With a sudden nippy chill in the air and the sun sinking faster, we all know what we’re in store for – brrr! – another long winter.
That nip in the air, however, is nature’s way of reminding us to get prepared. Any long-time Minnesotan knows – or ought to know – fall is the best time to get ready for the long, cold season. Once the bitter cold sets in, it becomes much harder to make preparations and to fix things. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure.
Perhaps the most important winter-readiness procedure is to make sure to get a complete all-systems check and tune-up for vehicles. There aren’t many things worse than getting stuck in the middle of nowhere during arctic weather with a broken-down car. Preventive maintenance for vehicles is essential for a safe, hassle-free winter.
Another vehicle-related form of preparedness is to make (or re-stock) a car-emergency kit. A plastic tote or coffee can should be filled with such items as a flare, matches, candles, quarters for phone calls and a bright-red thin banner to attach to a car antenna. Several heavy-duty blankets should be packed in the trunk to stay warm with until help arrives.
Other preventive maintenance involves the home:
Now is a good time to check the roof for any leaks, which can wreak havoc just when snow and ice prevent fixing them. Unrepaired leaks can seriously damage ceilings and walls come spring.
Make sure all water pipes in the home are warm enough or insulated to prevent freeze-ups that can cause pipes to burst and a big expensive headache of a mess. That is especially true of mobile-home residents. They should double-check heating tape around pipes is working and the undersides of their homes are either insulated or the trailer skirting is intact.
Heating systems, such as stoves and furnaces, should be double-checked to be sure they are in working order and free of hazards. Chimneys can be especially hazardous if they have creosote build-ups inside them.
Be sure to check all smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors. Even if the battery detectors aren’t bleeping their warnings, it’s best to buy all new batteries to be sure they will last through the winter. Fires and monoxide-poisoning cases tend to increase in the winter months, and so – of course – it’s crucially important to be prepared.
And speaking of fire, all families should plan and rehearse a fire drill this time of year, making sure everyone understands in case of a fire, they should evacuate the house immediately and go to a place in the yard or at a neighbor’s where all can meet and be accounted for.
Finally, for comfort as well as savings, be sure all windows and doors in a house or apartment are checked for air leaks. Even the smallest air leak can add a hefty amount to heating costs. Inspect all places in a residence where cold air can get in or warm air can get out, and then use weather stripping or caulking to seal them.
To many people, winter is a long, cold, miserable season. Diligently completing the preventive measures listed above can make it much, much less miserable.