We’d been sitting on the same block of South Noble Street for about an hour when I started to survey the contents of my van and noticed that emergency items were lacking — I knew for a fact I didn’t even have jumper cables, because they weren’t there when I’d looked two weeks ago.
What I did have was a roadside emergency kit (sans jumper cables), a set of baby monitors, the Little One’s nap mat from school, a lidless empty Tupperware container, plenty of empty fast-food bags and 5-pound bag of raw peanuts.
What I didn’t have, and badly needed, was anything to drink or eat, a charger cable for my phone and diapers — there was only one diaper, and the Big One was starting to insist that she really needed to potty.
After a total of five hours, we managed to make it home safe … and dry, thanks to that one diaper. But given the amount of natural disasters to which our area is prone (tornadoes, floods and now apparently sudden snowstorms), let alone the mechanical problems to which vehicles are prone, keeping an emergency kit in your car is just a good idea.
I built our kit with items recommended by the Calhoun County EMA and the local Red Cross. I added a few items and removed others (there’s just not room for a shovel or permanent bag of kitty litter in our minivan).
I put that 5-pound bag of peanuts to good use by roasting some of them (bake for 15 minutes at 350 F in a shallow baking pan), and adding some raisins and M&Ms to make some GORP. GORP stands for Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts, a trail mix I would take on hikes on the Appalachian Trail while I was in college. I vacuumed-sealed it in a quart Mason jar, so it should have a shelf life of several months.
I could have pulled together a first-aid kit from stuff at my house, but I was sold on the convenient pre-packaged case. And while we do keep a pretty good supply of toys in the van already, I added a couple new ones to the kit because every parent knows a special new toy entertains longer than an old boring one.
I have a change of clothes for both kids, including a jacket (a change for myself will be added soon). There’s a blanket, diapers and wipes, a large lantern-type flashlight, a gallon of water (for drinking and/or to aid an overheating vehicle) and a charger cord for my phone (I already have the plug-in adapter for the lighter). I threw in a pack of matches — read Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” and you’ll know why — as well as a roll of duct tape. There’s always a use for duct tape.
I also included a toiletries kit. I’m legally blind without corrective lenses so I included a pair of contacts and a small bottle of saline. I tossed in a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, a pair of scissors and some hairbands, too (if you’ve ever tried to work with hair flying in your face, you understand that inclusion). There’s also a supply of sanitary napkins, which can be used to cover large wounds in a pinch.
And while the finishing touch would have been me covering the cardboard box that holds it all with some pretty fabric, I didn’t do that. I bought 10 minutes of free time by letting the kids color it with markers instead.
Other ways to be prepared: keep a full tank of gas, and check the fluids in your vehicle regularly. I had plenty of gas, though I started worrying when the gauge crept below a quarter-tank and I was still two very, very long miles from home. I had not checked my coolant though, and it was getting low. That caused the car heater to blow only cold air when we weren’t moving … which was most of the time. Not good for defrosting windshields and toes.
But now, I’m much more prepared should Snopocalypse Round Two come through. Although I think I’ll just keep the kids at home next time, and hibernate through it all.
See all the contents of a recommended emergency car kit at www.ready.gov/kit-storage-locations.
Features Editor Deirdre Long: 256-294-4152. On Twitter @star_features.