January 2011  


Be Fire-Safe in the Winter Months

The number of home fires in Harris County has increased in recent weeks. Home fires are more common during the winter months, with January being the worst month for fire deaths and injuries.

Now is the time to discuss fire safety with your family and take steps to keep them safe during the winter months. The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office includes fire prevention tips on its web site and links to the Burn Prevention Foundation for winter home safety tips.

Fireplace Safety

As toddlers and young children become more mobile, they also become more curious and begin to explore their environment.  In the last several years there has been a drastic increase in the number of burns to children’s palms from glass fireplace doors.  Here are some fireplace facts you may not have known:
The glass of a fireplace door can reach approximately 400°F within six minutes of ignition.

The glass can take up to 45 minutes to cool down after the fireplace has been turned off.

Contact with the glass of gas fireplace doors can result in second- and third-degree burns.
When using a fireplace of any kind, keep the following in mind:
Never leave children unattended near a fireplace.
Use a fireplace screen or gate around the fireplace during use and while it is cooling down..

Make sure the on/off switch is not within reach of your child.

Remember these tips when visiting other homes.
Space Heaters
Heating equipment, especially portable and space heaters, require careful use and proper maintenance. Follow these tips to prevent injuries over the winter months:
Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything that could burn—including furniture, curtains and clothing.

There should always be an adult in the room when a space heater is on. Turn off space heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep.

Supervise children and pets at all times when a space heater is in use.

Keep space heaters clean and well maintained.
Candle Safety
On average, a candle fire is reported in a U.S. home every 30 minutes.  Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when using candles in your home:
Use candle holders that are sturdy and won’t easily tip over.

Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.

Always blow out candles before leaving the room or going to bed.

Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.

Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
Never use a candle if oxygen is being used in the home.

Consider using the safest alternative, the “flameless candle.”

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas that can kill a person in minutes if it goes undetected. Fuels such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, and charcoal produce CO when burning.


Hundreds of people die each year from malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Here are some facts and tips for you to protect yourself and your family from CO poisoning:


Symptoms of CO poisoning include, but are not limited to, severe headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, or shortness of breath.

Install a carbon monoxide detector in the house.  Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, and having carbon monoxide detectors is crucial, especially in homes that have fossil-fuel burning heaters or appliances, fireplaces, or an attached garage.

The detectors should be installed, at the very least, near the sleeping area of your home. Additional detectors on every level and in every bedroom provide even more protection. You should remember not to install carbon monoxide detectors directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up. A detector should not be placed within 15 feet of heating or cooking appliances or in or near very humid areas such as bathrooms.

If you suspect that someone is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, get the victim(s) into fresh air immediately.  If you cannot get them out of the house, then open all windows and doors. Any combustion appliances (any appliance that burns fuels for warmth, cooking, or decorative purposes) should be turned off. Take those who were subjected to carbon monoxide to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible.  A simple blood test will be able to determine if carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred.
For People with Special Needs
For people with special needs, extra planning for fire safety is required.  This group includes those recovering from a broken leg or by-pass surgery as well as those with more permanent impairments involving vision, hearing, mobility, or mental ability.  The U.S. Fire Administration has provided a checklist to help ensure that people with special needs – temporary or permanent – and their caregivers can take necessary steps to keep fire-safe.
Important Final Reminders
Plan and practice escape plans with your family at least twice a year. 

Teach children when and how to call emergency telephone numbers.

Keep a charged fire extinguisher handy, and know how to use it.

Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home if you burn fuel like wood, oil or kerosene for heat or cooking.
Test your smoke alarms monthly, and change batteries yearly, or sooner if you hear the “chirping” signal that the batteries are low.
Do not remove alarm batteries for other use, even temporarily. You may forget to replace them.
If your smoke alarm does not have the manufacture date on it, write the date of purchase on the unit. Replace the unit every 8-10 years.

If a fire occurs in your home, your chances of survival are increased by 50% if properly working smoke alarms are present.

Open Your Heart and Home. Volunteer to be a Pet Foster Parent.

Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES) Veterinary Public Health is looking for animal lovers to join the Runt Rescue Foster Team. Volunteers are needed to help provide temporary, in-home care for animals in need until they can be adopted. The Runt Rescue program was designed to increase the number of animals adopted from the county animal shelter.

Orphaned puppies and kittens, mothers with new litters, shy and under-nourished animals and animals with treatable health conditions can be temporarily placed in a caring Runt Rescue foster home.  The Runt Rescue volunteers follow the instructions of HCPHES veterinary staff and work to rehabilitate these pets until they are ready for adoption.

Each Runt Rescue volunteer decides how much time they can give and what kind of animals or treatments they feel comfortable to handle.  Shelter veterinary staff will supply the needed training and be available for Runt Rescue questions.

Runt Rescue volunteers are true life-savers!  Their caring efforts and dedication make it possible for these loving pets to find happy, safe, forever homes. 

To learn more about pet fostering or to sign up to be a Runt Rescue volunteer, please contact HCPHES Veterinary Public Health at 713-418-1809 or visit the website at www.hcphes.org/vph or www.countypets.com.