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Use of Portable Space Heaters in NIH Facilities

Each year at this time the Division of the Fire Marshal (DFM), Office of Research Services, receives questions on the use of space heaters. The following information indicates where these heaters are allowed and under what circumstances. Much of this is equally appropriate for your home.

First, please watch this informative video on the topic produced by Good Morning America in cooperation with the Montgomery County, Maryland Fire Department: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8egchhIJSKY.

Prohibited locations! For the safety of patients and the protection of research activities, portable 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 acceptability of the location away from thermostats for the benefit of other occupants. If electric work is required, your Institute/Center should initiate a work request.

Once you have taken the proper steps for ORF approval, follow the requirements of DFM's Administrative Interpretation 17-7 available here: https://go.usa.gov/xpPQq.

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

Additional guidance is available through:

The requirements and information above apply to NIH-owned facilities. Questions may be directed to the Division of the Fire Marshal at 301-496-0487. For guidance in leased facilities, contact the local fire marshal or fire department.

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