter season, the Brazos Valley has already experienced one spontaneous severe cold front accompanied by snow. Come later this week and continuing into early next week, we should prepare for another. With the cold though... comes the need for heaters, which if not used properly, could lead to injuries or property damage.
”First thing is, you want to make sure that you’re not heating it too high, too quickly," said Christina Wilson, the Community Risk Reduction Specialist for College Station Utilities. "You want to give it a chance for all that electricity to work its way through the system so that you don’t end up shorting something out,”
Many house fires can be ignited by improper use, or lack of knowledge, on starting up heaters during the winter. Wilson suggests, to start up your heater 'slowly', allow it to reach room temperature and gradually raise it as you monitor. Also, the use of space heaters during cold fronts seems to be the cause of many house fires.
”It’s best if you’re using those types of space heaters to get one that has an automatic shut off," said Wilson. "Most of them these days have that, and just to keep them on a hard flat surface,”
One of the biggest mistakes made by residents is the carelessness while using space heaters. Animals or children nearby should be watched carefully. However, ensuring it's not left on, or in close proximity to flammable material, is also very important.
”People get burned very frequently because they have those heaters either too close to themselves or too close, to let's say a metal object, like the leg of a chair, and they forget,” Wilson added.
It is important to ensure your electric appliances are also up to date as possible, and inspections are conducted frequently.
”Just like you would have someone do a chimney sweep, or just like you’d have someone come clean out your HVAC system, annually, is a great rule of thumb,” Wilson explained.
With some home appliances a bit outdated, many may want to turn to other house appliances, to quickly warm an area of a home. But this quick fix comes with some high risks.
”Supplemental heat that we wouldn’t normally use like stoves, or ovens, we’re really running the risk of increasing carbon monoxide in our home to dangerous levels, we’re running the risk of catching things on fire,” said Gerald Burnett, an Assistant Fire Marshall for Bryan Fire Department.
According to the national fire protection association, the leading cause of house fires in the U.S are generally ignited by electrical failures or malfunctions. Also, these fires rank as the highest reason, holding responsibility for 18% of civilian deaths.