If your car’s engine suddenly stops, coasting safely to the side of the road is a well-known emergency procedure. Yet would you know how to survive in a snow storm or a sudden flood? How about the scorching heat of the California desert?
Floods or Flash Floods
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains that water as shallow as two feet in depth will float a vehicle. As little as six inches of rapidly-flowing water sweeps the average person off of his feet.
Exit a stalled car immediately. Remaining in the vehicle puts you in danger of being swept away with the automobile. Run for higher ground. Do not attempt to push a stalled car through a flooded area. If the water buoys the car, there is a good chance that its mass turns against you — if you are pushing against the flow or wind — and causes serious injuries.
Surviving with a stalled car in the winter is made more difficult by the potentially snowed-in roads that make quick rescue questionable. If you live in an area with severe winter weather, or even if you just plan a leisurely drive into the mountains during a fall, winter or spring day, preparing ahead of time is a key-element for survival.
Pack a survival kit with extra clothes, blankets, food and water to last you for at least four days. Add a bright red or orange emergency flag to tie to the antenna. It enhances visibility of the car for rescuers — especially if you drive a light-colored vehicle that is difficult to spot in snow — and for you, if you must leave the car for brief periods of time. Share your itinerary with someone who is not coming with you. Agree on a check-in time. This friend or family member will know the route you took and can alert authorities if you fail to communicate as planned — especially if a sudden blizzard occurred. Push the car into a position that has it facing the wind. Vehicles are designed to let air sweep over them in this manner. It decreases cabin heat loss. Stay with your car. North Dakota State University (NDSU) experts state that sitting in a stalled car protects against the wind chill factor. Use chemical heating sources, such as Sterno fuel. Remember that combustion creates carbon monoxide, a toxic gas that will cause fatigue, sleep and eventually death. Crack windows on both sides of the car to allow oxygen into the cabin.
Traveling in the desert takes you to some gorgeous sites and picturesque vistas. It also puts you into severe danger. High daytime temperatures and the absence of shade and breeze make it a deadly environment.
Write down your travel itinerary and share it with a third party. Agree on set check-in times during your trip. Stipulate that your friend will alert authorities as soon as you miss two consecutive check-in times. Pack one gallon of drinking water per passenger. Pack orange or bright red tarps. You can attach them to your car as a sun shelter and shade; the color makes you easily visible from the air. Open the hood and trunk; it makes your car easier to spot and signals that you have trouble. Stay with the car.
It goes without saying that you should try using your cell phone to summon help as soon as your car stalls. That said, there are plenty of areas in mountains and deserts where your reception will be non-existent. Do not count on your cell phone as your lifeline to help; a third party emergency plan — as discussed — is your best bet for making it out alive.