Mass Transit

If you live in a place that has mass transit and uses tokens, have a supply of tokens as part of your emergency money. If it uses fare cards, keep a card with several fares loaded on it. In a natural disaster you may not need them. But, we are preparing for personal disasters too. If the whole family has to get to Grandma's at 2:00 a.m. because there has been a fire in your building, you dont want to be worrying about making change in the subway.

In a larger disaster, getting the transportation system working is a priority for the community. You may have to take a long way around, but you are likely to have bus or subway service available fairly quickly.

Even if you usually drive your own car, think about using mass transit in a disaster if it is available. It is generally safer than a private car when roads may be dangerous or disrupted, and it conserves scarce resources for the community.

Obviously, you should also have alternatives planned. If the bus drivers have all evacuated or the subway is flooded, you will have to use private transportation. Plan ahead with friends or neighbors so you don't find yourself stranded. If you are the one with transportation, help your neighbors. Take the little old lady down the street to the shelter before you head to your in-laws.


If you, like most of the population of this country, are dependent on cars for transportation, then you need to have an emergency kit and gasoline in every car. The emergency kit does not have to be fancy. There should be basic repair kits in every car anyway. Your mechanic or auto shop or roadside assistance will have their suggested list of emergency supplies for a car. My suggested car emergency kit is at the end of this chapter.

Check your emergency supplies every October and April when you do the rest of the emergency check. At the same time, make sure the spare tire has air in it. The tools can be used by someone else to fix your car even if they mean nothing to you. An unopened pack of baby wipes will keep for years. If you open them, then replace them or they will be dried out the next time you need them. And what would an emergency kit be without duct tape and paper towels. The trash bags have a variety of uses and they take up very little room. Kneel on them when changing a tire. Put them under the spinning wheel in the mud. Use them as a blanket or cut holes in them and wear them as a raincoat.

During the winter, carry a lighter or a book of matches in your purse or coat pocket. If the door lock on your car freezes, heat the key in the flame and insert it in the lock. Leave it for a minute while the lock defrosts and then try to turn the key. Be careful not to bend a hot key.


Whenever there is an emergency, the lines at the gas pumps are long and slow. Obviously, when you have three days warning that a hurricane is coming, there is plenty of time to fill the car. But, what about when the earthquake hits and you forgot to stop and fill up your empty tank this morning. Keep your gas tank half full all the time. Just consider the half-empty mark the empty mark. Get in the habit of filling the car on the way home instead of waiting till morning. This way you always have a reasonable amount of fuel in reserve. You will have enough gas in the car to get you a fair distance away from the emergency before you have to stop and fill up.

Remember to explain to your teenagers that this means them too. They can't be allowed to run below half a tank just because its Mom's gas or they are a little short on funds. They replace what they use just like with the emergency money.

Keeping your car half full of gas helps the community in times of disaster as well. Like your car, gas station tanks only hold so much. If everyone is going around with empty gas tanks and the disaster comes, all the stored fuel in the community is sucked out of the tanks at the stations and put in the tanks of the cars. Then the community runs out of gas if the tanker trucks can't get through. If all the cars have half a tank of gas or more, the gasoline at the filling station becomes the community reserve. This is a preparation that costs nothing and helps everyone.

Always keep your gas
tank half full

If you have more than one car or you need gas for a generator, keeping all the tanks half full means there is spare gas stored in the tanks of the cars. There is no other safe way to store 5 or 10 gallons of gasoline in your garage. If you plan on using the gasoline in a generator, make sure you have an approved siphon and gas can to transfer the gasoline safely. Don't do everything else right and then kill yourself by sucking gas through a garden hose.

Store gasoline in approved
containers and
never use a hose to siphon gas


Use your own car to evacuate if you can be sure of three things: 1) the roads are safe; 2) the car is reliable and has plenty of fuel to get you out of the disaster area; and 3) you have somewhere to go. If the answer to any of these questions is no, then think about alternatives to driving yourself out. Listen to the radio for information about local shelters or staging areas for public transportation out of the area. Watch for emergency personnel in your area and ask for help.

If you are on the roads and they become unsafe, then follow the instructions of the police or other officials. It is common to have highways closed down by winter storms, floods, fires or other disasters. There will be officials at the roadblocks who can direct you to shelters or alternative routes. Never try to get around such road blocks. Driving into blizzards or floods endangers your life and the lives of those who may try to rescue you.


Spare tire and jack for changing a flat

One quart of the oil used in that car

Flashlight with extra batteries

Basic tools such as pliers and screwdrivers

Mechanic's wire

Duct tape

Jumper cables

Rags or paper towels

Baby wipes for cleaning your hands

Heavy trash bags - lots of them

Coil of inch nylon rope


Flares or light sticks