The space heaters and hot plates distributed to Columbia Gas customers in Merrimack Valley present serious fire and safety issues. We urge residents using these devices for heat and cooking to follow these important safety tips:
Space Heater Safety
- Do not plug into extension cords or power strips.
- Use on a level surface.
- Keep at least 3 feet away from furniture, bedding and other flammable materials.
- Keep children well away from space heaters.
- If it blows a fuse or trips the breaker, stop using it immediately.
- When you leave your house, consider locking your space heater up in a room which children cannot reach. Make sure it is unplugged.
Hot Plate Safety Tips
- Use hot plates on a steady countertop. Keep a 1-foot circle of safety around your hot plate.
- Do not leave pots or pans on the hot plate.
- Stand with the hot plate while you are cooking.
- Keep children away from any cooking device.
- Always turn your hot plate off.
Over the next few months, remember to test your smoke alarm batteries a few times each week. You can set up an alarm on your cell phone to help you remember.
Learn Your Legal Rights – Call 800-379-1244
Breakstone, White & Gluck, a Boston personal injury law firm, is assisting residents and businesses affected by the Merrimack Valley gas explosions on Sept. 13. Many residents in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover will be recovering for a long time.
We are assisting residents who suffered physical injuries, emotional distress and those facing the prospect of several months without gas service. Because of the uncertainty about gas service, it is important to learn your legal rights now.
If you have lost your gas service, you may be entitled to file a claim for compensation from Columbia Gas, beyond what the gas company or a community fund may offer. Do not sign any paperwork accepting a payment without first speaking to a lawyer who is experienced in investigating home fires and gas explosions involving utilities. At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our lawyers are here to listen to your personal experience and really work to help you. Read about our past work.
Learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
During these cold and frigid days of winter, some of us are reaching for space heaters. If you can, first try to keep warm other ways: reach for blankets or an extra layer of clothing. But if you must use a space heater, use it with caution and make sure you use it properly. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters are involved in 32 percent of home heating fires and 79 percent of home heating fire deaths in this country. They are the second leading cause of home fire deaths behind smoking.
There have been several heartbreaking stories this winter. In Baltimore, six children were killed in a devastating fire last month. Officials are still investigating, but say it may have been sparked by a space heater. Just a few days ago, a 50-year-old Fall River woman tragically died after a space heater fire ignited her home.
According to the State Fire Marshal’s office, Massachusetts fire departments responded to 133 space heater fires from 2006 to 2015, resulting in 9 civilian deaths and 22 civilian injuries. Some 31 fire service members suffered injuries.
The Today Show aired a segment this morning, which shows just how quickly space heater fires can ignite. We encourage you to watch it.
Safety Tips for Properly Using a Space Heater
Three Feet Rule. Keep space heaters 3 feet away from all furniture and people. Put them in the center of the room.
Plug in to Wall. Plug space heaters directly into the electrical socket on the wall. Many extension cords cannot handle the strong level of electricity passed on from a space heater.
Beware of Automatic Switches. These switches are helpful, but are not a substitute for you turning off your heater yourself, unplugging it and putting it away.
Turn Space Heaters Off Properly. Turn off space heaters before you go to bed when no one can monitor them. Turn it off anytime you cannot supervise it.
Keep Space Heaters Away from Water. Do not use space heaters near sinks or in bathrooms.
Create a Fire Escape Plan. Family members should all know how to properly evacuate the home and be aware of all the routes.
Check Your Fire Alarm Once a Month. This is always a good idea, but extra important during the winter months.
Inventory Your Home. Because half of all home heating fires occur during December, January and February, now is a good time to walk through your home and look for hazards. Look outside, too. Make sure your home’s outside furnace vent is clear of snow. A blocked vent can put your family at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Take Extra Precautions if Children Are in Your Home
Take extra precautions if you live with children. Establish a child-free (and pet-free) zone if you set up a space heater. Keep children as far away from the space heater as possible at all times. Also keep toys away. When finished, turn the space heater off and unplug it. Put it in a safe place which it out of reach of children.
As the cold weather makes its return to Massachusetts, many people are bringing out the portable space heaters.
Always practice caution when using space heaters. Each year, space heaters cause death, injury and substantial property damage in both Massachusetts and across the country.
In 2007, U.S. fire departments responded to 66,400 home structure fires that involved heating equipment, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires killed 580 people, injured another 1,850, and were responsible for $608 million in direct property damage.
In Massachusetts, there were 57 space heater fires between 2004 and 2008, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. One in every six space heater fires caused a fatality.
The leading cause of space heater fires is when the appliance gets too close to combustible materials, such as furniture, carpeting or bedding. Other space heaters are also defective, improperly made and should never have been sold to consumers.
If you are using a space heater this winter:
- Keep the space heater at least three feet away from flammable items, such as rugs, curtains, blankets or clothing.
- Use a space heater to supplement your furnace. A space heater should not be your primary source of heat. If you are worried about having your heat shut off, learn more about the state’s Utility Shutoff Protection program.
- Do not leave a space heater in a room unattended while it is turned on or plugged in.
- Take caution not to use a space heater when you are sleepy. Many fires happen when someone falls asleep near a space heater.
- Do not allow small children near a space heater.
- Do not use an extension cord with your space heater. Many space heater fires start when an extension cord ignites a carpet, rug or wood floor. If an extension cord is needed, use one that is new and rated by the Underwriters Laboratory at 16-gauge or thicker.
- Purchase a space heater with an automatic shut off. This will stop the device from working if tipped over.
- Inspect your space heater for cracks and broken parts. If you see a problem, replace it before using.
For more information on space heater safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website. We also urge you to check regularly to see if your space heater has been recalled. You can search for your model on the recall section of the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. If you don’t find anything, try a simple Google search. Space heaters are regularly recalled, as are other devices. Manufacturers make design mistakes, or errors are made somewhere along distribution. Other times products are marketed incorrectly. Even if you register products with the company, you really have to be proactive and search for product recalls yourself to protect your family. We should not have to check; manufacturers have a responsibility to fully test products before making them available to consumers. Because this does not always happen, it’s important to check for space heater recalls on your own.