Prevent home heating fires with these tips from the pros


two pairso f stockinged feet before a fireplace

As the temperature drops, home fire risk rises. It just makes sense. While cooking fires are the leading cause of residential fires, heating-related fires come in second place and peak in the month of January. The U.S. Fire Administration recently issued two statistical reports that talk about home heating fires. In their Study of Heating Fires in Residential Buildings (2013-2015), they report that:

  • Approximately 45,900 annual heating fires in U.S. residential buildings were reported to fire departments each year.
  • Annually, heating fires resulted in 200+ deaths, 700+ injuries, and more than half a billion dollars in property loss.
  • Residential heating fires peak in the early evening from 5 to 9 p.m., accounting for 29% of heating-related home fires.
  • Confined fires (fires confined to chimneys, flues or fuel burners) accounted for 75% percent of residential building heating fires.
  • Combustible materials that were too close to the heat source accounted for 29% of non-confined fires.

While only 4% of heating fires in residential buildings involved portable heaters, they were  involved in 43% of fatal home heating fires, a statistic that should give some pause. In the USFA study on Portable Heater Fires in Residential Buildings (2013-2015), they report:

  • Annual estimated occurrence: 1,650 portable heater fires in residential
  • Portable heater fires caused an estimated 90 deaths, 175 injuries, and $84 million in property loss.
  • In 54% of the fires, the heat source was too close to combustible objects
  • About 37% of portable heater fires started in bedrooms.
  • In bedroom fires caused by portable heaters, the leading items ignited (23%) were bedding, such as blankets, sheets, and comforters.

Here’s a short USFA safety clip related to portable heaters.

Heating safety tips

Fire prevention experts say there are many practices you can take to reduce your risk of a heating-related fire in your home. Here are few safety tips we’ve compiled from the experts

Practice the 3-foot safety rule. Keep combustible materials away from the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.

Maintain a “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. Again, 3 feet is the recommended distance.,

Inspect, clean and test. Have qualified heating professionals inspect and clean furnaces, chimneys and heating equipment every year. Replace batteries in your fire alarms in the spring and fall, and test smoke alarms at least once a month.

Turn off portable heaters when you go to bed or leave a room. Get more space heater safety tips from Travelers,

Never, never, never use ovens or portable grills to heat your home.

Fireplace safety:

  • Use a good quality screen to prevent sparks from jumping.
  • Dispose of ashes in a metal, non-flammable container when they are cold.
  • Dispose of ashes a safe distance away from your home – never beside the home or in the garage or cellar.
  • Learn more about how to dispose of ashes properly – and get a few tips on handy uses for the ash.

Related: see our recent post with money-saving home heating ideas:

Winterizing: Money saving ideas for heating your home

Fire up that snowblower – don’t wait until the first storm hits


We had our first snowfall of the season yesterday … OK, depending on where you live, it was only a few wimpy flakes. But take it as Mother Nature’s gentle advance warning: Winter is on it’s way – get your snowblower ready.

If you have a snowblower, take it out of storage now and test it out – you don’t want to get caught short in the first storm. Popular Mechanics has some tips for how to start your snowblower – including some tips for blowers that are stubborn about starting.

If you don’t have a snowblower, but you have one on your Santa wish list, this video offers  snowblower buying guide tips from Consumer Reports. It’s interactive so you can skip to different chapters. Learn about which type of snow blower best suits your property. The video breaks down what you need to know about size, power source – gas, battery or electric -, key features, trouble shooting, maintenance and how to ensure a smooth start-up each season.

Operating your snowblower safely

Every year, emergency rooms see about 6,000 injuries related to snow blower accidents, many of them amputations. Experts say that most snowblower injuries occur when snow is heavy, wet and deeper than 6 inches – those are conditions that lead to clogging in snow removal machines. Most injuries are hand injuries to the dominant hand.

