Space Heater Safety

February 2022 Safety Topic

February 1, 2022
A man plug in a space heater into the wall

A space heater is a self-contained appliance, usually electric, for heating an enclosed room. Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fire deaths after cooking, with most of these fires reported during the months of November, December, January, and February of each year (NFPA Safety Tips, 2018). Use of any portable space heater in the medical center represents an elevated risk for fire if not an approved appliance and operated properly.

Before purchasing a portable space heater, notify Facilities Management via work request (5-HELP) to assess the heating and ventilation in the area/s where space heater/s are being considered. (Facilities Management will decide if the appropriate heating cannot be provided by standard building systems, and if safe and sufficient electrical power is available in the area/s where the space heater/s are being considered.)

If approved by Facilities Management, only portable space heaters with no exposed heating elements are permitted for use. The unit must be UL rated (inspection tag intact) and have a grounded plug.

Prohibited portable space heaters include fan forced heaters, quartz or ceramic type heaters and any other exposed heating element appliances.

Please review the following safety tips before using an approved space heater:

  • Place the space heater on a hard, level, and nonflammable surface. Do not place the heater on a table, under a desk, or in an enclosed area.
  • Plug the space heater directly into a wall outlet; extension cords may not be used.
  • Keep the space heater at least 3-feet away from combustible materials, such as furniture, clothing, and curtains.
  • Do not use a space heater in a mechanical equipment room, workshop, or custodial closet near chemicals, paint, gas cans, or other flammable materials.
  • Unplug the heater when it is not in use by pulling the plug straight from the outlet. Check the cord for damage periodically, and do not use the heater if the cord is frayed or worn.
  • Turn off the heater when the room is unoccupied; the heater must never be left unattended.                                             

For more information or questions about Space Heaters. Contact a member of the Campus Life and Regulatory Compliance team or email cumcfiresafety@cumc.columbia.edu.