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Space heaters not permitted in most work areas; dress in layers

Cold weather may tempt you to plug in that space heater at work.  But don’t. They are major safety hazards and greedy energy guzzlers. (Air Force photo illustration by Margo Wright)

Cold weather may tempt you to plug in that space heater at work. But don’t. They are major safety hazards and greedy energy guzzlers. (Air Force photo illustration by Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Simply put, don't do it. Don't plug in a space heater.

As the outside temperatures drop, 72nd Air Base Wing Civil Engineering Directorate and Tinker Fire Department officials said think twice before taking alternate measures to raise indoor temperatures. Set points, which have already been enacted, are in place for a reason, and, in most cases, space heaters are not permitted in work areas.

"Over the last six years, I've removed 4,000 to 5,000 space heaters which made a lot of people very unhappy," said Earnest Baxter, Tinker fire inspector. "People overlook the dangers of using them. In a cubicle environment, it's virtually impossible to have one."

According to Air Force Instruction 91-203 paragraph 6.2.10, a space heater can only be used if it's not placed within a 36-inch circumference of anything combustible. It must be plugged into the wall and not in a high-hazardous area. It cannot be plugged into cubicle furniture, nor can it be plugged into a surge suppressor as it will overload these types of circuits. Additionally, the space heater must have an Underwriters Laboratories' certification, which is a company that offers safety-related accreditation, validation, testing and inspection to a variety of clients including manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

Even if personnel possess a doctor's note claiming the need for a space heater, it still cannot be used unless it meets regulations and has approval by the base energy manager following a squadron/division level, or higher, commander's recommendation.

While there are exceptions, typical temperature set points for this time of the year are 40 degrees in unoccupied areas that require freeze protection, 60 degrees in hangars and warehouses, 65 degrees in shops and 68 degrees in administrative areas and classrooms.

One technique to regulate your comfort is to dress in layers enabling you to adjust your skin temperature, said Britton Young, Tinker's Energy Team point-of-contact in the 72nd ABW/CE.

But, if there is a genuine problem where the building isn't holding the heat, or if it feels like the system is purposely cooling the space, don't be afraid to speak up.

"We're aware there will be issues and we want to help people resolve the issues and get it fixed," she said. "Don't take it into your own hands, call civil engineering, the energy team or talk to the appropriate facility manager. We'll help you figure out the problem."

Facility managers should know the appropriate building temperature and process for submitting work orders, should an issue arise.

"It's important to save energy, but it's also important to keep people performing their missions," Ms. Young said.

To report a temperature issue to CE, call the CE 24-hour customer-service desk 734-3117. To contact the energy team, email energy@tinker.af.mil.