Extension Unit News
Be Safe with Electricity this Winter
Falling temperatures and rising heating costs have many looking at ways to lower home-heating bills. The Illinois Electric Council's Safe Electricity program urges extreme caution when planning to use electric space heaters to help warm homes this winter.
Approximately one-third of all house fires nationwide occur during the cold home-heating season of December, January and February. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the major cause of these winter fires can be attributed to faulty and improper use and maintenance of supplemental heating equipment, such as space heaters. "Portable heaters can help take the chill from areas of your home, but are very dangerous if used improperly," says Molly Hall, Safe Electricity Director.
"Stay warm and safe, and give space heaters space – at least 3 feet from anything that can burn, including little fingers!" Hall says. Some cities have banned the use of many types of portable space heaters. Before purchasing or using any type of space heater, check with your local fire department to find out if it is legal in your community.
Safe Electricity offers the following precautions when using electric space heaters:
·Purchase only space heaters that have been safety tested and UL approved and that the unit is equipped with an emergency tip-over shut-off feature and heating element guards. Read and follow all of the manufacturer's instructions for operation and care.
·Before use, check to make sure the heater is clean and in good condition, and have all problems professionally repaired.
·Place heater out of high-traffic areas and on a level, hard, non-flammable floor surface-- NOT on carpets, furniture or countertops.
·Remember to keep space heaters at least three feet from all combustible liquids like fuel, spray cans and paint, as well as flammable items such as draperies, blankets and sofas.
·Never allow pets or children near an electric heater. Accidental contact could result in serious shock or burns.
·Do not overload circuits. Never use extension cords or multiple plugs with a space heater, and make sure the unit is not plugged into the same circuit as other electric appliances.
·Never leave space heaters unattended. Turn off your space heater and unplug it before leaving the room or going to bed.
"Consider replacing older space heaters with newer, safer models," suggests Hall. "Additionally, look for features that enhance the safety of the unit including an electronic thermostat which allows precise temperature control to avoid overheating."
Many people also use electric blankets to keep warm during cold winter nights. Before plugging in electric blankets, check for any damage and inspect cord for frays, cracks or cuts. Electric blankets should not be tucked under the mattress and nothing should be placed on top of the blanket while it's in use, including comforters and bedspreads. Never dry clean an electric blanket; the chemicals can damage the heating insulation and increase the risk of fire. Also, pets should never be allowed to sleep on the electric blanket.
"In addition to these safety tips, remember that a functioning smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire," reminds Hall. "Replace the batteries twice a year, and remember to practice a home escape plan and share these safety tips with your family."
Safe Electricity is a multi-media public awareness program designed to provide information to consumers. Safe Electricity was founded in 2001 by the Illinois Electric Council, a not-for-profit educational organization of electric utilities, the University of Illinois, and other organizations dedicated to promoting electrical safety and efficiency.
For more electrical safety information, visit http://www.safeelectricity.org/
Source: John Church, Extension educator, natural resources management, email@example.com
Carbon Monoxide Safety Reminders
Reports during winter storms and power outages often indicate that people are poisoned by carbon monoxide produced by generators, charcoal grills and other alternative heat sources used for warmth and light. Last winter, power outages caused by a major storm in Washington left about 100 persons poisoned. Such storms can often happen in Illinois.
"While alternative emergency power supplies can be a benefit during power outages, care needs to be taken to only use approved heating methods, preventing carbon monoxide poisoning and other hazards such as fire," says John Church, University of Illinois Extension Educator, Natural Resources, Rockford.
The National Safety Council indicates that about 200-300 unintentional poisonings occur each year related to carbon monoxide.
Even when electric power is operating, winter can present possible situations for carbon monoxide poisoning. Automobile exhaust fumes in a garage or entering a home, poorly ventilated rooms using gas burning appliances or fireplaces, or faulty appliances are all potential sources.
Homes should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors as well as smoke and fire detectors. More information on carbon monoxide poisoning and other winter related safety issues can be found on the University of Illinois Extension website.
A person's age and condition can influence their susceptibility to carbon monoxide poisoning, but caution should always be taken to have proper home ventilation and use appliances only in the recommended ways.
Some basic precautions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning include never burning charcoal inside the home or other enclosed area; making sure fireplace dampers are open when the fireplace is in use; follow recommended safety precautions when using gas fireplace inserts; never use ovens or gas ranges to heat the home; and choose vented appliances. Also, properly maintain fuel burning home appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, and stoves. Be sure to keep fireplaces and chimneys clean of creosote buildup or other blockages.
Illinois Lake Management Conference
The 23rd Annual Conference of the Illinois Lake Management Association will be held February 28 – March 1, 2008 at the Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center, Springfield, IL. Topics to be presented include Water Quality, Aquatic Plant Management, Lake Protection & Restoration, Shoreline Erosion Control, Use of volunteer-collected Data, Wetland Restoration, Cost-Share Assistance for Watershed Groups, and Educational Programs.
This is an excellent program to share with watershed groups, homeowner associations, park districts, and conservation groups. For a complete listing of sessions and speakers and to register, visit the conference website http://ilma-lakes.org or contact Dick Hilton, firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 800-338-6976, access code 01.