Tag Archives: disaster preparedness

Surviving a nuclear disaster: “Go in, stay in, tune in”

There are so many reasons having a reliable radio at the ready is a good idea.

We radio geeks get it.

This morning, an item from Business Insider UK appeared in my news feed. The focus of the article was what not to do after a hypothetical nuclear detonation. Researchers discovered that the knee-jerk reaction from most would be to get in their car and drive away from the affected area as quickly as possible. Turns out, this is about the worst thing you can do because vehicles are such poor insulators from deadly nuclear fallout.

Here’s what’s recommend instead, according to Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and radiation expert at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:

“Your best shot at survival after a nuclear disaster is to get into some sort of “robust structure” as quickly as possible and stay there, Buddemeier said. He’s a fan of the mantra “go in, stay in, tune in.”

“Get inside … and get to the center of that building. If you happen to have access to below-ground areas, getting below ground is great,” he said. “Stay in 12 to 24 hours.”

The reason to wait is that levels of gamma and other radiation fall off exponentially after a nuclear blast as “hot” radioisotopes decay into more stable atoms and pose less of a danger. This slowly shrinks the dangerous fallout zone — the area where high-altitude winds have dropped fission products.

(Instead of staying put, however, a recent study also suggested that moving to a stronger shelter or basement may not be a bad idea if you had ducked into a flimsy one.)

Finally, tune in.

“Try to use whatever communication tools you have,” Buddemeier said, adding that a hand-cranked radio is a good object to keep at work and home, since emergency providers would be broadcasting instructions, tracking the fallout cloud, and identifying where any safe corridors for escape could be.”

Read the full article at Business Insider UK.

Regardless of the scenario, a preparedness kit should always include radio. Mobile phones have limited utility when the network infrastructure is disrupted or overloaded. TVs aren’t practical or portable.

Radios are a simple way of main-lining life-saving information during disasters.

But again, we radio geeks get it!

Reminder: Emergency radio and a chance to win a prepper radio package

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Enter our challenge and you could win this prize package worth over $200 courtesy of CountyComm!

Let’s imagine that your area suddenly loses power–as well as cell phone and internet service–for an indeterminate period. Home and personal electronics remain unaffected, but must be powered off-grid (without mains power).  Moreover, you may be required to evacuate your home…perhaps even on foot.

In preparation for this event, what portable radio kit would you assemble?  

Submit your answer to this question and you could win a preparedness prize package courtesy of CountyComm!

All entries must be received by November 21, 2015.

Click here to read about this challenge and how to submit your answer!

Virtual Radio Challenge IV: Emergency radio and a chance to win a prepper radio package

GP5SSB-Front

The CountyComm GP5/SSB portable SW/AM/FM radio is just one of many items in this prize package!

UPDATE: This challenge is now closed.  Click here to read about the winning entries.

The SWLing Post attracts readers and enthusiasts from all walks of life. In the past, we’ve put together Reader Challenges based on actual questions we receive from readers, usually looking for the best radio kit for a unique situation or location. Our first challenge sought gear for the most remotely inhabited island on the planet; the second, for a village in the Himalayas; and the third, for an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.

This time we’re taking a slightly different angle, but nonetheless representative of a quite significant (and growing!) number of reader queries: What is the best radio for use in an emergency? Or, as we’re often asked,”What is the best prepper radio?”

There are many ways to answer this question based upon the scenario a reader is confronting. To help define a scenario for this challenge–perhaps the first in a few similar radio challenges–I enlisted the help of my good friend, David Cripe (NM0S). Dave, an engineer and radio/kit designer, is something of a modern day MacGyver and preparedness expert. Not to mention, a very cool guy.

Dave agreed not only to help author an emergency scenario (below), but has also agreed to judge the reader challenge responses.  Dave will select his favorite from among the best  entries.

But there’s more: CountyComm Government Products Group has generously offered a comprehensive prize package for the winning entry!

