Across the United States this winter, even in Southern California, record-setting low temperatures have sent people scurrying to discount stores to purchase space heaters. While the units save energy costs and work well to heat small spaces, they also pose a high risk of fire. I guess space heaters make sense for people because they don’t have a built-in coat like dogs.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) officials say that space heaters are the type of heating equipment most often involved in home heating fires—figuring in two of every five such fires and accounting for 84% of associated civilian deaths, 75% of civilian injuries, and 52% of direct property damage. The peak time for these types of fires is December, January and February.
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) reports that the biggest mistake people make relative to the risk of starting fires is to put things too close to heating sources: “Place (flammable materials) at least three feet away from space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, and radiators. Remember that skin burns too. Make sure that people and pets stay at least three feet away.” I guess that includes wagging our tails near space heaters.
While most built-in heating equipment remains safely out of reach of flammable materials, portable space heaters are easy to forget. Preliminary reports reveal that such was the case last month in Baltimore, Md., where a raging house fire claimed the lives of six children. The impact of the tragedy on loved ones is more difficult because officials suspect a space heater may have caused the blaze.
In the cool of winter, whether you are at home or at work, take these 10 precautions to make sure you remain fire safe in 2017:
- Use only portable heaters that have been listed by a testing laboratory (look for the laboratory’s label).
- Make sure the space heater you select has an automatic shut-off switch so that it will turn off on its own, even if it is accidentally knocked over or knocked over by an unwieldy tail.
- Select a heater that has automatic overheat protection.
- Plug portable electric heaters directly into wall outlets instead of potentially overloading an extension cord or power strip.
- Since evenings (between 5 – 8 p.m.) are the peak time for home heating fires, turn space heaters off before you leave the room or fall asleep.
- Keep space heaters out of the way of foot and paw traffic.
- Use space heaters only on solid, flat surfaces.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- Check the condition of space heaters throughout the season.
For additional winter fire safety information, check out free resources:
Allied Universal (AUS) – Fire/Life Safety Training System
American Red Cross – America’s Biggest Disaster Threat
NFPA – Put a freeze on winter fires
National Safety Council (NSC) – Don’t wait. Check the date.
Remember that fire safety is a priority for everyone all year long. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.