Emergency Car Kit

by JoAnn K.

Having emergency supplies readily available in our vehicles is always a good idea.  Most of us spend several hours each week or even each day away from the comforts and convenience of home.  When an emergency strikes, if we have our Emergency Car Kit with us in our vehicle we will be in a much better position of comfort and convenience until help can arrive or conditions improve so we can continue to our destination.

It sounds like common sense and also seems so easy; yet, many of us struggle with the assembly of these Emergency Car Kits given the limitations of space and extremes in temperature the interior of a car will encounter over the course of a year.

Keeping our Emergency Car Kits simple may provide the motivation and direction we need to assemble the kits and actually put them into our vehicles.

Let’s remember the basics of life: water, food, protection.

Water –

  • It is recommended by FEMA that we store 3 gallons per person (1 gallon per person per day for 72 hours).  This quantity includes water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene.  If you don’t have enough room for the full quantity of water in your vehicle just store as much as you can; although 3 gallons per person is the ideal some is better than none.
  • Keep in mind that different size water containers may help you achieve your goal; while gallon jugs are easy to carry, you probably can’t store one under your seat (at least not without breaking it).  However, smaller size containers can fit in the nooks and crannies, under the seat, in the seat pockets, in the glove box, and of course in the trunk.
  • Try to use or buy water containers that can expand if frozen, the extra ribbing (fancy bumps and designs in the plastic of commercial water bottles) will usually allow the bottle to expand without breaking should the water freeze in your vehicle – some bottles have more ribbing than others.

Food –

  • Choose items that won’t spoil with extremes in temperatures and that won’t make you excessively thirsty.  This means no canned foods and no dehydrated fruits that have a high moisture content (those that are sticky to the touch like raisins and apricots – these will mold quickly in a hot humid vehicle).
  • Graham crackers, a box of your favorite cold breakfast cereal, granola bars, fruit snacks, and peanut butter are some examples of the types of things that can be stored in a vehicle.

Protection –

  • Since you most likely can rely on your vehicle for protection we will focus instead on clothing and blankets.  While you may be safe in your vehicle from a rain or snow storm the temperatures inside the vehicle will still become cold.  Add an extra pair of warm clothes to your kit or a blanket or two.
  • Consider adding a poncho or rain coat (and of course an umbrella).
  • Consider adding a hat and gloves as well.
  • If you often wear dress shoes put a pair of tennis shoes in your kit.

Once we have these basics covered and in our vehicle we can then start adding additional comforts such as:

  • First Aid Kit (read labels carefully on medications as some will not tollerate extremes in temperature)
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Multi-purpose tool and/or a knife and set of basic tools
  • Activity to occupy your mind – book to read, game to play, paper and pen to write wit
  • Road flares – alert others on the road of your presence (do not use as a light stick, they drip and have noxious fumes – place on road or other non-flammable surface)
  • Light sticks – fairly inexpensive and provide up to 12 hours of light

Storing your Emergency Car Kit can also be done in any manner you desire.  Plastic totes with lids, gallon size baggies (there are even larger sizes now that zip closed and keep the contents dry), and cardboard boxes are just a few examples.

Photo source: public domain CDC

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