Experts: Space Heaters Getting Safer, But Human Users Aren’t

While experts say space heaters have become safer in the past several years, fire officials contend no heater is safe enough to overcome human error.

Space Heater

Photo: Stan Jastrzebski

Experts say space heaters should be placed away from contact with any flammable sources, like this one.

While experts say space heaters have become noticeably safer in the past several years, fire officials contend no heater is safe enough to overcome human error.

Each year, stories about space heater fires seem as common as leftover fruitcake.  But why?  Haven’t they gotten safer in recent years?  Mel Case with Indiana University’s Office of Risk Management said yes, but added the main reason the University rarely sees a space heater fire is because of the strict rules placed on their use. Case said even though the technology now includes such features as a sensor which detects if the heater is tipping over and automatically shuts it off, it’s human error which causes the fires — not defective heaters.  Columbus Fire Department Public Information Officer Matt Noblitt agreed, but with a warning:  even if you think you know how to use a space heater, it’s important to read the directions…

“I’ve been guilty of passing those over myself, but you have to read those and keep those away from draperies and furniture.  You’ve got to check with those safety procedures first,” Noblitt said.

Noblitt estimated Columbus fire crews respond to a half-dozen calls each year which result from improper space heater use.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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