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December 31, 2006

New Year Marks End for 121.5 MHz EPIRBs

Filed in Gear , News

U.S. Coast Guard SealFor all the boaters out there, the new year marks the end of your legal use of 121.5 MHz EPIRBs. While satellite processing of 121.5 MHz distress signals doesn’t end until February, 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard wisely, in my opinion, got ahead of the issue by prohibiting the use of these dinosaurs effective January 1, 2007.

Because the boating world was the first to adopt the advanced 406 MHz distress beacon technology, over a decade ago, and boaters have been urged for years to convert over to the new technology, this regulation doesn’t adversely impact all that many. Only a relatively few cheap boaters with a notable lack of good sense are affected. Perhps this will finally get them to do what they should have done much earlier, toss that 121.5 MHz piece of junk and get a 406 MHz EPIRB.

It is probably worth mentioning that as great as a 406 MHz PLB is, it is not an EPIRB and should not be considered as a replacement for one. On vessels required to have an EPIRB on board, it also wouldn’t be legal. While I believe that PLBs are a godsend for many boaters, especially sailors who are most at risk of bing dumped overboard, they are a PERSONAL distress beacon, to be worn with your PFD anytime on deck. Every boat still needs an EPIRB, which has twice the signaling life and is designed to float upright in the water so it will be sending out that distress signal no matter what, a critical capability that PLBs do not currently have.

Also worth noting is that Man Overboard Beacons that use 121.5 MHz for their short range signaling are still legal, but they have to be part of a MOB system for that to be the case.

You will find the complete press release on the Coast Guard’s web site here.

Legalities aside, to keep using a 121.5 MHz EPIRB, given all their shortcomings, is just plain stupid. Do yourself, your family and friends, and Search and Rescue a favor and start the New Year right. Get a 406 MHz EPIRB today.

December 19, 2006

The Cavalry Has Arrived – ETS Going to SHOT Show

Filed in News

RedFlare Sponsor ETS SHOT Show 2007 Report

With SHOT Show being held in Orlando, Florida, this time around, we were presented with a difficult predicament. Our plans to attend and cover all the new gear at SHOT Show as we have the past six years was in jeopardy due to the dramatically higher expense of attending in Orlando compared with Las Vegas. A plea for contributions to cover these expenses didn’t generate quite what we needed. That’s when the cavalry rode over the hill, in the form of Red Flare Emergency Supplies.

I am very pleased to announce that Red Flare Emergency Supplies has agreed to sponsor our SHOT Show 2007 Report. Not only that, but Equipped To Survive supporters also get a deal in the bargain. Red Flare will donate all proceeds from sales through January 11, 2007 (the start of SHOT Show) – or until the total donation reaches $3,000 – to sponsor our SHOT Show Report. To participate, simply shop at www.redflarekits.com, and enter coupon code SHOT-SHOW at checkout for an additional 10% off, no minimum order required – click here for details

COMING Late January or Early February

  • SHOT Show 2007 Report – Knives (including multi-purpose tools)
  • SHOT Show 2007 Report – Lights (including flashlights and headlamps)
  • SHOT Show 2007 Report – Gear

RedFlare Sponsor ETS SHOT Show 2007 Report

December 15, 2006

Digital Angel acquires McMurdo

Filed in Gear , News

Interesting tidbit of news today from the very small world of 406 MHz distress beacons:

Digital Angel Corporation Acquires Assets of McMurdo Marine Electronics Business

McMurdo Acquisition Solidifies Digital Angel’s Position as Leading Global Provider of Emergency Locator Beacons

SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Digital Angel Corporation (Amex: DOC) announced today that Signature Industries, its London-based subsidiary, has entered into an agreement to acquire certain assets and customer contracts of McMurdo Ltd., the U.K.’s premier manufacturer of emergency location beacons, from Chemring Group PLC. Digital Angel, a global leader in the development and deployment of sophisticated RFID and GPS technology, will purchase McMurdo for approximately $6.2 million (USD), with additional deferred payments ranging from $0 – $3 million (USD), dependent upon performance of the business following the sale.

