If there is one thing that everyone should have taken away from the events of 2020, is that things can go bad fast. It doesn’t take long for a small situation to turn into a global tragedy when it isn’t handled quickly. Similarly, savings can be spent in a short period of time when income becomes even harder to secure. Lack of preparedness often results in harsh financial consequences and subsequent stress and instability. More than ever before, people are making emergency preparedness a goal for 2021.
General preparedness often takes the form of food storage when you can afford it, first aid kits, organization of important documents, knowledge of the location and contact information of emergency service resources in your area (such as hospitals, police stations, and fire stations), and the maintenance of other various supplies. And while these measures are fine, many cannot afford large amount of supplies or food. For these people, it is important to focus on areas where small steps can make a big difference.
Of all the places where one can be caught unprepared, personal vehicles are a likely place and one that can be stocked fairly cheaply without having to worry about things expiring. Ready.gov, a US preparedness initiative, recommends creating a travel kit to prepare yourself for emergency situations which may arise on the road. Their recommended kit includes jumper cables, flares or a reflective triangle, an ice scraper, a car cell phone charger, a blanket, a map, and cat litter (or sand).
These items all serve key purposes, though they may be more or less useful depending on the area in which one lives. Maps are growing more and more outdated as digital mapping on GPS devices and mobile phones take over the realm of automotive navigation, however an event may arise where electricity is not available and devices have no power stored. For these niche moments, a map is a relatively inexpensive and useful tool. Ice scrapers may not be incredibly useful for those that live in warmer climates, but are absolutely necessary for anyone who might need to scrape ice from their windshield after frost and snow accumulate. Cat litter and sand are mostly cited as being useful in places where there is heavy snow and freezing on the road, as it can be used to provide traction beneath tires that are slipping, but are also incredibly useful in areas where heavy rainfall is likely to produce large amounts of mud.
If nothing else, an important item to always keep in your vehicle is a blanket. A simple blanket can be purchased cheaply and serves multiple uses for vehicle safety. While it serves the obvious use of keeping one warm when potentially stranded or waiting in a disabled vehicle, it can also be used as a means of warding away would be thieves. Simply covering any objects, particularly backpacks and purses (which are always a bad idea to leave in your vehicle), stored in a vehicle with a blanket decreases the likelihood of an opportunistic thief breaking a window and stealing those items. While a purse, a backpack, or a piece of luggage are seen as profitable targets for thieves—as they commonly hold valuable items like wallets, phones, or identifying documents—simply covering those items may be enough to disguise their potential value in emergency situations.
Some suggestions for alternative or additional items to keep in the car may include a tire patch kit, a general tool kit (usually pliers, screw drivers, and a socket wrench), electrical tape (or duct tape, though this may be a more expensive option), scissors or a small utility knife, face mask, and hand sanitizer. Most of these are relatively affordable, though they may require more technical knowledge or serve only niche uses. Hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes have been more common in recent months as people have become more conscious of health while out. It is also easy to make sanitizing a habit by applying hand sanitizer every time you sit down in your car, as most people already have an automatic checklist of things they do when they start their car.
Beyond maintaining an emergency preparedness kit for your car, there are other small measures that can be taken for those with limited income and resources. Ready.gov states that when building up emergency preparation supplies, it is most effective to only make small investments over longer periods of time, which helps when circulating out older materials that may expire. It is also important to make preparation a constant initiative, not a one time purchase or setup. Being ready for an emergency situation is an ongoing process, as best practices for various types of emergencies may change, certain items will need to be replaced, and the types of emergencies you are likely to encounter may also change.
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