Every year fire departments around the United States fight dwelling fires caused by the misuse or misplacement of space heaters. These devices are great for warming up the cold room that never seems to stay warm. The trouble is, residents often fail to read the warnings on these gadgets. People also are still using space heaters that may not meet today’s standards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that both fixed and portable heaters are associatied with 21,800 residential fires every year, and that about 300 people die each year in fires started by these heaters. And many people don’t realize that the silent killer, CO poisoning, is a threat with fuel-burning space heaters.
The CPSC has put together list of safety tips to help consumers purchase the right space heater, and to use that space heater safely. They’re worth a look, and they’re worth distributing to the residents in your calling area:
1. Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or heating element. Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, or other flammable materials.
2. Choose a space heater that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters meet specific safety standards.
3. Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to provide sufficient combustion air to prevent CO production.
4. Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
5. Turn the space heater off if you leave the area. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
6. Have a smoke detector with fresh batteries on each level of the house and a carbon monoxide detector outside your sleeping area.
7. Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment. Only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used.
8. Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually.
Consumers who would like more information can view (also in pdf) or receive a free CPSC booklet, “What You Should Know about Space Heaters,” by placing a request at www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/hard.html or by sending a postcard to: “Space Heater Booklet,” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recently announced that it has launched a new Gas-Fired Listing Mark. The mark demonstrates to consumers, distributors, and regulatory authorities that gas-fired products bearing the mark are certified for safety and comply with nationally recognized standards for both gas and electrical safety.
The mark is applied to products including water heaters, furnaces, clothes dryers, cooking appliances, barbecue grills, gaslights, commercial food service equipment, boilers, gas fireplaces, and space heaters.
The critical factor here is that residents follow the manufacturer’s recommendations after they purchase the heater. No number of product certifications can prevent a fire caused by the misuse of the product. That is where fire safety education comes in, and that is where you play an integral role.