Preparing Motorists for Winter

With Christmas approaching, weather turning wet and colder and snow in the forecasts, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials caution commuters to be careful, cautious and prepared.

According to FEMA Regional Director John Pennington, a few simple precautions can spell the difference between inconvenience and real disaster.

"We all need to be prepared to deal with future floods, earthquakes or winter storms if they strike when we are at work, at home, when our kids are in school or if we're on the road in our car," said Pennington.

Americans can be particularly vulnerable if disaster strikes while they are driving, said Pennington. Search-and-rescue teams find too many victims who might have survived if they had known whether or not to leave their cars, and winter emergency kits in every car and truck can be real life savers, according to Pennington.

"Disaster driving is one-part preparedness, one-part common sense and one-part learning from experience – our own, and others'. Avoid driving in severe winter storms or heavy rains, and keep vehicle fuel tanks full, just in case," he added.

When driving in dangerous weather is unavoidable, Pennington offers the following safety tips:

  • If caught in a storm or blizzard, and your car becomes immobilized, stay in the vehicle and await rescue. Do not attempt to walk from the car unless you can see a definite safe haven at a reasonable distance. Turn on the auto engine for brief periods to provide heat, but always leave a down-wind window open slightly to avoid deadly carbon monoxide poisoning, (make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow). Leave the dome light on at night to signal rescuers, and exercise occasionally by clapping hands or moving around.
  • Never attempt to drive through water on a road. Water can be deeper than it appears and water levels can rise quickly. Cars buoyed by floodwaters can float out of control. Wade through floodwaters only if the water is not flowing rapidly and only in water no higher than the knees. If the car stalls in floodwater, get out quickly and move to higher ground (flood waters may still be rising and the car could be swept away.
  • Auto emergency kits should contain as a minimum: blankets and warm clothing, booster cables and tools, bottled water, emergency rations, a first aid kit, flashlight and batteries, traction mats or chains, a shovel and emergency prescription medications.
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