Preparedness Month: Prep Your Car

September is National Preparedness Month!

Each week this month we will be providing tips on how to keep you and your family safe in an emergency.

This Week: Prep Your Vehicle

In the event of an emergency, your vehicle can act as an alternate shelter or means of evacuation. Like your home, it is imperative to keep your vehicle in disaster-ready condition at all times.

Here are 5 tips on how to prepare your vehicle for an emergency:

  1.  Make sure your vehicle is in appropriate, working condition for the weather, especially during winter months. Check all of your systems, including heating/cooling, defroster, ignition, fuel, and exhaust; check your vehicle’s fluid levels; check the battery, brakes, belts, tire pressure and tread; and check your wipers and lights to ensure functionality. If necessary, put snow tires on your vehicle during the winter.
  2.  Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times. You should be prepared to sustain yourself for 24 hours—keep food, preferably filling foods like whole grain cereals, in airtight plastic bags inside your kit, along with a gallon of water for each person in your family. Make sure you replace your food and water every six months.
  3.  In addition to an emergency kit, you should keep a vehicle maintenance kit in your vehicle at all times. This should include:
    • a fire extinguisher (preferably an ABC type);
    • a battery operated radio and batteries;
    • cat litter or sand for traction on ice;
    • chains;
    • a flashlight and extra batteries;
    • an ice scraper;
    • jumper cables;
    • a utility knife;
    • at least 2 pairs of latex gloves;
    • light sticks;
    • a map of the region;
    • plastic shelter tarps;
    • plastic storage bags;
    • road flares;
    • a tow chain;
    • a shovel.
  4.  Keep your gas tank at least ½ full when driving in potentially dangerous conditions.
  5.  During the winter months, store extra winter clothing in your car in case of weather-related emergencies. It is imperative to stay dry and warm when addressing a weather-related travel situation.

Also, please note that driving in dangerous weather conditions requires different road etiquette.

Make sure you stay safe on the road with these tips:

  1.  Start your trip early—when driving on icy, snowy, or wet roads, it is important to drive slower to avoid losing traction. Give yourself extra time to reach your destination so you can drive appropriately for the conditions.
  2.  Make sure someone else is aware of your travel plans and check in with them when you have arrived safely. If possible, stay on main roads to make yourself more accessible if you require assistance.
  3.  Always drive with your headlights on. Make sure your headlights are clean and free of grime.
  4.  Never use cruise control on snow or ice.
  5.  Make sure you fill up your tank before you begin your journey, especially if you are going to drive through open country.
  6.  Look farther ahead in traffic, as it takes longer to break on snowy or icy roads. Make sure you break slowly. If you have anti-lock brakes, firmly push down on your brake to stop. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, you must pump your brakes until you stop.
  7.  Never cut in front of large trucks—it takes longer for them to stop.
  8.  Drive for the conditions—with icy, snowy, or wet roads, familiar commutes can quickly become dangerous. Make sure you are making slow movements. Brake, steer and drive slowly to avoid losing control of your vehicle.

Additional Resources:


Annika Vaughn is a current Political Science undergraduate at the University of Washington. Despite being a second-generation Olympian, her interest in government work began at the age of 15 when she was a Legislative Page for the Washington State House of Representatives. After completing her undergrad, Annika plans on entering the workforce before returning to school for her master’s degree.

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