Sunday, April 22, 2012

5 Things to Do Before You Drive Cross Country

Every situation is a learning experience in our home. This summer my daughter and I decided to take a cross-country trip to see my parents in Northern California. It would be the first time we took a long road trip together, and I wanted to make sure we had a plan. While preparing for it, I got the idea to include my daughter in the planning. I could only imagine her all alone, and stuck on a road someplace. This was the perfect way to teach her how to avoid that type of situation, so I made it a priority to educate her on the planning process.  

Before the Trip Before going on the trip, I told her we needed to plan for the trip. I explained how important it was to be ready for anything. Then we made a list of what was necessary:
  • Plan a route and an alternative. Don't rely on GPS. Bring maps. Then, tell someone exactly where you are going.
  • Bring a cell phone that is charged and charging devices for the vehicle.
  • Dress comfortably for the trip but make sure you keep layers of clothing in the car for temperature changes.
  • We took the vehicle in for an inspection and oil change to ensure everything was working properly.
  • Fill up the tank near home and then plan to stop when it gets to 1/3 of a tank.
Preparing the vehicle before you hit the road is important. We did this, then started to plan for the worst.

If Something Happens on the Road The next step was to plan for a breakdown. As two people who are unfamiliar with vehicle mechanics, I stressed the importance of these steps. There are many things you can handle on your own, but having the right plan in place can help you deal with those unexpected situations.

1. Call for help immediately. 911 is a must in emergencies.  
2. Run the vehicle minimally to keep temperature comfortable. Keep windows open a bit.  
3. Stay in the car. If you have to get out, use the passenger side door.  
4. Keep the hazard lights on.
5. Use flares if you have them, but use them when you think help is on the way.
We talked about the various types of problems that could happen, such as sliding into the ditch or an engine failure. I made sure she understood that it was best to get help and using a cell phone to contact a towing service, or another professional in these situations, is never a bad option.

Survival Equipment Though we were taking major roads to our location, you never know what could happen along the route. I wanted to make sure my daughter knew what to do to plan for survival in the car. As I like to say, "It pays to plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark." 

Here is what I shared with my daughter.  

1. Have an auto survival kitin the car. Hands down, this is the most important item - and you may want two!
2. Have a box of items you may need in the backseat, including water and nonperishable food to last two days.  
3. Have flares in the vehicle along with fluorescent road markers.
4. Have blankets, a small shovel and chains for the tires in cold weather.  
5. Have a secondary way of charging a cell phone. We have a solar battery charger that we bring with us as well.  

All of this is important to have and not something to avoid. 

I talked to my daughter about the importance of always ensuring your vehicle can protect you in the event of being stuck. I do feel that with proper encouragement and hands on learning, you can prepare your child for a worst case scenario.  

About the Author Having been through a tornado, plane crash, tsunami evacuation, and over 40 years of bitter winters, Duncan Morrison has some experience with assessing the potential for a disaster and preparing for it. To him, an auto survival kit and an emergency home kit are essentials tools. He enjoys sharing his knowledge of emergency preparedness and survival planning with others. He also loves spending time with his family and friends, including his dog Sammy, and working out.

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