Interested? Keep reading…

The scenario

ivan-hurricaneAs is often said, stuff happens. Indeed, our modern communication infrastructure is a fragile thing. Let’s imagine that your area suddenly loses power–as well as cell phone and internet service–for an indeterminate period. Home and personal electronics remain unaffected, but must be powered off-grid (without mains power).  Moreover, you may be required to evacuate your home…perhaps even on foot.

Electricity-Pylon-TowerDoes the above scenario seem far-fetched?  Actually, this is just the sort of scenario we often see occur in regions throughout the world as the result of natural disasters (and occasionally human sabotage), and it’s the scenario we’ll mentally prepare for in this exercise.

In preparation for this event, what portable radio kit would you assemble?  In particular, you’ll want to look for an optimal combination of features and portability for price, ($400 US for all your kit). And it isn’t just the radio we’re interested in, but also how you intend to use it.

Therefore, how do you intend to:

  1. obtain information about local and world events?
  2. communicate within your local region to assist emergency services?
  3. pass messages to friends and family over long distances?
  4. power your kit for an indeterminate amount of time?

Limitations

Rather than making this virtual challenge restrictive, the following limitations are designed to make the challenge more fun and create a level playing field for all participants.

  1. Once again, you’re limited to a (virtual) budget of $400 US to procure your supplies; ideally, this will include the shipping costs of all purchase(s) you make.
  2. You may select new, used, or homebrew gear, but you must base your choices on reality (i.e., actually find item(s) online and document the price and time of availability). If you “shop” eBay, for example, make sure you’re using the final purchase price, not the current or opening bid. If you do locate something used on eBayQTH.comQRZ.com, or at Universal Radio, for example, do include the link to the item (just to add to the fun). If you enter a homebrew radio, it should be based on something you’ve either built or used, and must include a photo. Of course, you can use multiple radios, but keep in mind the amount of space and weight these will consume in your evacuation or “bug-out” bag.

The prize package

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CountyComm is generously offering the selected entrant of this contest a prize package that includes the following items, useful whether there’s an emergency or not:

The total value of this kit is $209.94 US!

How to enter the challenge

This challenge will continue for one month, ending on November 21.

To enter, simply describe the kit you’ve chosen and how you would address the scenario above. Please be specific, but also as concise as you can. If you’re describing a radio or gear you already own, consider sending photos, as well.

Simply send your entry to SWLingPostContest@gmail.com.

Spread the word!

If you’re active in a preparedness group locally or online, please help us spread the word in your group!  Although there is a serious element to this exercise, in that it might really help you or another reader in an emergency situation, it’s intended to be fun; enjoy the challenge, and good luck!

Gizmodo: Preppers who are ready for next solar storm

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Many thanks to several SWLing Post readers who shared a link to this post on Gizmodo which focuses on preparations for a major solar storm like the 1859 Carrington Event.

Gizmodo touches on several preparedness basics and specifically mentions tucking away a shortwave radio with your survival gear:

Several preppers suggested keeping shortwave receivers handy, preferably of the hand-crank or solar-powered variety (because, you know, the grid’s out). “Personal two way com should be stored in metal boxes in each family vehicle,” one individual recommended. Another source emphasized the value of hunting down older, “tube type” communications gear. “Modern amateur radio gear is hugely susceptible to EMP,” he said. “Amateurs who have made it a part of their hobby interest to rebuild/salvage discarded military gear, especially heavy receivers, and transmitters, are thought to be very survivable.”

I have opinions about the ideal receiver to keep on hand for preparedness reasons. While it’s true that older tube type gear is less susceptible to EMP damage, much of this gear requires 110-220 volts AC to operate.  If the electrical grid is down, you’ll need to have a reasonably robust power supply to bring these rigs to life.

I’ve had a prepper radio post in the hopper for nearly a year now; indeed, this is one of the most common questions I’m asked. Perhaps it’s time for another virtual radio challenge to flesh-out more options? There are a number of Post readers who are experts on this topic.

Emergency Preparedness Part 2: All the basics for emergencies

In Emergency Preparedness Part 1: Choosing the right radios, we focused on various types of radios you should consider having on hand in times of disaster. This section focuses on other aspects of emergency preparedness.

