It sucks to be stuck. Anytime you are somewhere, and you’re trying to get somewhere else, but you can’t… It has to be one of the worst feelings. Being stuck and unable to get where you want to get is no bueno in NORMAL times. Now imagine that you’re stuck in an emergency. Not only do you have the normal ‘this sucks’ vibe going on because you’re stuck, but now you throw in a healthy dose of ‘I might die’ vibe. To prevent this, we need an emergency plan.
We don’t want to be stuck in an emergency, but there’s more to it than that – we also need the following basic emergency transportation capabilities:
- Get to our family members.
- Get our family members to us.
- Get ourselves and families away from danger.
- Carry important stuff to another location.
- Go places to talk to people, look for something, see a situation for yourself, etc.
Because we’re talking about emergencies, we need to have these capabilities AVAILABLE and FUNCTIONING in emergency situations. Even if the pumps aren’t pumping gas. Even if the Tesla won’t connect to the internet. Even if Uber doesn’t have any cars nearby. Even when the phone doesn’t work.
Where to Start with Transportation Preparedness
For Basic Preparation, we really don’t need much.
First, you need to have an emergency plan.
An emergency plan describes where everyone should go in an emergency, what they should do, and includes backup plans if they can’t get to the preferred place. The plan also provides a list of people who we can rely on to help us in an emergency. Start with an emergency plan. Share it with the people you care about and want to be with.
Here is my family’s emergency plan.
This is stored as a note on each of my kids’ phones. My wife and I both have a copy on our phones as well.
Emergency Plan – In the Event of an Emergency…
[I’m not sharing this part with you, but it’s just some family friends and their telephone numbers.]
First and foremost, stay calm. Don’t freak out. Get somewhere safe and we’ll find you. If you get stuck, start calling the contacts. Leave a message. Send a text. READ your emails. Listen to voicemails, even if you don’t recognize the number. It might be one of us trying to get in touch with you.
IF YOU CAN, stick with the original plan that morning. If you’re supposed to be picked up at school, we will try to pick you up. If you are supposed to drive home from school, try to drive home. Start calling and texting us and calling and texting the people on this list. If, after several hours you can’t reach us then you need to go to the primary meeting place. If you can’t reach the primary meeting place then go to an alternate meeting place, etc.
- Primary meeting place: [Our address]
- Alternate meeting place: A friend in the neighborhood. [Names]
- Contingency meeting place: [Our church, which is pretty close to our neighborhood.]
- Emergency meeting place: [My parents’ home, which is in a nearby town]
If you reach the house and then later have to leave the house, leave a note saying where you are going and who you are with. We (Mom and Dad) will:
- Try to contact you first.
- Go to where we think you are, if we know you need a ride.
- Go home
- Start trying to contact or go to the alternate meeting places
- Go to the church
- Go to Dad’s house
- We will repeat these steps if we can.
That’s it. As you can see, this isn’t extremely complicated. It took me about 20 minutes to put together and another 10 minutes to discuss with our family. Some things your emergency plan should include:
- Specific names and contact info. Avoid “Go to a friend’s house.” List specific people in a specific order.
- Options. Backups to backups and backups. PACE: Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency. Notice that our plan starts at our house and gets farther away. For our plan, Primary = 0 miles. Alternate = 1 mile. Contingent = 5 miles. Emergency = 30 miles. My boys know they can walk 30 miles in a day or two max.
- Safe, caring support. All of the names on this list care about my kids, and I care about their kids. The church may not be occupied in an emergency, but it’s still a familiar place with shelter and water.
- Specific actions and sequences. In an emergency, people frequently ‘freeze’ and don’t do ANYTHING. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one way to break the freeze is with a “Step 1 – do this” instruction.
Second, keep your primary transportation ready to go.
After you have your emergency plan squared away, you meed to square away your primary transportation. If it’s a car, that means keeping the tank topped off. If you have a habit of letting your tank drain down until the light comes on, you should change that habit. You probably drive by multiple gas stations per week. Build in a stop at one of those stations – commit to keeping it above half a tank.
