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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - Page updated at 02:51 p.m.

How to prepare

What should be in your home disaster-supply kit:

• Crank-operated or battery-operated radio (and batteries)

• First-aid kit/supplies

• Prescription medicine

• A whistle, so you can signal your whereabouts

• Copies of important documents in a plastic bag (driver's license, insurance and bank/credit-card information, family and other contact information)

• Flashlight with extra batteries

• Three-day supply of nonperishable food and water

• Warm clothing, sturdy shoes/boots and blankets

• Personal hygiene and sanitation supplies

• Comfort items for children (books, games and toys)

• Pet supplies

What should be in your car disaster kit:

• Windshield scraper: A must. Also, a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can come in handy.

• Tire chains and tow strap: Practice putting chains on your vehicle's tires before heading into snow or icy conditions. Why practice? You might have to do the job on a mountain road — in the dark.

• Blankets, winter hat, warm clothes, boots: If your car runs out of fuel or your battery dies, it won't be able to provide heat. A blanket and hat will keep you warm, particularly if roadside assistance does not arrive for some time. And of course you'll need a coat, hat, boots and gloves if you have to exit the car. Inexpensive chemical hand warmers can provide additional warmth.

• Spare food and water: Enough for everyone in the car, in case you're stuck for a while.

• Shovel: When a car gets bogged down in snow, a shovel becomes a vital tool. A small folding camp shovel will require more digging effort than a longer-handled shovel, but it's more convenient to store in the vehicle.

• Bag of cat litter: The texture of cat litter can help provide traction on a slick road.

• Cellphone: It's a lifeline if you're snowbound. A car charger for it is a good idea.

• Jumper cables: Whether driving in ideal weather or in difficult conditions, jumper cables can be useful. But keep in mind that late-model cars with sophisticated electronics can be easily damaged by a jump start — you're much better off making sure you have a viable battery before you drive the mountain passes.

• Flashlight: A must. A headlamp is particularly useful. You'll need it for all kinds of roadside situations, from installing tire chains to checking under the hood.

• Road flares: Useful for alerting a passing emergency vehicle of your need, but also for warning other drivers to slow down and steer clear of your situation.

McClatchy News Service