One Second After: Transportation

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This is the third topic for our Group Book Discussion of the novel One Second After. To return to the main discussion page click here.

In the story, virtually all vehicles were rendered useless as soon as the EMP occurred. Older vehicles that didn’t have electrical systems in them were the only ones that survived. Mechanics were able to modify some vehicles and get them running again, but it was slow work. Fuel was also a concern for the few vehicles that were actually running.


  • Do you have a vehicle that would survive an EMP?
  • What could you purchase that would provide transportation? (bikes, roller blades, old cars, etc.)
  • How will you deal with the issue of fuel?
  • Would you give up your vehicle to the “community”?
  • What could you do to help rebuild transportation systems in the country?
  • Could you learn how to make your car usable without the electrical system? And buy the necessary parts to do so in advance?


In our comments section below, ask questions, discuss your thoughts on this topic, and these questions. We will be covering a lot of the other issues over the next three days, so to keep it organized please stick with this topic.

We encourage everyone who participates to do so in a very respectful manner. As we read the novel, we soon became very aware that the discussions around this book could become very political, and personal. Such topics have a tendency to bring out strong opinions. Please share your opinions in a kind, and mature way. We reserve the right to, and will delete any comments that may be considered offensive or encourage illegal or unethical activities.

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  • faith

    We are absolutely not mechanical but do have 3 horses which could provide transportation and be pack animals or plow horses, etc. We are learning to do our own barefoot trimming and have purchased extra riding boots for times when we do more than normal miles in a day. We have bikes also even though we live just off of a major highway and so currently don’t bike.

  • TK

    Own an older vehicle. Need to purchase a few spare parts and fuel stabilizer to make sure it stays running. For one, we sure wouldn’t be driving everywhere like the main character in the book. Only emergency use to spare the fuel. Necessary outings on foot or bicycle… like “Lauren15787” and “jlbt67” said travel could be very dangerous. Don’t go alone.

  • Lburgfire

    We have a new Dodge ram that wouldnt be any help if an EMP hit. We have 6 tractors all run on point systems. 2 tractors from the 80’s without electronics and 2 international scouts from the 70’s that dont require any newer electronics. Getting to the farm where they are located about 5 miles away would be the biggest challenge.

  • Lauren15787

    Not to be the nah-sayer but at the risk of sounding like a pessimist — did anyone see the movie war of the worlds with Tom Cruise? He tried to drive a car passed a group of survivors only to be swamped and overthrown. Any one driving a car will be rushed by scared parents desperately needing to get home to thier small children. Even a bike won’t be safe from thieves. Walking anyplace will be dangerous. This is why you need to have a group of like-minded people to associate with. If the group does decide to venture out there will be safety in numbers.

  • 1) No, we no longer have any older vehicles, oldest at this point is 1993. Wish I had my first car I bought used – 1971 Lincoln Continental – pea green, purred like a kitten and was a tank! :o)

    2) We have bicycles, I have roller blades, we have hand carts and wheelbarrow, in need be. Would love to get an old motorcycle, would be easier to get around than regular vehicle. Used to have 3 wheeler ATV’s and a quad, but not anymore.

    3) Honestly, not sure what to do about extra fuel.

    4) I don’t think if I had a vehicle to give up I would, but would offer my services to help out when/where I could.

    4) Nothing I could do to help rebuild, don’t have the skills, maybe if someone could teach me, I could help in some way.

    5) As of right now, no I couldn’t do any conversions of our vehicles, would love to learn though!

  • Cherlynn

    We have an old diesel tractor, 4 horses (2 trained to pull a wagon) 8 old one speed bikes in good repair and Our own two feet (we regularly walk 4 to 6 miles a day)

  • Sharon

    I have some old “Mother Earth News” magazines and one of them showed the actual conversion of an old truck to run on wood fuel. It carried a burner in the back of the truck and I assume somebody back there to put the fuel in. May have had a steam boiler (like the old stem trains that burned wood or coal). It did work and I found the idea very intersting.

