ST. LOUIS – With temperatures dropping below freezing last week, some St. Louisans have began to pull out their space heaters, electric blankets, and other items.

Let it also serve as a reminder, it’s about time to start getting the holiday decorations up. Ameren has some advice on how to stay safe and prevent electrical fires this season.

Our first blast of cold air had us reaching for all things cozy and warm, but some of those items increase the risks of fires during the colder months if not used properly. 

“The most fire deaths in the U.S. happen during the winter months, so this is the time when we’re most prone to lose lives unfortunately, said Tim Frankenberg, the fire safety engineer for Ameren

As you’re preparing that big holiday meal, there are some things to consider. Don’t put too many appliances in a single outlet. The electrical load needs to be distributed. 

“If an outlet’s hot or a cord starts getting hot, there’s something wrong. So we have to find out what’s causing that, because if we don’t address it, it’s going to cause a fire at some point,” said Frankenberg. “If breakers continue to trip or fuses continue to blow, there’s something wrong in that circuit, or you’re overloading it with your holiday decorations, or preparing for a meal with crockpots and such.”

When it comes to extension cords, not all are created equal. 

“We don’t want to plug a lightweight extension cord,” Frankenberg added. “Even though it may be listed and has the approvals on it, the safety markings, it may be too small for what we’re trying to do. If we’re trying to use a cord that’s too small, and we have a roaster or something that’s pulling that type of heat, that cords going to become the weak link and start heating up, and it could cause a fire.”

For outside holiday lights use GFI outlets, make sure your extension cords are for outdoor use, and use as few as possible. 

“It’s not like the Griswald’s where you just keep tying all the multi-plug adaptors together and build that big ball of mess of electric. You’ve got to distribute that out otherwise we will heat things up and cause fires that way as well,” said Frankenberg. 

If you have a problem with your electrical system, get professional help. 

On Sunday, we change our clocks, so it’s time to change the batteries in your smoke alarms, check the born-on date, and replace it if it’s beyond 10 years. It’s also a good idea to talk over your fire plan with the family. 

“Planning process is invaluable. So have a plan and know how to get out. Sleep with your bedroom doors closed. It will save your life,” Frankenberg said.