Disaster Driving – ARES Style
Adapted and modified Revised 11/2016 for the
Gulf Coast area by Earl Pack – AE5PA.
Original article by Ron Dodson – KA4MAP Kentucky Amateur Radio
As a member of a local ARES team, you may find yourself setting in the “shack” at your home, office or EOC. You may be on foot or in a mobile communications unit. One thing is for sure, unless you are at a fixed site and remain there some driving must be done to get to any other location. Worse yet, what if the disaster happens while you are driving? Let’s look at some different types of conditions that you may find yourself in and steps that you can take to handle whatever situation confronts you.
How do you respond if an earthquake occurs while driving? Experiencing an earthquake while in a moving vehicle has been compared to driving on four flat tires. If an earthquake occurs while you are driving:
• Gradually decrease speed.
• Pull to the side of the road.
• Do not stop on or under overpasses or bridges.
• Avoid parking near trees, downed power lines and buildings.
• Stop the car and stay down on the floor of the car.
• Remain in your car until the shaking stops.
• Keep in mind that aftershocks follow the initial earthquake.
• Turn on your car radio and listen for advisories.
• Do not drive until it’s safe and avoid overpasses or bridges if possible.
• If driving on a freeway or interstate, exit at the first opportunity so as to avoid overpasses, bridges and elevated highways which may be damaged.
• Response after an earthquake may be a daunting experience. If the quake is severe, most of the routes you usually take may be compromised. Check to see who is on the air to get possible route information, the drive may be easy, circuitous or it’s possible that, “You can’t get there from here”.
We are very aware of this problem in our area, but still rarely a year passes without someone being drowned after attempting to drive through floodwaters. Keep the following in mind:
- Never attempt to drive through a flooded roadway!
- Remember, [the] water may be deeper than it appears.
- Water weighs 62.4 lbs per cubic foot. For each foot that water rises, over 500 pounds of force are applied to the bottom and sides of the car.
- One foot of water exerts enough buoyancy force that your car will weigh 1,500 lbs less than it would on dry land.
- Cars can float for short periods…long enough to get washed off the road.
- In smaller vehicles, you can lose control in only 6 inches of water and even in large vehicles control can still be lost in 2 feet or less!
- If you have driven into floodwater and try to escape your car you can be knocked off your feet by the force of the current.
- Driving in flood waters at night is not recommended and is very dangerous because you cannot see how deep the water is or if it is flowing across the road. A rule you may adopted for myself is not to drive in flood water if I cannot see the painted road stripping. If the water is so deep you cannot see the painted lines, it’s too deep to drive in.
If you are out and a tornado strikes where you are:
- Stop and leave the car! Try to find shelter in a sturdy building. If you are out spotting, I suggest you pre-plan this beforehand and park in a location with accessible shelter.
- If there is no building, lie flat on the ground in a ditch or ravine.
- Do not use overpasses as shelter! Though this was thought safe in the past, research has shown this is not true in most cases.
- Never try to out run a tornado.
- Once the tornado passes, WAIT! It is not unusual for the storm to spawn additional tornados
Not too likely in our area though we did have that opportunity here in Houston not long ago so we could find ourselves in a blizzard. Here are some do’s and dont’s:
- Do not leave the car unless you see a safer place that is easily within walking distance for the conditions or you run out of fuel!
- Start the car for brief periods for heat but always leave a downwind window open slightly to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning dangers. Be sure the exhaust stays clear of snow. If you start getting a headache, recognize it as carbon monoxide poisoning and get some fresh air! Run the engine long enough to recharge the battery.
- Leave the dome light on at night as a sign to possible rescuers.
- If you are with others, sleep in shifts so someone can keep a lookout for rescuers and prevent you from freezing. If you’re alone…don’t sleep!
- But we’re HAM radio operators! While that engine is running, put your mobile FM unit in scan mode. If you’ve got one, crank up the HF rig and scan that as well. On the hour, put out EMERGENCY calls on the appropriate frequencies.
Whatever occurs, you can be better prepared if you carry the following in your vehicle. Adapt this list for the season and potential weather you may experience while traveling:
- First aid kit (bandages, gauze, tape etc.)
- Bottled water.
- Non-perishable foods like trail mix, meal replacement bars, MREs
- Wool blanket or sleeping bag & pillow.
- Flashlight or headlight with extra batteries.
- Fire extinguisher (C02).
- Pocket radio with extra batteries.
- Tools (screwdriver, pliers, wire, pocket knife, can opener).
- Tissues, [toilet paper,] and pre-moistened towel.
- Extra clothes, sturdy shoes, socks, gloves, hat.
- Short rubber hose for siphoning.
- Sealable plastic bags.
- Local maps for the area.
- Bic lighter/Matches
- Auto repair kit (oil, transmission/brake fluids, fix-a-flat, reflective triangles and/or flares, tools to fit your skill set)
That concludes tonight’s training. Are there any questions, comments or suggested additions to this material?
Thanks, this is (callsign) clear to net control.