[ View menu ]

October 17, 2006

Doug’s AOPA Expo Seminars Could Save Your Life

Filed in News

AOPA Expo 2006I will present three seminars at AOPA Expo in Palm Springs that could save your life some day. I am also offering over $4,600 worth of the very best survival gear as door prizes from sponsors to make these seminars even more enticing, because my goal is for all pilots to be “equipped to survive.”

I will be presenting a two-part “Ditching and Water Survival” program on Friday and a seminar on “Equipping Yourself To Survive” on Saturday.

Palm Springs is a unique venue because there is a pool adjacent to the convention center where Part II of Ditching and Water Survival will be held. Wearing a life vest and carrying a life raft and other survival equipment during flights over water is only half the solution. If your luck runs out and you have to ditch, knowing how to use your survival equipment substantially improves your survival prospects. I will help you gain this vital knowledge and additional water survival tips through poolside and in-water demonstrations of life vests, life rafts, signaling and survival equipment.

All the details, seminar schedule and location information can be found at www.equipped.org/AOPA2006.htm. Please join me and become Equipped To Survive.

October 15, 2006

A Bush Pilot’s Survival Knife to AVOID!

Filed in Gear

Sporty's Bush Pilot's Survival KnifeJust opened up the latest Sporty’s catalog to see them selling a hollow handled “Bush Pilot’s Survival Knife” (October 2006, page 58). I know a lot of pilots think highly of Sporty’s and thus might be tempted to purchase simply because it is in the Sporty’s catalog, so I thought it best to warn you off from this sorry excuse for survival gear.

While Sporty’s has a somewhat spotty history for the survival gear and survival kits they have offered over the years, ranging from just barely adequate (sorta, kinda, giving them the benefit of the doubt) to excellent, this is the first totally useless piece of junk they have offered which has NO redeeming value. This knife would be a bad deal even if they gave it to you for free.

Why? Hollow handled survival knives, unless they are manufactured from a single piece of bar stock (such as Chris Reeve’s versions) are simply too weak to bet your life on. The blade is attached to weak plastic or metal handle (metal in this case) with a threaded nut. I have a number of examples here that I was able to bust simply using my own two hands. The metal ones are a bit stronger, but still junk. If you are interested in a fixed blade survival knife there a many good ones available starting at about $50 which you could bet your life on. A good Swedish Mora knife, which is hardly the most robust and not my first choice by a large margin, but which is still better than this POS, can be had for about the same price, $20.

Beyond that, the knife has basic design features that a really undesirable in any survival knife, such as its deep clip point and saw back. Did I mention the steel is almost sure to be lousy as well? Then there’s the generally useless low quality survival gear that’s included in the handle (which really isn’t a good place to store your survival gear anyway). If you are desperate to own one, they can be found on the Internet for as cheap as about $6 retail or on E-bay for even less.  Do you really think that a knife that cheap is worth betting your life on?
More information can be found on Equipped To Survive:

Some suggestions for a fixed blade Survival Knife you could bet your life on.

An Introduction to selecting a good knife, what features are desireable and what should be avoided.

September 30, 2006

Two Thumbs Up for The Guardian

The Guardian movie posterThe U.S. Coast Guard has always gotten short shrift in the movies, but The Guardian, starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher in the lead roles, makes up for that big time. The Guardian opened nationally last night and we had a small Guardian party. We had a personal interest in the movie, not only because Coast Guard rescue swimmers are my heroes, but also because a particular one that we have worked with over the years on various equipment evaluations was technical advisor from the Coast Guard and ended up being given a role in the movie. Master Chief Joseph “Butch” Flythe did us and the Coast Guard proud.

Hollywood will have its way, no matter how hard technical advisors work, but by and large none of the technical faux pas do anything to detract from the overall result. This is a character driven script, but with plenty of action and some great marine rescue scenes. Most importantly, it does a great job of capturing the intensity and bravery and heart that defines every rescue swimmer I’ve ever met, or the entire Coast Guard for that matter.

Yes, there’s no doubt that this movie makes use of lots of tired clichés and at times you can guess what’s coming next, but the actors give solid performances that carry it through any of these potential potholes. While The Guardian has received mixed reviews from the professional reviewers (and what the heck do they know anyway?), it gets Two Thumbs Up from me.

Scene from The Guardian with Kevin CostnerIf you’re reading this blog, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy this movie, and it’ll give you a good deal of respect for a service and a bunch of extraordinary individuals who put their lives on the line day in and day out to save innocent lives, not a few of which the gene pool could likely do better without. But, they don’t judge. They just go out when no sane person would and pull your butt out of the water to save you.

