BILLINGS — Space heaters can be a lifesaver in the wintertime, especially in Montana, but they can turn deadly if mishandled.
Billings Deputy Fire Marshal Tyrone Morgan says the first line of defense is to read the directions that come with your device.
“If you don’t follow the recommended instructions on the box and you end up, for example, putting a blanket or clothing or papers over the top of your heaters, it’s possible to start a fire," Morgan said.
It’s important to know what type of heater you have and its safety features. Some will turn off if they get overheated, and some will sound alarms if they tip over. The best way to be safe is to research what you want to buy and talk to your local hardware store for recommendations and advice.
But there are a few safety tips that will help no matter what heater you have.
“If you are going to use the temporary, portable electric heater,” says Morgan, “plug it directly into the permanent wall outlet. Do not use a surge protector or extension cord. It is made to go right into the wall. Another item, we want you to keep a three-foot distance from the portable heater and anything that can burn. Whether that is a piece of furniture, stack of papers, magazines, or curtains. And in that three feet, we want to keep that as a kid-free zone.”
Two other big things Morgan warned against: leaving a heater on while you are sleeping and turning on your oven to be a source of warmth.
Also, now would be a good time to start checking those batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide detectors. The two can have very different sounding alarm tones, so it is good to know what they sound like. And if you are hearing impaired and might not be able to hear your alarm, The Billings Fire Department and the American Red Cross can help. Both can direct you towards getting an alarm that will shake you awake if you are sleeping or a smoke detector with strobe lights.
All and all, a few simple steps can not only help you stay warm this winter, but they can help you stay safe.
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