Take Safety Measures When Using Space Heaters and Alternative Heating Sources

(UNDATED) – Alternative heating sources are popular during the winter but are also one of the leading causes of house fires in the U.S.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments responded to an estimated average of 52,050 fires involving heating equipment each year in 2012-2016. These fires resulted in annual losses of 490 civilian deaths, 1,400 civilian injuries, and $1 billion in direct property damage. 

Indiana State Fire Marshal Stephen Cox urges Hoosiers who using alternative heating sources to practice proper heating safety and maintenance:

  • Home appliances, such as ovens, should never be used for heating. Doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Use only dry, seasoned wood in a fireplace or woodstove to avoid the buildup of creosote. Do not use artificial logs in wood stoves.
  • Keep all flammable materials, such as draperies, blankets, bedding or upholstered furniture, at least three feet away from space heaters and other types of heating equipment.

Snow, ice, high winds, and extremely cold conditions are also capable of causing power outages. If the power goes out during winter weather, follow these tips until professionals can make repairs:

  • Gather warm blankets, sleeping bags, and clothing layers to help household members stay warm.
  • Insulate rooms with blankets or other barrier materials over windows and doors.
  • Know how to determine if it is safe to travel and know where to go should the power go out. Identify a friend or family member’s house, or a nearby shelter.

For more winter weather preparedness information, visit GetPrepared.in.gov.

Space heaters are convenient in heating rooms and small spaces, they can also pose safety hazards if used improperly.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February, and most heating-related fire deaths, 86 percent were connected to stationary or portable space heaters. 

When looking for a space heater, you’ll always want to consider those that have safety approval from organizations like the Underwriters Laboratory (UL), Intertek (ETL), or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

Try to purchase a space heater with an automatic shut off.

“That way if it does get tipped over by a pet or child it will shut off,” said Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Brown. “Set the heater on level smooth flooring. If you’re trying to get warm quickly, move closer to the heater instead of placing it in a risky area.”

Local firefighters say keep space heaters at least three feet away from flammable objects like curtains and furniture and bedding.

Don’t leave the heater running when you are not home or when you go to bed. Instead put an extra blanket on the bed to stay warm.

“Things can happen unexpectedly,” added Brown.

Don’t plug the space heater into a power strip.

“Power strips or extension cords are not designed to handle the energy needed to power space heaters,” Brown added. “The power strip could overheat and catch on fire.”

Always, Always make sure you have working smoke detectors in your home.

Firefighters recommended that a working smoke detector is installed outside of each room in your home.

The NFPA recommends testing your smoke alarms once a month and replace the batteries when needed. Families should practice their escape plan so everyone is prepared in the event of an emergency.

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