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Echo Press Editorial: Follow this advice in propane shortage

The propane crisis that’s hitting the state is causing a wide range of problems. But there is help available, along with cautionary advice that people should heed.

Residents with questions about the current propane situation or who are in danger of running out of heating fuel can call 1-800-657-3504 in greater Minnesota. The hotline is staffed with experts from the Minnesota Department of Commerce who can provide information about energy assistance programs, connect callers with resources in their home county, and provide other information.

Last Monday, Governor Dayton declared a State of Peacetime Emergency in Minnesota in response to the persistent cold weather and the increased risk that households may run out of heating fuel, a situation that would pose an immediate threat to public safety.

People who use propane to heat their homes are advised to conserve energy as much as possible. Turn down thermostats and be aware of your propane use. Also, check in on your family members, neighbors and friends. Call 9-1-1 only in a crisis.

People often turn to alternative heat sources to stay warm when the temperature plummets. The State Fire Marshal (SFM) reminds residents that any heating source with an open flame needs to be vented to the outside because the combustion process of burning fuel uses oxygen and also gives off carbon monoxide, a deadly combination inside of a home.

Other tips when using alternative heat sources:

• Keep anything flammable, including pets and people, at least three feet away from heating equipment.

• Make sure portable space heaters have an automatic shut-off.

• Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

• Space heaters need constant watching. Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.

• Make sure all cords on electric heaters are in good shape and checked periodically for any frays or breaks in the insulation surrounding the wires.

• Check the cord and outlet occasionally for overheating; if it feels hot, discontinue use.

• Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.

• Use a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards.

This bone-chilling winter has been especially hazardous with dangerous wind chills, blizzard warnings and, in Douglas County, a spike in fires. Don’t let the propane shortage add more fuel to the fire.