It's hard to think about the grueling winter months while we're enjoying a nice beach day during summer, but we do need to prepare. If this will be your first winter in a new home, you probably don't have all the basic winter tools and supplies on hand. But don't wait for the first flakes to fall. Any number of environmental constraints could occur -- snowstorms, sleet, power outages, etc. -- and you'll want to be prepared.
Here are a few essential items to purchase before the winter weather descends:
--Snow shovel. Keep one inside your front door (or perhaps in the front closet or mudroom).
--De-icer, such as salt or sand, for your walkway and driveway.
--Waterproof floor mats. These prevent slipping after walking in from outside. Plus, they're a great place to leave snow-covered boots.
--Flashlights and/or battery-operated lanterns. Keep one in a few different rooms around the house. Buy an extra pack of batteries replenish to keep for backup. Be sure to replenish the batteries yearly.
--Battery-operated AM/FM radio, weather-alert radio and battery-operated clock.
--Cellphone charger. Purchase an inexpensive, hand-crank charger in case of a power failure.
--Blankets and winter apparel, such as thermal underwear, vests, sweaters, heavy socks, gloves, etc.
--Hand warmers. Hand, feet and body warmers are sold at camping supply stores.
--Food supplies and cutlery. Stock up on a manual can opener, paper plates, plastic flatware, paper towels/napkins and plastic cups.
--Nonperishable foods. Purchase foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking -- canned goods, dry cereals, energy bars, powdered milk, etc.
--Bottled water. Buy at least 1 gallon of water per person per day -- enough for at least four days.
--Pet supplies, including food, water (four days' worth for each animal), pet bed and/or blanket for each pet to snuggle in for warmth, and extra litter and/or wee-wee pads.
--Emergency first aid kit (adhesive bandages, gauze, sterile pads, adhesive tape, elastic bandages, antiseptic pads, scissors, tweezers, oral thermometer, instant cold and hot compresses, aspirin, antibiotic ointments, etc.).
--Prescription medications -- at least four days' worth.
After rounding up all these supplies, do some intel on typical wintertime procedures in your neighborhood. Check with your local town hall or police department for information on overnight parking, what walkways you are responsible for shoveling, how to clear your mailbox for delivery, how to handle trash pickup, etc. If there are nearby fire hydrants, check with the fire department to find out who shovels those out in a heavy snowstorm. It's also a good idea for parents to contact the local school district and ask how they will communicate weather-related school closings and transportation.
As always, safety first. Devise a communication plan for your family, in case a storm comes and not all family members can get home. Make emergency plans with your neighbors, too.
Winterize your home. Even if you don't get much snowfall, it's still a good idea to prepare your home to withstand blustery winds and freezing temperatures.
A few simple fixes will make a big difference. If the weather stripping around your windows and doorframes is cracked (or nonexistent), replacing it will reduce wind draft and save money on heating. Choose the proper stripping for your fixtures -- the most common is adhesive-backed foam. Also, insulate your windows using easy-to-use kits with vinyl shrink wrap, bubble wrap, cellular shades or lined drapes. Don't forget to insulate your attic or basement/crawlspace, too. Lastly, protect your water pipes from freezing and bursting with insulating pipe wrap, available at your local hardware store.
Now check for outdoor home improvements. Head outside your home, and look up. Do you see any missing roof shingles? If snow piles up on the roof, these could become weak spots, and eventually leaks, so get them replaced. Check your sump pump to make sure it's in good working condition and the drainage line is clear. If the drainage line freezes during the winter months, do not keep the pump plugged in without supervision, as it will burn out. Don't forget about your air conditioner, just because you won't be using it; wrap foam around the pipes and cover the unit in plastic to help protect it from the cold.