With forecasters predicting the coldest Thanksgiving The Berkshires have seen in over 80 years, many people are going the extra steps to keep their homes warm, but are the safe?

A turkey day forecast with temperatures in the teens has people pulling out their space heaters to give their homes that extra bit of warmth, but experts warn people to make sure their space heaters are safe.  Fire officials warn that plugging a space heater into a power strip or extension cord could be a dangerous mistake.

According to the Nation Fire Prevention Association, power strips and extension cords are not equipped to handle the extra current flow needed to power a space heater and can overheat and even catch fire. The heating parts of a space heater can get up to more than 600 degrees, which is why heaters should only be plugged directly into the wall, and should always be monitored while in use.

Between 2011 and 2015, portable and stationary space heaters accounted for more 43 percent of U.S. home heating fires and 85 percent of home heating fire deaths. In those fires, 470 people died, 1,490 were injured and $1 billion in property damage was reported. While December, January and February are usually the leading months for heater related fires, with temperatures dipping low earlier in the year that number could rise.

Space heaters can be effective tools for providing added warmth at home, but it’s critical that people follow basic precautions to ensure that they’re used safely.  Make sure children and pets are kept well away from space heaters at all times, and remember that space heaters should never be left unattended. When you’re ready to go to sleep, it’s time to turn off your space heater.

Lorraine Carli

Vice President of NFPA’s Outreach and Advocacy Division

Below are a list of tips that The National Fire Prevention Association recommend as part of their Put a Freeze on Winter Fires national campaign.

  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Install and maintain CO alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.