Let’s say a powerful earthquake happened, and you need to get home. Chances are everyone else will be trying to get home to make sure their families are OK, either getting them out of the city if more trouble is expected, or hunkering down.
The normal routes may be totally blocked. The reasons could be varied: debris may obstruct the way, vehicles may have become gridlocked when traffic lights don’t work – or even if they do, with people just disobeying them in the lemming-like rush.
Vehicles may then be abandoned, with people proceeding on foot, or law enforcement may be stopping and checking vehicles to find the perpetrators.
If there is a storm, flooding or mudslides, then certain routes will be impassable, or unsafe to use. Any route that uses a bridge could be dangerous. Even if the alternative is a longer way around rather choose that than compromising your safety.
You need to have your own way of getting out that does not rely on public transport which may be disrupted. You’ll also need to keep vehicle doors locked, and be prepared to defend yourself if someone wants to take your mode of transport off you.
In these kinds of panic situations, things can go downhill very quickly, so you need transportation that suits your lifestyle and, more importantly, you should be totally familiar with it.
Planning Your Get-home Routes
You never know what can happen in an emergency, so don’t just plan for one route or even two, as both options may be unavailable or choked with traffic.
You need to be able to go to options 3, 4 or 5 that you have driven or walked, and are burned into your brain. You won’t have time for consulting maps, and signal may be down so you can’t rely on an app on your phone.
If a road is closed or unusable, you must know where to go. Some of the routes may be quite obscure – but those are the ones you want to know about, precisely because everyone else won’t know about them.
Especially when there are protests or riots, the protesters will block all the main routes – their plan is to create the most chaos, and as a person who had lived with on-going protests and burning tires thrown in the road to stop traffic I know how disruptive this can be.
Having the knowledge of back roads and alternative routes to get away from protesters can save your life, or your vehicle from being torched. Start practicing today getting to your commute home – finding one alternative route, then another the next day, until you have a number of them memorized.
What you use to get home will depend on what you can afford, what is most convenient for you, and what you are most comfortable with. The topography and distance from home are also factors to take into consideration when choosing transportation for get home situations.
Personally I would avoid public transportation like trains, buses and trams if there are serious problems. You need to be able to move fast and maneuver around obstacles, and if one of these large people movers cannot proceed for whatever reason, that leaves everyone wander around trying to get home and creating even more chaos.
If you are good at cycling, then this is a good get-home mode of transport. Some people prefer road bikes because they are fast but a mountain bike that can go off-road would be a better choice. Make sure you have an emergency puncture kit and, a kit with chain links should you need a repair on the way.
Fold up bikes are becoming more popular simply because they are so easy to fold and carry with you. In SHTF situations you may find your bicycle parked 20 floors down has been grabbed by someone else.
If you have your fold up bicycle in the office you can get downstairs, hop on and peddle off. There are the really light weight ones, ones that are both on and off-road, and even ones that are motor assisted. What you choose is up to you and depends on budget and personal preferences.
This article https://www.bicycling.com/bikes-gear/a20048132/best-folding-bikes/ discusses the pros and cons of the best folding bikes of 2020 and will give you an idea of price and what to look for when buying.
Why choose one of these? Perhaps what is making them popular is that it’s so much easier climbing hills, and you can go much further without getting tired out – so by all means consider one of these if your route home is hilly.
You can compare electric bikes here https://www.bicycling.com/bikes-gear/a22132137/best-electric-bikes/ to see what are considered the most efficient purchases.
If you are relatively far from work then a motorbike may be the answer – try get one that is dual purpose – off and on-road, so in the event roadways are blocked you can venture off road, heading through parks and green belts, even through the woods, to get home quickly.
I’m sure you have been stuck in traffic, and have watched in irritation as someone on a motorbike weaves through the stationary traffic to get to the front of the queue, or turns off and finds an alternative route while everyone else sitting in cars is stuck.
Sure, a motorbike will typically only have room for one to two people, but if this suits you and you are a confident rider then go for this option.
You can purchase a second hand motorbike fairly cheaply but then you have to make sure you know the vehicle well and have spares on hand should you need them. Make sure it is in perfect working order and that you know exactly how to handle it in tight situations.
popular choice is the Kawasaki KLX 250 which sells for around $5,000, and can reach a top speed of 85 mph. Although this bike can legally be ridden on the streets, it’s actually better off road – making it a great choice to get home in a hurry.
All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)
Depending on where you live you may not be allowed to use an all-terrain vehicle on roads, but if you live sufficiently close to off-road tracks you can use these to reach home. Try to get one with a decent engine size so it can handle all terrain – 580 cc up to 1000 cc should give you sufficient power.
ATVs are designed for use by one operator who may have a person sitting behind if space allows. The UTVs or utility terrain vehicles have seating side by side, as distinguished from the ATV’s.
The extra wheels compared to a motorcycle give them more stability. If you want to know more about the U.S. ATV laws, check out this resource.
The most common work commute is by car – whether a share-ride, a taxi, or in your personal vehicle.
If you plan on using a car in a get-home situation remember that the gas tank should always be half full – leaving more than enough if you have to take an alternative and longer route.
In the trunk you should always have these items:
- spare tire
- hydraulic jack
- instant flat-tire fix
- jumper cables
- and many more.
If you usually hop into a taxi, in SHTF situations you may not be able to get a cab, so have an alternate plan should this be the case. In the case of share rides, make sure you can get hold of the people you share with – an SMS will often work should the network be jammed with calls.
