Vehicle Emergency Kit Basics
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There are many types of emergencies and it will be impossible for you to build an emergency car kit to cover everything, however there are basic components you MUST have in your ECK (Emergency Car Kit).
First Aid Kit
Every vehicle MUST have a first aid kit. I cannot stress this enough and the fact that they are so inexpensive to get makes me wonder why they are not part of the OEM equipment if every car. So if you do not have one now, make a First Aid Kit your first purchase. You can buy a basic kit or even a specialized Car First Aid Kit. The vehicle first aid kit comprises everything the basic kit will have but also include specific add-ons such as, but not limited to: motion sickness tablets, accident report form, call police flag, etc...
Food and water are also hight on the list. Even if you have a small car, it does not take much room to hold a couple jugs of water and high energy bars. These store very well and for long periods of time so throw them in your Emergency Vehicle Kit and forget about it. You will appreciate it if you do need them.
Flashlight and/or Crank Radio with Flashlight & Cell Charger
Although these are not new on the market, they are mostly targeted towards the camping crowd. It is important to have a flashlight in your kit, but I would strongly recommend spending the extra money and purchasing a hand crank radio/flashlight/charger. By extra money, I mean you can pick up one of these units between 30-80 dollars plus depending on all the extra bells and whistles. These multi units are great as they are LED lights which use less energy, allow you to charge you mobile phone in case of emergency and also let you tune in to weather alerts and radio stations in case of an environmental disaster so you can keep informed of the situation around you.
Jumper Cables and/or Battery Boost Pack
Jumper cables are nice to have, but what if you're in the middle of nowhere and killed your battery by mistake? At a minimum, have a set of good jumper cables in your kit, but it is well worth the extra money to purchase a Battery Booster Pack. These are self contained battery packs that will let you jump start your car or truck on your own. As with the hand crank radios, you will pay more based on options. Some of the booster packs can include: AC inverter plug, trouble light, radio, etc...
Warm Blanket and Warm Clothing
This category really depends on your climate. If you live in a cold climate, you will need to have gloves, hat, long underwear, extra jacket, socks etc... everything you would need to stay warm. One of the most important piece to have in your kit is a comfortable pair of shoes, sneakers and/or boots. Think about how we usually dress while traveling on our vehicle. Now think of how horrible it would be to walk a couple miles in high heel shoes for help or have to spend the night in your office shirt and light jacket due to a snow storm.
Roadside Emergency Kit
A good roadside emergency kit will also include a pair of jumper cables, so you would be covered for that basic requirement, but they include so much more. Think of a roadside emergency kit as a first aid kit for your vehicle. It will include items like reflectors, call police or emergency type banners, flares, tow rope, flashlight, gloves, safety vest, shop cloth, etc.. All these items you can use in cases of distress where you went off the road, broke down on the side of the road and many more.
I know we're not all mechanics, but we're not rebuilding an engine. What I refer to as a basic toolbox is a box containing slip joint pliers, wire cutters, slotted screw-drivers, adjustable crescent wrench, locking plyers, spare fuses, lug wrench, non-flammable tire inflator, jack & wheel chuck, tire pressure gauge, multi knife/tool, etc.. you get the point. The nice thing is if you are not mechanically inclined or do not want to piece this together, you can purchase a toolbox designed specifically for a vehicle emergency kit that include all of the above and then some.
Top Up Fluids
This is one item you rarely see in a basic vehicle emergency kit. I always carry an extra quart of oil, antifreeze and supplies to temporarily fix a blown radiator hose (length of rubber hose and clamps), steering fluid and break fluid. I guess this comes from my offroading experience where you need to bring what you can with you to repair your vehicle in the middle of nowhere. Well even though in this case we're on the road, it is still highly recommended you have these supplies to get you out of a jam. The nice thing is you can pick up containers of these items in small "top up" form so they take less room and will last for a very long time if not opened.
One last bonus item is for everyone to get comfortable with the basic understanding of their vehicle. Have the owners manual available and get acquainted. Ask a mechanically savy friend or good mechanic to give you a once over of the vehicle, showing you items like how to properly check your radiator fluid, check break, oil and transmission fluids where applicable, check the pressure in your tires, changing a tire, identifying the drive belt and how to put a temp replacement and anything else you would like to know. Remember, the goal is not to become a mechanic, but to be able to identify a mechanical problem if your stranded and possibly be able to fix it. Being aware is the first step.
Each person will design their kit based on their own comfort and skill level, but the list noted above is my recommended "basic emergency survival car kit" so you can be self sufficient in case you find yourself in a compromised position and away from any help. In this case you will need to be self sufficient and able to sustain yourself until help can arrive.
Filed under: Preparedness Information
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