Friday, March 28, 2014

Rescue Disk

Many outdoor rescue professionals advise us that we should carry a rescue mirror or an old CD to use as an emergency reflector for signalling for help when stranded in the backcountry.
I can do that one step lighter, and cheaper using a free business card mini-disk.
The mini disk CD's became popular in the late 1990's and early 2000's.  They were about half the width of a normal CD, had a spindle hole in the center and would usually carry a PDF file business card, a brochure, a short video or a product announcement on them.
When cleaning out my old office supplies, I found one last week, complete with a plastic sleeve for carrying without scratching it.  You may also have one, or know where to locate one.  That company is now a few years out of business and the CD still looks new.  I put it in the spares kit in my backpack to have for that special signalling use, if I ever need it.
In a pouch with the rest of my emergency, spares & backup camping gear

The weight of the mini disk is 8 grams, including the plastic sleeve.  It is very thin and extremely lightweight. When I pick up the pack, I cannot tell that I have it with me at all.  This is how it should be, rescue equipment lightweight enough not to notice you are carrying it.

To use a reflector in an emergency, you need sunshine.  Sight through the hole to find where the sunlight is reflected by the disk, usually a small bead of light.  Slowly swing the disk up and down paying attention to where the small bead of light lands.  To attract attention, sweep the bead of light from side to side across the horizon.  If you see a car, a plane above or someone moving along the ground, sweep the bead of light across them a few times.
Use the International Distress signal, 3 quick flashes of light, a pause, then repeat. You flash the light by quickly moving it up and down, or by quickly covering and uncovering it with your hand.  Do this until you can tell someone is on the way to help you.  Be careful of temporarily blinding people if they are close.
Many people have been rescued this way, even by airplanes far above them.  It may take some time, but continue until sunset, or until you are found.
You can use Morse Code if you need to communicate with rescuers.   I haven't used Morse Code since I was a Boy Scout, and I don't trust my memory to remember each letter.  I printed this chart for me (fits into the plastic pouch with the mini disk) and have included it below for you.
Morse Code.  A space between letters = silence for the duration of 1 dot.

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