Planning For Disaster: Emergency Kits For Your Car
“There’s no place like home,” said Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. And when it comes to preparing for emergencies—like floods, earthquakes and iconic Kansas tornados—home is the best place to start. But while you’re busy stocking your garage with food, water and all those other supplies on your emergency plan checklist, make sure you include the car that’s parked there. After all, emergencies are just as likely to happen while you’re in your car as at home. That being the case, here’s a list of items you’ll want to make standard equipment in your car’s emergency kit.
- Flashlights and Road Flares: In the home and in the car, the lack of adequate light following an emergency situation can lead to further accidents and injuries. And when you’re out on the highway, it’s critical not only to see but to be seen. Flashlights—compact yet powerful enough to provide adequate illumination, should you or others need to venture out on foot—should be kept in the car at all times. It’s a good practice to carry at least two flashlights, with one of them being in an easily retrievable place, such as the glove compartment. Flashlights powered by hand-crank generators are ideal for car use. Otherwise you’ll need to check your flashlights at regular intervals to make sure the batteries are fully charged. Road flares should also be mandatory, as they can protect your safety and the safety of others by alerting drivers of your presence if your car poses a road hazard.
- Disposable cell phone: Along with that flashlight in your glove compartment, you should make room for a disposable cell phone as a back-up. These “burner” phones, as they’re commonly called are now quite inexpensive and make great backups to regular cell phones which may not be fully charged when the emergency arises—or may have been left at home. While most disposables come with minutes of their own, you can always add prepaid minutes for a nominal fee. The best way to use disposable cell phones is for making outgoing calls. This will save the battery on your regular cellphone for incoming calls or other uses, such as connecting to the internet to get crucial information. Although the smartphones of today can perform more functions than disposable phones, “burner” phone batteries tend to last longer as smart phones use a lot more power.
- Blankets and hoodies: It may have been balmy when you started your trip, but if an accident or disaster strands you into the night, temperatures can drop dramatically. You should always be prepared by carrying blankets and hoodies. Many commercially available emergency blankets are compact and can be stored in small spaces or in the trunk for easy access. Being that hats are also effective in slowing down the loss of body heat, caps and beanies should also be kept on hand.
- Water proof rain clothes: Having a rain coat or poncho in your car is a good idea in case you get caught in wet weather and need to change a tire. You’ll also want to store a good pair of walking shoes in the car in case you have to travel any distance on foot.
- Water: It should go without saying that drinking water is a must have item for your car’s emergency kit. Keep in mind that it doesn’t take a major emergency to strand you on the highway. An accident up ahead, a flat tire, or a breakdown on a barren stretch of highway could keep you in your car for hours waiting for help. Without water, even a minor inconvenience can become an emergency. Bottled water is a very convenient way to store water in your car. Due to concerns about plastic bottles releasing harmful chemicals over time or with high temperatures, it’s a good idea to rotate bottled water kept in your car on a regular basis. Another smart item to carry is a water purifying bottle, which will filter any water you find and make it suitable for drinking. If you have an older model car it would be wise to keep a gallon jug of distilled water on hand in case the radiator overheats.
- Food and medications: Along with the need to carry water to prevent dehydration, it’s a good idea to store food in your car’s emergency kit. Granola bars, energy bars, and freeze dried foods are all good choices, as they stay provide good nutrition and stay fresh for long periods of time. Plus, they’re conveniently packaged for easy storage. The basic rule with food is to avoid anything that could spoil or melt. Also, If you have a health condition that requires you to take medication at regular intervals, you should include at least a 3 day supply of medication in your car kit. You’ll want to make sure it stays dry and does not get too hot. Diabetics will need a small cooler to keep insulin cold. Medications should be rotated frequently to insure full potency.
- Hygienic supplies: Among the items most often overlooked in putting together an emergency kit for the car, hygienic supplies are right at the top of the list. Let’s face it, no one wants to think about having to go to the bathroom where there is no bathroom, but the fact is that, should such a need arise, you’ll be glad you brought some toilet paper or disposable wipes with you. For families with babies on board, extra diapers are a must. The way to best prepare is to consider whatever biological needs any family members may have during your trip, and then include whatever items are needed to provide for that need—for at least 24 hours.
- Gasoline: Remember, emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. And when they do, grocery stores and gas stations are the first places all those unprepared people go. That’s why you should always keep your gas tank at least half-full, so you can either get to a safe place from home, get to your home, or get through a highway logjam without running out of gas. Another major benefit of keeping the gas tank on the full side is that you’ll get better gas mileage. Plus, it’s better for your engine and fuel filter.
If possible, you’ll want to keep as many emergency supplies as you can in a central location in your car, such as a nylon duffle bag or backpack. And whatever you do, don’t forget the first aid kit.