If you are trapped in your car in a snowstorm, there are several strategies you can use to keep yourself and your family safe: (1) remaining inside your vehicle; (2) staying warm; (3) make sure that you are visible and will be noticed by rescuers; (4) being able to call and communicate with rescuers and family.
Necessary supplies in case of a snow emergency in your car
Staying safe if a snowstorm traps you in your car starts before you even hit the road. Always – but especially during winter driving season – have necessary emergency supplies in your vehicle including the following: (1) warm clothing; (2) blankets and sleeping bags; (3) non-perishable food and snacks; (4) water; (5) a flashlight with charged batteries; (6) cell phone and charger; (7) snow shovel; and (8) flares.
Remain safely inside your car
The safest place for you to be is inside your car when you are trapped in a snowstorm while you are out on the road. Under the circumstances, it is dangerous for you to exit your vehicle. The cold weather puts you at risk of hypothermia or frostbite. And without the protection of the vehicle’s body and frame, you could be struck and injured by another vehicle who may have slid on the ice and snow.
Generally, there are only two circumstances that would warrant you exiting your vehicle.
First, you may need to check to make sure that your tailpipe is not obstructed, otherwise the exhaust fumes may back up into your vehicle’s passenger, putting you and your family at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Second, if there is a gas station or safe shelter nearby and if you can safely travel there on foot, then you may consider relocating – but only if you are certain you can so safely.
You can keep warm by running your engine and heater for 10 minutes – which should give you an hour’s worth of heat. You can also huddle close to others in the car. Cover yourself in blankets. Wear a hat and gloves. your engine and heating system for 10 minutes which will generate enough warmth to last an hour. Periodically, hug your chest. Putting your hands under your armpits will keep them warm.
Take care of yourself
If you have food or snacks in the car, eating in small amounts will help you keep your energy level. Drink water to stay hydrated. At least once an hour, move and stretch your body to keep warm and keep your blood flowing.
Save your cell phone for essential use
Your cell phone may be your only line of possible communication with rescuers, first-responders and your family if a snowstorm has trapped you in your car. Be sure to keep your phone charged – as much as you are able. Also, minimize use for non-essential purposes such as listening to music, watching videos or checking social media – all of which quickly consume a phone’s power.
Alert rescuers to your location
One common bit of advice is to tie a red cloth – or something brightly colored to your antenna or hang it on your door. If it is nighttime, consider turning and leaving on the dome light within your passenger compartment – but only when your engine is running. Also, if the snow has stopped, then you may want to consider raising your hood.