What to do if a Winter Storm Traps You in Your Car
It is never a good idea to do any travelling during snowstorms, but, if you must, and you find yourself trapped in your car during a blizzard, it’s important that you fully understand what to do.
Above all else, you MUST remain calm. Keeping a level head will help you to think through clearly as to the best course of action to take.
Car Survival Kit
Your car survival kit can be as extensive as you like, but there are certain items that you should include which would allow you to survive 12 – 24 hours (and sometimes more, if needed) without the benefit of the car heater.
- Sleeping bag and a couple of warm blankets
- Metal coffee can (or lightweight camping pot) which can be used to heat water
- Waterproof matches and candles
- A quality flashlight and extra batteries. Great for signaling help or finding dropped items in your vehicle at night when there is no lighting.
- Winter clothing such as; caps, mittens, heavy wool socks, gloves, coveralls, thermal underwear, etc.
- 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, peanut butter, sugar cubes, packaged condensed soups and hot chocolate. Since you have a pot to boil water you may also want to look into MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat).
- Small sack of sand or kitty litter, which is good for traction, and can double for vehicle fluid leaks.
- Shovel – One with a flat blade is preferable. Use caution in shoveling snow, as overexertion is not advisable in a survival situation, especially in the winter when perspiration can kill you with outdoor temperatures start to plummet.
- Basic tool kit, to include pliers, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, duck tape, regular tape and wire.
- Paper towels and/or toilet tissue, good for their designed purpose as well as for emergency fire starter.
- Axe or saw, excellent for cutting wood for fire or branches to place under stuck tires for traction. Also can be used to clear the road if you need to.
- Spare tire.
- Wire and rope (550 paracord), 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. Also consider chemlights because they are non-flammable especially around vehicles.
- Extra cell phone batteries and car charger.
- Sharp knife
- Colorful bandana or cloth
- Whistle. Check out how to use your survival whistle
If the road in which you have become stuck is a well-traveled road, indicate that you are in trouble and need help using the signalling devices from your survival kit. If for whatever reason, you do not have a survival car kit, try flashing your directional signals, raising the hood on your car and tying something bright to your radio antenna. Then STAY IN THE CAR and wait for help.
The number one rule is to stay in the car! Unless there is a house or other building very close or help is in sight you must always stay in the car!
Be careful; distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close, but be too far to walk to in deep snow.
- If you run the engine to keep warm, do so sparingly and remember to open a window to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning. Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm.
- Check the exhaust pipe of your car to ensure that it has not become blocked by the snow.
- Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Exercise, clap your hands, move your arms and legs vigorously or do other isometric exercises to keep the blood flowing, but avoid overexertion.
- In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
- If you are with someone take turns on watch. If you are alone do not go to sleep, stay awake!
- Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs – the use of lights, heat, and radio – with supply.
- Turn on the inside light at night so work crews or rescuers can see you.
- Remember your horn. The rule of three is a universally recognized distress code. Wait 10 seconds between blasts.
- If stranded in a remote area, stomp large block letters in an open area
spelling out HELP or SOS and line with rocks or tree limbs to attract the attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by airplane.
Check out our next post to see how you can prepare for a blizzard
Check out more of our cold weather survival tips