Emergency Transportation Options


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Emergency Transportation

 

How to Get Around After The Disaster

Recent flooding in Texas and Louisiana, and earthquakes back to back in Mexico, have again brought our attention to what really happens in a widespread emergency when it comes to getting out or getting around. Here are some of the issues we’ve talked about, and are talking about again, in our community as a result of news coverage.

Will roads be passable?

Here in Southern California, we’re not likely to experience wide-spread flooding, or anything like the frozen image above! Most of our likely natural disasters will be from rainstorm, fire or earthquake, and even then we assume that MOST of our streets will be passable.  At least, there is likely to be an alternate way around a blockage or breakage (as long as your GPS is still working).

However, a regular passenger car may not be able to negotiate a flooded or broken streets. And, if streets have fissures that are leaking natural gas (yes, pipes do break in storms and earthquakes), any combustion-engine vehicle could become dangerous in itself.

Also, given the long distances people regularly travel to and from school and the store, not to mention commuting to work, cars are likely to run out of gas if the emergency is prolonged. (Remember the images of cars lined up waiting for gas in Texas? When only 2 pumps were still operating?)

Alternatives to regular passenger cars

4-wheel-drive vehicles

Hardy survival types will naturally point to the value of having a 4-wheel-drive vehicle that can go off-road if necessary.  There’s no question that such a vehicle might be useful in an emergency, although it’s tough to justify maintaining one here “just in case,” since it’s not made for freeway travel.  And given the gas mileage of most of these vehicles, having supplies of gasoline would be a challenge. Still, as we saw with Harvey, high-profile pick-up trucks and SUVs played an important  role in rescuing people trapped by flooding. Here in California, being able to climb over broken curbs and streets might be a big advantage to such a vehicle.

Golf carts

In a big emergency, unless you’ve been evacuated, you’re likely to be staying as close to home as possible. And for getting around a disrupted neighborhood, a golf cart may be a good alternative to a car. Golf carts can travel on regular streets, on sidewalks and walking paths, and, of course, over open ground. They can be configured to carry two or four people. Some can pull a trailer to move heavier supplies, transport trash and even remove dead bodies (in body bags) to remote areas. (Sorry about the gruesome reference, but it’s a reality we have to face.)

Carts come in a variety of models and horsepower. You can expect to pay anywhere from under $1,000 to several thousand dollars, depending on the model, equipment, battery-power, etc. These carts mostly use an array of 6,8 or 12-volt batteries, just like in your car, and that means you will have a replacement cycle every 4-5 years plus the requirement to keep them charged.

Some golf carts are now being manufactured with solar panels built onto or serving directly as the canopy. These panels can keep the cart’s batteries charged indefinitely. Carts also come with (or accept) plastic or water-proof enclosure kits that make it easier to operate in inclement weather. (I don’t know if any snow tires are available for them.)

Golf Cart Update as of 9-19-2017. This morning I spoke to Julie at PowerFilm regarding their aftermarket solar canopy kit for golf carts.  Here’s what I found out.

The kit’s main part is a cover made of thin-film panels for the roof of your cart. If you’re not used to thin film, it comes in a flexible sheet — has been used by the U.S. military for years to lay out on the ground to generate power wherever they find themselves. In the case of the golf cart, the panel arrives rolled up. You unroll it and fasten it to the roof with what are essentially big snaps. There’s a charge controller (typically goes under the seat) and a 15 ft. cable to connect everything.

For our purposes, we’re interested in the fact that AS LONG AS THERE IS SUNLIGHT, the solar canopy will charge your batteries completely, and even if you’re driving, will keep the batteries from discharging as quickly as they would otherwise. The image shows the black solar panel, sized 36in x 48in.  Here’s the link to Amazon. Slide your mouse over the image when you get to Amazon and you’ll see the panels and the snaps in much better detail. PowerFilm Solar 48V Golf Cart Charging Kit (TXT model) The complete kit costs around $1,100.