    • I don’t remember the name of the show, but it was a series about a guy going from one side of the States to the other, using ‘alternative’ vehicles, and if I remember correctly, one of vehicles he used, was a truck that ran on wood fuel. I may be wrong, but I think that is what it was. I had forgotten about it… thanks for reminder! :o)

    • On Netflix, there’s a show called “The Colony” and it shows different things that might and will happen in a disaster.  Granted, the show takes place in a bigger city, it is a pretty great show.  Anyways, back on topic, in season 1, they built multiple vehicles out of things that were “lying” around and they adapted a big work truck to run on wood gas.  It was very neat…could I do it?  Probably not, but still neat to see.

  • Prepared Teacher

    * Do you have a vehicle that would survive an EMP? NOPE i have a newer dodge diesel and a jeep ( 2000?).
    * What could you purchase that would provide transportation? (bikes, roller blades, old cars, etc.) We need one more bike, would love an older car but that is out of the question.
    * How will you deal with the issue of fuel? gas/diesel I really wouldn’t want to go there, everyone will be there and too many people stressed out + the fuel running out = people going bazerk!! NO WAY AM I GOING ANYWHERE NEAR THERE.. I just hope to have enough of what we need or do with out! wood and charcoal and propane I am working on having a good supply.
    * Would you give up your vehicle to the “community”? not unless I got a great barter item for it.
    * What could you do to help rebuild transportation systems in the country? Not sure, you would first need to have guards then you could begin with public transportation with the guards there with you….
    * Could you learn how to make your car usable without the electrical system? And buy the necessary parts to do so in advance? yes you can, but it takes a while and i have discussed this with hubby, it can also cost a lot of money.

  • Hntersmom

    hubby and the 2 older kids have nice mountain bikes. me and the 3 year old do not. I would like a 3 wheeled bike(kind of hefty myself and wouldnt want to fall over) and a trailer for the little one.

    as for vehicles, we have 1990 and 1998 trucks, if they are operational, i can syphon gas(we have the hoses in each vehicle and several gas cans)

  • Ipreach4god

    i have already posted about my transport…but had some more thoughts on this last night and this morning…i own mountain bikes for every member of my family, and 2 pull behind kiddie trailers…but another thought on bikes is a three wheeled bike…they normally have a small basket on the back, that could be made to carry a load…more stable than most 2 wheeled bikes…only real draw back i see is that they are a little wider than a regular bike…

  • Many people get around in our area by bike already. My son gets to and from high school by bike everyday (and has since kindergarden). We would not bug out unless the situation was very dire because…well…we don’t have anywhere else to go. I would feel safer in our small town than ‘out there” where we don’t know people. My worries would be from the people coming in from the larger cities.

  • Ipreach4god

    well, i have a 1970 jeep cj7…that i built from the ground i know it like the back of my hand…good reliable and no real electronics…also, i have 2 trailers…a small enclosed and a larger float…so getting from point a to point b with people or gear…i can manage

    the fuel thing has been an issue for my for awhile so i bought 4 55 gal. drums…i have filled regularly…as i said in one of my other posts…nice to live in the country…so we use this and refill these regularly…i know that 220 gal. wont last super long, but i do not anticipate going too far too often…

    the other mode of transport i have is 4 dirt bikes…we ride these as a family all the time and are all comfortable in doing so…all are four strokes that i maintain so i also know these pretty well….i also have a bunch of “spare parts” for these as i know what breaks under normal use…

    the third mode of transport is we have 4 bikes and 2 bike trailers…i keep them well maintained and spare tubes, chains, ans air pumps with all of them…easy to do with a small seat bag on each one…the trailers are the pull behind child i…they are fine for about 80-90 lbs of gear…i am now thinking of a “deer cart” and making a hook up for the bike… this will carry 200 plus lbs…yes it would be a strain to pull that much, but it would also be able to be removed and pushed in a SHTF type situation…(i will just add to this) i do not plan on bugging out….i have prepped well for bugging in…and will only bug out if forced to do so…

    would i give it to the community…i dont think so…

    how can i help…i have taken classes in auto maintenance and small engine repair…so i feel comfortable with helping..not that i know everything, but i know i can be of help…and can keep my own stuff working…

    as far as no electrical…not a problem…with the jeep…not so much with the other 3 vehicles…

  • Jcarroll

    The problem isn’t the “electronics” in the car. It’s that in the 70’s cars started getting “electronic fuel injection” systems. Modern cars no longer have “mechanical” carburetors, at least not ones that would have been recognized by our grandfathers. Rather than mechanical injectors, they use computerized systems to regulate how much fuel is to be injected into each cylinder. If your car/truck/whatever has a real (mechanical) carburetor, then you should be able to go.

