Recommended Emergency Procedures


May 2013 note: I have not reviewed the emergency gear carried for some years.  In general it will be correct, but there may be some minor changes.  The parts about resistance to emergencies will be the same.

I should point out that this web site is mostly geared toward my employees and family, although search and rescue may also find it useful (especially the sections on Resistance to Emergencies and emergency gear carried). It may also be useful to those who have friends & loved ones traveling with me when I'm overdue.

I do a lot of traveling, some of which is by commercial means (airline, train, bus, etc) and some of which is in my own conveyances (my car, plane, boat, etc). If I should go missing from any of these here are the procedures I recommend for initiating search and rescue operations:

If I am traveling in a foreign country, via commercial conveyances, I suggest contacting police and/or search and rescue in that country.

If I am traveling by my own conveyances, here is what I would like done (this assumes my 406 emergency beacon has not gone off--if it has I'm in serious trouble and need help ASAP):

Sailboats are, by definition, at the whim of the weather. So there should be no concern if I am seriously overdue from when I plan on returning. I would not worry for at least a week after my proposed return date. For the following reasons:

      1. Weather could have been bad, and I have run into difficulties with this before; if it is bad I wait. And wait, and wait, if necessary.
      2. I regard my boat as being very self-sufficient. Most things I can fix it or otherwise jury rig to get back. The time the motor mount broke (see below) I was only 1 day overdue.
      3. In the event the boat sinks and I make it ashore (eg in Prince William Sound) I am quite capable of surviving off the land. Even if injured I can last a week. And I expect I would have the emergency beacon and set it off if I can't flag down a passing boat within a day or so.
      4. In the open sea I am at the whim of the weather to an even larger extent. On a long voyage, such as to Hawaii, no one should worry for at least 2 weeks after my proposed arrival date. I carry enough food and water for this and more, so the most likely problem is merely a lack of wind to get me there.

I confess that once in awhile I will cut my flight plans a little short. However I do my best to be within radio contact by the time they expire. In the event I am not, please follow these guidelines:

      1. If I am doing a simple flight (eg from the homestead in Minchumina to Fairbanks) with no detours, give me an extra 30 minutes before assuming I've gone down. This is often the amount of gas reserve I have; if I haven't called in by that time I'm in trouble.
      2. If I am doing a sight-seeing trip, give me an extra 45 minutes. I might have seen something interesting, and gotten too involved in picking up too many rocks (or whatever). This assumes a simple trip, with no real detours. (More complicated trips, add more time).
      3. If on an overnight round-robin, you should give me plenty of time to return--especially if the weather is bad. Of course, if an ELT is heard in my area please come find out why!! If the weather is bad I will tend to push it a *little* in a situation like this, to try to make it back before my flight plan expires.
      4. Moose hunting, etc (round robin). Give me plenty of extra time. Ie 2-3 hours. I could have gotten a moose later than expected and had to finish cutting it up before returning.
      5. Dark: keep this in mind when reviewing all the above. If darkness will interfere with search & rescue reduce the times above; I will take that into account when flying and try to reduce/eliminate the times I am overdue when darkness is approaching. I a loath to fly in the dark, so I do my very best to return before it is very dark.

I don't have any real suggestions for being overdue on biking, other than to ask the police along my proposed route to keep an eye open for me. Since most biking is along a road, and roads typically have habitation along them, I will most likely manage to call if I'm more than a day overdue. Even if I can't call myself I will try to send a message, and have someone else call.

If the 406 beacon goes off when I am out in the woods hiking I would suggest that I've broken a leg or been mauled by a bear, or some such problem that incapacitates me. You shouldn't be alarmed unless I am more than a day overdue for ever week out. It may have taken longer to hike around that mountain than planned. If I have the 406 beacon with me, double that time!



Emergency contact numbers:

These are people who could be called in the event I am overdue:

My workers for Ray's Rentals should always know where I'm at, and I am often in contact with them. They should be the first people called in an emergency.

Matt is a great friend, and as such he is frequently with me when traveling so he may or may not be available!


Emergency gear & radios usually carried: {unfinished}

Acrux (sailboat)

I carry a wide variety of things Acrux; it many ways it is my home-away-from-home. So I am prepared for many types of emergencies. Here is a partial listing of emergency & related gear.


Hiking: I carry a very small amount of emergency gear. But I always have spare matches, a 'metal match' (this is a device to make a fire without matches, essentially a flint with magnesium), a Leatherman, etc.

Biking: See above. Also flat repair equipment; chain repair equipment.


Resistance to Emergencies

I am always very loath to call on help. Therefore it can be assumed if my personalized 406 emergency beacon has gone off it is a Major Emergency, and there should be no delay in dispatching help. In general I believe that if I get myself into trouble I should be able to get myself out of it. So if I turn on an emergency beacon you can assume I'm in very serious trouble.

