Whether it's a car failure or a power outage, the upcoming cold months can create misfortune for those unprepared.
Fort Belvoir Safety Office officials encourage community members to exercise several precautionary measures to ensure a timely and effective response to any hazards this winter season dishes out.
Yes, with forecasted temperatures in the upper 40s this week, the current weather doesn't exactly feel wintery, but Christopher McCormick, Safety Office occupational health and safety specialist, said bad weather can strike at a moment's notice.
"If you fail to plan then you're setting yourself up for failure," McCormick said. "Be prepared to respond effectively."
McCormick recommends homeowners bring in a trained professional to inspect, clean and tune up their home's central heating system. Repair any malfunctions as soon as possible. Residents should also refrain from using an oven as a heating alternative because doing so can potentially create fires and other hazards for children.
Regardless of the outside temperature, McCormick said people should never operate grills and other gasoline-powered equipment in an enclosed garage or other indoor space as this also presents a fire and safety hazard.
Homeowners hosting guest should ensure lights in stairways, hallways, porches and entry areas are in working order and bright enough to allow for safe walking during the evening hours.
"It's also helpful to have non-slip strips or rubber mats in all bathtubs and shower stalls," McCormick said.
Patricia Borel, Safety Office occupational health and safety specialist, also suggests residents stock up on batteries, flashlights, portable radios, canned foods, bottled water and plenty of warm blankets in case of power outages.
Motorist should check car batteries for age and corrosion. A 3-year-old battery should be replaced and battery posts and cables with corrosion should be cleaned with a brush or metal shaver to prevent the vehicle from dying on the road.
Borel suggests that oil be checked to ensure that it doesn't become thick, and plain water should not be used in your windshield washer reservoir because it will freeze.
Lights and brakes should be working properly, fluids should be at their appropriate levels and the wiper blades should be cleaned.
It is also important to check tire pressure which has a tendency to decrease when the temperature drops. Properly inflated tires provide better traction on roads.
People should also check for wear and tear on engine belts and hoses, which could damage a vehicle and cause fluid leaks.
"It is important to listen to forecasts on radio, TV, cable weather channel, or forecasts in the daily papers," Borel said.
According to the Virginia driving manual, motorists should reduce their speed and increase their distance between cars during severe weather, which will provide more reaction time to avoid a crash.
Borel urges drivers to stay very alert for any ice or snow on the roads. She also advises motorists to prepare emergency kits.
Kits should include items such as blankets, an extra set of warm clothes, non-perishable water and food items, an ice scraper, a properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench, tripod-type jack, a flashlight, flares and jumper cables.
"Be prepared with a survival kit that should always remain in the car and replenish after use, Borel said. "Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation."

Page last updated Thu January 17th, 2013 at 17:17