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Whether you live in a climate that gets snow and ice during the winter, or you plan to visit an area that has temperatures that drop below freezing: it’s important to internalize basic safety tips about snow and ice survival. Having a few safety hacks stored in your brain could mean the difference between injury, life, and death. These tips can help anyone - from frequent hikers and backpackers, to the average person just driving through or living in a cool climate. Either way, these survival hacks are sure to make you feel safer and more secure.
If you find yourself on a body of water in your vehicle and the ice breaks, do your best to remain calm! The most likely scenario is that your car doors will be difficult or impossible to open without the pressure being equalized inside of the car. This means that until your car is completely submerged, you will not be able to open the doors. Focus on steady breathing and allow water to rise and fill the car completely. Then, open the car door and swim out of the car and go straight up.
BONUS HACK: If you frequently drive in areas with icy bodies of water, considering purchasing an emergency vehicle window breaker tool. These tools are able to shatter your vehicle’s glass, even before the pressure equalizes in your vehicle. These tools often come with seatbelt cutters, in case you are unable to remove yourself from your seatbelt in an emergency.
It can happen in an instant. You swerve to avoid hitting a deer, your car hits a patch of ice and loses control, and you find yourself on a body of frozen water. You may have been ice fishing and noticed the ice cracking or seeming unstable. Regardless, this is one of the scariest winter situations possible. First, if you are not submerged and you are on the ice, do not panic. Crawl across the ice on all fours. Spreading out your weight across a large surface area helps put less tension on the ice and makes it less likely to break. If you become submerged in the water, do not thrash around. This causes you to expend body heat and energy. Do your best to remain calm and control your breathing. Rather than pulling yourself straight up, kick your legs underwater until they are behind you as if you were swimming forward. Then use your arms to pull yourself back onto the ice. Do not stand - crawl your way to shore.
If you lose control of your car and become stuck in the snow, it’s important to know how to keep your warmth and energy. First, if you travel in cold areas often, you should have nonperishable food in your car, as well as water, a blanket, and extra clothes. Hopefully, you already know how important it is to keep a survival kit handy. If you become trapped in your car in the snow, stay with your car! Wandering around outside in cold temperatures will quickly deplete your body heat and your chances for survival. Check your car’s exhaust pipe - if it is blocked by snow, remove the snow covering the tailpipe. If the pipe is blocked, carbon monoxide can back up into your car and kill you. Do your best to run your car once an hour for about 10 minutes. This conserves the car’s gasoline while keeping the temperature up. Finally, make sure to dial 911. Even if your phone doesn’t have a signal, it’s possible a call to 911 will go through if your phone is able to pick up on another network’s signal. Stay by your car, stay warm, and stay safe!
If you are lost outdoors, stop wandering! Wandering in unfamiliar territory is likely to get you more lost and it depletes your energy. When you are lost, stay put unless you have absolutely exhausted all other survival options. Remember, snow is an insulator. Do your best to construct yourself a shelter out of snow. Snow will help keep you warm if you can block out wind. Stay in or near your shelter. Many people are tempted to eat snow to keep themselves hydrated. If you have already called for help and are desperate for water, snow is a good option. But if you believe help may be on the way, avoid eating snow. It lowers your internal body temperature and can lead to hypothermia.
Your home is a great place to be during a storm. But remember, if your power goes out, it may be out for days. Gather everyone in the home into a central room in the house - the more central the room, the warmer it will stay. Avoid walls with doors and windows. Build a fire in a fireplace if possible or stay near the kitchen by the oven. Preserve canned goods in case you are trapped for long periods of time. Fill up containers of water and keep them in the warm room so it doesn’t freeze and so you have access to water before pipes freeze.
BONUS HACK: Keep a camping tent in the house and set it up in a central room. This creates a nice, warm pocket for sleeping - especially if your central room is large and still cold.