TLC for winter emergency kits

Posted: Sunday, November 03, 2002

In my field of home economics, we have an internal joke that home economists teach what they need to learn. This article on winterizing your (my) automobile emergency kit is a prime example.

I'm a firm believer that preparing the vehicle for winter is imperative, especially in Alaska. I have to confess, though, my winter car kit is usually in terrible shape after the summer months. I find myself robbing the tissues, bandages, candy bars, snacks and matches from it over the course of the summer. It is, after all, an "emergency" kit and isn't hunger on the Sterling Highway an emergency?

If your winter emergency kit needs a little TLC, here are some ideas on getting it safely stocked up for winter.

Keep in mind traveling without planning and being prepared for bad weather or challenging road conditions is dangerous. It is important to prepare for the possibility of car trouble or an emergency by getting your car in shape for winter driving as well as assembling and carrying a winter automobile kit. Remember the avalanches of 2000? Emergencies do happen.

Many Alaskans carry safety and repair equipment in their vehicles year round. These items include: a good spare tire, tire wrench, jack, booster cables, sand, tow rope or chain, shovel, windshield cleaner fluid, flares, repair tools such as pliers, wrenches, pocket knife, nylon rope (at least 50 feet), flashlight with extra batteries, plastic whistle and a bright red or orange cloth for signaling. Always include a first-aid kit.

Keep clothing and bedding available in the vehicle throughout the winter months as survival gear. Use the layer system when selecting the clothing to go in your kit. These layers don't need to be fashionable but definitely functional.

Layer one is long underwear. Select a wicking type fabric such as polypropylene or silk. I put several pairs of socks and sock liners in my kit.

The second layer is a long-sleeved sweater, wool shirt or fleece and wool or fleece pants.

Layer three is an insulated jacket or parka. For head and face cover include a stocking cap, balaclava, and-or a knit scarf. Add a pair of mittens to your kit.

The fourth and final layer is a sleeping bag designed for winter use. Another option is a reflective space blanket, plus several blankets.

Clean, drinkable water is a must for your kit. Plan for the consumption of one to two quarts per day for each person traveling to prevent dehydration. Food helps boost morale. Select the emergency food to match the tastes and diets of the people traveling. Gorp (good ol' raisins and peanuts, plus chocolate chips or M&M's) is one suggestion.

Other supplies that can be a part of a winter kit is reading materials, a deck of cards, car games, pencils, stationery and a battery-operated radio (with batteries).

We have an excellent publication from North Dakota Extension Service on preparing for winter driving, titled, "Stalled, but Safe." For a free copy of this publication, call our Extension office at 262-5824 or toll free at (800) 478-5824.

Linda Tannehill is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Office. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs. The Kenai Peninsula District Extension Office is at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, Soldotna, AK. The phone number is 262-5824 or toll-free at (800) 478-5824.

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