“With a worldwide distribution network of approximately 60 outlets, McMurdo offers a vibrant and diverse customer base,” said Kevin McGrath, CEO of Digital Angel. “This acquisition will more than double the revenue base of our survival radio business and significantly broadens our product offerings in both the maritime and military sectors. We’re confident this acquisition will prove to be one of Digital Angel’s most important and strategic moves.”

Both Digital Angel and McMurdo have a long history of supplying critical safety and location products. Through the SARBE division of Signature Industries, Digital Angel is a global leader in providing the military sector with survival radio technology, while McMurdo holds a definitive edge in the maritime industry. Together these companies will become the premier manufacturer of Personal/Emergency Locator Beacons and enjoy a considerable technological advantage over their competitors.

For nearly seven decades, McMurdo has distinguished itself as a leader in the development and manufacturing of safety equipment technology. Its products, including the original EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and the first GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) approved Search And Rescue Transponder, have become standard, lifesaving, equipment on many recreational, commercial and military marine vehicles. In 2000, McMurdo demonstrated the versatility of its technology successfully launching its first PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) for use on land, sea or air. The company continues to lead the way in the functionality and accuracy of emergency location beacons.

Emergency Locator Beacons represent a core competency and key growth market for Digital Angel and its subsidiary Signature Industries. Impending changes to the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite monitoring system mean much of the equipment currently in service will require replacement by February 2009. McMurdo and SARBE, with its improved range of radios such as the SARBE G2R and the SARBE 6-406, are uniquely positioned to exploit these opportunities in their respective markets.

The SARBE Division of Signature Industries manufactures a complete line of military search and rescue beacons and has worked closely with the Royal Marine Air Force for more than 30 years and the UK Ministry of Defense for more than 50 years. The acquisition of McMurdo’s technology and its manufacturing infrastructure should significantly strengthen Digital Angel’s position in the Locator Beacon Industry.

About Digital Angel Corporation

Digital Angel Corporation develops and deploys sensor and communications technologies that enable rapid and accurate identification, location tracking, and condition monitoring of high-value assets. Applications for the Company’s products include identification and monitoring of humans, pets, fish, poultry and livestock through its patented implantable microchips; location tracking and message monitoring of vehicles and aircraft in remote locations through systems that integrate GPS and geosynchronous satellite communications; and monitoring of asset conditions such as temperature and movement, through advanced miniature sensors.

Digital Angel Corporation is majority-owned by Applied Digital Inc. (Nasdaq:ADSX). For more information about Digital Angel, please visit www.DigitalAngelCorp.com.

December 8, 2006

Lessons Learned from the Kim Family

The Kim family’s survival story and the tragedy of the loss of the father has captured the attention of the nation this past week. Even at the funeral for an old and dear friend, it crept into the conversation and I was asked questions about it. I take no joy in having correctly predicted the father’s demise, a true tragedy. No matter how heroic his effort to save his family, it didn’t have to end this way.

Every tragedy like this is the result of multiple missed opportunities to prevent it from happening. Intercede at any point and tragedy is averted. Let’s examine those opportunities.

The most fundamental missed opportunity was a lack of preparation for an unexpected emergency, which on any road trip includes being stranded. Doug's Car Kit

My normal everyday preparedness/survival kit that I carry in our car is pictured here (click for larger image). It all fits into a modest-sized duffel bag. It includes tools, supplies to improvise mechanical repairs, shelter, first aid, water, distress signaling and warning gear and other auto emergency essentials that I am never without, even in the urban environment in which I normally travel. Since the weather is almost always mild or warm here in the desert southwest where I reside, there’s no cold-weather specific gear in my everyday car carry like there would be if I lived elsewhere. And, yes, that’s an “old fashioned” CB radio. It still works in situations where a cell phone may not.

