Picture the following scenario: Driving home in the twilight from
work, you're tired after the day's pressures. Instead of concentrating
on the road, you are lost in thought about tonight's plans. Suddenly
there is a problem with the suspension in your car. It feels odd
and worsens rapidly. You get hit between the eyes with a sudden,
horrible realization that it's not the car; it's an earthquake!
Everyone pulls over in alarm. The situation is further complicated
as you discover that the bridge ahead has collapsed. Seen in your
rear view mirror, the overpass is a pile of rubble across the
freeway. Your goal is still the same, getting home.
I commute 29 miles each way and am somewhat prepared for the above
event. I never want to be required to follow through with my plans
and I hope it never happens to you. An emergency while traveling
could be many things; fill in the disaster "blank" for what you
are most likely to face in your area. Whether it be extreme winter
in Montana, lava flows in Hawaii or New Zealand, earthquake in
most places, tsunamis on the coasts or even a flat tire can give
you reason to be thankful you planned ahead.
Assume whatever "it" is, has just happened. Are you safe? Do you
need to move?
First, do CAPS (as in put on your thinking CAPS):
- Calm down
Assess the situation
Set your course of action.
Mentally, go on Yellow Alert*, Red Alert** if you must, depending on the situation. Forget unassociated
problems; concentrate on the difficulty at hand. Relax and remember,
it could be worse. Think positively. You will get home safe and
sound, this event will fade and life will move on. Don't allow
yourself to be distracted from your goal of getting home safely.
Yellow and Red Alerts are from Frank Cuccioni's Tactical Response
- *Yellow Alert is anticipating problems, observing your environment, looking
people in the eye as you pass them. Avoid all trouble.
- **Red Alert is handling trouble you can not avoid.
You'll have several decisions to make:
- 1. Should you move your car to a more, or less, visible location?
(If possible). To hide or remain visible... This depends on your
unique situation; follow your intuition. Being in sight helps
someone who may look for you know more about your situation. Being
out of sight may protect you and your property.
2. Should you leave a note with the car? (Will someone be looking
3. If you have to walk home, what is your course? Sketch a plan.
Divide the plan by setting goals like landmarks. Go for one goal
at a time .
In preparing to leave your car, gather your gear. Check clothing
and SHOES . Don't be in a hurry to hit the road. You'll waste
time and energy if you need to return to your car for a forgotten
It may be wise to eat and drink before leaving or as you set out
. You have your supplies; snack and drink frequently . This gives
you extra time to think if needed. Don't start out with a hunger
or thirst disadvantage. Your supplies may contain a meal that
is heavy or bulky. This is a good time to consume that meal; there
will be less weight to carry.
Before you have a problem, mentally explore multiple ways to get
home. Note bridges, overpasses, rivers, bad neighborhoods etc.,
and take the course of least resistance. "Never step on what you
can step over, never go over what you can go around, never climb
up what you can walk around". (Daniel Boone?)
Set a comfortable walking pace, slow down to baby steps if necessary
to climb or descend steep grades. If your feet hurt, or you get
a warm sensation somewhere on the feet, STOP! Fix this problem
before you get a blister .
Remind yourself it could be worse, count your blessings, stay
calm. You must help yourself first before you are fully capable
helping family, friends and others. For example, in an aircraft
if the oxygen masks drop, calmly put it on and start it. Then
help others put theirs on.
Stay on Yellow Alert; don't allow yourself to be surprised by
anything or anyone. Act confident and look confident. This helps
ward off predators. Statistics show that would-be muggers avoid
people that walk purposefully and are aware of surroundings.
By the time you reach the first goal, a phone for instance, hopefully
the situation has improved. Other possible first goals might be:
- Someone is contacted to pick you up
- Public transportation is running
- Check into a motel or shelter
If your first goal is not met, go to the second goal and keep
Ten miles is a good hike, fifteen is a power hike. If you're home
is further than that, shelter becomes an issue. This is a widely
variable problem and not easily addressed here. Bare minimum shelter
is a Space Bag or Space Blanket which keeps in your body heat
and weather out. Improvise if you can't make it home in one day's
Having emergency gear in your vehicle, having planned ahead and
by setting goals, you will greatly ease your journey to get home.
TIP 1: Make friends along the way that you commute. Is there someone
you work with? Go to school with? Go to church with? Make a note
of their address and phone number; they will be more willing to
help than a stranger.
TIP 2: If Goal Number One is a pay phone, call someone and tell him
or her your situation and plan. In disasters, phone lines are
often jammed with incoming calls to stricken areas. This can prevent
local calls, but you can frequently call long distance. Have an
out-of-the-area emergency contact, a friend or relative a hundred
or more miles away, who can relay vital information. Tell your
family who your emergency contact is before disaster strikes.
Consider a prepaid phone card.
TIP 3: The next time you are about to wear those old reliable walking
shoes or boots, stow them in your car before they are worn out;
make them your emergency pair. They are already broken in, you
know them and they know your feet. If walking is required, you
can choose between what you're wearing and "old reliable".
