Before you start using that space heater this winter, read this first.

It’s that time of year when we start to crank the heat up and begin using secondary heating devices such as space heaters. However, these heaters may give you comfort and warmth, but they can also become extremely dangerous if not used properly.

According to the non-profit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 2008, heating equipment in North America was involved in an estimated 66,100 reported home structure fires, 480 civilian deaths, 1,660 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. In 2004-2008, most home heating fire deaths (82%) and injuries (64%) and half (51%) of associated direct property damage involved stationary or portable space heaters. Space heating poses a much higher risk of fire, death, injury, and loss per million users than central heating. These types of fires are even more likely to happen at work. In our rush to get home, pick-up our children or to get to that next appointment, it is easy to forget to turn them off. The cost of these fires is more than just property damage; they will often put the lives of our family, friends, co-workers, pets and emergency services at risk.

To help keep our community safe and warm this season, here are some guidelines:
  • Secondary heaters are a great temporary heating solution, but they should not permanently supplement or replace your primary heating system.
  • Call your local heating professionals and arrange for regular inspections and servicing of your heating systems.
  • Heating units should only be used if they are “listed” or “approved” by a recognized testing organization.
  • Secondary heaters should be used for their intended purpose only. They should be operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Space heaters need space. Keep all things that can burn such as paper, bedding or furniture at least 3 feet away from heating equipment. Each heater should have a data plate indicating the necessary clearances to combustibles, ventilation requirements, etc. It is recommended that you adhere to these specifications.
  • Turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Plug power cords only into outlets with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.
  • Inspect the heater and cords for cracked, frayed or broken plugs and loose connections, and replace before using.

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