Speaking of cell phones, I always carry a back-up AA-cell charger for my cell phone like the Charge 2 Go in my EDC kit and the crank-powered IST Sidewinder in my travel kit. And remember, altitude is your friend when you are having trouble getting cell phone reception. We’ve had situations way out in the wilderness where we had no bars in a valley, but climbing up a hundred feet to the top of a hill resulting in plenty of bars. Also, if you have difficulty getting through with a voice call, sometimes text messaging will work fine.

For a road trip outside my urban home environment, I throw in my Aviation Survival Kit and carry my personal survival gear including my 406 MHz personal locator beacon (PLB). If I’m heading into snow country, I also throw in some cold-weather sleeping bags. We also always have a cooler with food and drink on the road, which in an emergency would also be a big help. I can’t imagine traveling without this gear.

I find it tragically ironic that James Kim was an editor at CNET, in other words, a journalist that dealt with the latest technology, yet he lacked the one piece of high tech gear that would have quickly saved them all, a PLB. Isn’t your life worth an investment of less than $500? My survival gear is there to keep me alive, even comfortable, while awaiting rescue from the 406 PLB’s digital distress signal. In bad weather, you may still be stuck for a day or two, you can’t always count on immediate rescue. See the Ultimate PLB FAQ on ETS for more about PLBs.

Even a simple mapping GPS, a piece of modern gear easily useful in all sorts of situations, would have given him his position and allowed him to see how far it was to the town and possibly to the Black Rock Lodge. According to some published articles, he thought he was 4 miles from the nearest town when he was actually 15 miles away. He reportedly traveled about 8 miles in a circuitous route through difficult terrain before falling into the creek. Even more to the point, they were stranded just about a mile away from the Black Rock Lodge and even though closed, it would have provided better shelter and possibly food and other resources.

If I might be so bold, in many cases something as simple and inexpensive as my Pocket Survival Pak thrown in the glove box might save the day. It’s at least a good start on being prepared for the unexpected.

Wrong clothes for snow countryBack to preparations; if you are traveling in cold weather areas, even if your plans are to stick to the major highways, a snow storm could still strand you. Wear or carry clothing appropriate to your route of travel, you don’t want to be stranded in cold weather wearing a hawaiian shirt, shorts and sandals.

An independent and safe means to heat your shelter, in most cases your vehicle, is a great survival aid. The simplest is a long lasting multi-wick candle, which you can purchase (the NUWICK 44-hour and 120-hour candles being perhaps the best of the commercial products) or assemble a coffee can survival heater (instructions here, courtesy of NOAA). A single candle, useful to heat a snow cave or similar small volume, will not do a very good job of heating the large volume of a typical vehicle, particularly if there’s only one person. Make sure you have proper ventilation if you’re using any fire producing gear to heat your shelter.

So, proper preparation might well have prevented this tragedy because, at worst, they would have been better prepared to be stranded and perhaps Kim may not have felt the urgency to try and walk out to get help, and at best, had they a PLB, it would have likely never even made the news.

Communication is safety. In aviation, we have flight plans. Whether we file one with the FAA or just do it informally with a responsible party, we let someone know where we are going, how we are getting there and when we are due to arrive. If we don’t close that flight plan, letting them know we arrived safely, then the appropriate authorities will be contacted and a search will ensue. In a matter of hours help will be on the way and they will have some idea of where to search, provided we haven’t strayed too far from our planned course. No matter if you are driving or hiking or boating, the same principle applies.

Four-wheel drive, such as Kim’s vehicle had, is handy and a definite safety advantage in bad weather. However, it can lull you into a false sense of security and when you get stuck with four-wheel drive, you are really and truly stuck. If the weather is bad and you can’t see where you are going and you are not familiar with the area, then STOP! Unless you are on a off-road adventure with proper gear and equipment, if the road is getting bad, then STOP! Stop before you have no other choice by getting stuck. Resist the urge to get to your objective at all costs. Get-there-itus has been the downfall of many travelers. Has they stopped earlier, they may likely not have found their lives in peril. Patience may not only be a virtue, it may be a lifesaver. I should also note that many short cuts have led to disaster. A short cut may well be the longest trip you ever take.

