Cars break down, weather happens, the world can be an unpredictable place. The best way to make sure you are always ready for what comes your way is to prepare ahead of time. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (http://www.ready.gov/kit-storage-locations) recommends keeping emergency supplies in your car so that you are prepared on the road as well as at home. Here are the 15 things you should always have in your car.
1. Jumper Cables - This is a must-have in every car since every car is one night with the dome light on away from a dead battery. Keeping a set in your car means you will never have to ask around to find someone who has them when you are in a bind and that you will only be reliant on the kindness of strangers for the actual jumpstart. Make sure you understand how to use them properly before you need them. The only thing worse than being stranded without jumper cables is being stranded with them and not knowing how to use them.
2. A Flashlight and Batteries - A flashlight is another given and can be very useful if you have to change a tire at night, use the aforementioned jumper cables, or flag down another driver for assistance. Make sure you have back-up batteries as well unless the flashlight operates via crank.
3. An Emergency Blanket - Keeping a blanket in the car is a good practice for everyone and once it is there you will find uses for it that go beyond warmth in an emergency.
4. A Poncho or Raingear - Thanks to Murphy’s Law, it is inevitable that if you find yourself stranded on the side of the road in the dark without cell phone service, it will also be pouring rain. Rain gear or a rain poncho can help you stay dry if you have to leave your car to seek help. They can also be used to repair a broken window along with the duct tape mentioned below.
5. A Tow Rope or Strap - Like most other items in this kit, a tow rope has multiple uses. It can obviously be used to tow another car or pull it out of a ditch but can also be used to build a shelter or create a guideline for others to follow.
6. A Multi-tool - These handy items are useful in almost any situation.
7. Latex Gloves - You never know what you are going to run into or across on the road. Latex gloves provide barrier protection from a number of substances you may not want to risk getting on your hands.
8. Duct Tape - This one doesn’t really need an explanation.
9. First Aid Kit - From basic band-aids and bacitracin to treat scrapes at the soccer field to gauze and tweezers for removing broken glass after an accident, a kit with basic first aid supplies is a must for any vehicle.
10. A Fully Charged Cell Phone and Charger - A cell phone is only helpful if you can use it. Make sure you keep it charged, have a charger in the car, and invest in either a crank flashlight or weather radio that can charge your cell phone with crank or solar power.
11. Road Flares/Reflective Triangles - Whenever you have to pull over to the side of the road, you are increasing the chances that you will be hit by another car. The best way to protect yourself is to alert other drivers to your presence. Turning on your hazards helps but having road flares and/or reflective triangles is even better.
12. Food and Water - One of the dangers of driving is that something will happen and leave you stranded for a long period of time. Having food and water on hand, especially here in the Southwest, can be the difference between life and death depending on where you are stranded and how long you are stuck there.
13. Folding Shovel - A folding shovel can be beneficial in several different circumstances. If you are stuck in a ditch, you can use the shovel to dig out around the tire and help get the car out.
14. Weather Radio - In extreme weather conditions, having a weather radio in the car that can pick up the emergency alert and weather bands enabling you to stay apprised of the situation. As an added bonus, many weather radios operate on crank and solar power, come with a flashlight, and have a USB port that can charge a cell phone.
15. Full Tank of Gas - FEMA recommends keeping the gas tank in your car full so that you have the ability to evacuate to a safe distance on a moment’s notice.