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Grand Canyon

Emergency Preparedness for the Car

It’s summertime! If the weather itself hasn’t told you, your kids probably have. Yesterday was the last day of school for my kids, and we’re gearing up for some traveling this summer. Of course, we all take trips of various lengths in our car every day, but when we are entering “Road Trip Season,” this is an especially good time to reevaluate your preparations as they relate to your car.

Almost everyone has a cell phone and GPS these days, and maybe access to roadside assistance, but we still need to keep some items in our car for emergencies. These can easily be used if you need to bug out as well as when you’re in your car for any other reason. You can buy a commercially available kit for prices ranging from “not too much” to “a whole lotta money,” but it is very easy to put together your own kit. You probably have a lot of these items already, and even if you buy a commercially available kit, it isn’t going to have everything your family needs.

First, eliminate emergencies ahead of time! In terms of your car, this means keeping your car in good condition. Especially prior to a road trip, you should have your car serviced to be sure that fluid levels are appropriate, car tires are good, and there are no mechanical concerns heading into the trip. On an ongoing basis, you should try to keep at least a quarter of a tank of gas in your car, and be sure your spare tire and jack are still in your car for if you need them.

But of course even if you do all you can to avoid emergencies, they can still happen. So let’s take a look at some other things to have in your car.

  • Jumper Cables – Ever been stranded with a dead battery? You don’t want to learn a law of physics by your forgotten lights draining the battery. I don’t have that problem anymore since my lights go on and off automatically (“Yes,” nice concerned man in the parking lot, “they will go off on their own.”) If you do have a dead battery – or someone else does – it can be a real help to have jumper cables available.
  • Gas Can – If you’ve ever run out of gas, you know how frustrating it can be – as well as expensive, if you have to buy a gas can from a gas station (and not all stations have them anyhow).
  • First Aid Kit – Medical emergencies are something we need to be prepared for all the time. Some people keep basic items in their purse or backpack, like adhesive bandages, but a bigger kit will easily fit in your trunk or under one of the front seats.  
  • Flashlight or Headlamp – You never know when there will be a situation in which you will need extra light. A headlamp can help out so that you can work hands-free and really aren’t expensive, but even a smaller flashlight will be invaluable if the time comes. Be sure to have some extra batteries that fit that flashlight, and take the batteries out when it isn’t in use.
  • Water – It is good to carry a gallon or two, which can be added to the radiator for an overheating engine (after allowing it to cool down some, of course), or for drinking water as needed.  
  • Food – You should carry a small pack of food in your car, along with other items that can tolerate the weather. Of course, monitor foods periodically to be sure they are still good (unexpired and undeteriorated by the heat/cold). Other than prepackaged kits, consider crackers, trail mix, dried fruit, and nuts. For specific trips, you should take more food to eat along the way, like fruit, sandwiches, string cheese, etc.
  • Knife – I keep a special knife clipped to my driver’s side visor. It has many features. I admit that the thing I’ve used the knife for the most is to open those “clamshell” plastic packages, but I know I’ve got a knife if I ever need it.
  • Blanket – even in the summertime, it can get chilly at night. I remember lots of times tucking a blanket around our little kids in the backseat to help them be more comfortable on drives home.
  • Duct Tape – What isn’t duct tape helpful for? You might use it for more than travel emergencies.
  • Children’s Items – Anything you use on a regular basis, keep extras of in your car: diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes “just in case.”
  • Charger/Adapter – Carry a cell phone charger (and keep your phone as charged), but there are also inexpensive car adapters to power an AC outlet. Having electricity really opens your options of what you can use in your car and in an emergency.
  • Contact Information – If your phone were dead, could you access any phone numbers? Take a few minutes and write down a list of the numbers you would want available in an emergency and keep it in your car.
  • Map – I know, you have a GPS in your car or a map on your phone, but it is a great idea to have a physical map with you whenever you go on a road trip that includes any unfamiliar territory.

I just got back from hiking in the Grand Canyon. It was a great trip, with amazing scenery. But I was surprised to see how much of the area was “off the grid” (no cell service, no internet). I was glad that we had brought plenty of snacks to eat and emergency supplies. Thank goodness there were no problems this trip, but I’m grateful we were prepared just in case.

Now, where will your next trip be, and will you be prepared?

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