Portable Heater Safety

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When we think of portable heaters we think of convenience and energy saving. What we  should also be thinking about are fires and burn injuries. Heating fires are the second most common cause of home fires in the country and many are caused by portable heating devices. Hospital emergency rooms and burn care units report thousands of burns yearly due to contact with portable heaters. Unfortunately, many of these burn victims are children who suffer pain and perhaps disfigurement as a result. For these reasons the Chippewa Falls Fire and Emergency Services encourage you to follow these safety rules when using portable heaters:

  • Use only those space heaters with safety devices that automatically shut the heater off if tipped over.
  • Purchase and use only those heaters with the UL (Underwriter Laboratories) label indicating that the model has been tested for safety.
  • Don’t plug in any electric heater until you have checked the appliance cord for frayed or worn spots. If necessary, replace the heater or have an electrician repair the cord. Do not cover the cord with tape yourself.
  • Keep all heaters 36” away from draperies, blankets, papers, furniture and other combustible items.
  • Never place heaters in doorways or other exits.
  • Avoid using extension cords with heaters. If you must, use a heavy duty cord capable of handling the load. Too small a cord can cause a fire.
  • Do not place electric heaters near sinks, tubs, showers or other water sources.
  • Keep children and pets away from heaters. Always have an adult present while heaters are in use.
  • Turn heaters off when you go to bed or before you leave the house. Unattended heat sources are a major cause of fires.
  • Don’t try to heat an entire room with a portable heater. Focus the heat in the direction you need it.
  • Vacuum any lint or dust from the heater. A dirty heater can overheat and result in a fire. Make sure to unplug the heater before vacuuming.
  • Make sure your heater has a thermostat designed into it.
  • Make sure the heater has its element guard in place.
  • Do not hang combustibles to dry over portable heaters.
  • Portable kerosene heaters can supply homeowners with temporary heat during a power outage or can be used to warm a cool room without the expense of heating the entire house. Newer models are manufactured with numerous safety features, but operator errors such as using gasoline instead of kerosene, failure to provide adequate ventilation, fuel spills, etc. have resulted in numerous home fires.
  • Ensure you have working smoke detectors and test them frequently