Tag Archives: emergency

What to Include in Your Emergency Car Kit


emergency-car-kit

Planning on taking a drive to visit some of the must-see sites in Michigan’s Upper Thumb? When it comes to safety on the road, we should all have an emergency kit in our cars. In order to decide what to put in your kit, you need to take into account the weather in your area (here in Michigan, we know it will often be cold and snowy!) and what items will suit your family’s needs.

Your kit should be divided into three separate areas. These include (1) items you keep accessible in your car, (2) emergency items for an auto breakdown—I keep these in the compartment with my spare tire, and (3) emergency items to take with you in the event that you have to abandon your vehicle on the road. I suggest packing the third group of items in a backpack with multiple compartments to make it easy to carry.

Aside from your emergency kit, you should always travel with a fully-charged cell phone and keep a car charger in your vehicle at all times. If you don’t have a smartphone with GPS (or a GPS system integrated into your vehicle), consider buying a stand-alone unit. And, when you live in Michigan (or any other cold, snowy climate), make sure that you have snow tires (or chains) to put on your car in the autumn.

Items to Keep Accessible

  • Small tool kit. This can include a multi-bit screwdriver, scissors, pliers, box cutter, tape, and Allen wrench.
  • $50 or $100 in small bills, hidden in your center console. If you’re stuck and need food or a hotel room, this stash could be a lifesaver!
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Several bottles of water
  • Ice scraper and snowbrush
  • Adhesive bandages and antibiotic cream
  • Flashlight with extra batteries or a hand-crank model
  • Umbrella and rain poncho
  • Extra medication if you have a medical condition and rely on prescriptions.
  • Extra hats, gloves, scarves, and earmuffs (or 180s)
  • Car safety hammer and seatbelt cutter. This item is one you’ll want to have within arm’s reach. Some models feature velcro strips for easy attachment.

ice-scraper

Car Breakdown Items

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Three reflective warning triangles. Most kits come with one, but you should have three of them to place at 50-foot intervals to warn oncoming traffic.
  • Emergency flares
  • Foam tire sealant
  • Spare tire, tire iron, and jack
  • Jumper cables (the longer the better)
  • Tow strap rated to tow 6,000 pounds
  • 550 Paracord. It can be used for just about anything.
  • Assorted bungee cords. These are great for a loose bumper, muffler, or for tying your trunk down.
  • Shovel
  • Cat litter. If you’re stuck, cat litter works as well as sand to give you traction in icy conditions, but it’s much lighter.
  • Ice fishing supplies. If you get stuck near a lake in the winter, what better way to take your mind off the fact that you’re lost! (That’s a joke, although you certainly could bring them along if you’re so inclined.)

flat-tire.jpg

Mobile Emergency Kit

  • Hand crank flashlight with NOAA radio and USB port. This is a great multi-use tool that will allow you to hear emergency broadcasts, weather forecasts, and to charge your cell phone in the event that your car charger won’t work.
  • First aid kit and first aid manual
  • Duct tape. Astronauts take it into space as a multi-use tool, so you should take a roll on the road!
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Space blankets. These are compact and lightweight, so you might as well pack a few.
  • Non-perishable snacks. I keep protein bars in my pack and check them every 6 months or so to see if they need to be replaced. The chocolate-coated ones are fine in cold weather months, but avoid having these in your car in the summer!
  • Waterproof matches/lighter/long burning emergency candles. These are staples in any emergency kit and can be used to start a fire, provide light, and even boil water.
  • Maps and a compass. Of course, you’ll need to know how to use them. There are a number of online tutorials available if you need to brush up on your map and compass skills. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to read a map, and one on how to use a compass.
  • Loud whistle or air-horn. These can act as a beacon to help emergency workers find you if you’re lost or injured. Keep several whistles on lanyards in your pack, one for every family member.
  • Glowsticks. Not only will these amuse the kids, they can also help you to keep track of your family in low-light situations.
  • A pack of cards, travel-size games, or a paperback book. If you’re in a situation that you have to wait out, this can alleviate the boredom.

Specialty Items

These are things that you may need, depending on your family composition. If you have a baby, you might want to keep some extra diapers, diaper rash ointment, baby wipes, and canned or powdered formula stashed in your car. If you regularly travel with a family pet, have an extra leash, some sealed dog (or cat) food, and a collapsible pet bowl in your car.

Be Prepared for Any Contingency

A well-stocked car will save you a lot of hassle down the road! You can learn more about preparing an emergency kit tailored to your specific needs from the Department of Homeland Security and the DMV websites.

