Sunday, March 3, 2013

Deployment kit

With the recent meteorite impact in Chelyabinsk, Russia it has to many people shown how vulnerable our societies are to natural events. While this meteorite did a lot of damage there was no loss of life to the best of my knowledge.


You never knew when you might just have to pick up grab your gear and go. When I moved to NC, I left all my gear behind because it wasn't practical for me to ship it or drag it with me.

Over the course of the last few years I've been slowing rebuilding my gear to have it ready to go should I need to pick up and go. This is not about some overwhelming sense of doom that a Mad Max scenario will play out or that the world is going to implode. It is about being responsible and being ready to take care of your own needs without taxing a system that is already in crisis during an event. Being a member in ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services), adds some additional gear to the kit that the average person would not need. ARES, you could be activated to assist local, state or federal government agencies in time of need. It is for this reason it is important to have your kit together and ready to go should you need it.

I use a multi-bag system, depending on what I am going to be doing and the expected duration of that event. For a deployment that would be more than 48 hours I use a full size modern day Molle II US army rucksack to carry what I would need for a deployment of 48 hours to several weeks. There are still several items that need to be added to complete this pack. The second pack I use is an older US Army Alice pack from the Vietnam war era. I have updated the load bearing straps and belts to the modern Molle II system as well I've added the current sleep gear carrying system to the bottom of the pack. This is the pack I would use if deployed for 24 - 48 hours, or a short trip to a wilderness area doing search and rescue or other such tasks.


Molle II US Army Rucksack - more than 48 hour deployment






1960's US Army Alice Pack upgraded - 24 - 48 hours deployment

In addition to these two packs I have a load bearing vest that can be used for rapid deployment for 1 to 12 hours. The vest has several pouches that can contain pretty much everything you could need on a short deployment. The vest also doubles up the storage capacity as it can be draped over the back of the rucksack or Alice pack carried to the deployment location and then worn to do short operations from a base camp or while on duty.


Open Style Load Bearing Vest (LBV)





I will be changing from an open style LBV to a closed style which will allow better configuration of the vest. This vest also uses the Molle II carrier system, there are two medium sized pouches, 2 - 1 quart canteens opposite of each other to balance the load and a large pouch on the back. What is not seen on the above view is another large pouch attached to the upper portion of the LBV. The upper pouch can be switched out for a camel back pouch during hot weather when more water is needed, giving a total of 4 quarts of water.

That is essentially the different carrier systems that I use. The rucksack still needs to have a sleep carrier added to it. I am still working on developing a light weight shelter system that would form its own module that can be moved from either carrier system in under a minute. I've got the concept figured out it is just a matter of obtaining the items.

Next is what goes into the various carrier systems. None of my setup is 100% complete, it is getting closer but it takes time and the only way I can afford to rebuild my kit is by piece-meal. So lets break down the three systems starting with the LBV.

A LBV is a 1 to 12 hour deployment system so you are not going to have a lot of gear with you. But there are always 4 basic areas you want to cover regardless of the system.

1) Shelter
2)Water & Food
3) Fire
3) Navigation

On the LBV shelter is easy to do with a x-large poncho with a liner or a medium sized tarp (take your height and add 4 feet), both items will fold up small enough to be placed in the large pouch or strapped to the top of the pouch. On a 12 hour deployment you may never need that shelter, and you may think that it is a waste of space. I know from experience 12 hours can easily become 24 hours, or that nice warm sunny day can turn into a nasty rain storm making travel on foot dangerous. Having a shelter is like having insurance, sure you hope to never need it but when you do it is nice to have.

Having the poncho with the lining or a tarp with some rope or parachute cord allows quick setup and tear down in minutes.

Water and Food are big items, it is important to have high energy snacks and some protein stored away in a pouch. It is better to have items that don't need to be cooked on the LBV because most times you are not going to carry a stove or a pot. Things like trail mix that contain nuts, dried fruit and some chocolate are filling and provide a energy boost. Meat jerky is also really good to have in the LBV. You don't need to go overboard with carrying food, however carry enough to get through at least 24 hours. What I do is carry a small quart sized zip lock that contains trail mix and jerky. I also carry a sealed bag of tuna. It is small and light weight. For an added boost you can get some restaurant table servings of honey or small tubes of honey which will give a great energy boost. None of this food needs to be cooked and can be snacked on at any point. It is important to note that most people are not going to die if they don't eat for 24 hours. Another important note is try getting snacks with low salt content especially if you use jerky to supplement your food. By having low salt or no salt nuts and trail mix your water demands are greatly reduced. Jerky contains a lot of salt so eat it sparingly. Water however is a different story, we all need water and going without water for more than 48 hours puts you in serious danger of dehydration.  On my LBV I always have 2 canteens that carry 1 quart of water, I have the option to carry an additional 2 quarts in a water bladder if the weather is really hot. The hotter the weather the more water you will need.


