I seem to remember way back in driver's ed that if you lost your brakes, you could use the emergency brake to stop the car. Obviously this would only work in certain situations where the handbrake bypasses the problem with the floor brake (i.e., loss of brake fluid).
I have a 97 Corolla, and decided to give this a try. I was going about 25 mph on a flat, straight road. I put the car in neutral, let it coast, and pulled up on the emergency brake. I could feel the braking, but barely! In fact, once I hit a slight downhill, the car picked up speed again. Obviously, this isn't going to save me when I'm going down a mountain and my master cylinder gives out!
The questions - am I right that the hand brake should be able to stop the car? If it can't slow me down, is it doing anything when I use it for other purposes (say, when I'm parked on a hill?)