How and Why I built a vehicle emergency kit for SHTF
According to the US Dept. of Transportation, there were over 253,000,000 cars registered in the US in 2012. Chances are, you probably own at least one of those vehicles. And if you are like many Americans, you probably commute to and from work, use your vehicle to run errands, and take road trips and vacations with it. This means you spend a lot of time in your car.
But what happens if disaster strikes when you are in your vehicle? What if you need your vehicle to get home DURING a disaster, or OUT of a disaster area? Is it prepared and able to help you? If you aren’t sure, then read on to learn how you can prepare your vehicle for a crisis situation!
Start with a Plan
If you have been following this blog, you know that I advocate beginning anything with a plan. All the gear in the world won’t be of much value without a plan or the knowledge of how it works and in what situations to use it. I would first sit down and determine not the worst case scenario, but the most likely scenarios. The chances of you having a flat tire or being caught in a massive traffic jam are MUCH more probable than an EMP attack.
I talk about this in my article 3 Types of Preppers You Don’t Want to Be.
Once you have your bases covered on the most likely events, then start looking at worse case possibilities.
Do you live in an area that experiences hurricanes? Tornados? Is there a chance that you might need to “bug out” to get out of harm’s way? If so, you need to have an evacuation route (and at least one backup route) planned. I’d also have some possible contingency plans in place as well for unforeseen events.
To help you draw up some evacuation plans, I thought I’d give you some pointers and things to consider when drawing up your plans:
- Have a final destination already planned out. Simply bugging out into the unknown should be the LAST thing you want to do
- If you have multiple members of your group/family, the chances of you all being together at the time disaster strikes is slim and none. Make sure everyone in your group knows the plans and the final location.
- I would have pre-determined rally point along the way to meet at if your final location is a long way off. You might also devise a means of communicating with them should the rally point become unsafe
- Know the routes AND the area in general ahead of time. Where are the gas stations? Is there a grocery store nearby? A hospital? What other points of interest are along your intented route?
- How many different ways do you have of getting to your destination? Your primary route may suddenly no longer be accessible, so have contingency plans in place for different routes to take or even different means of getting to your final location
- Do you have not only the gear you need, but a way of safely and securely transporting it?
- Identify areas that you could potentially cache supplies. Are there friendly areas (a friend’s house for example) that you could make a pit stop if needed?
- Identify areas that could potentially be choke points or trouble spots, and ways to avoid them
The better you know your routes and surrounding area, the easier it will be to plan for the unexpected. It will also prevent you from becoming lost or disoriented. Landmarks can be a wonderful thing. But what happens if you are bugging out at night? Or if the landmarks are suddenly gone? That old blue water tower where you turn right has been there for decades, but now it has vanished! Know your route well enough that you don’t have to rely on visible land marks!
I would make a dry run several times in different conditions. Do it noon, then again later during rush hour traffic. Try again later on at night, and in conditions such as rain. Make your run via your backup area as well.
I would also make the run from time to time to see if things have changed. It would really suck to have a gas station or bridge you had counted on in your plans to be closed down when it really counted.
For extended routes, I would certainly document your route. This will help you to develop your bug out plans.
Have the right gear
I have a Get Home Bag (GHB) that I keep in my vehicle at all times. I also have an EDC/work (Every Day Carry) bag I usually carry. The EDC bag contains a lot of work related equipment. So I don’t always carry that when I am off duty. Between the two bags, I have a majority of what I need for a disaster if I am in my vehicle.
If you are brand new to prepping, (click the link to learn more) or have not really put any sort of bag together, here are just some items I would consider keeping on you/in your vehicle that will come in handy in a disaster:
- Small durable knife or other cutting tool
- Small flashlight
- Extra clothing to help protect from the elements, i.e. a hat, gloves, and comfortable walking shoes. Click the link to read my article on clothing preparedness
- Extra food/water
- Means of communication and a way to keep it powered
- Emergency radio – This one also has a flashlight and is hand cranked
- Fire source – a butane lighter or matches
- Map of the area
- First aid kit
- Extra cash
- Warm blanket or sleeping bag – I have this bag and love it!
