CORNING, N.Y. (WENY) -- While it may be hard to believe, Halloween decorations are already hitting store shelves and pumpkin spice lattes are now available coffee shops; ready or not, the fall and winter season are on our doorstep. 

Looking ahead to next week, September is National Preparedness Month, and while it may seem like a ways away, the winter season is approaching. Red Cross officials say there are small steps homeowners can take now to best prepare.

"This is a great opportunity for folks to prepare for the heating season and when we talk about the heating season for us it means that preparing your home for potential fires is key," says Brian McConnell, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Chapter of the American Red Cross. 

During the end of summer and into the fall months, the Red Cross recommends checking on your heating system, including furnaces and chimneys. Another thing, maybe not so common, to check.

"It's a nice time of year to also check your dryer vent. There may be some other individuals that have decided to move into that vent and enough lint in there it could cause a fire so you'll want to check that as well," McConnell explains. 

And while the weather is still temperate,  well before the snow hits the ground, it's a good chance to practice an emergency plan.

"Have a disaster kit, maybe even a shovel and a change of clothes in the car, it might be winter gear, in particular. And if you are home and we run into a stretch, 3 or 4 days, without power, how will you stay warm in the home?" McConnell says to consider. 

Being prepared ahead of time helps the Red Cross also better assist the entire community.

"For us, we really want to see communities and individual families empowered and be ready to be resilient against types of disasters, whether that's a fire or a power outage," adds McConnell. 

For additional tips and other resources from the Red Cross, click here: