Stocking your vehicle for winter; what to do in case of emergency, checklist

ST. GEORGE – Saturday is a good day to stock your vehicle with an emergency kit to keep you in good stead during the coming winter months. Many people enjoy outdoor activities year-round in Southern Utah, do you have everything you need in your vehicle in case of an emergency?

Following are guidelines and supplies recommended for survival in the event you find yourself stuck somewhere in the snow or just out in the cold in your vehicle. These derive from tips given by the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, the Center for Disease Control, and the U.S Search and Rescue Task Force.

Stay in your vehicle

  • Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold
  • Run the motor about ten minutes each hour for heat
  • Open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers
  • Turn on the dome light at night when running engine
  • Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door
  • Raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling
  • Exercise from time to time, by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm
  • Wear a hat, half your body heat loss can be from the head
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold
  • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves
  • Loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers is best, trapped air insulates and layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chills
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded
  • Safely removing tires and upholstery from your vehicle and lighting them on fire in a cleared area will create smoke to facilitate your being located

Supplies recommended to be kept in your vehicle in case of emergencies

  • Cell phone; portable charger and extra batteries
  • Windshield scraper
  • Battery-powered radio, extra batteries
  • Flashlights, extra batteries
  • Snack food
  • Extra hats, coats, mittens, change of clothes
  • Air-activated heat packs for hands and feet
  • Moon boots or insulated footwear
  • Insulated coveralls
  • Blankets or sleeping bag
  • Chains or rope
  • Tire chains
  • Spare gas –
    • While gas cans can leak and spill, this may not be the best idea in a passenger car,Washington County Search and Rescue Commander Casey Lofthouse said, but in most off-road vehicles and for back country travel, extra gas is a must.
  • Canned compressed air with sealant (emergency tire repair)
  • Road salt and sand
    • The salt should be in a container that won’t leak salt inside your car because it is corrosive
    • If you find yourself stuck against the curb and can’t back out, a handful of salt behind each drive wheel will get you moving
  • Booster / jumper cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Bright colored flag; help signs
  • Lighter / Matches (waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water)
  • First Aid kit – (Basic First Aid courses are recommended)
  • Spare medication, if applicable
  • Spare water
  • Hi-lift jack
  • Spare tire with keys for locking lug nuts
  • Spare keys
  • Shovel
  • Tow strap
  • Tool kit
  • Duct tape
  • Trash bags
  • Road maps
  • Compass
  • Towels, paper towels

Prepare your car for winter

James Lofthouse, who has spent 74 years in northern Utah, offers the following list to prepare your car for winter.

  • Check the antifreeze
    • The radiator can freeze even while driving
  • Check the wipers and fill the washer with non-freezing solution
  • Check your headlights
  • Check the heater and defroster
  • Check all hoses and belts
  • Tune up the engine
  • Consider installing an engine heater if you don’t have a garage
  • Check the tires. Good tread is a must
  • Check the battery and alternator
  • Make sure you have a jack, lug wrench and spare tire
  • Often the reason people get into trouble on the road in winter is failure of the auto itself. Poor tires are a big factor.
    • The so called all season radials are OK if all of your driving is on cleared and sanded streets, but if canyon driving or back roads driving is part of your agenda I would highly recommend some town and country tread. Good tread means the difference between getting there or not.
  • You can’t get moving at all if the car won’t start
    • That is where the engine tune up and engine heater comes in. Gosh, it’s frustrating when you have to be to work and the car won’t start.
  • If your battery is nearing it’s expected lifetime consider replacing it now instead of the day you can’t get started. Save yourself some frustration.
  • Even if you have done all of the above mentioned items there comes to most of us that day when for some reason we are stuck on the road
    • This is usually a traumatic and dangerous event.  You may think that someone will stop and help. HA! You may die of hypothermia
      before that happens. … Get together a survival kit and keep it in the car (see list above)

This list is not exhaustive, and we should always be prepared for the unexpected. Weather conditions can change rapidly, so be aware of your vehicle’s abilities. Be safe out there.

Ed. note: Updated 1:35 p.m. with in put from Casey Lofthouse and his father, James Lofthouse.


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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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  • Out offstage November 8, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Just a question here. Since when is it safe to have “spare gas” in your vehicle? It is dangerous to have a gas can with anything in it stored in your car. You may want to revise this list before we have exploding cars in southern utah.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic November 8, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      Reasonable question to be sure, Out Off, so I took it to Casey Lofthouse, with Washington County Search and Rescue. He said: While gas cans can leak and spill, this may not be the best idea in a passenger car, but in most off-road vehicles and for back country travel, extra gas is a must.
      That input has been added along with how to prepare your car, itself, for winter – offered from his father.
      Thank you so much for asking,
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

      • My Evil Twin November 8, 2014 at 5:57 pm

        Considering that many off-road vehicles are SUVs and most people don’t have an outside rack for a gas can, that means the gasoline will be stored in the passenger compartment. NO WAY!
        I have seen some gas cans stored on roof racks. I don’t know, there is just something about having that up on the roof that doesn’t set very well with me. But it would be better than inside the SUV I guess.
        One thing I noticed missing from the survival list was extra cigarettes and cigars! 😉 Nor was there any mention of “human antifreeze.” (Even though alcoholic beverages are really not good for keeping your blood flowing.) 🙂

  • Fred November 8, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Keeping spare gas in the car can be bad news. Even in the trunk it’s easy for vapors to get into the cabin. Yes, without it, you can be stuck, but with it you can be poisoned by fumes.

  • Zonkerb November 8, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Well if you carry dance shoes in you car make sure you get rid of them before you get to St George because it’s illegal here

  • PROTECT THE SHEEP November 9, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I keep about 20 empty milk jugs full of gas throughout my car. Never had a problem. Empty plastic milk jugs are the best gas container you will find. And they’re free!

    • Koolaid November 9, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      That is a great idea. Not only might all that gas be needed to refuel the car while waiting out the three months of winter in your car, but should you also get caught in a flash flood, gasoline, being lighter than water, will provide some buoyancy as you are being swept downstream in a torrential river. And whether you find yourself stuck in a snowbank or stranded on an island, you can use it to build a massive bonfire for satellite intel to identify your location.

      • Zonkerb November 14, 2014 at 7:54 pm

        Hey what about storing moonshine in the car.? Heck you either drink it or use it for gas and when you get home you can suck the rest of it out of you gas tank and have a party

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