Auto Safety News: Prepared for winter travel?

A container of emergency supplies could mean the difference between life and death this winter. (Photo by Dom Castaldo)

By Dom Castaldo, Ph.D.

For many East Coast residents, this past season’s hurricanes and subsequent floods were not as devastating for them as they could have been because they were prepared. They stocked up on food, water and other supplies before the bad weather arrived.

With December upon us, the people in northern Illinois will face nature’s wrath in the form of ice and snow storms. (The blizzard that occurred in early February is still fresh in the minds of many northern Illinoisans.) Driving may become treacherous.

In anticipation of winter, people will replace their snow shovels, tune-up their snow blowers, refill their salt buckets, buy a few extra cans of fruits and vegetables, and maybe even cut a cord or two of firewood. But, what about the supplies in their cars and trucks? Emergency supplies in vehicles are often overlooked. A container of emergency supplies could mean the difference between life and death.

People spend a lot of time in their vehicles — driving to work and shopping, transporting children to school and sports events, and traveling to recreation activities. Therefore, they are likely to encounter an emergency.

If they have the proper supplies in their vehicles, they are more likely to survive the emergency — or at least be more comfortable during the crisis. Storing emergency supplies in a plastic container in their cars and trucks make it easier for people to access the supplies. A container will also allow people to restock their supplies after they are used or when their shelf lives expire.

A list of emergency supplies that should be carried in vehicles is presented below. Although people can customize the contents of their emergency supplies containers, there are a few “must-have” items. These are chemical body warmers, gloves, a blanket, a tarp, a sweatshirt and sweatpants, a first-aid kit, rope, water and snacks. If a person might be stranded for several hours or days in his or her vehicle or in an office or building, these supplies will be essential. The body warmers and dry clothes may prevent frost-bite and hypothermia. Water and food will keep a person mentally alert.

A person can place other items in his or her emergency supplies container that might make the crisis less stressful. A roll of paper towels makes cleaning spills easier. Bungee cords and duct tape can secure belongings in high-speed winds. A can of compressed-air tire sealer eliminates the need to change a flat tire in bad weather. However, these products may ruin a tire.

A pencil and notepad makes it possible to leave messages for rescuers. An orange vest — similar to the ones hunters wear — makes people visible in bad weather. An extra ice scraper comes in handy if the car’s primary ice scraper breaks or is lost. Ready-to-eat meals will provide hot food. Items that are damaged or otherwise affected by cold or hot temperatures should be avoided.

Maintaining a supply cache — both at home and in a vehicle — may save a life, or, at the very least, may make surviving a crisis less stressful.

What should be in your vehicle’s winter emergency supply container?

Following are items that should be in your vehicle’s winter emergency supply containter: chemical body/hand/foot warmers (Hot-Hands); compressed air tire sealer/inflator (Fix-a-Flat); first-aid kit; blanket; tarp; plastic trash bags; paper towels; rope; bungee cords; duct tape; emergency road signs; pencil; note pad; sweatshirt; sweatpants; poncho; gloves; cotton socks; boots; orange vest; water (two bottles); granola/chocolate bars; MREs; and an ice scraper.

Dom Castaldo lives in Mt. Morris, Ill. He can be reached at

From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2011, issue

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