As winter approaches and temperatures drop, staying warm is a high priority: this often means using an additional heating source to take off the chill. This supplementary heat source is often a portable heater – and they are far more dangerous than people realize. Every year there are more headlines about fatalities from fires caused by improper use, or a faulty heating device. The latest story comes from Harrisburg, PA where five people (four of them children) tragically died in a row-house fire – caused, it appears, by a portable heater.
“Coroner Hetrick said the victims were overcome by smoke and carbon monoxide, and one of the children had serious burns. He further said a space heater on the first floor may have been the fire’s source, but the cause is still under investigation. Hetrick added that smoke detectors with dead batteries and windows nailed shut for security reasons made escape almost impossible.”
This story touches on several topics I have addressed, including the danger of smoke inhalation, concerns over carbon monoxide, and the need for working (preferably monitored) smoke detectors. The additional factor of the windows being nailed shut for security adds a cruel element to this particular event. But let’s focus on the probable cause, the portable heater, and see what the experts have to say. Here’s a link to a detailed report from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), but check out these statistics, which speak for themselves:
- An estimated 3,800 portable heater fires occur annually in the United States.
- Only 2 percent of residential building heating fires involve portable heaters, but these fires account for 25 percent of fatal residential building heating fires.
- Residential building portable heater fires peak in February (21 percent).
- Thirty-four percent of residential building portable heater fires occur in bedrooms. Of these fires, 23 percent are started by bedding such as blankets, sheets, and comforters.
- Fifty percent of the residential building portable heater fires occur because the heat source is too close to combustibles.
And lastly, here’s the link to a great list of recommendations from the American Red Cross on the use of portable heaters, with a further cautionary note from the ARC:
“Fires related to heating are the second leading cause of home fires in this country, and fixed and portable space heaters are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths.”
As you can see, portable heaters are a serious matter – and that’s why we’re addressing it here. FrontPoint cares about your life safety issues as much as we do about intrusion detection and the other benefits of interactive, wireless home security. We’ll stay on top of the issues, and keep you informed – and even better, we’ll keep you protected.