MCFPD’s Fire Marshal Lianne Johnson said that overheating from space heaters causes a lot of fires. People tend to use too many cords in one outlet and plug in heaters in a power strip or extension cord.

Lake area residents are encouraged to take precautions with space heaters during the wintry weather season. Knowing what to look for when purchasing a heater, statistics, tips and what to do when property is damaged makes a world of difference.

Now that winter is here (permanently, it seems), there is a substantial need for space heaters in homes and at work. However, space heaters can be dangerous if not used properly.

The Mid-County Fire Protection District (MCFPD) recently posted a photo of a burnt outlet on social media. Posted above the photo reads: “This is a multi-plug adapter that started to catch fire. On the space that is burnt, an extension cord was plugged in into the adapter. Plugged into the extension cord was a space heater. This situation could have ended very differently.”

MCFPD’s Fire Marshal Lianne Johnson said that overheating from space heaters causes a lot of fires. People tend to use too many cords in one outlet and plug in heaters in a power strip or extension cord. She strongly recommends plugging in heaters directly into a wall outlet

If you are looking to buy a space heater, consider a few factors when choosing the best space heater.

An article called “How to Find the Safest Space Heater for Your Home” by Mary H.J. Farrell from the Consumer Reports website gives safety features to look for when purchasing a space heater. The four features are: certification, shut-off features, ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) plug and sturdy cord.

Make sure the heater you buy carries a safety certification label from an independent testing organization like the UL mark from Underwriters Laboratories.

A smart sensor that automatically shuts off a heater when it overheats is a must. You’ll also want a tip-over switch that does the same if the heater is knocked over.

Most space heaters don't come equipped with a GFCI plug, which prevents electric shock. Heaters without one should not be used around water, manufacturers advise.

Most space heaters come with a cord that’s 6 feet long. To prevent overheating, never use an extension cord or a power strip with an electric heater.

Statistics

The Missouri Department of Public Safety provides statistics on fires caused by space heaters.

•25,000 fires and over 300 deaths are attributed to space heaters each year

•Space heaters are responsible for about 80% of home heating fire deaths and about 1/3 of home heating fires

The National Fire Prevention Association reports that “local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 52,050 fires involving heating equipment each year in 2012-2016. Space heaters are the type of heating equipment most often involved in home heating fires, figuring in two of every five of these fires and accounting for 86% of associated civilian deaths, 78% of civilian injuries, and 54% of direct property damage.”

Tips from the Missouri Department of Public Safety

•Turn off portable heaters whenever leaving the room or going to bed.

•Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment. The three-foot safety zone includes furniture, drapes, and electronics – anything that can burn.

•Buy a unit with a tip-over safety switch, which automatically shuts off the heater if the unit is tipped over.

What to do if your property is damaged according to the Missouri Department of Insurance:

If your home was seriously damaged contact your insurance agent or your insurance company's toll-free claims number as soon as possible. Keep a record of the time, date, topic and name of person you talk to every time you call. For help with company contact information use company lookup or call the Missouri Department of Insurance’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-726-7390.

Survey the damage and take pictures or video if possible.

Make temporary repairs needed to prevent further damage. Further damage will likely not be covered by insurance. Keep receipts for materials you buy so you can be reimbursed. Do not make permanent repairs until your insurance company has inspected the damage. If you do, your claim might be denied.

Make a list of all personal property destroyed or damaged. Note the approximate date, price and place of purchase and attach any sales receipt you have. The adjuster will request this information.

Ask your insurance agent or company if your policy covers living expenses until repairs are made to your home.

Let contractors inspect your home only when you're watching. Some unscrupulous companies will cause damage to drive up the repair cost, and your insurance company will likely not cover the additional cost.

Your insurance company should send its adjuster to your property. Make sure your adjuster and company can contact you. If you have to move, give your insurance company and adjuster your temporary address and phone number. Make sure the adjuster has identification. Remember that insurance companies pay the adjusters and you should not be asked for any payment.

Once your claim is processed, choose a contractor and let them review the adjuster’s estimate to make sure it includes all loss related damage.

Pay the repair bill in full only when the work is completed according to your agreement.

Remember you are not required to hire a public adjuster to file a claim.

For more information, visit the Missouri Department of Insurance website at https://insurance.mo.gov.