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

In an unusually early winter season, large sections of the country have already experienced snow, ice and inclement weather.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute offers the following tips to help you get your snow thrower ready and to use it safely:

Do you know what you're doing?: Have you read your owner’s manual? . Review how to operate the controls. You should be able to shut off your equipment quickly. If you lost your manual, look it up online.

How's the fuel? If you forgot to drain the fuel last winter before storing your snow thrower, drain the gas tank now. Adjust any cables and check the auger when the equipment is powered off.

Location: Is your equipment where you can get to it? If it's stored in the back of the shed behind the lawn mower, move it now.

• Fuel: Be sure to use the correct fuel, as recommended by your equipment's manufacturer and make sure it is fresh. Fuel that is more than 30 days old can phase separate and cause operating problems.

Before you start the engine, fill up the fuel tank on your snow thrower while the engine is cold and outside your home or garage. Never add fuel to a running or hot engine.

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

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• Check for obstructions: Is the area you intend to clear free of obstructions or hidden obstacles? Snow can hide objects. Doormats, hoses, balls, toys, boards, wires, and other debris should be removed from the areas you intend to clear. When run over by a snow thrower, these objects may harm the machine or people.

• Clothing: Locate your safety gear now, and put 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.

• Think safety: Do you have a clean-out tool or stick? NEVER put your hands inside the auger or chute to unclog snow or debris.

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

Do you use your snow thrower in visible conditions? Never operate the snow thrower without good visibility or light.

Can you aim your snow thrower with care? Never throw snow toward people or cars. Do not allow anyone to stand in front of your snow thrower. Keep children or pets away from your snow thrower when it is operating.

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.

• Where's the cord? Do you know where your cord is? Use an extension cord that is weather-resistant and designed for outdoor use. 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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