Dangers in the Desert

Dangers in the Desert – Proper Planning Saves Lives

We live in Utah, but make frequent trips into Nevada. Actually, we drive to Reno fairly regularly to visit family and friends there. The trip is not what you’d really call scenic, unless sand and scrub is your idea of heaven. It’s also a dangerous trip – the heat can be intense, and most of the driving is through no-man’s land, where help is not readily available.

Ever since my kids were little, I have made sure to impress on them the importance of good road safety and emergency planning, and I like to think that the message has gotten through to them.

It Starts before Hitting the Road

One of the things that I have impressed on my kids is the fact that emergency planning and preparation starts long before they hit the road. Like Winston Churchill said, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” For instance, wearing weather appropriate clothing is important, as is letting someone know where they’re going before they leave and when they get there. I also make sure they know to do a “walk-around” of their car before they leave, including:

  • Checking the tire pressure
  • Checking for fluid leaks (oil and coolant, for instance)
  • Checking to make sure they have enough gas
  • Checking warning indicators and gauges on the dash

Knowing What to Do When Danger Threatens

Of course, emergency prep goes much farther than just checking their car before they pull out of the driveway. My kids also know exactly what to do if their car breaks down in the desert so that they can stay safe. They know to:

  • Call me or their mother immediately/call 911 if there is a serious threat
  • Have their insurance information/emergency help card handy
  • Stay with the car at all times
  • Keep the windows cracked for ventilation
  • Don’t run the car more than 5 minutes at a time for air conditioning
  • Keep the radio off when the car is not running
  • Keep the lights off when the car is not running
  • Keep their hazard lights on
  • Use road flares behind the car at night so they can be located more easily

Planning is Only Part of It
However, I think the most important thing for survival is having an emergency kit for car use, with the supplies and tools needed. I make sure that my kids have a full emergency kit in their car at all times, and that we do periodic checks on the kit to replace anything that might be going out of date or in danger of spoiling. Each of our kits includes:

  • Water (1 gallon of water per person, per day)
  • Food (we use prepackaged protein bars and similar products)
  • A flashlight (with extra batteries and a spare bulb)
  • Candles with a butane lighter (in case something happens to the flashlight)
  • Blankets (it can get cold in the desert at night)
  • Road flares for emergency use

I’ve impressed on my kids just how essential it is that they keep an emergency kit in their cars at all times, and I’m very proud of how well they’ve done with it. It might be the fact that I’ve guided them in this area, but they take emergency preparation very seriously, and I have no worries about them being able to survive if they’re stranded on that long stretch of desert road.

About the Author

Surviving more than 40 years of severe winters, a tsunami evacuation, a tornado and a plane crash has given Duncan Morrison a unique perspective on emergency planning and preparation. He likes to provide his readers with actionable, essential information, such as how to build an earthquake preparedness kit for their homes and cars. In his spare time, Duncan likes to workout, spend time with family and friends, and walk his dog, Sammy, the best dog EVER.

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  1. I lived in Southern Nevada and I have to admit I learned the lesson of carrying water in the car the hard way. I was lucky on that occassion and got my pickup unstuck from the loose sand where I had driven while off road. But I have a very different recommendation for you. Drive a standard shift!! My car overheated and just quit on me and the battery which was old was dead. There I was stuck a long way from help with a 4 year old and a 1 year old and the temperature was 116 degrees. I faced a long walk carrying one baby trying to lead the toddler. In a desparate attempt I pushed the car and jumped in and started it in second. I drove home and have only bought one automatic since then (40 years). A standard shift allows you one more survival technique.

  2. Very nice video on the desert and so true, thanks you always know the facts of traveling and your so informative. God Bless you and thank you again.. I live in Las Vegas and so I do know the problems of not being prepared but it is always good to be reminded. We can never be too sure of ourselves in these conditions Mercedes out here in the desert. God Bless.

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