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Protect your family against carbon monoxide and fire hazards

There is no escape from the cold winter weather in South Dakota, except for the comfort provided by heating equipment. If you are a homeowner or if you rent an apartment or home, you would be wise to heed the warnings issued by the National Fire Protection Association. It reminds everybody of the dangers associated with space heaters, fireplaces and wood burning stoves.

NFPA says misuse of heating equipment causes most of the residential fire fatalities nationwide, with the majority occurring from December through February. Further reports indicate that most such fires originated from circumstances that involved flammable objects dangerously close to equipment that provides heat. You might not even realize the risks when you place bedding, blankets, clothing or upholstered furniture near heat sources.

Safety authorities also want you to be aware of the dangers that carbon monoxide pose. The potential of suffering carbon monoxide poisoning increases during the cold winter months. This lethal gas can spread into your home if you leave a vehicle running in an enclosed, attached garage. Fuel-burning equipment such as generators pose the same hazard. The lack of adequate ventilation can cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to build up inside your home.

It is crucial to follow the instructions of manufacturers if you handle the installation of gas heaters, wood burning stoves or other equipment yourself. Proper installation of equipment, along with CO alarms, might reduce the risk of burn injuries or worse to you and your loved ones. Maintaining CO alarms is also essential, and if even the slightest gas odor is present, you should not light an appliance. Avoid tragedy by leaving the house immediately and calling the gas company or the fire department.

Keep your loved ones safe

NFPA offers the following tips to ensure the safety of your family this winter:

  • Arrange for a professional inspector and cleaner to check your home's chimney and heating equipment before winter sets in every year.
  • Test CO alarms and smoke alarms monthly to prevent tragedies in the event of a fire.
  • Make sure to use dry wood for burning in the fireplace to avoid excessive sparks and smoke.
  • Prevent dangerous sparks from flying from the fireplace by placing a screen in front of the fire.
  • Do not leave portable heaters on or fires burning when you go to sleep or leave the house.
  • Dispose of ashes from the fireplace only once they are cool, and place it in a metal container not close to the house.
  • Never use the oven as a heat source -- it is meant for cooking only.
  • Do not warm up your vehicle in the garage -- CO can build up even with open garage doors. If you want to let the engine run, pull the car out and make sure the exhaust is free of snow.
  • Snow can build up on the vents for the fireplace, stove, furnace and dryer during snowstorms. Remove such build-up after the storm.

Your legal rights

Despite all your best efforts, you or a loved one might suffer burn injuries due to a defective heating device, smoke or fire alarm, or negligently installed equipment. You might have grounds to pursue financial relief through the South Dakota civil justice system by filing a lawsuit against a property owner if you rent a residence or apartment, or against a negligent manufacturer along with the product's supply chain.

Both premises liability and product liability are complicated fields of the law, and retaining the services of an experienced personal injury attorney can increase your chances of recovering economic and noneconomic damages.

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Spearfish, SD 57783
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