2017-11-10 / Front Page

Misuse of space heaters can lead to disaster

Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office

Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office As the temperature outside drops, the number of space heaters inside rises.

George Conrad, Fort Gordon and Cyber Center of Excellence senior safety specialist, said he has a steady flow of phone calls coming from civilian employees on post who want to know the type of space heater he recommends for the workplace.

Some are surprised to hear their options are very specific and must be approved by the Directorate of Public Works Energy manager.

According to Garrison Commander’s Policy Memorandum No. 67 – Use of Supplemental Space Heaters, “the only authorized device is a radiator heater featuring an element sealed in diathermic oil, which heats internally and rated as ‘zero-clearance for combustibles.’”

Space heaters may not be used until an employee submits a written request to DPW and the Energy manager approves the request. If the heater is approved, the Energy manager will place a sticker on the heater and the circuit it is plugged in to. If disapproved, the requestor will be notified of the reasons.

“There’s a concern that a lot of people are moving offices, moving to different buildings, and they’re taking everything with them,” Conrad said. “They should not be taking a space heater that isn’t approved.”

When it comes to portable heaters in a home, it is important to choose wisely.

Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association state that space heaters accounted for 40 percent of home heating fires and 84 percent of home heating fire deaths between 2009 and 2013. Nearly half of those fires occurred in December, January, and February.

“The problem with some space heaters – like the kind with a wire grill – is it’s an exposed heat source and they can catch fire,” Conrad said. “People throw trash, they put them by their feet under their desk … it’s not safe.”

And unlike fuel burning heaters, electric portable space heaters do not pose a carbon monoxide risk. However, they pose a safety risk when a person fails to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

The type of space heater approved by DPW does not pose a safety risk because it has zero clearance for combustibles, meaning you can put something up against the heater and it will not catch fire.

“We just want people to be prudent, and again, what we are looking for is zero clearance for combustibles,” Conrad said.

Anyone with questions should refer to the GC’s Policy Memorandum No. 67, which can be found online at www.gordon.army.mil/FG_policy_letters_and_regs.

National Fire Protection Association safety tips:

• Have a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

• Never use your oven to heat your home.

• Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected once a year.

• Always use the right kind of fuel specified by manufacturer for fuel burning heaters.

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

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