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Stay warm – and safe!

Heating your home during winter is associated with certain risks, such as electric shocks, burns, carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation. Here’s how to minimise the danger.

As the temperatures drop, the need to keep your home warm increases. Because heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires, you need to be sensible when switching on your electric heater, starting your gas heater or lighting a fire in your wood-burning fireplace.

In May, ER24 paramedics arrived at a scene where a couple had sustained serious burn wounds when their cooking fire flared out of control at a block of flats in Manor, Pietermaritzburg. The man sustained burns over most of his body while the woman had sustained burns over both her legs. Both were rushed to hospital for further treatment.

To ensure you – or members of your family – aren’t injured by heating your home, remember this advice.

  1. Never use camping heating equipment, such as a charcoal braai, indoors because of the major risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is formed from the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing material. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream. When too much carbon monoxide is in the air, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This can lead to serious tissue damage, or even death. Because it is odourless, colourless and non-irritating, you won’t even notice when you are absorbing carbon monoxide. Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include weakness, dizziness, confusion, nausea and shortness of breath. If you think you or someone you’re with may have carbon monoxide poisoning, get into the fresh air and call ER24 on 084 124.
  1. Keep flammable items (such as blankets and clothes) at least one metre from heat sources. Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children and never leave candles burning if you go to bed or leave your home.
  1. Check electrical wiring on heaters and don’t use extension cords, multi-plugs or any device with frayed wiring. If you use an electric blanket, make sure it does not have any tears or exposed wires. Do not leave it on while unattended.
  1. Don’t leave your open fireplace unattended as stray embers can cause a fire. Ensure you have a protective screen around open fireplaces, never use it to dry clothes or shoes and never go to bed before putting out the fire. Keep a window open when using your indoor fireplace or gas heater to ensure adequate ventilation.
  1. Keep a small household fire extinguisher in your home and ensure everyone in the family knows how to use it.