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Ameren Offers Holiday Safety Tips

PEORIA, SPRINGFIELD and DECATUR, Ill., Nov. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The Ameren Illinois utilities want everyone's holiday season to be safe and joyous by remembering that some of the things that make the holidays special also pose safety hazards.

According to national safety statistics, hospital emergency rooms treat thousands of people each year for injuries resulting from falls, cuts and shocks and from fires caused by holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees. The National Fire Protection Association reports that almost half of all Christmas tree fires are caused by an electrical problem or malfunction -- the remainders are caused by placing a heat source too close to the tree or by someone playing with fire or another heat source.

To help make the holiday season safe, use electricity and natural gas safely. The key to staying safe is watching for and correcting problems with cords and faulty sockets and handling wiring with care. Jerking on a wire can break insulation and damage plugs.

  Other safety tips for electricity:

  -- Inspect all holiday lights for broken or cracked sockets. Look for
     frayed or bare wires, loose connections or damaged plugs. Discard
     damaged light sets. Never overload electrical circuits or outlets. Use
     Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) certified surge protector strips if
     multiple outlets are required.
  -- Keep holiday lights away from toddlers. Push the wires inward toward
     the center of the tree and clip wires securely to branches.
  -- For outdoor lighting, use UL-certified lights approved for outdoor use.
     Also, use heavy duty UL-certified outdoor extension cords. Plug outdoor
     cords into GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets. It is
     recommended that GFCI outlets be used for indoor lights, as well. Stay
     clear of and avoid contact with overhead electricity wires. Keep
     electrical connections off the ground and away from water.
  -- Never leave Christmas tree lights on when away from home.
  -- Do not place cords under rugs or carpets, where they can be walked upon
     or where someone can trip over them.
  -- Use flame-resistant ornaments and decorations around the Christmas
  -- When selecting a live tree, make certain the branches are fresh and the
     trunk is sticky with sap. Needles should bend, not break, and should be
     hard to pull off branches. Keep the tree holder base filled with water.
     Keep trees away from fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, radiators, heat
     registers and other sources of heat.
  -- If you select an artificial tree, select one that has been tested and
     labeled as being fire-resistant. Trees with built-in electric systems
     should have the UL certification label.

  Safety tips for natural gas:

  -- Natural gas furnace owners should be aware of, and take precautions
     against, carbon monoxide poisoning dubbed the "silent killer." This
     advice also should be heeded by those with fireplaces, wood-burning
     stoves, natural gas/propane water heaters and all fossil fuel space
  -- Illinois law requires that carbon monoxide detectors be placed in homes
     and apartments.
  -- To help avoid the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is
     recommended that a qualified plumber or heating professional annually
     inspect and clean furnace systems. Special attention needs to be paid
     to the flue. A rusty or loose fitting flue may cause a vent to
     malfunction. Improper venting of a furnace may result in carbon
     monoxide poisoning.  Flues that also vent through walls must be clear
     of snow, leaves and other types of blockage to prevent Carbon Monoxide
     from backing into the home.
  -- Never hang any item from a natural gas or propane pipe. The added
     weight could pull down the pipe.
  -- Never use the kitchen oven as a heating source. Natural gas ovens
     produce carbon monoxide that will escape into the house when the oven
     door is left open. In addition, the oven could overheat and cause a
     fire. Cooking with the oven is safe because the oven cycles on and off
     when the oven door is closed.
  -- Never store combustible materials within a few feet of the furnace or
     water heater.
  -- Call a qualified plumber or heating professional to inspect the furnace
     if it cycles on or off with a loud noise or otherwise malfunctions.
     Ignition should be smooth and quiet in a properly maintained furnace.
  -- Natural gas contains an odorant that smells like rotten eggs. If you
     notice a slight smell, follow your nose to the source -- it may be
     something you can easily and safely correct, such as an unlit pilot
     light or a partially ignited burner valve. If it's a strong smell, or
     if it's a slight smell that does not go away, open your windows and
     doors. Do not turn lights off or on. Do not activate any electrical
     device, including cell phones and light switches. Leave the building,
     and then call your Ameren Illinois utility (AmerenCILCO, AmerenCIPS,
     AmerenIP) or "911" immediately.

Visit the Ameren Web site (http://www.ameren.com/) for more safety tips or other information about Ameren.

The Ameren Illinois utilities serve 1.2 million electric and more than 840,000 natural gas customers in a 43,700-square-mile area of Illinois.

SOURCE: Ameren Illinois

CONTACT: Erica Abbett, +1-618-236-4329, or Natalie Hemmer,
+1-217-424-7541, or Neal Johnson, +1-309-677-5284, or Leigh Morris,
+1-217-535-5228, all of Ameren Illinois

Web site: http://www.ameren.com/