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Old 08-19-2012, 04:06 PM   #1
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CB radio for emergency

Does anyone have any knowledge of using a hand held CB radio for emergency use when out of cell phone range or would it be better to have a EPIRB/ACR? Thanks for any advice on this. Rand
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Old 08-19-2012, 04:57 PM   #2
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CBs are low power, line of sight and very short range. They are useful for maintaining communications between vehicles traveling together, and for keeping track of kids while camping; and they can be helpful when monitoring road and weather conditions where there is a lot of truck traffic. However, for us, they are more for entertainment than practical use; and in my opinion, they can not be relied upon in actual emergencies.

In those cases, we have a cellular frequency amplifier and external antenna to boost our cell phone and mobile broadband signals. While we boondock and frequently drive through areas that don't have reliable cell service, we have actually stayed in very few camp sites where there was absolutely no cell service.

Regarding EPIRBs, their use is severely restricted to life and death situations only; and they cannot be used for requesting roadside assistance. See extract from a user manual, below.

The best solution is to "be prepared". We carry extra water, food, fuel, a 2.5 ton floor jack, air compressor and generator when we boondock; so we are prepared for most emergencies, including getting stranded off-road in bad weather. Also, we don't stray too far off the beaten path without filing a trip plan with friends and relatives. Then, we periodically forward our GPS coordinates and status via cell phone and/or e-mail updates.

Trip plans are like flight plans for aircraft. If your contacts don't hear from you every few days, at least they know where to start looking for the bodies...


Extract from typical EPIRB user manual:

An EPIRB should only be used in situations of grave and imminent danger! What exactly does this mean?

Technically speaking you should only activate your P-EPIRB when all other means of self rescue have been exhausted. This means you have tried to use your cellular/satellite phone, signaling mirrors, strobe lights, or any other safety device you may have. When all else fails and you feel your situation has truly become extreme, ask yourself the following questions:

* Am I in danger of losing life, limb, eye sight, or valuable property if I am not rescued soon?

* Am I in danger of not surviving the night or upcoming hours if not rescued soon?

If you answer yes with confidence to these questions, it is time to activate your P-EPIRB.
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:15 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by bearrand View Post
Does anyone have any knowledge of using a hand held CB radio for emergency use when out of cell phone range or would it be better to have a EPIRB/ACR? Thanks for any advice on this. Rand
You can get extra range on your cell phone by standing on top of the highest place you can reach. Like CBs, they're line of sight, and that means you've got to be within line of sight of the nearest microwave cell tower. If the nearest tower is over the horizon, getting higher pushes the horizon farther away and extends your range. So, climb on top of your tow vehicle or trailer if there's nowhere taller, and try the cell phone again.

If you can afford it, there's also satellite phones. Unlike a cell phone, it does not rely upon cell towers; it communicates directly with a geosynchronous satellite. Problem is, satellite phones are hideously expensive. One option you might consider is a satellite phone rental when you go on a trip that you suspect will take you out of cell phone range: Cellular Abroad: Pre paid Satellite Phone Rentals
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:30 PM   #4
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I've thought about, in an emergency, if our amplifier and external antenna couldn't get a signal, I'd take the poles from the small tent we carry for the grand kids, and connect them all together with the cell phone duct-taped to the top. Then, stick the contraption 15-20 feet up in the air; and use the blue tooth earphone to call for help. Heck, maybe I'll duct-tape the external antenna to the top of the poles and take advantage of the amplifier output.

Anyway, as a last resort, we have some marine flares from our boat that we can shoot up in the air; but with our luck, they would start a forest fire.

For desert survival, they recommend setting fire to your spare (or flat) tire. Tires are supposed to make a long-lasting, smoky fire that can be seen for miles. (Maybe those GYMs are good for something, after all.) However, if it still has 80 psi in it, you probably want to let the air out, first. Otherwise, you might also be making a BIG BOOM that can be heard for miles, too.

MacGyver in Phoenix, AZ
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:37 PM   #5
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Spot Personal Tracker

I have a SPOT Personal Tracker which is a handheld unit that works off of satellites. Works in juat about any place. It has 3 functions:
1. An I'm OK message
2. A Need Help message
3. A 911 emergency response request

1 & 2 is a text message you program to 10 people on your email list. 3 goes to the nearest 911 center.

With #1 it also sends out your gps coordinates and a satellite map with your email. Pretty cool. ( I imagine #2 does too but have never used it)

The drawbacks are:
You have to buy a unit and pay a yearly subscription.
It is not instant. It takes a few minutes to find the satellites, lock in and send a message.
Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine.
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