December 16, 2015
Is winter going to underwhelm or over-deliver this year? It’s still hard to say, although some parts of the country have already seen a few bountiful snow storms. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to get prepared for bad weather. Getting stuck in a few feet of snow away from your home is a real possibility in the mid-Atlantic region, including Maryland. So today we’ll talk about what you should have in your car in case a blizzard catches you on the road. Pre-assembled emergency kits are available for purchase these days, but they are often incomplete, overpriced or have lower quality items than you’d like. Here is a great opportunity to make your own winter emergency car kit tailored to your needs.
Bag or Backpack
First of all, let’s figure out where you are going to store all these emergency supplies. Leaving them scattered around your trunk is a bad idea. You could put them all in a box, but then if you had to leave the car and look for help, carrying a box may be burdensome. Get a bag you could easily carry by handles or on your back.
A nice, thick blanket made with natural materials, such as wool, can help you keep warm when the blizzard catches you off guard. As you may know, a blanket doesn’t really warm you, but it helps keep your body heat from escaping. If you are already freezing, a blanket won’t be of much help. However, there are also electric blankets available that work on batteries and can produce heat. If you get one of those, be sure to check the batteries frequently to make sure your blanket still works as designed.
If you could only have one thing in your car emergency kit, it should probably be duct tape. It’s extremely strong and versatile, especially in survival situations. For example, duct tape can be used to cover a wound or immobilize an injured joint, to reseal food packages or repair tears in your clothing.
When you are caught in the middle of a blizzard, there are several health risks you should worry about: hypothermia, frostbite (especially on fingers, toes and face) and sprains/bone breaks if you slip on the ice. For hypothermia and frostbite the best treatment is to warm the person up and keep them warm, so make sure you have chemical heat packs that can be stuffed between clothing layers to generate heat. For sprains and skin injuries stock up with gauze and elastic bandages. Don’t forget to also bring pain killers and scissors or knife to cut the bandages.
In a blizzard scenario it often gets dark very fast. Of course, most of us have flashlights built into our phones these days. However, in an emergency situation, such as being snowed in your car in the middle of nowhere, you may want to use your phone sparingly to keep it alive. Get a separate flashlight and keep it in your emergency kit. LED flashlights are available these days, and they last so long, you don’t even have to worry about the bulb burning out.
There are a variety of solar chargers available these days for anything from your phone, to AA batteries and even your car battery. In fact, there are all-in-one solar chargers that can take care of all of your electronics. This is more of a long-term strategy in case you get snowed in your car for longer than a day and all of your devices get depleted. Keep in mind that it may take up to 12-24 hours for a solar charger to fully charge a device, so use your supplies sparingly even if you have a charger.
Food and Water
You don’t have to have a mini fridge in your car packed with gourmet meals. But you should pack your emergency kit with about 3-5 days of high-calorie food to keep your energy levels up. The food may include things like protein bars, dried fruit, beef jerky, etc. Make sure this food is easy to open, not too salty/sweet and doesn’t spoil too fast, so that you can keep it in your car for years.
When it comes to water, keep a few jugs or packs in your emergency bag. Thankfully, in winter the water is all around you in the form of snow. You can purchase a special device or tablets that can filter out/kill any harmful bacteria in your melted snow to make it suitable for drinking.
Hopefully, you will be dressed for the weather when you leave your home on the day of the blizzard. However, over time your clothes may become wet, especially if you are trying to dig your car out. Having a nice, dry pair of socks, pants, underwear, gloves and a shirt and hat can mean the difference between catching a cold and staying warm and healthy.
Shovel and Kitty Litter
If you go off road and get stuck in the snow, you may need a shovel to dig yourself out. You way need to dig as deep as dirt to get some traction on the tires. You could also use a bag of sand or kitty litter to help with traction, although both can weigh your car down. It may also help to bring a tow strap in case a kind fellow motorist offers to pull you out of the ditch.
In the heavy snow, it may be hard to see other vehicles, and if they are stationary, they can get buried in the snow very quickly. Lighting a flare can help you inform other drivers, as well as the rescue team of your location. If you tend to drive on remote back roads that don’t get much traffic, it may also be useful to purchase a beacon device that can track your location and transmit it to others in case of an emergency.
Don’t Skip the Scheduled Maintenance
Besides having an emergency car kit, one of the best things you could do to ensure your safety on winter roads is to keep your gas tank topped up and never skip auto maintenance. Replacing your brake pads in time or putting on a new set of tires can save your life in extreme weather. At Hillmuth, our goal is to make auto maintenance both convenient and affordable for you, which is why we have four fully staffed auto repair shops in Maryland. Give us a call today if you think it’s time to tune up your car before the first snow!