As the holiday season approaches, many of us struggle to find gifts for the friends and family members who already have everything. Have you considered giving things that will help the most important people in your life be more prepared for emergencies? In this series of posts, DEM looks at the best preparedness-related gifts that our staff and volunteers have given, received, or bought for themselves.
Why It’s Useful: Safety and reassurance for winter (or any other season) road trips.
Price Range: Variable, but basic necessities can be had for as little as $5-10.
Where to Buy: Auto parts stores; general goods retailers; grocery stores.
Don’t Forget: To talk about travel emergency plans.
A lot of us hit the road during the holidays, as well as for winter recreation in the colder months. This time of year brings many driving hazards: limited hours of daylight, snow and ice accumulation, whiteouts from blowing snow, and the effects of extreme cold on vehicle reliability. All of these factors increase the chances that someone we know may have to spend the night in their car in a ditch or an interstate median. Attention to vehicle maintenance, careful driving, and other elements of safe travel planning can reduce the risks, but it’s still good to have the gear and supplies to make an impromptu car camping night a little more bearable.
Our vehicle emergency kit page lists the key items that you should keep in any vehicle you drive. Some of them are general-purpose emergency items that you should have at home, at work, in the car, or anywhere else you spend a lot of time (and we’ve looked at some of those in other posts in our gift guide series). Others are specific to travel- or vehicle-related emergencies. In particular…
- They’re pretty basic tools, but ice scrapers can wear out over a few winters of heavy use. Good all-around visibility is key to safe driving. We like the long-handled ones for better leverage on those hard-to-reach spots in the center of the windshield.
- If the problem is low air pressure or a slow leak in a tire, a portable air compressor can be all that’s needed to get back on the road, or at least to the next exit. Most run off the vehicle’s accessory outlet. However, we’ve seen some that have internal batteries and can boost the vehicle’s electrical system if the battery is too low to start the engine.
- Speaking of power, having jumper cables can make anyone a hero when a co-worker’s car won’t start at 5:01 in the evening. We like to carry the longest set possible in case landscaping or a tight parking space prevents us from pulling too close to the distressed vehicle. Just be sure everyone knows the correct sequence in which to connect them. Another option is to carry a battery booster that can start a car or truck without jumper cables. These batteries have enough juice to start a car and charge a cell phone several times.
- Once the car is running, having a spare cell phone charger ensures there’s enough battery to call for help. Or to call Grandma and wish her happy holidays.
- In inclement weather and long winter nights, reduced visibility makes it dangerous to stop on the side of the road. A vehicle electrical problem can take out emergency flashers along with everything else. Several products are designed to mark a disabled vehicle’s position for oncoming drivers, including battery-powered emergency strobes, portable reflectors, and the classic highway flares.
- A spare set of winter socks and long underwear or baselayer clothing can make an overnight stay in the car much less unpleasant. Okay, we admit this isn’t specific to travel emergencies, but it’s nice to have enough spare pairs to keep a set in the trunk throughout the season.
- Finally, a good trunk organizer or other container helps keep all of these supplies together, not sliding around the trunk every time the driver takes a corner at speed.
Disclaimer: The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and the LFUCG Division of Emergency Management do not endorse any goods, services, vendors, or service providers mentioned in our blog posts, social media statements, press releases, or website content. Any mention of commercial products is for informational purposes only.