With the winter months creeping in, it is important to understand how to safely use a portable heater. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 900 portable heater fires in homes are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated 70 deaths, 150 injuries and $53 million in property loss. Fourty-five percent of all fatal heating fires in homes were caused by portable heaters, peaking in January. FIfty-two percent of portable heater fires occured because the heat source was placed too close to combustibles, with 38% originating in bedrooms.
While portable heating fires are small in number, the consequesnces are substantial. You can prevent a portable heater fire in your home this winter by following these fire safety tips:
-Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
-Only purchase and use portable space heaters from a recognized laboratory with an automatic shut off so that if they’re tipped over they will shut off.
-Plug heaters directly into an outlet and never use an extension cord or power strip.
-Inspect heaters for damaged cords, broken plug or loose connections. Replace before using the heater.
-For portable kerosene or other liquid-fueled space heaters, always use the proper grade of the proper fuel.
-Do not place anything on top of the cord. Doin so may cause damage to it. This includes rugs, carpeting and furniture.
-Keep combustible material such as furniture, bedding, pillows, paper and clothes at least 3 feet from the heater on all sides.
-Keep flammable materials away from the heater.
-Unless the heater is designed for outdoor use or in bathrooms, DO NOT use in damp or wet areas. Parts in the heater may be damaged by moisture.
-Check periodically for a secure plug/outlet fit. If the plug does not fit snugly into the outlet or if the plug becomes very hot, the outlet may need to be replaced. Check with a qualified electrician.
-Do not plug any other electrical device into the same outlet as the heater, this could result in over heating.
-Heater should be kept away from children and not be placed in a child’s room without supervision.
-Place heater on a level, flat surface. Only use heater on table tops when specified by the manufacturer. Do not place your heater on furniture. It could fall, dislodging or breaking parts in the heater.
-Use heaters with a thermostat that automatically shuts it off when the desired temperature is reached.
-Do not place heaters under desks or in enclosed areas.
Many fires in the home are caused by a single moment of carelessness and could be easily prevented. It is important to be aware of possible fire hazards around the home and to take steps to protect you and your family from fire. Follow the safety tips listed below to protect yourself and your family.
1. House Keeping – Reduce the amount of flammable and combustible materials. Keep walkways and stairways clear for a safe escape. A clean home free of clutter can reduce ignition hazards and ensure safe emergency evacuation routes.
2. Install Smoke Detectors – Smoke alarms are your first line of defense in a fire, they give you early warning in the event of a fire. Install them on every level of your home, especially outside of sleeping areas. Test and vacuum out detectors once a month and change the batteries when you change your clock in the spring and fall.
3. Electrical Fire Safety – Faulty electrical equipment or misuse of equipment produces heat and sparks that serve as ignition sources in the presence of flammable and combustible materials. Replace or repair loose or frayed cords on all electrical devices or extension cords. Do not overload extension cords and run cords along the floor, under rugs and carpets or through doors where they can be damaged. Each year, electrical shocks and fires cause hundreds of deaths and thousands of injures by following a few basic electrical-safety rules can reduce your risk.
4. Storing Flammable and Combustible Liquids – Flammable liquids must be stored away from ignition sources in cool, well ventilated areas away from incompatible materials. Flammable liquids should be stored only in approved safety containers, and the containers should be kept outside the house and garage in a separate storage shed. Limit the amount of flammable and combustible liquids to the minimum amount necessary.
5. Fire Extinguishers – Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, basement, garage, and workshop for extinguishing all types of fires. Learn how to use the fire extinguisher before you need to use it in an emergency. Remember to only use it on small fires. If there is a large fire, DO NOT attempt to extinguish it, get out immediately and call Fire Rescue Service.
6. Family Escape Plan – If fire breaks out in your home – get out fast. Design an escape plan with your family. Be sure to include two ways out of every room, in case one exit is blocked by flames and smoke. Do not block exits with furniture or enclose windows with iron bars that prevent escape. Decide on a meeting place for all family members away from the house, where everyone will gather. Once outside, never re-enter the house for any reason. Practice emergency exit drills at least once every six months, so that each person knows exactly what to do. Never use elevators to escape a fire – use stairs.
7. Candle Safety – When there is no electricity supply at home, we normally use candles as an alternative source of lightings. Candles are actually a growing cause of fire. Learn how to be careful with candles. Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep. Keep candles away from items that can catch fire, e.g. cloth, books, paper, curtains etc. Use candle holders that are sturdy. Don’t place lit candles in or near windows, where blinds and curtains are installed. Keep candles and all open flames away from flammable liquids. Keep candles up high out of reach of children and don’t allow children or teens to have candles in their bedroom. Never leave a child unattended in a room with a candle. Try to avoid carrying a lit candle when searching power outages in a confined space. Never use a candle for a light when checking pilot lights or fueling equipment as a kerosene heater or lantern.
8. Be Careful Cooking – Careless cooking is the number one cause of residential fires. When you’re cooking, be alert and never leave cooking unattended. If grease catches fire, first place a lid over the pan to smother the flames, and then turn off the burner. Do not throw water or anything else on a grease fire. Always keep kitchen appliances clean and in good condition, and turn them off and disconnect them when not in use.
9. Space Heater Safety – Portable space heaters can quickly warm up a cold room, but they have also been the cause of many serious home fires. Keep portable heaters at least 3 feet away from all combustible materials, including paper, bedding, furniture and curtains. Keep small children away from space heaters. Make sure you turn the heaters off before leaving your home or going to bed.
10. Smokers Need Watchers – Carelessly discarded cigarettes are the major cause of fatal home fires. Make sure smokers extinguish cigarettes in large, deep ashtrays. Fill ashtrays with water before putting in the trash can. Check under sofas and chair cushions for cigarette butts after parties.
11. If You Catch Fire – Stop Drop and Roll. Everyone should know this rule: If your clothes catch fire, don’t run! Stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands to protect your face and lungs, and roll over and over to smother the flames.
12. If caught in Smoke – Crawl low under smoke. If you encounter smoke, use an alternate escape route. If you must exit through smoke, the cleanest air will be 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm) above the floor. Crawl on your hands and knees to the nearest safe exit. Breathe shallowly through nose, and use a filter such as shirt or towel.
13. If Trapped in a Fire, In a Room – If trapped in a room seal all doors and vents with duct tape or towels to prevent smoke from entering the room. Close as many doors as possible between you and the fire. Open a window at the top and bottom so fresh air can enter. Be ready to close the window immediately if it draws smoke into the room. Be prepared to signal to someone outside.
14. If Trapped in a Fire, If Forced to Advance Through Flames – hold your breath. Cover your head and hair. Keep your head down and your eyes closed as much as possible. Move quickly.
15. What to Do In Case of Fire – Raise fire alarm or shout Fire, Fire, Fire. Telephone fire service. Use appropriate Fire Extinguisher. Immediately exit the building, using the stairs and closing the doors – DO NOT USE ELEVATORS. Shut off Utility Valves.