It’s been a harsh winter across much of the US: and the cold weather is far from over. Winter is the time when many people use portable heaters to supplement their regular home heating, and that’s where the trouble begins. Recent national statistics show that space heaters continue to ignite deadly fires. While only 32 % of home heating fires involve space heaters, they are involved in 79 % of home heating fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. This recent home fire story from Michigan relates a tragedy that was completely avoidable.
There isn’t a day that goes by that Fruitport Township (MI) Public Safety Director Ken Doctor doesn’t think about the two young lives lost in a house fire two years ago. What haunts him the most is that the Feb, 2009, space-heater related blaze “absolutely” didn’t have to happen.
Four-year old MacKenzie Captain and two-year old Dustin Captain perished in a fire where the children lived with their mother. “Every time I drive by that house, I see myself looking down at that child, MacKenzie, doing CPR,” Doctor said. He also said the kerosene heater was just six inches from a wall and furniture in the living room — rather than the recommended three feet “from anything in the home.” The National Fire Prevention Association says the leading factor contributing to space heater fires in general is heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding.
What We Should All Learn – and Do
Norton Shores Fire Marshal Norm Hosko warns not to fall asleep with a space heater running. “If it catches fire or catches something on fire while you’re sleeping, you may not wake up,” he said. In addition, “always make sure you have working smoke alarms” and with kerosene heaters, people should remember they “emit carbon monoxide.” “Most people don’t have a carbon monoxide detector in their home,” Hosko said.
In addition to monitored carbon monoxide sensors, I also recommend an alarm system that is monitored for smoke and heat. It shouldn’t cost you any more per month, and you’ll get additional discounts on hour home insurance.
Safety Tips for Home Heating Appliances
Here is a great list of home safety tips for portable heaters, culled from what the experts recommend:
- If you must use alternative heat, only buy products with an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) tag. Follow local codes and manufacturers’ recommendations exactly: all UL-listed products come with safety instructions.
- All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
- With electric space heaters, don’t overload your home’s electrical circuits.
- Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- Supervise children when a space heater is being used. Use a sturdy, metal screen to prevent contact burns, which are even more common than flame burns.
FrontPoint recommends at least one monitored smoke and heat sensor with every system we design for you. It’s the responsible thing to do – and that makes it the right thing to do. And when it comes to peace of mind that is safer, smarter, simpler, and more affordable, FrontPoint is the provider of choice across the US and Canada for interactive, wireless home security. So as we tough out the rest of winter, stay warm – and be safe!