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Emergency basics car owner must have

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Jumper cables typically come with four clamps in pairs of red (positive) and black (negative). PHOTOs/shutterstock

Emergency essentials are crucial for ensuring the safety, survival and well-being of car occupants during an emergency. These essentials vary depending on the specific context and should cover a range of scenarios from minor inconveniences such as being stranded due to a flat tyre to potentially life-threatening situations such as natural disasters, accidents, or medical emergencies.

According to www.safetykitsplus, most cars are designed with emergency essentials and depending on one’s specific needs, environment and potential risks, a car owner must have them checked and updated while practically familiarising themselves with how to use each item.

Basic supplies

Basic supplies include medical/first aid supplies, clean water and food. They are used for providing basic first aid when addressing minor injuries or medical emergencies since conditions during and after a disaster can vary.

A first aid kit is one of the major emergency essentials that every vehicle must have. It is a medical box used to safely store medical supplies used for treating minor injuries and providing immediate care until medical professionals arrive.

It usually contains items such as bandages, plasters, cotton wool, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, scissors, disposable gloves, thermometer, pain relievers, and a first aid manual that provides instructions and guidance for administering first aid and managing common medical emergencies.

Tracy Nampijja, a nurse at International Hospital Kampala, says regularly checking and replenishing your first aid kit helps you ensure the supplies are not expired and are in good condition.

“Due to different medical needs, customising the first aid kit based on special needs such as chronic medical conditions (including inhalers) can be done with a necessary medical prescription from a professional doctor,” she adds.

Additionally, access to clean water and non-perishable foods such as snacks reduces hunger, and risk of illness and promotes the overall well-being of car occupants.

Tyre maintenance and repair

These are items essential for keeping your tyres in good condition and addressing common issues such as punctures. The most essential tyre equipment includes carrying a spare tyre in the vehicle along with the necessary tools such as a lug wrench which is used to loosen and tighten the lug nuts when changing a tyre and a jack to help you lift the car.

While, according to, a spare tyre is often situated below the floor of the rear part of the trunk bed, Frank Kamulegeya, a mechanic, says it is important to always check the spare tyre to ensure it is in good condition and properly inflated.

Other tyre maintenance and repair equipment includes an air compressor, tyre plugs, sealant and tread depth gauge, among others.

Jump-starting and battery-related tools

After a tiring day at work, it is possible to park your car and forget to turn off the headlights, which ends up draining the car battery and leading to failure/difficulty when starting the engine. Jump-starting and battery-related tools are essential for maintaining and troubleshooting a vehicle’s battery to ensure reliable starting and electrical performance. They include jumper cables, which are insulated wires with metal clamps on each end.

They play a role in conducting electrical current from a good battery to the dead battery to allow the vehicle start. Jumper cables typically come with four clamps in pairs of red (positive) and black (negative).

Kamulegeya emphasises the importance of having the different clamps connected correctly to the terminals.

“Attach one red clamp to the positive terminal of the good battery and the other, to the positive terminal of the dead battery. Then connect the black clamp to the negative terminal of the good battery, and the remaining black clamp to a grounded metal surface of the vehicle with the dead battery (such as a bolt or unpainted metal), and start the car,” he advises.

As an alternative, some car owners now have portable jump starters with a compact device that includes a built-in battery and jumper cables to jump-start a vehicle without the need for another vehicle’s battery. These are convenient for emergencies and can be easily stored in a vehicle’s trunk.

Another tool is the battery charger, which is used to recharge a vehicle’s battery when it is low or depleted. These come in various types and some have features such as automatic shutoff or maintenance mode to prevent overcharging and maintain the vehicle’s battery health.

Kamulegeya advises car owners to carry out regular inspections and maintenance of their car batteries and related components to extend their lifespan.

Emergency communication tools

In all spheres of life, communication is a key factor. For instance, driving on the road necessitates you to have multiple communication tools to ensure you stay connected and can call for assistance when needed. These items range from items that help you communicate with others to those used to find directions or your current location. They include phones, emergency whistles, a signal mirror, a GPS unit, maps and emergency applications.

There are different types of phones you can use during emergencies. These included a cell phone, crank rank/ two-way radio and a satellite phone. A mobile phone will give you the ability to make calls, send text messages, and access the internet. They are key for calling emergency services (such as 911 or local equivalents), communicating with family and friends, and enabling one to access important information or finding your car in case it is stolen using a GPS. It is, therefore, important to keep your phone charged and have access to a portable charger or power bank when travelling.

Additionally, car owners can opt to use emergency smart applications such as Google Maps, Waze, or emergency service applications such as Emergency Service Uganda (ESU). These help in sharing your location and receiving real-time updates and alerts.

Emergency lighting

This essential is used for providing illumination during emergencies in low-light situations or at night during a breakdown.

Emergency lighting such as headlamps, torches or candles (that are a traditional option and must be used with caution) are ideal when working on broken down vehicles, especially at night while flashlights and cell phone lights can be waved along the road to divert incoming cars from ramming into your vehicle at night during a roadside breakdown.

Additionally, several drivers tend to wear reflector vests/ jackets and set the reflective warning triangle on the side of the road to alert oncoming traffic of a breakdown or crash ahead.

It is, therefore, important to regularly check and maintain your emergency lighting sources to ensure they are in working condition and have sufficient power.


Other emergency essentials include basic tools such as screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches which are used for minor repairs during breakdowns, a fire extinguisher in case of a small fire, and important soft copy documents such as identification cards, insurance policies, and medical records.

It is also important to have blankets or jumpers useful for keeping warm in cold weather or providing comfort during long waits, emergency cash for unexpected expenses or situations where card payments may not be possible and comfort objects for children such as books, games, puzzles to help them reduce stress and boredom during extended emergencies.