Car travel safety: what to do if you’re stranded? Talk amongst yourselves.

Merlin of 43Folders has started a fascinating discussion about the ingenuity of Kati Kim, who, with her two children, managed to survive nine snowy days stranded in their car with little food. (James Kim, the father, is still missing and a massive search is underway to find him.)

Parent hacking of the highest order — keeping your children alive in a perilous situation like this. Kati nourished both her children by nursing them. She burned the car’s tires for warmth and light (something I never would have thought to do, or perhaps I would have given the dire necessity.) I’m sure there are many more invisible acts of heroism we could list if we were able to talk to Kati right now.

This brings up the question: how do we stay safe during winter road trips? An obvious place to start: a car emergency kit. I also think it’s imperative to give those Google maps/GPS instructions a reality check — not all roads are created equal. The search for Kati and her children was aided by two cell phone operators who thought to send her cell phone a text message, then identify which cell phone tower was nearest.

Any other wisdom to share?

My heart goes out to the Kim family…I’m sending all my good thoughts for James’s quick recovery.

UPDATE: I’m sorry to say that James’s body was found earlier today. My deepest condolences to Kati Kim and her children, and to all of their friends and family.

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  1. says

    I will have to dig it up, but there are a number of good lists of things to carry in your car in case of stranding emergencies just like this. They include things that you would think of, like a blanket (foil blankets are also good for added heat), as well as things you wouldn’t like candles (make sure they don’t contain lead).

    Candles can be used to melt snow for water (hydration is very important) and a small candle can keep the inside of a car warm enough to survive the cold over extended periods of time.

    The Kim’s story is very tragic and sadly inspiring. Kati is a very strong woman indeed and I am in awe of her and James’ ingenuity in keeping their children safe and my heart goes out to her and her family.

    Once I get a chance to get my information together, I will try to post it here or maybe organize it into a more coherent post on our site.

    Take care everyone, and be safe during your holiday travels.

  2. Sam says

    This is such a sad story but as a resident of the rural Pacific Northwest it is unfortunately not unusual. Just last year a family of three died when they got stuck on a rural mountain road near where I live. Around some parts of my state, you may not see another soul for days if you break down or get stuck. The number one thing that we stress to people new to the area is STAY WITH YOUR CAR. It goes contrary to all your instincts when you are stranded, but rescue workers are much more likely to spot or track your car than you. The family I mentioned above died in part because they got out of the car and started walking up the mountain road in the hopes of seeing a way out. And of course if you’re traveling in inclement weather, either in summer or winter, be sure you have water, food, flashlights, blankets and a shovel in your trunk.

  3. Elizabeth says

    Thanks for this post. The most important thing a person can do at this point is just to pick a “car kit” goal—something small even, like putting a gallon of water in your trunk — and just do it today. Don’t say, boy, I should really do something about that, and then wait until you stumble upon the perfect solution. Because it usually doesn’t happen.

    I’m a Mormon, and our church leaders have been telling us about emergency preparedness for years and years. I never really “got it” until I finally realized that it takes little efforts over a long period of time, rather than the “perfect” 72-hour kit or food storage program.

    So put a blanket in your trunk today. Or buy a flashlight. Or check on your spare tire. Just do something. I will too.

  4. says

    Hindsight tells us that the safest thing that could have been done was to stay in that car. It’s the same thing boy scouts are told to do in the event they get lost–hug a tree (don’t keep wandering… you only get further away from where searchers will look for you).

    Incidentally, on the thought of carrying a flashlight in the car, I use a product called Dashlite. It plugs into, and recharges from, a car’s cigarette lighter. We just leave it plugged in all the time.

    Dashlite on Amazon: