Disaster Preparedness, Part 3 of 3: Make Sure Your Car Is Prepared in Case You Can’t Get Home

In an ideal world, disasters would never befall us. In a less than ideal world, disasters do happen, usually when we’re not ready…and sometimes when we’re not even home.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about making sure our homes are ready for disasters, but also what to do in case of a disaster when not home. This time, we want to talk specifically about how to be prepared to be stranded in your car.

Taking care of your car
It’s so easy to let things slide when we’re busy, especially car maintenance. But if we don’t take care of our cars in normal circumstances, can we expect our cars to run well for us in the event of an emergency? To be prepared at all times, try to get into the habit of regularly checking tire pressure; staying on top of oil changes and tune-ups; making sure your headlights, blinkers and brake lights are working; and double checking your windshield washer fluid is full. The last thing you want is for something to go wrong with your car when you can’t get home!

Keep your gas tank moderately full at all times
Since we can’t always predict when disasters might happen or where we will be when they do, we should pay attention to how much gas is in the car, and try to keep on top of that. Obviously, you can’t always have a full tank of gas but if you have a plan for regularly filling up, you won’t end up stranded somewhere in the event of a disaster happening when your fuel light is on. Many years ago, a neighbor taught me his secret to always having plenty of gas in his car: He would fill up the tank every Sunday after church, no matter full or empty it was, so that he started every week with a full tank of gas. Another technique, and one we try to do at our house because we live so far out of town, is to never let the tank get below half full.

Stock up the car to be your place of refuge
If you end up not only unable to get home, but stranded somewhere, your car might just be your place of refuge and shelter for a while. Be prepared for that. Although you’d likely want to have everything we’ve suggested before as part of your car safety kit, items specific to emergency preparedness when away from home might include:

  • A portable radio with spare batteries (in case your car battery dies)
  • Extra food and water
  • A change of clothes
  • A stash of cash
  • Phone numbers in writing

We include that last item because there’s a chance you might not be able to charge your phone (if your car battery dies, for example), and we have become dependent on using our phones as address books—which only works when the batteries are charged! If you need to make a call from someone else’s phone or a land line, and your cell phone is dead, what will you do?

Equipping your car for evacuations too
This advice could also prove helpful in the event that you have to evacuate your home. Although we’re talking about your car being a place of refuge in case you can’t get home, there’s also the chance you’ll have to leave home when a disaster is impending, like a flood or tornado. If your car is already stocked with these items, you’ll be in a better position to evacuate immediately if authorities tell you to do so.

Also be sure see our advice about emergency contacts and a meeting place away from home, in the event that other members of your family are also on the road when something bad happens.

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