With the weather getting chillier, many people are bringing out their space heaters to stay warm while saving on heating bills. The problem, according to at least one fire department? People are plugging the heaters into power strips, which are not designed to handle the current of a space heater — creating a highly dangerous fire hazard.
“We just wanted to remind you that you should NEVER plug a heater into a power strip,” the Umatilla County Fire Department in Hermiston, Oregon warned in its now-viral Facebook post. “These units are not designed to handle the high current flow needed for a space heater and can overheat or even catch fire due to the added energy flow.”
In a recent report published by the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters accounted for 40 percent of home heating fires and 84 percent of home heating fire deaths between 2009 and 2013. According to The Electrical Safety Foundation, heating equipment is the “second leading cause of home fires in the United States,” with more than 65,000 heating equipment-related home fires happening each year, resulting in hundreds of deaths.
5 Rules for Using a Space Heater Safely
Although portable heaters are convenient, they pose fire and electric shock hazards if used incorrectly. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind as it gets colder out.
1. If your space heater doesn't have a label showing that it's listed by a recognized testing lab, don't use it.
2. Always read the instructions and warning labels before using your space heater.
3. Before using your heater, inspect it for cracks, broken plugs, and loose connections. If you find that it's damaged or the wires are frayed, don't use it.
4. Never, ever leave a space heater unattended. If you plan on going to sleep or leaving the room for a while, turn it off.
5. Remember, space heaters are a temporary heating option and should never be used to cook food, warm bedding, dry clothes, or thaw pipes.
Whenever you're dealing with space heaters, safety should be your main concern — especially if you have small children or pets. To learn more about fire safety, visit the Electrical Safety Foundation website.