Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Giving the Gift of Preparedness

If you are still looking for last minute gifts and stocking stuffers, it's especially thoughtful to give the gift of preparedness. The following items are great to have all year round and are especially useful in time of a crisis.

Water purifiers are great for outdoor use but can also be helpful in an emergency. Purifiers come in various sizes from single-serve water bottles to a water pump for larger quantities.

During the winter months, car batteries can lose their charge and leave you stranded. Car jump starters can save you time and the inconvenience of being left alone in a dark parking lot. Some car jump starters can also be used to charge digital devices like your phone or laptop.  

Go boxes are the perfect gift for the prepper in the family. Box options include the number of people, number of days, and choices of food, water, and first aid. 

Power failure lights will never let your loved ones be left in the dark. If the power goes out, these lights will automatically turn on. There are some that can also be used as a flashlight.

An emergency escape tool fits perfectly in the center console of a vehicle. Most of these include a combination of a safety cutter to cut through the seat belts, a hammer to break the door glass, and a flashlight. 

Headlamps are useful for camping as well as for safety when the power goes out. They are virtually drop-proof and leave your hands free to work on other tasks.

Have a safe and happy holiday from all of us at TEEX!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

What you need to know before you buy a drone for Christmas!

Drones are rapidly gaining popularity in the U.S., and we understand why. Who wouldn’t want to operate a machine that gives you the sense of flying without leaving the ground? These gifts are given with the assumption that:

  • No training is needed, and
  • That they are a toy and there are no laws governing their use.

  • Unfortunately, this is not true and can create a problem for the gift recipient. While drones are still relatively new to the consumer market, training requirements and laws affecting their use are already in place. No one wants to give a gift that, if used improperly, could come with a fine of $250,000 and possible imprisonment. So, we’ve asked our resident sUAS expert Kyle McNew to give us a list of suggestions for the new drone owner.

    Purchasing a drone:

    Let the new owner and operator know if their drone weighs between .55 < 55 lbs, they must register their drone with the FAA as well as follow all FAA guidelines while flying. Those registering a drone must be at least 13 years old or older. Once they complete registration, the drone will be assigned a registration number. Place this on the drone with tape or permanent marker. Then the operator can fly it outside. Quadcopters are the best pick for first-time owners. 

    Before operating a new drone:

    Take an introductory class for drone operators. This will reduce the likelihood of a crash, injury or damage. It also gives the operator more confidence in handling their new drone. “You wouldn’t attempt to drive a car without some training,” says McNew. It is also important to obtain a license because “it can assist you with operating within the FAA rules and open doors to operate as a commercial sUAS pilot.” TEEX offers several courses for drone operators interested in recreational use as well as for public safety personnel who pilot sUAS in emergency response and disaster reconnaissance and recovery. 

    FAA Guidelines for Recreational Drones:

    ·         Any drone weighing between .55 < 55 lbs must be registered with the FAA as well as follow all FAA guidelines while flying. 
    ·         Label your drone with your assigned registration number.
    ·         Follow community-based safety guidelines and local laws and ordinances.
    o   Operators are liable for damages caused by their drone. Damage or injury can occur from flying into objects and people.
    o   Some insurance companies offer liability insurance and hull insurance
    ·         Fly your drone at or below 400 feet.
    ·         Keep your drone within your line of sight.
    ·         Flight over people, public events, or stadiums full of people is prohibited without authorization from the FAA.
    ·        Respect privacy. Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons where there is an expectation of privacy without the person’s permission.
    ·         Notify the airport and air traffic control tower before flying within five miles of an airport.
    ·         Never fly near emergencies such as fires or hurricane recovery efforts.
    ·     National Parks have banned the use of drones within their confines to eliminate technological distractions.

    Drone rules are changing:

    On October 5, 2018, the President signed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. This establishes new conditions for recreational use of drones and immediately repeals the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. Until the new ruling is fully implemented, continue to follow all current policies and guidance with respect to the recreational use of drones.

    For the most up-to-date information and safety tips, visit https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/ or http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/for-recreational-users/.

    Kyle McNew, Training Manager with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service and Institute for Law Enforcement and Protective Services Excellence. He holds a private pilot’s license and is a sUAS operator and instructor.