Space Heaters Pose Risk During Extreme Cold
State Fire Marshal Tim Bean is urging Missourians to be extra cautious heating their homes as the most frigid temperatures of the season push into the state.
Each year, space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires and 80 percent of heating fire deaths. Space heaters are the leading cause of home fires in the months of December, January and February, according to the National Fire Protections Association.
“The weather forecast calls for temperatures to plummet across Missouri this week, and we know that fire risks rise dramatically as people turn to supplemental heating sources to keep their homes warm,” Fire Marshal Bean said. “Many people do not understand the risks space heaters pose when misused, leading to deadly fires that could be prevented.”
When temperatures in Missouri plunged in February 2015, space heaters and supplemental heating sources were suspected in seven deaths and six injuries in less than a week. This week temperatures across most of Missouri are expected to drop below zero with wind chill values as low as 30 degrees below zero due to wind gusts as high as 40-50 miles per hour.
Fire Marshal Bean stressed two key factors leading to heating fires: not using space heaters and other heating sources as they are designed to be used, and not having smoke alarms in their homes.
“Space heaters are designed to be used to supplement primary heating sources; that’s where the name comes from, they’re meant to help heat limited spaces in a residence that do not warm sufficiently from the primary heating source.” Bean said. “Also, people need to think of space heaters and smoke alarms as working together. Smoke alarms are essential in the home.”
The Red Cross can assist people who cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one. The Red Cross can help with a free smoke alarm installation. Sign up at redcross.org/smokealarmMO or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.
Remember these safety tips whenever heating equipment is used:
Turn off portable heaters whenever leaving the room or going to bed.
*Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. The three-foot safety zone includes furniture, drapes, Christmas trees and electronics – anything that can burn.
*Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
Do not overload extension cords or outlets. Many extension cords and power strips are not designed to handle the load of an electric heater. Never place an electrical cord under a rug, to prevent the cord from overheating and causing a fire.
Never use an oven or other cooking devices to heat your home.
Never use an outdoor propane heater indoors.
*Make sure your home has working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms by testing them monthly.
Also, remember that fire risks rise during the holidays as families gather for celebrations that include candles, decorations, and increased use of fireplaces and indoor cooking. Christmas and Christmas Eve follow closely behind Thanksgiving as the busiest days for the year for cooking fires.
*Never leave a lighted Christmas tree or other decorative lighting displays unattended.
*Turn lights off when leaving the home or going to bed. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections, and broken sockets. Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not place an electrical cord under a rug.
*Don’t keep the tree up for too long, allowing it to dry out.
*Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood, or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.
*Avoid using real candles as part of decorations and remember to always exercise basic safety when using candles throughout the home.
*Never leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.
*Every home should be equipped with a fire extinguisher.