As the winter weather and frigid temperatures continue to grip much of the United States, many people turn to electric space heaters as a way to stay warm. However, this seemingly innocent solution has become one of the leading causes of house fires. That's why one nonprofit is stepping up its efforts to educate and empower people with crucial house safety tips.
Recognizing the importance of fire prevention awareness, organizations like Charlie's House are dedicated to teaching the community safety tips.
"As people get busier, they take space heaters for granted and they leave them unattended and they don't know some of the guidelines that are important to prevent fires and injuries around the space heaters," said Bob Renton, program manager at Charlie's House.
For years, his organization has been committed to educating the community on ways to prevent tragedies around the house.
"At Charlie's house, especially during heating season in the winter, there are additional risks and hazards that we try to educate and raise awareness of in and around the home," Renton added. "And that includes fireplace safety, space heater safety, and just generally reminding people of the importance of smoke alarms and to make sure they're functioning."
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 21,000 house fires each year are caused by space heaters. Of all home-heating fire deaths, 80% of them are caused by space heaters, according to the Missouri Department of Public Safety.
“Makes me feel terrible, but it's no surprise," Renton said of the statistics. "This is severe and it doesn't surprise me. As cold as the temperatures have been, people are very desperate to make sure that their houses are warm and comfortable.”
Tips when using a space heater
1. Choose the right heater: Find a space heater that is suitable for the size of the room you intend to heat.
2. Keep a 3-feet rule: Make sure to maintain a safe distance between the space heater and any objects such as furniture, curtains or bedding. Keep the 3-feet rule in mind.
3. Plug directly into an outlet: Avoid using extension cords or power strips with space heaters. Plug the device directly into a wall outlet to prevent overheating and reduce the risk of electrical fires.
4. Never leave a space heater unattended: Turn it off when you leave your home or go to sleep to prevent accidents.
5. Use on flat surface: Place your space heater on a level, flat surface to prevent it from tipping over. Some models come with tip-over protection features.
Renton said following these simple yet live-saving tips can help prevent any tragedies in your home this winter.
"I think the important thing is just be aware of the hazards in the home that generally cause fires."
This story was originally published by Marlon Martinez at Scripps News Kansas City.
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