/ Fire Prevention/Life Safety
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/ Portable Heater SafetyPortable Heater Safety
Portable heaters, if used improperly, can be dangerous. Through data obtained by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in their 1998 “Residential Fire Loss Estimates” and National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) data, nationally there were 3,900 structure fires attributed to portable heaters, resulting in 110 deaths, 340 injuries, and causing $69,600,000 in damage. In Oregon, there were 30 residential fires in 2000 where civilian death(s) occurred. At least two deaths were caused by a heat source too close to combustibles. The Oregon Building Codes Division (BCD) issued a ruling (#93-73) which concludes, “portable electric heaters are not suitable for maintaining code-required room temperature in dwellings” and should not be used as the main source of heat. This is because portable electric heaters are designed for sporadic use, and are “liable to be abused and, therefore, malfunction sooner than a fixed unit.”
The chance of tragedy resulting from a portable heater can be greatly reduced if the following safeguards are applied:
- Select a heater that is UL approved with a tip-over feature.
This feature will shut off the heater should it tip over.
- Plug your heater directly into a wall outlet.
Do not use an extension cord because it could become overheated and start a fire.
- Check the electric cord on your existing unit for damage.
If the cord gets hot, frayed, or cracked, do not use the heater. Have it serviced as soon as possible.
- Do not hide cords under rugs or carpets.
Placing anything on top of the cord could cause the cord to overheat, and can cause a fire.
- Keep electric heaters at least 36” from combustibles.
Combustibles include blankets, furniture, clothing, paper, draperies, etc.
- Use heaters on the floor.
Never place heaters on furniture, since they may fall, dislodging or breaking parts in the heater, which could result in a fire or shock hazard.
- Vacuum any lint or dust from the heater.
A dirty heater can overheat, resulting in fire. Make sure to unplug the heater before vacuuming.
- The heater should have a working thermostat designed into it.
This will insure that the heater will not overheat.
- The heater should have an element guard.
This will prevent burns.
- Turn off heaters when family members are sleeping or leave the house.
Unattended heat sources are a major cause of fires.
- Do not hang combustible items to dry over a portable heater.
These may catch fire.
- Keep heaters out of traffic areas or exit systems. Blocked exits are a main source of fire death.
- Always ensure an adult is present when using a portable heater around the home.
Children or pets can easily tip over a heater and do not understand possible burn and fire hazards.
- Do not use kerosene heaters in homes.
These are not approved in the State or Oregon, are subject to sudden flare-up and omit poisonous fumes.
- Ensure you have working smoke detectors and test them frequently.
It is recommended you have a smoke detector on every level of the home, in the immediate area outside of the sleeping rooms, and in every bedroom.