How a Driving Safety Kit Saved a Family’s Life During the Winter
Nearly two years have passed since James Glanton and Christina McIntee’s escaped a frigid and life-threatening encounter with winter.
In December 2013, James, 34, and his girlfriend Christina, 25, along with their two kids and Christina’s nephew and niece, spun out into a crevice along an isolated Nevada road. None of them suffered any serious injuries, but faced treacherous conditions nonetheless. Their Jeep Wrangler sat upside down on the icy, snow-carpeted road, and the air around them dropped to a frigid minus 21 degrees F.
To stay warm, they lit a fire by heating rocks and laying them inside the car’s tires. 48 hours later, emergency responders found them alive and well, unscathed from frostbite although showing signs of mild dehydration and hypothermia. They were fortunate. Their story also supports the importance of a vital winter driving safety tip – the assembling of an emergency car kit.
It Was More than Luck
The story could have had a tragic ending, especially since there were four young children onboard (of ages to be in car seats). Considering their injuries were minimal, it’s fair that “luck” intervened. However, there are a few factors that kept them alive and in good condition.
First of all, there was a “soundness of mind”. While some people may have abandoned their cars in search of help, James and Christina remained in their car – a choice that experts recommend instead of fleeing if stranded in a car during winter conditions. The hypothermia and dehydration they suffered could have been far more severe had they left, and it would have taken longer for emergency crews to find them.
Additionally, survival skills were present. The fact that they knew how to light a fire served as a lifeline considering how low the temperatures had dropped. “Obviously they knew what to do,” stated Chris Montes, one of the rescuers. “They kept those kids safe for 48 hours in subzero temperatures.” There was also a limited supply of food and water to keep the family going, although it ran out before rescuers found them.
Luck certainly set the family free from treachery. They had no blankets. The fire that they lit would keep them warm, but much of the heat escapes, especially in sub-zero temperatures. They also had no flares. Although responders found them thanks to the cell phone forensics team, they had no other way of making themselves visible. Additionally, the family had no first aid kit. As mentioned previously, they survived the crash with minimal injuries, suggesting they had no bruising or cuts that would require immediate treatment.
Lessons Learned: A Winter Kit is a Lifeline
Before continuing, it’s worth commending Glanton and McIntee for their bravery and decision-making during such a dangerous situation. One could only imagine the anxiety that comes with having to keep kids safe and comfortable in this scenario. Fortunately, there’s a lot to learn from their example. The main lesson is to have a winter car kit.
What Belongs in the Kit
- Water – Water in plastic bottles that won’t freeze is ideal.
- Food (that doesn’t spoil) – Items such as granola bars, dried fruits and canned foods are good options for your emergency kit
- Winterproof apparel and footwear – The first step to staying warm if stranded in the cold, is to equip yourself and family with season-appropriate clothing. In fact, it’s a good idea to buy clothing that is specifically designed for extreme temperatures.
- Blanket – The more layers you have, the better off you’ll be. It’s important to stay as warm as possible if you are ever stranded in wintery conditions.
- Shovel, scraper and snowbrush – Even if you’re stuck, it’s wise to have a shovel, scraper and snowbrush with you. Visibility is key. You want to see your surroundings, and you want others to see you.
- Flashlight – Spending a night in your car along a poorly lit roadside will mean minimal lighting. To see through the darkness, you’ll need a flashlight that’s preferably wind-up in nature.
- Candle in a deep can and matches – A candle and matches can provide you with an additional light source, and material for a fire (if it’s suitable for you to light one).
- Whistle – You might need to get the attention of a rescuer, especially if you’re snowed in or somehow not easily visible.
What Belongs in the trunk
- Jumper cables – A car breakdown doesn’t automatically mean you have to remain stranded. Provided you keep a set of jumper cables, a driver who passes by can help you charge your battery if that is the reason you’re stuck.
- Warning light/road flares – Rescuers now have a toolbox worth of procedures to find missing individuals. However, a set of warning lights or road flares illuminates your surroundings, so that rescue teams have an easier time finding you if you wereever lost.
- Tow rope – A tow rope can come in handy if your car is still in good condition, and needs to be pulled out of a ditch. So don’t be afraid to keep one in your trunk.
- Fire extinguisher – Car fires do happen. Regardless of the time of year, keeping a fire extinguisher in your trunk is a good idea, just in case a fire does occur.
What Belongs in your mind
- Stay inside – Your vehicle is the safest place to stay if stranded in the snow. Remaining in your vehicle will keep you warmer and prevent you from getting lost.
- Get moving – In addition to wearing winter clothing and covering with blankets, you should move your hands and feet. Doing this will improve your circulation, thereby, helping you feel warmer despite the cold.
- Keep the engine off – For drivers who are stuck in a ditch, there may be the temptation to keep the engine on. However, this can be dangerous. A blocked exhaust pipe can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be life-threatening.
- Look out for help – Whatever you do, looking out for help is important. Staying attentive to passing rescuers is even more urgent, if you are among several people who are lost or stranded along an isolated road. By staying alert, you can make yourself more visible to responders.
Habits to Practice Before Leaving Your House
Driving safety for the winter doesn’t start with your car. It begins at home. Living in an age where news reports and information flows through the “pipeline” every second, there’s no reason why you should treat a winter drive like a step into the unknown.
Watch the Weather, Know the Terms
As long as you have electricity, then watching the news should be your duty. Turn your T.V. on, stream it online, or look at a weather app – whatever method you choose, just make sure to check the weather before leaving home. It’s amazing how many drivers ignore advice from experts, telling them to stay home or don’t drive if a trip is not essential.
With that said, it’s a good idea to understand some weather terminology as well. For example, a winter storm watch means the arrival of dangerous weather within 24 – 48 hours. A winter storm advisory reduces that timeframe to just a few hours, while a winter storm warning indicates the hazardous weather that will occur almost immediately. Knowing the significance of these terms is important, because they can form the basis for deciding whether you should leave home or not.
Don’t Roll a Dice Against Nature
Some of you may recall the weeks in late December of 2013, to early days of January 2014. “Brutal” is a perfect adjective to describe the weather. If you remember the 2013 – 2014 polar storm, a wave of unusually cold weather that engulfed much of Canada and the Eastern United States, you might shiver just recalling the memories it produced. The ice-coated skeletons of trees, the pitch black neighbourhoods where power failures occurred – there’s countless more.
But a forgotten memory for many are the highways that were littered with abandoned cars. In the city of Buffalo and New York, there were unfortunate reports of deaths due to the storm, one being a 46 year-old man who was found in his car. The likelihood of such dire consequences happening to you in the winter are low. However, you shouldn’t undermine the importance of practicing winter driving safety. Going back to the story of James Glanton and Christina McIntee, it’s safe to conclude that the few items (and knowledge) they possessed kept them alive. And if you were to experience something similar, an emergency kit and survival knowledge would do the same for you.