With the recent drops in temperature, it is clear winter will soon be upon us. Now is the time to prepare for the winter ahead and know a few simple safety precautions to prevent fire from striking our homes or work places.
More than 5,000 people die each year in the United States from injuries sustained in fires. Most of these deaths occur during the winter. The reasons often include carelessly using home heating equipment and storing flammable and combustible materials improperly.
With this in mind we here at the Fire Protection Branch urge you to take a close look at any portable heating appliances that may be in the workplace or in use at home. Heaters should be in good condition and used in a manner they were intended for.
Some of the requirements for use of portable heaters in the workplace are as follow:
- Use of portable heaters must be approved by the unit commander, the Fire Department, and civil engineering must ensure the electric circuitry is adequate
- Heaters must be approved for each location. If a heater is moved it must go through the approval process again
- In the workplace, the use of heaters fueled by flammable or combustible liquids is prohibited
- Heaters must be labeled by an approved testing laboratory such as Factory Mutual (FM) or Underwriters Laboratory (UL)
- Portable heaters must be equipped with an automatic tip over switch to shut the unit off if it is knocked over
- Heaters must have a minimum of 18 inches of clearance on all sides
- DO NOT plug portable heaters into modular furniture. Most system furniture does not have electrical wiring designed to handle the eletrical load of a space heater
- Portable heaters are prohibited in health care facilities, with the exception of non-sleeping staff and employee areas. When used in these areas the heating elements are limited to producing no more than 212 F. (Check the manufacturer’s label)
- In the home, be aware of the following:
- Change or clean the furnace filters as necessary, whenever a dust buildup occurs
- Do not use rooms/closets with the furnace as storage areas, and do not place objects over or around the thermostat if that item might block the flow of air to the thermostat
- Do not use portable heaters in an area such as a garage, that might have a buildup of gasoline vapors or other flammable vapors
- Portable heaters that utilize flammable liquids for fuel, such as kerosene heaters present a very dangerous asphyxiation hazard. These heaters must be used in strict accordance with the manufacturers instructions. Do not ever utilize fuels other than those recommended by the manufacturer.
It is important we all do are part and know the requirements. Just this year, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, attentive employees recognized that a space heater, which was accidentally knocked over, did not shut off. Upon further investigation they discovered the “tip over” weight was broke with burn marks, most likely due to electrical arcing.
Currently there is not an active recall for this type of heater but these are common on Edwards AFB and some of ours could have the same problem. The heater in question is a UL listed heater, Model 188T-ASA, 1500 watts and manufactured by T.P.I. Corporation.
If you find these types of heaters in your home or work space we strongly recommend you inspect it to ensure it works properly. At a minimum, turn it on and tip it on its side to confirm the automatic tip over switch is working properly.
In addition to the above tips, make sure all your smoke detectors are fully operational by testing them on a monthly basis.
Have a family evacuation plan in place and PRACTICE that plan before an emergency occurs. Don’t wait until you have a fire to find out that the plan doesn’t work. Never leave a fire unattended. Keep an extinguisher or a supply of sand on hand to control flames if the flames get too large. Read instruction on how to use your extinguisher properly and never apply water to a hot stove or chimney as thermal shock can cause damage.
To get assistance with this, or any other fire safety issue, call the Fire Protection Division’s Technical Services Section at (661) 277-3643/3124.