Fall 2002 Forward to a Friend

“those drivers who deny the possibility of trouble may find themselves fighting for their lives until rescue arrives.”  







Being lost is serious but it does not have to be dangerous if you react properly. An acronym to help you remember what to do is

IT tight, don’t panic. Talk positively to yourself – out loud! Have a drink of water or eat a candy bar. Remember, your brain is the best piece of survival gear you have — use it!

HINK about your problem. How bad is it really? Are there injuries that you need to take care of? Are you losing body heat? What needs to be done first? How much time do you have?

BSERVE the area. What resources are available to help you survive? What natural hazards exist?

LAN what to do next, but be flexible. Remember, you have no control over the weather or the onset of darkness. But you do have control over your actions.



One or more of the following items may make the difference in an on-the-road emergency. When you plan your next trip, consider what you should carry to keep yourself (and your passengers) safe.
  • Cellular phone
    with charger
  • Additional clothing
    and winter footwear
  • Four quart bottles of water
  • Three dehydrated meals
  • Other carbohydrate-
    based foods
  • Two empty cans
    (one for melting snow
    and one for sanitary purposes)
  • Bag of cat litter
  • Toilet paper
  • Windshield scraper
    and brush
  • Wipes
  • Spare personal medications
  • Tools (including jack
    and spare tire)
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Portable radio
    and spare batteries
  • Emergency candles
    and/or small stove
  • Booster cables,
    tow strap, road flares
  • Folding or
    breakdown shovel
  • Multipurpose tool (Leatherman, etc.)
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Ski goggles and gloves
  • Chemical hand
    heater packets
  • Duct tape
  • Chemical light sticks
  • Space blankets
  • Waterproof and
    windproof matches
  • Book to read
  • Metal cup
  • 25-50 feet of nylon cord
  • Basic first-aid kit
  • Flagging tape
  • Knife




Peter Kummerfeldt grew up in Kenya, East Africa and came to America in 1965 where he joined the U.S. Air Force. He is a graduate of the Air Force Survival Instructor Training School, and has served as an instructor at the Basic Survival School, Spokane Washington; the Arctic Survival School, Fairbanks, Alaska; and the Jungle Survival School, Republic of the Philippines. He currently is on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego Wilderness Medicine staff and Emergency Response International. He also served for 12 years as the Survival Training Director at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He retired from the Air Force in 1995 after 30 years of service and now conducts outdoor safety training programs throughout the United States. Peter and his wife, Mary, live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Peter’s OutdoorSafe Newsletter is available online at www.outdoorsafe.com.


Even with careful planning, some subaru drivers occasionally find themselves unable to continue driving due to extreme weather. Staying in your vehicle until help arrives needn’t be a life-threatening situation – a little preparation will help keep you safe and sound. Survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt outlines a straightforward plan for weathering an “unexpected night out.”

Anyone who drives faces the possibility of spending an unplanned night in a vehicle.

Bad weather, breakdowns, running out of fuel, and getting stuck are some of the more common reasons why a driver might have to bed down for the night (or perhaps for several nights) until the situation is resolved. A “night out” does not have to be a life-threatening experience, though. Drivers who accept the possibility that the unforeseen may happen are drivers that prepare for the experience. On the other hand, those drivers who deny the possibility of trouble may find themselves fighting for their lives until rescue arrives.


PREPARATION. Assembling a survival kit is the first step. As with any survival kit, the contents should be selected based on your personal needs, the season and the geographic location. (See the following list of recommended equipment.) If you become stranded, you’ll be glad you took the time to put together an emergency kit. In addition to the kit, you should also evaluate the effectiveness of the clothing you are wearing to keep you warm in a cold vehicle. Most people dress to arrive at a destination and not to survive a night out – the reverse would be more appropriate. Dress to survive, not just to arrive!

Don’t forget to provide sufficient supplies for other people you may be traveling with. Preparation also involves ensuring that your vehicle is ready for winter travel. Never set out in stormy conditions without a full tank of gas, a good battery, proper tires, a heater and exhaust system in good working condition, good antifreeze and “common sense.”

YOU’RE STUCK. If you do get trapped by a blizzard or severe snow storm, don’t panic! Stay with your vehicle and use your survival kit. Your vehicle makes a good shelter and an effective signal – don’t leave it. In your vehicle you are warm (warmer than being outside), dry and protected from the weather. Trying to dig the vehicle out or attempting to walk to help can be fatal. Sit tight – let the rescuers come to you! Move all of your equipment and other emergency gear into the passenger compartment.

SHELTERING IN YOUR VEHICLE. While sitting out a storm you must use your resources sparingly – you don’t know how long you’ll be there. While the vehicle will cut the wind and keep you dry, you will need to keep the interior warm. The heat your body produces is insufficient to heat the interior. Sitting in the vehicle, you will become cold quickly, especially your feet. Put on your warmest clothes (socks, hat, gloves, long underwear and additional insulation layers), wrap yourself in blankets or get into a sleeping bag. Sit sideways so you can place your feet on the seat where the foam cushioning will offer insulation from the cold. The foot wells will be the coldest part of the vehicle. Alternatively, place foam padding under your feet to insulate them. Place insulation behind your head so that it does not come in contact with the cold window.

Using a space blanket and duct tape, partition off the back of the vehicle from the front so you only have to warm the part of the vehicle you are occupying. Ways to warm the interior of your vehicle include running the engine for short periods of time. Run the engine about ten minutes each hour (or for shorter periods each half hour) but only after ensuring that the exhaust is not damaged and the tail pipe is clear of snow and other debris. Run the engine on the hour or half-hour – times that coincide with news and weather broadcasts on the radio. Ventilate the vehicle by opening a downwind window approximately 1/2 inch. Carbon monoxide is a real threat to your safety. Do not go to sleep with the engine running. Carbon monoxide poisoning can sneak up on you without warning. Almost 60 percent of the deaths caused by carbon monoxide result from motor vehicle exhaust. It is less risky to use your clothing and other sources of heat to keep yourself warm.

If you have to get out of the vehicle, put on additional windproof clothing, including snow goggles if you have them. Tie a lifeline between yourself and the door handle before moving away from the proximity of the vehicle. In a blizzard, visibility can be as low as 12 inches. The lifeline will guide you back to the vehicle.

Eat right while you wait, don’t drink alcohol and don’t smoke! Without enough energy stored in your body you will not have the ability to generate enough heat to keep your body warm. Your emergency kit should include quantities of high-calorie, non-perishable food such as carbohydrate food bars. Keep yourself hydrated. Dehydrated people have great difficulty maintaining their body temperature. Don’t eat snow! It takes body heat to convert snow to liquid. Use your heat sources to melt snow for your drinking water. Don’t smoke – the nicotine in cigarettes reduces blood flow to the skin and extremities and increases the possibilities of frostbite. Don’t drink alcohol, either – alcohol affects judgment. Bad judgment decreases the chances of survival.

GETTING RESCUED. The ability to communicate your distress is critical when calling for rescue. A cellular phone may be your best method of making contact with rescuers. Dial 911 or the number selected by your state to contact law enforcement officials. Citizens Band (CB) and VHF radios may be available. Lacking electronic communication equipment you will have to improvise – tie a flag to your vehicle’s antenna, or have a road flare prepared in the event that an aircraft flies over your area. If weather conditions permit, stamp “SOS” into the snow, and after the snow stops raise the vehicle’s hood. Keep the upper surfaces of your vehicle clear of snow. Remove the rearview mirror and use it to reflect a beam of sunlight to rescuers – either on the ground on in the air. Do whatever you can to draw attention to yourself.