Emergency preparedness is a way of life for those who truly know and understand the risk factors of life, travel, activity, etc. One never knows what events may end up causing an emergency and the need to act to prevent or minimize loss (person or property). Being prepared with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and equipment/tools to effectively respond to a myriad of scenarios is essential should an emergency suddenly invade your life.
There are several areas in everyone’s life where the potential need to act in an emergency should motivate us to organize our lives and be prepared in every needful thing. This article will focus on those items and preparedness specific to traveling in our vehicles.
The following should be considered when traveling and preparing your vehicle for a potential emergency.
- Vehicle size: The size of your vehicle may cause you to prioritize, and potentially limit, what items can be “stored” the compartments, nooks and crannies of your vehicle. For some individuals I work with, this is a very important consideration in choosing a vehicle. The thought of not having something they are skilled to use should an emergency occur is simply unacceptable.
- Vehicle Occupants: Knowing who and how many travelers will be a part of your journey can obviously impact your preparations. Do you plan for the maximum number of travelers, or the usual number of riders?
- Environmental Events: Weather can chance dramatically and swiftly is many parts of the country. Knowing the likelihood of the more common storms and weather-related risk factors can certainly influence your customized preparations.
- Pre-Prepared Emergency Kits or Customized Homemade kits: There are a plethora of first aid kits, travel kits, and other packages on the market designed for vehicle placement from which to choose. However, building your own travel preparedness pack can allow you to include those specific items that you absolutely need.
- Knowledge and Skills to Use the Items in Your Travel Preparedness Pack: Take the time to learn how to use all the emergency preparedness components that you will carry in your vehicle.
Carefully consider the items below for inclusion in your customized travel preparedness pack. Or, consider them as individual items. Either way, choose those best suited for you based on your unique circumstances and travel preparation goals.
- First Aid Kit: This is an obvious preparedness item and knowing what items your kit contains and how to use them may make the difference between life and death. Remember, the role of a lay Good Samaritan in offering help to an injured person, in your vehicle or another, is to help maintain the viability of the victim until EMS arrives. And, just being ready for life’s little bumps and scrapes is also very important. A future article will address the details of putting together your own first aid kit – the recommended items and their use.
- Small Fire Extinguisher: Not all vehicle accidents will result in an exploding car and subsequent fire as Hollywood, whose job it is to increase our adrenaline release and generate excitement, would have us believe. However, the chance of a fire is real. The last car I was in where a fire was started, and thankfully the only one so far, was caused when snow from the window’s exterior feel into the interior and onto the electronic window control panel on the arm rest. This happened because the window was lowered to scrape snow off the side mirror to enable a better view. Having a readily available vehicle fire extinguisher can immediately extinguish a small engine or electrical fire before it gets out of hand.
- Emergency Flares, Cones, and Triangles: Each of these “warning” devices can alert other travelers to your road side presence if your vehicle breaks down or runs out of gas and you are forced to pull over to the curb. It may also offer some legal protection by showing that you displayed the appropriate warning signs should another driver accidently hit your vehicle on the side of the road.
- Spare Tire w/ Jack and Lug Wrench: We all hate getting a flat tire and the inconvenience of the time and mess that will have to ensue to unleash the spared form its storage location, jack up the vehicle, take off the flat tire, and put on the spare. Now, if you have not ensured that your vehicle has a spare in it, multiply your frustration ten-fold.
- Tool Kit & Gloves: Just imagine having the skills to fix something that has gone wrong with your vehicle, so you can get back on the road, but you don’t have the tools to make that repair. At a very minimum your vehicle should include a basic tool set with torque wrench, multi-head screwdriver, rubber mallet, plier set, etc. I wish I could say that when I am working with tools I never perform a malfunction and damage my hand and fingers, but I can’t. So, have a pair of work gloves to protect yourself as you go about your car repair efforts.
- Flashlight: If you are to incur a flat tire at night or have other unexpected emergencies, the ability to illuminate the area and see what you are doing is essential. A flashlight can also be used to alert or flag down passerby’s, or simply search for the preparedness tool in the dark.
- Clothing for Inclement Weather: This becomes especially important when traveling in the winter or in a season of rain. Keeping warm and dry (or less cold) can help prevent hypothermia. An extra jacket, gloves, snow cap, etc. should be in every winter travel vehicle. Having a blanket can prove helpful in both cold and hot weather – cold to help keep us warm and hot to fan an individual suffering from heat exhaustion.
