Drone usage in sar

May 4, 2017

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00:00Drones used for first time in major search at Grand Canyon

  • By ASTRID GALVAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHOENIX — Apr 22, 2017, 3:01 AM ET

The Associated Press

In these undated photos from 2016, a Grand Canyon National Park employee operates a drone at the park. The Grand Canyon is the only national park with its own fleet of unmanned aircraft for reaching people who have gotten lost, stranded, injured or killed. Under a program that began last fall, it has five drones and four certified operators. (Brandon Torres/Grand Canyon National Park via AP Photo)more +

The desperate effort this week to find two hikers who disappeared at the bottom of the Grand Canyonrepresented the National Park Service’s most extensive use yet of drones in a search-and-rescue mission.

The Grand Canyon is the only national park with its own fleet of unmanned aircraft for locating people who have gotten lost, stranded, injured or killed. Under a program that began last fall, it has five drones and four certified operators.

While the aerial search for the two hikers came up empty, it threw a spotlight on technology that can enter crevices and other rugged spots unreachable by foot while sparing searchers the dangers of going up in a helicopter.

With its steep cliffs, nearly 2,000 square miles and mesmerizing views, the Grand Canyon can be as dangerous as it is captivating.

Rangers were confronted with 1,200 medical emergencies, 293 search-and-rescue missions and 17 deaths in 2016, a year in which the park had nearly 6 million visitors. Last summer, a 35-year-old Yelp executive tripped while hiking, fell backward and was found dead 400 feet below.

“Our historic model was to take the helicopter to look and see,” said Grand Canyon chief ranger Matt Vandzura. But now, drones can offer “that same close look but without putting any people at risk. It has dramatically increased our ability to keep our people safe.”

The drones are about 18 inches across and 10 inches high, with a battery life of about 20 minutes. Drone operators watch the video in real time and then analyze it again at the end of the day.

The aircraft were used Monday through Wednesday in the search for LouAnn Merrell, 62, and her step grandson, Jackson Standefer, 14. The park also sent out three ground search teams of about 20 people in all, an inflatable motor boat and a helicopter.

Merrell and Standefer vanished last weekend after losing their footing while crossing a creek near the North Rim. They were on a hike with Merrell’s husband, Merrell Boot Co. co-founder Randy Merrell, and the boy’s mother.

The park soon scaled back the operation and stopped using the drones but continued the search. In a statement, the hikers’ families backed the decision and said they were “still praying for a miracle.”

The drones have been used a few times already.

In November, after a visitor drove off a cliff and died, drones were sent in to examine the trees and brush and make sure it was safe for a helicopter to fly in and lift the car out.

The next month, rangers used a drone to locate a woman who had jumped to her death. Then they rappelled down to retrieve the body.

The dangers of flying choppers in the canyon were illustrated in 2003, when a Park Service helicopter experienced a mechanical failure and crash-landed on the North Rim. Those aboard suffered only minor injuries; the helicopter was totaled.

Other national parks use drones, but for wildlife research. The use of private drones is prohibited in national parks.

James Doyle, a spokesman for the park service’s Intermountain region, said other national parks will probably seek their own drone fleets, too. He said the Grand Canyon’s extreme topography — it is a mile deep — makes it a perfect candidate.

“It’s a wonderful tool for the unfortunate situation we just found ourselves in at Grand Canyon,” 

Back packing rules of the road. Rucking

April 24, 2017

Rucking” is the military term for hiking under load. As you can imagine, this is a huge issue for the military, as soldiers must wear body armor and carry weapons, ammo, water, communications equipment, and other gear as they conduct patrols and missions. Rucking performance and injury prevention are hugely important for military operations and personnel.

Movement over ground under load is also key for many mountain sports, from dayhiking to backpacking to big mountain alpinism. In reviewing the research the military has already done on this subject, we discovered five rules that are just as applicable to mountain sports as they are to combat operations. Read on to make sure you’re following these military rucking rules on your next backcountry adventure.

1. One pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back.

This old backpacking thumb rule holds true, according to a 1984 study from the U.S. Army Research Institute. They tested how much more energy was expended with different footwear (boots and shoes) and concluded that it take 4.7 to 6.4 times as much energy to move at a given pace when weight is carried on the shoe versus on the torso.

In practical terms, this means you could carry half a gallon more of water (a little over 4 pounds) if you buy boots that are a pound lighter, which isn’t hard to do; and that’s a lot of water. Now imagine the energy savings of backpacking in light trail running shoes rather than heavy, leather backpacking boots over the course of 7-day backpacking trip.

