It is Thanksgiving travel season and as we prepare our Roadtrek for a trip, we worry about the heavy holiday traffic. Earlier this year, on the same stretch of road we will be driving this weekend (called the Valley of Death by a worker at a truck stop along the route), we saw a horrific crash in the rear view mirror. A sudden slowing of traffic resulted in a semi-truck hitting a huge SUV which spun off the road hitting a smaller car in the process. Flames shot out of the SUV.
It was only a few cars behind us. On a clear day with dry roads. We stopped on the shoulder and Lynn grabbed the fire extinguisher. Another motorist did also, and we think those two fire extinguishers might have bought 3 or 4 minutes of time. There may have been enough time to get people out of the vehicle if we could have opened the stuck doors. Six people died in the fire. After the fire truck arrived it still took 15 minutes to put out the flames. This sobering experience convinced us to put together an “away kit” to keep in our Roadtrek for rapid response to road emergencies.
Our local fire chief chatted with us about emergency preparations, and our simplified kit came from his recommendations. “You could add all kinds of things, such as a flash light, crow bar, safety triangles and cones,” he said, “but simpler is better.” He warned against the explosion danger of getting too close to a vehicle fire.
We bought a small bright yellow bag from Harbor Freight to hold the kit. If we encounter a similar road emergency, we’ll grab the kit and run to try to help. We assume that you or others will call 911 at once describing the emergency and its location.
What we learned:
- Maintain situational awareness, including milepost number.
- Every crash is different.
- Unless you are a trained first responder, your role is limited.
- Saving lives is paramount.
- Warn other motorists.
We hope never to see another accident like this. But now we are more prepared if it should happen. At a minimum, please get one of the tools for breaking windows (side or rear, not front) and cutting nylon seat belts. It could save someone's life – or your own life. We bought 2 of them (they cost about $9. ) One is mounted behind the driver's head on the bulkhead; the other is in the away kit.