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25,000 House Fires Each Year Caused by Space Heaters; Safety Tips From Loyola

Released: 22-Feb-2013 10:45 AM EST
Source Newsroom: Loyola University Health System
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Newswise — The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires and more than 300 deaths are caused each year by space heaters. More than 6,000 Americans receive hospital emergency room care annually for burn injuries associated with room heaters.

Winter is not over and many more cold days lie ahead. The Burn Center at Loyola University Medical Center is warning the public about the dangers of space heaters used by so many to keep warm.

"Every year we receive patients who are victims of house fires caused by space heaters," said Dr. Richard Gamelli, director of the Burn and Shock Trauma Institute at Loyola University Medical Center. The Loyola Burn Center is one of the busiest in the Midwest, treating nearly 700 patients annually in the hospital, and another 3,500 patients each year in its clinic.

"So many of these injuries are preventable if simple precautions are taken," says Gamelli who is senior vice president and provost of the Health Sciences Division of Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine. About 40 percent of Loyola’s burn cases are children and the majority of these children are ages 2 and younger.

Some key tips from Loyola and the Department of Energy for space heater safety include:

General Portable Heater Safety Tips

• Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from furniture or other combustible
material, such as curtains and bedding. Don't place heaters on carpets or rugs.
• Locate space heaters on a hard, level surface where a child or family pet
cannot brush up against them.
• Never leave a space heater on when an adult is not present in the room.
• Never keep flammable liquids near a space heater.
• Mobile homes should use only vented fuel-fired or electric heaters.

Electric Space Heaters

• The safest space heaters for the home, plug electric space heaters directly
into a wall outlet. Use a heavy-duty cord of 14-gauge wire or larger if an
extension cord is needed.
• Buy a unit with a tip-over safety switch, to shut off the heating element if
the unit topples over.

Combustion Space Heaters

• Only use unvented combustion heaters outside your home because they can
introduce harmful products such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide into your
breathing area.
• Vented units that are sealed combustion heaters are safer to operate than
others because they are less likely to backdraft and harm indoor air quality.
They operate more efficiently because they do not draw in the heated air from
the room and exhause it to the outdoors.
• Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for fueling and use only the approved
• Never fill a heater that is hot.
• Never overfill a heater. Allow room for fuel expansion.
• Store fuel outdoors.
• Have vented space heaters professionally inspected each year. If the heater is
not vented properly, blocked, rusted or corroded, dangerous levels of carbon
monoxide (CO) may cause illness or even death.
• Do not go to sleep with a fuel-fired heater on as carbon monoxide levels could
rise and be fatal.
• Make sure there is a guard around the heating element or flame area.

The Loyola Burn Center staff of more than 70 specially trained medical professionals provides comprehensive care for adults and children with thermal injuries, electrical burns, chemical injuries, frostbite, toxic epidermal necrolysis, inhalation injuries and complex soft-tissue infections. A multidisciplinary team, which includes resuscitation, pulmonary support, wound management, nutritional support and rehabilitation personnel, provide care in the Burn Center. The Loyola Burn Center was awarded verification by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the American Burn Association (ABA). This recognition is only granted to those programs that have met and exceeded the ACS and ABA standards and review.

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