How to Outfit Your Car for Safe Senior Winter Travel

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by: Tehila Mörtl


Originally being from a warmer climate I was, to say the least, ill-prepared and frankly somewhat clueless as to what supplies to keep in the car during cold and snowy winters.  So, I will be the first to admit, my first foray into a snowstorm was not only unsettling just thinking how to manage the roads but even more nerve wracking was the thought of not having a winter emergency kit in the car.  Needless to say, before having to drive again in the snow, I took to the internet to find all the suggestions available as to what to supplies are needed. It actually turned out to be rather interesting not only what to have in the car but how to store items so usage is not affected.  You too can provide senior help by assisting your elder in compiling the correct items for their preparedness kit. 

Winter Emergency Preparedness Kit Contents

·     First, pick up at least one small and one medium cooler.  One to store water, etc. and the second to hold non-food safe items.

·     In the small cooler, I normally keep:

·      Six or more bottled waters and nutritional supplement shakes. 

-   From my experience, while contents will be cold, the cooler prevents a freeze and burst situation; however, put an open plastic container in bottom of cooler.

·       Two to three days of prescription medication in a water proof container. 

·       Over the counter products such as contact solution, Benadryl, etc.

·     Healthy snacks for seniors (i.e. trail mix, peanut butter crackers, nuts, dried fruit)

·     In the second medium size cooler, keep such items as:

·       battery powered or hand crank radio, NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert

·       flashlights

·       extra batteries

·       lighter and matches

·       emergency tire repair - compressed air with sealant

·       first aid kit (i.e. alcohol wipes, bandages, triple antibiotic cream, lip balm, eye drops)

·       compass

·       small role of duct tape

·       cell phone battery back-up, extra auto cell charger

·       fire extinguisher

·       spare pair of reading glasses or magnifying glass

·       small bottle of anti-freeze

·       emergency cash

·       pencil and paper

·       help seniors with maps to pre-determined evacuation routes

·       list of pre-designated emergency senior shelters


·     Reflective signs, emergency flares, florescent distress flag and reflective vests

·     Jumper cables

·     Small shovel, multi-purpose tool, seat belt cutter and window breaker

·     Non-clumping kitty litter – to help dislodge snowbound tires

·     Tire chains, tow chain and rope

·     Emergency whistle

·     Plastic sheeting or tarp

·     Copy of insurance cards (i.e. medical, auto, prescription)

·     Copy of automobile club card (i.e. AAA)

·     Medications list and medical issues along with contact information for physician

·     List of emergency contacts

·      Antiseptic wipes, rolls of paper towels and garbage bags

·      Toilet paper and as a wide-mouth, lidded container, incontinence supplies

·      Travel size toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, lotion; plus, towel/rags

·     One or two blankets (thermal emergency blankets take up less room) plus, small pillow

·     For seniors with poor circulation, we suggest pack extra warm blankets

·     Spare coat, hats, gloves/mittens, prepackaged hand/feet warmers, warm socks

·     Prepackaged hand and feet warmers make great stocking stuffers for seniors

·     Change of warm clothing (i.e. sweat pants and top, boots) and plastic ponchos

·     Sunglasses for sun and snow

·     Magazines, puzzle book with pencil, etc.

·     Pet supplies

·       dry food

·       lidded water and food containers

·       blanket

·       leash

·       chews and a toy

·       potty pads

·       medication, if necessary


Remember to pay attention to mile markers and signs while traveling so you have an idea of where you are in case of an emergency.  Meanwhile, keep your cell phone charged.


What to do if you’re stranded in your car in winter weather


·  If possible, pull over far enough to be clear of road.

·  Take a deep breath and remain calm.  Overexertion can cause you to perspire leading to hypothermia or result in a heart attack or physical injury particularly for seniors.

·  Turn on hazard lights and put out reflectors, flairs, etc.  Hang a reflective flag from your car antenna or window.

·  Call 911 and advise operator of location, number and condition of travelers, any medical concerns, presence of senior travelers, etc.  Do not hang up until you have answered all their questions, understand every instruction and record the name of the call recipient.

·  If you are in a desolate area, stay with your vehicle so emergency responders can find you!  Only venture off if you see a safe structure or business close by where you know that you can take shelter.

·   If you have enough gas, you may run the engine and heater for a maximum of ten minutes every hour.  Please be sure to leave a window cracked for fresh air circulation.  If you are doing this, remember to keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow or obstruction.

·   Exercise helps promote body heat so get those arms, legs, fingers and toes moving.

·   Blood circulation is vital so, loosen tight clothing, massage hands and feet frequently and shift positions regularly.  Remember that elders often have difficulty with circulation so please ensure they remain active in some way.

·   Bundle up to avoid frostbite.  In addition to coat and blanket, you can use car mats, etc.

·   Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

·   Conserve batteries in car, flashlights, radio, etc.

·   When it is dark, leave one dome light on so passersby and rescuers will spot you.

·   Take turns staying awake to avoid missing emergency responders.  If traveling with an elder, opt for catnaps to help seniors avoid the pressure of having to stay awake alone for extended periods.

·   When snow stops, raise hood of car as another distress signal.


Keeping the supplies listed above and following those simple guidelines will help keep you and your elder and other loved ones warm, safe and secure in the event of an on the road emergency which is important to all of us at Advise & Protect this and every winter season.  Have you experienced a travel emergency and have advice that would be of help to other readers?  If so, please feel welcome and encouraged to contact us directly to share your experience and ideas.

If you are in need of assistance with senior moving, downsizing, senior care, money management, senior law, estate management, medical equipment, home care, elder real estate sales or management, planning after life services, etc. please do not hesitate to call Advise & Protect Senior Care Consultants at 646-820-9202 so that we may aid in meeting your needs!


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