    I’d be careful siphoning gas from stalled cars. If a car is old enough to have a computerized fuel system, it’s probably old enough to be using unleaded gas. Check to see how well your car will run using unleaded fuel. (It’s why my next car will have a diesel engine, although I’m not sure how well a modern diesel will run after an EMP.)

    One interesting point: cars that are in the sub-sub basement parking (30 ft. below the ground) MAY survive an EMP. It depends on too many factors to say for certain one way or another.

    2 years ago, when gas was getting over $4/gal where I live, I bought a 49cc motor scooter. It carries one person and goes a maximum of 35 mile per hour (40 if I’m going downhill with a stiff wind at my back.) I bought it specifically because it was used a carburetor. The next model up (125cc) that went faster and could carry two used electronic fuel injection. I chose my model because if an EMP struck, I’d still be able to use it, and use ethanol (Everclear) if need be.

    (BTW, right now it get s 61 miles per gallon. Next spring it will get a tune-up and I expect to get back up to 70 mpg. If I could lose enough weight I’d be getting closer to 90. I LOVE that little thing!)

    • J – newbie

      It’s sure good to know a bit more about what to consider re possible go/no go of cars. A timely reminder about a ‘little guy’ motor scooter too! Recently I was looking into purchasing one – an electric version for least-carbon footprint … now wouldn’t I have had a bit of egg on my face (and blisters on my feet) after an EMP, LOL. Thanks Jcarroll!

  • Anonymous

    as i stated before, the initial problem is reuniting as a family first before all else. that means my dh will have to get our dd from school. that’s easy to do as he can walk there and back. in that time i’m sure he can figue out whether they plan to have school for the duration or not. i’m going to assume this is during the day. i will be down town making my way back WALKING! i will drop off my paper work at one of the nearby offices. stay to help out a bit and then head on back home. while i’m at one of the offices i’ll fill up my water bottles with their water coolers. then i will continue home. will i bother to pass by the stores? NO. I’LL BE BY-PASSING THEM. i will be by-passing major traffick areas. i already have my emergency food. the difference between my home and my main office is 6.2 miles. at an hour a mile that’s 6-7 hours walking: don’t forget stopping for breaks. YES I WILL BE WALKING SLOWLY. but i have to come from downtown too. add another 5 miles! that’s 11 miles! i see it taking me two days to get home! first day i’ll walk from downtown to my main office. the second day i’ll be walking home. all the while carrying my mace/pepper spray.

    • Drwoofx

      Have you timed yourself on a treadmill or just walking a mile? At a leisurely pace, I walk 2.5 to 3 mph even with hills. I don’t think you’ll be wanting to spend the night out. Adrenaline will get you home much faster than you anticipate, I suspect.

  • The question of evacuating versus staying in seems to be a touchy subject. I think every area will be very different in terms of what is “safer” or “smarter”. It’s a good idea to consider all scenarios in case you are forced to evacuate or it is the wiser decision at your time and location. Personally I am scared to stay at home trying to protect myself, especially if my husband isn’t here with us, unless there is a serious community plan in place for protection. But all the comments about the dangers of evacuating make me seriously consider if that would be any better.

    Also transportation is a longer term concern as well. Once things have calmed down and looting/robbing isn’t as much of a concern, there will most likely be a need for getting around.

  • Npp1966

    1. a 90’s something saturn if it will hold together 3 – 2003 vehicles not planning on them working.
    2. have 2 bikes need to pick up some replacement tubes etc. maybe 2 more bikes or a small older motorcycle
    3. will only need gas for generator if cars dont’ work get a siphon and use gas in stranded vehicles
    4. give up car…. think not I’m more than willing to help haul people but, only if one of my family members is in charge of the vehicle.
    5 don’t know about rebuilding I can help with just about anything and more than willing to do my share.
    6. could learn to modify car if it could be done. will have to google to see what might be involved or pick an auto shop persons brain. yes i’d buy parts to have on hand to modify as long as it wasn’t astronomical.

  • J – newbie

    My Mom’s with me and her health = wheelchair for anything more than a short distance. So we wouldn’t be going anywhere unless the situation at home became completely untenable (or an earthquake damages the building). I’m fairly fit, but planning to bicycle a distance pulling a ‘person-carrier’ & necessary supplies is just about insane. That being said, I could & sure would if it were necessary!

