Be prepared for winter driving with an emergency car kit

With the early arrival of the first snow fall this year and more on the way, York’s Emergency Preparedness Program has some important tips for being prepared for winter driving.

Before even going out the door, Kathy Branton, manager of York’s Emergency Preparedness Program, advises people to listen to the weather forecast on their local radio or television station for weather warnings and advice.

It is also important to keep an emergency car kit in the vehicle at all times during winter.

"It’s the kind of thing people think, ‘oh yeah I should do that,’ but they don’t and then all of a sudden something happens. The reason it’s important to have an emergency car kit is that bad weather can happen at anytime," Branton said. "We can get kind of complacent. We don’t usually see the really big storms here and when it does happen, it seems to take everyone by surprise."

That’s why it’s best to be prepared even when driving a short distance, but especially when driving for longer distances or when heading up north over the holidays.

"Almost everyone you talk to these days has a cottage or a cabin they drive up north to in the winter," said Branton. "If they have an accident or they slide off the road, they’re often not prepared."

Right: A winter scene

There are some simple things to keep in the vehicle that can come in handy in an emergency – things that most people may not think about in advance.

"You need to keep a blanket in your trunk, so if you’re waiting for CAA and your car is not running, you can keep warm. Snacks and drinks are great to keep in the car for the kids because if you’re waiting for a tow truck for four hours, they’re going to get hungry," Branton said. "Glow sticks are brilliant. You crack those sticks and they’re great for circling the car so people can see it and it just takes one to light up the inside of the car."

The following is a list of things that should be in an emergency preparedness vehicle kit:

  • Axe
  • Blankets/sleeping bag
  • Booster cable
  • Bottled water
  • Cloth/paper towels
  • Duct tape
  • Extra clothing and footwear
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Glow sticks
  • Ice scraper/brush
  • Maps
  • Money
  • Non-perishable food
  • Reflective safety vest
  • Road flares
  • Sand, salt, or kitty litter
  • Seatbelt cutter
  • Shovel
  • Toys for children
  • Tow chain
  • Whistle

Winter driving isn’t the only winter hazard. Other risks to be aware of include:

  • Slips and falls on slippery walkways
  • Falls from heights (e.g. cleaning the gutters or roof)
  • Hypothermia and frostbite due to exposure
  • Being struck by falling objects such as tree branches
  • Risks due to downed power lines or downed objects in contact with power lines
  • Roof collapse or property damage under weight of snow or falling trees
  • Exhaustion, exposure or dehydration
  • Isolation and lack of basic supplies including prescription medications
  • Injuries while shovelling snow
  • Fire safety in the home

For more information about winter preparedness visit the Emergency Preparedness Program site.

Check the following sources for the weather or information on personal emergency preparedness:

Public Safety Canada, Emergency Management Ontario, Environment Canada or the York University Weather Emergency Page.