FORT RUCKER, Ala. - As winter weather turns temperatures down, many people turn heaters up to provide warmth. Doing so presents some hazards like fire and carbon monoxide poisoning, but taking proper steps before using heaters can prevent severe injury or death, according to officials.

The National Fire Prevention Association recently launched a new campaign touting the importance of installing and maintaining smoke alarms in every household. According to an NFPA press release, death rates in home fires without working smoke alarms is double that of ones that have properly working smoke detectors.

Ronnie Stallworth, Fort Rucker Fire Department fire prevention officer, said his department presents fire safety classes at newcomers' briefs and when organizations request them. In these fire safety classes, fire prevention officers address how to properly maintain smoke detectors.
When purchasing an alarm, fire prevention staff members recommend selecting one that has been tested by a recognized laboratory.

They also suggest residents install smoke detectors in every bedroom and on every level of their houses. They also encourage interconnecting them so when one rings, they all ring. Since smoke rises, these alarms should be installed in high places.

A qualified electrician must establish any hard-wired smoke detectors, fire prevention officers urge.

Community members need to test batteries each month to ensure smoke detectors are properly working. Fire prevention staff advise replacing batteries twice a year or when devices "chirp," signaling low batteries.

Recently, fire prevention staff inspected all smoke detectors in the barracks here as part of a Department of Defense fire prevention campaign, which ended in October. Stallworth said Directorate of Public Works replaced any malfunctioning devices.

Carbon monoxide poisoning casualties also increase when weather turns cold. Carbon monoxide results from burning gases, charcoal and wood, and exposure can result in headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, confusion, loss of consciousness or death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site,

"It's odorless, colorless, and it's a gas that's (going to) poison you," Stallworth said.

To prevent the illnesses resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning, Stallworth advocates placing monitors high on walls in every bedroom and on every floor. He also suggests installing monitors away from combusting heat sources since any combustion produces a small amount of the deadly gas.

Since carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are installed in a like manner, people can purchase combination detectors. All Picerne Military Housing residences have them, said Emily Natalio, Picerne communications specialist.

Picerne maintenance checked all detectors during the DoD campaign last year, she said, and Picerne continuously informs house owners about fire safety procedures through monthly newsletters.

To schedule a fire safety class, call 255-9584, 255-0391, 255-0390 or 255-1598.