Be warm this winter, but first, be safe

With winter comes the need to heat our homes — and an increased need for caution.

One way to keep warm is space heaters, which officials remind must not be plugged into power strips, but rather directly into a wall outlet, because of the increased energy load. Many power strips can overheat with that kind of load.

Other common-sense reminders include:

¯ Maintain a safety zone around space heaters or open flames that exclude both flammable materials as well as kids and pets. That zone should be at least 3 feet.

¯ Turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to sleep.

¯ Have a professional install fixed space heaters, or other equipment such as water heaters or even central heating units.

¯ Do not use an oven to heat your home.

¯ Use the proper fuel for non-electric heaters.

¯ Have a professional inspect and, if necessary, clean your chimney; and make sure fireplaces have proper screens in place.

¯ Test smoke detectors and replace batteries, if necessary.

Be smart about staying warm — and keep an eye on family, friends and neighbors who may need a little help getting ready for the winter switch.

‘Tis the season for a higher fire risk. Take the extra steps necessary to stay warm AND safe.