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Winter Weather Safety Tips for Minnesota

Woman tests her space heater to help ensure winter safety and comfort.

With the temps dropping and the snow falling, it’s time we face the music: Another Minnesota winter is upon us. It happens every year and yet we still never feel ready. To help ensure a safe and comfortable season for you and your family, we’ve put together some key winter weather safety tips. Continue reading to learn more.

Be Smart with Space Heaters

Space heaters can help warm up drafty or extra-chilly areas around the home, but they also create a potential fire hazard. In fact, they cause an average of 1,700 residential fires annually. Follow these guidelines to help keep your home and family safe:

  • Only place heaters on hard, flat, nonflammable surfaces on the floor, as they’re not designed to be set on tables.
  • Don’t use them in a child’s room and maintain at least three feet (taller models may require more) of space from kids, pets, and combustible materials like furniture, curtains and drapes, and bedding.
  • Turn the heater off when you go to sleep or leave the room, and never use them in areas with paint, gasoline, or matches, such as the garage.
  • Don’t use extension cords or additional electric devices in the same outlet as the heater to prevent overheating.
  • Inspect the cord periodically for damage and never use heaters with frayed or worn cords. When unplugging the heater, pull the plug straight from the outlet the help prevent damage.

Speaking of heaters, schedule annual maintenance services for your furnace with an HVAC professional. They’ll inspect, clean, and tune up your system so it’s running with optimal safety and efficiency. Also, maintain a clean air filter to prevent decreased efficiency, indoor air quality, and system breakdowns.

Be Proactive with Holiday Fire Hazards

Holiday decorations, especially candles, Christmas trees, and lights, can pose serious safety hazards without the proper precautions. This winter, and especially around the holidays, follow these tips:

  • Keep Christmas trees at least three feet from all heat sources (fireplaces, radiators, candles, space heaters, heating vents, lights, etc.) and clear of all exits.
  • Never decorate trees with lit candles. Use lights that have been listed by a qualified testing laboratory and are safe/approved for indoor use. Do the same for any lights used outside.
  • Replace string lights that have damaged cords or loose bulb connections and follow manufacturer guidelines for the maximum number of strands to connect.
  • Remember to turn off Christmas tree lights before bed and leaving home.
  • Water your tree daily so it doesn’t dry out and become more flammable.
  • Test all smoke alarms regularly and follow manufacturer guidelines for battery replacement.

Prepare Your Car(s) for Winter Weather and Emergencies

We all know how difficult and dangerous driving can be during Minnesota’s cold, snowy winters. Plan ahead with these safety measures:

  • Check your tire treads using the “penny test” to make sure they’re deep enough to safely drive on the snow. If possible, consider switching to snow tires for the winter for even more traction and safety.
  • Keep your tires properly filled, as low air pressure can make driving on winter roads more dangerous.
  • Stay on top of oil changes and other routine maintenance to help prevent serious issues.
  • Have an emergency kit in your trunk in case you get stuck or stranded in extreme weather.

Protect Your Roof from Ice Dams

As snow melts on your roof, the water can collect and re-freeze near the edges, creating an “ice dam” that prevents proper drainage via the gutters. This added weight and stress can lead to leaks, cracks, and other problems. Keep gutters clear and remove snow from your roof throughout the season to help avoid these issues.

The winters in our state come with their own unique challenges, and it’s our responsibility to be as prepared as possible. Use these winter weather safety tips to help stay safe all season long, and always keep an eye on the news for any major weather events.

Delano Municipal Utilities (DMU) is always here to help with your public power and water needs, no matter what time of year. Contact us today with any questions or to learn more.