What You Should Do if You are Trapped in Your Car During a Blizzard
By: Good2GoPublished: January 26, 2015
Driving in severe winter weather is never a good idea. Between the inches of snow, the icy roads and the lack of visibility, navigating through a winter storm could put you at risk for becoming trapped in your car. If at any point you cannot move your car or are unable to leave your vehicle during a snow storm or blizzard, follow these tips to remain safe and warm until emergency services come to the rescue.
Stay inside your vehicle
If you’re trapped, your car is your best source of protection from the elements. It is recommended that you not leave your vehicle – even in search for help – unless you can see within 100 yards in front of you. During a blizzard, it’s easy to become disoriented or confused from the blowing snow, especially at night. Staying in your car until help arrives is your best chance at survival.
Alert for help
While you’re inside your car, there are a few things you can do to signal for help. If it is safe to exit the vehicle, you can hang a piece of cloth from the radio antenna or hang it outside the window. This will let emergency personnel and passersby know you are stranded and need help. If snow isn’t falling, you can also lift the hood of the car as another way to signal car trouble. You may be tempted to turn on your flashers, but be careful as you may drain your battery life.
If you have a smartphone, use your GPS to pinpoint your exact location, then immediately call for help.
While it may seem like a good idea to keep the car running to use the heater for warmth, you should do your best to conserve fuel and reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. To keep warm and save on gas, it’s recommended that you turn on your car for about 10 – 15 minutes each hour. Before you turn on your engine, be sure to clear away any snow or ice around the car’s exhaust pipe – this will protect you and your passengers from carbon monoxide poisoning.
While the car is running, turn on the heater to keep warm and turn on the car’s dome light so you can be seen. This is also a good time to use those emergency flashers and honk your horn to draw attention for help.
When your heater is turned off, you will need to find alternative sources of warmth to avoid the risk of frostbite or hypothermia. If you ventured out into a snow storm well-prepared, then you should have blankets and extra winter clothing in your car. Use anything else you can find in the car as insulation such as newspapers, old road maps, seat covers, etc. Don’t be afraid to huddle with your passengers for additional warmth and comfort.
Stay active and alert
When you’re confined to a tight space for an extended period of time, your blood circulation will slow down and you may suffer from muscle cramps or stiffness. Try doing minor exercises or small body movements to keep your circulation moving. Clap your hands, stomp your feet or wiggle your arms and legs to stay active and keep your blood flowing and muscles relaxed.
In addition to staying active it’s also important to stay alert to make sure you can flag down help. If more than one person is in the car, take shifts sleeping.
Hydration is crucial in any emergency. Winter clothing can be heavy, causing you to sweat. It’s important for you to replace those fluids to prevent dehydration and other health issues. If you don’t have any bottles of water in the car, melt snow. DO NOT EAT SNOW! Eating snow can actually cause dehydration and rapidly lower your body temperature, increasing your risk of hypothermia.
Try to find an empty bottle, container or any other kind of vessel that can be used to hold fresh white snow. Steer clear of snow that has been on the ground or is discolored. Use your body heat or the heating system (when it’s turned on) to help melt the snow.
The worst thing you can do in an emergency situation is panic. Panic attacks can cause you to sweat, increase your heart rate, and make it difficult to breathe. To prevent your risk of having a panic attack, try singing a song, playing a game or do breathing exercises. Remaining calm will keep others around you at ease and lessen the tension of the situation. It will also keep you from making irrational decisions like leaving the vehicle or becoming aggressive towards other passengers.
Getting trapped in your car can be a nightmare come true. If you aren’t properly prepared to travel in a snow storm or blizzard, you could be in for a rude awakening. Use these tips to be safe and warm if you ever become trapped in your car. To learn how you can winterize your car for whatever Old Man Winter has in store for you, read this post.
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