The Go kit is one of the hot button-issues in amateur radio. Everyone has their own idea of what a go-kit should be. Let’s start simple and work our way up from there.
What is a “GO” Kit?
Your Go kit is, simply, an emergency preparedness kit for hams.Think of it as a travel kit for emergencies. If you where to respond to an emergency, you would have a collection of basic necessities which would go along with you. The most obvious items would be radio, batteries, charger, and the like, but there are a few more. Let’s break this down a little.
Planning your Go Kit
Before we start, let’s do a little reality check. Many people will give you a solid list of what must be included in your Go kit. The reality is that there is no standard kit. Your primary consideration when building your Go kit will be simply, “What are you going to do with it.” Obviously, if you are going to assist with Sky Warn (Storm watching), your kit would be quite different than if you were going to assist in local shelters after a small flood, or if you are heading to the coast to assist after a hurricane/
Obviously you will need a radio, but which one? If you are responding to an event which requires foot travel (search and rescue, shelter, traffic direction…) you may need something more portable, like an HT (Handy Talky). Please do not forget the charger for the radio. On the other hand, if you are heading out to an area that requires coverage, you may need more than your basic rubber duck antenna. A mobile rig would be good in this situation.
First, remember to bring the items which you are comfortable operating with, such as your microphone, headset, pillow… You know what you are used to, so use it. The best tip I have ever heard here is “train how you will operate, and you will operate like you were trained.” (Thanks WB8TKL)
One tip that people often forget to give is to remember to include your radio’s manual. The last thing you want in an emergency is to forget how to do something on your radio and, let’s face it, these new units are not exactly the most user-friendly ones ever made. a stressful situation can lead to an embarrasing moment if you are not prepared.
Beyond that, there are a couple of items that can come in REALLY handy:
- Cable adapters for your radio (often called tweenies). You may need to hook your HT or mobile rig to a larger antenna. Will your connector be compatible?
- ARES Field Resources Manual – An invaluable reference tool for emergency operations
- Radiogram Message Pads – The best way to record and forward, or deliver, messages.
- ID, name badge on lanyard, and COPY OF LICENSE. Very important ones here.
- Notepad, pens AND pencils, and indelible markers (sharpies).
- Maps of any area you are likely to operate.
- If you have it, an emergency communications vest. These can be very handy.
Make a list of emergency contacts, local repeaters frequencies (don’t just assume they will stay in your HTs memory), call signs, and common addresses. Your individual group, area, club, EOC (Emergency Operations Center) will have it’s own requirements and procedures. These lists are good to have, but DO NOT rely on your memory in an emergency. Write it down BEFORE you need it.
We’ve made good headway here on emergency preparedness, but let’s not forget to take care of ourselves. You are no good to anyone else if you cannot deal with your own needs as well.
A friend (and Elmer) of mine, WB8TKL, puts this category into a nifty perspective. He says that the best Go Kit is a box with a list in it. You do not need a ready bag by the door with all materials. You just need to know where what you need is. Some people will say that I am wrong here, but I will answer that they go overboard. Let’s take a look at some of what should be on the list:
- Glasses, or contact solution and case
- Prescription medications, and possibly Tylenol (remember… Stressful)
- Change of clothes and toiletry kit for longer events
- Energy bars, or other nifty little snacks
- Water, juice, or other fluids (don’t assume there will be a fridge at the scene)
- Pillow and Blanket
- Rain, or winter, coat
- Flashlight and batteries, first aid kit, Hitchhiker’s towel (Mr Adams is a hero)
- Reading material to keep you out of people’s hair…
- Keep cash on hand. Credit cards may not work in an emergency. While your at it, try not to run the car low on gas (it’s not good for it, anyway).
It is not that the people you are assisting in the emergency will not try to take care of you. It is just that they will already be quite busy. Help them out by being self sufficient.
The Most Important Item
What is the most important item you need with you? The amateurs good-natured and helpful attitude!
Please remember that we, as amateurs, are there to help. Your attitude is a big part of this. We may be asked to carry supplies, or help with some other mundane tasks. While communications is our primary task, we need to be open to helping them with other things as well. THIS is the most important thing to carry.
A Look at My Arsenal
As an example, let’s look at my Go Kit. I cheat on a couple of things, but I think I have a decent setup which you may need. First I must qualify that I only use one vehicle. Why does this matter? Simply stated, I don’t have to worry about what car my rig is in, so I have a permanent mobile setup. Now onto the list…
- Mobile 2-meter radio with antenna, and Yaesu HT (including charger, the Yaesu can charge off of 13 volts. Many other HT radios have cigarette adapters as well.)
- Amateur Documentation bag, including; notepad, pens, pencils, highlighters, and markers. Swiss army-type knife and multi-tool. ARES Reference guide, radio manuals, and radiogram pads. I also keep a couple folders in there to keep private things private.
- Contact info – I keep lists of repeaters, known contacts, phone numbers, important addresses, and JNOS Nodes (I am a packet radio guy). I also slip in a few maps…
- Accessory kit. Since I have ample room in my vehicle, I carry my spare parts, tweenies, cable, and radio repair tools in a toolbox in the car (I don’t suggest this without a good alarm system).
- Personal items; Waterproof Long Duster and a jacket, inflatable pillow and blanket, towel, flashlight, and basic first aid kit.
- I keep an empty gym bag in the house with a list of items I need to throw in it (clothes, hygiene, food…)
Now, let’s look at my wish list for upgrades…
- Portable military mast, and two meter “Ringo” antenna. This is for extended period communications, or for the addition of a second radio for packet.
- 13-volt power supply. I would like the possibility of keeping the batteries charged in an extended operation.
- ARES Magnetic Signs (Quantity 2). I just think these would be handy, and look good, on a vehicle.
Links To Other Reading
- An excellent guide to go kit construction
- RACES official Go Kit page (a little excessive, but nice)
- Ready.gov’s basic kits page
- WB6FZH’s GO KIT INFO – An extensive list of options
- Los Angeles ARES Go Kit Page – Another list with good options