Well, the Rapture didn’t come on Saturday, but we have seen some weather recently that could be reminiscent of the book of Revelation. Tornadoes are ripping through the Midwest, a volcano is erupting in Iceland, and last month’s Japanese earthquake was unprecedented in destruction. So what if you’re a volunteer rescue worker, but can’t afford a Discovery Channel tornadomobile? Here’s a few upgrades you can give your rescue machine to help protect it from the seemingly Apocalyptic weather.
Bedliner- The last time I read about an entire vehicle covered in truck bed liner, it was an Audi A4, and the owner decided on the operation after his girlfriend reportedly got so mad at him she dumped paint all over it. Well, nature can always be worse than an angry woman, and won’t stop at paint. You’re more likely to get hit by paint cans in a tornado zone. A bedliner body coat will shrug off golfball hail, airborne debris, and forest fire ash.
Roll Cage- Even if you’re working in the incredibly invincible Toyota Hilux, you won’t be able to get in it and drive away if the cab has been crushed by a downed limb or light pole. A heavy duty roll cage should at least keep your rig vaguely vehicle-shaped as you go about your efforts.
Performance- Horsepower helpers like a cold air intake, a custom exhaust, and a programmer are more at home on the track than in a disaster zone, but when things get dicey, they can make a big difference in getting out of there quick. Even a short-throw shifter and a well practiced technique recently saved some Subaru STI passengers. High Oregon winds brought down a giant pine tree under which the STI was driving, and the fraction of a second saved in shifting was enough. The tree fell on the trunk, rather than on the cab.
Lights- Bad weather and reduced visibility go together like flat-bill caps and Civic tuner forums. Whether you’re driving through smoke from the nearby volcano, dust kicked up by the earthquake, or a deluge of opaque snow, the more lights you have, the better. Start with fog lights so you can see, and add some emergency flashers so others can see you. These will be especially helpful for roadside rescue.
Lift/Skid Plate- With your bedlinered body, the undercarriage of your vehicle will be the most exposed area left. Lifting it, even several inches, will be enough to get you over most wind-tossed debris, and will help you ford flooded areas (though for this, you might also want a snorkel). For the taller branches, trash cans, and mailboxes, you’ll need a skid plate to guard your sensitive engine compartment. Throw in a bull bar for your radiator’s sake, and all you’ll have to worry about will be your windows.
Bulletproof Glass- Which brings us to our final mod. No, it isn’t likely that you’ll be able to replace your windows and windshields with glass from the presidential limo, but if you win Publisher’s Clearing House and have the money, up-armored glass can make a big difference. During the recent Joplin, MO tornado, college student William Lynch and his girlfriend were caught by the storm in his pickup. Debris shattered all the glass in the truck, and though Lynch heroically shielded his girlfriend, the flying detritus gave Lynch several serious lacerations.
On a more serious note, William Lynch was a fortunate survivor, but the Joplin tornado killed more than 120 people, and over 200 are still missing. It is an unprecedented tragedy. Our office here at Streetside is right across the border from Missouri, and several of us live there. Joplin is in our prayers, and we wish them a speedy recovery.
If you’d like to help, and you’re not a rescue worker with an armored rig, you can donate toward the Joplin relief effort through organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and the American Red Cross. If you are a rescue worker, keep your head down, and may your vehicle remain invincible.