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New Jersey Disaster Expert Cautions: Can Your Car Withstand a Winter Emergency?

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SOMERDALE, N.J Dec. 14, 2010; We often think about getting our homes winterized, but the recent winter storm battering the Midwest shows that our autos  need a safety check too, says a top disaster expert.

"It's basic, but I'm still stunned at the number of people who don't take the 30 minutes to ensure their automobiles are ready for an emergency, especially during the winter," says Dean Ragone, president of Somerdale, N.J.-based allRisk Property Damage Experts (, an emergency response firm.

Ragone offers  a few  winterizing car tips. These include:

  • Ask yourself: Is this trip really necessary? It seems obvious, but if you are facing an impending storm or one that is already raging outside, pause and ask yourself whether you really have to drive.  
  • Gas up. People often have to abandon cars because they simply run out of gas when a short commute turns into hours. Keep your gas tank full.
  • Maintain an emergency kit. This is inexpensive and takes little effort. A good emergency kit includes: flares, blankets, boots, radio, engine oil, washer fluid, coolant and flashlight. If you generally travel without gloves or a cap, this is the time to keep them in the car. If you have kids in the car, keep a mini diaper bag with diapers, wipes, formula and baby food.
  • Buy a better scraper. Visibility is paramount in a winter storm, so clean off as much snow as possible. But don't waste your money on the small, cheap plastic scrapers that sell for a dollar or two. Buy a model with a long handle, made of metal, with a scraper at one end and a brush at the other. It's stronger and won't break, and its length allows you to muster more muscle when scraping. If you are short, you will be able to reach the snow on top of the car.
  • Plug in your cell phone charger. Get one if you don't have one. It's your lifeline to the outside world if you get stranded.
  • Jumper cables. Batteries are a major victim during a winter storm. The easiest, cheapest solution is jumper cables.

"Winter doesn't start until Dec. 21," says Ragone. "Get a jump on the season by making sure that you're prepared for any road trips before a winter storm strikes."