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Kill the Chill

Kill the Chill


There are few things more miserable than shivering in a tent on a cold winter night. To help kill the chill, many Soldiers in the field warm their tents with space heaters. The Army has rules and regulations in place regarding space heater usage to keep Soldiers from accidentally setting their tents ablaze. What Soldiers should know, however, is many of these guidelines also apply to using portable heating devices in their homes.

Portable heating devices, including space heaters, are the leading cause of deaths in home heating equipment-related fires, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Every year, an estimated 25,000 residential fires are associated with the use of space heaters, accounting for more than 300 fatalities. In addition, another 6,000 persons receive emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting the hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations.

Not surprisingly, the peak months for home heating fires are December, January and February, accounting for 43 percent. As we approach these potentially deadly months, keep in mind these suggestions from the CPSC for the selection, safe use and maintenance of electric, gas, wood and kerosene space heaters:

  • Select a space heater with a guard around the flame or the heating element. This will help keep children, pets and clothing away from the heat source.
  • When selecting a heater, look for one that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters have been determined to meet specific safety standards, and manufacturers are required to provide important use and care information to the consumer.
  • Buy a heater that is the correct size for the area you want to heat. The wrong size heater could produce more pollutants and may not be an efficient use of energy.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions. Keep the owner’s manual in a convenient place to refer to when needed.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps to prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Even vented heaters require ventilation for proper combustion.
  • Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or leave the area. For fuel-fired heaters, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide could accumulate or uncontrolled burning could cause a fire.
  • Never use or store flammable liquids (such as gasoline) around a space heater. The flammable vapors can flow from one part of the room to another and be ignited by the open flame or by an electrical spark.
  • Be aware mobile homes require specifically designed heating equipment. Only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used.
  • Place heaters at least 3 feet away from objects such as bedding, furniture and drapes.
  • Never use heaters to dry clothes or shoes. Do not place heaters where towels or other objects could fall onto them and start a fire.

It’s also a good idea to check your smoke detectors monthly and install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home, especially if you use a fuel-burning space heater. Known as the silent killer, carbon monoxide, or CO, is a poisonous, colorless, odorless gas. It is produced as a result of the incomplete burning of natural gas and other carbon-containing materials such as kerosene, oil, propane, coal, gasoline and wood.

The symptoms of CO poisoning, which include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness and headaches, are often confused with the flu, food poisoning or other illnesses. The effects of CO vary, but people with heart or lung disease, elevated CO blood levels (smokers), the elderly, young children and fetuses are the most susceptible. At high concentration levels, CO can kill an individual in minutes.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends securing only those CO alarms which have been listed by an independent testing laboratory. These alarms should be installed in central locations outside each separate sleeping area. If bedrooms are spaced apart, each area will need a CO alarm.

Heat is one thing no one wants to do without during cold weather. By following a few simple guidelines and using a little common sense when operating space heaters, you can ensure you’re warming your home safely.


For more information about space heater safety, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov or the National Fire Protection Association website at www.nfpa.org.

  • 1 October 2015
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 10424
  • Comments: 0