Individual & family preparedness
As winter weather and the holiday season approaches, ensuring individual and family preparedness is important. Preparedness means that individuals and their families can take care of themselves until help arrives, relieving some of the burdens on first responders. Winter preparedness actions for vehicle travel helps to ensure readiness in the event of a winter storm or blizzard.
The first step in preparing is to put together an emergency kit. Families and individuals should have an emergency kit on hand for any emergency, but carrying the appropriate provisions for the season requires a few additions specifically for winter travel emergencies. Ready.gov recommends adding sand and salt melt to the kit to assist with vehicle traction if needed. For environmentally friendly options visit the Environmental Protection Agency. Other items recommended for the vehicle include:
- Windshield scraper and small broom
- Battery powered radio with extra batteries
- Chain or rope for towing
- Booster cables
- Emergency flares
- Fluorescent distress flag
For personal safety while traveling during the winter, be sure to include items in the emergency kit that will keep everyone warm, such as blankets, along with extra hats, socks, and gloves/mittens. Have at least enough snack food and water for each person in case the vehicle gets stuck for a long period of time in the snow.
Make sure to also carry the following critical items:
- First aid kit with pocket knife
- Medications - especially those that must be taken regularly such as insulin
Be sure to have vehicles inspected and winterized to help minimize any future problems. A few items to check include antifreeze levels, brakes and brake fluid, windshield wipers and fluid, thermostat, heater and defroster, oil level, and air filters and fuel.
Keep a full fuel tank if possible to prevent fuel lines from freezing. Also, check the battery and make sure the terminals are clean. The exhaust system should be in good working order without any crimps or leaks to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, which is odorless - and deadly.
Finally, be sure to install a good set of winter tires on the vehicle to help navigate snowy road conditions and ensure better traction and safety.
Travel during winter weather
During the winter season, it is important to be aware of current and approaching weather conditions, including temperatures, winter weather watches and warnings. These include freezing rain, ice, snow, wind chills, and other advisories that could indicate travel is, or may become difficult or impossible.
Individuals should also be aware of road closures due to winter weather conditions or accidents and plan travel routes accordingly to avoid lengthy delays or getting stuck.
Always follow the instructions of police, fire, and emergency officials when watches, warnings, or other information is being relayed to the public. Avoid areas where they have responded to ensure they can assist those in need rapidly, efficiently, and effectively.
Try to avoid traveling during winter storm conditions unless it is absolutely necessary. If travel is necessary, be sure to inform a responsible adult of plans, routes, and destinations, try not to travel alone, and stay on the main roads if and when possible.
When in doubt, do not go out!
Visit Ready.gov for more information on winter vehicle travel and preparedness.