Picture the following scenario: Driving home in the twilight from work, you're tired after the day's pressures. Instead of concentrating on the road, you are lost in thought about tonight's plans. Suddenly there is a problem with the suspension in your car. It feels odd and worsens rapidly. You get hit between the eyes with a sudden, horrible realization that it's not the car; it's an earthquake!
Everyone pulls over in alarm. The situation is further complicated as you discover that the bridge ahead has collapsed. Seen in your rear view mirror, the overpass is a pile of rubble across the freeway. Your goal is still the same, getting home.
I commute 29 miles each way and am somewhat prepared for the above event. I never want to be required to follow through with my plans and I hope it never happens to you. An emergency while traveling could be many things; fill in the disaster "blank" for what you are most likely to face in your area. Whether it be extreme winter in Montana, lava flows in Hawaii or New Zealand, earthquake in most places, tsunamis on the coasts or even a flat tire can give you reason to be thankful you planned ahead.
Assume whatever "it" is, has just happened. Are you safe? Do you need to move?
First, do CAPS (as in put on your thinking CAPS):
Mentally, go on Yellow Alert*, Red Alert** if you must, depending on the situation. Forget unassociated problems; concentrate on the difficulty at hand. Relax and remember, it could be worse. Think positively. You will get home safe and sound, this event will fade and life will move on. Don't allow yourself to be distracted from your goal of getting home safely.
Yellow and Red Alerts are from Frank Cuccioni's Tactical Response System.
You'll have several decisions to make:
If your first goal is not met, go to the second goal and keep walking .
Ten miles is a good hike, fifteen is a power hike. If you're home is further than that, shelter becomes an issue. This is a widely variable problem and not easily addressed here. Bare minimum shelter is a Space Bag or Space Blanket which keeps in your body heat and weather out. Improvise if you can't make it home in one day's walk.
Having emergency gear in your vehicle, having planned ahead and by setting goals, you will greatly ease your journey to get home.
TIP 1: Make friends along the way that you commute. Is there someone you work with? Go to school with? Go to church with? Make a note of their address and phone number; they will be more willing to help than a stranger.
TIP 2: If Goal Number One is a pay phone, call someone and tell him or her your situation and plan. In disasters, phone lines are often jammed with incoming calls to stricken areas. This can prevent local calls, but you can frequently call long distance. Have an out-of-the-area emergency contact, a friend or relative a hundred or more miles away, who can relay vital information. Tell your family who your emergency contact is before disaster strikes. Consider a prepaid phone card.
TIP 3: The next time you are about to wear those old reliable walking shoes or boots, stow them in your car before they are worn out; make them your emergency pair. They are already broken in, you know them and they know your feet. If walking is required, you can choose between what you're wearing and "old reliable".
TIP 4: Snack or drink when you feel the need. Don't let yourself become run down from the effort. Snacking provides a distraction from your chore, it prepares your body ahead of an unforeseen exertion. Stay on Yellow Alert.
TIP 5: If you don't walk or hike much, make time to practice a portion of your route to get the feel for it. Check out books on hiking; look for some that explain walking techniques.
TIP 6: Do not allow your feet to blister! I can't stress this enough. Buy sock liners, thin silk or synthetic socks that go on under your regular socks. You may also want to try a high performance sock for walking, such as Ultra's. Check specialty stores like REI. If you suspect a blister developing. Stop, remove your shoes and socks. Inspect your foot, inspect you shoes. Have moleskin in your kit and apply it to the red-warm-inflamed areas. When treated, and your foot is cool again, put on both pairs of socks and then the shoes. Pay attention to your feet!
TIP 7: Normally your last resort is walking home. If another solution is workable or safer, opt for it. Pray to make good decisions.
TIP 8: Always keep the fuel tank at least half full. In areas of ice and snow, a full tank will provide extra traction.
TIP 9: Be aware of temperature extremes in automobiles. If an item has a shelf life, wide temperature variations will hasten its deterioration.
TIP 10: Water is heavy and bulky. It will constitute the largest amount of weight allocated to supplies. Check into filtration. Filter straws are available that can generate 10 gallons of drinkable water from a mud puddle.
TIP 11: For convenience, you can store parts of your kit in different areas of your automobile. Food can be protected in the trunk in an ammo can or Tupperware container.
TIP 12: I highly recommend the Browning Arms Featherweight line of Knife. They are light and not as expensive as you may think.
TIP 13: Layer clothing for added warmth.
TIP 14: If you must walk, watch weight and bulk of your gear. I travel very light. I love my torso or fanny pack. All the weight is on your hips and your back won't sweat. This is the area where the more money spent on quality pays off in the end. Be picky about your Pack!
TIP 15: If you have chosen to stay in you car, be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you must run the engine to keep from freezing, remember to crack a window.
Best wishes and good luck.