Staying put is one of the cardinal rules of survival. Unless you have no hope of rescue because nobody will miss you, you should never leave where you find yourself lost or stranded unless you are certain as to where you are going and that you can make it there. I like to say that if you cannot see it, don’t even try. The longer you are stranded, the higher the pressure is to “do something.” In this case, as with many, the results are tragic. As is so often the case, those left are eventually found and survive, the one who left for help dies. Certainly, after a week the pressure on Kim to go for help must have been very strong, but the unfortunate results speak for themselves.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that if you are prepared and react with common sense before things become an emergency, you will either avoid the emergency altogether, or it will be a lot less life threatening. This Equipped To Survive site was developed in order to provide you the information to prepare for the unexpected emergency. I can’t make you drink the water, but the water is there for you. Please help yourself…

If you want to comment on this article, please do so in this thread on The Survival Forum on ETS.

You can find out more than you likely ever wanted to know about what happened to the Kims, the investigations and the still unresolved questions on Charles Wilson’s KimTragedy.info web site.

November 24, 2006

Exploding Lithium Flashlight Batteries?

Filed in Gear , News

I was answering questions from the audience during my recent AOPA Expo seminar, “Equipping Yourself to Survive – Personal Survival Gear for Pilots” when I was asked about exploding lithium batteries in view of my point that I recommend non-rechargeable lithium batteries over alkaline in survival gear like flashlights. I recommend them because they have a much longer shelf life (10 years), generally run longer, work much better at cold temperatures and weigh less. I pointed out that all the recent coverage of lithium battery problems related to rechargeable lithium cells in computers, not primary (non-rechargeable) lithium batteries like we were discussing, and they have different construction and chemistry. Moreover, I mentioned that I didn’t personally know of any failures of primary lithium batteries in flashlights and the like. At which point a pilot in the audience told me he had not only had such a failure recently, but had the flashlight and battery with him. I invited him to lunch and we reviewed his experience and took a look at his failed gear. The photos below were taken at lunch.

Failed Lithium Battery

I invited this gentleman to submit a report of his experience, which is included below (edited for clarity):

I purchased a Brinkman Flashlight (plastic body and made in China – Ed.) and it came with a set of lithium (123-cell) batteries.

When the original batteries ran down I purchased new lithium (non-rechargeable – Ed.) batteries from Radio Shack (made in China – see photo above – Ed).

Exploded Lithium 123 Batteries and Brinkman Flashlight

I did not have the new Radio Shack batteries in the flashlight very long when the flashlight failed. I had turned the flashlight on while beginning my preflight checklist in the cockpit, that morning before sunrise. I used it again while inspecting the engine and checking the oil. I laid the flashlight down on the wing while it was still on and proceeded to sump the engine and left tank (checking for water in the fuel – Ed.). I picked up the flashlight to illuminate the cavities in the empennage and found the light to be off. I attempted to turn the flashlight on, but it did not work. I remember being irritated that the batteries were no good after such a short while.

I should have trusted my gut feeling that it was highly unusual for the batteries to fail and that perhaps there might be more to the problem than simply expired batteries. I believe now that somehow the flashlight malfunctioned and had developed a short.

I placed the flashlight in a side pocket of my nylon AOPA flight bag, lens end up, and placed my flight bag in the back seat of the airplane (PA28/140 – Piper Cherokee). About 10 minutes later while I was preparing charts and waiting for my instructor to arrive I heard what sounded like something had fallen, perhaps off of the glareshield (dashboard) to the floor. I looked all around and when I could not find anything I looked inside the engine compartment again with a spare flashlight and found nothing. I continued with my preparations to fly.

