Transportation — Important Link in an Emergency
Continuing the Series: Emergency Planning for the Neighborhood
Emergency Transportation Options
In our community, where the most likely emergency will be from earthquake or storm, we assume that our streets will be mostly passable. But any blockage, or breakage, will render automobiles or 4-wheel drive vehicles more problematic than useful. 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.
We have a number of battery-driven golf carts owned by individuals and available to our neighborhood CERT, and we find three-wheel adult tricycles efficient for transporting supplies and getting our Special Team members to and from needed areas.
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.)
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.
Golf carts 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.)
It is entirely possible (since we happen to reside in a live earthquake-prone area), that it will be some days before First Responders can get around to helping us — so we need to consider all these eventualities.
We also will be faced with transporting our First Aid team, or, conversely, elderly or injured residents to First Aid/Triage and/or hospitality sites. Chances are these folks will have one or more pets, too — hopefully in a cage or transporter.
Battery-powered golf 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 12-volt batteries (four), 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 built 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) enclosure kits that make it easier to operate in inclement weather. (I don’t know if any snow tires are available for them.)
Some Special Issues
Something we are just beginning to deal with is the ability of our Search & Rescue Team to record video of their activities. This could be useful in communicating with outside authorities, as well as with our own members, and, of course, might later serve as training or to document insurance claims.
Special recording equipment like the live action Go-Pro camera is wearable, while leaving the operator’s hands free. As we get more experience with this process and equipment, we will report on it here. And, if you or any CERT group you know of has experience like this, we would love to hear about it.
Obviously, if you live in an apartment community with two or more levels, you don’t have the same needs as single family homes. We recognize this and are in the process of researching the needs (and likely organization) of apartment communities. The challenge is that there are so many possible configurations that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
One thing that apartment communities have in common is the need for upper floor escape capabilities. Stairs are the first and obvious choice. Second are emergency escape ladders. While there are a number escape ladder choices, none that we have found so far are easy for elderly or overweight people to use. However, just because not all people will be able to use it is no reason not to have one available! In an emergency, the object is to rescue or save as many people as possible.
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