Official The Guardian movie site

Yahoo The Guardian site with the movie trailer some excellent Behind the Scenes videos

The United States Coast Guard home page

September 29, 2006

McMurdo wins PLB contract with US Coastguard

Filed in Gear , News

Fastfind PlusMcMurdo won an order from the U.S. Coast Guard worth up to $7,500,000 over 5 years to supply 406 MHz FASTFIND PLUS Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) equipped with integral GPS.  This represents an upgrade from the standard FASTFIND PLB, a similar quantity of which was supplied to the U.S. Coast Guard over the past 3 years.

The PLB is a handheld beacon which is registered to the individual user. When activated, the Fastfind Plus provides a 406MHz alert signal via the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system to Search and Rescue authorities. There is a visual indication of GPS acquisition. Fastfind Plus also transmits on the International Aircraft Emergency Frequency of 121.5MHz providing a homing signal for the Search and Rescue (SAR) services.

More information on PLBs can be found on Equipped To Survive:

The Ultimate PLB FAQ

406 MHz GPS Enabled Emergency Beacon Evaluation

ETS Foundation Efforts Inspire Improved Standards for Emergency Beacons

September 26, 2006

Doug on Xplore the Southwest on Sunday, October 1

Filed in News

Jim Solomon has invited me to be his guest on his Xplore the Soutwest radio show (heard on KDUS 1060 AM in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area or go to xplorsw.com and click on the “Listen Live” button in the right column) on Sunday morning, October 1 at 7:00 AM. Listen as we discuss the United States Knife and Tool Association and related developments.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet signed up, (why not?) the latest Update on progress with USKTA has been posted on the USKTA site.

September 20, 2006

Serving Up Terror on a Silver Platter?

Beyond FearThis latest round of terror alerts and the resulting over-reaction by authorities is just the latest example of how politics and stupidity combine to give the terrorists exactly what they want.  Perhaps the best analysis that I’ve seen has been written by Bruce Schneier, one of the world’s leading security experts and the author of the best-seller “Beyond Fear.”  In the latest issue of his Crypto-Gram newsletter he writes bin an article titled “What The Terrorists Want”:

 ”In truth, it’s doubtful that their plan would have succeeded; chemists have been debunking the idea since it became public. Certainly the suspects were a long way off from trying: None had bought airline tickets, and some didn’t even have passports.

Regardless of the threat, from the would-be bombers’ perspective, the explosives and planes were merely tactics. Their goal was to cause terror, and in that they’ve succeeded.

Imagine for a moment what would have happened if they had blown up ten planes. There would be canceled flights, chaos at airports, bans on carry-on luggage, world leaders talking tough new security measures, political posturing and all sorts of false alarms as jittery people panicked. To a lesser degree, that’s basically what’s happening right now.”

Bruce goes into some depth on the subject and provides links to a variety of technical resources that debund the seriousness of this threat.  The bottom line is we’re still far too concerned about show and not enough about go, about doing what’s really effective to combat terrorist plots.  Our limited resources are being squandered.  I strongly urge you to read Bruce’s entire article.

September 13, 2006

Local Government Passes Law to Seize Your Preparedness Supplies

OK, let me see if I have this right. You invest in being prepared, taking responsibility for yourself, not depending upon government to take care of you. This is supposed to be a good thing. Then, things go bad, the local government decides it’s short of whatever supplies and gear it needs to assist those who are too stupid or lazy to prepare, so it seizes your preparedness gear and supplies. Unbelievable? Not to residents of Cooper City. Read about the new law recently passed by the City Commissioners.

Now, mind you, government at all levels pretty much can do what it wants in a declared emergency, including seizing personal property. It’s happened before and it will happen again. But, how stupid do you have to be to rub the citizens’ noses in this by passing a law of this sort at a time when we are trying to encourage people to be responsible and to be prepared? Joseph Farah, a syndicated columnist seems to feel it’s pretty damn stupid and I have to agree.

I can think of few things government could do that would be more counterproductive. You want to be encouraging folks to be prepared.  Dumb!  Really, really dumb!

