Be aware of the dangers of space heaters this season

Space heaters provide warmth, but can be dangerous. Safety measures are crucial, but in some cases the heater itself is defective and can cause a fire.

If the weather this fall is any indication, the coming winter is going to be a cold one. In addition to central heating systems, many Tennessee residents rely on space heaters for warmth. These small, portable heaters can be convenient in heating a small area and saving on utility bills. However, they can also be deadly, cautions the National Fire Protection Association. Every year, about 33 percent of heating fires in homes are caused by space heaters. Roughly 81 percent of home fatalities in home heating fires involve space heaters.

Using a space heater correctly is crucial

Between 2009 and 2013, over 3,100 heating fires in homes across Tennessee resulted in 39 deaths and 49 injured people. There is a right way and a wrong way to use a space heater, caution fire safety officials. The correct ways to operate these products, and therefore avoid serious burns or worse, include the following:

  • Use a newer model of heater that has an automatic shut-off feature if it’s tipped over, rather than an older device that lacks such safety features.
  • Operate heaters at least three feet away from items that can catch fire, such as curtains or bedding.
  • Keep children and pets away from a space heater that’s turned on.
  • Shut the heater off before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Periodically inspect the heater for signs of wear and tear or overheating.
  • Don’t run the electrical cord underneath a rug or carpet.

Also, it is important to know that plugging a space heater into an extension cord or power strip is unwise, since it can cause overheating or sparking of the cord.

Portable heaters are not always safe

As with many potentially dangerous consumer items, some types of space heaters are more hazardous than others. According to the Daily Journal Online, it can be prudent to invest in a heater that’s slightly more expensive than others that are cheaply made. A fire official recommends the radiator-type heaters over other models. In 2013, there were six separate recalls nationwide of defective space heaters that caused house fires.

Last December, a tragic fire in Memphis drove home the possible dangers of space heaters. As reported by WMC Action News 5, a fire broke out that firefighters believed was started by a portable space heater and involved a blanket. A man who had been half-paralyzed by a stroke attempted to escape the fire, but was unable to get out through a locked door and perished. Information on whether the heater was defective or had been placed too close to bedding was unavailable.

It is always a good idea to observe safety measures with dangerous products, but in many cases the products themselves are to blame. People who have been impacted by a dangerous or defective item may be eligible for compensation. A personal injury attorney should be able to advise them if they have a case.