In most emergencies, if you have a choice between evacuating by vehicle and remaining at home, you should probably stay home, but you do not always have a choice.

Evacuation is the means by which Civil Defense plans to handle most crises. Unless you are prepared to shoot it out with the authorities, you may be forced to leave your carefully prepared place of refuge. Some crises, by their very nature, require that you evacuate the area (i.e. an accidental radioactive release at a nearby nuclear power plant, the crash of a warplane armed with nuclear weapons, the wreck of a truck or train carrying hazardous materials, which may be anything from chlorine gas to radioactive waste). These emergencies would oblige you to leave your home for days, perhaps weeks, or longer.

In a rapidly developing emergency you must get on the road quickly, or you will be caught in traffic and will be unable to evacuate at all. In this kind of emergency, you should have already done a number of things; and if you have not, it is probably too late to do them. Prepare both your vehicle and your cargo now.


Pick up a reputable repair and tune-up guide and follow the recommended schedules for servicing your vehicle. Remember especially to change all fluids and filters on a regular basis and keep the engine well tuned. Repair malfunctions immediately. Do as much of your own maintenance and repairs as possible. This not only saves you money; it familiarizes you with how your vehicle operates and prepares you to fix it if it breaks down on the road. Develop the habit of inspecting your vehicle before all trips, even short ones. The following is a useful guide for this purpose:

Vehicle General Operability Inspection

  1. Check all fluid levels.
  2. Check all belts for wear and tension.
  3. Check the electrical system for loose or dirty connectors, frayed wires and burnt-out bulbs.
  4. Check any exposed bolts and nuts and screws for tightness.
  5. Check tires for air pressure and wear.
  6. How does the car crank? Are problems developing with the ignition system?
  7. How is the engine running? Does it need tuning?

In a rapidly developing emergency, you may not have time to go over even this brief checklist and if you do, you will not have time to remedy any defects you discover. Yes, you should have replaced that belt a month ago and changed the oil, but it is too late now. Even knowing about any deficiencies in your vehicle can be important in a major emergency. Moreover, if you have made regular use of the maintenance schedules in the repair and tune-up guides and of the general operability checklist above; your means of transportation is unlikely to fail you just when you need it the most.

To further enhance your vehicle's evacuation capabilities, install a forty channel CB radio. If you have the space and money, you might also install a police-band scanner and a dash-mounted compass.

The Cargo

Assuming then that your vehicle is mechanically sound, the next step in preparing for an emergency is to decide what it will carry.


The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of your vehicle is the weight of the vehicle, fuel, oil, passengers and cargo. You must know the GVWR of your vehicle and be careful not to exceed it.A broken axle or spring will trash all your careful preparations. Know how many passengers you will transport, and how much cargo. Weigh out your cargo (use your bathroom scales if nothing better is available). Do not overload! The absolute law of an evacuation emergency is: Better too little than too much.

The Kits

The time-honored method of packing among travelers is to assemble items of similar function into kits. This method is especially useful in preparing for an evacuation, for it enables you to decide what you will pack and to do much of your packing before the emergency. Assemble the following:

Navigation kit: This kit contains a map pack with city and state maps, plus county maps of the travel area, and perhaps a topographic map of your destination. A pocket-sized, large-scale travel atlas will cover the entire USA, Canada, and Mexico. Include a compass and a cheap combination ruler-protractor for course plotting. The roller-type map measurers are very handy for distance measurement. Include a small notebook, pens and/or pencils. A bank pouch will contain the whole thing and you can store it in the glove compartment of your vehicle. If you wish to put together a more elaborate navigation kit, including every map that you might conceivably have a use for, a nylon Cordura briefcase makes a nice container, and you might add a solar-powered calculator. To fully prepare your navigation kit, it will be necessary to spend a few weekends scouting proposed evacuation routes (this has the added benefit of enabling you to check out your vehicle).Note potential bottlenecks along your route, where traffic might pile up in an emergency, and if possible, plan around them. Avoid freeways and cities. Plan a minimum of three evacuation routes. Make each route independent of and easily accessible from the other two. Remember, in an emergency the National Guard and local police may be controlling the roads to channelize traffic flow through an area. Small to medium sized towns may be turning away travelers or confiscating supplies. Note any natural or man-made features where road blocks may be easily set up (bridges, narrow mountain passes, road junctions), and be prepared to take evasive action at these crucial points. Have a specific destination, don't just plan to get out of town; plan to go somewhere. If you are going to a farm in the country owned by friends or relatives, make certain you will be welcome. If your destination is your vacation home in the mountains, know what you have there in the way of food and supplies. If, on the other hand, you expect to live out of your vehicle at the end of your trek, you must pack food and water or some means of making water potable; and camping equipment. The easiest way to prepare for this last case is to spend some time camping at your designated spot. On the way, check out your routes and your vehicle. Once you arrive, check out your camping equipment. Decide what you should have packed and what you should not have packed, and add or delete as needed. Do not pick a destination that is too far away. If it requires more than several hours to reach under normal driving condition, it may not be reachable at all during an emergency.

