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Storms show lack of emergency prep

Last week’s string of winter storms caused whiteouts along the Southwest Coast, prompted accidents and stranded vehicles. Cpl. Colin Helm of the Port aux Basques detachment of the RCMP has some tips about how to prepare your vehicle in case of an emergency. – RENE J. ROY / WRECKHOUSE PRESS


PORT AUX BASQUES – With the entertaining weather that walloped our region last week, there were a number of accidents reported throughout the southwest coast on Tuesday, Mar. 2 and Wednesday, Mar. 3.

According to Corporal Colin Helm of the Port aux Basques RCMP detachment, last Tuesday night, “There were two calls for service. A tractor-trailer rolled over in the Wreckhouse at approximately 10:30 p.m., and a vehicle was stranded on the side of the road, around the Barachois Hill area. That call came in at about 1 o’clock (a.m.).”

Fortunately neither of those incidents resulted in more than a few minor cuts and scrapes to the truck driver, but it could have been a great deal worse. The RCMP attempted to reach the stranded driver, who had posted updates of her ordeal on Facebook, but they soon found themselves in a precarious situation as well.

Said Helm, “On our way to the call, the police cruiser was put off the road, due to high winds, and very poor visibility. It was next to no visibility once we left the detachment.”

Due to the extreme weather, the decision was made to call off the rescue, as it was too dangerous to make another attempt. This forced the stranded motorist to spend the night in her vehicle until approximately 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday until help could reach her. Helm stresses just how important it is for drivers to be aware of the conditions they drive in, and how being prepared can make the difference between life and death.

“I would like the public to be aware that driving in these types of conditions is not recommended. However, if the driver chooses to drive in these conditions, then they need to be prepared.”

He goes on to emphasize the importance of being aware of deteriorating road conditions during the height of storms.

“In incidences such as this incident, there may be times where first responders cannot get to you, and therefore you need to be prepared.”

Specifically, Helm points to the benefit of vehicle emergency kits.

Motorists can buy a winter emergency kit pretty much anywhere these days, but it’s also easy and more affordable to build one. Store bought survival kits come equipped with a range of items but most include road flares, whistles, hot packs, a small shovel, and can be bought for as little as $30 or even all the way up to $300 kits.

“The RCMP highly recommends emergency preparedness kits,” says Helm. “They can be purchased at stores or online.”

Some readily available and inexpensive items can save your life if you have them on hand in an emergency, should the need arise.

“A shovel is recommended, and candles, for heat in the event you run out of gas. With that being said, I would also recommend the driver always have a full tank of gas before leaving.”

When the gas runs out, so does the heat.

“You would be exposed to the elements,” says Helm. “One candle, if you can get one of those jar type candles, one of those can provide you with enough heat to keep you cozy enough to stay warm for hours.”

He also has some advice that isn’t quite as often thought of, like properly clearing the exhaust pipe of debris or snow.

“Make sure you clear it of anything that can block it, which would prevent carbon monoxide buildup inside of the car”.

If you’re thinking of building your own kit, Helm recommends including additional items.

“Blankets, definitely food provisions like granola bars, or something small, something that wont spoil. Water or juices, even some extra clothing.”

All RCMP vehicles are stocked with a full emergency preparedness kit, which Helm says can be built by a motorist for less money than purchasing one, since most items are already in the home.

“The cheapest way is to build one yourself absolutely. You can just get a tote with a lid and build it from there.”

Helm says that he always asks motorists who have become stranded what their exact situation is, whether or not they have an emergency kit, and how much gas they have. Most of the time their answers denote a lack of preparation.

“It’s not something we often think of because we think, ‘Oh, I’m never going to be in that scenario’, but guess what? Sometimes you can be.”

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