Your car should already come equipped with a basic emergency kit that includes a jack, lug wrench and spare tire, but you should also create your own kit of sorts that contains pliers, an adjustable wrench, utility knife, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, PVC tape (to temporarily fix a leaky radiator hose), work gloves, a quart of engine oil, radiator coolant, a weatherproof flashlight, drinking water, a folding shovel for sand or snow and a fire extinguisher.
Flares produce the most attention, but they only last for a short amount of time, can become a fire hazard and can only be used once. LED flares seem to be the answer to these issues, but they run on batteries (which will eventually run out) and are often expensive.
According to AAA, when signaling to other drivers that you've broken down, you should use reflective triangles, as these last forever. When purchasing these items, look for ones with sides at least 17 inches long and reflective strips that are two-inches wide. The packaging should also have "DOT" printed on it or other statement indicating they meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Jumper cables certainly come in handy when your battery dies and you don't want to wait for a tow truck to give you a jump. However , you should make sure you know how to properly use them and follow the directions to the tee, so no one gets injured and your car doesn't accidentally get fried. When purchasing jumper cables, make sure they are of good quality, are long so they are more easily manipulated and are thick so they carry the current in cold, damp weather.
In case of accidents or unforeseen emergencies, you should not only be able to fix your car, but yourself as well. Items that may come in handy include, bandages, dressings, waterproof tape, latex gloves, antiseptic wipes, wound ointment, cold packs and instructions on how to perform basic first-aid. Also, keep in mind any ailments specific to you and your family. For example, if a family member is allergic to bee stings you will want to make sure you have an EpiPen or the like on hand.
You might also want to keep things such as toilet paper, paper towels, wet naps, hand sanitizer and feminine hygiene products in your vehicle. Your trunk may start to get full, but you'll be happy you have these things on hand if you break down it the middle of nowhere. Extra clothes in the car can't hurt either, such as sturdy shoes, a sweatshirt and even coveralls to protect you from grease stains.
In the event you have to evacuate your home due to a mudslide, wildfire, etc., it's recommended that you prepare a ready-to-go emergency kit. Get a plastic tub and fill it with energy bars, peanut butter, water, a portable radio (to receive bulletins without having to wear down your car battery), maps, extra prescription medicines and a phone list. Put this in your car (if there's room after all your other emergency items) or somewhere easily accessible in your home.
Preparing for the worst
Accidents and emergencies as a general rule are unforeseen, but that doesn't mean you can't prepare for them. It may seem like overkill, but having these items when you least expect you'll need them just might get you out of a jam or at the very least make the situation a little more bearable.