Katadyn ceramic water filter

Fire while should not be needed is a nice option to have if your deployment becomes extended, it provides warmth if you are in a remote field position, can boil water to purify it, can cook some food (though on the LBV should not have food that requires cooking), and it provides light after dark. It really doesn't take much to satisfy this need. A simple fire striking stick and a striker is really all you need. It is a good idea to practice lighting a fire with the striking stick, its not that hard to do. Being small it easily fits into a pouch.

Navigation this should go without saying, if you are going to a deployment area you should know where you are going. While this is not so much an issue in urban deployment provided landmarks are still standing and the signs have not been blown down. It is a good idea to have maps be it street maps and a road atlas for urban deployment or topographical maps for field deployment and a good compass. Do not rely on GPS or what you think you know of a urban area. GPS can be wrong and in a urban disaster it may not be able to adapt to a change from a primary or secondary route to a 3rd, 4th or 5th route to reach the destination. I know first hand that you can not rely on landmarks and street signs, in the event of a urban disaster one or both may be gone. When navigating at night in a urban environment that has been hit by disaster (not recommended as there is usually a curfew being enforced) urban areas without electricity tend to be a lot darker than open countryside, making seeing obstacles and routes hard to see. I've encountered this problem in 2011 while assisting in Ringgold, GA. While I had permission to travel at night it was extremely difficult to do so.

Know how to use the compass and map together and how to take bearings with the compass. The over reliance on GPS will get you into trouble especially in a field deployment.

A simple Etrex Garmin GPS and Brunton Type 15 compass
 Other items carried on the LBV:

- flashlight with 1 set of extra batteries
- basic first aid kit
- folding knife
- waterproof notebook (can write in the rain)
- hand held radio
- extra battery for hand held radio
- manual for hand held radio in ziplock bag
- 20 feet of paracord
- hand held anemometer
- 1 pair of leather and 1 pair of cotton gloves 
- trash bag

Why an anemometer you may ask?

The anemometer allows me to get a fairly accurate reading on wind speed, it also will give me a temperature and windchill reading by switching to a different mode. This is important information if in a field deployment. It is often difficult to estimate wind speed by simply watching the trees sway as well as guessing what the temperature is because it "feels" to be a certain temperature. Having this handy little tool allows me to see how high that wind really is and determine if it is safe to raise a temporary pole or not. For search and rescue it is useful to know wind speed and temperatures to gauge the dangers of hypothermia. Hypothermia is just as dangerous to the searchers as it is to the person being searched for.

Multifunction anemometer

The Alice pack is used for the 24 - 48 hour deployment where you know you are going to be gone a couple of days and need to bring just a bit more gear with you than what the LBV can comfortably carry. In this scenario I would strap the LBV to the Alice pack, giving me everything in the LBV as well as a light weight carrier system to be used while on duty or for out going quick deployments from the base / field post.

Additional items in the Alice pack include:

- 1 complete change of cloths, 2 extra shirts (in summer 3 extra t-shirts)
- small alcohol stove for cooking meals
- mess kit
- 2 freeze dried MRE style meals, 1 quart bag of instant oatmeal, 1 quart bag of instant rice
- 4" fixed blade knife with fire steel and sharpening stone
- 50 feet of paracord
- modular shelter system (when completed)
- wool blend blanket, pillow and / or 3 season sleeping bag
- expanded first aid kit (more bandages and tools)
- collapsible saw
- 19" axe
- towel and washcloths
- personal hygiene items including alcohol hand sanitizer
- 1 roll of toilet paper (you just never know when you get deployed if basic items will be available it is better to pack and not need than to not pack and need)
- flash light with extra batteries
- battery / chemical glow sticks
- small sewing kit
- small fishing kit
- ceramic water filter
- insect repellient
- sunscreen
- 2 empty 1 quart ziplock bags and 1 gallon zip lock bag
- 2 trash bags
- small radio tool box with wire, adapters and tools
- seasonal appropriate outdoor clothing including wide brim hat
- 1 pair of leather and 1 pair of cotton gloves
- clipboard with needed radio message or ICS forms to used
- waterproof notebooks and several pens / pencils
- non-waterproof notebook in ziplock bag



