Can you trust your vehicle emergency kit?

By Ol’ Tennessee Ridgerunner

In a disaster, you want to get home to your family fast. In a national grid down catastrophe, you definitely want to get to your secure retreat property ASAP.  How have you prepared to travel to both these locations under emergency conditions when time is of the essence? 

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Very few preparedness-minded people live full-time at their off grid retreats.  You may be among the vast majority of self-reliant folks who plan to abandon the city or suburbs at the first sign of trouble and beat feet to your secluded homestead or rural safe house.  Most of you will use four-wheeled transportation to either get home from work and/or leave home for your retreat, right?  If your vehicle should fail or the roads are blocked with refugees and abandoned vehicles, are you prepared with a Plan B to get home to your family and leave to your retreat?

Plan B

As with any worthwhile endeavor, advance planning is necessary if you aim to make sure you can return home to your loved ones and get to your retreat when the balloon goes up. If you are as resourceful and self-sufficient as you think you are, you’ve already created multiple contingency plans ahead of time to get home from work by various surface streets, avoiding the crowded interstate highway system. You’ve done likewise mapping out (using paper maps not GPS) various evacuation routes to your retreat. This puts you way ahead of 98% of your earthly brethren.

Fly in the ointment

Now in an emergency situation, you’re hurling toward your destination, but wait. What if that great vehicle you depend on breaks a fan belt, blows a tire, pops a water hose or has a computer meltdown en route?  The fuel tank shows about three-quarters full as always.  No worries, right?  You have a bag with jumper cables, gloves, a flashlight, phone charger, tire gauge, duct tape and a handful of tools.  You deploy those resources, but try as you might, nothing gets your vehicle functioning again. You’re dead in the water. Now what?

Three-day bag

Have you properly planned for this disruption?  Do you have at least 72 hours of food, water and other supplies for you and your family in your vehicle?  In a disaster, you sure can’t wait for a government agency (which is probably overwhelmed already) to come and rescue you. You’re on your own and you’re on foot.  If you prepared in advance, you have a good likelihood of survival; if not, you’re facing desperation within hours.

Scenarios like this are why smart people always carry at least a three-day emergency bag in their vehicles in case of an unforeseen tragedy.  It’s why they sort through their emergency kits every six months or so to make sure their supplies are fresh and adequate.  When was the last time you checked your three-day bag?  If it’s been longer than a year, you may find that some of that survival food has sprung a leak and is ruining your gear.

Dig into that backpack and check your stores. Remember – it’s your lifeline to getting home or evacuating to your rural retreat.  Inspect any canned goods for bulges, dents and replace as necessary.  Change out the water in your containers and double check your water purification devices. Check your batteries for full charge and the condition of any fuel you have stored. While you’re at it, check the nooks and crannies of your vehicle compartments, under seats, around the spare tires (you keep it fully aired-up, right?).  You don’t want to find that your can of fix-a-flat has leaked all over the road flares. Temperature fluctuations inside your vehicle can be extreme and that impacts the contents of your emergency kit.

What’s in your bag?

Checking your emergency bag is a good opportunity to upgrade your supplies and add useful new gear that you may not have thought you needed earlier.  A good place to upgrade is your first aid kit. While most kits have lots of Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment and alcohol swabs, it’s better to have additional supplies that can help save a live, such as a tourniquet, quickclot gauze, betadine, suture kit, and compression bandages.  If you don’t know how to use these items in an emergency, learn now.  If not, keep these items anyway – in a critical situation, someone else can put them to good use – maybe to save your life.

Examine your non-perishable food stuffs, multiple fire starter kits (are they still in moisture-proof containers), emergency short wave receiver, portable CB radio and flashlights (always keep batteries separate from electronics), paper maps, rain poncho, tarps, blankets to be sure they haven’t become food or a home for some critter.

Your three-day kit can have as many or as few preparedness items as you deem necessary to provide for yourself and your family when you’re away from home in an emergency.  These are some common items for 72-hour emergency bags: OTC medications, roll of TP, sewing kit, knife, a good length of 550 paracord, MREs, compass, whistle, signal mirror, space blankets, extra cash, extra flashlight and batteries, can opener, lighters, kindling and duct tape. If you have pets, plan for their care as well.

Seasonal Clothing

Good planners will always carry a change of comfortable street clothes and hiking shoes so that as they make their way home on foot, they blend in with the natural surroundings, particularly in urban areas.  You don’t want to be wearing your Sunday best when you’re walking uncomfortably on the wrong side of the tracks.  Always have some cold weather gear so your family doesn’t fall victim to hypothermia from staying in the open without proper clothing. 

There are lots of options and accessories that you might consider including in your 72-hour vehicle emergency kit.  You should tailor your emergency bag contents to the size of your family, the distances you routinely travel and the amount of vehicle storage space you have. 

Most important – have a vehicle emergency kit that you can trust - one that’s well supplied and routinely examined for continued viability.  A good kit can help you get home from work to your loved ones in an urgent situation.  In a major national disaster when you must evacuate with your family, it doesn’t make any difference how remote, defensible and well stocked your off grid retreat is if you can’t get to it.  When was the last time you checked your three-day emergency bag?