Jump Kit
Jump Kits

You never know what challenges an emergency situation will offer. You might have AC power, or just the batteries you bring along. Safe drinking water may be available, or you may have only your canteen. Sometimes you can find out in advance what sort of conditions are likely for your assignment, but many times no one will know -- particularly during the early stages of an emergency.

Being prepared for an emergency communication deployment involves a wide range of considerations, including radio equipment, clothing and personal gear, food and water, information, and specialized training. No two deployments are the same.

The last thing you should need to do when a call for assistance comes is think of and locate all the items you might need. Any experienced emergency responder knows how important it is to keep a kit of the items they need ready to go at a moment's notice. This is often called a "jump kit."

Without a jump kit, you will almost certainly leave something important at home, or bring items that will not do the job. Gathering and packing your equipment at the last moment also wastes precious time. It is important to think through each probable deployment ahead of time, and the range of situations you might encounter. Here are a few basic questions you will need to answer:

  • Which networks will you need to join, and what equipment will you need to do so?
  • Will you need to be able to relocate quickly, or can you bring a ton of gear?
  • Will you be on foot, or near your vehicle?
  • Is your assignment at a fixed location or will you be mobile?
  • How long might you be deployed - less than 48 hours, up to 72 hours, or even a week or more?
  • Will you be in a building with reliable power and working toilets, or in a tent away from civilization?
  • What sort of weather or other conditions might be encountered?
  • Where will food and water come from? Are sanitary facilities available?
  • Will there be a place to sleep?
  • Do you need to plan for a wide variety of possible scenarios, or only a few?

Most people seem to divide jump kits into two categories: one for deployments under 48 hours, and one for up to 72 hours. For deployments longer than 72 hours, many people will just add more of the items that they will use up, such as clothing, food, water, and batteries. Others may add a greater range of communication options and backup equipment as well.

Everyone has their own favorite list of items to keep in a jump kit. Some responders have more than one kit for different types of deployments. You will need to develop your own, suited to your own needs, but here is a general list to help you get started. Depending on your situation, you may not need some of the items on this list, or you may need special items not listed.

Kit Items

  • Something to put it in -- one or more backpacks, suitcases, plastic storage tubs, etc.
  • Radios and Accessories
    • Handheld VHF or dual-band radio (some people also like to bring a spare)
    • Spare rechargeable batteries for handhelds
    • Alkaline battery pack for handhelds
    • Alkaline batteries
    • Speaker mic and earphone for handhelds
    • Battery chargers, AC and DC for handhelds
    • Mobile VHF or dual-band radio
    • HF radio
    • Multi-band HF antenna, tuner, heavy parachute cord
    • Gain antennas and adapters (roll-up J-Pole, mobile magnetic mount, etc)
    • Coaxial feed lines, jumpers
    • Ground rod, pipe clamp, and wire
    • AC power supplies for VHF.UHF mobile and HF radios, accessories
    • Large battery source for VHF/UHF mobile and HF radios, with charger
    • All related power, data, audio, and RF cables and adapters
    • Small repair kit: hand tools, multi-meter, connectors, adapters, fuses, key parts
    • Materials for improvisation: wire, connectors, small parts, insulators, duct tape, etc.
    • Photocopies of manuals for all equipment
    • Headphones, for noisy areas and privacy
    • Specialized gear for packet, ATV or other modes
    • Multi-band scanner, weather radio
    • Personal cell phone, pager, spare batteries and chargers
    • Pencils, legal pads, pencil sharpener
  • Personal Gear
    • Clothing for the season, weather, and length of deployment
    • Toilet kit: soap, razor, deodorant, comb, toilet paper
    • Foul weather or protective gear, warm coats, hats, etc. as needed
    • Sleeping bag, closed-cell foam pad, pillow, ear plugs
    • High energy snacks
    • Easily prepared dried foods that will store for long periods
    • Eating and cooking equipment if needed
    • Water containers, filled before departure
    • First aid kit, personal medications and prescriptions for up to one week
    • Money, including a large quantity of quarters for vending machines, tolls, etc.
    • Telephone calling card
  • Information
    • ID cards and other authorizations
    • Frequency lists and net schedules
    • Maps, both street and topographic
    • Key phone numbers, email and internet addresses
    • Contact information for other members in your group, EC, DEC, SEC, and others
    • Copy of emergency plans
    • Resource lists: who to call for which kinds of problems
    • Log sheets, message forms
  • Operating Supplies
    • Outgoing message forms or sheets to compose messages
    • Incoming message forms. (Some operators copy the message onto scratch paper, and then transcribe it cleanly onto the incoming message form. Some groups use one form for both incoming and outgoing messages.)
    • Log sheets
    • Standard forms used by the served agency
    • Letter or legal notepads
    • Sticky notes
    • Paper clips and rubber bands
    • Blank envelopes

Sub-Dividing Your Kits

You may want to divide your jump kit into smaller packages. Here are some ideas:
  • Quick deployment kit: hand-held radio kit, personal essentials, in a large daypack
  • VHF/UHF, HF kits for fixed locations
  • Accessory and tool kit
  • Emergency power kit
  • Short and long term personal kits in duffel bags
  • Field kitchen and food box in plastic storage tubs
  • Field shelter kit (tents, tarps, tables, chairs, battery/gas lights) in plastic storage tubs

Other Considerations

You may not want to pre-pack some items for reasons of expense or shelf life. Keep a checklist of these items in your jump kit so that you will remember to add them at the last minute.

Some operating positions will be known in advance: local hospitals, 911 centers, etc. For those positions, you should consider the following questions in advance:

  • Will you need a long antenna cable to get from your operating position to the roof?
  • Are antennas permanently installed, or will you need to bring your own?
  • Will you be in one room with everyone else, or in a separate room?
  • Is there dependable emergency power to circuits at possible operating positions?
  • Does the building have an independent and dependable water supply?
  • Is there good cell phone or beeper coverage inside the building?
  • Can you reach local repeaters reliably with only a rubber duck antenna, or do you need an antenna with gain?
  • If the repeaters are out of service, how far can you reach on a simplex channel?
  • Will you need a HF radio?