The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning consumers to be vigilant about fire and carbon monoxide (CO) hazards in the colder winter months ahead. The dangers, although present across all populations, disproportionally affect certain communities.According to CPSC’s Residential Fire Loss Estimates report, African Americans have the highest rate of fire deaths, nearly twice the overall rate across the population. In addition, African Americans represent 22 percent of portable generator-related CO deaths, nearly 170 from 2010-2020.
This is the time of year when consumers may get out the space heaters for extra warmth. Make sure to keep flammable materials at least three feet away. Always plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet and never into a power strip, to prevent overloading and causing a fire.
CPSC estimates that portable heaters are involved in about 1,700 fires per year, resulting in about 80 deaths and 160 injuries annually.
A CPSC staff report found that space heaters can also present a hyperthermia (overheating) hazard to consumers, particularly children, people with disabilities and senior citizens, who may be more susceptible because of their limited ability to act or react to the elevated ambient temperature.
Hyperthermia can result in death. DO NOT leave space heaters running unattended in a confined space around infants, or individuals with reduced physical, sensory or mental capabilities.
Smoke and CO Alarms
Working smoke and CO alarms save lives! Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and inside each bedroom. CO alarms should be placed on every level of home outside sleeping areas.
Test the alarms every month to make sure they are working. Replace batteries at least once every year, or install smoke and CO alarms with sealed, 10-year batteries.
Furnaces, Fireplaces and Chimneys
Start by having fireplace flues and chimneys and other fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces, inspected by a professional before the heating season.
Most CO deaths associated with portable generators occur in the colder months of the year, between November and February. The exhaust contains poisonous carbon monoxide, which can kill in minutes. Use portable generators outside only and place them at least 20 feet from the home. Never use a generator inside a home, basement, shed or garage.
From 2010-2020, CPSC estimates that more than 700 people died from CO poisoning associated with generators, over 50 in 2020.
Use flashlights instead of candles
If you experience a power outage, use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns, rather than candles, to light the home. If using candles, never leave burning candles unattended.
Check for recalled products
Recalls are year-round too. Before using household products as the colder weather arrives, check to see if the products have been recalled at www.cpsc.gov/recalls. If a product has been recalled, stop using it immediately and contact the recalling company.
COVID-19 Safety Checklist
As the seasons change and people spend more time indoors, CPSC urges the public to review our COVID-19 Safety Checklist for more fire and CO safety tips and other important information.