Yesterday's sleetstorm in Indianapolis -- which has turned into record snows in the northeastern U.S. -- prompted me to return my "winter kit" and "responder kit" to my car, along with the nice FEMA-type emergency-supplies knapsack I won at a recent industry conference.
You should carry a few things in your car, no matter where you live. Just what depends on what you encounter, but there are some basics.
My basic winter kit or "crash bag" is similar to a bug-out bag. It's a small canvas duffle or large gym bag, black, a bit beat-up. There's a change of clothes (two changes of undies and socks, plus extra heavy socks) and a nightgown, toothbrush and toothpaste plus grooming supplies, a pair of work gloves, a penknife, a few band-aids, some cough drops and a silly "survival kit in a tin" that takes up little room. I used to keep a paperback book or two in it and I still should -- you can't always charge a Kindle or smartphone.
The "responder kit" is related to my job. In the wake of the devastating hurricanes that hit the East and Gulf Coasts, emergency management agencies and industry groups realized that the people who maintain radio and TV transmitters, wireless internet providers and cellular towers sometimes needed to get into areas that were otherwise off-limits due to natural disasters (etc.), so that these communication services could be kept running or restored to operation. In my state, it resulted in a program that includes training in FEMA's "modular" emergency management system, itself a result of working to correct muddled chains of command and areas of responsibility in the aftermath of Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina,* sessions with the State Police on how to interact with emergency personnel, a background check and an ID card. We're obliged to wear basic safety gear if we use the card -- hard hat, high-visibility vest, gloves, boots -- and I keep that all in a bright orange bag in my trunk. I keep a nice crowbar strapped to the outside: I got locked out of the North Campus one day; it didn't happen to be an emergency, but what if it had been? Stanley sells the answer! Also in that bag, surplus binoculars: sometimes you need to get a look at something far away.
The FEMA-type kit...I'm still learning what's in it. I need to lay it all out on my bed and take inventory. (I ought to add written inventories to each bag, too.) A lot of First Aid supplies, from bandaids to slings. Heavy gloves. Latex or nitrile gloves. Hard hat (yes, another one). Adjustable wrench and pry bar. Flashlight. Emergency radio covering AM/FM/Weather bands. All packed to occupy minimum volume in a decent-quality nylon backpack (dark green and a bit nondescript. This prize is from a presentation by a County-level Emergency Services manager, a very hands-on guy who's read some of the same books I have).
That pretty much occupies the back half of my trunk. I keep bathroom tissue (the North Campus doesn't get a lot of attention from Facilities) and bottled water in there, too, though the water supply is minimized in wintertime and I check it for freezing.
There are things that aren't in the bags, because they live on my belt, in my purse or in my pockets -- a lighter, pocket knife, multi-tool, two-way radio (work and ham frequencies), sidearm, pencil and paper, phone/Kindle charger (a lighter-plug adapter), spare lipstick and a flashlight (prior to the FEMA kit, I didn't have one in a trunk bag -- I don't like long-term battery storage; you need to check them monthly for leakage and change them out twice a year) plus other small items.
I have been snowed in at work a few times and on a couple of occasions, problems with remote-control equipment have effectively stranded me at an isolated location until I could get it working. Having the basics always on hand can be a big help. I had unloaded my old car after it was wrecked and hadn't put the bags in my new car until the bad weather yesterday reminded me.
If you don't carry an emergency kit, ask yourself what you might need on short notice -- and why you don't have it already.
* It's easy to poke fun at FEMA but they're serious about their work and the midlevel people who do the heavy lifting (and their staffs) are actually good at it and were allowed to apply their planning skills after the hurricane response made headlines. The modular management setup provides a flexible framework with clear areas of responsibility and reporting paths. Properly applied even a little, it makes a big difference in getting help where it is needed and avoiding jurisdiction squabbles. It is obviously the work of people who never want to have to deal with unsnarling another huge cluster of fail again.
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