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Disaster Preparedness: Build an Emergency Car Kit

Hopefully, your car is already equipped with a roadside emergency kit. Having this kit can help you get back on the highway quickly or keep you safe if you're stranded for a short while due to a vehicle breakdown. But are you prepared to weather a natural disaster that strikes while you're in your car?

If an earthquake, tornado, flood or heavy snowstorm crosses your path while you're on the road, jumper cables aren't what you need. While each type of natural disaster calls for a different strategy based on its severity and duration, the following are some items specifically designed to help you cope with a crisis that unfolds while you're on the road.

Essential emergency kit items for the car.

Mini first-aid kit or an emergency survival kit

You may be surprised by the low cost and lightweight profile of many of the first-aid/survival kits you can purchase online. Not only are they fully stocked with a variety of medical items to treat wounds, sprains and other injuries, but they often contain other essentials such as:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Band-aids
  • Emergency glow stick
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Sewing kit

Solar hand-crank emergency radio

For the cost of a dinner out, you can purchase a solar- and hand-crank-powered NOAA alert weather radio that's also a flashlight and a phone charger. Some even have a siren and a reading lamp. Look for one with a wide range of reception (AM/FM/SW1/SW2/7 NOAA Weather channels) so you can stay on top of breaking news and flood, tornado and thunderstorm warnings.

Bottled water and backup purification

It's smart to always have a few plastic gallon jugs of water in your car. Remember to replace them with fresh bottles at least every six months.

If you're away from a freshwater source for longer than a few days, you'll be grateful you stocked some purification tablets in your car that let you treat any available surface water for safe drinking. Consider purchasing a personal water filter with a small footprint that can quickly transform 1,000 gallons of contaminated water into clean drinking water. There are many models to choose from, and some weigh as little as 2 ounces.

Mylar solar blankets

Super lightweight and multipurpose, first-aid blankets made from mylar are windproof, waterproof and can retain up to 90% of your body heat. Also known as space blankets, these help keep heat in, and are perfect for use as a ground cover or shade shelter.

High-calorie food

You'll need to keep your energy up if you're stranded for longer than a few hours, so procure a stash of high-quality energy bars with a long shelf life. Go for high protein, high calories, and low sugar and salt. Search online for "emergency food" or "survival bars" to explore your many options.

Small sealed packages of meat jerky, nuts and trail mix are also great to have in your car. You might consider dehydrated meals too, but those typically require hot water, which is not always feasible.

Quick items you can put in your car today

It's likely you already have at least one of the following items stored in your vehicle. They're things that are easy to gather up in minutes that can provide comfort and safety if the unexpected occurs while you're driving.

  • Walking shoes: Do you run to the store in flip-flops or work in high heels? You'll appreciate that old pair of running shoes and athletic socks in the trunk should a disaster force you to exit your car and walk a distance.
  • Change of clothes: Depending on the season, keep a casual outfit in your car you can throw on quickly if what you're wearing gets wet or isn't warm enough. A pair of shorts and a T-shirt is far more practical if you're facing a flood than a sundress or business suit.
  • Cash and coins: Keep $20 in small bills and a supply of quarters stashed in your glove compartment for emergencies.
  • Paper products: Toilet paper and paper towels can be invaluable for stranded travelers. If applicable, keep a supply of diapers and feminine hygiene products in the car too.

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