Weathering an Emergency in Your Car

Having your car become disabled in a winter storm can be an extremely frightening experience. However, being prepared for such an emergency can help you survive a winter weather emergency. If you are driving in the winter, it is a good idea to have a cell phone or other way to communicate with others about where you are and what your situation is.

Every car should have winter survival gear that includes:

  • blankets

  • a windshield scraper

  • booster cables

  • road maps

  • compass

  • candle and matches or a lighter

  • tool kit

  • paper towels

  • bottled water

  • a bag of sand or cat litter to place under your tires for traction if you get stuck

  • a collapsible shovel

  • high-calorie canned or dried food or other nonperishable food items, and a can opener

  • a flashlight and extra batteries

  • canned compressed air with sealant

  • brightly colored cloth to use as a flag

  • plastic bags

  • warm clothing such as a snowsuit

An important point to remember is if your vehicle should become disabled and you cannot continue with your vehicle, you need to remain calm and stay with your vehicle. You should not try walking to find help. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE unless help is visible within 100 feet. If you have a cell phone or other form of communication, contact someone to send help to your location. If you aren't certain where you are, give as good of directions as you can to aid in your rescue.

Other things you need to do if your vehicle is stranded in the cold:

  • Make sure anyone who sees your vehicle will know you are in trouble. Hang a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raise the hood.

  • Occasionally run the engine to keep warm. Switch the car on for about 10 minutes each hour. Also, turn on the interior lights when the car is running. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow or debris and open a window slightly for ventilation to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Stay as warm as possible by covering up and putting on additional clothing. Make sure your toes and fingers stay warm and dry.

  • If there are others in the vehicle with you, huddle together to share your body warmth.

  • Clap your hands and move your arms and legs occasionally to keep your blood moving. Try not to stay in one position for too long.

  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make medical conditions worse.

  • Do not eat unmelted snow because it will lower your body temperature.

  • Remain calm. Help should be available soon.

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