This is the third year that I’ve seen the same news report about being prepared for winter with a car emergency kit. During this report they go all out – thinking of every product you could possibly need during a car emergency situation. Wonderful, right? Then……they store it all in the trunk.
This drives me crazy. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be if you were trapped in your car with your emergency kit unreachable in your trunk? Or what if the trunk lid was damaged and jammed or frozen shut? Being prepared for the worst is what emergency management is all about.
When planning for emergencies, at home and in the car, you need to plan for the worst case scenario, as it applies to you.
If you only travel on well-populated city roads, a first-aid kit and a cell phone may be all you need. However, if you often travel on isolated country roads or highways with houses few and far between, that’s different. You will need a well-equipped car emergency kit which must be inside the car and accessible at all times. If you’re driving by yourself, it’s a really good idea to treat your car emergency kit as a passenger and buckle it into the front passenger seat.
If you have backseat passengers, depending on the age, you could hang the bag from the back of the passenger front seat. Just make sure that it won’t come loose in an accident and fly around the vehicle which could seriously hurt someone. The important thing is to make sure that the emergency kit can be reached by someone when needed.
You don’t need to buy a kit – it’s easy enough to make your own and much less expensive.
The car emergency kit should include:
- Road maps – to identify location when calling for help
- Wind-up flashlight, battery powered radio, extra batteries
- Extra clothing and shoes/boots – wet clothes can be deadly
- Candle(s) in deep can and matches – tea lights work great. Large coffee can is ideal since it comes with lid. This also makes it great to store other stuff, like a seatbelt cutter (or see the neat tool below). Use the candle in the can to keep warm, don’t use the car heater to avoid possible carbon monoxide poisoning
- Basic First-Aid Kit
- Blanket or Sleeping bag
- Water in plastic bottles strong enough not to break if the water freezes
- Food that won’t spoil – energy bars, dried fruit, granola bars, peanut butter and crackers (replace every few months)
- Snowscraper/brush to keep inside windows clear
- Whistle and flares to attract attention – neon ‘call police’ sign to hang out of window
- Paper Towel/ Wet Wipes/Kitchen Garbage Bags
- Small Fire extinguisher
- Flashlight that doubles as warning light or road flares.
Below is a nifty tool that I think would be great to include in the kit.
Not everyone will need all of the items listed. Each situation is different. Consider what you would need if you were trapped in your car for 24 hours. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. Last year we had this situation occur a number of times in our area. Just recently we’ve seen what could happen in Buffalo, NY. I’m sure those people didn’t think it would happen to them.
Pack all the items in one or two large backpacks – ones without zippers. In an emergency your hands will shake making it near to impossible to open a zipper (that’s experience talking). If the bag has an outside pocket where you can place your cell phone, so much the better.
There are items that should be placed in the trunk and these include:
- Large bags of non-clumping kitty litter
- A shovel
- Windshield washer fluid
- Tow rope
- Jumper cables
- Fire extinguisher and flashlight that doubles as warning light or road flares (know how to use all of these efficiently before the need arises).
Some other tips:
- During the winter, dress warmly, wear a hat, scarf and warm boots. Always keep the gas tank topped up and cell phone charged. Tuck an extra pair or two of warm socks in the kit – cold feet magnify any problem.
- Call 911 – provide location, problem, any injuries. Follow their instructions. Do not hang up until you know what will be happening.
- During a blizzard or heavy snowstorm, your car is the safest place to be. Snow is very disorienting and people readily get lost, even in areas they know well.
- Make sure you keep at least one set of clothes dry or the consequences can be serious.
- When it’s dark, turn on the dome light. Emergency crews can spot such a light from miles away.
- If you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, don’t try to shovel your way out. Intense cold increases the strain on the body – that along with the shoveling can lead to a heart attack.
- Every once in a while open the window on the sheltered side a wee bit to let fresh air in.
- Unless you are sure your exhaust pipe isn’t plugged by snow, do not turn the car on for heat or light.
- Set up flares if possible.
This may seem a bit extreme, but you know the saying “Better Safe Than Sorry”. Most times we get through winter without a problem, but an emergency can happen. If it does, you’ll be really thankful for that well-prepared – and accessible – car emergency kit.
Talk to you again next week,