Beyond radios

Of course, there’s more to the art of being prepared than simply purchasing a few radios. Being prepared is about having enough supplies, making a plan, and knowing how to get in touch with family/friends, where to meet and what to do should you lose contact. Fortunately, a great percentage of the time, being prepared is about dealing with a few days–not months–of difficult conditions.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money stock-piling months of food, or buy several bricks of gold to bury at your house (hate to burst your bubble, but gold is, unfortunately, a rotten investment in times of disaster).

Don’t feel like there’s a financial barrier to being prepared, either. It’s easy, and you can gather everything you need in one day.

 

I find that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a well thought-through list of items you should have in your preparedness “kit.” I have listed them below (courtesy of FEMA) and included my own comments under some of the suggestions.

FEMA Recommended Items To Include In A Basic Emergency Supply Kit:

    • Distilled water is inexpensive and very easy to store.

      Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation

      • I suggest purchasing inexpensive gallons of distilled water from your local store. When you bring them home, mark them with the date purchased. Over time, you can use and replace them with new ones.
    • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
      • Include a lot of shelf-stable foods ready to be eaten without preparation–trail mix, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, etc.
      • FoodSafety.gov has an excellent guide to preserving, preparing and storing food
    • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
      • Also consider purchasing at least one flashlight that can be hand-cranked
  • A first aid kit is a must–make sure to include any specific medications family members may need

    First aid kit

  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
    • At least have a Gerber or Leatherman tool with a built-in pair of pliers.
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
    • Very important–have you ever tried opening a can of food without a can opener? They’re cheap–buy one specifically for your kit
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
    • Many of the radios above can charge a USB-based cell phone. If you are looking for a durable solar panel, consider the Goal Zero foldable panel or any roll-up/foldable panel by Power Film Solar.

Additional Items To Consider Adding To An Emergency Supply Kit:

  • Prescription medications and glasses
    • This is extremely important–you should certainly stock up on medical supplies if you’re in the path of a natural disaster like a hurricane. Pharmacies may be closed for several days and you certainly want your prescription heart medication on hand!
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
    • Don’t forget Rover or Whiskers–!
  • Cash or traveler’s checks and change
  • Important family documents, such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) – PDF, 277Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.
  • Emergency reference material, such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov.
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Complete change of clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Please do not use scented or color safe bleach, or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
    • Often overlooked, but quite important–you may be without power, television and internet for days. You should have a back-up plan for your children. Board games are fun, burn a little time, and require absolutely no batteries!

Other recommendations I would add

  • Fill up your vehicles with fuel.  Indeed, it’s not a bad idea to top-off your fuel on a regular basis.
  • Listen to local radio stations and follow any directions from local officials who are coordinating recovery.
  • Know potential evacuation routes and emergency contact information. This is especially important if you live in an area prone to hurricanes or typhoons

Making a plan and being informed

Being prepared, as I said earlier, is more than just having supplies. It’s about being prepared mentally and having your close family and friends on the same page should disaster strike. Also, you should be well aware of how things are handled locally.
Ready.gov has an excellent guide to making a plan (including downloadable forms) and general information about being informed.
SWLing.com has a lot of guests (almost half of our guests!) who visit us from outside of the USA. The information I have posted above may not be relevant to the place you live (for example, NOAA weather radio).  Still, keep in mind the following:
  • Check to see if your national weather service has specific frequencies with weather or emergency information. If so, make sure you have a radio that can receive these broadcasts.
  • Check with your local emergency management office. If you have any specific needs (medical or otherwise), make sure your local authorities know.

Summary: Preparedness is crucial!

This is, perhaps, one of the longest posts I’ve ever written on the SWLing Post; you can probably tell that I’m an advocate of preparedness.  I hope I’ve shown you that there’s a lot to think about prior to a disaster, whether natural or man-made. It’s not expensive to prepare, but does take a bit of dedicated time and energy.  Once you you do it, though, I promise that you will feel better prepared and more secure than before.  And one more thing:  once you’ve taken care of your own or your family’s needs, please be prepared to help others however you can–sharing and caring is part of any disaster recovery process.