    The above is one of the prime reasons why I am [now, finally!] taking steps to gather others and encourage expansion of an already very good “neighbourhood-focus” so it includes many more aspects of “emergency preparedness for all”.

    • Midnightmom

      I am the mom in this scenario (not related to the poster) so I know I won’t be going anywhere. I really should get a bike, but it would have to be an adult trike and they are expensive.

  • jlbt67

    In reply to Brian: I am well aware of the topic discussion. I do not need you to “subtley” suggest that I am “off topic”. My suggestion about bugging out, and how to do it is…it will not be the “safe” thing to do, and a plan to prepare to stay in place is the better option. I would “not” suggest for people to take their families on a bike and expose them to the dangers that will exist should a major EMP event occur. Where will they (you) take your family? Unless you have a well prepared retreat it is foolish to think of leaving your home and exposing your family to the unknown. There are criminals in every community, including yours, that will quickly start prying on the innocents. You and your family, on bikes, will be “low hanging fruit” for them. How is THAT for creativity?
    I might not be “on topic” but I am surely on the wrong discussion forum. Good luck all. Reading some of the comments, you will need it. Bye Bye.


      We hope you’ll stick around for the conversation. Brian has seen us on our facebook asking readers to stay on topic for certain threads because we are going to have many different threads and want to try and keep the information organized. On facebook when people discuss all these things, the information tends to get lost and mixed up so we kept saying stay on topic on there. I’m sure he wasn’t trying to offend or discredit your advice. We’ll be talking about protecting your home and food tomorrow as it’s an extremely important topic as well. Our intent was to talk about transportation issues that could arise in this thread, but certainly welcome any advice from experts. Most of us are just beginners in survivalist topics.

  • wow you started with out me I missed the first queations!! As far as transportation goes it is
    ” feet don’t fail me now” here. We have a “bug in” home, live just a few blocks from the Mississippi River and have wheel barrows and a wheeled cart as well as wheeled garbage cans that could be used to haul items if need be. 4 years untill we move to the place in the country where a horse will be my answer. and Mabe a mule…..

  • Pandabingham

    we have 3 quads, 2 of which we are pretty sure would still be working.

  • Jane

    We live a couple of miles outside of a small town. Other than to evacuate my folks to our place I can’t think of any reason we would need to go into town. Nothing would be working, and the few stores that are here would be looted pretty quickly.

    As for transportation I think the riding mower would still work and we have a wagon for it. I’d probably use that to go get my parents. Thankfully they are healthy enough to walk a couple of miles so we could use the wagon for transporting their essential stuff and we also have a bicycle cart that we could either jerry rig to pull behind the mower wagon or just pull by hand or bicycle.

    As for criminals stopping us, I don’t expect them to be a problem until the stores have all been looted. Even on foot a 5 mile round trip wouldn’t take all that long.

  • Jlbt67

    Looters / criminals would love to see a family on bikes, hauling 100 lbs of goodies. They would steal your bikes and goodies as well as do whatever to you and your family.
    What do you think would have happened to you if you were trying this in New Orleans after Katrina, or trying to escape the riots in Watts.

    • Melissa

      My whole family will soon know how to defend themselves. I don’t plan to haul my goods. I plan to defend at home. Bikes are for getting around when necessary instead of walking. If I felt I had to go somewhere for safety reasons, I still choose bikes and trailers. It would definitely be a mess. You couldn’t ride bikes out of N.O. for Katrina, the water was too deep.

    • Melissa

      My whole family will soon know how to defend themselves. I don’t plan to haul my goods. I plan to defend at home. Bikes are for getting around when necessary instead of walking. If I felt I had to go somewhere for safety reasons, I still choose bikes and trailers. It would definitely be a mess. You couldn’t ride bikes out of N.O. for Katrina, the water was too deep.

    • Self-Defense is surely to be a topic coming up soon, but it is important to “Bug-In” up to a certain point of needing to go somewhere.

      The idea of going somewhere and how we are to accomplish that task is what is proposed in this post above.

      My first choice for any distance is still my mountain bike. It’s quiet, fast, and all-terrain.

      As a family, we would truly be bugging out if I had everyone on bikes, so all options are on the table in that scenario.

