Be safe with electrical power strips and heaters

  • Published
  • By Paul Garcia
  • F. E. Warren Fire Emergency Services Fire Prevention assistant chief

With the winter season here, we tend to see an increase in the inappropriate use of electrical devices, such as the improper use of power strips and space heaters.


The F.E. Warren Fire Department wants everyone to have a warm home and work center, but safety needs to be addressed to ensure the protection and security of everyone this season.


Fire departments in the U.S. responded to an estimated annual average of 47,820 reported home structure fires involving electrical failure or malfunction from 2007 to 2011. The statistics are shocking. These fires resulted in 455 deaths, 1,518 injuries and $1.5 billion in direct property damage.


"Often when we're called to a fire that started by electrical equipment, we usually find the occupants were using too many devices in one plug, overloading a power strip or using a heater that was not approved," said John McDougall, 90th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department chief. "Sadly, that's all it takes for a dangerous fire to start. We hope that our safety message will help us reach folks in the community before they've suffered a damaging lesson."


Here are few tips to remember this season:

  • Use only UL-listed space heaters equipped with automatic shut-off devices that will shut off the heater if it tips over.

  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall receptacle. Do not plug space heaters into multiple outlet strips. Do not use an extension cord with an electric space heater.

  • Maintain a 36-inch minimum distance between any heat producing appliance and combustibles.

  • High wattage appliances such as heat-producing appliances, refrigerators of all types, coffee makers, etc., shall be plugged directly into a facility outlet.

  • Multi-receptacle surge protectors shall only be used to power computers and related equipment such as lights or fans.

  • Neither surge protectors nor extension cords shall be used with high-current items such as coffee makers, refrigerators, microwave ovens, heaters, food preparation equipment, etc. Equipment plugged into surge protectors/extension cords shall not exceed the capacity of the surge protector/electrical cord.


Please feel free to contact the F. E. Warren Fire Department at 773-2931 for further information.