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FARMINGTON — Emergency responders are warning the public to prepare for the winter by creating survival kits and planning with family members for disasters.

"Disasters can happen anytime throughout the year," said Karen Takai, spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. She said a wildfire burned in the Sandia Mountains earlier this month.

But winter has its own dangers, and people can take steps to prepare for them, she said.

Building survival kits with warm clothing, food and first aid supplies is one of those steps. Takai encouraged people to keep a kit in their vehicle and home.

At kit for a car might include sand or rock salt, in case drivers need traction to drive out of a snow bank, and a shovel and flagging, if they can't drive out. It could also contain nonperishable food, water, a radio and flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit with personal medication and warm clothing or a sleeping bag. Takai suggests people pack enough to keep themselves warm for 72 hours.

She also said people should check that their vehicles are winterized. Does it need antifreeze? Will the battery die in the cold? Are the car's tires bald?

In the home, people also ought to make sure they'll be warm through the cold months, said Sandra Darling, an American Red Cross disaster program specialist based in Albuquerque. They can do that by adding insulation or window coverings.

She cautioned people who use space heaters or fireplaces to check the batteries in their smoke detectors.

"At this time of year, we tend to respond to more fires," she said.

She said people should also make emergency communication plans with their families. In case of a disaster, for example, they should decide who they will all contact.

Takai said preparing for the cold can save lives.

"Just be prepared," she said. "Know how to stay warm."

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.

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