Have your car(s) winterized before the winter storm season. Keeping your car(s) in good condition will decrease your chance of being stranded in cold weather.
Have a mechanic check your battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, and oil level. Make sure tires have adequate tread.
If you have a cell phone or two-way radio available for your use, keep the battery charged and keep it with you whenever traveling in winter weather.
Keep a windshield scraper and small broom in your car for ice and snow removal.
Put together a separate disaster supplies kit for the trunk of each car used by members of your household. The kit should include the following:
- Several blankets
- Rain gear and extra sets of dry clothing, mittens, socks, and a wool cap.
- Flashlight with extra batteries.
- Nonperishable, high emergency foods like granola bars, raisins and peanut butter.
- Jumper cables.
- First aid kit and necessary medications.
- Bottled water
- Fire extinguisher (5 lb. A-B-C type)
- A brightly colored cloth to tie to the antenna.
Keep your car’s gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
Plan long trips carefully. Traveling during winter weather can be hazardous. Listen to the radio for the latest road conditions. Plan to travel during daylight, if possible.
Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
Be aware of sleet, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and dense fog, which can make driving very hazardous. The leading cause of death during winter storms is from automobile or other transportation accidents.
If you do get stuck:
Stay with your vehicle. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. Disorientation and confusion come very quickly in blowing snow. Avoid traveling during winter storms. If you must travel and do become stranded, it is better to stay in the vehicle and wait for help.
Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood (after snow stops falling).
Occasionally run engine to keep warm. Carbon monoxide can build up inside a standing vehicle while the engine is running, even if the exhaust pipe is clear. Experience has shown that running the heater for 10 minutes every hour is enough to keep occupants warm and will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and conserve fuel. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or 5 minutes every half hour). Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.
Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
Do minor exercises to keep up circulation. Clap hands and move arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long.
If more than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping. One of the first signs of hypothermia is sleepiness. If you are not awakened periodically to increase body temperature and circulation, you can freeze to death.
Huddle together for warmth.
Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Severe cold can cause numbness, making you unaware of possible danger. Keep fingers and toes moving for circulation, huddle together, and drink warm broth to reduce risk of further injury.
Drink fluids to avoid dehydration. Bulky winter clothing can cause you to sweat, but cold dry air will help the sweat evaporate, making you unaware of possible dehydration. When individuals are dehydrated, they are more susceptible to the effects of cold and heart attacks. Melt snow before using it for drinking water. Eating snow lowers your body temperature, increasing risk from hypothermia.
Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse.