Thursday, November 20, 2014 · 9:17 p.m.

Officials offer tips for correct usage of portable heaters

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Space heaters aren't the most common source of house fires but do account for a large percentage of fatalities caused by fires. (Photo: MGNOnline)

 

The U.S. Fire Administration receives reports of approximately 900 portable heater fires per year, which cause an estimate of 70 deaths, 150 injuries and $53 million in property loss. 

“We cannot stress enough the importance of following safety precautions when using portable heating devices in your home,” State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak said in a prepared statement. “Keeping fire safety in mind can help save lives and property.”

Although portable heaters are only involved in about 2 percent of heating fires in homes, they are responsible for about 45 percent of the fatal heating fires in homes. 

Tennessee is not immune to such accidents, as a man in Colliersville died just last week when the space heater he was using came into contact with a flammable object while he slept. 

Portable heaters accounted for 70 percent of all heating fire deaths in 2011 in Tennessee, as well as cause $2.5 million in property damage. The leading factors causing ignition in those fires were abandoned or discarded materials too close to the heat source.

Officials say the following tips can help prevent portable heater fires:

—Turn heaters off when going to bed or leaving a room.

—Keep anything that can burn, like clothing, curtains and pets, at least three feet from portable heaters.

—Only use portable heaters from a recognized testing laboratory that have automatic shut-offs (so that if they tip over, they automatically cut off).

—Plug them into outlets directly, not extensions cords or power strips.

—Check the cord for fraying or cracking, and look for broken wires or other danger signs.

—Never run the cord under carpeting or rugs.

The National Fire Prevention Association reports that a working smoke alarm reduces a person's chance of dying in a fire by half. Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home, outside every sleeping area and in every bedroom; and they should be interconnected, if possible. They should be tested monthly and replaced entirely when 10 years old. 

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