Four Rules of Three

The only way you could have missed this month’s coverage of the Blizzard that rolled through the United States is if you were intentionally unplugged on a tropical island, somewhere.  Much of the snowfall was measured in feet, not inches, and the wind made effective cleanup impossible until the storm had completely rolled through, shutting down large parts of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri.

Many harrowing stories came out of Chicago , where the city’s Lake Shore Drive was sealed off due to several jack-knifed buses.  Commuters in cars and on buses were stuck from about 6:00 pm to many after midnight and after – no food or water, running out of gasoline to keep their cars running and the heat on, unprepared for the storm.  As many as 900 vehicles were stranded. The wind and snow blinded those who tried to leave their vehicles and exit the road.  Photos show closed cars and buses full of snow.  There are stories of rescuers on snowmobiles pulling people from their vehicles. These were people who were just on their way home from work, some who left early to get home before the fury of the storm and were caught in one traffic snarl after another.  Many left their cars right on the roadway.

Winter isn’t over yet and it’s not too late to prepare an emergency bag for your vehicle! The Midwest has been slammed with some serious wind chill factors. In fact, the advisory on said that frostbite can happen in 30 minutes on exposed skin. I was thinking to myself that I really should have ordered that palette of chemical hand warmers to line my bed. And I kid, but it’s not far from the truth. These are the conditions that create the perfect storm of ridiculousness where people have to find a Red Cross Shelter. High winds downing power lines combined with bitterly cold temperatures will mean that somewhere, someone’s heat may be out this week. I already feel sorry for them.

In survival training, many people talk about the rules of 3.  You can go:
  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

Three hours out in the wild Earthly elements and you’re done for? Seems crazy doesn’t it? In the wake of the blizzard and seeing the footage of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive situation, it didn’t seem so far-fetched. And I started thinking: how do you prepare for that? Fierce wind, incredible snowfall, and no where to go.

Well, your car isn’t a bad place to be. Remember that emergency car kit? Make sure you can get to it, and make sure you have these things in there for spending a night in your car:

Water – essential, cold temperatures mean low humidity and you’ll need to stay hydrated. Most likely you won’t be doing much sleeping, and staying on guard all can require you to be in top form. Don’t eat snow! (Yellow or otherwise.) This will cause rapid hypothermia. How many people are typically in your vehicle? Plan for this. Did you reach back to find that your water bottles are frozen? There are car-charger baby bottle warmers out there. Chemical hand warmers can help to melt it, too. If you car is running, put the bottles on the floor next to the heaters. Some people keep a coffee can with a little candle and lighter to melt snow. Any sort of open flame is dangerous and I don’t recommend it, but when you’re stuck, improvise and think! If you’re taking shelter outside of your vehicle (the one with synthetic, flammable upholstery) the coffee can and fire will work.  Any container of snow placed in an above-freezing environment (like inside your car) will eventually melt.  If it doesn't melt, leave it be.  Don't sacrifice your most precious possession of body heat to melt the snow for water. 

Food – Yes, candy is a nice thing to have on hand in case of emergency and it keeps well, but don’t expect to feel satiated after downing 7 Hershey bars and a bag of Tootsie Rolls. In the winter, when your vehicle is less likely to be hot, keep nutrition bars in your car. Many are balanced with protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Cell Phone Charger – The minute that you feel you could be in the car for a while (whether you’re stuck or just caught in a traffic jam), plug in your phone and start calling someone to let them know where you are. Be as detailed as you can be about your location. Keep your phone charging as long as your car is running. That way if you run out of gas, you have a fully-charged phone.

Extra cold-weather gloves, socks, hat and scarf - If you have attempted to dig yourself out during a snowstorm, your cold-weather accessories may be wet. It is important not to sit with wet clothes in an extremely cold car. Frostbite will develop more rapidly.

Alternate clothing - If you wear pencils skirts and 3" Cole Haans to the office, you can't be out in winter weather without something a little more practical. Throw in stretchy yoga pants (that will fit over whatever you have on), a couple of pairs of socks, and the hoodie! (Or keep your gym bag in the car.)

A warm blanket & an emergency foil blanket – A warm blanket will create loft with pockets of warm air to insulate you. The emergency foil blanket reflects your body’s own long-wave radiation back to you, keeping you warmer.

Chemical Hand Warmers – I recommend the flat pouch that is activated when exposed to air. Most don’t get warm enough to burn, and it’s small, thin size is good for putting in shoes or gloves.

Windshield Scraper & Brush – This should go without saying, but it’s key. I’ve seen people scraping ice off their car with a credit card.

Bag of ice melt – Mine’s small, just a gallon-sized plastic zipper bag. It melts snow, it gives traction.

Small Folding Shovel – A shovel is good for many reasons, but in the snow, you might need to dig snow out from around your tire.

Flashlight & Mirror – The storm could be over after dark, and someone might be out looking for you. The key to being found is contrast and movement. Hear a vehicle driving by? Wave that flashlight. Reflect any nearby light source (street lamp, flood light) quickly to draw attention to yourself.

A Few Tools - Tape, a knife, some plastic bags.  A bucket, can, or bowl with a lid.  (When you gotta go, you gotta go.)  A pencil and pad of paper. If you have kids, some toys or games are important, too.

Stay in your car! - If you run your car for power and warmth, make sure the tail pipe is clear of snow and that you have a front window cracked a bit for fresh air.  If at all possible do not leave your car at all.  If you must leave the car for safety, leave a note about your group and where you intend to go.  Remember that you can survive for days on nothing but water, and even the most desperately lost survivors are usually found within 48-72 hours. You will be found in your car.  Try to stay in your car or remain in the first shelter you find.

No comments:

Post a Comment