15 things to pack in car for emergency

THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY of today’s Seventh Generation newsletter. It is titled “10 things to pack in your car for an emergency” but as fifteen items are listed, so the title is altered for this post to “15 things to pack in car for emergency.” The author is listed with a generic byline “greenwrite.” I am including this here because it is that time of year, winter has come early, and we are stepping through the doors long ago opened to GCC (“global climate change”). So read and follow religiously if you live in an area that has blizzards!

Now, I moved from Pennsylvania to California in June of 1978, so I assume that I missed this blizzard. Although I was in enough that I understand: in my last winter there I was driving from Harrisburg (where my girlfriend lived) back to Wilkes-Barre via Interstate 81. It was late and I was tired and so I pulled over to a roadside rest and took a nap.

I took my chances on the highway and ended up stuck behind an 18-wheeler for eleven hours.

It was October, so I thought that I was safe from cold. Ha! When I woke up, there was six inches of snow on the ground. I took my chances on the highway and ended up stuck behind an 18-wheeler for eleven hours due to a jack-knifed car and U-Haul a mile in front of us. I had many of the items in my car that are listed below (plus a couple of bottles of wine which complimented the joint that the trucker had with him)

But that’s another story. Here is Greenwrite’s list of ten things to pack in your car for an emergency (he/she cheated: there are fifteen items listed). I added some comments in red print to the list and a couple of thing to the end.

Blankets, water, and food

At the risk of dating myself, I will admit to being stranded in the blizzard of ’78. It was a biggie that hit the East Coast and shut things down for the better part of a week. My car just gave up and died in a traffic back up in Providence, RI. The only emergency supply I had on hand was a beach blanket, but it came in handy as I trudged through blinding, snow and wind to the home of some friends. I was lucky that I was stranded in “civilization” with help nearby, but since then, I’ve always kept an emergency survival kit in my car. Here’s what’s in it:

1. Warm Blanket. If you have to wait in cold weather for help, you will want an extra layer to help you stay warm. This is imperative and I am glad it’s listed first.

2. Flashlight. I keep a good-sized, waterproof flashlight with fresh batteries, as well as some spare batteries. I also carry a hand-crank LED flashlight and emergency candles as a back-up (and don’t forget the matches). I rate matchsticks higher than the author here: both as a source of light and when the situation is truly dire, as the makings of a source of heat.

3. Snow shovel. This can take up a little room, but I found a GI-shovel in the Army/Navy store that folds in half and has a metal blade. It comes in handy when you just need to clear a snow from around the wheels. A small shovel of any kind is a must!

4. Hand warmers. Smash the bag and the chemical reaction inside creates heat to defrost fingers that may be trying to change a tire, fiddle with an engine or just stay warm. Great idea.

5. Bottle of water and a few protein or snack bars. I replenish these periodically as they can get a little stale by the end of the season. If by a “bottle” he means a 12-ounce commercial bottle of spring water, I would suggest a case. Protein bars and trail mix will go a long way.

6. Lightsticks. Easily found at the dollar store and useful as a light source or a safety measure if you need to shovel snow from around your wheels at night. Great idea.

7. Flares. Not just for winter. These should be in your trunk in all seasons for putting next to your car if you are pulled over in distress. A must.

8. Whistle. Yelling gets old (and tiring) fast. A whistle can be used to signal for help, or to scare someone who may be trying to take advantage of your situation. I never needed to yell; the few such emergencies I was in were on well-traveled roads and drivers tend to assist one another. Still, go buy a BIG LOUD whistle.

9. First Aid Kit. I stock it with a few extras like lip balm and a few doses of any prescription medicine we need. Duh . . .

10. Extra hats, socks, and mittens. I can’t emphasize enough how staying warm while you wait for help can be lifesaving. And sweaters or pull-overs; you have to keep your chest warmed.

Booze is not a good idea if you are seriously stranded alone in the cold in the middle of nowheresville.

11. Siphon Pump. If being out of gas is your problem, and you get offered help by a good Samaritan, you want to be able to get a gallon or two of gas out of another gas tank to get you going quickly. Hand-cranked pumps can be found easily.

12. Jumper cables. See #11. If your battery is dead and help happens along, these could help get you own your way again. I never leave the house with these. Also, battery recharging units are small and affordable.

13. Road salt, sand, or cat litter for traction. In the ‘70s, my old car always carried several 5-pound bags of crunchy kitty litter. Not only is it good for traction, but placing them above the rear tire well in your trunk can be just the extra force for friction to get you out of a hole.

14. Battery-powered radio. If your car dies, chances are your car radio has or will soon. Having access to news can help you assess your situation. With smart phones this may be redundant.

15. Deck of cards, book, or travel game. Waiting can get tedious, even when you’ve alerted someone and help is one the way. These can help pass the time. There are always three books in the back seat of our car; you never know when you need to help someone else while away the time until rescue arrives.

Getting stranded in your car in the winter is no fun. It can leave you feeling vulnerable and at risk. Having a winter emergency kit on hand not only gives you peace of mind, but provides supplies until help arrives.

Other suggestions are 16) a 5-gallon can of gas; if the cold is deep enough, you may be turning the car on and off for the heater. Running out of gas is a bummer. A trick that Berni taught me from 15 years of living in Alaska: 17) a plain candle burning in an empty tin can—a typical large-size coffee can works just fine—on your backseat floor will keep the whole interior of the car warm!

PS: Booze is not a good idea if you are seriously stranded alone in the cold in the middle of nowheresville. Nor are consciousness-altering drugs. Just thought I would mention the obvious . . .

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