By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation
As the temperatures fall, the use for space heaters and other forms of home heating will be on the rise. Although they keep families warm and toasty during the blistering cold winter months, space heaters are quickly becoming a firefighter’s worst nightmare. The National Fire Prevention Association states that heating equipment is the leading cause of home fire deaths with space heaters accounting for more than half of all winter house fires during the months of December, January, and February.
According to Nationwide Insurance, from 2007 to 2011 approximately 81% of home heating fire deaths involved space heaters with close to 500 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries are reported each year. One third of all home heating fires are caused by portable or stationary space heaters. What is most disturbing is that many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented if safety precautions were put in place by the homeowners.
Here are 10 ways you can stay safe using your home heating devices this winter season:
- Check to be sure the heater is clean and in good working condition. You should thoroughly inspect the cord and plug of electrical heaters for any damage, as well as check for certification from a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
- Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or heating element and be sure the heater is the correct size for the area you want to heat.
- Do not place heaters in high traffic areas. Place on a level, hard and nonflammable floor surface and avoid carpets, rugs, furniture or countertops.
- Heaters should be placed at least three feet from combustible liquids, as well as flammable items including draperies, blankets and sofas.
- Show everyone in your home how to use the space heater properly.
- Do not place heaters under desks in the workplace or in other enclosed areas.
- Never leave the heater operating while unattended or while you are sleeping.
- Never power an electric space heater with an extension cord or a power strip. Do not place electric space heater cords under rugs or carpeting.
- Keep children and pets away from electric space heaters, as accidental contact could result in serious shock or burns.
- Invest in fire safety-related items including smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. Be sure to check the batteries in smoke detectors regularly and store fire extinguishers were they can easily be accessed. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends that fire extinguishers should be tested every five to twelve years, depending on the type.
Last year, fire safety was the number one topic taught at 64% of all Progressive Agriculture Safety Days. These safety tips are examples of what children & families learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® offered throughout North America. This year alone, more than 100,000 children & adults will participate in a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® within their local community. Learn more about the program at www.progressiveag.org
Photo: At a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® in Illinois, participants learn the proper way to use a fire extinguisher while taking part in a hands-on fire safety activity.