2. One pound on your feet equals 5% more energy expended.

Heavier footwear doesn’t just affect you because of its weight. Heavier boots are stiffer and less responsive as well. This reduces the efficiency of your body’s stretch reflex on hitting the ground.

Five percent doesn’t sound like much, though, so how does 5% translate to run times? Well, 5% would slow your mile pace time down by 30 seconds, depending on how long you’re running. But, the faster you attempt to run, the more that 5% will affect your performance.

3. Every 1% of your body weight in your pack makes you six seconds slower per mile.

Carrying weight in your pack isn’t free of cost, though. Each 1% of your body weight carried in your pack makes you 6 seconds slower per mile. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, each 1.5 pounds of weight in your pack slows you by 6 seconds per mile. For a 150-pound hiker, on an extended trip, cutting your pack weight down from 40 to 30 pounds saves you 40 seconds per mile.

4. A 10% grade incline cuts your speed in half.

Grade greatly affects speed. By “grade” we mean how much terrain incline or decline there is. At 10% grade, for example, for every 10 feet you travel forward, you’ll travel 1 foot up. In terms of angles, 10% equals 5.74 degrees. A 5.74 degree angle doesn’t seem like much until you’re humping up it mile after mile. You’ll know how hard it is because you’ll move twice as slowly over it than over flat ground with a given load.

That last little part—with a given load—is important. A 10% grade will cut your speed in half no matter if you’re carrying 45 lbs. or 80 lbs.

5. Going up slows you down twice as much as going down speeds you up.

Don’t believe you’ll make time up on the other side of the hill. You won’t. You’ll only make half the time up.

Why don’t you gain as much by running downhill as you lose running up? Braking forces. As you descend, you have to brake your speed with your quads to keep yourself under control. The steeper the downhill, the more braking. This added load on your muscles further affects your uphill performance if you have repeated bouts of up and down work.

Grand Canyon missing hikers

April 19, 2017

Bootmaker founder’s wife, teen, missing in Grand Canyon
Apr 19, 2017 12:29 AM
By ASTRID GALVAN
Associated Press
Relatively few visitors even try to hike a rugged, remote area at the bottom of the Grand Canyon where the wife of the founder of Merrell Boot Co. and a teenager went missing last weekend, according to the National Park Service.

Tapeats Creek, where Lou-Ann Merrell and Jackson Standefer, 14, lost their footing during a family trip, is not particularly difficult to hike for experienced backpackers, said Chris Forsyth, president of the Grand Canyon Hikers & Backpackers Association board. But heavy water rushing through the creek can make it challenging, he said.

Merrell is the wife of Randy Merrell, who helped found the Merrell Boot Co.

The Merrells, Standefer and the boy’s mother were on a path known as Tapeats Trail when the pair fell, authorities said. The Merrell family accessed the area by hiking down from the North Rim.

The area has a more distinct geology than most of the park and attracts a fair number of visitors but is not as popular with tourists are other spots, like Havasupai Falls. Forsyth, who says he has hiked that area five times, said a visit there calls for a multiple-day backpacking trip and at least some experience in hiking. He said his first trip through the canyon was at Tapeats Creek.

About 3,500 people got permits in 2015 to camp in the general area where the two hikers went missing, the latest readily available data, said National Park Service spokeswoman Robin Martin. About 41,000 total people that year got permits to backpack in the Grand Canyon in total.

Matthew Nelson, the executive director of the Arizona Trail Association and a former Grand Canyon backpacking guide, said accessing that area on foot takes days and requires an arduous hike. Nelson said the area offers stunning views but is also unforgivingly hot. He said the water in the creek comes from a cave and is always extremely cold.

“The rock that forms the canyon at Tapeats Creek is a particular layer that isn’t found everywhere in the Grand Canyon. It gives it a more unique sense of beauty,” Forsyth said.

An intense search for Merrell and 14-year-old Standefer resumed Tuesday, Martin said.

The search includes three ground teams consisting of about 20 people total, a National Park Service helicopter, a drone and an inflatable motor raft that was flown into the canyon. Search crews are looking within a mile and a mile and half of where the hikers were last seen, as well as where the creek meets the Colorado River.

“We’re really just looking in the water and areas where someone maybe would have been able to get out,” Martin said.

Mark McOmie, the boy’s uncle, said the Merrells are avid hikers and know the area well. He said Lou-Ann and Randy Merrell, who was also on the trip, live in Vernal, a city in eastern Utah. McOmie was not on the trip.

