As families head out on the highway for vacation, it’s important to remember that not all road trips go smoothly. Severe weather, mechanical failure or illness can throw a wrench in travel plans, so it’s best to be prepared for the unexpected.
Keeping an emergency preparedness kit in the vehicle can help make the most of a bad situation. If your car goes off the road or breaks down, leaving you stranded until help arrives, having a few emergency essentials can ease stress and discomfort.
“You would rather be prepared and never have to use it than need it and not have it,” says Angie Springs, director of the American Red Cross, Midland Empire Chapter.
What you decide to keep in an emergency kit can change with the seasons and where in the United States you’ll be traveling, but some essentials are universal no matter the situation. A flashlight with batteries, jumper cables, basic first aid supplies, bottled water, some snack items, a small shovel and a blanket are all useful in case you’re lost, stranded or stuck in a traffic jam. Include diapers, wipes and a change of clothes if traveling with infants or children. Always keep a cell phone charger in the vehicle so you can make emergency calls without worrying about a dead battery.
One item some people might not think about needing is a whistle on a cord. Ms. Springs says in cases where cars have gone off course and landed in ravines that aren’t visible from the road, it’s difficult to receive help if no one can see or hear them. A loud whistle carries farther than shouting voices, alerting rescuers to the location.
Jake Angle, public information officer for the Missouri Highway Patrol Troop H, says another useful item is a large umbrella. Not only do they protect you from the rain, but they also provide shade if you’re broken down on the side of the road on a hot day waiting for a tow truck. If other motorists don’t realize a parked car could be in distress, a “Send Help” sign can alert them to the situation. People can pick up these signs at Troop H headquarters, 3525 N. Belt Highway.
Even before hitting the road, Mr. Angle says to make sure the car is in working order and is fully equipped to handle a long journey.
“Before you take off to travel, check the tires, check the AC. Check the spare tire and make sure it has air in it. Make sure the jack and everything you need is in the car,” he says.
He also stresses the importance of wearing a seat belt at all times and not using your phone or tablet while driving, since many avoidable crashes happen due to distractions like texting.
Ms. Springs says the Red Cross provides several free emergency preparedness guide apps for iPhone and Android. While traveling, one app uses location services to tell you what county you’re in and if that county is experiencing any severe weather or emergency alerts. Other apps give tips on what to do in case of a storm, tornado, hurricane or another crisis. Visit www.redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps for more information.
Brooke Wilson can be reached
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