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Helminc.com eNewsletter Archive > 2004-2005 eNewsletters > Featured Articles >Emergency Kit

Preparing an Emergency Kit for Your Car

You never know when you might need emergency supplies when on the road, whether close to home, or far away. Whether it is vehicle failure, weather conditions, or other causes, it always pays to be prepared for an emergency on the road.

Consider the following suggestions for your vehicle emergency preparedness kit. Depending upon your climate and distance traveled, you may wish to modify the list. For example, if you're planning an excursion into the wilderness for a week, you'll want to stock up on the food, water, and other survival rations in case you become stranded in the wilderness.

If you're a daily commuter in a friendly climate, chances are that your emergency kit will be a handy convenience when the need arises. Always prepare, however, for adverse weather conditions and unexpectedly long separations from sources of food, water, heating or cooling.

First, let's begin with standard emergency supplies applicable to any climate or situation:

Cell phone - If you have a cell phone, always keep it with you and charged when traveling. If you have a cigarette lighter charging adapter, keep that in the car at all times.

CB Radio (with extra batteries) - A hand-held CB radio can provide emergency communications with others on the road when out of cell range.

Standard 1st aid Kit and manual - Purchase a standard, compact first aid kit, and store it with a first aid manual in case of injury.

Flashlight (with extra batteries) - A source of light is a necessity for emergencies or breakdowns after dark. Consider modern emergency LED flashlights that charge quickly by an internal generator powered by cranking or shaking of the unit.

Pocketknife - A pocketknife can be very useful for a wide variety of needs in an emergency. Many pocketknives also have can opener and screwdriver tools that can be a benefit in an emergency.

$20 in small bills. Good for any small purchase in places that do not accept checks or credit cards.

$5 in quarters. Handy for payphone calls.

Whistle - If you need to attract attention from a distance, a good loud whistle is a great way to do so.

Flares - Flares can both attract attention and warn of danger and signal others to avoid you.

Jumper Cables - Jumper cables will enable you to take advantage of a good Samaritan's offer to jump start your car in the event of a battery failure.

Small notebook and pencil - A notepad can be very handy for jotting down directions, instructions, or any other information. Pack a pencil instead of a pen, because pens can freeze or dry up rendering them useless. Also, be sure to pack a pocketknife for sharpening the pencil, when needed.

Small toolkit - a compact toolkit consisting of flathead and Philips-head screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench, pliers, and snips.

Tire repair kit and pump - A 12V DC air compressor is compact and a handy way to re-inflate a tire out on the road. Consider also carrying a non-flammable flat tire repair kit, which will re-inflate a damaged tire in an emergency situation.

Portable radio with extra batteries - If you're suffering from electrical problems with your car, a radio can be a source of information and entertainment, while you seek out or wait for roadside assistance.

Toilet tissue and individually wrapped handy-wipes or moist towelettes- Pack these often-overlooked items for basic hygiene or cleanup.

Emergency contact names and numbers - Include a 3x5 card with all of your personal emergency contacts as well as allergies, health conditions, doctors, hospital, or health insurance policy information. A copy of such information should also be kept in your wallet or purse in case of emergency.

Small folding shovel - Very handy for freeing your vehicle from snow, ice, or mud.

Spare fuses - Consult your owner manual to determine which parts to keep on-hand, and the location of the fuse box in the vehicle.

Auto Club or roadside assistance numbers - If you belong to an auto club or subscribe to roadside assistance services, be sure that you can call upon them when the need arises!

Clean rags and work gloves - Even small tasks under the hood or under the vehicle can get messy.

Jack and lug wrench - Be sure to have the basics for changing a tire.

Roll of duct tape - Great for temporary repair of leaking hoses, and many other short-term fixes.

Maps of the area being traveled - Keeping a road atlas in the car is a great insurance policy and can give you great peace of mind in case you get lost.

Quart of Oil and transmission fluid - Keep essential fluids in reserve, especially on long trips. Consult your owners manual for proper fluid specifications and their application.

Seasonal Items:

  • Windshield frost/ice scraper and brush for snow removal.
  • Clothing for cold climates/seasons - Spare coat, Hat, Gloves, Scarf, Blankets.
  • Chemical hand warmers - available in winter sporting shops.
  • Bag of clay cat litter - for traction when stuck in the snow and ice.

Semi-perishable items (to be replaced occasionally, as items expire):

  • Bottled Water - Date the containers and replace every six months. Each person should have 1 gallon of water available per day.
  • Non-perishable food - Power bars, hard candy, canned or dried foods. If you are including canned foods, be sure to also pack a can opener or pocketknife with a can opener. Avoid foods that make you thirsty.
  • Spare medication (in a ziplock bag).
  • Matches (in waterproof container).

Optional Items:

  • Small umbrella for protection from rain or sunshine.
  • Boots (with heavy socks) - for extended walking or traversing heavy terrain.
  • Spare eyeglasses - Even an old prescription is better than none, if you were to lose or break your primary pair of glasses.
  • Disposable camera - for accident scene documentation.

In conclusion...

Emergency preparedness is about common sense and thinking about the essentials that we often take for granted on a daily basis. First and foremost, your emergency kit should have the basics that protect your life and health, and second, some basic tools that might help you get yourself to a place of assistance. Third, consider items that may provide some comfort in an emergency situation.

We hope that you never have to employ your emergency kit, but we hope this provides you with some food for thought when preparing for the possibility.


US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.gov)
US Department of Transportation (DOT.gov)


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