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By Les Ballinger, WA6EQQ
RACES BULLETINS 167 -177 Dates: April 29, 1991 - July 8, 1991

(About the author: Les Ballinger, WA6EQQ, is a veteran emergency services responder in planning, setting up, and operating temp- orary communications in the field for emergency services, forestry, the Red Cross and other agencies. He is a recognized expert in field response and all facets of Amateur Radio commun- ications. He is employed by the California Department of Trans- portation and is the State OES HQ Auxiliary Radio Services station manager. ---KH6GBX)

There are some items that should be carried in the field or out to a highway if an incident takes place and we are called out to provide communications. There are certain items that need to be carried at all times on one's person and other items that should be immediately available.

Our state safety orders require anyone working on or near a highway wear a safety vest, hard hat, safety glasses, and shoes or boots of sturdy design. The footwear should have traction type soles for solid footing on slick, uneven surfaces such as mud, snow, grass, and pine needles. One trade name, for example, is "Vibram", sometimes called "waffle stompers".

Other items to carry or wear:

Clothing to suit the weather or climate. If you wear eyeglasses be sure to carry an extra pair. Wear an accurate, rugged, and easy to read wrist watch.

If you have a handheld transceiver carry a battery pack that will hold double A alkaline batteries. Nicad battery packs need charging often and usually take hours and require 110 volts AC. Double A alkaline batteries are usually readily available and only take a few minutes to change. Keep your nicad pack with you for backup. Keep it in a container by itself or cover its terminals with tape; if they short out it can burn or explode.

Carry a speaker mike that can be clipped to your clothing where it can be easily heard and reached. Boom mikes work well if you like them but never, NEVER use VOX. If you are in a noisy environment they can key your transmitter and you may not know it. This could cripple communications and be potentially embarrassing.

Carry a police whistle. These are good attention getters and could be used in many ways. The handiest place for it is on a chain around your neck and placed under your shirt or blouse out of the way.

Carry a note book and pencil. Keeping a log or diary of events is very important. It makes interesting reading after an event and if you must write a report it is a great help to have the dates and times of important happenings. If the incident lasts for many days, as they have in the past, the days seem to run together and to recall from memory might prove difficult. If you must handle written messages, use a different notebook for this chore. I carry a small three inch by five inch personal notebook for the diary and a regular size note book for the written messages.

Carry a small flashlight. I use the Mini-Maglite type that use double A alkaline batteries. These flashlights are very rugged and have a spare lamp in their base. If the spare lamp is needed make sure you replace it as soon as possible.

If you are on medication be sure to have an ample supply. Carry more than you think you will need.

Inform the person or persons in charge if you have a health problem and if you require special medication.

You may want to carry a camera. I carry a small 35 mm camera. It has a sliding lens cover that locks the shutter, a built in electronic flash and another feature that should prove invaluable: a clock that will stamp the day, month and year or the time of day on the negative so that it will appear on the prints.

You may wonder how big your pockets will have to be to carry these things. I use a fanny pack or, as some people call it, a belly pack. It is basically a belt with a pouch attached and made of nylon. Mine has three compartments-a large central compartment that will hold my camera, speaker mike, boom mike, spare rubber duck antenna, and other miscellaneous items. It has outer compartment, which is smaller that the central compartment, I use for my spare batteries and battery pack. The inner compartment is next to the belt and is ideal for your diary or small note book. All compartments have zippers. They can be bought for less than ten dollars. Always have drinking water available with a reserve supply in your vehicle or other storage area at your site.

Things to have available:

  • Always carry a warm jacket in your vehicle. Even in the summertime it can get quite cool at higher elevations.
  • Carry plenty of clothing. A good rule is to carry twice as many changes of clothing as you think you will need.
  • Carry a blanket or, better yet, a sleeping bag.
  • Carry food that does not need refrigeration. I carry granola bars and canned pork and beans. Be sure to have a can opener.
  • Carry matches. I don't smoke and have been caught out needing a campfire, only to find I didn't have any matches. A muzzle loading pistol was used to start a fire to dry my wet clothes and cold body on one of my outings.
  • I carry a tool kit with a supply of connectors and terminals. If you use cables to connect any of your gear you should have spare cabling or the parts and equipment to make field repairs. I carry some solder and a propane powered soldering iron. This has saved the day on several disasters.

I am sure that you can add to my list. The intention of this article is to give you suggestions and make you think of things you will need when you respond to an incident. You can be called on to supply mutual aid communications for other agencies.

Be flexible. To borrow a concept from the Boy Scouts, "Be Prepared."

(By Les Ballinger, WA6EQQ)

Archives of California RACES Bulletins are available via anonymous ftp at

The Home Page for the State of California Governor's Office of Emergency Services contains other information about emergency response in California and elsewhere.


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