Take care with a big cold-weather killer, the space heater

Warm weather isn’t far away, but winter remains, and precautions should be taken to steer clear of a big cold-weather killer — the space heater — for the season’s remaining cold days.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that each year, space heaters cause more than 25,000 residential fires and more than 300 deaths, and more than 6,000 Americans get emergency-room care for burn injuries associated with room heaters.

An Eastern Kentucky fire started by a space heater claimed the lives of one adult and four children last month. This blaze destroyed a rural house and family and was considered by authorites to be the worst the region has seen in a long time.

Using a space heater makes sense, and many people, particularly those in rural areas, use them to stay warm; but they must be used with caution. The Burn Center at Loyola University Medical Center is warning the public about the dangers of space heaters because many of the injuries they cause are preventable if the appropriate measures are taken. Here are some general safety tips from Loyola:

• Keep space heaters at least three feet away from furniture or other combustible material
• Don’t place heaters on carpets or rugs.

• Locate heaters on a hard, level surface where a child or family pet can’t brush against them.

• Never leave a heater on when an adult is not present in the room.
• Never keep flammable liquids near a heater.
• Mobile homes should use only electric heaters or vented, fuel-fired heaters.

Loyola also advises to use combustion space heaters only outside your home because they release carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. If the heater is not properly vented, high levels of these gases are deadly. Also, when using electric space heaters, be sure to plug the heater directly into a wall outlet and use a heavy duty cord. Click here for more tips.

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