As the leaves change and the temperatures drop, it's time to start thinking about getting your home ready for winter. As our Katie Gibas reports, a big part of that is making sure you think about safety first, before turning on the heat.
NEW YORK STATE -- As people start to turn on the heat, it becomes a busy time for the fire department.
"It's tragic that fire departments across the country will go to fatalities caused by people just trying to stay warm," said Stephen Cavuto, the Syracuse Fire Prevention Deputy Chief.
First, take some common sense safety steps like changing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test them to make sure they're working. Keep space heaters away from furniture, blankets and rugs and only use them for limited periods.
"Fires in space heaters and small electric heaters frequently are caused by carelessness of the user. Perhaps they throw a blanket on the edge of their bed and it falls on the space heater," said Cavuto.
Before you program your thermostat, you should head downstairs to the basement to check to make sure the furnace is working properly. First, make sure it's clean and clear of any debris around the furnace. Next, you want to check your air filter. Make sure that's clean and installed properly.
"Depending on what kind of filter you have, some of them get replaced once a month. Some of them might be every two or three months. And some of them are once a year. So making sure you know what kind of filter you have and how often you should replace it is very important," said Eric Knaak, the Operations VP at Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning.
Heating companies and most furnace warranties recommend having the furnace inspected annually.
"You want to make sure the furnace is venting properly. The very first thing we'll check for is for that venting, whether it's a chimney or a sidewall vent, we'll check for birds' nests, squirrel nests. We've even had kids throw golf balls down the vents," said Jeff Skeele, the Vice President of Holbrook Heating and Air Conditioning.
Knaak added, "Make sure whoever's doing an electronic gas leak check of the home, as well as an electronic carbon monoxide test of any gas burning appliances."
Fire officials also remind people to have their chimneys inspected and cleaned at least once a year.
If you live in the City of Syracuse and can't afford a smoke detector, the fire prevention department can install one for you free of cost. You can just call (315) 448-4777.