As cold and stormy weather rolls in for large parts of the country, an Oregon fire department is warning residents about a scary winter safety risk that can put your family in danger.
Umatilla Country Fire District #1 shared an alarming photo of a melted and charred power strip on Facebook this Sunday showing the damage an overloaded outlet can cause. “These units are not designed to handle the high current flow needed for a space heater and can overheat or even catch fire due to the added energy flow,” the post explained.
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The danger lies in a common misconception: Most people don’t realize that a power strip doesn’t limit or block surges like a surge protector does, explains Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Plus, many space heaters have specific manufacturer’s instructions, like only plugging them directly into a wall outlet.
“You should definitely not use an extension cord or power strip, which could easily overheat,” Rothman adds. “And you really shouldn’t plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater for safety reasons.”
If you’re thinking of buying a space heater this winter (it’s supposed to be extra cold!), choose one that’s been tested by a third-party testing lab, like UL. You should also always follow these electrical safety tips, whether it’s a space heater, phone charger or something else:
- Regularly check the cords and plugs of your electrical appliances to see if they’re frayed, damaged, or worn out. If they are, discard them.
- Keep all electrical cords away from heat.
- Leave enough space around any electrical appliance to allow for heat dissipation. Also, keep any heating device away from flammable materials.
- Never leave turned-on appliances unattended.
- Always unplug unused appliances.
- Make sure bathroom, kitchen, and garage outlets are Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI).
- Install smoke detectors outside each bedroom and make sure there are working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home, including your basement. Test your alarms monthly, replace batteries at least once a year, and replace the entire smoke alarm every 10 years.
Following these basic safety measures will help keep your home warm, but more importantly fire-free.