By D. J. McAdam.
It seems that every year, especially during the winter, we read some tragic story of persons trapped in their vehicle due to inclement weather and experiencing dire consequences. Often, these persons were near enough to a highway or nearby town to be helped - but they didn't know where the highway or town was, and would-be rescuers didn't know folks were trapped nearby.
I travel a lot for my job, often to remote areas, and in all kinds of weather. Oftentimes, I'm out of range of any cellular carrier, in "dead zones." But the precautions I take are not extreme, and I think any person or family setting out on a road trip could benefit from doing similar things.
First, the obvious: I make sure my vehicle (currently an FJ Cruiser) is in good working order. I'm punctual with scheduled maintenance, including having the tires rotated, and I check my tires, including the spare, before setting out. I also keep a small backpack in the back of the vehicle with emergency stuff, most of which you'd find in the camping section of a Wal-Mart; waterproof matches, small signal mirror, Swiss Army knife, plastic poncho, emergency blanket, and one of those radio/flashlights that works either with batteries or by cranking. There are extra batteries in the backpack, too, along with a bottle of water and some nutrition bars that I regularly replace. I've always done this, even before the term "go bag" became popular.
But what I really want to do if I break down or get stranded somewhere is to call for help. That cranking radio was supposed to charge cell phones, but I have a newer cell phone - a Droid X - and the adapters don't fit. I do have a car charger for the Droid, but that won't help me if the car battery dies. And even a fully charged cell phone won't help me if I'm in a dead zone.
There are solutions to this problem. Delorme, for instance, sells a two-way communicator via satellite - the DeLorme AG-008374-201 inReach Two-Way Satellite Communicator for Earthmate PN-60w - that might be the smartest bet, if you can afford it. In addition to buying the device there's a subscription fee, of course, which is currently around ten dollars per month.
If that's too pricey - it was for me, though some day I could be convinced - you should at least have a portable CB radio in the car, along with an antenna that attaches with a magnet. Recently I purchased a Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB-Way Radio with a K-30 35 Magnet Mount Stainless Steel CB Antenna and it seems like a sensible solution. (See below for prices.) The good thing about this particular CB radio is that it's completely portable. When you want to use it in your vehicle, you plug it into the cigarette lighter, put the antenna up on the roof, connect the radio to the antenna, and you're set. When you're done, take the antenna off the roof and throw it in the back of the vehicle, unplug the radio from the cigarette lighter, slip in a battery pack (six AA batteries), throw on the little antenna that comes with the radio, and you're set.
Why not just use the radio in portable mode all the time? Because you'll be able to receive and transmit at farther distances with the big antenna, and that's what you want.
I don't leave the radio in plain sight when I leave my vehicle; it goes under my seat. I also don't leave the antenna up when I'm away from the vehicle, because I don't want to advertise, "Hey, there's a CB radio inside."
Two other accessories, one essential, the other not so much, were purchased along with the CB radio. The essential item was the Astatic PDC2 SWR/RF/Field Strength Testmeter, which is used to tune the antenna. Don't worry, it's not an overly complicated process, and you only have to do it once, but it is something you need to do. The nonessential item was a book, Two-Way Radios and Scanners For Dummies, which covers CB radios and a whole lot more. I bought the book because I don't know much about operating a CB radio, including appropriate CB etiquette. I haven't read the book yet, so don't really know if I'm supposed to say things like, "Ten four good buddy," but I guess I'll find out.
Copyright © D. J. McAdam· All Rights Reserved