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Blanket yourself with warmth safely this winter

Your electric blanket may be a staple for cozy, winter nights. When winter's chill descends and you bring out your electric blanket, first make sure it is safe to use, and review safety instructions -- the same steps to take if buying a new one.

Know the facts: electric blanket safety. SafeElectricity.org Check the product label to see if the model was tested and approved by a safety laboratory. Verify that there is a safety mark (such as Underwriters Laboratories "UL" symbol) so that you know the blanket is safe for use. Read manufacturer instructions, warnings, and risks.

Before using your electric blanket each year, check that all of the wiring is snug. Loose wiring can result in electrical fires. When your blanket is in use, it should be flat so the coils aren't folded. Folded coils can create a fire risk and cause burns to the blanket. Do not tuck blanket areas with electric wires or run cords under the mattress. This could create friction once you sleep on top of the mattress, which can cause damage or trap excess heat and pose a fire hazard. If you are not in the room, turn off your blanket.

Natalie Hemmer, Safe Electricity Advisory Board member, recommends people inspect their electric blanket for signs of damage. "If your blanket becomes worn or has scorch marks, discoloration, or fraying, this can be an indication of damaged wiring. Do not use it. Discard it immediately if it shows any of these warning signs."

Stop using your blanket if you smell smoke or hear a buzzing sound during use. If your blanket has been used 10 years or longer, replace it. Never dry clean an electric blanket. Check the manufacturer's instructions on whether it can safely withstand limited machine washing on the gentle cycle. Make sure that your blanket is dry before each use.

The blanket should be used on top of your body, rather than you lying or sitting atop it. Body weight on top of the blanket can create a fire hazard. Never place objects on top of your blanket, as this can result in an elevated temperature, potentially causing the blanket to ignite.

Don't allow pets near your blanket. Cat or dog claws can cause rips and tears, which may expose the electric wiring of the blanket and create shock and fire hazards. If you can't keep your pet away, consider purchasing a low-voltage blanket.

Hemmer advises that if you have any questions or concerns about the safety of your electric blanket, seek professional advice. "If you see potential danger signs with the blanket, contact the manufacturer."

Safe Electricity wants everyone to have a warm winter season and safe, peaceful rest. For more information on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.

Article and image courtesy of SafeElectricity.org. with modifications by Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc.

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