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Unfortunately, vehicle emergencies happen, but there are a few measures you can take to make your car safer. One of the most important safety considerations you can observe is picking one of the safest cars on the market. However, you can always go a step further. Here are some emergency must-haves for your vehicle and kit, as told by firefighters. 

What should I have in my car for an emergency?

Let’s begin by addressing some of the most dangerous emergencies: car fires, kinetic motor vehicle accidents (MVAs), and rollover accidents. Firefighters routinely respond to incidents like these, and often vehicle occupants are unprepared for an emergency. I was a firefighter in Kentucky and responded to all of the above repeatedly. That said, there are some implements you can keep in your vehicle in a dangerous emergency. 

A compact seatbelt cutter is recommended by firefighters in an emergency.
A compact seatbelt cutter |

First, I recommend a window-smashing device, like a hammer or combination tool with a window-breaking point. Next, Firefighter Cameron Marshall of St. Matthew’s Fire and Rescue recommends a multi-tool or pocket knife equipped with a safety seatbelt cutter.

In the event that you can’t disconnect your seatbelt (and you’re in a condition to move), a seatbelt cutter and window breaker can aid in self-rescue. “Drivers will sometimes have difficulty freeing themselves after an accident. A self-rescue device like a seatbelt cutter can save lives,” Marshall said of the tools. However, these little knick-knacks aren’t the only emergency items you should keep in your car. 

Should I keep a fire extinguisher in my car?

While you might be afraid of an extinguisher bursting in your car, keeping one in your vehicle is generally a good idea. Many hot-rodders, classic car drivers, and performance car builders put extinguishers in their vehicles due to the increased risk of fire. It’s also a good idea to keep one securely mounted in your road-going personal vehicle, just in case. Fortunately, you can pick up a compact Class C extinguisher at almost any auto parts store. 

A fire extinguisher is one of the implements that firefighters recommend you keep in your car.
Fire Extinguisher | Lambert, Getty Images

Why have an emergency kit in your car?

Firefighter Griffin Spainhoward recommends that you keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. “An emergency kit can help you stay prepared for everything from bad weather to a motor vehicle accident,” Spainhoward said. You can buy a pre-packaged emergency kit or put together your own.

First and foremost, you should keep a first-aid kit, high-visibility vest, and flashlight in your emergency kit. However, to outfit your kit thoroughly, you should include water, space blankets, and a road triangle to warn other motorists of your situation. 

What tools should you keep in your car?

All motorists should keep a handful of tools in their vehicles. First, a spare tire or tire patching kit is a good idea in the likely event of a flat tire. Furthermore, a tire kit is useless without a jack; keep one and know how to use it. Also, a minimalist tool kit with wrenches, screwdrivers, and a tire pressure gauge is a valuable addition to your vehicle. Finally, jumper cables can help you get back on the road in the event of a dead battery. 

Still, access to roadside assistance services is a good idea for motorists of any kind. Better yet, agencies like AAA offer service memberships specifically designed for motorcyclists and RV owners, should they encounter an emergency.

Personal skills like CPR are an important emergency skill to add to you preparedness kit.
Personal skills like CPR can save lives | Patrick Pleul, Getty Images

In addition to what firefighters recommend, how else can you prepare for an emergency?

These recommendations are based on the experiences of firefighters and the observations we’ve made. Beyond that, buying a car with top scores from an agency like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an intelligent choice. Also, becoming proficient in personal skills like defensive driving and CPR can save lives. Finally, keeping a charged cellphone, securing all loose articles including safety equipment, and remaining calm are essential in an emergency. 

What do you keep in your vehicles for emergencies? Would you add something to this firefighter-recommended list? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!


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