After the record-breaking heat many of us experienced the past few months, millions of Americans are relieved fall is finally here.
And while cooler temperatures are more comfortable and fall colors are beautiful, we can’t escape the thought that winter is just around the corner.
The best time to prepare for our coldest season of the year is now. Otherwise, it will sneak up on us. And that means getting our homes, vehicles, and pets ready to face winter.
Today I want to delve briefly into each of those areas. I’ll provide you with lists of activities you can carry out over the next couple of months so you’re prepared for what Old Man Winter might throw at us.
Let’s start with our homes. That’s where we’ll spend the majority of our time once winter sets in. It’s crucial to make sure you’ll be fed, safe, and warm if you have to hunker down for a while due to the weather.
Food – Stockpile as much non-perishable food as possible. Winter storms can knock out power, making it difficult to keep perishable food cold. And they can block roads, making it challenging for food delivery services to get through. Not to mention affecting your grocery store trips.
Water – The general rule of thumb is to store one gallon of water per person per day for drinking. As well as another half-gallon for cleaning, bathing, etc. But we don’t know how long water quality will be affected by extreme weather, so you also need a way to filter tap water.
Pipes – As we saw with Winter Storm Uri in Texas, water pipes can freeze when temperatures are frigid. Look around your home for exposed pipes, especially in the attic and crawl space, and insulate them. When temps are nearing the freezing mark, allow a slow drip from all faucets.
Generator – A back-up power source such as a generator will enable you to keep some lights on, your refrigerator working, and a portable heater functioning. Solar-powered generators are safer and quieter than gas generators, and can be used indoors.
Miscellaneous – Keep a number of miscellaneous items handy in case you’re stuck at home when a crisis hits. Including an emergency weather radio, flashlights, small power banks, and extra blankets, coats, and other clothes.
Even before winter officially begins, inclement weather including snowstorms, freezing rain, and high winds can strike at any time. If you have a properly maintained automobile, your odds of getting stranded somewhere outside your home will be reduced.
- Have your battery checked by a trained mechanic. Make sure it’s in top condition to handle winter. Engines need more current from the battery in cold temperatures.
- Make sure your tires have enough tread to handle slippery roads. Nearly bald tires may get your vehicle from here to there in dry conditions. But they’re a death trap on snow-covered roads.
- Check your tires’ air pressure. Cold weather can cause air pressure to drop. For safe traction, you want properly inflated tires.
- Ensure that your anti-freeze mixture is about 50 percent anti-freeze and 50 percent water, or 60/40 in colder climates. That way, the radiator coolant won’t freeze.
- Cold weather reduces your oil’s effectiveness, so make sure your vehicle is current on oil changes. A properly lubricated engine will run best. Use a thinner oil in winter. While you’re at it, check all other fluid levels.
- Change your wiper blades and fill your wiper fluid compartment. Being able to clear rain and snow off your windshield is crucial. Salt on the road gives you better traction by melting ice, but it can smear a windshield.
- Make sure your defrosters in front and back are working properly. When a windshield fogs up, driving becomes dangerous. Check the car’s heater while you’re at it.
- Lubricate window tracks. Freezing rain can seep into window tracks and negatively affect window regulator cables. Use spray silicone or dry Teflon spray lubricant in those tracks. Do the same with door locks.
- Get a tune-up. A mechanic can check your belts and hoses, ignition, brakes, wiring, spark plugs, and your fuel and emission filters.
- Keep your gas tank as full as possible throughout winter. You never know when you might be stuck on a road for several hours and you’ll want to keep the heat running.
- Build or purchase an emergency car kit. It should include extra hats, coats, gloves, and blankets. As well as a shovel, windshield scraper and brush, battery-powered radio, flashlight, escape tool on the driver’s side of the car, and flares. Plus nonperishable food, water, first-aid kit, jumper cables, tool kit, and cellphone charger. And salt to melt ice and cat litter for traction. Not to mention canned compressed air with sealant for emergency tire repair. And a power bank.
Some folks forget to include pets in their winter preparations, but that’s a mistake. Make sure you’re ready to take care of them as well.
Prepare a bug-out bag for your pets. This bag should contain the types of things an animal will need to survive and stay occupied in a crisis. It should include:
- A large bag of the food they normally eat. The way to keep this food from becoming stale is to rotate new bags in an out of the bug-out bag each time you buy one. Better yet for dogs, acquire long-lasting survival food and be done with it.
- Chew toys. Depending on how long the emergency lasts, you will want to keep your animals occupied. For dogs, this would include treats they can swallow and ones that they will only chew on.
- Any medications your animals need. Ask your vet if you can stay at least one month ahead on their prescriptions. For items protecting against heartworm and against fleas and ticks, you should be able to stay six months to a year ahead.
- Extra collars, leashes, harnesses, and carrying cages. You never know when you might have to transport your pets on several occasions during a crisis, so make sure those carriers are sturdy and secure.
- Papers proving your pets are current with their shots. In an emergency, you might not be able to acquire that information from your vet quickly. But you may have to prove to someone at a different animal clinic or a pet-friendly hotel that their vaccinations are up to date.
- Have current ID tags attached to your animals’ collars, including one or more of your cellphone numbers. Add photos of your pets to their bag for potential re-identification purposes.
- Make a list of local pet-friendly hotels with phone numbers and keep it in their bug-out bag.
Taking care of your home, vehicle, and pet needs BEFORE winter arrives will provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re ready.