I now surmise that the “thud” sound was perhaps a buildup of gas in the flashlight causing the head of the flashlight containing the bulb to perhaps dislodge past the threads of the flashlight top. In the future I will trust my senses (the sound of something falling) and be painstaking about finding the cause. However, I don’t know that I would have found anything unusual with the flashlight.

Exploded Lithium 123-cell BatteriesShortly after take-off, within 10-15 miles of departing KVGT (North Las Vegas airport) my instructor and I heard a very loud “POP” followed by the cabin filling with smoke having an “electrical” smell. It seemed to us that something had hit the passenger side window from outside the aircraft, yet it was evident the problem was inside the aircraft. My instructor took the controls, I declared an emergency with KVGT and opened the vent window as it was instantly difficult to breathe. Almost immediately thereafter we realized all the electronics were operative and that whatever was going on was coming from behind the front seats. By this time we are on short final, the aircraft was under control, the cabin had cleared of smoke and I begin to investigate the rear seat. I found the flight bag, where the flashlight was, melted and on fire with a 3-4 inch blue-yellow flame. I immediately extinguished the fire.

The “POP” we heard was the top of the flashlight exploding off the flashlight and slamming into the passenger’s window behind the instructor’s seat. The top lithium battery had exploded at the top of the battery.

I believe from the moment the flashlight was inoperative it was in a state of build-up for what eventually was an in-flight cockpit fire. I estimate 30-40 minutes from the time the flashlight malfunctioned until it fully exploded.

This set off a bit of research to see what I could find out, both on the Internet and with calls to engineers working in the flashlight industry. A check on CandlePower Forums revealed a few instances of exploding batteries and lots of discussion and some research. Just search on “exploding batteries.” My discussion with the experts revealed some valuable information.

First off batteries have been “exploding” for a long time, even before lithium batteries came on the scene. The difference is the lithiums often are higher voltage, store and generate more power, thus more heat and more pressure, the gas generated is more volatile and potentially will vent a flame in extreme situations or if there is a spark can explode. In any case, it’s important to put it all into perspective. There are millions and millions of these batteries in use today, but the reported instances of primary (non-rechargeable) batteries exploding are extremely few and rare. Many reports online appear to be about the same instance, so appearances can be deceiving. Moreover, in some of the reports it isn’t clear that some outside easily avoidable influence might not have caused the problem (mismatched batteries, mechanical short in the light or switch, etc.) and there is often a question of where they were manufactured.

Lithium primary (non-rechargeable) batteries are supposed to include a vent to release gas that can be generated under adverse circumstances, but in the confines of a waterproof flashlight, unless something neutralizes the gas, and some lights do include a “pill” to do so, there’s potential for the flashlight coming to pieces under the worst condition circumstances. In my review I was able to pinpoint a few potential problems:

1. More reports of problems with primary (non-rechargeable) batteries seem to have occurred with Chinese-made batteries than U.S. There appear to be serious questions about both the general quality of the Chinese batteries and questions if some actually incorporate the required safety valve. Japanese primary batteries fare better, though there were reports of Panasonic 123-cell battery problems.

2. It appears that plastic flashlights are more prone to exploding or having the head blown off than aluminum bodied flashlights which seem strong enough to generally contain the pressures with only minor damage.

3. There were more reports of issues with lithium 3-volt 123-cells than 1.5 (actually 1.6 -1.7) volt AA-cells, but I suspect that’s at least partly influenced by the fact that the 123-cells are more common in flashlight use than lithium AA-cells and generally used in higher performance flashlights.

4. I may well have missed them, but I was unable to find an instance of a single-cell flashlight having such problems and my experts agree.

5. I also found no evidence of these problems with the small lithium coin cells as used in key chain size flashlights such as the Photon lights and my experts agree.

