University of Delaware

Safety first

Use caution with space heaters


9:11 a.m., Dec. 12, 2013--Members of the University of Delaware community are reminded that the University has a policy governing the use of space heaters in campus buildings

If there are heating issues in the workplace, please contact the UD Facilities Operations Desk at 831-1141 to report the condition. Once the problem is verified, efforts will be made to restore the heating system to its appropriate level, or Facilities will issue an approved space heater as an interim measure until proper heating can be restored.

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Staff members are prohibited from bringing residential space heaters to work: Uncertified equipment or the improper use of some substandard brands can cause electrical overloads, tripping breakers and potentially causing an accidental fire. 

Use of space heaters is prohibited in campus residence halls and apartments.

Kevin McSweeney, UD fire marshal, reminds the campus to take fire safety concerns seriously. "The National Fire Protection Association reports that, in 2012, heating equipment fires were a leading cause of fire fatalities in residences nationwide, accounting for 33 percent of all residential fires and 81 percent of all heating fire deaths," he said. 

"Placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment or placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress or bedding, was the leading factor contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half of home heating fire death," McSweeney said. 

For your safety

For those who use space heaters in their homes, McSweeney offers the following safety tips:

• All heaters must be Underwriters Listed or Factory Mutual approved for their intended use.

• Heaters must have a thermostat to automatically shut down the unit when the desired temperature is achieved.

• Heaters must have a tip over automatic shutdown feature.

• Heaters must be kept at least 3 feet (36 inches) from all combustible materials, e.g. file cabinets, desks, trash cans, paper boxes, etc. 

• Do not place heaters under desks or in other enclosed areas.

• Heaters must be monitored when in operation. They should always be attended and shut off when leaving.

• Plug the heater directly into a wall receptacle. Never plug it into an extension cord.

• Heaters need to be monitored daily. Those heaters missing guards, control knobs, feet, etc., must be taken out of service immediately and repaired by a competent person. Do not use heaters in rooms that will not be continually occupied.

• Do not use portable space heaters if small children are expected in the area.

If you have safety questions, please contact McSweeney at 831-6847 or

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