We have all been there. You run out of gas, the car gets a flat, or the snow is coming down too hard to see where you are going, and you have to pull over. You know you can’t continue driving, but you also can’t sit there and wait for someone to rescue you. This moment is the moment when you mentally take an inventory of your situation. Where are you? Who is in the car? What items do you have at your disposal, and do you know how to use them?
Preparing for a car emergency can be one of the most intelligent decisions that you make. It will not only give you peace of mind now, knowing that you can handle whatever the weather or the road throws at you, but it may just save your life.
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Basic Emergency Supplies
Storing supplies to provide for every scenario is just not feasible. Finding places in the car to put all of those things would be a challenge and likely get in the way when you tried to pick up your groceries. The best way to prepare is to store items that are the most essential and helpful in a wide variety of situations. Here are the eleven things we recommend you keep in your vehicle at all times.
1. Water – You can get dehydrated very quickly without access to clean drinking water. Driving around town, you have plenty of opportunities to stop and buy something to drink. However, your options quickly disappear if the car is not moving, especially if you are in the middle of nowhere. Keeping a case of water bottles or a gallon jug in the trunk is easy to do. Just remember to replace the water regularly as chemicals from the plastic bottle can leach into the water stored in a hot car.
2. Food – Keeping easy to consume calories on hand is especially important for young children or diabetics. Any food that you choose to store in your car should be able to withstand extremes in temperature and rotated regularly. High-calorie bars, peanut butter crackers, and canned foods with pull-off tops are a good choice.
3. Cell Phone and Charger – Most Americans carry cell phones all the time. We use them to makes calls, text friends, find directions, and much more. You may not even know most of your friends’ phone numbers. Your phone keeps track of all that for you. However, your phone ceases to be a resource to you when the battery dies. Keeping a charger or charging cable that allows you to charge your phone from the car battery can be a lifesaver, even if it just enables you to get directions home from the concert.
4. Blanket or Sleeping Bag – You might be surprised how uncomfortable the outside temperature becomes when you don’t have the car’s air conditioning or heat running. A blanket can be used to keep warm or draped over the vehicle to keep the sun off while you wait for your tow truck.
5. Spare Tire – Along with a jack and lug wrench, a spare tire can be your best friend. Road hazards like screws, nails, and other debris abound. Make sure you have a spare that is in good condition and that you know how to change your own tire, should it be necessary. You may be a long way from the nearest auto repair shop in Bountiful or Park City.
6. Flashlight – A small LED flashlight fits easily in the console or glove compartment of any car, and they are very bright. Make sure to keep spare batteries with the flashlight, as they have a nasty habit of dying at the worst possible moment.
7. Basic First Aid Kit – When you are at home, you have ready access to band-aids, ointments, and medicines. Not so on the road. A simple kit will do. You can buy one at the store or assemble it yourself from items you keep in your medicine cabinet. Be sure to consider any small children traveling with you and include children’s medicines in your kit.
8. Tools – The tools you decide to carry in case of emergency will greatly depend on your level of expertise. There is no need to go overboard packing tools that you don’t know how to use. In most cases, a multi-tool such as a Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife is sufficient. A tire pressure gauge and tire inflator are inexpensive and simple tools. They may not fix your flat, but it may be enough to get you to the next gas station.
9. Maps – When was the last time you pulled a map out of the glove compartment to navigate? If you get stranded in an area without cell service, a paper map may be your only option. Maps may be especially useful to have on hand when traveling unfamiliar roads in sparsely populated areas of the country.
10. Flares – Even though you can see other cars, they may not be able to see you, especially at night. Poor weather conditions such as rain or snow may compound the problem. Setting up flares or reflective triangles around your stalled vehicle helps make you visible to passersby and prevent you from getting hit.
11. Duct Tape – What would an emergency kit be without duct tape? The uses for duct tape are endless. You may be surprised how often you end up using it.
While this list of items is enough to help many people out of an emergency, it is far from complete. When you are assembling your supplies, consider any unique circumstances that apply to your situation that would warrant adding additional items.
1. Baby – If you have a very young child, having formula, bottles, diapers, and wipes in the car is essential. Being stranded, even for a few hours without it, could be torture for all involved.
2. Pets – Do you regularly bring your furry friend along on trips? If so, add non-perishable pet food, a leash, and bowls for food and water to your inventory.
3. Weather – Getting stranded in a snowstorm can be extremely dangerous if you are not prepared. Make sure you have an ice scraper, warm hat, and gloves. Likewise, planning ahead to spend time outside in the heat or rain common to your area will make the whole ordeal easier for everyone.
Whether you keep it in your trunk, glove box, or under the back seat, storing the right supplies in case of an emergency is a smart thing to do. You never know when you might need to pull something out. Even if it is not for yourself, but to help another motorist in need.