Emergency Management

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Winter Driving

The leading cause of death during winter storms is transportation accidents. Preparing your vehicle for the winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to safe winter driving.

Before

Have a mechanic check the following items on your car:

  • Battery
  • Antifreeze
  • Wipers and windshield washer fluid
  • Ignition system
  • Thermostat
  • Lights
  • Flashing hazard lights
  • Exhaust system
  • Heater
  • Brakes
  • Defroster
  • Oil level (if necessary, replace existing oil with a winter grade oil or the SAE 10w/30 weight variety)
  • Install good winter tires.
  • Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.

Keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal.

Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.

Plan long trips carefully. Listen to the radio or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions. Always travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person.

If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation.

Dress warmly. Wear layers of loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing.

Carry food and water. Store a supply of high energy “munchies” and several bottles of water.

Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter for more information on winter driving.

Winter Car Kit

Keep these items in your car:

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Maps
  • First aid kit with pocket knife
  • Necessary medications
  • Tire repair kit
  • Flares
  • Several blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Extra newspapers for insulation
  • Plastic bags (for sanitation)
  • Matches
  • Extra set of mittens, socks, and a wool cap
  • Rain gear and extra clothes
  • Small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels
  • Small shovel
  • Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
  • Booster cables
  • Set of tire chains or traction mats
  • Cards, games, and puzzles
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag
  • Granola bars, canned fruit and nuts
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Bottled water

During

  • Stay in the car. Do not leave the car to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. You may become disoriented and lost is blowing and drifting snow.
  • Display a trouble sign. Hang a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raise the hood.
  • Occasionally run engine to keep warm. Turn on the car’s engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater when the car is running. Also, turn on the car’s dome light when the car is running.
  • Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Do minor exercises to keep up circulation.
  • Clap hands and move arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long. If more than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping.
  • For warmth, huddle together.
  • Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation.
  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.

Contact Us

Polk County Emergency Management
1907 Carpenter Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50314
(515) 286-2107

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