Safety tips for heating your home

It's cool! Stay safe

 07 Feb 2017 - 12:34

It's cool! Stay safe

Irfan Bukhari | The Peninsula 

With the abrupt fall in mercury, residents’ dependence on heating appliances has increased manifold and it prompted concerned authorities to guide people how to remain safe while staying warm during the chilly weather.

More and more people started buying electrical or space heaters with the onset of cold spell  last Thursday. In view of this, experts warn of dangers that can happen due to careless handling.

Market sources told The Peninsula that the sales of space heaters had mounted since the onset of ongoing chilly weather. “In fact the sales of space heaters started with this fresh cold spell. Earlier our stock was just resting on display racks of the mall,” said an employee of a hypermarket located at D-Ring road.

Officials from Hamad Trauma Center’s Hamad Injury Prevention Program (HIPP) on Sunday issued a list of best practices that can help residents stay safe from possible accidents related to the use of heating devices. 

On Sunday, Qatar’s weather station in Abu Samra recorded at early morning the lowest temperature in country’s history at 1.5 degree Celsius. The new record low temperature is the lowest since the 3.8 degrees recorded in Mesaieed in January of 1964. 

Qatar Meteorology Department said that the cold wave was a result of the advancement of a high-pressure area and an air mass close to regions in the country. 

“With the expected cold weather, some residents of Qatar have used additional means to stay warm at home and at bath time. Unfortunately, this may lead to a rise in the number of patients with injuries due to accidents with their heating system. These include scald injuries, electrical or contact burns, and even serious flame burns from house fires sustained while at home or in accommodations,” said Dr. Rafael Consunji (pictured), Director of the HIPP, which is the community outreach arm of the Hamad Trauma Center.

Dr. Consunji explained that electrical burns and fires are more likely to happen with the incorrect use of electrical appliances for heating, while scald burns most often happen when bathing or cooking with hot liquids. “Most victims of scald burns are very young or elderly, because they are unable to physically remove themselves from the scalding liquid’s path, and because their skin is much thinner and more sensitive to high temperatures. They can sustain severe scald burns within a few seconds,” he said. 

The Hamad Injury Prevention Program (HIPP) has shared the following basic recommendations when using electrical or space heaters:
1. Only purchase electric or space heaters from reputable stores and ensure the product is ‘UL’ certified, or its equivalent. This will certify that the heater meets international standards for safety. 

2. Electric heaters are high-power devices that must be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Plugging them into an extension cord, especially those with multiple outlets, can lead to an overload of the electrical system. This can cause the fuse to blow or even the overheating and melting of devices or wiring, which can in turn lead to a house fire.

3. Heaters must be positioned far away from flammable materials such as curtains, tablecloths, blankets and bedding. At least a three-foot or one-meter distance is recommended.

4. Keep heaters away from heavily trafficked zones or play areas and teach children to avoid them. Electric heaters can be a significant source of heat and can cause contact burns. 

5. Make sure that automatic timers on heaters are working. Timers can help limit the duration that the unit is fully powered and reduce the risk of overheating and fire.

To help prevent scald burns:

1. Never leave your child, particularly those under the age of one year, unsupervised in the bath. Your presence within an arm’s length at all times is the best defence against accidental scalding or drowning of infants and young children during bath time.

2. When bathing children, especially infants, the water must be mixed thoroughly so it has a uniform temperature. ‘Hot spots’ within the bath can cause scald burns. Always take the water temperature (it must be no more than 45° Celsius) or ‘hand-test’ before putting your infant into bath water.

3. Do not fill up the tub with your child in it. Repeatedly feel the water temperature during use.

4. Keep children out of the kitchen when cooking, especially when cooking hot liquids like soups, stews and even coffee or tea. Create a ‘no children’ zone within the house/kitchen so little ones know that they should not play in these areas.

5. Do not carry a child and a hot beverage at the same time – this is one of the most common reasons for a child getting scald burns from hot liquids. Use a travel mug or cup with a lid to reduce the chance of spilling hot liquids.

6. When moving containers with hot food or liquids, let people know what you are doing (‘I am walking with a hot pot of soup!’) and make sure you have a clear, unobstructed and child-free path before proceeding.