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Emergency Car Kits

24 May, 1997

This tip was submitted to us by Jo Anne Gray.

Joanne says, "I am currently secretary for our Gig Harbor-Key Peninsulas' Emergency Preparedness Committee. I like to call it the '72 hour club'. As a former Girl Scout I have always liked to Be Prepared for anything. My private study began about 10 years ago. I am currently attending Train-the-Trainer classes for the CERT program sponsored by FEMA and our Pierce County DEM and fire districts. Community Emergency Response Team is designed to train citizen volunteers to be a real help in an emergency."

Get Your Car Kit Together

Your car is probably close by wherever you are.

You may not be able to get home right away, after an earthquake at least. Part of your family plan should be a discussion of what everyone will do depending on where they are at the time. By the way, make it a policy to drive on the top half of your gas tank.

Most have a policy of if you are safe where you are and the roads are impassable, stay where you are and use your emergency supplies and we'll know that's what you will be doing and not panic when you don't fly Love-bug-like over the Narrows Bridge.

Think it through

What will you need for three days if you are stuck on the freeway — or even on a bridge?

  • Water and food for three days that doesn't require cooking, a source of caffeine (if you are an addict—this is not the time to do withdrawal); it's also nice to have something warm to drink.
  • If you have room, a small cook kit would be ideal, even a Sierra cup and one of those tablet fuel folding stoves.
  • You will need warm clothes, hat, gloves, plastic produce bags to put over feet (inside your shoes) if they get cold or you are walking out in the wet.
  • Plastic garbage bags, heavy work gloves, preferably leather, (if you have work to do that requires finger dexterity, cold, wet weather can be painful—try kitchen or surgeons gloves with those silver reflective glove liners inside), blanket, or space blanket.
  • First Aid Kit, prescription medications you need daily glasses or contact lens care, dust masks, safety glasses, mouth to mouth shields, waterproof matches. Those trick birthday candles work well for fire starting as they don't blow out and are very small to pack.
  • Fire extinguisher, flashlight and extra batteries, battery radio (don't use up your car battery listening to the news).
  • Sturdy shoes and socks in case you need to walk anywhere, a day pack to carry your stuff in if you do set out on foot (try the thrift shops for sport bags and day packs).
  • A note-leaving kit to tell those who find your car where you have gone and how you are (post-it notes work well - write on the Back and stick on window).
  • Be sure to have your identification, emergency phone numbers and information with you as well as family pictures, their license numbers and car descriptions in case you need to search for information about your loved ones.
  • CASH in small pieces and change.
  • You should have a compass in the car and local area maps (landmarks may be changed, signs downed; and you may need to chart a new course home that does not involve bridges and overpasses... uh well, except for a few big bridges in some parts).
  • A Jack knife, flares, maybe a tow rope, some tools, camp shovel and an ax.
  • I carry a wrecking bar bungeed under my seat to bash my way out, or into someone else's car that has become a trap.
  • A poncho for improvised shelter outside your car, rain, or privacy when nature calls.
  • You might want to tuck in a margarine tub with plastic baggies. You have to store the TP and handiwipes anyway.
  • If you will have a baby with you, diapers, plastic bags, baby wipes, and food.
  • And after a day or two, you'd kill for a toothbrush and paste.
  • Lip balm and hand cream help in the weather.
  • It's nice to have some comfort food goodies stashed, maybe a deck of cards, a good book. It will be a long three days.

You need enough of ALL THIS STUFF to equip or feed the number of people who are likely to be with you at the time. If you will have the dog with you, you'd best stash some dog food and count the dog as a person in your water needs.

Now, as for food

The 2400 or 3600 calorie energy bars provide nutrition as well as energy. They have a long shelf life and can handle heat and cold in the car. You could make 3600 calories last for three days. You probably won't have room but you can get MRE's (meals ready-to-eat) at emergency suppliers, the camping supply or army surplus. They come as complete meals with entree, fruit or dessert, crackers, beverage mix, utensils and napkin. Or try the new nutrition drinks. You can do great things with Vienna sausages, Deviled ham and crackers or canned brown bread, can opener' granola bars, boxes of juice.

The trick is going to be water

That's the thing you can't live without. Best are the water packets with the 5 year shelf-life. They fit into small spaces and adapt to the space you have. I stash 2-liter bottles of it under the seats in my van; put 2 or 3 in a plastic bag so they don't roll around and secure with a small bungee cord. One-liter bottles fit in the storage compartments on the sides in the back. In a compact passenger car you can get a couple of 2-liters in the tire compartment. Then the flexible packs are best for stuffing around and into the spare tire.

All this stuff in a car?

Actually, it can be quite compact if you're careful and use your nooks and crannies well. Remember this is Emergency stuff; it doesn't have to be handy.

Look for compartments: pop up the back seat in your sedan if it isn't part of the trunk, use your spare tire compartment to the max, string hammocks at the top of the trunk space where you don't use it. I had a problem with my husband removing any sport bag of supplies I put in his trunk to make room for luggage or someone else's golf clubs. It's better to break things up and put them where they won't be in the way and hence, removed.

Store things individually: jackknife and matches in the main ashtray, compass and extra batteries in another ashtray, soft gloves and hats in the flexible saddle bags on the back of many front seats, space blankets or bags in the map compartment in the doors. Put socks on your water bottles, cram individual soft things in between stuff in your cubby holes. For comfort, you can lay a blanket out flat in your trunk inside a flat garbage bag or in the back of your van, perhaps covered by a piece of carpet to keep it clean and in place.

I've considered making a hanging bag of stuff to feed into an empty space behind/below another small ashtray. Hang hammocks of things under your seats with bungees or cord tied to the springs so they won't be kicked out.

Consider these supplies a base for your home supplies. If you are home, your car is likely to be also. It can be a source if you must escape your home. Consider a hide-a-key to get into it if you can't grab your bag; stash a house key in the car to get back in your house in the same event. Remember, you are on your own for probably at least the first 72 hours. The Red Cross will not have coffee and donuts at the next corner and the National Guard will not bring you water.

Be responsible for yourself and your family.

Don't be scared; Be Prepared.

--Jo Anne Gray

For more information about emergency preparedness food and water supplies, TheEpicenter.com has you covered! MREs, Freeze Dried Foods & Food Storage, Emergency Drinking Water, and more.