Companies warn against winter heating dangers, offer helpWritten by Bailey G. Dick | | email@example.com
With winter on its way, many Toledoans are looking for cost-effective ways to heat their homes. And officials from two local organizations want to keep customers who may be resorting to unconventional heating methods safe from potentially hazardous situations.
The American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio and Columbia Gas of Ohio have teamed up to offer safety tips for customers who may be using alternative heating sources like space heaters or an open oven.
“This is the time of year when it starts to get really cold and people start looking for different ways to keep themselves warm. We see a huge spike in fires this time of year,” said Amanda Aldrich, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio.
According to the Red Cross, alternative heating sources like space heaters, fireplaces and wood and coal stoves are the leading cause of fires during the winter months. The organization responds to a fire emergency every 19 hours.
“People get in situations where they have no heat, and they need to start to figure out how to heat their homes,” Aldrich said. “Sometimes people don’t realize they have options.”
And that is where utility companies like Columbia Gas come in.
Chris Kozak, communications and community relations manager for Columbia Gas of Ohio, said residents who are struggling financially should call their heat provider before resorting to alternative heating methods.
“The first thing people need to do is contact their utility company,” Kozak said. “We need to hear about their financial situation, or if something has happened, like if they have gone from two incomes to one. If they are having trouble making their payments, just let us know.”
Kozak said that between 50,000 and 55,000 Columbia Gas customers in the Toledo area residents qualify for gas bill assistance, including people with an income of up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, that would mean a family with an income of $47,100.
Kozak said that if residents are going to use alternative methods like fireplaces or space heaters, “recognizing that there are safety hazards is the first step.”
The American Red Cross offers the following tips for those who do decide to use alternative heating sources:
- All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least three feet away from heating equipment, fireplaces and stoves.
- Place portable space heaters on a hard, level nonflammable surface. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets, near bedding or drapes and keep children and pets away. Look for a model that shuts off automatically if the space heater tips over. Do not use heating equipment to dry wet clothing.
- Never use the stove or oven to heat your home.
- Never leave portable heaters, wood burning stoves or fireplaces unattended. Turn them off before leaving or going to bed.
- Keep the fire in the fireplace by using a glass or metal screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
If you or someone you know is having difficulty paying your gas bill, call Columbia Gas at 1-800-344-4077 to see if you qualify for assistance.