In our community, it is likely that after a big earthquake it will be some days before First Responders can get around to helping us. So, our Neighborhood Emergency Response Team will be faced with transporting our First Aid team, or, conversely, elderly or injured residents to First Aid/Triage and/or hospitality sites. Battery-powered golf carts may be what we depend on. We have a number of them, owned by individuals and they have volunteered to make them available to our neighborhood ERT in an emergency. And this summer, our HOA purchased a golf cart exclusively for Association use! 

(Note: Think you’d like to drive your cart to the grocery store or the drugstore? Golf carts are street legal only in a few cities — mostly retirement communities. Such street-legal carts require seat belts, mirrors, turn indicators, etc. Check with your city before you decide to take your cart on the roads. )

Adult 3-wheeled tricycles

We also have a number of tricycles in our senior neighborhood. People ride them regularly for short trips or for longer ones, as exercise. The tricycles are satisfactory for carrying light-duty items (first aid supplies, blankets, etc.) in their rear-mounted baskets.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $500 per bike . . . and over $1,300 for an electric powered unit. (You’d also want a battery-recharge capability for the electric one.) (P.S. I had an electric bike a couple of years ago, and loved it! That extra assist when going up hills allowed me to arrive at work unflustered!)

If you’re shopping, check for SIZE (the image shows a 26-inch model: Schwinn Meridian Adult 26-Inch 3-Wheel Bike (Blue); Schwinn also makes a 24-in.), number of gears, and portability. Some bikes can be folded. Click on the image for details from Amazon about this particular model, and to see others. )

Obviously, if your area is rural and spread out or with lots of hills, the tricycles might prove problematic for your team members. In our case, they work satisfactorily for emergency tranportation as our inclines are not steep and all homes are accessible by streets.

If roads aren’t passable, you’ll be on foot.

Moving yourself or emergency equipment may be far more difficult if it all has to be done by hand — or foot.

Carrying something in your arms, or on your back, works for shorter distances and limited size and/or weight. What’s far more efficient?

A standard dolly or hand truck

Hand-truck

We actually own three different versions of dollies here at our house, and we’ve gone though a number of them over the years! Here are some things to consider.

Lightweight dollies are suitable for carrying boxes of papers or books, a cooler, an emergency pack, luggage.  Most fold nearly flat for easy storage in the closet or trunk of the car. Check carefully about the weight the dolly can carry – and be sure it’s tall enough for you.

Expect to pay around $35 – $45 for a good, small dolly.  Click the links below for details.

Magna Cart Ideal 150 lb Capacity Steel Folding Hand Truck

Industrial-strength dollies convert from wagon/flat cart to dolly. Get the biggest tires you can find; they make it easier to go up or down stairs, or over rough ground. These dollies can carry items weighing hundreds of pounds. Here’s an example, at Amazon, with cost around $65. (Others can be far fancier, with prices considerably higher.)

Harper Trucks Lightweight 400 lb Capacity Nylon Convertible Hand Truck and Dolly

A wagon

Nothing is more serviceable than a traditional red wagon, just like this one! Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon Click on the image of the wagon or on the link for more details, and then cruise though Amazon to see other versions. Some  have wooden sides, some are made of canvas instead of metal, etc.

A wagon is something you could probably use frequently — for gardening, hauling groceries from the car, etc.  — and then just commandeer in the case of an emergency. The best thing? Everyone knows how to manage a wagon, without any special training.

Of course, any item with wheels could be useful for transporting items in an emergency: a rolling cart, a wheelbarrow, a wheelchair, a skateboard. From a safety standpoint, just be sure to get something that is sturdy enough for your needs.

Oh, and don’t forget to have a few bungee cords handy for holding things down! We definitely prefer the cords with the wire ends, not the plastic ends. Here’s an assortment costing less than $15 :Highland (9008400) Bungee Cord Assortment Jar – 24 Piece

This isn’t all there is to the topic of transportation.

Action item: Use recent news events as a prompt for a conversation around your own dinner table, or at your local emergency response group. If you live where flooding is a possibility, you’ll want to add floating items to your transport list. Whatever, you may come up with some new and better ideas for your location and your family.

In every case, though, you’ll need these items BEFORE the emergency hits.

Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

 

 

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