Whether you are operating a snowblower for your home or your business, the Outdoor Power & Equipment Institute (OPEI) urges you to operate your snow blowing equipment safely. They offer a great list of tips for preparing your machine before it snows, and the following snow blowing safety tips:

  • KEY SAFETY TIP: Never put your hands inside the auger or chute. Use a clean out tool (or stick) to unclog snow or debris from your snow thrower. Your hands should never go inside the auger or chute.
  • Turn OFF your snow thrower if you need to clear a clog. If you need to remove debris or unclog snow, always turn off your snow thrower. Wait for all moving parts to come to a complete stop before clearing any clogs or debris.
  • Only use your snow thrower in visible conditions. Never operate the snow thrower without good visibility or light.
  • Aim your snow thrower with care. Never throw snow toward people or cars. Do not allow anyone to stand in front of your snow thrower. Keep children or pets away from your snow thrower when it is operating.
  • Use extreme caution on slopes and hills. Use caution when changing directions on slopes. Do not attempt to clear steep slopes.
  • Know where your cord is. If you have an electric powered snow thrower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times. Avoid tripping. Do not run over the power cord.
  • Keep pets and children inside. Kids and pets may love to play in the white stuff, but it’s best to keep them inside your home and under supervision while you are using your snow thrower to clear a path or drive. Do not allow them to play in the snow as it is tossed out of the snow thrower’s chute.

If you like to remove your snow the old-fashioned manual way, be sure to see our prior post on Snow shoveling 101: Best shovels, best techniques.

Veterans Day 2017 – New England events and tributes


Veterans Day banner

On Veterans Day, we owe a debt of deep gratitude to all military service members, past and present, for their service to our country. Thank you!

There are many events this weekend offering tribute to our veterans … we’ve gathered a few listings – both for veterans and for those who want to find a way to pay tribute to their service.

The Boston Red Sox have various activities to honor vets and raise money and awareness for veterans. And don’t miss this: On Saturday, the Red Sox will open up Fenway Park to veterans with free tours available from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Here are some other events, commemorations and tributes this weekend.

Veterans Day deals: Where vets get freebies and discounted meals, haircuts and more

Free Meals for Military Personnel on Veterans Day

Veterans Day 2017: What’s opened, what’s closed

Boston Veteran’s Day Events, 2017

Veterans Day events in R.I., southeastern Mass.

Veterans Day ceremonies, parades in southwestern Connecticut

CT Veterans Day App Launch, Ceremonies, Parades

NH Veterans Day events

The importance of back-seat safety belt use


back seat safety belt being fastened by a woman passenger

The last time you used a taxi, a ride-hailing service or jumped in the backseat of a friend’s car, did you buckle up? If you did, good for you, but you are in the minority. Four out of 5 adults surveyed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) say they don’t bother to use a seat belt for short trips. Even more troubling, many who responded said that one of the reasons they don’t buckle up is the false idea that the back seat is safer; others say they simply forget. False assumptions and forgetfulness can have tragic results: IIHS says that more than half of the people who die in passenger vehicle crashes in the U.S. each year are unbelted. Safety belts saved 13,941 lives during 2015.

Drivers: Require rear seat belt use

Many front seat riders have gotten in the habit of seat belt use because it is mandated by law in most states, but back seat use is only required by law in 29 states. Plus, many cars have reminders, warnings and alerts for front-seat use, but such reminders usually aren’t available for back seat passengers. If you’re a passenger, try to make this a habit. If you are the driver, it’s up to you to enforce it with your passengers.

If you are uncomfortable requiring your backseat passengers to belt up, be aware of this: Unbelted backseat passengers are a safety hazard to the driver.

“The odds of death for a belted driver seated directly in front of an unrestrained passenger in a serious head-on crash was 2.27 times higher … than if seated in front of a restrained passenger. In contrast, a belted driver seated in front of an unrestrained passenger in a driver-side lateral-impact crash had no increase in mortality over a driver with a restrained rear-seat passenger…”

If you are buckled in as the driver, but the passenger who is riding behind you is not, they can be very dangerous. In an accident, their body can be propelled into you or other passengers, causing severe, preventable injuries. As a driver, you should mandate backseat safety belt use – if the passenger complains, tell them it is not only for their safety, but for your safety and the safety of others in the car, too!