Space heaters: What you must know to keep your family safe

At least 19 dead in horrific NYC fire

Correspondent Alexis McAdams reports from NYC where a fire broke out, taking the lives of at least 19 people; a malfunctioning space heater is believed to have been the cause.

Seems so simple in the winter: Plug in a space heater, get warm. Not so fast. 

As temperatures plunge, many families turn to electric space heaters for extra warmth — or use them to heat up specific parts of the home for a period of time. 

Yet under some circumstances, space heater use can prove deadly. 

“My fellow firefighters and I were saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life in the Bronx on Sunday night,” Chief Alan Umgelter of Flemington Fire Department in Flemington, New Jersey, told Fox News Digital on Monday. 

Space heater malfunction is being blamed for this weekend’s deadliest fire in 30 years in New York City. 

“Please help us help you,” added Chief Umgelter, who has more than 25 years of experience in firefighting. “Follow space heater safety guidelines as if your life depends on it — because it does.”

A cylindrical-shaped electric space heater is shown illuminated and radiating in one room of a house. Make sure your family follows the important safety guidelines outlined in this article before using a space heater in your home. 

Space heater use results in more than 25,000 fires and more than 300 deaths each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

Two in five deaths from space heater fires involve the portable electric variety, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a nonprofit group that shares safety information.

To keep your family warm and safe, follow these important safety guidelines if you are using electric space heaters.

Make sure your space heater is safety certified

Space heater safety certification is vital — and too easily overlooked. 

Underwriters Laboratories, Intertek, and CSA Group are among the most respected independent testing organizations that provide such certification, according to Family Handyman. 

So look for specific notation of safety certification on your electric space heater before using it. 

Check for vital safety features in a space heater before buying it

Modern space heaters offer an array of safety features. 

Key features to search for before you buy a space heater include tip-over switches, automatic shut-off on overheat detection, timers, and remote controllability. 

Take great care when placing your space heater 

Place your heater at least three feet away from people and from objects that can burn, the NFPA advises. 

Keep your heater away from curtains, rugs, or bedding (including pet bedding).

A person wearing bright rainbow-colored socks is showing warming cold feet near an electric space heater. Make sure to place any space heaters well away from children and pets — and follow the other safety guidelines outlined in this article.

Make sure the heater is on a solid, flat surface.

In addition, make sure it doesn’t block foot traffic or exits; and check that the space heater’s cord does not present a tripping hazard.

Place the heater well away from locations accessible to children and pets. 

Keep space heaters away from water.

Plug an electric space heater directly into the wall (not into extension cords or power strips)

With space heaters, avoid using extension cords and power strips, which can overheat and cause a fire, Electrical Safety Foundation International advises. 

Do not plug other items into the same outlet as your space heater.

Unplug space heaters if you leave home

Do not leave a space heater running if you’re not physically present in your home — even for a few minutes.

And while you are at home, keep a close eye on your space heater. 

Shut off your space heater when you leave the room or go to bed.

Said Chief Umgelter of Flemington, N.J., “Follow the manufacturer’s instructions — and be sure to keep anything flammable away from it.”

Do not hide your space heater’s cords

Tucking or running the cords under a rug, carpet or piece of furniture poses a fire risk, says Family Handyman. 

Keep wires out in the open — while also ensuring children and pets can’t reach them.

Regularly inspect your space heater

Are there frayed cords? Does your unit overheat? Both are red flags. 

Also, if you’ve had your space heater for a while, consider replacing it.  

Do not use unvented combustion space heaters

Unvented combustion space heaters are not recommended for use inside the home. They present carbon monoxide poisoning and mold-related risks. 

Unvented kerosene heaters are banned in most states — and unvented natural gas heaters are also banned in some states, according to the Department of Energy.

Chief Umgelter of Flemington, N.J., urged people and families to review the National Fire Protection Association’s tipsheet for more information.

Why? Because half of all home heating fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February, the NFPA says.

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