It’s Always Communication

I’ve been around emergency services since the early 1970s, and when events didn’t go well, communications was always a major reason.

But here’s the other bit of news: even when things DO go well, communications is always cited as an “area for improvement.”

How does this apply to you? You should get used to the fact that in a major disaster your cell phone won’t work. You’ll be lucky if texts go through, but that’s not guaranteed. Worst of all, they might be delayed, which could make for massive confusion if yesterday’s texts start arriving today.

I keep a stash of low-cost Family Radio Service walkie-talkies at my house. My wife hates technology, but these are things that even she can operate. I store them in an air-tight ammo can, without the batteries installed, and I avoid using them for anything but disasters. I have other FRS radios for dog training or other needs. But just like that extra roll of TP or that terrible-tasting emergency food, my stash of FRS radios is waiting for the big one.

You should have one radio for every member of your family, along with spare batteries. Did I mention that you should store them with the batteries out? That way they won’t be a cruddy mess in two years when the batteries leak all over the inside. The only hitch this creates is that with some models they will likely be back at factory defaults when you put the batteries in. One thing not shown in the picture is an instruction manual, which might be a good thing to also have in your radio box.

These combined FRS/GMRS radios are for advanced users. Google “General Mobile Radio Service” for more information.

These radios will allow family members to be in touch at least around the neighborhood. The range can be a bit limited, but if you send an older child to check on elderly neighbors or to the corner store for supplies you’ll be able to stay in touch.

I think my love of radios started when I got some 1960s-era walkie talkies for Christmas when I was about 11. I had a paper route then, and a month or so later I had to deliver papers in a massive snow-and-freezing-rain storm. My folks made me take one of the radios so I could stay in touch with them from my route. I highly recommend them for all families.

Stay Found!

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Gun Dog!

Ruger comes from a long line of gun dogs, so we’re making a gun dog out of him.

Huh? There are really two meanings to the term “gun dog.”

In the hunting world, a gun dog is a hunting dog that responds when the hunter drops a bird. The term implies that the dog is used to working around guns and won’t be skittish at the sound of firing.

In the search and rescue world, a gun dog is a dog that finds guns, or expended shell casings, at the request of police. It’s not well known that SAR teams work a lot of crime scenes. We don’t chase criminals, but we are frequently called to look for evidence and occasionally for bodies.

Ruger is already nationally certified to find both live and deceased people. We’re adding what’s called “Gun Shot Residue” to his resume. Over the past few months Ruger has been finding progressively fewer shell casings tossed into grass. The eventual expectation is that he’ll be able to find a single shell casing in a 100’x100′ area, along with guns themselves.

One curve ball is that we’re not allowed to have firearms at SAR trainings. That’s kinda like training a cadaver dog when you can’t have a human body in your freezer. So we work around this challenge by bringing gun parts that are dirty, but not bringing an entire functioning weapon.

Not sure yet when we’re going to take our test, but we’ll keep you posted.

Walkin’ On, Walkin’ On Bro-Ken Glasss

It’s a frightening scenario for a dog walker. You’re admiring the birds or the trees or the sunset and you realize you’ve walked your dog into a scattering of broken glass.

What do you do? If the dog is small enough, you can pick it up. But if that’s not possible then the next best answer is to just keep walking. The absolute worst answer is to start yanking on your dog’s leash in an effort to rush them out of the area.

You might have noticed that dogs are different from people. They have four legs which means that if they’re just walking, three of those legs are on the ground. If they put the fourth foot down on something sharp, or hot, they can pick it back up. You or I, with only two feet, would fall over. The dogs do just fine.

When the dogs don’t do just fine is when the handler starts yanking on the lead, disrupting their balance and forcing them to put a foot down where they don’t want to.

If you see you’re in a pile of glass just slow down and if possible continue walking in the same direction. Avoid forcing the dog to turn which might spin them on a sharp edge. Once you’re safely out of the area check the dog’s feet for shards of glass that might have worked up between their toes. That could produce a cut later as the shard moves around.

In the US, SAR dogs that work rubble “go naked.” Not only do they not wear booties but we remove collars and vests. We want the dog to be able to feel heat or sharpness with their feet, and we don’t want a collar or vest that might snag.

My dogs have all worked rubble, including Magnum who worked the SR 530 Mudslide near Oso, WA. None has ever suffered a cut pad, even though they almost always end up on broken glass.

As I said before, there’s never a perfect answer. But you can reduce the odds of a cut pad by simply taking a breath and continuing to walk, slowly, in a straight line.

Stay Found!

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