Using a space heater because of the cold? Follow these safety tips to avoid fires

Small portable devices can be dangerous if not used properly

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As South Florida experiences several days of cold weather, public officials are warning people to use caution when operating space heaters.

"We are fortunate that most of us have central heating in our homes. But many people rely on space heaters," said Battalion Chief Michael Kane, a spokesman for Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue.

With temperatures will dipping into the 40's this week, many Floridians will be turning to space heaters.

They can be convenient and inexpensive solution to add warmth to homes -- especially to ones that don't normally need a heater -- but they don't come without risks.

Improperly used space heaters cause more than 25,000 residential fires each year and nearly 400 deaths, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"They are made to be portable. They shouldn't be left unattended," Kane said. "They shouldn't be left plugged in. They should be used for the time you need them and when you leave the area or go to bed at night, you should unplug them."

Space heaters also injure about 6,000 people each year mostly after people are burned by touching hot surfaces on the heaters.

Tips to remember when using space heaters: 

  • Keep heaters 3 feet from anything that can ignite, including clothing, drapes and carpeting.
  • Experts say never plug in your space heater to an extension cord.
  • Turn them off when you leave your house.
  • If you don't have a space heater, you don't use your oven as a heating device or bring a grill from outside. Those devices can cause to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • When buying your space heater, make sure it has a UL logo, which means it was tested in a lab and certified to use inside of your home.
  • Put heater on the floor and away from foot traffic. Always keep children and pets away from the heater.