This is the time to prepare for winter if you live in one of our colder states. Waiting until the last minute to prepare for the cold or an outage most often results in spending extra money or putting money out for repairs.
If you drive, this is the time to check your tires to ensure you have good tread and proper air pressure. You will also want to check your wiper blades and change if necessary. Many auto part stores will change them for you free if you buy your wipers from them. Add a gallon of wiper fluid to your truck emergency kit, as you will be using more during the winter. If your battery is getting sluggish, replace it now before the cold weather sets in.
Clean off your battery terminals if needed with a solution of baking soda, water and a stiff brush (an old toothbrush works great). Check the antifreeze in your radiator to make sure it is at the proper level. If you use chains, put them in the trunk now.
Allow plenty of time for your car to warm up and clear your windows. Do not pour hot water on a cold window to clear it of ice and snow. It can crack your window.
In your trunk, you should have a winter emergency kit. Your kit should contain the following:
jumper cables, flashlight and batteries, 1 to 2 blankets, extra hat, gloves and a pair of warm socks, 2 bread sacks or plastic shopping bags (or boots), box of granola breakfast bars, orange flare or safety triangle, candle and matches, first aid kit, ice scraper, sandbag or kitty litter, quarters (for a payphone).
This can all be contained nice and neat in a small suitcase, backpack or rubber type toolbox.
If you live in a very cold climate or a rural area you may want to add more blankets and include hats, gloves and socks for all family members. The dry socks come in nice if you have had to try and push a vehicle out of the snow. The plastic bags can be worn over your feet to help keep them dry. Socks can also double to help keep your hands warm as well. Many dollar stores sell gloves and hats for $1 each, so stock up.
You may also want to be sure to keep a couple doses of any necessary medications in your purse or glove box. Also keep either last years phone book, or a page of family, friends and tow service phone numbers in your glove box as well.
Normally as the demand for items increase, so does the price. So now is the time to buy plastic film for the windows, ice melt, sand, and propane. (Actually, the best time to buy these items was in the spring as retailers were clearing their shelves for summer stock).
If you have any north facing windows, you will want to start adding your storm windows and removing the screens. Don't wait until the temperature drops, as you will be letting cold air into the house while you make the switch. This is also a time to switch out your lighter curtains for insulated ones on windows that face the wind. If your switch plates insulation pads have not been insulated, this is the time to do that as well.
Stock up on items you will need in the event of a power failure. Most homes already have blankets, but you may need to add to your collection of candles (dollar stores are a great source for candles also), matches, soups, tea bags and hot cocoa mix, manual can opener, battery operated radio and flashlight as well as extra batteries. Better yet, get one of the newer wind up radios and light.
A person can also invest in a solar powered charger for their cell phone if they were so inclined. Keep an extra 2 weeks worth of medications for diabetics and heart patients. We also keep several oil lamps and kerosene lamps as well. If your water source is a well with an electric pump, keep several gallons of water on hand.
If you have an infant in the house, you may also need to consider keeping extra diapers and formula on hand as well.
If you are a camper, you may want to consider keeping your propane camping stove in the garage or basement to keep up your meals. Be sure to use it in a safe manner and in a well ventilated area.
Make sure your snow shovel is ready to go and get a can of cheap cooking spray. If you spray your shovel as you use it, wet snows doesn't stick to it as much.
Go to the used bookstore and get several books to read for entertainment while the power is out. Board games are also nice for families during an outage.
If you have a wood stove or fireplace, then you are most likely aware that the price of firewood goes up during winter. If you haven't already got this winter's wood, get it now. A set containing a couple of cast iron pieces and hot dog sticks is needed for cooking over a fire.
Insulate or shut off any outdoor water faucets. Bring in hoses and plastic patio furniture that can be broken by the cold.
Be sure your gutters are cleaned out from the fall leaves, so that melting snow and ice has a place to drain. You don't want to be on a ladder in the ice to clean out a clog.
You may want to connect up with a snow buddy. That is someone you call or contact daily when the weather is bad, to ensure each other is fine. This is a smart idea for those who live on their own, or clean their own snow or are elderly or disabled.
Change your furnace filters now, and try to keep an extra one on hand as well. Test run your furnace by turning it on and running it for a few minutes. Better to find out now it is in need of repair than waking up cold some morning and finding it won't work!
If you have a generator, make sure it is in working order and has fuel and oil.
Prepare now, and you will find you are a step ahead. Next year, prepare all year long, a little at a time, starting with buying new winter PJ's and blankets in the spring. Stay safe and warm this winter!