Don't use your snowblower in the dark.

Do make sure kids and pets are indoors when you're using one.

And don't stick your hand in the chute when the blower's running, slowing down or jammed.

Common sense, right?

Thousands of gruesome snowblower injuries happen each year, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Most commonly, the patient is a man in his mid-40s with an injury to, or amputation of, the fingers on his dominant hand.

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Often, the injured person is not a novice but has owned the blower for a while. Few of the injured are women.

Shoveling snow can also be a hazard. About 100 people a year, mostly men, die of heart attacks while shoveling snow, according to Harvard Medical School. The deeper the snow, the more heart attacks occur.

Winter falls can be trouble, too. About a million people are injured annually in falls on snow and ice, the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Philadelphia says, and thousands are killed.

(There are also a slew of holiday decorating accidents, mostly men falling off ladders.)

That said, here are some tips for keeping yourself and your home safe this winter:

- In the home, water pipes exposed to outdoor cold can freeze and burst, creating a big mess. Turn off the flow and drain the water from those pipes.

Pipes that run through unheated areas of your home, such as the attic, basement or garage, can be covered with foam insulation. And if you're planning to go away for a few days, set the heat to 60 degrees so your indoor pipes don't freeze.

- Lower the storm windows and check for under-door drafts. If windows are stuck, try a lubrication spray. For doors, draft stoppers of cloth, plastic or metal can keep out icy gusts.

If you're handy, you can also caulk around windows to keep out drafts.

- Experts suggest reversing the direction of ceiling fans so they rotate clockwise and circulate warm air down that has risen to the ceiling. There's usually a reverse switch on the hub.

- Make sure your furnace works. Bleed air out of radiators.

- Make sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms work.

- If you have a fireplace, check the chimney for animals that may have taken up residence. If you suspect an animal, you can light a piece of newspaper, stick it in the fireplace and smoke the animal out the top. Or call a chimney sweep.

- Critters such as squirrels and insects, like those high-jumping crickets, can also seek shelter from the storm in attics and basements.

Pest control experts can help. There are also handheld bug vacuums and a bug gun that shoots a blast of table salt at intruding insects. (Think buckshot for bugs.)

- Go out now and buy ice melt, a windshield scraper, windshield washer fluid and a snow shovel before the stores sell out. You might want two bottles of washer fluid, because it can go fast.

- As for the shoveling, don't do it if you have a heart condition. Otherwise, go easy and take rests, especially if the snow is wet, or hire the kid down the street.

- Take care of your neighbors, and don't pitch snow into the roadway.

- Of course, be careful walking on ice.

- Be careful of big icicles, too. They're pretty but they can be heavy, and if they fall on you, they can hurt.

You don't want to wind up in the ER.

- Clean the top of your car after a snowstorm. Snow flying off a car's roof can be dangerous to the driver behind you. In some places, you can be fined if snow from your car hits another car or injures someone.

- Don't drive in the snow if your car can't handle it. You'll get stuck and irritate other motorists.

- Allow more time for everything.

- Be prepared for power outages if a storm is coming. A little extra food and water, flashlights and batteries and an independent phone charger are recommended. Extra pet food and bags for dog waste are also good to have.

- Clean out your rain gutters and downspouts. After the snow, a clogged gutter or spout can lead to a nasty phenomenon called an ice dam, where melting snow gets backed up by trapped ice and water flows inside the walls and ceiling of your house.

Also, clean out accumulated leaves in outdoor drains. A blocked drain can let water back up into the house.

- If you have to drive in the snow, go slow and be aware of your car's ground clearance. If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, remember that your car may perform better in the snow than a two-wheel-drive vehicle, but it might not stop any better.

Good luck, stay warm and don't drive with the windshield iced over.

This article was written by Michael E. Ruane, a reporter for The Washington Post.