Avoid use of alternative heating, exercise caution when necessary

Cooler weather is expected this week, and Hoosiers trying to avoid turning on the heat should exercise caution when using alternative methods to heat their homes.

“Alternative heating sources are one of the leading causes of home fires and fire-related deaths each year,” said State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson. “Fires caused by alternative heating equipment account for 19 percent of home fire deaths in the United States.”

Marshal Greeson advises Hoosiers to take precautions if alternative sources are in use. Here are a few tips to safely stay warm this season:

Space Heaters and Other Alternative Heating

  • Avoid using space heaters and other alternative heating if possible.
  • Keep at least a three-foot perimeter around space heaters at all times.
  • Space heaters should be kept away from loose or flammable objects such as clothing, curtains, bedding and furniture.
  • Only one space heater should be plugged into each electrical outlet. Never overload electrical outlets.
  • Do not leave space heaters on in unoccupied rooms.
  • If it is necessary to purchase a space heater, consider purchasing one with a built-in tilt sensor that automatically shuts off if tipped over.
  • Refuel kerosene space heaters outside the home in a well-ventilated area. Be sure to let them cool down first if they were recently used.
  • Appliances such as ovens should never be used for heating. Doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.


  • Fireplaces should be regularly cleaned and inspected by a certified professional. Gas fireplaces should have proper ventilation, with a working carbon monoxide detector nearby.
  • Use only dry, seasoned firewood to prevent build-up of creosote, which can prevent the chimney from venting properly.
  • Make sure not to close the damper too early when hot ashes are still in the fireplace. Doing so can force dangerous levels of carbon monoxide into the home.
  • Avoid using flammable liquid to start fires in fireplaces or wood stoves. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand in case the fire gets out of control.

Remember, fires should always be extinguished and any alternative heating sources turned off before going to bed or leaving the home.

Long Underwear, Insulation and Other Options

Marshal Greeson strongly advises Hoosiers to consider other options before using alternative heating.

  • Wear long underwear. It might sound old fashioned, but this will reduce bodily heat loss and enhance warmth and comfort. One layer of thermal long underwear can allow for a savings on heating costs. After all, each person’s body is a human furnace that generates heat.
  • Caulk can stop drafts and decrease heat loss. Fewer drafts can help with bodily warmth.
  • Move while inside. Work out, dance, clean or simply stand and move.
  • Bake cookies, cake, pie or cook dinner. Having the oven on will help with residual heat, but don’t use the stovetop or oven to heat a home.

Smoke Alarms

Working smoke alarms are important all year around, but they can be especially important in the winter months with the added risk of alternative heating sources. According to the Red Cross, families have as little as two minutes to safely escape a burning home, and having a working smoke alarm can double a person’s chance of surviving.

“Test your smoke alarm to make sure it works. Even if it responds correctly, if you don’t remember the last time you changed your batteries, do it today. If you don’t have a smoke alarm, buy one and install it. If you don’t have the funds, contact your local fire department, Red Cross or social service agency to see if one can be provided,” says Greeson.

For more tips on smoke alarms, as well as fire and alternative heat safety, visit

SOURCE: News release from Indiana Department of Homeland Security