Lou-Ann Merrell is “a very experienced backpacker,” McOmie said. “If they can get to a spot where they cannot be in the water and stay warm, she’s got the skills needed to get them through it.”

The parent organization of the Merrell Boot Co., Wolverine Worldwide, issued a statement Tuesday.

“Our thoughts, prayers, and hearts are with the Merrell family. We are grateful to the people working around the clock and continue to be hopeful,” said Jim Zwiers, executive vice president.

The park service said it hasn’t determined what went wrong and that there was no rain or flash flooding reported in the area.

Creeks in the canyon often see higher water levels in the spring as snow melts. Forsyth said that he hasn’t visited Tapeats Creek this year but has been to other parts of the park, where he’s noticed more water than usual, he said.

The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, said Jackson is an eighth-grade student at the all-boys school.

A call to Merrell Footlab for comment wasn’t immediately returned.

Taking care of ticks 

March 22, 2017

When winter is coming to a close and we are getting ready for the warmer weather, many of us look forward to heading outdoors and enjoying some sunshine. There are many reasons to go outside and it certainly can be a wonderful time of year. Unfortunately, it is also the time of year when we need to be cautious about getting ticks. It can really ruin the day.

If you are somebody that tends to spend a lot of time outdoors, you need to be able to effectively protect yourself from ticks. They are more than just a nuisance or a pest that makes us uncomfortable, they carry diseases, some of which are very dangerous and even deadly. The next time you’re out enjoying what the great outdoors has to offer, consider this simple trick and you can keep ticks from latching on and causing problems.

Lint roller and essential oil

In order to use this tip, you will need a roller and some essential oils. The lint roller should use adhesive layers. Take it with you when you’re going outside and roll it on your clothing every once in a while. You might be surprised with what you pick up in a very short amount of time.

Adding some essential oil may help to keep the ticks from climbing on you while you are outside. Spray the essential oil on your clothing and rub it into your skin and the ticks may just stay away. It also works for mosquitoes and black flies. It’s a good alternative to insect repellent and reduces your chemical exposure.

Here are 5 essential oils that repel bugs.

1. Lavender – This smells sweet to us but bugs absolutely hate it. It works on mosquitoes, flies and other insects.

2. PennyRoyal – this is a member of the mint family and it is toxic to insects.

3. Lemongrass – This essential oil comes from tropical lemongrass and has a citrusy sent. It is a natural flea and tick repellent and can be sprayed directly on the skin.

4. Eucalyptus – use this alone or along with citronella oil to keep bugs away. According to the Journal of medical entomology, Eucalyptus extract can reduce tick bites and infections.

5. Lemon – some lemon essential oil can work against fleas and other bugs. Slightly dilute it and spray it on your clothing and skin.

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Fire srarter

March 6, 2017

Early warning trip lines

March 6, 2017

In a real emergency, it doesn’t matter whether you are bugging in or out, you may need to be warned of intruders. Today many of us sit at home with the doors locked, window closed and air conditioning keeping the temperature under control. After a disaster, we may have to keep all our window open, to try to stay cool. This eliminates some of the security we normally have. If you have people, who are trying to take advantage of the situation by looting you may need to rig up some early warning systems.

Fortunately there are many simple ways to give you early warning of intruders. Dogs are great, one of the best early warning systems. Often smaller dogs are more alert and will be quicker to bark. Get your dog ahead of time and get to understand your dog’s reactions. With a bit of training your dog can be a very effective early warning system. In addition, depending on the type of dog they can discourage prowlers.

One of the simplest early warning systems is to set up tripwires. Tripwire systems are very simple to put up and use. You just have to be sure that the tripwires blend in well with the surrounding. Some types of fishing lines works well, you can get fishing line in different colors.

Camp alarms

March 6, 2017

Another simple alarm that can be used in your home or even a motel room is to put an empty glass jar upside down on your doorknob. This will fall (and make a loud noise, except on carpet) should someone turn the doorknob. (Warning- the bottle can break leaving glass fragments on the floor). A soda can filled with loose change balanced on the doorknob will make a lot of noise if someone attempts to enter. Windows also easy to trap with cans of change or jars.

Check this out.

March 2, 2017

Pros and Cons of Adding a Slide-Mounted Red Dot

January 13, 2017

Adding a red-dot sight to your pistol is a big decision. Know the benefits and drawbacks before committing to one.

Source: Pros and Cons of Adding a Slide-Mounted Red Dot

Tahoe summit does get snow. 

January 12, 2017