So, what can you do to prevent problems? Herewith, some suggestions. They apply to all batteries, but are especially critical for lithium primary (non-rechargeable) batteries.

1. USE ONLY BRAND NAME, AMERICAN MADE PRIMARY BATTERIES. I personally use SureFire 123-cells and Energizer AA- or AAA-cells. Japanese made batteries may be an alternative. DO NOT USE CHINESE MADE CYLINDRICAL LITHIUM BATTERIES.

2. NEVER MIX BATTERIES, not by manufacturer or by type

3. NEVER MIX OLD AND NEW BATTERIES. Always remove and replace all the batteries in any device at the same time. Always replace the batteries with batteries from the same package or with the same expiration date. You want to avoid at all costs batteries that have unequal charges. This appears to be the single quickest route to a problem according to my experts. Again, NEVER MIX OLD AND NEW BATTERIES.

4. Use only high quality flashlights and for lights incorporating multiple batteries, especially multiple 123-cells, consider sticking with an aluminum bodied light. Avoid “bargain” lights, especially Chinese made knock-offs of better lights. Too many I have seen appear to incorporate design and manufacturing shortcuts that compromise the end product’s robustness, no matter that they look similar to higher quality (and higher priced) flashlights. That’s not to say you can’t get reasonable quality in an affordable Chinese made light, there are quality Chinese made lights out there, just be sure that’s what you’re getting. A common household brand name is no guarantee of quality in this regard, look to see where it is made and, finally, consider that if the price is too good to be true, it probably is.

5. If you stick with single-cell lights, as far as cylindrical cell flashlights, it appears you are far less likely to have a problem.

6. Did I mention sticking with QUALITY flashlights and U.S. made lithium batteries and not mixing batteries?

7. Listen to your gut. Not specific to batteries or flashlights, but my experience is similar to the pilot above. If my gut is telling me something isn’t right, I will usually regret ignoring it or not pursuing it until I find the source of whatever got my attention initially or is causing my unease.

I will continue to recommend primary non-rechargeable lithium battery powered flashlights and survival equipment. I am not getting rid of my Surefire lights or other lithium battery powered lights or gear. Their advantages are too many to be put off by what appear to be easily avoidable problems that at worst are extremely rare. Buy quality gear, use quality batteries, use them properly and as designed and don’t worry.

If you want to comment on this article, please do so in this thread on The Survival Forum on ETS.

November 20, 2006

SHOT Show 2007 – We Need Your Help!

Equipped To Survive coverage of SHOT Show, with our focus on the latest Knives, Flashlights and interesting new Gear, has been one of our most popular efforts (see last year’s report), generates a lot of traffic for ETS and we often scoop everyone else with our timely coverage. This year SHOT Show is in Orlando and that is presenting problems. For the past three years we have been spoiled with it being in Las Vegas. For a variety of reasons, the out-of-pocket cost to cover SHOT Show in Vegas has been very low. The combination of the Orlando location and Sue’s medical issues which have had a severe impact on us financially, make this year problematic.

Sue has done a good job on getting us great deals. We have our reservations and are gearing up to go, but now we need to raise the money to do it. The ETS kitty is virtually empty and what’s there is already earmarked for other obligations. Our SHOT Show budget is $2,950 and if we don’t raise the money, we don’t go. There’s no other way around it. We need your support and we need it NOW. Please pass this around the Net to others and to other forums. Hopefully all those who have enjoyed our SHOT Show Reviews in the past, for which there’s never been a charge, will now step up and make a modest contribution to assist us to continue this tradition.

Help us continue our tradition of the best SHOT Show coverage anywhere. Click here to make a TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donation via credit card or check.

November 15, 2006

Homeland Security Launches New Emergency Planning Ads

Filed in News

The following Media Release was issued about a new series of Public Service Advertisements promoting Family Emergency Planning. That’s a good thing that I can support as the majority in this nation are still ill-prepared for any widespread emergency situation, natural or man-made.

