Stay Warm, Stay Safe: Tips on Using Alternate Heat Sources this Winter

January 18, 2024

With the potential for winter weather and low temperatures this weekend, St. Mary’s County Government’s Department of Emergency Services (DES) reminds citizens of the importance of safety when using alternate heat sources.

As the cold season sets in, it’s crucial to stay vigilant and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and warm environment.

Alternate heat sources include anything you may use to heat your home apart from a standard whole-home heating system. Common alternate heat sources are electric heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, and generators that may be used in the event of a power outage.

Residents should never use appliances that weren’t designed to heat your home, such as cooking stoves or ovens, for that purpose.

“Safety is paramount when using alternative heat sources,” said Amy Bledsoe, DES Emergency Manager. “Improperly installed or maintained alternative sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, or portable generators can lead to fire hazards, carbon monoxide poisoning, or even explosions. These simple tips can save lives and protect property.”


  • Never use a generator inside an enclosed space, as carbon monoxide fumes can build up. Generators should NOT be used inside your home, basement, or enclosed garage.
  • Become familiar with the safety regulations for your generator model.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries every six months.
  • Keep your generator dry and protected from rain and snow.

Space Heaters

  • Plug heaters in directly to the wall outlet, don’t use an extension cord or power strip.
  • Keep anything combustible (paper, curtains, blankets, etc.) at least three feet away from a space heater.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off and unplug it before leaving the room or going to bed.

Fireplaces & Wood Stoves

  • Keep the door on your wood stove closed unless stoking or adding wood/pellets.
  • Always use a metal or heat-tempered glass screen when using your fireplace.
  • Never leave a fireplace or wood stove burning unattended. Put the fire out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near the wood stove or fireplace.
  • Install smoke detectors in your home and replace the batteries every six months.

Knowing what to do before, during, and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference, when seconds count.

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