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Highways Agency and Mike P.

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How to Prepare for a Cold Weather Emergency


michigan-snowfall

Cold weather storms this time of year can be mild (lasting several hours), or severe (lasting several days, with strong winds and very low temperatures). Knowing how to prepare for these events is important for your safety and the safety of your family. Here are a few things you can do to be ready for inclement weather if you live in a cold climate like Michigan.

According to FEMA, there are three phases to coping with a cold weather disaster. These are Prepare, Survive, and Recover.

Preparing for a Cold Weather Emergency

In preparation for a storm or extreme cold, the first thing you can do is gather supplies. The following are some essential (and a couple non-essential) items you might want to stock up on before the next cold front hits.

  • First aid kit. A first aid kit is absolutely essential, especially if the roads are bad and emergency help cannot reach you. Have a first aid manual available, and consider taking a first aid certification course, such as the one offered by the American Red Cross.
  • Hand crank flashlight with NOAA radio and USB port. The great thing about these devices is that you will be able to get emergency notifications and, if the power goes out, it will provide you with light and a way to charge your cell phone. It also doesn’t hurt to have a couple of extra LED flashlights with 5 year batteries.
  • Water. Keep at least a 3 day supply of water, 1 gallon per person per day. A water filter or purification method can be substituted if you have a source of water near by, and a way to melt it if it’s frozen.
  • Prepared food. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) were originally developed for the military, but are now available in many varieties designed for civilian use. They come dehydrated in pouches—just add hot water. If you cannot boil water, you can also make them with cold water. Although this isn’t particularly appealing, at least you won’t go hungry!
  • Candles/Cans of Sterno fuel. – These provide light and enough heat to boil water or warm up some food. Also be sure to have a box of dry matches or a couple of lighters.

sterno

  • Fuel. If you have a fireplace, wood stove or pellet stove, make sure that you have plenty of fuel to burn. If the electricity goes out, this is a great way to stay warm.
  • Medication. You should always have at least a week’s supply of any prescription medication you use.
  • Extra diapers and formula if you have a baby.
  • Extra pet food if you have a pet.
  • Adequate cold weather gear and bedding. We’re from Michigan, so we should already have this covered!
  • Salt or other some other product to melt ice. It’s useful to have road salt in order to keep from slipping on your walkways or driveways when it’s time to dig out.
  • Snow shovel. Go for one of the more expensive ergonomic shovels. Trust me, it’s a good investment and your lower back will thank you for it later!

Comfort Items

  • Craft beer. What better to accompany your MREs when the storm is raging outside!
  • Games and books. If the power goes out, you’ll need something to do besides sleep.

It’s best to supply yourself adequately so you will not have to drive. In addition to stocking up on essential items, you should develop a communications plan with your family, including those who do not live in your area. If you have a household generator, make sure it’s in working order and ensure the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are fresh. Finally, bring pets indoors to protect them from the storm.

During the Emergency

FEMA recommends that you stay inside during the storm and stay off the roads. Limit your outdoor exposure as much as you can. If you really do need to go outdoors, make sure you’re properly clothed, layering and covering as much of your skin as possible.

In order to avoid freezing pipes, do not lower your thermostat at night during extreme cold snaps and keep your taps dripping. Although it may cost a little more to keep your home warmer, it’s a lot less expensive than repairing frozen pipes and the water damage that can accompany them.

If the heat goes out, close off unused rooms and turn on all of your taps so that they drip. If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, camp out in that room to stay warm. In addition, never heat your home with a grill, propane heater, camp stove, or your kitchen range. If you do so, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.

After the Emergency

snow-shovel

If your heat or electricity has gone out for an extended period of time, consider going to a friend’s or relative’s house (who has power), a hotel, or a community shelter. If the temperature is consistently well below freezing, move the contents of your refrigerator and freezer to a garage or unheated service porch to keep the food from going bad.

Use extra caution when shoveling snow. Push rather than lift the snow, take frequent breaks (go inside and warm up), and make sure that you are properly clothed. Also, take careful note of symptoms of frostbite.

Stay Safe!

Keep these preparedness steps in mind when the next cold front hits. Doing so will help ensure you and your loved ones stay safe and comfortable, even when the weather takes a turn for the worse. You can find additional information about preparing for winter storms from the Department of Homeland Security and RedCross.org.

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: photojo2005, Simon L. and jmannm8400