During the winter months, the idea of staying tucked away in your warm home sounds like the perfect solution. Just stay wrapped in the blankets of your warm bed. Why go outside? It’s cold.
Yeah, we had to wake up from that dream this morning as well.
For those living in areas that receive cold weather, snow, and sleet during the winter months, your home or a warmed vehicle feels like safety. The risks of sickness or health issues associated with the cold weather is a serious threat, and you do what you can to avoid them.
For one reason or another, you had to go out during cold weather. A simple drive becomes complicated by poor visibility or vehicle issues, and you’re now on the side of the road. It takes just a few minutes for a vehicle to begin losing heat, and if a door is opened, you can assume that heat is well gone.
What can you do to prepare for this?
Following these simple steps can ensure you are safe, warm, and signaling for help.
Keeping your vehicle well maintained may be the difference between staying warm, even in a car accident. If you find yourself crashed, broken down, or in trouble, if your vehicle is still running, you are still producing heat.
If you are in an accident, it’s important to step out of your vehicle and check underneath for any possible leaks. If you see fluid leaking, shut your vehicle off immediately.
Cold weather adds extra load to your vehicle's engine management system. Have your battery, spark plugs, and fuel filter changes prior to winter, along with a full inspection to ensure you’re ready for the season.
If you live in an area that experiences snowfall every year, consider purchasing a second set of rims and have snow tires installed. Snow tires are an extremely soft, deep treaded compound that allow more grip on the snow and ice. Unfortunately if they are used in the summer, they wear out quickly, and all-season tires are often simply not enough.
Keeping your vehicle clean can be the difference between grabbing what you need or digging through a bunch of unneeded items. We have all seen someone trying to change a tire in a parking lot or on the side of the road with a pile of items next to the car as they dig for their tire. In a winter emergency, it’s too cold to be standing outside digging.
Must Have Items
When preparing for a winter emergency, you want to consider staying warm, what your body needs, and what could help people find you. You can never be too sure of the exact situation you’ll be in, so it’s better to be overprepared.
Found in every emergency kit, water is an absolute must-have item. You require 2.7 to 3.7 liters of water per day for your body to operate normally, and while you may not feel as thirsty, your body needs just as much water during the winter.
Consider storing a case of water in your vehicle, which can be stored in the trunk or on any unused seat floor. Depending on how cold it gets during the day, you may want to store your water on the passenger floor if possible, so as your vehicle blows heat, it warms up the bottles and helps reduce freezing.
You can never be too certain you won’t be hungry when tragedy occurs, and you can’t guarantee you won’t be there a while.
Keep snacks in your emergency kit, which have a long shelf life and will give your body needs sustenance. Consider meal replacements bars, dried fruits, nuts, or other forms of proteins.
Many of these foods are fairly dry. This only adds to the importance of having enough water.
You will most likely be exiting your vehicle to assess the situation, inspect for leaks, and begin signaling for help. It’s important to have warm clothing which can be worn when outside, or to keep warm inside. This should include:
- Thick wind resistant jacket
- Face shield (bandana, scarf, or balaclava)
If you do get wet, you need to change out of those close quite quickly. It takes a lot of energy to warm up liquid, so while your body will dry, you will be cold.
It’s important to keep dry clothes in your vehicle, such as:
Each of these layers is designed to keep you dry and warm while also keeping you relatively comfortable, as this relieves stress.
Cold weather blankets or sleeping bags are a great way to keep your body heat in and the cold out.
Before using a blanket, be sure to remove your outer layers, such as your jacket and boots. These layers are often wet, and moisture trapped within your blanket will eventually get you wet, which may cause you to be colder. You also don’t want to be too hot and sweat.
You want the blanket to be wrapped around your entire body so you don’t lose heat through the seat of the vehicle. Bring your feet up closer to your body and wrap the blanket around them; they are further from your heart and will get cold quickly.
Feel free to wrap your head in the blanket as well, keeping your nose and mouth outside of the blanket. Breathing inside will cause moisture buildup.
If you often have passengers with you, a spare blanket is a good idea.
Survival blankets (or space blankets) are a thin piece of reflective material that keep your body heat in. While they won’t be the most comfortable option, they are so compact that they could fit in your pocket, glovebox, or any other tucked away space.
Hand and Feet Warmers
A great option to have in your vehicle is hand and feet warmers. These chemically activated packs are small but produce warmth for an extended period of time. Your hands and feet are prone to early damage from the cold, which is why they need to be kept warm.
Hand warmers are intended to go in your pockets and get quite a bit hotter than feet warmers. Although they look the same, feet warmers are designed to go into your boots to keep your toes warm.
Don’t make the mistake of using hand warmers in your boots. They get too hot and could cause injury.
One danger to driving at night or in the snow is the potential to not be seen. While reflectors are a great option to keep in your vehicle, direct headlights need to hit them to get any attention.
Consider using a set of LED road flares in conjunction with orange reflectors. While they could replace the reflectors, when used together, they are more likely to get attention. These lights can be used in the on position or in a flashing setting to save battery and get more attention.
In deep snow, consider keeping an orange can of spray paint in your vehicle, as this will allow you to mark a large area orange to get a large amount of attention when needed.
It happened! Your vehicle slid off the road or broke down.
You’ve prepared for this, so you shouldn’t panic. Before anything else, you’ll want to turn on your vehicle's hazard lights and check yourself and your passengers.
If you can get your warm weather clothes, put them on. If you can’t, then pop the trunk before getting out, and move to them at a reasonable pace and get them on.
Inspect the situation. Is your vehicle in a relatively safe location? Will it be seen? Check your vehicle for major leaks and see if it will still run to keep you warm.
Using your emergency markers, mark from the road to your vehicle in a steady, easy-to-see line. You want people to look at the markers and see your flashers if possible.
Remove your cold weather clothes and set them on an empty seat, grab your blanket, and wrap yourself tightly. Your body temperature will begin warming the inner blanket layers and keep you warm.
Plug your phone in, and call for help.
Drink water either when you feel thirsty or sipped over time, and eat when you're hungry. Do not conserve water or food, instead use it when your body asks for it.
Under no circumstance should you leave your vehicle and attempt to walk to help, as this can be dangerous, and people are more likely to see your vehicle with markers.
Being stranded in any situation can be scary, but being stranded in a winter situation can be terrifying as you feel your warmth pulled from your body. Being prepared and well educated will allow you to stay calm and take the steps needed to be safe, warm, and found quickly.
We can never be too certain when or if an emergency will happen. We can only be prepared for the possibility that it will happen.
It’s better to be prepared for what you can’t predict.
If you have additional questions, send them our way!