If you hear that a storm is on the way, the best thing you can do is stay indoors. Same goes if the weather turns bad while you are mid journey, make a decision and either turn back or stop at a safe place and seek refuge. During bad weather stick to main roads and avoid country lanes and if possible always travel with a companion.
Few journeys are worth risking your life for.
Above all – drive slowly and carefully and don’t take risks!
However, if you do have to do a journey or are caught out there is no need for panic. Follow a few simple rules and you can survive!
If you are unfortunate enough to get trapped, here are your priorities:
- Don’t panic!
- If you can, attach a small flag to your car aerial so you can be found easier.
- Switch on your hazard lights – they’ll help you be found and prevent snowploughs running into you.
- Stay with your vehicle so you’ll have shelter and won’t get lost.
- Avoid over-exertions in cold weather. If you decide to shovel snow, be realistic about how much you can shift. Each cubic meter of wet snow weighs more than half a tonne.
- Keep fresh air flowing into your vehicle – open a window on the sheltered side.
- Run your engine sparingly. 15 minutes every 2 hours is a good compromise between fuel/battery conservation and heating of the interior.
- If you do have to get out of the vehicle in a bad blizzard (say to get to the trunk or check that the exhaust isn’t blocked with snow), tie one end of a long piece of twine (something else to add to the survival kit) around your wrist and the other end around the steering wheel so you can find your way back to the car – it might be hard to believe but many have died getting lost on the way back from the trunk in a blinding blizzard.
- Check that the exhaust pipe is clear of snow to prevent fumes entering the vehicle.
- Turn off headlight- they’ll flatten your battery.
- Vigorously exercise your limbs, hands and feet regularly to encourage blood flow.
- If you have food and water, eat and drink little and often.
- Don’t fall asleep.
- Keep watch for other traffic and rescue.
Hypothermia – The Silent Killer
Assuming you are vigilant and keep poisonous engine exhaust fumes out of the vehicle and you aren’t unfortunate enough to get hit by another vehicle, the biggest danger to your survival is hypothermia. This is where a thermos of coffee prepared earlier can make the difference between life and death.
Hypothermia is when the internal body temperature drops to the point that body processes slow to the point that they can no longer generate as much heat as is being lost. Untreated, hypothermia can be fatal. Best protection is prevention because as hypothermia takes hold, you loose the mental and physical ability to take action to prevent it. Quite literally, you are freezing to death and you won’t care.
Wear warm clothing if you have them with you (you should) and avoid over-exertion because if you sweat that can then freeze, bringing your body temperature down rapidly. Because most body heat is lost through the head, it is important to wear a hat. If it is extremely cold, cover your mouth to protect your lungs from the cold air.
Watch for signs of hypothermia, which is particularly threatening to the very young and elderly. Symptoms are confusion, slurred speech, stiff muscles, or uncontrollable shivering. Keep everyone warm and moving – that’s the best defence against hypothermia.
If things get bad, take drastic action. Use anything you have at hand for insulation – maps, upholstery, anything.
Nothing beats prior planning. With the right preparation surviving a blizzard is something you can one day tell your grandkids all about. Without planning and the proper kit, a blizzard will put an end to any chance of you seeing the grandkids. Make plans and prepare before you need them.