Colder winter weather increases the likelihood of heating related fires. These fires are the second leading cause of fire deaths among older adults.  Keep your home safe and warm all year long with these safety tips.

Heating Safety

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, space heater, fireplace or wood stove.
  • Use products only for their intended purposes.  Cooking stoves should not be used for heating the home, and space heaters are not for drying wet clothes.
  • Have your heating system inspected by a qualified service professional at least once a year.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning heating equipment is vented to the outside.
  • Keep intake and output vents clean and clear of debris and dust.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning.

Space Heaters

  • Purchase space heaters that have the certification label of a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use.  If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.
  • Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces, but never place on cabinets, tables or other furniture.
  • Keep space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways where they may pose a tripping hazard.
  • Plug portable space heaters directly into an outlet; do not use an extension cord.
  • Do not use a space heater in wet or damp areas unless it is specifically designed for use in wet locations such as bathrooms.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended.  Turn it off when you leave the room or go to sleep.

Fireplaces and Wood Stoves

  • Have your chimney or wood stove inspected annually by a certified chimney specialist.
  • Always use a sturdy fireplace screen to stop sparks from flying into the room.
  • Never leave an open flame unattended, including a fire in the fireplace.

These safety tips are part of ESFI’s comprehensive Home Fire Safety for Older Adults Safety Awareness Program Toolkit, which was developed with funds provided by a 2011 Fire Prevention and Safety Grant (FP&S) from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Visit ESFI’s Safety Educators Guide for more fire and electrical safety resources, including a series of video public service announcements (PSAs) developed specifically for older adults.