- Snow brush & Ice Scraper: If you have ever returned to your car after being at work, at the store, enjoying some form of inside entertainment, and find the windows covered with snow or worst ice, you know the importance of the scraper. And no, the edge of a credit card is not effective.
- Tow Strap: Whether your car needs to be towed a safe distance off the side of the road until a tow truck arrives or pulled out of a snow bank, a tow strap can make that happen. Or, it maybe that you are the Good Samaritan providing this service to some other unfortunate traveler, but one who will be grateful for your help.
- Pocket Multi-tool: These gadgets come packed with so many little tools for a variety of uses, and so it simply makes sense to carry one with you at all times.
- Tarp: Don’t forget the helpfulness of a tarp should you have to get on the ground to change a tire or under the car to look for what might be making that annoying sound that has suddenly become evident.
- Duct Tape: The ability of Duct Tape to temporarily fix almost anything is legendary. You will probably find numerous ways to use it outside besides securing some things in your car, and putting that assumption to the test can prove fun and beneficial.
- Jumper Cables: How many times have I left my lights on, woke up to a dead battery, or simply needed my car to start and it would not . . . let me count the times. Again, whether it is you that needs the jump or another traveler in need, having jumper cables is a must.
- Tire Air Pressure Gauge: Having your tires properly filled with the right air pressure can help save on your gas bill and travel more comfortably and safely. A tire pressure gauge is small, inexpensive, and may prove very helpful as you travel.
- Tie-down straps: You might need tie-down straps when you pick up some 2×4’s at the lumbar store, transport your favorite toy (motorcycle, snow machine, etc.), or haul a day’s worth of yard work like branches. They are truly a convenience that can help in your preparedness.
- Self-Defense Weapon: The fact is we live in a dangerous world. For those who have a permit to pack a firearm; having it safely stored, and yet readily accessible, is certainly a safety preparedness strategy worth considering. For those who choose not to travel with a firearm, a small bat of other useful self-defense instrument can be a travel tool that can enable us to should the unthinkable occur.
- Gas Can: When you arrive at the gas station, by walking or hitchhiking, you will need to can to fill with gas. Yes, service stations usually carry a gas can, but having your own provides a little more convenience.
- Cellphone Charger: A car-adapted cellphone charger allows you to charge your phone while your vehicle is running. No matter when you arrive at your destination or what functions you were running in route, you arrive with a fully charged phone.
- Solar Cellphone Charger: If you enjoy camping, if your vehicle runs out of gas and you become stranded, or something else causes you to lose the charge in your cellphone, a solar charger can come in handy providing you with a charged phone at any time.
The following items may not be considered emergency preparedness tools or items, but their function may prove helpful in an emergency or in providing for a more manageable travel experience should something not work quite like you anticipated.
- Drinking Water: Having a readily available water supply in your vehicle can not only help quench your thirst but can be used to clean a wound or clean an item that might need a cleaning before reuse. Of interest, a human body can survive more than three weeks without food, but a week seems to be the very longest a person could possibly survive without water.
- High Energy Snacks: It’s always more manageable and enjoyable to have something to snack on should you become stranded or for whatever reason, have the need to wait an unexpected and extended period of time.
- Cash: It’s only wise to keep some cash in your car should the time arise that you need to purchase something, and you left the house prepared.
- Travel Game or Coloring Book: From an adult perspective, heaven forbid your cellphone not connect to the Internet and you can’t view the news, scan the social media, or watch some YouTube. But, should the unthinkable happen having a game to help pass the time may make any extended wait a bit more doable. From a child perspective, something to help them pass the wait time can reduce the potential stress of a bored child.
- Febreeze: This or any kind of air freshener may help relieve the stress of a nasal stressing experiencing that sometimes arise, especially when traveling with kids.
- Diaper & Wipes: You certainly don’t need to be changing a dirty diaper to know that the little conveniences are a multi-purpose cleaning marvel for anything spilled in your vehicle to the nasty and grimy “stuff” that can get on your hands and fingers in some really bizarre ways.
- Garbage Bags: You can always use a place to toss the garbage that can accumulate during a road trip – the packaging from a convenient store or fast food restaurant stop, a dirty diaper, a spent diaper wipe, etc.
We strongly encourage that you become an emergency preparedness minded individual and travel the roads with the peace of mind that having these items in your vehicle can provide.