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OPINION — It is getting chilly and going to be getting even colder very soon. The Racine County Eye offers the following safety tips to start a conversation about safety in your home as we embark on another season of sub-zero temperatures and darkened mornings and evenings.

The air has turned crisp and we are seeing some beautiful color changes. Racine and Kenosha have officially even seen snow today (Oct. 17). You may be tempted to turn on the heater and cozy up with a nice book and some coffee, hot cocoa or an adult beverage. As we enter the winter months, please keep the following safety tips in mind.

1. Furnace maintenance

For safety reasons, and for peace of mind, have your furnace serviced. A specialist can inspect it for leaks and make sure that everything is working properly.

2. Space heaters

A space heater can also be helpful, especially if you need extra heat in your office or other areas where the heat from the furnace is not reaching you or you simply want to be warmer. Make sure you know how to use it. Read the instructions carefully and fully. Try to get a space heater that will turn off by itself if it falls.

Try to leave at least three feet of space around the heater. Make sure you are using the electric cord correctly. These cords should not be plugged into a power strip, but instead should be plugged directly into an outlet. Make sure the cord is not damaged. If it is damaged replace the cord before you use it or get another unit. Don’t leave the space heater on if you’re not going to be close by.

3. Fireplace maintenance

With the cost of electricity going up, you may be considering using your fireplace to warm the house up a bit. Make sure you start by cleaning it and/or having it professionally inspected. A creosote log is a good beginning because it burns hot and the chemicals it releases help keep the chimney clean.

You may want to use a fireplace screen to prevent the sparks from the logs from sparking onto your floor. Never leave the fireplace unattended, put the tools away, have an extinguisher close by, and don’t go to bed without completely extinguishing the fire.

4. Use a proper heat source

Under no circumstances should you use the stove to warm the house. Layer up in your clothes and seek assistance from the local charities that would be happy to help you.

5. Candle safety

If you are using candles around the house for the ambiance or lighting, consider that every year about 10,000 homes start on fire because of improper care and use of candles. Don’t forget that pets or kids may carelessly knock the candles over which could spark a fire. Snuff candles out when you leave the room.

6. Fire safety

Have an A B C fire extinguisher handy and close by. These kinds of extinguishers are designed to extinguish most fires. If you have not done this, try to have an emergency plan prepared for you and your family. The fire department would be happy to conduct a fire safety inventory in your home.

7. Outdoor activity in the darker months

Don’t forget that the days are getting shorter and nightfall comes sooner every day. There are kids on the road headed to and coming home from school. They could be walking or on their bikes; be careful with the visibility.

If you are walking, wear reflective clothing and/or a flashing light on you so you can be visible to those that are on the street (who might not be paying attention). Wear reflective tape on your shirt and shoes. Consider wearing a headlamp too. They are relatively inexpensive and provide very strong lighting for you as you walk or ride your bike.

The important thing is to be safe. Remember, this is not meant to be comprehensive but a conversation starter. We need to start taking responsibility for our own safety.

Henry Perez brings you Snapshots of Safety with the Racine County Eye. – Credit: Loren Lamoreaux

Henry Perez is a retired police administrator and Alderman of the 12th District of Racine.

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