ALBANY, N.Y. -- With the onset of winter weather, federal officials urge residents living in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) travel trailers to observe fire safety precautions.
FEMA urges anyone in a travel trailer to use only the built-in heater. Occupants should not use kerosene heaters, kitchen stoves or ovens, or electric space heaters to heat their travel trailer.
"These trailers are equipped with heaters that are safe when used by occupants as instructed when we turn the trailer over to them," said Marianne Jackson, Federal Coordinating Officer for the New York disaster. "Using unapproved devices for heat could lead to serious accident or injury."
"Residents need to practice safety at all times," Jackson added. "Even those who've used these heaters before should review the built-in heater operating and safety instructions."
Most of the travel trailers are equipped with propane heaters, which automatically vent to the outdoors. However, using the oven or stove for heat may deplete oxygen in the trailer, resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible gas that causes dizziness, headaches and possibly death. Residents should make sure the carbon monoxide detector is working correctly and that heater vents on the outside of the trailer are not blocked or covered. All FEMA travel trailers that have propane heaters also have carbon monoxide detectors.
Fire Program Specialist Kathy Gerstner of the U.S. Fire Administration, a sister agency of FEMA within the Department of Homeland Security, offers several fire prevention tips for residents of travel trailers:
- If it doesn't seem safe, don't do it;
- Shut off all appliances before leaving home;
- Know where the propane shutoff valve is located and how to shut it off;
- Keep flammable materials away from the stove top;
- Know where the fire extinguisher is in the unit and learn how to use it;
- Learn how to use the emergency window opening devices in the trailer;
- Do not store gasoline or other flammable liquids in or under the trailer;
- Do not store gasoline-powered vehicles or equipment in the trailer;
- Never smoke in bed.
Firefighters at every level stress the importance of having a working smoke detector. Batteries should be replaced twice a year, and officials suggest doing so when changing between daylight savings time and standard time.
"We want everyone to be comfortable and safe this winter," said Jackson . "If those in a travel trailer feel their health or safety is in danger at any time, they should leave immediately and contact local emergency officials."
Residents of FEMA travel trailers are provided the contact number for maintenance or repairs when they are leased into the unit. If a resident has misplaced this number, they can receive it by calling the Travel Trailer Helpline for the New York disaster at 1-800-621-3362.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.