Are you traveling for the holidays this year? Or maybe you're heading to the mountains for a great family ski vacation? If your travel plans involve driving, you're likely going to winterize your car in preparation for the journey—but remember that you need to also "winterize" your family. Prepare an emergency kit to put in the car and make sure that you and your family know how to use it. While most of the information here deals with cold weather driving, the advice can easily be applied no matter what your driving conditions.
Winter Emergency Staples
Imagine that on the way to Grandma's house, a blinding snowstorm makes it impossible for you to stay on the road. You decide to pull over and wait out the storm. In this situation, your first responsibility should be to stay warm. "Statistically speaking, what will kill you first in the outdoors is your core body temperature becoming too cold (hypothermia)," explains Cody Lundin, survival guru and author of 98.6 Degrees.
Pack extra sweaters, blankets, and sleeping bags to keep your family cozy until help arrives. Stay hydrated by including one gallon of water per person, per day (anticipate enough for three days) in the trunk of your car. You can stash one-gallon containers in various places, or opt for a five- to seven-gallon container (which you can purchase at any camping store) and bring cups or bottles to pass around the water. Stow high-energy foods such as granola bars, pretzels, and hard candies that keep well. Lundin's personal favorite is Snickers bars: "They're cheap. They last a long time and still taste good."
Bare-Bones Emergency Supplies
Once you're prepared to stave off hypothermia, the next vital items to add to your emergency supplies should be a flashlight with extra batteries. Keep in mind that even if you're trapped during the day, heavy snows may make it dark inside your car, and extra light can alleviate fears and make your car easier to spot by emergency vehicles. Lundin suggests storing chemical light sticks, like the kind popular around Halloween, along with your flashlights. Buy several at your local camping store. The lights can keep younger children distracted while you can string one from your car's antenna to alert emergency vehicles that you need help.
All cars should be stocked with a good first-aid kit. First-aid kits are available at most grocery and large convenience stores, and should treat most of the injuries you might encounter. "Most car-related injuries in the snow are mechanical," offers Lundin. Bruises and cuts can be covered with bandages while medical tape and gauze applied with pressure can help stop bleeding.
Don't forget to also include those extras that will make survival more comfortable for your baby or toddler—diapers. Pack plenty of extra diapers and wipes in your kit.