The spring blizzard currently happening here in Colorado has reminded me that some of our visitors and new residents might not be fully prepared for road travel in these conditions.
With advanced warning systems and increased population no one ever expects to get caught in a winter storm situation that traps them on our highways, but it happens. Preparedness gives you the best chance of survival until help arrives. Keeping a survival kit in the car during the winter months is just one way to ensure the best possible outcome should the unthinkable happen.
The Colorado Division of Emergency Management has set basic guidelines to handle blizzard conditions that trap you in a car including carrying the following in a water tight container in the trunk.
- high-calorie, non-perishable food
- flashlight with extra batteries
- first aid kit
- extra clothing to keep dry
- a tin can and water-proof matches to melt snow for drinking water
- sack of sand (or cat litter)
- collapsible shovel
- windshield scraper and brush
- tool kit
- tow rope
- booster cables
- water container
- duct tape
- Bright red cloth for signal banner
Some other items that might be helpful are light sticks and heat packets for inside gloves and socks. Keep a cell phone charger in the car as well.
If you are caught in a blizzard here are some suggestions by the Emergency Management team:
- Pull off the road, set hazard lights to flashing, and hang a distress flag (red bandana or shop towel) from the radio antenna or window. Remain in your vehicle; rescuers are most likely to find you there.
- Conserve fuel, but run the engine and heater about ten minutes each hour to keep warm, cracking a downwind window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Exercise to maintain body heat but don't over-exert. Huddle with other passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
- In extreme cold use road maps, seat covers, floor mats, newspapers or extra clothing for covering-anything to provide additional insulation and warmth.
- Turn on the inside dome light so rescue teams can see you at night, but be careful not to run the battery down. In remote areas, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract the attention of rescue planes.
- Do not set out on foot unless you see a building close by where you know you can take shelter.
- Once the blizzard is over, you may need to leave the car and proceed on foot. Follow the road if possible. If you need to walk across open country, use distant points as landmarks to help maintain your sense of direction.