By Matt Singleton
May 11, 2018
As the school year winds down, and summer gets closer, many of us will find ourselves in the car for a lengthy drive. Whether heading to a graduation ceremony, a long weekend mini-vacation over Memorial Day, or a full vacation at the beach, there are some things that you should always have in your car, in case of an emergency.
Medical Kit with at least two tourniquets
A lot of folks carry what we call “boo-boo kits”. A simple first aid kit with band-aids, ibuprofen, burn cream, etc. is certainly a good idea. But what if you are involved in a serious accident, or come across an accident scene where there are serious injuries? A proper medical, or trauma kit in the right hands can be the difference between life and death. Any complete trauma kit should contain tourniquets for bleeding control. Of course, we highly recommend training in the proper use of such equipment, but even if you don’t have the training, there could be someone on the scene who does.
If you are in an accident, it is possible that your doors and locks could become disabled, and your seatbelt can malfunction and jam. Having the means to escape from your vehicle is essential. There are many kinds of window breakers and seat belt cutters on the market. Some of our favorites are linked here. Most importantly, make sure that it is easily accessible from your seat, and is firmly attached to something such as your seat belt or key ring. Things can get airborne in an accident, and your window breaker won’t do you any good if it has been launched into the back seat, or onto the floor where you can’t reach it.
We have all heard stories of folks who have gotten lost or stuck on a trip, and had to spend days surviving on their own. While the chances of that happening to most of us are unlikely, the odds of having a breakdown and spending several hours waiting for help, or even just being stuck in an extended traffic jam are significantly higher. Having some non-perishable food on hand can make these moments much more bearable. A good example is a box of Clif bars, or other energy-rich, portable snacks. We like the Clif bars, because they last forever, are a great source of quick energy, and they don’t melt and get messy. Having some water on hand is essential. Proper hydration if you are caught in the summer sun for a long time is critical. At least a gallon, if not two is a good idea to have on hand in your vehicle.
Spare clothing/ weather gear
In the summer months it may not be necessary to keep a bunch of warm clothing in the car, but you should at least have a few essential items. Comfortable walking shoes are a must. Walking several miles to a gas station in your high heels or flip-flops will make for a miserable day. Decent rain gear makes getting caught in a storm a lot more tolerable. Sunscreen and bug-spray are important when the weather is hot. The main thing here is to pay attention to the weather forecast for the area and season you will be traveling in, and plan accordingly. Always be prepared, and have the appropriate items in your vehicle- it is always possible you may end up having to be out in the elements for some length of time.
Your tires are probably the most likely thing to break down on your vehicle. They take a beating, and can be punctured by nails, scrap metal or other loose impediments on the road. Having the means to quickly repair a flat is indispensable. Make sure you keep your spare tire well-maintained, and are familiar with how to change it. A can of fix-a-flat can be a life-saver, especially if you are in a dangerous situation, such as on the shoulder of a busy highway, or in a bad neighborhood. In those cases, you just want to make a temporary repair as quickly as possible, and get to a safer place to put your spare on, or make other more permanent repairs.
Phone chargers– we all know how dependent we are now on our devices. They can be a real important link in our safety chain. Whether you need to call 911, or navigate yourself out of a dangerous area, having your battery die at an inopportune time can cause problems, and you may not be able to rely on your vehicle’s battery to come through. There are many options for a quick recharge on the market. At the very least you should have a portable charging device in your car always (remember to check it’s charge before leaving!). Our best recommendation is to have a solar powered case, or charger.
Fire starter– it is always a good idea to be able to have the means to start a fire. While it may seem unnecessary in the summer months, or while traveling in urban areas, a fire-starter takes up very little room, and can be invaluable in an emergency.
Flares or portable reflective traffic triangles– vital to keeping yourself safe if you break down, or are in an accident after dark.
Good strong flashlight– We strongly advocate always having a small flashlight on your person. It can be used to navigate safely through dark parking areas, and can even be used as a defensive weapon (learn how in our Active Assailant Readiness Training Course!). Having a larger, stronger one at the ready in your vehicle is also a good idea.
Blanket– even in the warmer months, having a blanket in your car can be a good idea. You may be surprised at how chilly it can get, if you must spend the night in your car. Also, if you are in an accident, or come upon an accident scene where someone is badly injured and in shock, keeping them covered with a blanket will help while you are waiting for first responders to arrive. If you don’t have much room, an emergency blanket like this is a great solution.
Pepper Spray– Not only for use against a human attacker, pepper spray can come in handy if you run across an aggressive animal, such as a loose or feral dog. If you are in an area where there are large predators, bear spray would be best.
If you can, keep all your emergency items in a designated bag or duffle. You should be able to easily grab it, and have access to all your emergency supplies in one place.
Remember, don’t drive distracted! Keep your phones and devices out of hand while driving. If you are in an accident, as long as no one is badly injured, move away from the vehicle and roadway until help arrives.
With a little common sense, and some readily-available, relatively inexpensive items such as these, you can be confident that you can travel safely, and be ready for anything that might happen while you are out on the road.