Cold weather, it appears, is finally upon us. It might not even get above the freezing mark on Thanksgiving Day, and the snow and ice will inevitably come our way soon enough.

Cold weather, it appears, is finally upon us. It might not even get above the freezing mark on Thanksgiving Day, and the snow and ice will inevitably come our way soon enough.

It’s a good time to recall that each season in Missouri brings hazards of its own but that simple steps can prevent a good deal of trouble. The National Weather Service, American Red Cross and others offer these suggestions:

Let’s start with the car, especially if headed out for a drive of any distance for the holidays. Put these in the trunk: ice scraper and shovel, jumper cables, a flashlight or two, sand or kitty litter for traction, a blanket or two, a first-aid kit, matches and candles, a tow rope or chain, and even some non-perishible food. Also make sure the auto itself is ready for winter. Check the battery, anti-freeze, lights, wipers, washer fluid and tires – and make sure the heater and defroster are in working order.

Remember that winter driving brings its own set of rules. Watch the weather and plan long trips carefully. Allow more time. Tell someone your route, destination and schedule. Take at least one person with you. Remember that sleet, snow, freezing rain and/or fog sometimes force a thoughtful reconsideration of plans. Put more distance between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. Remember, if you get stranded, stay with your vehicle. Walking away for help, especially in a blizzard, can have very bad consequences.

Winter brings too many fires. Keep chimneys, fireplaces and flues clean. Don’t use liquid fuel or cardboard to start a fire in a woodstove or fireplace. Be careful with electric space heaters. Make sure they’re in good working order – without frayed cords – and don’t use extension cords. If the power goes out, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns, not candles or oil lamps.

Beware the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t use space heaters powered by propane, kerosene or heating in an enclosed room; those can only be used in well ventilated places. The same goes for an attached garage. Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, lightheadedness, dizziness and unexplained sleepiness. Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless, so it’s important that CO detectors – as well as smoke detectors – be working and be tested every month. If carbon monoxide builds up in the body, it can cause serious, immediate health problems – even death.