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Use of Portable Space Heaters in NIH-Owned Facilities​​​​​

​Each year about this time, the NIH Fire Marshal receives questions on the use of space heaters in NIH-owned facilities. The following information indicates where space heaters are allowed and under what circumstances. Much of this information should be equally appropriate for your home.

First, an informative video on space heater safety produced in cooperation with the Montgomery County, MD Fire Department. (Unable to view this video? Please contact the NIH Fire Marshal for a verbal explanation)

Prohibited locations: For the safety of patients and the protection of research activities, space heaters are not allowed in laboratories, patient care units and clinics.

In other areas, several steps must be taken before a space heater can be considered. First, the Office of Research Facilities (ORF) must attempt to address temperature regulation and maintenance. If this does not correct the issue, your ORF facility manager must: approve the space heater use in writing; ensure that the space heater electric load can be accommodated; and advise you on an acceptable location away from thermostats for the benefit of other occupants. If electrical work is required, your ICO should initiate a work request.

Once you have taken the proper steps for ORF approval, follow the requirements of the Division of the Fire Marshal's (DFM) Administrative Interpretation 17-7.

This interpretation will guide you on the features needed for the space heater you purchase and its safe use. The DFM cannot endorse or recommend any particular model or brand of space heater.

Additional guidance is available through:

National Fire Protection Association

Consumer Product Safety Commission

U.S. Fire Administration

(Unable to view these videos? Please contact the NIH Fire Marshal for a verbal explanation)

The requirements and information above apply to NIH-owned facilities. For guidance in leased facilities, contact the local fire marshal or fire department.

Questions may be directed to the Division of the Fire Marshal at 301-496-0487. Use the hazard reporting tool for situations on the Bethesda campus. You may remain anonymous when reporting a hazard, but it always helps to have a contact to obtain information as needed.

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