To help you evaluate my resistance to problems and the types of situations which have happened to me in the past, here are some examples of problems and emergencies I have had in the past (with a note about whether I would have turned on my locator):

  1. Crashed my plane shortly after take-off. Wound up drenched in gas and pinned in the wreckage because the engine broke off and wound up sitting in my lap. (Note: it took them an hour to get me extracted.) I would NOT have activated the 406 beacon in this case, because help was immediately available. (THANKS, Jeff & Miki!!) In the event they hadn't been there I would have turned it on--if I could have reached it!
  2. Fell through the ice with the dog team about 4 hours from Minchumina. Spent about 20 minutes in the water extracting dogs & sled. I would NOT have activated the 406 beacon in this case. Heck, I didn't even think this was an emergency; I just wrung out my clothes and kept going--away from Minchumina (the closest place with a warm house).
  3. Turned over a boat in Minchumina with water temperatures in the high 30's and 25-35 mph winds (a wave caught the boat wrong and turned it over). A little explanation is due in this case; I was taking the boat across the lake to meet my father who was flying the float plane across the lake to the runway. When we got there we were planning on putting the plane on wheels. I was about 1/5 of the way across the lake (going downwind) when we (my sister Miki was with me) turned over the boat. We scrambled onto the bottom of the boat, and huddled together to try to stave off the cold. This was not very successful, due to the cold water washing over us, and the wind. It was 5-6 miles downwind before we would have drifted ashore. I was guessing it would take as much as 6 hours to drift that far--much longer than a person can easily survive sitting on the bottom of a boat. Fortunately when my father flew across the lake he found us, landed beside us and flew us home to a nice warm cabin. This is an instance where I would have turned on the 406 beacon (if I had it with me), but I probably would have waited until after my father had flown by...if he hadn't found us I would have turned it on. ie I wouldn't have turned it on (if I'd have it) because he did find us. (THANKS, Dad!!)
  4. Getting lost in the woods. Ha. There is only 1 instance when I have ever been lost, and that was not a major problem (I didn't even consider myself lost; just temporarily misplaced), because it only took me an hour to figure out how to get where I wanted to go. (The story: I was hiking in front of my sister, in a frightful snowstorm [of course it was frightful--we got lost because we couldn't see, didn't we?]. Anyhow, the visibility was about 1/4 mile and we were hiking across a trackless taiga. I wasn't following a compass or anything, just little bumps I thought were near the lake we were heading for. The upshot was we wound up going in a circle from following the wrong series of 'bumps'. I was more embarrassed than anything else; we did wind up a little wetter and colder than we should have, but that is what living in the woods is all about--so no problem. As you can see, I treat this one rather flippantly, which is just how I feel about it--not a problem at all. We could have always turned around and followed our tracks back to Minchumina.) So I don't expect to get lost (and I would have to be lost for days or weeks before I would consider myself in really serious trouble…I am pretty good at living off the land, and could survive a long time {years--with the right equipment} even if completely lost.)
  5. Broken motor mount 70 miles out in my sailboat. Sailboat? Who needs a motor? That was my opinion. We were in Copper Bay, which is about 70 miles from Valdez. The motor mount broke just as we were getting started in the morning. This left us feeling stranded, but not in a situation where calling for help was necessary. We simply towed the Acrux out of the bay (rather a long and slow job, pulling a 42' sailboat with a canoe, but certainly possible), put up the sails and started sailing home. That we blew out the main sail, ran into 2 days of headwinds and then had calms did not make us anything but overdue. I did not consider this an emergency (though other people on the boat urged we call for help, we did not--I resist not only the 'emergency', but other peoples desires to declare it such and call for help which I did not deem we needed it).


Here are a few examples of situations I would--and would not--call for help with the 406 emergency beacon (since most of the above situations I would not have called for help).

Engine fails, land on road. NO. I would not turn on the beacon. In this case I would get a ride from someone and take care of the problem myself.

Engine fails, land on lake on floats. I would not turn on the beacon until every possibility of repair had been exhausted. Note: I WILL NOT LEAVE THE PLANE IF I TURN ON THE BEACON.

Sailing & demasted. NO, not very likely. In this eventuality I would make every effort to survive the storm and jury-rig an outfit that would bring me ashore.

Flipped over. YES. In this event I would call for help as soon as possible. In this instance I would consider life at risk if I stayed with the boat, and not worth the risk.

Crashed the plane in a remote area (icing, engine failure, etc). I would activate the beacon.


A few extra comments.

  1. The 406 is manually activated. If it goes off I turned it on. This has several connotations. First is that I'm alive! Second, since I won't turn it on unless I can't help myself (and I can get myself out of most situations), help is urgently needed. As you can see from the above examples I would not turn it on unless there is a truly major problem. So help should be dispatched without delay.
  2. If I am way overdue and the 406 does not go off there are several possibilities (in order of probability):
    1. I am not in a situation that requires help, and am still struggling with repairs, waiting for the weather to improve, etc.
    2. I am dead.
    3. The 406 isn't working.
    4. I can't get at the 406 (eg the plane sank with the 406 in it).


Note: for those of you who don't know what a 406 emergency locator beacon is: it is a transmitter that talks to satellites, telling the satellite you are in trouble by transmitting a personalized code to the satellite. The satellite can store and re-transmit the information to search & rescue on the ground who look up your code and call the phone numbers you've registered with them to verify that you are in trouble. Of course you have to tell the search and rescue (ie Coast Guard) that run the program who you are, so they know when they get the signal from the beacon. This I did within a week of getting the beacon for my birthday (Thanks, Mom & Dad!). Since they know who you are, they can call and find out if you are really out sailing (or whatever) and really likely to be in trouble. This eliminates the majority of the false alarms, which greatly simplifies their job--and speeds rescue.

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Updated 8/98, and last reviewed with spring 2013.

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