September 11, 2006

Thoughts on the Fifth Anniversary of 9/11

On the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11 it is, perhaps, a time to reflect on how we are doing at becoming equipped to survive. Depending upon which source you read and who you believe, Americans in general range from just marginally better prepared to a lot better prepared. The following statistics from a recent press release by the Department of Homeland Security can be viewed in a positive light or as rather depressing:

* 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:
> Put together an emergency kit: 44 percent in 2004 to 54 percent in 2006
> Created a family emergency plan: 32 percent in 2004 to 39 percent in 2006
> Searched for info about preparedness: 28 percent in 2004 to 40 percent in 2006

(from a study conducted in June by the Advertising Council on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign)

I have my own, somewhat less scientific measuring stick. I can look at the logs for Equipped To Survive and see how traffic to the site has increased. In the past five years we have seen about a 45% increase in unique visitors to ETS. The number jumped big time after 9/11 and, somewhat encouragingly, never subsided to pre-9/11 levels as one might have expected. Every major disaster and catastrophe results in a good sized jump in traffic for about a month or so and in every case, we experience a notable long term increase.

It’s the latter statistic that I find encouraging. It says to me that we are starting to take this stuff more seriously and that more and more Americans are getting religion, as it were. However, we still have a huge ways to go before we, as a nation, become self-sufficient to the extent that we should.

Those DHS statistics above can also be taken to suggest a not particularly impressive picture of a nation that as a whole actually realizes it needs to take personal responsibility for its own preparedness; that has thought about it, and yet stubbornly refuses to do so.

My interpretation is that far too many citizens are either still possessed by the head-in-the-sand syndrome and believe that it really won’t happen to them or are so lazy that they choose to conveniently and foolishly believe that somehow the government, which proves time and time again that it cannot be relied upon in an emergency, will somehow become competent overnight for the nest big one. What planet to these folks live on?

There is no question in my mind that government is significantly better prepared today to deal with a major terrorist attack than we were five years ago (that doesn’t mean adequately prepared, just better). I also know that for the person who is personally involved in one of these tragedies–it doesn’t matter for squat. The government is NEVER going to respond quick enough to be much help to those caught up in the initial stages of a major terrorist attack. It simply isn’t possible for large organizations to respond quickly enough and the more massive the situation, the worse the response will be.

It’s up to the individual to be prepared and anyone who hasn’t got that message by now has got to have rocks for brains. By default, if you’re reading this I’m preaching to the choir. You don’t have rocks for brains. Congratulations!

September 4, 2006

McMurdo’s New EPIRBs Receive COSPAS-SARSAT Approval

Filed in Gear , News

McMurdo Smartfind G5At the London Boat Show in June, British safety equipment manufacturer McMurdo introduced their latest 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs). The new Smartfind E5 and Smartfind Plus G5 (with GPS) provide improved performance and features over the previous generation. These new EPIRBs have now received approval from COSPAS-SARSAT and the first shipments to dealers in the UK are expected this week. FCC approval is still pending for sales in the U.S. and I’ve been told it is expected in about 90 days. However, given that it’s the FCC, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that slip a little.

The Smartfind EPIRBs are GMDSS compliant, have LED flashing locater lights (instead of an old-fashioned strobe) and “comprehensive diagnostic and self test facilities.” The Smartfind Plus G5 offers quicker and more accurate location with an integral GPS receiver. Both are equipped with a 121.5MHz homing transmitter.

The Smartfind Plus gives visual indication of GPS acquisition and has a battery status monitor. Both EPIRBs have a 6 year warranty along with a 5 year battery change interval.

Weight is given as 1.5 lbs (675 g). No dimensions have yet been given, but word we have is that these are similar in size, perhaps a bit smaller, than the current generation of McMurdo EPIRBs before the GPS equipped model had a flotation skirt added after Equipped To Survive Foundation’s 406 MHz GPS Enabled Emergency Beacon Evaluation showed that the original design did not do a very good job of acquiring a GPS location in other than optimum conditions. (McMurdo subsequently upgraded all fielded beacons for free)

No U.S. pricing has been provided, but this is a highly competitive field and we’d expect prices to be in a similar range to current EPIRBs.

Amazon Hops on the Preparedness Bandwagon

Filed in News

Never one to let a marketing opportunity pass it by, Amazon.com recently sent an email out to some of its customers announcing its Emergency Preparedness Store:

“As a valued Amazon.com customer who has purchased items for the home, you may be interested in knowing that our Emergency Preparedness Store has products to help keep your family safer from everyday dangers, power failures, and the devastating effects of natural disasters.

There’s really nothing special or unique here, but it does serve as an easy on-stop shop for the sorts of items that you might need if you were assembling a 72-Hour Kit. They have assembled a checklist that’s not half bad. If you like shopping via Amazon, this may be your ticket to being better prepared: Use this link and the non-profit Equipped To Survive Foundation receives a small royalty on your purchases as an Amazon.com Associate: Amazon Emergency Preparedness Store