Winter weather presents unique hazards that make people want to keep close to hearth and home, but the demands of the season also drive some into cold peril, say Fort Knox safety officials.

"Just going to the store or out shopping, and even back and forth to work is more hazardous for drivers and pedestrians," said Joseph Colson, Fort Knox safety director. "It is hazardous to drivers but is an extreme hazard to the person who parks and steps out of the vehicle onto ice that they don't see."

Colson said expecting the unexpected is the key to mitigating some of winter's risks.

"It means when driving during the winter months let's maintain extra stopping distance, anticipating the snow and ice, and remembering that children will be out sledding and playing. Reduce your speed less than what's posted in the housing areas during inclement weather," Colson said. "Keep safety in mind and be careful when crossing the parking lot or sidewalk. Use the handrail when climbing steps. Walk and drive with safety in mind."

Ensuring that the vehicle is ready for winter is another prime means of keeping you and yours safe this winter, Colson said.

He suggests seeing a mechanic for winter service that includes checking tire pressure, tire tread, windshield wipers and all vehicle fluids. Other considerations are equally important, said Colson. For instance, thinking ahead could keep you up and running even if you're stuck or stalled.

"Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze, and make sure that you keep an emergency supply kit in your vehicle. Consider carefully the items you will need for short or long distance trips," said Colson. "For starters, always have jumper cables, a flashlight and reflective gear.

"Don't forget blankets, nonperishable foods and drinking water, should you have a breakdown and have to wait for a mechanic."

In an advisory put out by Burt Thompson, an operations specialist with the Fort Knox Installation Operations Center, he advises potential travelers to check the weather forecast before being waylaid by bad weather.

"Know before you go, and download [a weather app] or visit the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet [link below] to check traffic conditions before you travel," Thompson said. "Pay attention to weather advisories because the weather will impact your commute on some level."

By knowing what to expect and planning accordingly, said Thompson, you improve your chances of safe arrival at your destination.

"Allow more time to travel for routine commutes and drive slowly when snow or ice are on roadways -- no matter what type of vehicle you're in," said Thompson. "[Realize] that it takes more time and distance to stop your vehicle in adverse weather conditions; and break early and slowly when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shaded areas."

"Travel only as necessary during major snow events," he said. "It's better to be stranded at home than on the road."

Staying inside and off the roads may be safer, but Colson said the holidays also present risks to the home.

"It's the holiday season, and Christmas trees and lights are going up. Don't let your fresh cut trees dry out but keep them watered -- they are less likely to burn," said Colson. "Make sure any lights you use outside are labeled and suitable for exterior use, and be sure to plug them into a ground fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle -- and don't forget to turn your Christmas lights out at night."