Shoveling snow

Shoveling snow (Steve Ruark, Baltimore Sun Media Group photo / March 25, 2013)

It is plenty hot out, but the Farmers' Almanac is predicting a frigid winter with lots of snow. After several mild winters, I am not ready for this. What should I be gathering to prepare?

The Red Cross and FEMA have some advice for you.

First, make sure you can find your snow shovel! Then get a couple of bags of sand or other EPA-approved material — one for the steps and one for your car — to improve traction.

Also, pack an emergency kit for your car that includes a shovel, windshield scraper and small broom, a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, water, snacks, matches, hats, socks and mittens, first-aid kit, blankets, booster cables, emergency flares and a fluorescent distress flag.

Have your mechanic check antifreeze levels in your car, as well as the brakes, the battery and ignition system, filters, lights and flashing hazard lights and windshield wiper equipment. Make sure there are no leaks or crimped pipes in your exhaust system. Carbon monoxide is deadly and kills without warning. Keep the gas tank full. That prevents moisture from freezing in the fuel line. If you are due for some new tires, now is the time to buy them.

At home, think about adding an extra layer of insulation in the attic. Have the chimney cleaned and have the furnace checked before the cold weather arrives. Order some extra firewood now. Think about covering the windows with storm windows or, on the interior, with plastic. Insulate exposed pipes and turn off water and drain hoses. Make sure the carbon dioxide monitor is working. Reverse the rotation of your ceiling fans to push warm air down. (The blades should be turning clockwise when you look up at them.)

Finally, make sure your family has an emergency communication plan in the event cellphone service is down.

—Baltimore Sun staff