Another part of keeping your transportation ready to go is maintenance. Check your tires. Get your oil changed. Take care of you automotive business, because you might need to get the Hell Out of Dodge.
The gas station may be out of gas, may not be open, or may not accept credit cards. You might consider storing some extra gas, but be careful. First of all, gas goes bad after about a month if you don’t use a fuel stabilizer. Second, gasoline is a highly combustible liquid, and is therefore dangerous. (Duh.) You have to use an approved safety can. You shouldn’t keep too much of it, and you need to keep it somewhere that it won’t kill you if it happens to explode.
Keep your car maintained. Keep up with oil changes, tires, and brakes. Don’t let a minor maintenance issue cripple you in an emergency.
“But what if my primary transportation is electric and/or public?”
I rely on my truck. I love it, and I keep it stocked, maintained, and ready to support me in my family’s emergency plan. My truck runs on gas, which has pro’s and con’s in normal times and in an emergency. It’s important for you to understand YOUR situation.
You may have an electric vehicle, an unreliable vehicle, a motorcycle or moped, or no vehicle at all. You may live in a place with lots of public transportation or a place without those services. No matter what your circumstances, you need to think about how you’re going to get around in an emergency, and document those ideas in your emergency plan.
I don’t have an electric vehicle, but I have the following advice for those that do: Consider your longest normal / routine driving day. When you get home that day how much charge is left? Is it enough to accomplish your emergency plan? If not, what are you going to do about it?
Similarly, if you depend on public transportation you need to think about how you’ll get around in an emergency. Which brings me to…
Third, GET READY TO WALK.
I really can’t stress this enough. If your emergency involves getting from Point A to Point B (as opposed to a ‘Shelter at Home’ situation,) then your emergency will likely involve walking. You’ll probably be walking with a load, longer than you want to walk, and faster than you’re used to walking.
Even if you drive your car away from your house, a lot can happen in an emergency. Blocked roads, traffic jams, car trouble, running out of fuel… You should be ready to get out and walk.
To get ready to walk, you should…. Well, you should walk. If you bought that Bug Out Bag from that other prepper website, put it on and start walking. If not, get yourself a backpack and put some weight in it.
You should be ready to walk to the first place on your emergency plan, carrying about a quarter of your body weight. That doesn’t mean you have to be able to do that today, but this should be your goal. Start walking 2-3 times a week, at least one time with a backpack. Every week, add some distance and/or some weight and you will get there.
Other Transportation Considerations
After you’ve developed your emergency plan, squared away your primary transportation, and dusted off your walking shoes, here are some other things to consider about transportation needs in an emergency:
- If an emergency lasts long enough, eventually you will not be able to get gasoline OR charge your electric car.
- Bicycles are handy. Make sure you have spare tubes and know how to keep your bikes working.
- Electric golf carts may be a good solution for short distances if you can keep the batteries charged.
- People have relied on livestock for transportation for millennia. I don’t have any livestock, but I know people who do…
- GPS is great, but there are several scenarios where it would stop working and/or be inaccessible in an emergency.
- Get a map and compass, and learn how to use them. I have topographical maps of the area around my home, a Texas road atlas, and a US road atlas.
- If you use Google Maps, you can download maps to your phone. You have to do this in advance of any emergency. Consider downloading maps of your local area AND any location on your emergency plan.
- Speaking of walking and carrying a load… I’m not a big fan of Bug Out Bags but I do like Everyday Carry and Get Home Bags. I frequently wear uncomfortable shoes when I leave the house. But I keep an old pair of my hiking shoes in the truck, along with some essentials I might need to get home. Similarly, I’ve thought through what makes sense to carry when I fly.
Full circle to: When something bad happens, you want to get your family together and get somewhere safe. Part of getting your family together is getting to them. I don’t ever want to say, “Sorry I couldn’t make it because I didn’t have good walking shoes.”