FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Blustery Weather Conditions Require Proper Cold Weather Protection and Prevention Against Home Fires and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Trenton, N.J. - In advance of more winter storms this year, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ (DCA) Division of Fire Safety reminds residents that the sudden onset of artic cold is cause for caution, particularly concerning home heating.

"Once the temperatures move us inside, carbon monoxide poisoning is as serious a threat as a home fire," said William Kramer, Jr. Acting Director and State Fire Marshal.

Kramer adds that the problem arises when a faulty heating system operates at full capacity for the first time. Or, when measures individuals take to avoid the cold, in fact put them in peril.

"Typically that means a burner that has not been serviced, or potential exhaust fuel leaks were not inspected by professional heating contractors prior to the winter heating season. Open source flame heat, such as from a fireplace or portable kerosene heater, is dangerous as well," said Kramer.

This type of home heating can contribute to a build-up of deadly carbon monoxide gas, which is colorless and odorless. Early carbon monoxide symptoms can produce the following:

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Sudden fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

Within a short time however these progressively worsen to:

  • Mental confusion

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of consciousness and ultimately death

Kramer recommends that heating devices be serviced regularly and that portable heating units be kept three feet away from anything, including pets and small children. The presence of a working CO alarm and smoke alarm are sufficient warnings.

Firefighters are especially attuned to the dangers of over exposure in cold weather and caution the following:

  • When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced.

  • Low body temperature may make you unable to think clearly or move well.

  • You may not know you have hypothermia.

  • If your temperature is below 95°, the situation is an emergency and medical attention is required immediately.

Like carbon monoxide poisoning, cold weather induced hypothermia symptoms for adults are difficult to immediately recognize:

  • Shivering, exhaustion                                                                                               

  • Confusion, fumbling hands                                                                                                     
  • Drowsiness

  • Memory loss, slurred speech

In infants and small children:

  • Bright red, cold skin, very low energy

Additionally, the National Fire Incident Reporting System statistics show the following:

  • 905 people die in winter home fires each year.

  • $2,091,000,000 in property loss occurs from winter home fires.

  • 67 percent of winter fires occur in one- and two-family homes.

  • Cooking is the leading cause of all winter home fires.

  • 5 to 8 p.m. is the most common time for winter home fires.

The Division of Fire Safety offers online links to valuable community risk reduction information, including the links below: (Winter Fire Safety) (Carbon Monoxide Poisoning) (Comprehensive Center for Disease Control CO guide)

The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the State. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing public education and firefighter training programs.