In my previous post, "Range," I went to great lengths on making sure your vehicle had enough fuel to evacuate during an emergency. One of my readers called and pointed out something I neglected to mention. It's important enough that it deserves a post all its own.
It's possible to have more than enough fuel to get to your destination, but still run out before you get there. During the hurricane evacuations of 2005, quite a few people ran out of fuel while sitting in traffic. Your vehicle only has enough fuel to get you where you are going if you are actually moving.
Now plenty of you are thinking that if stuck in traffic, just turn the car off. Sometimes that's the thing to do. Lots of people don't figure that out and burn fuel when they don't have to. Sometimes it's almost necessary to keep the engine running. If it's 105 degrees and your vehicle has sick, elderly or very young children in the car, running the air conditioning is a safety issue. The same can be said on the other extreme -below zero temperatures and people aren't dressed for the cold. Then need the heater.
A little forethought can make all the difference. If everyone has plenty of cool water to drink, keeping the AC off is easier to deal with. In cold weather, being properly dressed for cold weather and having a thermos of hot coco can sure help. In the winter, my vehicles normally have sleeping bags and space blankets.
Sometimes it's not possible to turn off the engine. Traffic moves often enough that nothing is gained by turning the engine off, but it's stop and go the whole time. That kind of driving eats fuel.
The best thing is to avoid the whole stuck in traffic scenario in the first place. The best thing is to get out of Dodge early and beat the rush. If you know a hurricane may hit your area in 3 days, don't wait for the last day to try and leave. That's where having a bug out bag really pays off. Once the decision to go is made, you can just grab your bag, and any last minute items and hit the road.
Of course, some emergencies give no warning. If the chemical plant down wind has an accident, everyone will be trying to leave at once. Preplanning alternate routes could save the day. Sometimes the highways are in gridlock, but secondary roads are still moving. Don't assume because they show up on the map that you'll be able to use them. The map is not the territory. For example, most maps, including Google maps, and my GPS, show a bridge near me a being in service. It's been closed to vehicle traffic for years. Make sure your alternate route is real. Drive it once in a while. Try and find alternate routes to your alternate routes. Even though they aren't perfect, keep a current road atlas in your vehicle in case you get detoured and need to find a new way on the fly.
There may be ways out of town that most people don't know of: logging roads, fire roads, roads along rail beds, private roads, farm roads, power lines, dry canals -think outside the box. Maybe you could use things like connecting parking lots and service roads to get around a blocked section of highway. Know the territory.
When you sit down to figure out how much range you can get out of your fuel, allow for detours, stop and go traffic, and all the rest.
One more thing to figure out -your vehicle's fuel mileage. Many of you know how many miles per gallon your vehicle gets in day to day driving. Mileage may vary when the vehicle is loaded to the gills with people and gear.
I had a nice little economy car that normally got 32 - 35. With a canoe on the roof and all my camping gear in the trunk and back seat, it got as little as 18 mpg. One more thing to consider.