If you live in a state where winter arrives with blustery winds, freezing temperatures, and inches-upon-inches of snow, your car should always contain a winter survival kit. The best way to stay safe during a winter driving emergency is to be prepared ahead of time and follow sensible safety tips.
Assemble A Winter Survival Kit For Your Car
A winter survival kit can save your life and the lives of passengers in your car in the event you get stranded during a snow or ice storm. A covered plastic tub can serve as an excellent container for all the small items you should include. Your survival kit should include the following:
- 2 LED flashlights with extra batteries (1 for each passenger when taking a trip)
- Cell phone adapter for charging or battery operated cell phone charger
- First aid kit (scissors and pen knife)
- Air-activated hand warmers (last for up to 10 hours and can be placed inside a jacket for body warmth)
- Military grade chemical light sticks (last up to 12 hours – can be spotted by rescue vehicles)
- Small candles and matches or cigarette lighters
- Battery-powered radio
- Fluorescent distress flag
- Loud whistle
- Non-prescription medications in adult and children’s strengths (Aspirin, painkillers, cough lozenges, cough syrup, and antibiotic ointment)
- Prescription medications
- Dried fruit (raisins, berries, peaches)
- Individual sized containers of peanut butter and applesauce
- Small packs of almonds, peanuts, and cashews
- Crackers, granola bars, mini candy bars, and trail mix
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Other food items that can be eaten cold
- Paper cups, towels, napkins, and small plates
- Plastic cutlery
- Wet wipes
Larger Emergency Items
- Tow chain
- Ice scraper
- Small broom
- Hats, mittens, scarves, blankets
- Sleeping bag
- Emergency flares
- Battery booster cables
- Sand or cat litter (plastic containers for scooping)
- Salt (two boxes of road salt or coarse table salt)
You may already keep some of these items in your car for year-round use. Make sure everything is in good working order, and replace anything that isn’t.
When Stranded In A Snow Storm
If you are stranded during a whiteout, ice storm, or northeastern, the first thing to do is call 911. Provide the operator with as much information as possible. Give him or her your approximate location, your car’s make, model, and color, and the license plate number. Provide information on others with you, including how many, their names, and their condition if there has been an accident. Write down the time of the call and the name of the person you speak with. Follow the instructions you are given. Don’t stay on the line, as you need to use as little of your battery as possible. If you have prepared your car ahead of time as outlined above, you should be safe in your vehicle until help arrives. Follow these steps:
- Tie a fluorescent flag to your antenna to draw attention to your location.
- At night, break a glow stick and set it on the dash. Rescuers can spot a light glow from a distance.
- Use your emergency flashers only if you hear an emergency vehicle coming.
- Don’t run your engine to warm up the car until you have cleaned out your exhaust pipe. Snow or ice can clog the pipe and send deadly exhaust fumes into the car. Never run it for more than 10 minutes once an hour, and keep the driver’s window open a crack.
- Don’t risk an injury or heart attack trying to push your car. Overexertion can be dangerous at any age under severe weather conditions. Exertion causes the person to sweat, and the resulting wet clothing can contribute to hypothermia.
- It may be several hours or a couple of days until you are rescued, making it very important to have your car properly prepared for such an emergency.
- Being prepared doesn’t mean you will be nice and comfortable. It means you will have water, food, light at night, and other tools to keep you safe from the dangers of being stranded until help arrives.
Don’t leave your car, unless absolutely necessary (a rarity). Getting lost or disoriented is very likely. If you do leave, place your name, cell phone number, and where you are heading on a piece of paper displayed prominently in the front windshield. Be sure to take water, snacks, flashlight, matches, and a cell phone with you.