At one time or another, I have used most of the above items in various emergency situations. But this list is by no means complete. You should feel free to change-up and add items you feel are necessary depending upon your circumstances.
To give you some ideas on creating your own bag, here is an article I wrote on making a “Go Bag” for a non-prepper. I explain in detail the items I added, and the reasoning behind them. (The bag has already been used in an emergency situation.)
Now I am not a huge fan of having multiple “emergency” bags. I fully believe in redundancy, but there is no need to go overboard. If you prep correctly, one or two overall bags should usually be more than adequate to see you through an emergency. My GHB serves that purpose.
But I realized there were some items that I would need specifically for my vehicles and only need for the vehicles. There would be no reason to carry them around if I wasn’t in my vehicle. So I decided to make an emergency VEHICLE bag that I could keep in the vehicle. If the situation dictated, I could simply leave the bag with the vehicle should I have to abandon my vehicle for any reason.
I used an old duffel bag that was just sitting in my closet. I decided that would be my “Vehicle kit” bag. (You could use a vehicle storage bag. They are less than $20.)
In my bag, I placed the following items:
- Jumper cables
- Reflective cones (or traffic devices)
- Extra quart of oil – (find out which type of oil your car or truck needs)
- Some antifreeze/engine coolant
- Tow chain or rope
- Small bag of kitty litter in the winter time (tire traction if I get stuck)
- Small tool kit to include screw drivers and socket set and/or wrenches
- Small box of various fuses
- Small towel
- Ice scraper
Feel free to add/delete items to this list. For example, you might also want to include extra belts and hoses, or maybe even an extra air filter or two. Or, if you live in a place like south Texas or Arizona, you might not need a ice scraper. Let your location and your situation help determine what you need.
By keeping these items all in a bag, I can easily move the items between my different personal vehicles and my work vehicles. And all of these items would be handy regardless of what vehicle I am in.
Most of the items should be self-explanatory. But there might be a few items you are wondering if you really need. For example, if you are driving a small or compact car and think to yourself, “I don’t need a tow rope. My car is too small to tow anything” I would urge you to consider what would happen if YOUR car was the one needing to be pulled out or towed. “Good Samaritans” are much more likely to help you if you already have the needed equipment and gear to use.
The reflective cones come in handy if you are stranded at night and your car has absolutely no power. Your hazard lights may not always work. And even if they do, the more early warning other drivers have about your vehicle being stranded on the road, the less likely they are to not see your vehicle and hit it! They also make good signaling devices if you become stranded and need to be rescued.
And if you have ever been stuck in the ice and snow, you will understand the value of a bag of kitty litter!
The beauty of these items are that none are terribly expensive, all of them could help me in a vehicle emergency, and yet all could simply be left behind in a true SFTH disaster if I were forced abandon my vehicle.
I guess you could take your vehicle kit with you if you had to leave your vehicle. But if you want to carry a 5 lb. bag of kitty litter and a quart of oil with you while escaping the Zombie Apocalypse, well then…more power to you!
What about the car itself
Vehicle preparedness should start with the vehicle itself! It won’t do you much good to have your vehicle stocked with gear and then the car/truck not run. So simple vehicle maintenance is an absolute must!
I mentioned in my 5 things to do everyday article about not letting your gas tank get below half a tank. Keep it filled up in case of an emergency. Hopefully you do that. Running out of fuel half way to your bug out location makes a bad day even worse.
But what about your other fluids?
I check my oil every month. (Do you know how to check your oil?) I usually check it at the first gas fill up of the month. And at 5000 miles, I change the oil.
Typically I pay to have it done because of time constraints. But doing it yourself is not a bad idea. Here is a video showing you how it is done if you do not know.
And I also check the other fluids regularly. Brake fluid, transmission fluid, fluids in my radiator, etc. Even window wash fluid. All of these help to keep your vehicle running and in good shape.
How often do you check your tire pressure? Keeping your tires inflated at the proper levels ensures better gas mileage and longer tread life for your tires. A flat tire when trying to get home to your family in a disaster is NO BUENO!
