Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Emergency Comms On The Road - What Works, And Doesn't Work

Every so often I hop in the car and head out to a place I call "Down Home".  Down Home is a good three to three and a half hours away, depending on traffic, so I always make sure I have as many communications possibilities with me when I go.  I took this trip just about 2 weeks ago, and had some car trouble on the way back...the kind of car trouble that stops you dead in your tracks.  As soon as I noticed that my car was about to come to a halt, I took the first exit off of Highway 40...towards a town called Yamachiche.  This is not a big town by any means, and with a population of about 3000, a traveller passing through at 11PM can pretty much find the sidewalks rolled up and the entire town closed.  I found myself pulled over on an off ramp, needing assistance with no one in sight.  I had three ways of communications with me, a cell phone, a CB radio, and my 2 meter ham HT.  This was the perfect situation to find out which would be most useful.  Here is a rundown...

CB Radio - A citizen band radio can come in handy, especially for preppers.  One of the reasons that a lot of preppers like the CB, is the fact that they are cheap to get because almost no one uses them anymore.  This proved to be the biggest downfall.  I turned on the radio and tuned to channel 9, which is supposed to be the emergency channel.  This being an emergency, I keyed up and called MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY...nothing but static.  This came as no big surprise, the reason I have CB in the car is to be able to talk with my home base, and others that have CB within my group.  Any means of communication requires there to be more than one person using can call out all you want, but if there is no one else on the air at the time, well, it's pretty much useless.

2 Meter Ham - This requires a little more efort than just keying up a mic.  My 5 watt HT gets some OK range, but the likelyhood of there being someone on the air locally was slim, and finding out what frequency they are on makes a set to set contact next to impossible.  Enter the road atlas and my printed out list of repeaters from repeaterbook dot com.  Within a few minutes I was able to identify the closest repeaters to my location and began to try to get one...with some success!  Although I could hit a repeater not far from me, again, there was no one else on the air at the time.  I also keep a list of emergency services frequencies, but these are out of the ham band, and I really didn't want to find out how the provincial police would react to me transmitting directly to their dispatch frequency.

Cell Phone - This is where I had the best luck...actually I knew it would be, but wanted to test out my other comms first.  Along the highways there are signs posted for the numbers to call for help.  On long trips, you simply can't avoid them being drilled into your head every few kilometers.  So to the cell phone I go and call the emergency number, which connects me to a provincial police dispatch center. I explained my problem, told them my location and they sent the cavalry right to me to take care of my every need....NOT!  There was no accident, no real danger of an accident, I was simply broken down, so there really wasn't anything they could do for me even if they did send a car.  They did however, have the phone number for the closest tow truck company.  This is important, so please, please, take this advice to heart...CARRY A NOTEBOOK AND PENCIL WHEN YOU TRAVEL.  You will need to write stuff down like tow truck numbers, garage numbers, etc...

So, does this mean that I will no longer bother with CB and ham radio when I travel?  No, of course not, each as it's merits and I assume that some of my issues with them were related to the late hour.  I often listen to CB on the highway for truckers passing on info about traffic and other issues and the ham radio conveniently tunes to police bands so I can get a sense of any emergencies (read speed traps) that are in progress.  It does mean that I will make sure my cell phone is charged and that I have a way to recharge it, and I will always have a notebook and pencil in the car with me.

As a side note, cash is as important as anything else I mentioned earlier.  Tow trucks, auto repairs, and hotels rooms add up, so make sure you carry money with you when you travel.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Golden Nuggets from Prepping's Past

Recently I found some golden nuggets in the form of old civil defense pamphlets put out by the US government in the 50's. They are archived online and links are below. I will disclaim that though some of the information in these forms has been proven inaccurate in modern studies, the general themes are great and much can be learned. I also love the tone of voice used in the writing. There is no sugar coating, no high level jargon. The tone is borderline sarcastic and humorous if you think like that. From page 4 of Survival Under Atomic Attack, I quote:

"Should you happen to be one of the unlucky people right under the bomb, there is practically no hope of living through it."

Well, now I know not to prep for a direct overhead nuclear hit! Whew! Humor aside though, the general themes are great. A major push of civil defense in those days was having everyone prepared. Every single man, woman and child. Each was to know their role and how to react no matter where they stood the moment the emergency began. Take a look at the National Civil Defense Pattern:
1) The Individual - Calm and well trained
2) The Family - the base of organized self protection
3) Neighborhood
4) Community - Puts civil defense into action immediately
5) Nearby Cities - move in aid as needed
6) Federal Government - Furnishes aid and supplies if needed

It starts with the individual - calm and well trained. Perfect. Then permeates to the family working together. Then the community coming together, then communities working together, and then finally and IF needed, the government. If being the keyword there. Compare that to modern day where you can basically guarantee immediate panic and complete reliance on government agencies.

Another nugget of simple wisdom I enjoyed from the concluding pages of Survival under attack:

"If you follow the pointers in this little booklet, you stand far better than an even chance of surviving the bomb's blast, heat, and radioactivity. What's more, you will make a definite contribution to civil defense in your community, because civil defense must start with you. But if you lose your head and blindly attempt to run from the dangers, you may touch off a panic that will cost your life and put tremendous obstacles in the way of your Civil Defense Corps."

Well said! In my training days as part of our local Search and Rescue team we were constantly drilled that we must always be conscious of our actions and abilities. If we were not able to operate at 100%, we were to voluntarily pull ourselves out of the operation. Keep your head on and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

And the last nugget for today:
"Civil Defense is everybody's business" - AKA - Everyone should be a Prepper. I couldn't agree more. You may enjoy poking through the following resources.

United States Dept of Civil Defense - Survival under Atomic Attack PDF

United States Dept of Civil Defense - Fallout Protection PDF

Federal Civil Defense Administration - A Day Called X - A 1957 film production about the evacuation of Portland. (27 min - grab some popcorn and enjoy this gem!)

This post by Dwight from Briden Solutions - Proudly helping Canadians obtain high quality Survival supplies.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Casting Call

I don't post many casting calls here, but this one seems to target those who may want to put their survival skills to the test.