I live in southern California, which means at any moment one of many earthquake faults could decide to slip, a fire could break out, the economy could finally bottom out, an EMP cleverly directed toward Hollywood would finally fix the bad movie plight, or…you get the point. We all have to live with the annoying little feeling that at any moment TEOTWAWKI could begin. Lots of preppers will spend thousands of dollars to adequately prepare their house or bugout location, which is awesome. Some plan to hunker down and ride out the problem in the comfort of their own home, while others will converge on a bugout location and hide from the insanity of the world. But what happens if all hell breaks loose while you are at work, or driving in your car? How many of us have adequately prepared our vehicles?
When you look at the numbers, it is shocking how much time we spend in our beloved vehicles. Americans are in their cars on average 48 minutes per day and 38 hours per year stuck in traffic. If you were to calculate this it would lead to approximately 300 hours per year, or almost 13 days just behind the wheel. And this is merely the average. Some people spend a lot more time than this in their car. According to statistics, nearly 128 million Americans commute to work with approximately 75% of them driving alone. Thus, considering many people don’t work at home and have to travel to get groceries and other items, it could easily be argued that the likelihood that chaos ensues while you are out and about is high.
So what would you do if a major event occurred while you were driving or at work? Gridlock would likely be moments away followed by mass chaos, as an unprepared public begins to freak out. There could be fires, looting, loss of power, no cell service. What if you had to get your kids? Could you get home quickly?
Most of us drive within fifteen to twenty miles of where we live, including myself. If you consider the average person can walk 3 miles per hour uninjured, how long would it take to walk 10 miles? 20 miles? Consider these "best case" figures:
· 3 miles = 1 hour
· 6 miles = 2 hours
· 10 miles = 3 hours 20 minutes
· 15 miles = 5 hours
· 20 miles = 6 hours 40 minutes
· 25 miles = 8 hours 20 minutes
· 30 miles = 10 hours
Then you have to consider obstacles and rest breaks, weather, your physical condition, whether or not there are children with you, or if you or someone in your party is injured. A 10 mile walk could turn into a 10 hour trek.
If you are like me you don’t have tons of extra cash to outfit your vehicle with expensive gear. But, I have listed 10 things that you can do so that you are better prepared in the event that all hells breaks lose while you are on the road. If you take a bus or carpool to work, the items are things you can keep in your desk or locker. Most of these items are already around your house, so you won’t have to spend any money, just a little bit of time.
1. PLAN: If you are in your car when a major TEOTWAWKI event occurs, you already need to have a game plan as to where you want to go. Back home? Bug out location? Are there people you need to get first like your family or friends? Pets? Go ahead and assume that cell phones will not be available, in other words prepare for the worse. There is a good chance that the roads will be in severe gridlock.
You need to determine the average distance you drive from your house so you can stock your car accordingly. For the next few weeks, keep a pen and paper in your car and every time you drive somewhere write down the distance and location. Get a feel for how far you actually travel from your home on a daily basis. Then, pull out a map or use many of the free map services on line to study your routes.
Situational awareness is critical while creating and executing your plan. Are there any major obstacles you might have to overcome to get to your location? Do you pass through a rough part of town? Are there bridges or lakes? I work on the other side of a lake from where I live. If the bridge that spans that lake collapses, it is absolutely necessary that I know alternative routes to get to my kids.
That plan needs to be laid out ahead of time and discussed with all parties involved. It wouldn’t be too far fetch to even consider a time frame for arrival so a search party can come after you along your pre-determined route from work if you don’t show up within 24-48 hours. Extreme? Maybe, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
2. GASOLINE: Get in the habit of making sure that your vehicle always has at least a quarter tank of gas. Never let it drop below that line. Yes. I know gas is expensive, but allow me to share a story about a coworker to help you realize the importance of this little trick. Two years ago she rolled in to work on fumes, knowing she would stop on the way home to get gas. Unfortunately an unexpected city-wide black-out occurred at the end of the work day. Not a single gas station could run their pumps. Most of the traffic lights stopped working. It was chaotic. Luckily a coworker allowed the woman to crash on her couch for the night and the blackout only lasted for twelve hours, but had the grid gone down for a few days this woman would have been unable to get back home to her loved ones in a timely manner.
