Equipping for disaster

Are you prepared to be snowbound in your car?

Winter driving can be hazardous and in a worst-case scenario you might find yourself spun out and off the road. Being wedged in a snow bank ruin your day, but with a little planning and know how, it doesn’t have to end your life.

If you do get stuck (before you go into the survival mode) there are a few things you can try. Above all remember, DON’T OVER EXERT! It’s hard to keep your mind on getting unstuck while you are undergoing a heart attack.

First, clear a path in front and behind your wheels. Get the sandbag out of your automobile survival kit and spread sand or gravel on the path you have just cleared. If you forgot the sand, try a floormat under the wheel, branches cut with the ax in your survival kit or just about any other thing you can think of to put under the wheels to give traction.

Now try “rocking” yourself out. Accelerate forward until the car just begins to lose traction, then quickly move into reverse until the tires begin to break traction, then back the other way. You should gain a little ground each time and eventually break free. A good driver can master this technique with either a standard or automatic transmission; the trick here is timing between engine RPM and gear changes so you don’t rip the universal joint out.

Another idea is to gently accelerate with the emergency brake partially applied; this may prevent the drive wheels from losing traction quite as quickly.

You should always carry a survival kit. Your kit can be as extensive as you want, but you should include those items which would allow you to survive 12–24 hours without the benefit of the car heater. A recommended list might include:

  • One sleeping bag or two or more blankets for every person in the automobile.
  • Three-pound coffee can, which can be used to heat water.
  • Matches and candles (a blanket over your head, body heat and the heat from a single candle can prevent freezing).
  • Flashlight and extra batteries, good for signaling for help.
  • Winter clothing such as, cap, mittens, heavy socks, gloves, coveralls, etc, (all of these items can be old or out-of-style items no longer worn).
  • First-aid kit, including any special medications for you and your travelers.
  • Bottled water. It will probably freeze, so allow expansion room in the container.
  • High-energy foods; candy, nuts, raisins, sugar cubes, packaged condensed soups and hot chocolate, bouillon cubes; no perishables.
  • Small sack of sand or kitty litter, which is good for traction.
  • One with a flat blade is preferable. Use caution in shoveling snow, as overexertion is not advisable in a survival situation.
  • Basic tool kit, to include pliers, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, tape and wire.
  • Paper towels or toilet tissue, good for their designed purpose as well as for fire starter.
  • Axe or saw, good for cutting wood for fire or branches to place under stuck tires for traction.
  • Tow chain or strap. Also, a come-along is a handy device to recover your own vehicle.
  • Spare tire. One with air works best.
  • Wire and rope, which have a multitude of uses, including automotive repair.
  • Starter fluid, extra oil, gas line deicer and battery booster cables.
  • Signaling devices, such as railroad flares, which can be seen for miles. A distress flag can be made from a piece of hunter orange or other bright colored material.
  • Don’t forget your cell phone.

Automobile Parts Can Save Lives

Even if you did not complete your survival kit, a calm head and systematic evaluation and dismantling of your vehicle can save your life. Put these automotive parts to good use:

  • A hubcap or sunvisor can be substituted for a shovel.
  • Seat covers can be used as a blanket.
  • Floormats can be used to shut out the wind or for a wraparound.
  • Engine oil burned in a hubcap creates a smoke signal visible for miles. To start the fire, prime with a little gasoline which you can get from your tank with a wire and tissue or rag.
  • Don’t forget your horn. It can be heard as far as a mile downwind. (Three long blasts, ten seconds apart, every 30 minutes, is a standard distress signal.)
  • A rearview mirror can be removed and will serve as an excellent signaling device.
  • For warmth and signal, burn a tire. (Not on the car!) Release the air pressure, and use gasoline, oil, or any other means to ignite it.

If a Storm Traps You in Your Car

Keep calm if you get in trouble. If your car becomes stuck or you become lost, DON’T PANIC. Think the problem through, decide the best thing to do, and then do it slowly and carefully. If you are on a well-traveled road, indicate you are in trouble. Remember the signaling devices in your survival kit. Then STAY IN THE CAR! And wait for help!

The number one rule is STAY IN THE CAR! Unless there is a house or other building very close or help is in sight.   If you run the engine to keep warm, do so sparingly and remember to open a window to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning. Some other tips:

  • Check the exhaust pipe of your car to ensure snow has not blocked it. If this happens, you will surely get carbon monoxide in the interior compartment.
  • Exercise, clap your hands, move your arms and legs vigorously or do other isometric exercises you know to keep the circulation going.
  • Take turns on watch if there is more than one person. If you are alone do not go to sleep. STAY AWAKE!
  • Remember your horn. If there is a firearm along, shoot three shots into the air, 10 seconds between shots and 30 minutes between volleys. (This is a universally recognized distress code among hunters and other outdoors people.)

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