While summer is the season of wildfire, which brings the specter of evacuations, winter is actually the season most likely to test our preparedness. Storms knock out power, a deep freeze strands us in our homes, a rain-on-snow event brings flooding that cuts roads and highways...

Or bad weather can leave you stranded in your car while traveling.

Fall is the season to make sure you are well prepared.

Sisters Country: Prepared & Ready (SCPAR) is a local grassroots organization that educates folks in Sisters Country about preparedness.

"Emergency preparedness is not just a personal statement, it really is a commitment to your family and your community," says SCPAR co-founder Jack McGowan.  "The more each of us can make a plan, build a kit and be prepared before a major emergency, the better our emergency responders will be able to help all of us when that day comes."

It's a good idea to have an alternative heat source if your primary source of heat is an electric furnace. No power/no heat is not a good situation when Sisters Country plunges into an Arctic freeze. A small wood stove is a pleasant addition, and it never goes out with the power.

Likewise, a means of cooking food without electrical power is a must. A good camping stove can heat your breakfast when you wake up with no power (don't use indoors; cook in a sheltered semi-outdoor setting).

There's nothing more reassuring than having a back-up generator ready to go. McGowan recommends the following: "8,700 watt peak, 7,000 watt continuous generator backup for electrical needs with transfer switch on the house panel for selected appliances (refrigerator, freezer, TV, computer, lights, well pump, etc.). Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Generator. Go to goalzero.com for very useful information."

Lay in plenty of emergency food. Three-days worth is really a standard minimum; preparing for a couple of weeks is better. Make sure you include pet food for your animal companions.

Never travel without an emergency kit, especially in winter. A small emergency snow shovel can get you out of many a jam.

McGowan and his wife, Jan, carry extensive kits in their cars, which can double as a shelter-in-place kit for the home.

The kits include:

• Three bottles of water

• 8 high-energy bars 

• 3 packages of freeze-dried food

"Steripen" filtration water containers. (These will be used when unfiltered water is poured into the then-empty bottles listed above). These are the best on the market. Go to www.steripen.com.

• Knife, fork, spoon, can-opener camping kit

• Small (backpacker) collapsible stove and fuel

• Waterproof matches or lighter and fire-starter kit

• Mylar blanket

• Waterproof poncho

• Flashlight(s) and extra batteries

• "Leatherman" type multi-tool

• Compact "Solar and Crank" radio (Eton/Red Cross Model ETO ARCFR160WXR) available online from www.jr.com. Use the model number to order your units. They're $30 each and worth it!

• Complete first-aid kit

• PPK (personal potty kit) containing: vinyl gloves, hand sanitizer, T/P, sanitary wipes

• Air-activated hand, foot and back warmers

• Toothpaste and brushes

• Work gloves

• Spare eyeglasses, and/or contacts and appropriate solutions

• Whistle

• Dust mask

• Hat

• Reflective vest

• Walkie talkie

Preparing now means you're ready for the worst Old Man Winter has to offer. It's not a doomsday reality TV show; just common sense.

"This concept is not 'chicken little, the sky is falling,' or being viewed as a 'prepper'," McGowan said. "It's just a realistic view that the infrastructure we all rely upon is fragile and will be impacted in the event of a major snowstorm (or) shutdown of Santiam Pass."