Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Miscellany: Mulliga's Urban Survival Kit, Part 5

While my blog is mainly about escaping the mundane through art and adventure, this series of posts addresses "escape" in a more literal sense. Here, I present my ideas on a lightweight, inexpensive collection of items for surviving an urban or suburban disaster. Part 1 introduced the concept and went into my choice for the survival kit's container. Part 2 discussed some options for your first aid kit. Part 3 examined water and food. We also looked at some books on survival. Part 4 featured some clothing accessories for your kit. Part 5 tackles various tools for signaling, communications, and navigation:

Emergency Whistle - The human voice only carries so far, and in extreme conditions, your voice may fail altogether (think of Rose in the water at the end of "Titanic"). A whistle is a great option for signaling help or for simple communication with fellow rescuers/survivors. There are a number of good designs on the market, with varying degrees of loudness, ruggedness, and portability. I like the ITW Nexus Aqua Marine Whistle - super light, buoyant, and rugged. It also features a handy built-in clip for attaching to your gear.

Signaling Mirror - Another time-tested survival tool, and one of the simplest and best ways to signal a ship or aircraft (you can carry a flare gun, but those are a bit impractical for an urban kit IMHO).

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of a signal mirror is highly dependent on environmental factors. If the weather is bad or there's a lot of debris in the air (as there was on 9/11), the mirror's range will be severely limited. I pack an Ultimate Survival 2x3 StarFlash, but any reputable brand will work.

Writing Supplies - Not everything in your kit is a fancy survival gadget. A Sharpie and a pad of Post-It Notes can provide an easy way to communicate with other people wandering inside a building, especially rescuers trying to find you. Specialized options, like the popular Rite in the Rain all-weather paper, work great for taking notes and making maps.

Spare Cellphone - There probably won't be any cellular service if a major disaster hits. Once emergency services gets a handle on the situation, though, a cell phone is still the easiest way to contact your loved ones to tell them you're okay. I keep an old but fully charged phone in my kit; if my regular phone goes TU, then it's easy to swap out the SIM card and use the old phone instead.

Two-Way Radio - This is the spendiest device on the list, and it's definitely a luxury item. Still, a portable radio like the ubiquitous Motorola Talkabout can provide excellent short range signaling and communications. Be careful, though...these things eat up batteries like candy.

AM/FM Radio - When the power goes out, so do most methods of mass communication - suddenly you can't get any news from your TV, your computer, or even your iPhone. A portable battery-operated radio is cheap insurance against being left in the dark the next time a major disaster hits. Here's one I recommend:

--- Eton Microlink FR150 Review ---

Eton has a full line of crank-operated dynamo radios, and the Eton Microlink FR150 (Eton currently sells a slightly updated version, the FR160) is the smallest of the lot. It can receive AM, FM, and weather band (especially useful here in South Florida). There's also a built-in LED light - it's chintzy, but it works.

It's a pretty solid, well-built unit, with decent reception through its small telescoping antenna. In addition to the crank, you can charge the radio via the top-mounted solar panels or through a USB connection. There's an option to charge your cell phone, but it's reportedly a hit or miss affair that may damage or destroy your phone, so I wouldn't mess with it.

Map & Compass

GPS is great - when it works. When all the batteries run out, you just might have to navigate the old fashioned way. Get a good compass and a map in a scale that makes sense, and practice orienteering in a place with few obvious landmarks.

That does it for this installment. Tune in for M.U.S.K. Part 6, where we'll talk about tools, tools, and more tools.


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