Thursday, May 8, 2014

Can You Hear Me Now?

Midland GXT1000VP4

Debbie Hite heeded the tornado warning and sought the safety of the shelter she had installed in her garage. Climbing down into the concrete and steel hole, she slid the top shut and waited out the storm. After the storm passed, Debbie realized the real danger wasn't the tornado, but the shelter she was in - the storm shelter door would not open. No amount of wiggling, kicking, hitting, etc. would release the latch. Debbie was trapped. She stayed trapped for 56 hours until co-workers came looking for her.

I  have been thinking a lot about storm shelters and tornadoes lately simply because I will be moving to a place where the potential to experience one is real. I have a list of items I will keep in my shelter, just in case. You have to consider that when you enter your storm shelter, you may emerge later to find nothing left of life as you knew it. Your house, car, everything, may be gone in seconds. Keeping some clothing, food, water, etc. in your shelter just makes sense.

So when I read this article about Ms. Hite I was struck by the fact that she had no way to reach out for help. When you are in a hole in the ground, surrounded by concrete and steel, cell phones may not work. You cannot count on cell coverage at any point regardless. Shouting is ineffective. Living alone means no one will know you are trapped. No, I think the best bet is to be proactive and have a back-up plant to reach out in an emergency. Communication via a set of two way radios is a smart option.

When my son was young, I had purchased a set of two-way radios, commonly called walkie-talkies so that I could tell him to come in and find out where he was hanging out. They had a range of around 3 miles back then. Radios today have many more features and claim a 36 mile range. They also have encrypted channels for privacy, emergency channels to call for help, and NOAA radio so that you can get weather alerts.

I picked a set of Midland GXT1000VP4 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios. I added them to my Amazon wish list and a good friend gifted them to me (thanks Liz!). Included where two handsets, two headsets (boom mic style), and a charging station with both a standard wall plug and one car charger plug. Here are some of the great features they offer:

·         22 Channels PLUS 28 EXTRA CHANNELS
Clear, crisp communication with easy button access.
·         Up to 36 Mile Range
Longer range communication in open areas with little or no obstruction.
·         142 Privacy Codes
Gives you up to 5560 channel options to help you block other conversations.
·         NOAA Weather Alert Radio with Weather Scan
Automatically locks on to your local weather channel and alerts you to severe weather.
·         SOS Siren
Allows you to send out distress/locator signals in an emergency situation.
·         JIS4 Waterproof
Protection against light rain or splashing water from all directions on the radio.
·         Whisper
Allows you to speak quietly and still be heard clearly by others.
·         Group Call
Allows you to make "direct calls" to other people within the group without alerting the entire group.
·         eVOX
Hands-Free Operation (9 levels) with easy voice activation--no need for an external microphone.
·         X-TRA TALK Power
Maximum allowed by law.
·         Weather Scan
Easily scans the active weather channel in your area.
·         Direct Call
Allows you to instantly contact one member of your party without alerting the others.
·         10 Call Alerts
     Different call tones to notify you of incoming calls from your group.

Now, let's just suppose I get into a situation where I cannot exit my storm shelter, or I am trapped in some way in my home or vehicle. These radios will allow me to call for help regardless of power outages or if the cell towers are not functioning. I am thinking of getting a set for my friend and neighbor as well. It would be good to have one on in the house, just sitting in the charger, and be able to radio back and forth in the case of an emergency or to just borrow a cup of sugar. When my granddaughter comes to visit I can find out where she is exploring or call her inside from the far ends of the property without having to scream out the front door. I can give one to my BF and send him to the market. He can radio if he can't find what I requested he pick up. Most importantly, I can use them to follow the weather alerts and be abreast of when I need to head for a shelter. 
I feel badly for Ms. Hite, but knowing that storms can potentially wipe out your entire life, including your house and neighborhood, why would you be fool to climb down into your shelter without a communication method and being prepared for the potential that you cannot exit it, or when you do, you will may everything gone? Preparedness begins with common sense, not just a hole in the ground. Two way radios are a smart step in being prepared. At under $60 they are an economical choice as well. 
Want a set for yourself? You can find them here on Amazon.