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AmerenUE Offers Holiday Safety Tips

ST. LOUIS, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- More than ice and snow can be dangerous during the glorious goings-on of the holiday season. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 people each year for injuries resulting from falls, cuts and shocks and from fires caused by holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees. What's more, the National Fire Protection Association reports that four of every 10 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.

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. Avoid walking on extension wires. Replace faulty or loose wall sockets, and avoid placing too many appliances on one outlet or socket.

  Here are some 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. Throw away
     damaged light sets.
  -- Never overload electrical circuits or outlets. Use Underwriters
     Laboratories Inc. (UL) certified surge protector strips if multiple
     outlets are required.
  -- Never string together more than three standard light sets.
  -- 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 suggested that GFCI outlets be used for indoor lights,
     as well.
  -- Do not run outdoor light wiring or outdoor extension cords through door
     and window openings where they can be damaged.
  -- Keep electrical connections off the ground and away from water.
  -- Only use insulated staples to attach extension cords and lights to
     wood. Never use nails, tacks or regular staples.
  -- Make certain lights, decorations and other electrical devices are
     disconnected when installing or working on them.
  -- Never leave Christmas tree lights on when away from your residence.
  -- 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.
  -- Never replace a fuse with one designed for a higher amperage or with a
     coin. A fuse that repeatedly blows or a circuit-breaker that repeatedly
     trips is an indication of an overloaded circuit. If the problem
     continues after unplugging lights or devices, have the circuit
     inspected by an electrician.
  -- Do not place fans or space heaters where small children can touch or
     fall upon them. Never leave operating space heaters unattended.
  -- Use common sense with new gifts. Never use electrical appliances in or
     around water. Never immerse electrical appliances in water.
  -- Never leave an unattended iron plugged in.
  -- Make certain the UL certification label is attached to any electrical
     device you purchase or use.
  -- Keep electrical devices clean and periodically check them.

  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 fossil fuel space
  -- It is recommended that carbon monoxide detectors be placed in homes and
  -- 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.
     (Explanation: The flue is the opening that vents the products of
     combustion from the furnace and water heater to the outdoors.
     Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and vented space heaters also have
       If the flue is blocked or damaged, the products of combustion may
     leak into the home, including carbon monoxide. Even in small
     quantities, carbon monoxide is deadly -- one-fourth of 1 percent of
     carbon monoxide (2,500 parts per million) is lethal within 30 minutes.
       Indications that carbon monoxide may be present include high
     humidity, steamed-up windows, the odor of exhaust or a furnace flame
     that is partly yellow rather than a steady blue with a sharp pointed
       Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may be similar to those of
     influenza, including dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea, irregular
     heartbeat, ringing in the ears, violent coughing, seeing spots and even
     unconsciousness. If you or a member of your household experience
     symptoms, get fresh air immediately. Ventilate your home by opening
     windows and doors. Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 and
     seek immediate medical attention. Call a qualified plumber or heating
     professional to inspect your appliances.)
  -- If your furnace or heating system is equipped with an air filter,
     follow manufacturer recommendations in cleaning or replacing that
     filter. You may need to clean or replace filters more frequently if you
     have pets.
  -- 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. Leave the building, and then call AmerenUE immediately.

Visit the Ameren Web site (http://www.ameren.com/) for more safety tips or other information about Ameren. AmerenUE serves 1.2 million electric and 125,000 natural gas customers in Missouri. Ameren's utility companies provide energy services to 2.4 million electric and nearly one million natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile service area in Illinois and Missouri.


CONTACT: Tim Fox, +1-314-554-3120, or Susan Gallagher, +1-314-554-2175,
or Mike Cleary, +1-573-681-7137, all of AmerenUE

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