The plan to meet up should be pre-arranged to avoid confusion, together with a plan B or C that everyone in the car is familiar with, so all you have to do is SMS “Plan B” if there are problems in accessing the usual meet-up point.
In either case, if the emergency is major, neither a cab nor your friend’s car will be available, so do focus on alternate ways to get home.
Try to start home early enough before roads get congested. If you have been trained on how to drive through water, you may well get home in flooded conditions, but you need to be very aware of the dangers and not take chances.
We’ve all seen video clips where cars are washed away, so driving through fast flowing water should be avoided.
Don’t enter slow moving water where you do not know the depth – if it is safe send someone ahead to gauge the depth. Like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins – ease in and keep going at a steady rate.
Those who panic and stop or stall the vehicle are going to need rescuing. Here are some driving tips for flooded roads:
Take precautions against people throwing stones by fitting a double or triple shield film to windscreens and back windows to help prevent rocks and other objects causing death and injury.
You can also have the side windows similarly treated. However, if this precaution has not been taken in advance, then in an emergency use blankets or towels fastened into the side windows.
Simply wind down the window, insert the blanket/towel and roll the window up to secure. It will help for controlling shattered glass and give you a little extra cushioning – but your windshield is vulnerable as is your back window – and you need those uncluttered to see where you are going.
Trucks and all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles have a higher clearance than sedans, so they can handle obstacles better. Engage 4 X 4 and, you can head off road to get around obstructions, and negotiate your way through sand, mud, or water that may have washed over the road.
Can’t get across a bridge? Providing the stream is small, head down and cross. You should have all alternatives mapped out ahead of time and checked depths and obstructions so you know what to do… even if you can’t practice beforehand in a vehicle because there are fences in the way and keep out notices.
Do your best to scout the route beforehand on foot in certain problematic areas, noting all issues that could arise and working out how you could circumvent them.
Whether you chose to get home on horseback will depend on where you work and your riding ability. You will need to have your steed stabled, or grazing nearby.
Don’t think about this method if you’re not a good rider, and your horse has not been trained to deal with crowds and loud noises.
The police use horses for patrolling because most people are afraid of horses – would be robbers may come up to your car window to attack you but will think twice before getting in the way of the hooves of a large horse, and that could be an advantage in SHTF situations.
The U.S. police use a draft horse thoroughbred mix for their strength, and calmer dispositions, while some police forces use Friesians for their imposing size and their good nature.
Horses will be able to swim across rivers, follow narrow tracks and scramble up or down slopes as well as being able to get up a considerable speed on the flat areas. But they are live animals and will tire out, so you need to be fairly close to home.
The distance will depend on the fitness of the horse, the age, its weight and various other health factors affecting the animal.
If you are thinking of the horse as get home transportation, the really useful thing is that they know the way home, so, if you are injured the horse will find its own way back. This method will probably only suit a small minority of people.
Shank’s pony (Walking)
This idiomatic British expression refers to using your legs as a means to get home. If you live close enough to home and are fairly fit, and used to various routes when walking to work and back, then this gives you the freedom to pick routes, get around obstacles, and avoid trouble – at the expense of speed.
Always have your walking shoes ready in your office because you may not always walk to and from work, relying rather on other public transport.
The problem with walking is that if there is mud or water to pass through, you may encounter difficulty and have to take a longer, more circuitous, route which could delay you.
If there are long uphills to get home – say you work down in the city and your home is up in the hills then a skateboard isn’t going to be much help, but if the ground is fairly level with little change in altitude then this may be a very easy way to get home providing there is some space on the roads, or sidewalks.
The great thing is you can pick up your skateboard, hop over a fence, or dodge around an obstruction, and keep going. Only choose this if you are pretty good on a skateboard, and fit enough.
Jet Ski or Motor-Boat
Whenever you see news footage of flooding you see boats and jet skis picking up people. This is a get-home option only for a very small percentage of people who may live and work in waterfront areas, who have immediate access to the vessel, and can get close to home with it safely.
If you live in the type of territory where these are common there’s nothing to do other than hop on and head home. But of course, just in case you can’t get home immediately you need to be prepared because there are no second chances when it’s ultra-cold:
Whatever vehicle you own, know its capabilities off-road or in poor conditions. If you have a car, SUV, or truck, practice driving on gravel roads in poor visibility, when there is lots of dust or rain, or even snow because this is when you are probably going to be rushing to get home.
Previously tarred roads will probably have water, mud, gravel, or ice on the surface, so be sure you can keep the vehicle under control in these conditions.
When the wind is blowing hard, always face your vehicle into the wind if you can, rather than side on, and never park near trees, road signs, or other large commercial signage that could blow down.
Try to avoid getting into a queue of vehicles leaving – one accident up front can delay everyone else. Leave early if you suspect problems. The majority of people want confirmation from a couple of sources before they believe things are really dangerous, and then it may be too late.
If it is a false alarm, or not as serious as expected, you can always come back. You will only have wasted some fuel and time rather than risking the lives of those closest to you, as well as your own life.
Transportation in get-home situations is not like the daily commute where you can kind of switch off as you cycle or drive along. You need to be situationally aware and ready to react instantly should conditions change.
This is why checking out all possibilities for escape along the route and practicing what you will do when you need to get home in a hurry, is of paramount importance.
Jeanie is an avid camper and a cook. She likes to do pioneer recipe sin particular, and any other type of survival food that our great-grandfathers loved.