I am a statistical analyst by trade and education. Due to that I have a tendency to look at patterns and data on a regular basis. One thing I have noticed regarding preparedness in the news is that there are a disproportionately large number of people that suffer tragic consequences during winter storms. For some reason, we think that if we have a home, work place and vehicle that we are immune to such problems. This is simply not true. There are a few things we can do to increase our chances of survival exponentially.
Have an emergency kit
Too many people have perished because they slid off a road, had engine failure, or got lost in a rural setting in winter conditions without an emergency kit. I prefer to have a go bag with some essentials it, but also prepare a car kit that stays with my vehicle at all times. When the seasons change and it starts to become cold, I include other items. Here is a list of items you should have in a basic winter kit:
- Blankets (wool or fleece)
- Poncho-style tarps
- Fire-starting equipment (fire cubes, lighter, ferrocerium rod)
- Signal flares and flags.
- Backup power for your phone
We have covered in-depth other items you should have, but that short list could have easily assisted those who had tragic ends that have been in the news. Those items focus attention on maintaining or obtaining core body temperature.
Stay with the vehicle
Listen to me closely on this one, it is important. I have read story, after story of those who perished after being lost or in a wreck in a winter storm. Most of those who perished were the “hero” of the group who left and tried to get help. The person who does this without adequate training and gear is increasing the likelihood they will die. Often times the person who leaves has died and those who stayed lived on. This is because your vehicle is an incredibly compact shelter. When you leave you exert a lot of energy, and do so in the elements. This is a recipe for disaster. Do what you can to stay with the vehicle and signal for assistance. That is where the signal flares and flags come into play from our list.
The most important thing to do is to make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. This assumes you checked the weather and know there is the possibility of a storm. If you have no choice but to go into it, keep those back at home or work your intended route and timing. This will serve to get help to you in a more quick fashion if there is trouble.
On your own two feet
Let’s also consider what would happen if you were backpacking, hunting, or similar and found yourself in a winter storm. There are some simple things to keep in mind that can help you here as well:
- Have wicking garments against your body and layers on top of that that serve to keep your body warm.
- Know where conifer trees are in a rural area. Conifers are the green trees that will shed much o of the snow that will fall upon them to the outside of the tree away from the trunk. Next to these trees you will find less snow and better places to build a shelter.
- Always have certain essentials on your person if you venture outside. One is a lighter, another is a ferrocerium rod, as mentioned above. These can help you build a life-saving fire in the event you get stuck outside.
- When attempting to find or otherwise build shelter, avoid the tops of hills (too much wind) or the bottom of a ravine (too much moisture). Find a half-way point where you can shelter. The root ball of a tree will often provide one “wall” from the wind.
- Same as before if you can carry other basic supplies AND tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
Keep in mind that these very simple things are the borne out of years of research. Don’t forgo heeding this message in favor of technical things that do not work. We always suggest keeping it simple.