The 2017 season starts on June 1st and if you are still wondering what to do to prepare you are at least a few weeks late. Some of the most important issues that you should have thought about months ago were:
--Do I have copies of all important documents put away for safe keeping?
--Do I have a complete list of friends and family and their plans in case of a major storm or evacuation?
--Do I have any medicines that may need to be refilled that I am getting low on and may need a new prescription to get it?
--Do I have a PLAN?
In asking a number of friends I found that, out of the four major issues above, only three out of 17 have made any attempt to even consider these issues and only one has every one covered, stating that he has used a number of my previous notices on the hurricane season to put together a full plan. On reading it, he hit some areas which I have not, so here we go.
You have a plan that if the storm is a Cat 3 or better you will evacuate to a friend or relative. Do you have a current telephone list of all your friends living in the area that may be able to assist you with after storm information if they stay?
If you stay do you have enough food, water, medications, cash (ATMs may not work for a few or more days) and fuel for your vehicle and generator? Does the generator work properly? When did you change the oil, fill the gas tank, or run it with an electrical load on it to make sure that everything is working properly? Is it properly grounded so that if something does happen you are partially protected. Do you have enough batteries, flashlights, portable radio, and a stocked first aid kit. This friend just bought six - eight packs of an electrolyte sports type drink and three Ė 24 packs of bottled water so that everybody can stay hydrated properly. In addition he has a number of full cases (12 cans to the case) of corn, string beans, lima beans and 24 tins of sardines (his wife and two kids love sardines and they are healthier than the chunk tuna in cans.) and other items that can be eaten without preparation.
How are your extension cords if you are running an outdoor portable generator? Any cuts, insulation missing, or ground pin on the plug missing? If the cord starts cracking if you bend it, it is time to throw it out and get new cords. It is better to get at least 14/3 for small loads and 12/3 for large electrical loads. Do not buy two wire cords or anything with a number higher than 14 gauge as they are trouble waiting to happen.
And how about that generator - have you checked it lately (they should be run at least once a month according to most manufacturers.) How old is the fuel in the tank? What about those extra gas containers, have you checked them lately? Could a pinhole or crack make it unusable? Is there any residual gasoline in the bottom of those containers that turned to a jelly mass that can clog the fuel lines if it gets into the generator? Is the generator properly grounded? Do you have a 110 Volt tester to make sure you have the proper output power before plugging in any device?
As Communicators we must be prepared and knowledgeable about a number of other issues. Are the antennas properly secured? Are the lightning protectors working properly, do the cables on the ground rods outside need tightening? Do you had spare antennas, VHF and HF, if needed along with all of the hardware to get it up, even if it is only 8-10 feet above the ground. Or have you considered insulated wire with the ends capped running just a foot or two above the fence but where the general public canít get to it.
Have you considered a dual cycle marine battery with a small solar panel to maintain its charge so you can operate the radios if you lose commercial power?
Are your neighbors and public safety personnel aware of the fact that you are a CAP communicator and are trained in Emergency situations and can handle traffic for them in the event of an actual emergency. There is nothing in the regulations that says you canít use the radio to call a station who has phone service to relay messages of emergency support being requested by any agency. You canít be activated, but you can help with emergency radio traffic if there is no other option. Personal radio traffic is prohibited, so radio traffic regarding work and other non-emergency issues are not to be considered.
During a past CI, an issue came up at a squadron where one of the members walked in with a CAP hand-held radio issued to the unit. The records show it is in a locker, but more important is the fact that this member had the radio at his home, uncharged and the battery charger was in the locker. What good is a radio with a dead battery? Spare batteries for your hand held radios may be the best investment you can make. There is nothing in the system that says you are not allowed to buy one for the radio issued to you.
What about at home? Do you have enough flashlights and a portable AM/FM with weather channel radio? How are those batteries? Do you have spares? Consider new batteries at least once a year for your Carbon Monoxide and smoke/fire detectors in your home and office. If you have a dedicated meeting area, does it have safety sensors and if not, WHY? I have visited meeting rooms at various locations, including airports, where no fire extinguisher or smoke detector was present. This is not a safe environment at any time.
In Puerto Rico, the communications classes teach how to solder antenna connectors onto coax and then strip the opposite end of the coax to make an antenna that can be hung outside from a tree or post. How many can handle that task? Do you have a small soldering iron and approved (lead free) solder. Do you know how long you need the center wire to be exposed for proper operation on our radio frequencies?
This was just a food for thought message to get you thinking and to help you get ready for the storm season, from the Southeast Region Communications team members.