Swedish Military Trangia alcohol stove and wind screen


Stove, fuel, fire starting and French military knife, fork and spoon set inside stove

At the moment I have only one stove so I would need to transfer it to which ever deployment bag I would take. I will be getting another Trangia stove, the Trangia 25-2 UL in the near future so that the rucksack will have a stove and the Alice pack will have a stove.

I mentioned packing an axe and saw; this would seem like unnecessary items, however given a true disaster scenario where an operator could start out in a urban command post and be transferred to a wilderness or field post a saw or axe is not an unreasonable item to pack.


Gränsfors Bruks hunting axe for field / wilderness deployment
 
The main compartment of the Alice pack will have clothing, towel and washcloths in a dry bag, while the stove and mess kit will be stored in a smaller dry bag. Other items are stored in ziplock bags. 


Ultra light weight and compressed Australian / British military sleeping bag

The sleeping bag I got is pretty amazing the thing barely weighs a pound, yet is super warm in cool temperatures and cool in warm temperatures (space age stuff), and keeps it warmth when wet. I also have a wool blend military blanket that can be used in addition to this should it get really cold or if attending to a causality.
 
Should a long term deployment be needed I have the full size US Army rucksack that takes the place of the Alice pack. Just as before the LBV would get strapped to the rucksack. The contents in the rucksack would be similar to the Alice pack but expanded.

Contents of rucksack:


- 4 complete change of cloths, 4 extra shirts (in summer 6 extra t-shirts)
- small alcohol stove for cooking meals
- mess kit
- 10 freeze dried MRE style meals, 2 quart bag of instant oatmeal, 2 quart bag of instant rice
- 4" fixed blade knife with fire steel and sharpening stone
- 100 feet of paracord
- modular shelter system (when completed)
- wool blend blanket, pillow and / or 3 season sleeping bag
- extensive first aid kit (more bandages, antiseptic, ointments, wound kit, quick reference trauma guide)
- collapsible saw
- 19" axe
- 2 towels and 4 washcloths
- personal hygiene items including alcohol hand sanitizer
- 1 roll of toilet paper (you just never know when you get deployed if basic items will be available it is better to pack and not need than to not pack and need)
- flash light with extra batteries
- battery / chemical glow sticks
- sewing kit
- fishing kit
- ceramic water filter
- insect repellient
- sunscreen
- 4 empty 1 quart ziplock bags and 2 - 1 gallon zip lock bag
- 4 trash bags
- small radio tool box with wire, adapters and tools
- extra batteries for hand held
- seasonal appropriate outdoor clothing including wide brim hat
- additional shoes / boots
- camel back with additional 2 quarts of water
- binoculars
- 2 pair of leather and 2 pair of cotton gloves
- clipboard with needed radio message or ICS forms to used
- waterproof notebooks and several pens / pencils
- non-waterproof notebook in ziplock bag


So far that is what I have in my kit. I did not get this kit over night a lot of it I have been getting over the years since moving to NC. I still have some key items to deal with, such as shelter. But that will come soon. For the immediate future the truck provides shelter for sleeping and hanging out while not needed.

What I didn't get into is the "off duty" aspects of any kit. It is important to have something you can do while resting. Even though in my experience resting periods are few and far between, in a long duration deployment 4+ days there will be some down time the further out time wise you get from the initial time of the event.

I intend to use the radio box as the primary VHF deployment radio with the radio cart I built, I can load the gear in the truck and go, so long as I can get there this will work. However I am looking at also getting a Yaesu FT-817ND radio for times when I can not get to where I need to be by truck but still need the ability to get out. While the hand held will work good in most cases it would be nice to have the option to go beyond 2 meters; and in a real disaster it is not realistic to believe a repeater will not have suffered damage as well. With the FT-817ND the operator has the option to go to HF and reach outside the affected area, and still have a setup that is small and portable.

For public service events that last only a couple of hours the LBV with a safety vest is generally all that is needed. If I am going to be close to the truck the LBV will often sit in the truck. Being able to adapt yourself, needs and gear is the key.

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