You’ll find the new PSA’s here

Homeland Security Launches New Ads to Demonstrate Importance of Family Emergency Planning

November 14, 2006

PSAs Featuring Real Families and First Lady Laura Bush are Designed to Encourage Americans to Prepare for all Types of Emergencies

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and The Advertising Council unveiled new public service advertisements (PSAs) today to support the Ready Campaign. Ready is a national public service advertising campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies.

The new PSAs unveiled today include television, radio, print, internet and outdoor versions created pro bono by BBDO New York. Also released today is a television ad featuring First Lady Laura Bush discussing emergency preparedness. All of the new PSAs highlight the fact that many families have not yet taken the steps needed to prepare for emergencies including getting an emergency supply kit, making a family emergency plan and learning more about different emergencies and their appropriate responses.

“These new ads will encourage all Americans to take some basic steps to prepare their families for emergencies,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “By simply taking a little time to sit down together and make an emergency plan, families can help answer important questions, such as where to meet, how to communicate with each other and what to do in the event of an emergency.”

The new documentary-style television and radio ads feature real families discussing their emergency plans, or lack of and ask, “Is your plan any better?” In her PSA, Mrs. Bush encourages Americans to take some basic steps to prepare their families for all types of emergencies.

The new PSAs will be distributed to television and radio stations nationwide this week via FastChannel and all of the new ads can be viewed on the Ad Council Web site at www.adcouncil.org.

The Ad Council has declared Ready one of the most successful campaigns in its more than 60-year history. Since its launch, the campaign has generated more than $593 million in donated media support. As of September 30, 2006, the campaign’s Web site has received more than 1.9 billion hits and 24.3 million unique visitors; the toll-free number has received more than 272,000 calls; and more than 9.7 million Ready materials have been requested or downloaded from the Web site.

“We’re very proud of the progress we’ve seen with the Ready Campaign, but there are still too many Americans that haven’t taken any steps to prepare for emergencies,” said Ad Council President and CEO Peggy Conlon. “The real families in these new spots will resonate with audiences as they illustrate the need for every family to create a family emergency plan.”

While there is still a long way to go to ensure that all Americans have taken steps to prepare, there are indications of progress. A study conducted in June by the Ad Council on behalf of the Ready Campaign recorded significant positive increases in preparedness behaviors. It found:
· 91 percent of respondents said it is “very” or “somewhat” important for all Americans to be prepared for emergencies
· From 2005 to 2006, the proportion of Americans who said they have taken any steps to prepare rose 10 points, from 45 percent to 55 percent
· There were also several notable increases in key preparedness behaviors from 2004 to 2006:
o Put together an emergency kit: 44 percent in 2004 to 54 percent in 2006
o Created a family emergency plan: 32 percent in 2004 to 39 percent in 2006
o Searched for info about preparedness: 28 percent in 2004 to 40 percent in 2006

The Ready Campaign, launched in February 2003 by DHS and the Ad Council, asks individuals to do three key things to prepare for emergencies: get an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan, and be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses. The campaign also includes a Spanish language version, Listo as well as two extensions, Ready Business, which focuses on business emergency preparedness and Ready Kids, a tool to help parents and teachers talk to children about emergencies and emergency preparedness.

November 14, 2006

Whatever Happened to…?

Sharon ZambrzyckiI often have the opportunity to interview survivors, but usually that’s the end of it. Every once in a while, however, I do hear from one of them and it’s always interesting. Back in 2002 at the Rotor & Wing Emergency Response Conference I interviewed a 55-year old grandmother, Sharon Zambrzycki, who had been one of a number of individuals rescued by a flight crew that received the Rotor & Wing Heroism Award. Details of the rescues that won the award can be found in the article “The Thin Blue Line” by Rotor & Wing editor John Persinos.

