Playing It Safe

Firefighters say one of the most common mistakes people make is placing items too close to heaters.

"When you hear 'space heater', that's exactly what it is. It needs space," said Jimmy Hoffer of the Meridian Fire Department.

Hoffer cautioned against hanging clothing, towels and other flammables near any kind of heater, or covering a floor furnace, for instance, with a rug. Furnaces should also be cleaned with a vacuum each season, before being lit.

Beside smoke alarms, fire officials also now advise residents to have carbon monoxide detectors. Heaters may not function properly and may emit the odorless gas that can be fatal. Extended Web Coverage

Space Heater Safety

  • All heaters are dangerous if not used properly. According to the National Fire Protection Association, most home-heating fires involve portable or "space" heaters; so electric heaters must be selected and used with care.

  • Choose models that have automatic safety switches that turn off the unit if it is tipped over accidentally.

  • Always look for a label or tag indicating the heater has been tested or approved by a recognized independent testing lab.

  • Never use the stovetop burners or your oven to heat a house or apartment.

  • Check the cord before plugging in the heater; if frayed, worn or broken, do not use it. Either have an electrician replace the cord or replace the heater. Simply putting tape on the cord is not enough to prevent overheating and fire.

  • Never use an extension cord with a portable heater.

  • Keep portable electric heaters away from sinks, tubs and other wet or damp places to avoid deadly electric shocks.

  • Keep an electric heater, or any portable heater for that matter, at least three feet away from curtains, newspapers or anything that might burn.

  • Never leave the heater unattended and never leave the house or go to bed without turning off the heater.

  • Do not hang items to dry above the heater.

  • Keep all heaters out of high traffic and exit areas.

Source: (National Fire Protection Agency Web site) contributed to this report.