FLASH Offers Tips on Safe Use of Space Heaters As Temperatures Drop

It finally feels like winter and, as cold winter weather sets in across the country, many families are using portable space heaters to keep warm.  Because more than half of all fire-related deaths result from items catching fire when placed too closely to heat sources like portable space heaters, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) has compiled these life-saving tips for preventing house fires resulting from the use of portable space heaters.

Electric Portable Space Heaters

  • Read the Labels
    • Purchase a space heater with modern safety features such as an automatic shut off in the event the heater is tipped or turned over.
    • Buy only electric portable space heaters that have been tested and labeled by a nationally recognized testing company such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL).
  • Location, Location, Location
    • Keep the heater at least three feet away from drapes, furniture or other flammable materials.
    • Place the heater on a level surface away from areas where someone might bump into it and knock it over. Be mindful of keeping children and pets away from the heater.
    • Place electric space heaters only in areas where they can be plugged directly into the wall outlet. If an extension cord must be used, make sure it is a heavy-duty cord marked with a power rating at least as high as that on the label of the heater itself.
    • Keep electric heaters away from water. Never use them near a sink or in the bathroom.
    • Never leave a space heater unattended or running while sleeping.

Gas-Fueled Portable Space Heaters

  • Carefully follow the manufacturer’s fueling instructions using only the approved fuel. Never use gasoline. Never fuel a heater that is still hot. Do not overfill the heater; allow for the expansion of the liquid. Only use approved containers that are clearly marked for that particular fuel and store them outdoors.
  • Have vented space heaters professionally inspected every year. If the heater is not vented properly, not vented at all, or if the vent is blocked, separated, rusted, or corroded, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) can enter the home causing sickness and/or death. CO also can be produced if the heater is not properly set up and adjusted for the type of fuel used and the altitude of the home in which it is installed.

These and more valuable winter preparedness tips are available from the FLASH Great Winter Weather Party, a fun, new family-friendly website and social media campaign aimed at better preparing families and their homes for winter weather hazards. Visit www.greatwinterweatherparty.org for more information.

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