Dying to Stay Warm


Each winter people find themselves without heat or with inadequate heat. These people often resort to space heaters to keep warm. During cold spells like much of the Unit States is now experiencing there will be more people needing heat. Unfortunately, many will be injured by improperly using heaters. Identifying the hazards associated with the space heater and taking steps to eliminate the hazards is vital.  Removing hazards is the only way to reduce the danger.

You can purchase heaters at local hardware or box stores. Space heaters are easy to buy, but not as easy to use as we often assume. Only purchase Underwriter Laboratory (UL) approved heaters. UL tests products before putting their label on them. Always read the instructions for the heater and operate it correctly. Never make repairs to a heater. Take them to a reputable repair shop or purchase a new one. Always use the proper fuel.

The NFPA (2018) says that “Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening.” Improperly operating the space heater is usually the root of the problem. Adequate operation begins with reading and complying with the instructions. There is no training offered. The closest thing is the instruction page or booklet that comes with the heater. Monitor the heater to ensure it operates correctly or is shut off. Heaters should not be left to run for hours without someone checking on them. The NFPA offers heating safety tips at their website at  https://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/top-causes-of-fire/heating/heating-safety-tips. I encourage you to check them out.

Some space heaters use fossil fuels. Vent the exhaust from these types of heaters outside the space inhabited by people. Bring fresh air into the room if you cannot vent the exhaust. This prevents exposing the people to Carbon Monoxide or CO2 gas. CO2 is colorless and tasteless. You cannot detect it without an alarm or measuring device. I recommend using a home CO2 alarm. Avoiding exposure to this gas is critical.

Other heaters use electricity. Always check the circuit and outlet before plugging the heater in. Heaters draw large amounts of power and can overload a circuit or outlet. Also, make sure extension cords used with a heater are the same wire gauge as the cord of the heater to prevent overheating the extension cord. Furthermore, do not run extension cords under rugs or carpets. If the wire heats up, it can catch the rug or carpet on fire. I recommend using smoke detectors in any home or apartment. When using space heaters, the need for a smoke detector is more significant. Combination smoke and CO2 detectors can be purchased to save money. I also recommend having a small multi-purpose fire extinguisher on hand.

It is essential to keep all combustible material from the heated element or fire. These include paper, cardboard, clothes, and chemicals. Furthermore; all space heaters must have a tip over a device that will shut the heater off if it is tipped over. When a heater tips over it can place the heating element or fire near the floor. If the floor is carpet or a rug, the heater can catch the rug on fire.

With extreme periods of cold comes more use of space heaters. Now is the time to take steps to prevent fires and injuries from these heaters. I hope you will go to the NFPA site and review the safety tips. The CPSC also has some useful information for electric heaters on their website at https://www.cpsc.gov/Global/Safety%20Education/Home-Appliances-Maintenance-Structure/098.pdf.  I encourage to consider this information as well. This information can be more helpful if you share it with family and neighbors. If you have older family members and neighbors additional help may be required to allow them to operate space heaters safely.


NFPA, Public Education, Heater Safety Tips. Retrieved on January 11, 2018, from https://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/top-causes-of-fire/heating/heating-safety-tips.

CPSC, CPSC Alert, Reducing Fire Hazard from Portable Electric Heaters. Retrieved on January 11, 2018, from https://www.cpsc.gov/Global/Safety%20Education/Home-Appliances-Maintenance-Structure/098.pdf.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning currently writes biweekly on his blog fredefanningauthor.com. His published works include the peer-reviewed book Basic Safety Administration-A Handbook for the New Safety Specialist. Fred also authored two editions of the peer-reviewed chapter Safety Training and Documentation Principles that was published in the bestselling Safety Professional Handbook and the Safety Professional Handbook Management Applications. He coauthored the peer-reviewed chapter Safety Training with Christine Fiori, Ph.D., PE, published in the bestselling Construction Safety Management and Engineering, second edition edited by Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP. Fred also has several self-published books. He has a series called Fred’s Safety Shorts. This is a collection of twelve books on topics related to safety published with Kindle Direct Publishing. Fred self-published another six books using both CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and Kindle Direct Publishing. He has authored fifty-eight articles in various publications on the topics of safety and health and project management. Fred has earned several writing awards for his non-fiction work. Fred has two novels A Walk Among the Dead and Mystery at Devil’s Elbow.
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