Space Heater Safety

Space heaters – whether portable or stationary – accounted for 2 of every 5 (40%) home heating fires and 4 of 5 (84%) home heating fire deaths. (National Fire Protection Associa-tion, based on 2009-2013 annual averages)Heating-related fires most often occur in December, Janu-ary, and February. Simple space heater use precautions in-clude keeping the heater at a safe distance from other objects, plugging the heater directly into an electrical outlet and turn-ing the heater off while you are sleeping.“Space heaters are intended for use as short-term zone heating,” Lisa Braxton, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), says. “Today’s space heaters have important safety features that weren’t often found in older heaters. However, any heater can be unsafe if it isn’t used properly.”One space heater safety issue is placing the heater too close to combustible materials. Beds, household furnishings, cloth-ing, etc. all pose a fire hazard if they are within three feet of a space heater.Extension cords are another critical safety hazard related to space heater use. When extension cords are used continu-ously, they can deteriorate rapidly, increasing the risk of elec-tric shock or fire hazard. With items such as space heaters, overload is often a safety issue.Space heaters should always be plugged directly into an electrical outlet. When the heater is running, no other electri-cal appliance or device should be plugged into that receptacle.Selected electrical outlets should be inspected to ensure they are in good condition. Outlets should not be loose or have cracked or broken plates. If sparks fly when a heater is plugged in, that receptacle should not be used.Cords should never be placed under carpeting, rugs, or any fabric. Keep liquids well away from both the cord and the heater. Never touch a heater if you are wet.Space heaters must be set on a level, stable surface, so they are not easily tipped over. Children should never be allowed to adjust heater controls or move the heater.When selecting a space heater, consumers are advised to purchase a heater that features temperature controls, a feature that helps reduce fire risk in some ways.Nationally recognized testing laboratories test space heater models to verify their quality. Reputable models will have a testing lab tag verifying their safety features. Among those labs are Applied Research Laboratories, Inc. (ARL), Under-writers Laboratories Inc. (UL), and Wyle Laboratories, Inc. (WL).Functioning smoke alarms are another key safety element for the use of space heaters. The alarms can quickly alert the household of any smoke or flames.Homeowners will find electrical safety information and tip sheets at www.nfpa.org/education. Heating Safety Spinoff• Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, such as the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable heater.• Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.• Never use your oven to heat your home.• Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equip-ment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instruc-tions.• Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and in-spected every year by a qualified professional.• Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.• Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manu-facturer, for fuel burning space heaters.• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before put-ting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe dis-tance away from your home.• All fuel-burning equipment should be vented outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.• Test smoke alarms at least once each month.• Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.(Source: National Fire Protection Association, Public Education Division, Quincy, MA)

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