Portable heater safety is crucial during winter’s coldest months

Oil_Heater_5293NASHVILLE (press release)—The arrival of single-digit weather in Tennessee is prompting the State Fire Marshal’s Office to remind residents to stay safe when using portable heaters to stay warm.

Portable heaters are common sights during winter, but they can sometimes lead to tragedy. An estimated 900 portable heater fires in homes are reported to U.S. fire departments each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. In Tennessee, 3,194 heating fires occurred in Tennessee from 2009-2013, claiming the lives of 39 people, injuring 49 and damaging an estimated $32.7 million in property, according to figures from the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System (TFIRS).

Space heaters were involved in 59 percent of all of Tennessee’s heating fire deaths while 56 percent of all heating fires happened in just three months of the year – December, January, and February.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of following safety precautions when using portable space heating devices in your home,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Keeping fire safety in mind this winter can help save lives and property.”

Following a few fire safety steps can prevent tragedy this winter:

  • Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave a room.
  • Keep anything that can burn – including bedding, clothing, curtains, pets and people –at least three feet away from portable heaters.
  • Only use portable heaters from a recognized testing laboratory and with an automatic shut-off so that if they tip over, they will shut off.
  • Plug portable heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Check the cord for fraying, cracking and look for broken wires or signs of overheating in the device itself.
  • Never run the heater cord (or any cord) under rugs or carpeting.

For the best protection from fire, use working smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside every sleeping area and in every bedroom, and interconnect them if possible. Test smoke alarms monthly and entirely replace any smoke alarm that is 10 years old or older. Develop and practice a home fire escape plan with every member of your household. Have two ways out of every room and a designated outside meeting place to gather in the event of an emergency.

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