By Tony Buthman

Greetings from Washington County Emergency Management. It is my hope that through a series of articles in the local media, I can help citizens of Washington County be prepared for events that we encounter.
As we all know our winter months are fast approaching, we’ve seen small amounts of snow already. It is time to prepare. Everyone hopes there is not a repeat of last year’s record snowfall. With that being said shouldn’t we be prepared? I will try and go through a variety of topics that should help us cope with the season.
Winter driving is one of the most costly and frequent events we face. Here are some tips to help you get through the winter safer and hopefully happier. How should we approach winter driving? Driving appropriately for the conditions. How good are my tires? Do I have enough fuel? Is there plenty for room for me to stop? Is this trip really necessary? Is the weather going to get worse before I get home? There are so many questions to ask, there are also many more to answer. Think ahead!!!
Driving appropriately for the conditions. Leave a little earlier, being in a hurry can many times cost you more time, sliding off the road or even worse being in an accident. Leave plenty of distance between you and the vehicle you’re following. Watch for obstacles, such as pedestrians, livestock, wildlife, pets and objects in the road, (IE. Snow berms, black ice and chunks of snow that have fallen off other vehicles to name a few). You get the Idea.
How good are your tires? With Idaho weather it always pays to have good tires that are suited for the conditions you will encounter. It is a good idea to have chains as a backup and know how to put them on, in the event you HAVE TO travel. One other point I would like to make here is that we forget that with 4 wheel drive a lot of times we can go, however it does nothing for our stopping ability. 
Do I have enough fuel? This one needs little explanation. There is an old adage. It’s just as easy to keep the top half of the fuel tank full as the bottom half. If in the unforeseen event you should slide off of the road it is nice to keep the vehicle running for warmth. However always remember to make sure the exhaust pipe is not plugged, there is a carbon monoxide risk. Also when traveling even if it is short trips, dress appropriately, hat, gloves, warm waterproof shoes and a warm coat. 
Is this trip really necessary? The more time we spend on the road the higher the chances something might happen. It is the law of averages, even if we are doing everything right that doesn’t mean everyone is.
Check weather forecasts, if they are calling for bad weather take heed and weigh your options. Make decisions on information. 
Items you might want to carry in your vehicle (Chain or tow strap and know the appropriate places to hook them, a warm blanket, water, some extra nourishment, a shovel, some kitty litter or other product to help gain traction, there are many resources available that have very complete lists).
Also when encountering snow removal equipment, they are usually large machines working under treacherous conditions, they need room to work and clear pathways to do their jobs. Move your items off of roads and streets if at all possible. The workers a lot of times work long hours in stressful conditions don’t make their jobs more difficult and dangerous. They are doing this for you!!!
Now that we can get around safely it’s time to look at what we should do around home. Many of the topics I will discuss are things we already know but sometimes need to be reminded of. 
Around the house have we closed all of the appropriate vents to keep heat from escaping? Do we have all of our pipes protected against freezing? Have our heat sources been serviced? Have we marked obstacles that can be damaged by snow removal or snow and ice sliding from our roofs? Have our walkways and paths been made ready for the winter months so they can be cleared easily?   Do we have the winter supplies on hand rather than going out on treacherous roads only to find out they are sold out? Do we have enough food and water on hand to get us through a bad storm for a few days (FEMA recommends 72 hours’ worth of food and water per person in the household, however some of our neighboring states and some other organizations believe 1 weeks’ worth might be a better idea). 
Some items you might consider before bad weather hits.
Do you have alternate heat sources and are they safe to use, don’t take this for granted. Warm blankets are a very good idea to have on hand and easily accessible. (Extended power outages are an ever present threat to us).
Have your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors been tested recently?
Do you have shovels to clear snow with? 
Do you have Ice melt?
Have you made arrangements with family and neighbors to check on you periodically? (If you have no one locally many churches and other organizations public and private will do this).
If you are in need of other items to be done such as snow plowing, sidewalk shoveling, roof clearing and other things associated with winter time, it is best to secure these services prior to the winter, know what the cost will be ahead of time along with the expectations of the services offered. No one likes to be caught off guard.   
After last year’s record snowfall, it would be in everyone’s best interest to keep close tabs on your structures. There is a very likely possibility that what held up last year may have been weakened. If your structures were not inspected, now might be a good time to have them done. If the inspections are not an option due to financial restrictions or other reasons, maybe when making arrangements to have roofs cleared they should be done in a timelier manner. The following  needs to be considered, the amount of snow and ice and the moisture content of said snow and ice, the frequency of approaching storms. So as an example if you feel there may have been some weakness, you might consider clearing at ¾‘s the amount that you would have cleared in the past. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
It is my hopes that tips and warnings like this will help keep our citizen’s safe and be able to prosper. On a closing note always remember, Help is on the way but you need to be able to take care of yourself and the one’s around you till help gets there.