Electronics kit: A portable multi-band radio will be your primary means of receiving news and information. Purchase at least one flashlight that uses the same type of batteries as your radio and purchase a solar battery charger for that particular battery. Flashlights should be rubber-coated and crook-necked. They should have a belt clasp on one side and a ring in the butt for hanging from a tree. A battery-powered lantern works better for some uses than a flashlight, and you might include one. Include also spare bulbs and extra batteries. In dubious or dangerous circumstances that require scouting ahead, a set of walkie talkies will be invaluable. Have at least one flashlight in the vehicle at all times. The rest of the electronics kit can be stored in a small container at home in; a cardboard box works as well as anything.

Personal kit: Pack those toilet items, including make up and deodorant, that are so necessary for your personal comfort and satisfaction (this may be a separate kit if you prefer). Pack at least one complete change of clothing and extra underwear and socks. Heavy work clothes are most desirable, even in warm weather. Pack a pair of heavy work gloves, a jacket and a poncho. Rubber overshoes take up very little space and if they prevent walking around in wet shoes and socks one time, they are worth their weight in gold. Include insect netting, insect repellent and the all-important "boonie" hat. For use in and out of a vehicle, I prefer a narrow-brimmed hat.

First-aid kit: Many are available on the market so pick one that is easily carried and that can be modified for your own use and leave it in your vehicle. In an emergency evacuation you must take time to add your prescription drugs to this kit.

Money kit: Assemble a stock of coined money (dimes and quarters) and paper money (fives and twenties). In any emergency, prices for necessary items will rapidly inflate and credit may not be available. You will have to pay with cash, probably with large amounts of cash. Moreover, if you evacuate, your home may be looted in your absence. You should, therefore, carry with you all easily transported valuables (money, credit cards, negotiable securities, valuable jewelry, checkbooks, insurance policies, etc.). Keep all or most of these items in one place so that in an emergency you will not have to wander around the house deciding what to take with you. You might put everything in one drawer, and when you need to go, just dump the whole drawer into a bag. Unfortunately, this makes you an easier target for a burglar, who can just as easily dump your one drawer into his bag. Better to keep it all in a briefcase, and hide the briefcase in some readily accessible place, but don't forget where you hid it!

Spare parts inventory (Keep these items ready to go in your vehicle in a moments notice):

A set of belts, radiator and heater hoses, a thermostat, assorted fuses and bulbs, a spark plug set with wires, a distributor cap/electronic ignition module, a fuel filter, points and condenser (if used), assorted nails, screws, nuts, bolts; assorted wire (electrical) with tape, engine oil, brake fluid and your tool kit.

Tool kit (Keep these items ready to go in your vehicle in a moments notice):

A tool box or bag, a 3/8" drive socket set, spark plug sockets and a gap gauge, a set of combination wrenches, 6" adjustable wrench, 12" groove-joint pliers, lineman pliers, 8" vice grips, electrician's knife, ball peen hammer, a combination file/rasp, various punches (one flat, one center), chisels (one should be ¾ "), assorted screwdrivers (Phillips and regular), needle nose pliers, rags, tire pressure gauge, other special equipment and tools for the vehicle.

Special equipment and tools (Keep these items ready to go in your vehicle in a moments notice):

A high lift jack and pad for base; a shovel ("D" handle, full size), spare tire and star-type lug wrench; a nylon snatch strap, a come-along winch, a fire extinguisher, an air pump, jumper cables, a funnel with hose, a bow saw, a crowbar, heavy bolt cutters, an ax (full size), a bucket (collapsible), "Stopleak" and safety flares.

Some of the above items are quite bulky and you may need to modify the list to suit your needs. However, the list does provide a good starting point. At the very least, if you apply the above information and advice, you will maintain your vehicle the way it ought to be maintained and get to know your area better.

Moreover, your "on-board" kits (special equipment, tools, spare parts, navigation, first aid will prove their value many times over in the "ordinary" emergencies of life. For example... you breakdown on the way home from work or have a minor accident on an outing. Another example...a train has derailed in your area and the tank cars are leaking chlorine gas into the air. You have no choice about evacuating. You must evacuate in your vehicle, as you are. Don't you wish now that you had prepared yesterday?



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Saturday, 02 December 2023

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