(KLFY) — With unusually cold weather on the way, residents may turn to portable space heaters to keep warm during the expected cold snap.

The National Weather Service forecasts overnight low temperatures getting down into the 20s starting Thursday night, and continuing through the weekend. Wind chills are expected in the single digits to near or below zero at times.

But there is a right way and a wrong way to use space heaters, and doing it wrong could have catastrophic results. The Louisiana State Fire Marshal reports three deaths in house fires just this week across the state.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters account for 4 out of 5 home heating deaths nationwide. In order to avoid a holiday tragedy during the cold weather, here are a list of the fire protection group’s do’s and don’ts regarding portable space heaters:

  • Purchase a heater with the seal of a qualified testing laboratory.
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including people.
  • Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection.
  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface.
  • Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over.
  • Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic. Never block an exit.
  • Keep children away from the space heater.
  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord.
  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed.

The NFPA also recommends keeping a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around space heaters and open fires, testing smoke alarms at least once a month and never using your oven to heat your home.