For sellers who are trying to keep their property in “showing shape” over the winter and for new buyers who have just moved into their home, a snow thrower (a.k.a. snow blower) can make quick work of snow removal chores. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) encourages homeowners to ready their snow throwers and brush up on basic safety reminders before the snow flies. Here are key questions to ask yourself before firing up your snow thrower for the first time this season.

Have you read your owner’s manual? Read up for safe handling procedures. If you lost your manual, you can look it up online (and store a copy on your computer so you have the manual available to reference in the future).

Have you checked your equipment? Make sure all equipment is completely powered off then adjust cables and check the auger. If you forgot to drain the fuel before storing the machine, do that now.

Is your equipment easy to access? Move your equipment to a convenient and accessible location, so you can get to it easily when you need it.

Have you purchased the right fuel?  Gas stations may be closed after a storm so have some fuel on hand. Be sure to use the correct fuel, as recommended by your equipment’s manufacturer (for more information on fueling properly see Use fresh fuel in your snow thrower. If it’s more than 30 days old, it can phase separate and cause operating problems. Make sure fuel is stored safely and out of the reach of children.

Are you fueling safely? Before you start the engine, fill up the fuel tank on your snow thrower outside while the engine is cold. Never add fuel to a running or hot engine.

Are batteries charged? If using a battery/electric-powered snow-thrower, make sure batteries are fully charged in case electricity goes out during a winter storm.

Is the area you intend to clear free of obstructions or hidden obstacles? Snow can hide objects like doormats, hoses, balls, toys, boards, wires, and other debris. Remove these to keep people, pets and the machine safe.

Are you dressed properly for winter weather? Locate your safety gear now, and place it in an accessible closet or location in your home. Plan to wear safety glasses, gloves and footwear that can handle cold and slippery surfaces.

Will you keep pets and children inside? Kids and pets love to play in the snow, but it’s best to keep them inside while you are using your snow thrower. Do not allow them to play in the snow as it is tossed out of the snow thrower’s chute.

Do you have a clean out tool or stick? NEVER put your hands inside the auger or chute. Use a clean out tool (or stick) to unclog snow or debris from your snow thrower.

Do you turn off your snow thrower if you need to clear a clog? Always turn off your snow thrower and wait for all moving parts to come to a complete stop before clearing any clogs or debris.

Will you use extreme caution on slopes and hills? Do not attempt to clear steep slopes and use caution when changing directions on slopes or inclines.

Do you know where your cord is? If you have an electric-powered snow thrower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times. Avoid tripping. Do not run over the power cord.

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