Winter snow storms and subsequent record low temperatures made travel treacherous this past week. As Cook County has been impacted by storms and hazardous road conditions, your safety and the safety of your passengers is paramount when you get behind the wheel. While cautious driving can go a long way to getting you securely towards your destination, planning for the unexpected is key to safe winter travel.
When most people get in their car, they don’t necessarily consider what they might need if their car breaks down or they get stuck in severe weather. The Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) encourages residents to take all possibilities into consideration. Even a short drive can turn into a dangerous one, given freezing temperatures and severe weather conditions.
As Cook County faces severe storms, plunging temperatures and continued snowfall, DHSEM advises residents to prepare a basic safety kit for their cars. These items can be found in local stores and may prove lifesaving.
- A shovel
- Windshield scraper and small broom
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Battery powered radio
- Snack food, including energy bars
- Matches and small candles
- Extra hats, socks and mittens
- First aid kit with pocket knife
- Necessary medications
- Blankets or sleeping bag
- Tow chain or rope
- Road salt, sand or cat litter for traction
- Booster cables
- Emergency flares and reflectors
- Fluorescent distress flag and whistle to attract attention
- Cell phone adapter to plug into lighter
Reverse batteries in flashlights to avoid accidentally switching it on and running down the battery. Store items in the passenger compartment in case the trunk is jammed or frozen shut.
Don’t let a trip, even a short one, turn into a dangerous situation. A winter preparedness kit in your vehicle will make you more comfortable if you become stranded in a storm and in extreme cases it can help keep you and your passengers alive
Here are some other tips you should consider before heading out. Gas tanks should be kept at least half full. Travelers should always tell someone where they’re going and the route they‘ll take. Travelers should stay with their vehicle if their car breaks down. Walking in a storm can be very dangerous because other vehicles may not see you or you may become lost or exhausted. Always check conditions in and around your vehicle. Snow can plug a vehicle's exhaust system and cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter the car.
If stranded for a prolonged period, only run the engine for 10 minutes an hour to conserve gas and make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow. Keeping a window cracked while running the engine, is also a good idea.
For more information about winter weather survival tips, visit http://www.cookcountyhomelandsecurity.org/winter-survival-kit/.
Michael Masters is the executive director of the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM). Under the leadership of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, DHSEM integrates first responders, their departments and resources from 134 Cook County municipalities, and serves as the central agency in Cook County for coordinating efforts to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from all incidents, whether man-made or natural. For more information, visit our website at www.cookcountyhomelandsecurity.org.