Having a spare tire, jack, etc. would be a huge life saver down the road. But don’t wait until the unfortunate happens to try and figure out where your car jack is and how it works. These are things you should know ahead of time.
I would also learn now how to make simple repairs to your vehicle. In a true SHTF disaster, you might not have AAA to come out and change your tire. Things such as tire changes, replacing spark plugs, etc can be learned. Some of it by simply watching Youtube videos and then trying it yourself. The more you learn now, the less headache you will have later on.
Bug Out Vehicles
“Bug Out Vehicles” (BOV) are a popular topic and great to have in a pinch. To be honest, I personally don’t really have a big need for one based upon my situation. The vehicles I do have should be suitable for most emergencies, although I have contingency plans in place if I have to go via other means.
But if you have the need and/or the means to acquire a BOV, there are a few things I would look for in a Bug out vehicle:
- 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive. (I would avoid rear wheel drive as those vehicles do not do well off road)
- A good set of all terrain tires
- A good size gas tank or the fuel range to get you to your destination
- I would probably look at an SUV over a truck if you can. SUVs typically have more passenger room, and internally stored gear is not as susceptible to the elements/theft like it would be in the bed of a truck
- Ability to add a safari style cargo rack to the roof
- A vehicle that blends in. No reason to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. See below
If you are trying to maintain OPSEC and simply slip out of a SHTF area unnoticed, which one of these vehicles is likely to not draw a second glance? Which one screams “I’m a Prepper and most likely have a crap ton of stuff you DON’T have but now want really badly?” I’m here to tell you from personal experience, OPSEC can save you A LOT of time and heartache!
And for those of you who feel like you MUST have a “such and such” vehicle because of an EMP, I encourage you to read this. Read it….I’ll wait.
Yep….a solar storm will NOT take out your vehicles. And as for a nuclear E1 pulse, we do not have enough data to know one way or the other what the effect on vehicles would be. This includes older vehicles! So in reality, it seems somewhat silly to me to spend a huge amount of money on a vehicle for only one specific event that may or may not even adversely affect the vehicle!! But hey, it’s your money. If it gives you peace of mind, more power to you.
What happens if you don’t have vast sums of money to allocate to a vehicle whose sole purpose is a BOV? Sure, a 4 wheel, all-terrain, “tacticool” SUV or truck with oversized tires, a lift kit, and EMP proof wiring might be nice. But for many people, it isn’t realistic or affordable. This means that whatever you currently drive will have to your means of getting you and your family out of harm’s way.
That does NOT have to be a set back. If you plan ahead, and prep your vehicle correctly, you will find that you can most likely not only survive, but THRIVE with what you have. And really, isn’t that the whole point of this?
Your vehicle in a SHTF disaster
If things go REALLY bad, there may be a time that you have to use your vehicle as a means to survive. You might have to strip some car parts to use in an extreme survival situation. And while you might not like the idea of tearing your car apart to help you live, just remember that your car is replaceable. You are NOT!
For example, your rearview mirror is most likely held to your windshield with an epoxy glue or screw, and will come off when you apply some force to it. This makes a great signal mirror, and can be used to start a fire. If you break the mirror (or the side mirrors) you now have a cutting edge.
Don’t forget about your head lights and tail lights. The covers can be used as a cutting edge as well. Or remove them whole if you can to use as a container for food, water, etc. I’d try to keep all the windows intact if possible, as the car itself can act as a barrier to the outside elements.
Does your car battery still work? Using wires attached to the positive and negative posts and then touching them together can create a spark. A spark can start a fire. And a fire that is burning a car tire creates smoke that can be seen for miles!
A word of caution….I would NOT try to use gas from the tank to help with a fire. Puncturing the gas tank could also cause a spark, possibly causing the tank to explode. That too can be seen for miles, but then there wouldn’t be much of you left to be rescued!
Fan belts, wiring, and/or seat belts make a decent subsitute for rope in a pinch.
Many car seats have foam upholstery in them, which you could use to help insulate your clothing in the cold. Maybe use the floor mats as well.
If you have other prepper vehicle gear tips, please leave them in the comments section below.
Stay safe out there!
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