When the weather forecast is bad, the best thing you can do is just stay home. But if you have to go out in spite of the snow, you need to be prepared for the worst. You could become trapped in your car or stranded on the highway and your best chance of survival – or at least making the time more enjoyable – is to be prepared.
Keep reading to find out what to do if you’re stuck in the snow, what you need to have with you, and when—if at all—you should leave your vehicle and walk to safety.
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Keep Basic Supplies in Your Vehicle
Always keep some basic supplies in your vehicle in case of emergencies because you never know when you might need them. For winter, you’ll want to keep the items listed below in your car.
Try to keep as many as you can in the interior of your car because there are times when you just can’t access the trunk. Some people like to put all of their necessities inside a large cooler on wheels so that everything inside stays dry and a little bit warmer.
- Blankets – Always keep a spare blanket in your vehicle, and one per passenger would be ideal. Wool retains heat the best, but fleece will retain heat even when it gets wet. On the other hand, mylar blankets will fold up very small and will reflect the body’s heat back in.
- First aid kit – First aid kits for automobiles are easy enough to find at any major big box store. You may want to add a few things to bolster its contents, such as extra non-latex gloves, larger bandages, personal hygiene items for women, and even diapers and wipes for babies.
- Necessary medication – If you are on any type of lifesaving medication, you’ll want to consider bringing extra along with you for emergencies.
- Extra clothes, boots, hats, gloves, scarves, and socks for each person – If you get wet, you’ll want to change immediately to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Don’t remain in wet clothes any longer than absolutely necessary, especially when it comes to your fingers and toes.
- Water and food – You’re going to want to bring some emergency rations for a couple of days. Water is especially important, but so are some calories. If you have a baby, you’ll want to bring formula, bottles, or anything else he or she would need.
- Wipes and plastic bags for hygiene purposes – Try to avoid going outside to relieve yourself – you don’t want to expose yourself to the cold any more than is absolutely necessary. Use a plastic bag, bottle, or even a bucket or cup with a bag inside of it.
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- A container to hold snow if you need to get water – If you run out of water, you’ll want some kind of container that you can use to melt snow in.
- Sand or cat litter – You can put sand or litter under the wheels of your vehicle to give you extra traction. It might be enough to get you going again.
- Shovel and ice scraper – You’ll want to be able to clean around the car, clean off the windshield, and dig out around the tires to try to get back on the road.
- Hand warmers – Disposable hand warmers are a great way to warm up icy fingers in an emergency, and they don’t take up much space.
- Flashlights and flares – You’ll want to have flares so that other vehicles and emergency personnel can find you. And flashlights are a no-brainer to help you get through the cold and the dark.
- Extra charger for cell phone – Don’t count on being able to charge your phone in your car; make sure you bring along some spare battery chargers as well.
- Necessities – Of course, you’ll bring your phone, ID, wallet, and some emergency cash along with you just like any other time you leave the house.
- Entertainment and treats – If you have any additional space, you may want to consider packing a few items for entertainment, especially if you have young kids with you. And a bag of cookies or some other small treat will go a long way towards improving morale all around.
Before You Leave Home
- Check the weather forecast. If the weather is that bad, you should probably just stay home. If you have to go out, plan to leave and arrive back when the weather is at its best. Watch out for speed and road restrictions as well.
- Charge your electronics. Make sure you charge all your devices before you leave home, especially your cell phone. It may save your life.
- Fill up the tank. You’ll want to keep your gas tank as full as possible – keep it at least ¾ of a tank – so that you don’t run out if you get stranded for a bit.
- Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be home. Make sure you let others know when you’re leaving, when you’ll return, and where you will be going. This way, they’ll know to alert authorities if you don’t show up when expected.
Learn how to drive safely on snow-covered and icy roads.
AAA offers some tips on how to drive safely in the snow, here. First, they explain that you need to drive more slowly than usual, leaving extra space between you and the cars in front of you. Accelerate and decelerate slowly, without slamming on the brakes. It will take your car extra time to respond when there is snow on the roads.
If possible, get a little inertia going to get up a hill, but don’t stop in the middle or you might not make it to the top.
What should you do if you get stuck in the snow or the cold?
- Don’t panic. Whatever happens, your chances of survival are best if you keep calm and think clearly.
- Assess your situation. Look at your surroundings, any damage, and what you need to do to stay warm and dry.
- Stay in your vehicle. Your chances of being found and staying warm are best if you stay with your vehicle as long as it is in a safe place.
- Call for help.
- Crack your rear window. This will prevent any carbon monoxide from building up in your vehicle.
- Make sure your tailpipe is clear. If it is snowing, regularly check your tailpipe to make sure it isn’t plugged with snow and ice. Otherwise, carbon monoxide gas could back up into your vehicle and make you sick or worse.
- Run your car for a few minutes each hour. You’ll want to start your car for a little bit each hour to warm up, melt some snow for water, and keep your supplies from freezing. But don’t run it too long because you need to conserve gas.
Should you walk it out?
Making the decision to leave your vehicle should not be taken lightly. It is very serious to be in a snowstorm on foot, especially if you are lost or unable to see where you are going. And of course, it is easier for people to spot your car than it is to spot a person in the snow.
ABC News explains that you can survive longer inside your vehicle than if you are out in the weather. The only time you should leave your vehicle is if you know your surroundings and you also know that it is easy to walk to safety. The other time you can leave your vehicle is if it’s a last resort and your only chance of survival.
How to Get Your Car Out of the Snow
You can find additional tips on getting your car unstuck from Nationwide here. Nationwide explains that if you need to get your car out of the snow, you should first clear the snow from around your tires. Try to get your car to ‘rock’ by going back and forth between reverse and drive quickly. This may be enough to break free, but don’t ‘floor it’ or give it too much gas at once.
You can improve your traction by putting down cat litter or sand under your tires, or even twigs and small branches if that is all that is available. It’s best if you can get someone else to help you push, but don’t panic. If you need to, just call for a tow.
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