      I think the idea here is to creatively add to the discussion, like bringing up the thought of horses or mules to ride and haul goods..

  • Melissa

    I would go with the bicycle. If I could afford a VW van, I would get one because they’re supposed to work and well..they are just so cool (I know, not what this is about) 🙂 But the bikes and possibly some type of wagon to pull behind it, would be the way I would go. IF I had a vehicle that worked, no I would not give it up for the better good. I would offer to drive people but no, I wouldn’t give it up. There is nothing I could personally do to help rebuild transportation but my sons could possibly contribute. On the personal refurbishing of my current vehicle or any other vehicle for that matter, I would be of no help.

  • For many years in my youth I worked at and managed bicycle shops. Some of the guys I worked for remember their businesses boom back in the seventies during the gas crisis. They told me first hand stories of the benefits to their businesses and how society reacted.

    In my humble opinion, bicycles are the most realistic and reliable form of transportation. Roads would be cluttered with autos making it nearly impossible for a long period of time to ride anything other than a bicycle or off-road vehicle, quad, dirt bike, etc. A bicycle trailer is not a bad investment if purchased used.

    Gas is important and we always keep 25+ gallons on hand. What is more important is ensuring you have quality gas that the ethylene is not burned off. Investing in some sta-bil is very smart in order to save gas for longer periods of time.

    In fact, I’d throw the challenge out there for anyone reading this to go learn how to keep 25 or more gallons of fuel for longer than 30 days in a rotational manner. It is more challenging than most realize, but an important area to learn if any disaster were to strike.

    I’d expect local junk yards to be booming trade businesses, too. Spare starters, motors, and more would be bartered to get vehicles up and running again.

    This is all assuming society is cooperative with one another. History tends to repeat itself and chaos is going to happen in communities.

    If an EMP were to occur, how is everyone going to go get their children out of school and home again? Imagine that chaos…

    Pre-1980 vehicles are supposed to work in the event of an EMP attack. What most people do not take into consideration is that EMP technology has advanced since the 50’s; we just aren’t aware or privy to what degree it has advanced. Wikipedia is not reliable for current capabilities.

    We should not be naive to think any vehicle pre-1980’s should work and it would be smart to have a backup plan in support of a longer term strategy. Bicycles and being on foot.

    So, how good of shape is now crucial and any injury could be devastating. If one is serious, its important to think about how healthy and active you are too.

  • Stargazermom

    I have a bike for every member of my family plus a toddler trailer than can haul 100 lbs. Having spare parts at least would give me a 10 mile radius…

  • Jlbt67

    Not a good idea to evacuate unless you have a well secured, well stocked retreat to go to. You will not be able to drive (unless you have a pre 1980’s auto).. There will be millions of stalled cars blocking the roads. Once the criminal element realizes what has happened (and law enforcement will be nil) they will see any moving vehile as a prize (people evacuating will have their food and valuables with them). They will be an easy target via road blocks, etc. Evacuatibg by bike is totally impracticle….can’t carry extra clothes, food, etc….again, an easy target. Best to stay put and concentrate on fortifying the home for the possible coming onslought of looters, etc.

    • Stargazermom

      Besides the trailers for children, it is totally possible to haul quite a bit by bike. Many lbs if distributed properly, plus a trailer for gear. Lots of people do long distance biking and camping with a bike trailer for gear.

      Would be most concerned about road conditions…

      • Npp1966

        would also be concerned with looters and people in a panic.

  • Andie

    I thought of the pioneer handcarts…since I don’t have one, my 2 bikes will have to do.

  • I have 3 10 speed bikes that would work. Other than that, I have my feet.

  • I have an old ’66 truck and mustang that would still work. I would want to be able to use those to check on family that lives within 50 miles and help people get to a central location. I would be worried about someone taking my vehicles by force or getting it commandeered by local authorities. If I decided to evacuate I could fill up my truck with food and equipment and get out of there before people really realized what was happening I think. But not sure where I would go. Lots to think about.

    • Melissa

      again, I wonder if these would really work in an EMP strike? I know it’s supposed to be the electronic cells or whatever it is that goes out but it seems like all batteries would die. No battery therefore no way to start the vehicles? I think Brian responded to me on another topic concerning this. I will have to go re-read it.

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