3. CLOTHING: Whether you have to dress up for work or not, it is a good habit to keep a spare set of clothes in your car. Ladies, imagine walking ten miles in high heels? No thank you. Dig through your closet and find those old tennis shoes or hiking boots that you were going to donate and just shove them in your trunk. Don’t forget the socks! Toss in an old sweatshirt and if you have an extra hat you don’t wear anymore, add that to the mix. Also consider a cheap rain poncho (usually $0.99), shorts or pants, and a towel or small blanket. I know it seems like a lot, but consider this: if your child is in the car during a chaotic event and you need to keep them warm, you’d be glad you had that little blanket.
4. FIRST AID: It’s always important to have a first aid kit in your vehicle, but these can sometimes be a bit pricey. Last year I found this really cool web site that talked about making mini go-bag kits. They are super simple to assemble and conveniently small.
Get an Altoid or Altoid-sized metal container and put in the following items:
· Alcohol or other cleansing swabs
· Gloves: two latex or nitrile (in case you come across something bloody)
· Band-Aids of various sizes
· Ziploc bag with medications like pain relievers, antihistamines, any other meds specific to you (Not only are the pills useful but so is the plastic bag.)
· Needle taped to inside lid, and consider about one foot of dental floss to add to this in case you have to suture something up really quick.
· $20 cash (if the ATMs or credit card readers don’t work, you will need cash)
· Book of matches
· Sharpened pencil and piece of folded paper
· I also include a whistle, a sealed razor blade and a small key chain light (yes, it all fits!!!!)
· Rubber bands: after you close the lid, put one or two rubber bands around the container to make sure the lid doesn’t pop off. Rubber bands have numerous practical uses
These are all things I already had around my house. I put together a bunch of the little kits and put one in my car glove box, my purse, my desk at work and then I gave one to my husband.
5. FOOD/WATER: I keep a few bottles of water and some non perishable food next to my spare tire in the trunk. It is suggested that a person carry upwards of 3 liters while hiking in the heat. I currently keep 5 bottles in the trunk, but I live in a mild climate and there is shade available. Consider your climate and distance when deciding how much water to keep in your car. I know some people that keep a case of water in their trunk.
Peanut butter crackers are great source of nutrition because of the carbs and protein and they are super cheap. But any high calorie, easy to store food would work as long as it does not require cooking. Don’t forget to rotate these items out every few months.
6. BACK IN: The other night I was at a training meeting for my girl scout troop and the teacher said the most profound thing: always back into your parking spot. She explained that in the event of an emergency, you can just whip on out quickly. It is such a simple thing to do and most of us never do it.
7. FLASHLIGHT: This is probably something you already have in your car, but if you don’t, go put a flashlight in there now. I found a hand crank light really cheap and keep that in my glove box next to my Altoid first aid kit.
8. KNIFE: I can’t afford to keep a gun in my car, and it is illegal in California to conceal and carry. But, I always keep a legal sized knife either in my purse or in my pocket. Pocket knives are relatively cheap and shoving an extra one in the glove box isn’t a bad idea.
9. PARACORD: This is an amazing tool that can be used for so many things. You can easily ball up the cord and put it in your glove box, or even wrap the flashlight handle with the magical rope.
10. BAG: If you have to abandon your vehicle and go on foot, you are not going to want to carry your flashlight, first aid kit, water and food, blanket or towel, and other items in your hands. You might have to carry a child or maneuver around obstacles. Regardless you need to be light on your feet and not look like a walking grocery store.
Dig around for an old backpack or gym bag that is collecting dust or pick one up at a thrift store or garage sale. Put that bag in your trunk. Heck, you can even put the emergency clothes in it. If you don’t have a bag, you can shove everything in your blanket/towel then use the paracord to hold it all together and toss it over your shoulder. Not comfortable, but doable.
I’m not hoping for some sort of horrific event to occur, but we live in a world of uncertainties and I want to be confident that I can get home to my children as quickly as possible. If we spend hours upon hours preparing our homes for TEOTWAWKI, then we should spend just a little bit of time preparing the vehicles that will get us home.