South Carolina

How to keep your house from going up in flames when a hurricane causes a power outage

When a hurricane hits, there is often more concern about protecting a house from wind damage or flooding than saving it from a fire.

But should the storm cause a power outage, there are items that people turn to in an effort to provide light, warmth, energy and more. Used properly, items like candles, fireplaces, generators and cooking equipment can be tremendous assets.

Unfortunately, they can also cause fires that inflict pain and damage beyond the hurricane’s impact.

“During a hurricane, power outages are anticipated and I want to remind everyone the use of candles and portable generators can pose additional hazards,” South Carolina Fire Marshal Jonathan Jones said in a news release.

Jones did more than issue a warning. He provided safety tips for those who could lose power after Hurricane Florence makes landfall along the Carolina coastline, as predicted.

The guidance for using candles Jones shared is common sense usages for any occasion.

His instructions included using “a sturdy candle holder, avoid cluttered surfaces, never leave a burning candle unattended and put it out when you leave that room.”

Jones also said to “never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home,” and to keep “hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.”

“An estimated 26 percent of fatal candle fires occur during the loss of electrical power,” according to the National Association of State Fire Marshals, which also had recommendations for safe use of candles — including avoiding them when the power goes out.

Other tips included keeping candles “out of the reach of children and pets, not using candles in small or confined spaces, and never falling asleep while candles are burning.”

But candles are not the only things that can cause a fire during a power outage. For those planning on using a generator, take caution.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 751 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a generator from 2004 to 2014, the Island Packet reported.

The tips Jones had for those using generators included operating them in “in a well-ventilated location outdoors,” never using them in a garage; keeping them where their fumes won’t enter the residence and never refueling them while they are running or hot.

Jones also had instructions he urged South Carolina residents to follow when it comes to cooking during a blackout.

The S.C. Fire Marshal said to “never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home or garage,” and to “never burn charcoal inside a home or garage.”

He also warned people to turn off stove burners and ovens during a power outage.

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Florence

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