It may be cold outside, but let’s not get TOO hot inside

The weather may be on the warm side this week, but Ohio weather can change quickly! Elizabeth has some tips and tricks on how to stay warm and safe this fall season!

by Elizabeth Wynkoop. AmeriCorps Member and Preparedness Education Superhero.

I had to scrape frost off of my windshield for the first time this season last week. For me, that’s the sign that fall is really marching in. The leaves are changing; football is in full swing, and no matter where you go you find something “pumpkin” flavored. The cold is coming, but this is Ohio and I’ve been reminded time and time again that in our state “if you don’t like the weather, hang around for five minutes, it will change.” If you’ve lived here any length of time, you know that there is quite a bit of truth to that statement.

So now, in this in between time where it can swing from 20 degrees one day up to 85 the next, it’s tempting to leave the heat off and use space heaters until the seasons finish fighting it out. I’ll admit I do it, too. Why turn the thermostat up and down everyday when there’s this wonderful little device that localizes heat exactly where I am? The problem though, is that these little devices get… hot. Before you laugh, think about the last time you unplugged your space heater. Was the cord hot? Was the outlet hot? How about the carpet underneath the heater? Maybe the casing itself was hot? Ever feel your cat after he’s curled up in front of it for far too long? Ah-ha… see what I mean? These devices don’t just heat the air around them; they themselves can get very hot, especially if they’re old, damaged, set up in risky locations, or not watched while they’re in use. This is why they caused approximately one third of the home fires between 2005 and 2009 (National Fire Protection Association). All of those fires could have been avoided though, and I want us to work together to make that possible. All we have to do is take a few extra steps to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our home, and even your cat. It kind of makes you a superhero…

Let’s not get too stressed about these extra steps though, I’m all about keeping it simple.

So first, just look at our space heaters. Are they in good condition? To determine this, you have to ask yourself a few questions, such as:

– “Is the cord frayed or pulled out from the device?

– “Have you duct-taped it back together a few times?”

– “Does the device smoke or shoot flames when you turn it on or plug it in?”

If you answered any of these questions with “yes,” maybe it’s time to invest in a new space heater. If not, let’s continue!

Next, we’ll look at the area where we’re setting these space heaters up. Hopefully, you haven’t decided on setting it in the midst of your collection of thirty year old newspaper clippings. Remember the fire recipe: Oxygen + Heat + Fuel = Fire. We can’t exactly remove all the air from our houses to stop fires, but we can work at removing the fuel sources by not placing our heaters around flammables item, such as…

– Fluffy throw rugs

– Furniture

– Other cords and electrical wires

…And those are just a few examples. Now you may be asking yourself, “Well, then where DO I put this heater?” Good question! Clear an area for your heater on a level surface (such as… the floor) so that there will be three feet of empty space on every side of the device. This leaves room for the device’s ventilation and leaves space between the heat source and possible fuels. Yay, safety!

The final step is just to watch the heater. I don’t mean that you have to stare at it relentlessly, but don’t leave it alone either. Don’t fall asleep with your heater on and don’t leave it on when you’re not at your home or in the same room. Some of the devices may have automatic shut-off systems, but as with all electronic devices, they can malfunction. Our lives, and the lives of those we love, are far too important to leave dependent upon the reliability of an electrical device. If the night gets cold, grab an extra blanket to curl up with, you can get them for as little as $5 some places and they’re typically a lot safer than running your space heater all night because blankets are less likely to spontaneously combust.

So there we have it. How to keep your toes warm, keep from switching on your heat a little longer, and how to help prevent space heater related fires in our homes. Hopefully, now we can all work on practicing safe habits with out space heaters and cut down on the number of home fires that they start each year. Stay warm and be safe, everybody!

Many thanks to Elizabeth for this post! For more information on fire prevention and other safety topics visit

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