How to safely warm your space without causing a fire
Just recently we read the tragic news about a Bronx apartment building that caught fire due to a space heater, killing 17 people. With plummeting temperatures and rising fuel prices, space heaters can be a good alternative to warming up the space around you. However, there are dangers to using space heaters – particularly when left unattended. Today we’re providing space heater safety tips to safely stay warm this winter.
Space heater accident statistics
First a few statistics to show you how crucial these space heater safety tips are:
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that portable space heaters are responsible for more than 25,000 house fires a year, resulting in 80 deaths and 160 injuries. Typically they’re caused when a heater is moved too close to curtains, bedding or upholstered furniture. They account for 4 out of 5 home heating fire deaths.
Nearly half of home heating equipment fires are reported during December, January and February, says the National Fire Protection Association. While 44 percent of home heating fires involve space heaters, space heaters are involved in 86 percent of home heating fire deaths.
Heating is the second leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. Local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment per year in 2014-2018, accounting for 14 percent of all reported home fires during this time. These fires resulted in annual losses of 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.
Look for these safety features
When purchasing a space heater, CNET says to look for these features:
- Automatic shut-off/overheat protection: Automatically shuts down the unit in the case of overheating
- Tip-over switch: Shuts the unit down if it’s not in an upright position
- Thermostat: Monitors indoor temperature, which allows the unit to determine when to turn on and off
- Plastic face: Keeps the grille from heating to the point of burning the skin upon contact
Space heater safety tips
Now that you’re aware of these statistics, be sure to share these space heater safety tips with your tribal members.
- Plug all space heaters directly into a wall outlet (not an extension cord or power strip), to prevent overheating.
- Keep out of high-traffic areas or doorways.
- Don’t plug another electrical device or an extension cord into the same outlet as a heater—that can cause overheating.
- Unplug the heater when it’s not in use by pulling the plug straight from the outlet. Check the cord for damage periodically, and don’t use the heater if the cord is frayed or worn.
- Keep the space heater at least 3 feet away from combustible materials, such as furniture, bedding and curtains. A taller heater may need to be even further away.
- Ensure a recognized testing laboratory has tested your heater. It should have a safety certification label from an independent testing organization, such as the UL mark, the ETL label from Intertek, or certification from CSA International.
- Make sure your heater has an automatic shut-off, so if it tips over, it shuts off.
- Place space heaters on a solid, flat, non-flammable floor surface. They’re not designed to sit on tables.
- Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
- Keep a three-foot zone around the heater free or kids and pets. Don’t put a space heater in a child’s room.
- Don’t use a heater in a workshop or garage near paint, gas cans, or matches.
- Install working smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every bedroom, and test them monthly.
- If you think you may be using the heater near water, your space heater should be used with a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) plug. However, it’s best to keep electric heaters far away from any water supply.
Follow these space heater safety tips to stay warm – and stay safe – this winter!