Winter is coming: Here are five tips to help your family prepare

(BPT) – Falling leaves and temperatures are signaling that winter is on the horizon. Your family beams at the thought of making snowmen, sledding and putting up festive décor. But getting ready for the season is about more than snowball fights and holiday traditions. Because more car accidents as well as slips and falls happen once the snow hits, preparation should also focus on safety.

While Wisconsin’s snowy and icy winter conditions might be ideal for building a snowman in your front yard, they aren’t ideal for your family’s safety. From drifting and piled-high snow to freezing temperatures that can hit 30 below, the season can change rapidly.

Here are five tips to help your family prepare for winter.

Evaluate your vehicle

In treacherous driving conditions, you never want to be surprised because you failed to keep up with routine car maintenance. Before the winter season starts, check your car’s battery, replenish fluids such as oil and antifreeze and inspect your tire tread with a tire depth gauge from your local auto parts store. Ensure that your visibility is good by making sure all lights work properly.

Storms can hit unexpectedly, so it’s always a good idea to pack an emergency kit in your trunk according to Peter Bilgo, owner of Riverside Automotive in Wisconsin. He notes that must-have items include water, nonperishable food, warm clothes and gloves, jumper cables, road flares, emergency lighting, an extendable shovel and a first aid kit.

Adjust driving habits

Because winter weather can shift rapidly, it’s important that you change your habits to adapt to winter road conditions. Allow your vehicle to warm up for at least five minutes (but never in an enclosed space), check your route before leaving and reduce your speed to ensure proper visibility and a safe drive. Have a conversation with family members to review safe winter driving expectations.

Winterize your home

Cold temperatures and ice can also cause significant damage to your home. Inspect your doors and windows for potential seal leaks and ensure proper insulation to avoid costly claims. Make sure all cracks are properly sealed, have your furnace serviced and chimney cleaned. Clear gutters of leaves and debris to prevent ice dams and remove ice and snow buildup on your roof to avoid structural damage or collapse.

Preventing frozen pipes is also crucial. Disconnect and drain outside water, including garden hoses, air conditioner pipes, sprinklers and lawn irrigation systems. If you’re traveling over the winter, turn off your water so your pipes won’t freeze when you’re away.

To save energy, you may need to adjust your thermostat settings and make sure it is never set below 55 degrees.

Gear up

Now is a great time to evaluate what winter gear your family might need to stay comfortable and safe. Stock up on warm apparel like coats, gloves, hats and protective layers — don’t wait until December to learn that something doesn’t fit anymore.

Plan for the unexpected

You never know when an emergency can strike. Educate your family about what to do in emergency situations. At home, always have flashlights, nonperishable food, water, replacement batteries and necessary medications ready. You may also want a standby generator in case of a power outage.

You can’t prepare if you don’t know what you don’t know. Regardless of how long you’ve lived in Wisconsin and what you might know about winter preparation, enter Rural Mutual Insurance Company’s Own Winter Sweepstakes to test your knowledge while learning about how to prepare to Own Winter. Visit


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