TIP 4: Snack or drink when you feel the need. Don't let yourself become
run down from the effort. Snacking provides a distraction from
your chore, it prepares your body ahead of an unforeseen exertion.
Stay on Yellow Alert.
TIP 5: If you don't walk or hike much, make time to practice a portion
of your route to get the feel for it. Check out books on hiking;
look for some that explain walking techniques.
TIP 6: Do not allow your feet to blister! I can't stress this enough.
Buy sock liners, thin silk or synthetic socks that go on under
your regular socks. You may also want to try a high performance
sock for walking, such as Ultra's. Check specialty stores like
REI. If you suspect a blister developing. Stop, remove your shoes
and socks. Inspect your foot, inspect you shoes. Have moleskin
in your kit and apply it to the red-warm-inflamed areas. When
treated, and your foot is cool again, put on both pairs of socks
and then the shoes. Pay attention to your feet!
TIP 7: Normally your last resort is walking home. If another solution
is workable or safer, opt for it. Pray to make good decisions.
SUPPLIES FOR YOUR VEHICLE
- Bug Spray or Lotion
- First Aid Book
- First Aid Kit with Moleskin, including prescription medications
- Foot Powder
- Lip balm, like Chapstick or Blistex
- Large Bottle of Mouthwash - according to Ted Wright of "Wright's
Complete Disaster Survival Manual", mouthwash can be used for:
- saves water when cleaning teeth
- soother for tired feet
- underarm freshener
- washing minor cuts and wounds
- Can Opener
- Food: ready-to-eat, requiring no preparation; choose individual
serving sizes and snacks for on-the-go
- Disposable Eating Utensils: plastic knife, fork and spoon, if
needed, depending on food choices
- Plastic Cup
- Water, and/or Water Filter with a container
- Personal Hygiene Items
- Premoistened Disposable Towelettes
- Toilet Paper, folded and in a baggie
- Trash Bags for hygiene purposes, small-size
- Cash: coins and small bills, enough for a motel room or tow service
- Pencil/Pen Paper
- Additional Clothing to suit seasonal needs such as gloves, sweat
suit, hat or windbreaker
- Adhesive Reflector Tape (to be applied to your coat and shoes
if you have to walk at night)
- Comfortable Shoes or Boots, extra socks and sock liners, extra
- Disposable Face Masks
- Extra Coat, jacket, or sweater. Waterproof may be a wise choice
- Trash Bags for warmth or waterproofing, large and heavy duty
- Work Gloves
- Backpack for carrying essentials if walking becomes necessary
- Candle, emergency type in its own shielded container
- Duct Tape (it has a thousand uses!)
- Fire Extinguisher
- Pocket Lighter like BIC
- Flashlight and Extra Batteries (metal flashlights can double as
- Heavy-duty Blanket or Sleeping Bag
- Space Blanket or Space Bag
- Tools: Auto repair items, belts, hoses, clamps, rubber hose for
siphoning, folding shovel, crow bar
- Walkman type AM/FM radio and Extra Batteries
The above items are minimums. You may also want to consider the
items on the list below. Customize to suit your needs.
- Cellular Phone and/or CB Radio
- Cord, nylon that is thin, light and strong
- Extra Gas Can or gas in a Jerry can
- Flares, Reflectors, and/or Emergency Signs (Flares are not allowed
in all countries)
- Heat Source, Hand Warmer, MRE Heater
- Weapon - personal choice item, and governed differently everywhere.
TIPS FOR YOUR SUPPLIES
TIP 8: Always keep the fuel tank at least half full. In areas of ice
and snow, a full tank will provide extra traction.
TIP 9: Be aware of temperature extremes in automobiles. If an item has
a shelf life, wide temperature variations will hasten its deterioration.
- Rotate medications very frequently. Check with your physician
or pharmacist if your prescriptions, as well as nonprescription
items, are heat or cold vulnerable.
- Rotate your food supplies. I recommend hiking bars you can eat
and replace frequently. MREs, nuts, high calorie bars, etc. are
- Rotate batteries more frequently.
TIP 10: Water is heavy and bulky. It will constitute the largest amount
of weight allocated to supplies. Check into filtration. Filter
straws are available that can generate 10 gallons of drinkable
water from a mud puddle.
TIP 11: For convenience, you can store parts of your kit in different
areas of your automobile. Food can be protected in the trunk in
an ammo can or Tupperware container.
TIP 12: I highly recommend the Browning Arms Featherweight line of Knife.
They are light and not as expensive as you may think.
TIP 13: Layer clothing for added warmth.
TIP 14: If you must walk, watch weight and bulk of your gear. I travel
very light. I love my torso or fanny pack. All the weight is on
your hips and your back won't sweat. This is the area where the
more money spent on quality pays off in the end. Be picky about
TIP 15: If you have chosen to stay in you car, be aware of carbon monoxide
poisoning. If you must run the engine to keep from freezing, remember
to crack a window.
Best wishes and good luck.