Preparedness Month: Everyday Tools for Odd Occurrances

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An interesting experience earlier this after noon changed what I was going to write about for my Monday Preparedness post. My treatise on what frequencies to monitor (for hams an non-hams alike) will wait for next week.

At almost exactly 12:00, I was at the neighborhood shopping center, near Chevy’s, when I heard a crash. Looking up, I saw an Escalade had backed into a Quest. The driver didn’t even get out to see what damage she might have inflicted (the loud crunch told me that both bumpers were hosed on the inside), and of course didn’t leave a note.

She then proceeded to drive slowly towards me, turning about 15 feet in front of my eyes. She obviously didn’t know she was presenting the color, make, and license plate to an amateur radio operator. In case you aren’t a ham, one of the talents we develop is to quickly recognize a call sign (a mixture of letters and numbers between three and six or so characters in length, suspiciously similar to a car’s license), whether it is spoken, printed, or heard amongst a dozen others on a static-filled radio channel. And remember it long enough to enter it in the log, or call that station back by name.

So, memory and notebook in hand, I grabbed the Quest’s license plate, and then called 911 and got a friendly, clear-speaking dispatcher on the line. Less than 10 minutes an officer was on-scene, inspecting the car and trying to wean a few more details out of my memory. With all but the last digit or two copied correctly, someone is going to labor hard to forget this holiday

Hopefully my actions will save a soccer mom a bunch of grief and cash trying to get her bumper fixed, and up the insurance rates for another bad driver.

After departing the scene, though, I realized this warranted an upgrade of what I carry on me all the time, and sharing these suggestions.

While I don’t suggest that y’all duplicate my utility belt, with three pocket knives, a 3-cell Surefire flashlight, a ham radio, medical gloves and pocket CPR mask, and a mini first-aid kit in my wallet, here are some basics that you should consider:

driver’s license or similar photo ID
Whether you’re the victim or an observer reporting a crime, having a photo ID on-hand (perhaps an expired one shoved in your pocket, in addition to the current one in your wallet, in case that’s what’s stolen) will help establish trust with the authorities. [check]
minimal first-aid supplies
If you’re trained in CPR, consider carrying a pocket kit, with gloves and a fold-up face shield with you. The Red Cross one I have in a small Velcro case isn’t any bigger than my key ring, and might just save a life. At the very least, stuff three sizes of bandages, a triple-antibiotic (like Nesporin), a pair of regular aspirin, and an alcohol wipe or two in your wallet. [check]
shirt-pocket digital camera with fast-acting shutter
As I discovered today, the built-in camera on cell-phones isn’t sufficient. The iPhone camera would have never powered up before the Escalade was out of my view, and I probably would have forgotten to slide the macro lens out of the way. [missing!]

a couple pens that work on sweaty palms
OK, so you caught me. My memory could be better. I got the first five out of six or seven characters on the plate. But despite my superb long-term memory, my short-term one can be fickle sometimes, so I wanted to get this down quickly. I carry both roller-ball pens (two+ colors, I am a writer after-all) and a Sharpie permanent marker. The monogrammed leather pocket-protector is optional, of course. [check]
a notebook
Since even a Sharpie on a palm is not nearly permanent, having real paper in a reasonably durable case is helpful for oh so many tasks. My favorite is the famous Moleskine, but you don’t have to carry three like I do. [check]
a buck in change
What if your cell-phone dies (or the mugger got it along with your wallet)? Carry at least four quarters someplace, so you can make at least two calls at the nearest pay phone.
key telephone numbers, on paper
Again, if your cell phone is dead or gone, you really want a good list of telephone numbers written down someplace. Like that Moleskine notebook. [uh, on tomorrow’s to-do list!]
$40 in cash someplace other than the wallet
I’m not going to tell you where I hide mine, but I’m sure you can come up with something clever. [check]
a recent cell-phone backup
You did buy a phone that lets you dump all your contacts to your computer, either synced with your contact database or saved as a plain-text vCard file, right? And you back it up at least once a month, right? Unlike the guy sitting next to me at the bar, who lost a bunch of friends’ phone numbers someplace in New York City. [check]

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

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