At the time, I wrote, “It was pretty obvious from our brief conversation at least part of the reason why she survived and two others who were swept away at the same time did not. She had a tremendous will to survive and she simply didn’t give up, even after the first set of rescuers failed to reach her, themselves becoming victims of the rushing water and requiring rescue by the STAR Flight crew.” Here’s her story from her point of view, “A Survivor’s Story.”

I recently received an email from Sharon with an update. She’s not only survived, but thrived and continues to help others. She writes, “I now have two grandsons, one 16 years and one 16 months. My husband and I moved to Bryan, Texas about 2 1/2 years ago, after my 13 years as director of volunteer and community services with the Texas Department of Human Services. I became the administrator for an assisted living facility. Loved it. Held on for a year. I’m now the branch manager of the Brazos Valley Branch of the American Red Cross. I started about 4 weeks before Katrina hit. Our community is a designated evacuation hub…so with Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita I stayed busy. Luckily I’d been a Red Cross volunteer for decades so I mostly knew what to do; tho’ the how was often a challenge! As I approach 60 next spring I’ve joined a gym, gonna get a personal trainer and take belly dancing once a week, and I still manage to stay in the news. “Google me” or better yet, go to www.goodsearch.com and select American Red Cross = Heart of Texas Area Chapter (my parent chapter) and we get a penny for each search.”

October 28, 2006

Rescue Laser Flare Records Another Save

Filed in Gear , News

Red Rescue laser Light and Green Rescue Laser FlareI received the email below from Jim O’Meara at Greatland Laser who invented and manufactures the Rescue Laser Flare distress signaling devices. While it’s a business, like many of us Jim got into this business to save lives, so an email like this is the sort of thing that makes it all worthwhile:

(An old ETS review of the Rescue Laser Flares can be found here. Bottom line, I carry the latest Green Rescue Laser Flare (current mil-spec issue to special forces and others) in my own survival gear and the red Rescue Laser Light is standard equipment in my Doug Ritter Ultimate Aviator Survival Pak.)

From: Kevin Kidder
Sent: Friday, October 27, 2006 10:24 AM
To: [Jim O'Meara email deleted]
Subject: Kevin Kidder

Jim, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate
your product. On Sept 27, 2006 I rolled my ATV while
moose hunting. It landed on my right leg below the
knee and shattered the bone. A friend went to get
help. The rescue helicopter arrived as it was getting
dark. However it was searching way bellow my position
on the mountain. I pulled out my “Laser Flare” and
pointed it at the helicopter as you instructed.
Instantly the helicopter turned up the mountain and
made a few passes over me before landing a short
distance away. It was raining very hard, the wind was
gusting to about 50mph and it was getting dark. The
helicopter crew had very little time to find me. The
laser flare made to difference between staying on the
mountain until morning or being picked up right then.
Thank you for providing a true life saving product.

Kevin Kidder
Chugiak, Alaska

October 20, 2006

Doug Presenting at Copperstate EAA Fly-In

Filed in News

Copperstate EAA Fly-In 2006I have been asked to present “Equipped Yourself To Survive – Survival Gear for Pilots” at the Copperstate EAA Fly-In on Friday, October 27, 2006, at 10:00 AM. I’ll be in Tent #5 (if things go as planned – note their schedule has not been updated as of this post). This year’s Copperstate is being held at Casa Grande (KCGZ), Arizona. Fly or drive; it’s only a short flight or drive down from the Phoenix area or up from Tucson. Details on the event can be found on the Copperstate web site.

When your flight’s gone about as bad as it possibly could, your survival may well depend upon what survival gear you have with you. Even with modern communications and distress signaling, you could easily end up stuck in the wilderness overnight. If rescue is delayed, it’s probably because of difficult weather or other circumstances that would add to your troubles. I will explain what gear you should never be without and, just as important, what gear is worth betting your life on and what isn’t. You don’t have to spend a fortune to be Equipped To Survive.

I will be giving away some valuable survival gear for door prizes. See you there!