Every winter, the news features at least one heart-breaking story of loss following a heater-related fire. Many of these fires occur because the heaters were being used improperly, which means they could most likely have been avoided. If you plan on using a space heater this winter, taking the time to learn and practice a few simple safety tips can help make sure you and your loved ones stay as safe and free from injury as possible:
- First, space heaters are meant to be used as a source of supplemental heat. Never use a space heater as your regular primary source of heat.
- Make sure your heater is located at least three feet away from anything that could catch fire. Most space heater fires occur when items come too close, overheating and bursting into flames.
- Be sure your heater has a label that verifies it’s been tested by a testing laboratory like United laboratories (UL).
- Read the manufacturer’s manual before operating your heater, even if you’ve owned a similar one in the past.
- Each year, inspect the heater carefully for signs of damage like a worn cord or damaged or bent plug.
- If you use a fuel-fired space heater, store the fuel away from the heater and wipe spills immediately. Only use vented heaters to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and consider investing in a carbon monoxide detector and alarm to monitor for unsafe levels.
- Never, ever leave a heater unattended – not even for a few moments. It only takes a second for a fire to break out.
- Turn off your space heater when you go to sleep, and never leave a space heater unattended in a room with pets or children.
- Don’t use the heater to warm food or dry clothing, towels, blankets or diapers.
- Install smoke alarms on each level of your home and in every bedroom and sleeping area, and test them each month. Replace batteries at least once each year, or choose detectors that are wired right into your home’s electrical system.
- Don’t use extension cords to power space heaters, and locate heaters on level surfaces in out-of-the-way areas to avoid tripping hazards and prevent them from being knocked over. Don’t place a heater on top of a table or other furniture.
- Every now and then, feel the cord while the heater is in use. If it’s very warm, it could indicate an overloaded circuit and a potential fire hazard. Unplug the heater and have your home’s wiring checked immediately.
Space heaters can be a convenient source of extra heat on cold winter nights, but they can also pose serious hazards if used improperly. Follow these tips so you can feel both warm and safe this winter season.