11/08/2010 -- PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Some areas of the country experience mild winter temperatures (like southern California and Florida), while others such as Colorado and the northern states experience snow and freezing temperatures. If you are in a northern state, or traveling to a northern state, now is the time to make your winter preparations. Please review the following preparation tips:
Prepare a winter storm plan. Keep the following supplies on hand: Lantern/flashlight, batteries, non-perishable food, potable water, a heat source, and a cell phone. Have extra blankets on hand, and ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, a hat, and water-resistant boots. When a storm is predicted, remember to stay tuned for storm warnings by listening to NOAA Weather Radio and your local radio and television stations.
Inspect fireplaces. Have your chimney inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season. Creosote, a chemical substance that forms when wood burns, builds up in chimneys and can cause a chimney fire.
Watch your wood stoves. Follow manufacturers' recommendations for proper use and maintenance. Burn only wood, and be sure the wood stove is placed on an approved stove board to protect the floor from heat and hot coals.
Be cautious with space heaters. Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything combustible, including wallpaper, bedding, clothing, pets, and people. Never leave space heaters operating when you are not in the room or when you go to bed. Don't leave children or pets unattended with space heaters, and be sure everyone knows that drying wet mittens or other clothing over or on space heaters is a fire hazard.
Vehicle safety kits. Vehicle safety kits don't have to be large and bulky. Depending on the area where you live, you can add or omit equipment as needed. Here are some suggested items: Flash light and extra batteries, jumper cables, tire chains, road flares, a can of fix-a-flat, ice scraper, some basic hand tools, spare fuses, a clean towel or rag, a wool blanket (even if it becomes wet, it still keeps you warm), spare gloves or mittens, a can of Sterno, matches, candles, empty soup can, (you can melt snow for water), trail mix, and a first aid kit. Extras include a foldable shovel, compass, signal whistle, Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), a tow rope, an extra jacket, a wool cap, wool socks and chemical hand warmers.
Winter driving. Inspect your vehicle now to identify any potential problems. Check your tires' tread depth (about 4/32 to 6/32nd of an inch minimum for driving on snow), test your vehicles' coolant for correct mixture for the temperatures you can expect in your region. Fill your windshield wiper reservoir with a winter-rated fluid and inspect or replace your windshield wiper blades. Check your heater and windshield defroster, and be sure to always clear all your windows of snow and ice before driving. Give yourself extra time when roads are icy or snow covered, and travel at a reduced speed. Expect drivers around you to make mistakes and give them additional room. Remember, your stopping distance on ice increases from 3 to 11 times as compared to dry pavement.
Stranded? Stay with your vehicle! If you're stuck in snow, dig out behind and underneath your vehicle to allow the car exhaust to dissipate. Keep your windows and lights clear. Start your engine intermittently to keep you warm and prevent the engine from freezing up. Remember you have lights and a horn so save your energy and body heat to signal for help. Don't leave your vehicle unless you are absolutely certain of where help is and that you can make it there.
Take your time, be safe and plan ahead!