Winter is coming — are you prepared?

Post courtesy of John Summerlot, emergency management coordinator, IU Emergency Management and Continuity.

John Summerlot and his emergency pack

John Summerlot and his emergency pack

At home, we generally feel like we are well prepared. We have extra clothes and extra blankets, cabinets stocked with food, etc. But you spend at least a third of your day away from home – either in your car or in your office. How prepared are you for winter weather emergencies if you became stuck in either of those places?

Becoming better prepared is as simple as pulling out an old backpack and stuffing some things in it that you already have around the house. Then, throw the backpack in your car. In the office, it’s as simple as re-evaluating the “junk drawer” and maybe putting some additional items in it.

Below is a list of items that you may want to consider having in your car or office “just in case” this winter. Keep in mind that if you are able to park close to your office, one kit might work for both.

  • Flashlight and extra batteries – Being stranded by the side of the road is a bummer. Being stuck in the dark is even worse.
  • Blanket(s) – Sleeping on the couch in the office break room or in your car is always easier when you are warm.
  • Extra layers – You know that old sweatshirt you should have thrown out a couple of years ago because you never wear it anymore? Put it to use and stuff it in your emergency kit. And the sweatpants that match it. Oh, and that [insert sports team you don’t really like anymore] knit cap you bought a couple years ago. And gloves.
  • Food – Granola bars and protein bars may not be your favorite snacks now, but if you are hungry by the side of the road or stuck in your office overnight, they may look a lot more tempting. A couple of cans of soup (with easy-open lids) aren’t a bad idea either.
  • Water – This may be more of an issue in your car than your office, but make sure you have a couple of bottles handy to wash down the granola bars and stay hydrated.
  • Toilet paper – Sure your office has plenty, but I doubt your car does.
  • Poncho – In case you have to cover a broken window after sliding off the road or use it as an extra layer over a blanket to stay warm. It’s good in case it is raining as well.
  • Crank-charger for your phone – Sure you can charge it in the office or car — unless the power goes out or you run out of gas. For as little as $20 you can get a small charger that recharges your phone by cranking a handle on the side. Besides, you are going to drain your phone pretty quickly sitting their bored playing Candy Crush and posting selfies to Facebook (#stuck).
  • Extra shoes/boots/socks – Especially if you often wear shoes that are not “all weather” or warm (I’m talking to you over there in the ballet flats).
  • And while you’re at it — Other things to consider include a small first aid kit, duct tape (fixes everything), pocket knife, small shovel, bag of sand or cat litter for extra traction if stuck, jar candle with matches (will really keep a car warm) and something to fight boredom (book, cards, crossword puzzle, etc.)

Remember, if you do get stuck by the side of the road in your car, it is a lot easier to find you when you are in your car. Don’t go wandering off, especially at night or in bad weather. Your car is also your shelter and will help you survive.

If you have questions or need additional information, check out You can also contact IU Emergency Management at 812-855-3549 or email me at

Summerlot is emergency management coordinator for IU Bloomington and the regional campuses. IUEMC is part of IU Public Safety & Institutional Assurance.

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