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  • Preparing Your Car for Winter Weather

    via Denver Post via Denver Post

    In many parts of the United States, the first snow has already fallen. In some places the storms were doozies: Parts of Reno, Nevada received 10 inches of snow on November 11 and Denver saw its first blizzard in five years on November 16.

    So, isn’t it time prepare your car for winter?

    First, make sure the car is running well, said Rolayne Fairclough, a spokesperson for AAA Utah.

    “Take it in and have a mechanic prepare it for the winter,” she said.

    Make sure the battery is fully charged, because it’s weaker in cold weather. Mechanics can test it or some car parts stores will test it for free, according to an article in Kiplinger.com, a financial planning site. If you know your battery’s powering down, you can replace it at your convenience and at a better price, the site said.

    Make sure hoses and belts aren’t cracked, Fairclough said. Winter can increase cracks and cause breaking. Also make sure the exhaust system is leak-free so carbon monoxide doesn’t fill your car.

    Whether you choose all-season or winter tires, make sure they’ve got enough tread, Kiplinger.com said. The web site for The Tire Rack, a tire vendor, demonstrates a coin-based way to check the tread.

    Its site points out that at 1/16 of an inch, the minimum tread required by law in most places, “resistance to hydroplaning in the rain at highway speeds has been significantly reduced, and traction in snow has been virtually eliminated.”

    Winter TireYou may have been told to under-inflate tires to give them more surface area. That only helps if the snow is deep and soft, said the Kiplinger.com story. On a normal drive, under-inflated tires act more like hydroplaning tires because they don’t grab the pavement as well as fully inflated tires. Also, remember tires lose a pound of pressure for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit temperature drop.

    Make sure your brakes are in good condition.

    Check windshield wipers and wiper fluid too. Windshield wiper blades have a lifespan of about a year, according to the Kiplinger.com story. In places that get especially cold, put an antifreeze solvent in windshield washer reservoirs, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

    Putting windshield wiper fluid in a car. Don't forget the antifreeze!

    Make sure all the fluids are full and clean, especially antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid. If you live in a really cold area, make sure the antifreeze solution is good for temperatures 40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation site. Car parts stores carry an antifreeze tester that’s less than $10, according to Kiplinger.com.

    Check to make sure leaves and debris haven’t filled the opening below the hood and windshield: they can block water flow, according to Kiplinger.com. Also make sure nothing under the car is loose or hanging down so it doesn’t get torn out if you drive over deep snow. Finally, clean and wax headlights.

    The second step is to make sure you’ve got an emergency kit, Fairclough said.

    Keep cold weather gear like blankets or a sleeping bag, boots, a coat, and gloves in the car, she said. Aluminum “space blankets” can fit in a glove compartment.

    Bring a power source for cell phones, a radio, and a flashlight with extra batteries.

    Believe it or not, a candle can heat a whole car’s cabin, Fairclough said. Carry matches too, because extreme cold can freeze some lighters.

    Add water and a metal container for melting snow or drinking. Also bring high-energy food like candy, raisins, nuts, dehydrated fruit and jerky. Don’t forget toilet paper.

    Auto Kit Keep an auto emergency kit in your vehicle, just in case.

    Finally, take tools and equipment for the car: signaling equipment like bright cloth or flares, chains, booster cables, a nylon rope, and a shovel, and sand or kitty litter for traction.

    In a pinch, you can use the car’s floor mats for traction, Fairclough said.

    “A lot of people just don’t put a shovel in their cars,” she admitted.

    Third, take a few minutes to prepare before you go anywhere. Dress for the weather. Carry a cell phone and charger and make sure to tell someone your departure time, route and expected arrival time, suggests the North Dakota Department of Transportation. Check road conditions before you leave.

    Keep the gas tank more than half full, Fairclough said.

    “If you’re detoured, you have some flexibility and don’t have to worry about running out of gas,” she said.

    Finally, drive for the conditions. Although winter months see fewer fatal crashes, they see more small ones, Fairclough said. Typically they’re from people driving too fast and too close together.

    You can find detailed hints for what to do if you get stranded in winter at the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s web site.

    Have a safe winter!


    How is your car prepared for winter weather?



  • How to be Safe During an Earthquake While Driving

    California Highway CollapseOn October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake jolted the north-central coast of California. It caused $1.8 billion in damage to the transportation system. A landslide closed State Highway 17, a 26-mile parkway between San Jose and Santa Cruz. In the San Francisco Bay area, a 1.25-mile section of the double-decker Cypress Street Viaduct, part of Interstate 880, collapsed, killing 42. An upper deck section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed. Every airport in the area closed overnight. All cable cars, electric trains and buses – half of the Bay area’s mass transit – halted when they lost power.

    Whether traveling or just commuting to work, you can take steps before, during and after an earthquake to be safe while on the road.

    Before an earthquake, keep your car in good condition, make a car emergency kit and make a family communication plan.

    Gas GagueTo keep your car in good condition, keep your gas tank more than half full and perform seasonal checkups, according to ready.gov. A full gas tank will keep the fuel line from freezing. Check all fluid levels, filters, tires, brakes, and lights. Watch for leaks in the exhaust system. Make sure the defroster and windshield wipers work.

    We have both a car emergency kit as well as an earthquake emergency kit, so you can check those out as somewhere to start. We’re even giving an earthquake emergency kit away (see the bottom of this post to enter)!

    If you want to make your own, use this list from ready.gov:

    • Car maintenance supplies: basic tools, jumper cables and flares or a reflective triangle.
    • Winter equipment: cat litter or sand for traction, a shovel, and an ice scraper.
    • Food: canned goods – don’t forget a can opener – and protein-rich food like nuts. Also remember baby formula and pet food, if applicable.
    • Water: one gallon per person per day.
    • Powered devices: flashlight with extra batteries, radio and cell phone car charger.
    • Warm clothes and blankets or sleeping bags.

    A communication plan includes information for family members and friends, work and school, and emergency organizations. FEMA and Red Cross have blank contact cards. Everyone should have an out-of-town emergency contact because it’s often easier to make long distance calls after a disaster, according to ready.gov.

    During an earthquake, a car will be harder to control, according to the Red Cross. As quickly as possible, pull over to a clear location, stop and set the parking brake. Avoid bridges, overpasses, trees, and power lines. If you’re in the mountains, watch for falling rocks and debris.

    Most importantly, stay in your vehicle with your seat belt buckled. If you leave your vehicle, it will block the road so emergency crews will have a harder time getting where they need to be. If a power line falls on your vehicle, staying inside it will prevent electrocution.

    Cracked road after earthquake at Chiang Rai Province, Thailand

    After an earthquake, the Red Cross suggests you be cautious when you start driving and have alternate routes. A pedestrian overpass, for example, can rapidly become a crosswalk that will block the whole road. Stay out of damaged areas as much as possible. Avoid bridges and ramps that the earthquake may have damaged, according to ready.gov. Watch for fallen power lines. Broken water mains can create sinkholes. Look for those and other signs like large cracks and squirts of sand that suggest the surface beneath the road might be unstable. Assume traffic lights won’t work.

    The nice thing about preparing your vehicle for an earthquake is that same effort helps if your vehicle breaks down. Seasonal checkups will also keep your car running longer. So aren’t a few minutes for preparation worth the time and money?

    - Melissa


    Earthquake Banner - Call to Action


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  • How Prepared is Your Car?

     How Prepared is your car for an emergency?

    In light of the recent debacle in Georgia, when a dusting of snow over ice locked up roadways across the state, one local insurance company set out to see how prepared their city’s citizens were.

    According to Delawareonline.com, the “junk in the trunk” campaign hosted by State Farm found that, while drivers tend to leave or store plenty of items in their car, relatively few of them count as “emergency supplies” (not real sure how those mason jars are going to come in handy…).

    So, if you can’t quite think of a good use for old fast food bags and crusty beach towels from last summer, what should you stash in your car? FEMA has a good checklist, as does ReadyWisconsin who might know a thing or two about snow days, to get you and your vehicle prepared with the right supplies.

    Or, if you’re a level 5 prepping fanatic—and drive something more substantial than, say, a Civic hatchback—you can use the Allstate Insurance comprehensive, ready-for-absolutely-any-kind-of-road-trip-emergency checklist.

    Start here to gather materials, and don’t forget to clear out all the stuff from your car that you’ll never use! Except the ketchup packets. You really never know when you’ll need one of those.


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