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December 12, 2012 06:00 AM

Space Heaters Offer Warmth With Some Risks


Winter has finally shown up across much of South Dakota. While temperatures may be above freezing during the day, the temperatures at night can get pretty chilly and it's only going to get colder as winter tightens its grip.

Space heaters are a great way to keep warm in the winter. They can be fairly inexpensive to buy and run.  But, leave one unattended or in the wrong spot, and cold toes could be the least of your worries.

Lewis Drug in Sioux Falls has an aisle full of space heaters to choose from. If you're wondering which one will safely warm your home, the decisions begin before you pull one of the shelves.

“One of the first things that we recommend for people to do is make sure that space heater is UL listed. There should be a sticker on the back of the appliance or if you're buying one it should be on the box. And what that means is it’s tested by Underwriter’s Laboratory,” Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Assistant Fire Marshal Mike Top said.

Top says it ensures the heater has been run through a series of tests to make sure it's safe. If you do decide to use one, he says you want to make sure to keep it at least three feet away from any combustibles and that it has a thermostat.

"We also want to make sure that it has a tip over switch on it. If I tip it over the heater should stop running. And of course always follow manufacturer instructions. Don’t plug them into an extension cord or a power strip; they should plug directly into the wall," Top said.

He also says one of the biggest precautions to keep them from starting a fire is to never leave them running when you're not around or when you're sleeping.

“Yes you’re there with it but you’re not really attending it; you’re sleeping. Put on some extra blankets.  Turn the space heater off and that way hopefully everybody stays safe,” Top said.

Top says if a fire starts when you're around, there’s a good chance you can get it out before it turns too serious. If you're not home or outside and a space heater were to start a fire, you or someone else will most likely need to call 911.

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