The new year has blasted a deep freeze across much of the United States, with below-normal temperatures and snow, sleet and ice blanketing even the Deep South. With this winter promising its fair share of wind and chill—even in cities that aren’t used to the extreme cold—consumer protection advocates are warning of the dangers associated with the use and misuse of space heaters, a common go-to appliance for many Americans just trying to stay warm.
Space heaters, also known as portable heaters, can be an inexpensive way to heat a room, but they’re also associated with an alarming number of building fires and burn injuries. According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates, more than 25,000 residential fires are associated each year with the use of these common and convenient appliances—resulting in more than 300 deaths. In addition, approximately 6,000 people require hospital emergency room care for burn injuries after contacting the hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations.
Space heaters are meant to be supplemental appliances, and are never meant to be the only heating method used in a space, a common mistake that leads to building fires. The following guidelines, offered by consumer protection experts, the Association of Home Appliances and the National Fire Protection Association, can help reduce these alarming statistics:
- Place the heater on a hard, level and nonflammable surface. Space heaters are intended to sit on the floor and not a table.
- Establish a 3-foot kid- and pet-free zone around the heater, and never put a space heater in a child’s room.
- Keep the space heater at least 3 feet away from any combustible materials such as furniture, bedding and curtains.
- Do not use a heater in a workshop or garage near paint, gas cans, matches or other flammables.
- Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to bed.
- Unplug the heater when not in use by pulling the plug straight from the outlet. Check the cord for damage periodically, and discontinue use if the cord is frayed or worn.
- Do not plug another electrical device or an extension cord into the same outlet as a heater, which can cause overheating.
- Install working smoke alarms on every level of your home, and test them monthly.
The lawyers at Stevenson & Murray are highly experienced in representing victims of residential and commercial building fires and burns. If you or a loved one has been injured because of a defective space heater or similar appliance, give us a call to discuss your concerns.