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How to safely use a space heater, according to Connecticut Fire Academy

Apartment Building Fire
Photo by John Tlumacki
Boston Globe via Getty Images
Boston firefighters climb aerial and tower ladders as they battle an apartment building fire on Oct. 27, 2018.

After a space heater contributed to a deadly fire in New York City over the weekend, Alan Zygmunt, director of public education at the Connecticut Fire Academy, has guidance on how to minimize this risk in your own home.

  • Give space heaters space. “Anything at all that can catch fire, you want to keep at least 3 feet away from an operating space heater,” Zygmunt said.
  • Plug your heater directly into the wall, not an extension cord or surge protector. Space heaters generate a lot of heat, which extension cords can’t always handle. “Surge protectors are designed for lightning storms and other power problems,” Zygmunt said. “However, sometimes it gives people a false sense of security that a surge protector is going to protect them from a fire, when it really does not.”
  • Consider buying a newer model if your space heater is more than a few years old. “If it gets tipped over or knocked down by somebody tripping over the chord or whatever, it can easily cause a fire by hitting something combustible. The newer versions have an anti-tip feature. It will automatically shut off,” Zygmunt said. If you aren’t sure whether your heater has this function, you can check with the manufacturer.
  • Test your smoke detectors monthly, as fires are always possible. “They deteriorate over time,” Zygmunt said. “Push that button, hold the button, and make sure that it goes off.”
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