Heating equipment is the leading cause of fires in U.S. homes. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), portable space heaters account for 43 percent of U.S. home heating fires and 85 percent of associated deaths. Every winter, the engineers at CED are called to investigate fires involving portable heaters.
As reported by the NFPA, these fires resulted in annual losses of 490 civilian deaths, 1,400 civilian injuries, and $1 billion in direct property damage. Most home heating fire deaths (86%) involved stationary or portable space heaters.
The leading factor contributing to home heating fires was failure to clean the heater, a preventive maintenance step for all homeowners. More than half of all home heating fire deaths resulted from fires that began when portable heating equipment was too close to combustible objects, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding.
It is important to remain vigilant in heating your home safely. Nearly half (48%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January, and February. Follow these steps so your home is safely heated through the coldest months of the year:
- Only purchase heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Make sure your portable heater has an automatic shut-off in case it is tipped over.
- Never plug an electric heater into an extension cord or power strip. The heater must be directly connected to an outlet.
- Always unplug an electric heater when not in use.
- Position the heater at least 3 feet away from any furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding.
CED engineers have backgrounds in mechanical, electrical, chemical, and civil engineering as well as fire science. Cases include: fire origin and cause determination in houses and buildings, malfunctions that resulted in fires in vehicles and boats, fires in mechanical and electrical equipment and fires in portable kerosene heaters and household appliances. CED experts also investigate explosions, sprinkler system designs and malfunctions, and fire alarm failures.
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