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Madison Fire Department
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Safety & Prevention

Image: Horizontal Space Heater

Portable Electric Heater Fire Safety Tips

All heaters are dangerous if not used properly.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, most home-heating fires involve portable or "space" heaters; so electric heaters must be selected and used with care:

  • Choose models that have automatic safety switches that turn off the unit if it is tipped over accidentally.


  • Always look for a label or tag indicating the heater has been tested/approved by a recognized independent testing lab.

Madison General Ordinance 30.03 specifies that portable electric heaters are for temporary use only during outages or repairs to the main heating unit, and not as permanent supplements to your main heating unit. Also, never use the stovetop burners or oven to heat a house or apartment.

If you are going to use portable electric heaters please make sure you

  • Check the cord before plugging in the heater; if frayed, worn or broken, do not use. Instead, have an electrician replace the cord or replace the heater. Remember: simply putting tape on the cord is not enough to prevent overheating and fire.
  • Never use an extension cord with a portable heater.


  • Keep portable electric heaters away from sinks, tubs and other wet or damp places to avoid deadly electric shocks.


  • Keep an electric heater, or any portable heater for that matter, at least three feet away from curtains, newspapers, or anything that might burn.


  • Never leave the heater unattended and never leave the house or go to bed without turning off the heater.


  • Do not hang items to dry above the heater.


  • Keep all heaters out of high traffic and exit areas.
Image: Vertical Space Heater