What Is It?
The SSR Panel (Survival.Signal.Rescue) is a multipurpose component that will help you survive and be rescued in an emergency. It's a simple tool that can aid in avoiding hypothermia or sun poisoning while awaiting evacuation and help Search And Rescue (SAR) teams find you. The high-visibility signaling panel can be worn, suspended from trees, or tied to your backpack. It makes you easy to spot from airborne searches as well as by people on the ground. It is a great visibility-marker for use when hunting, hiking, or responding to disasters across the globe.
In addition to the signaling and marking functionality, the SSR Panel can be used as a sun shade and comes with 20ft. of kevlar cord for creative hanging and sheltering. The integral pocket (that it folds up into when not in use) can hold the hand-warmers and when wrapped around your chest the mylar backing will help reflect and trap that heat in your core. The mylar is also waterproof enabling the panel to be used as a rain cover in a pinch.
I came up with the design for the Survival Signal Rescue Panel (SSR Panel) slowly over a year or two. In my never-ending efforts to shave weight and bulk in our gear, the standard signal panel marker often gave me pause. Each time I packed I thought about what I was bringing and why. I realized I wanted more out of that weight and space. In some circumstances we may be operating a couple of days from rescue, in others I'd been simply stuck out at night, freezing in a place that was sweltering hot during the day. If one of us needed rescue they'd likely be exposed to the elements for a while.
So I decided to combine a couple of items and design features. I cut up a mylar space blanket, a fleece jacket, and the brightest safety vest fabric I could find and sewed a very ugly prototype (the yellow model pictured below) of what I was thinking. I brought my ugly duckling to our custom manufacturing partner to make a quality small batch for our own use. After some tweaking, internal testing, and feedback from search and rescue folks we decided we were happy with the design.
After research into fabrics, materials, and manufacturing we've found the right suppliers and partners and we're ready to launch it as a product. We've found a US manufacturer of the ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 compliant high-visibility fabric and another US manufacturer of the industrial-strength, heat-reflective Mylar sheeting and our partner here in the Chicago area can manufacture them in small batches. We've gotten material samples from the suppliers and are very happy with the quality. We need funds to order the materials from suppliers that have minimum quantity requirements.
By kicking in to this campaign you'll help produce a 100% US made product that may help save someones life. At the very least it will likely keep some folks a little more comfortable when caught outdoors. We've heard of people that have volunteered to assist in disasters or humanitarian crisis that have been poorly prepared and ended up needing rescue themselves. We hear in the news frequently of folks lost hiking or hunting and the difficulties that rescue teams have finding them. And we've heard of many cases where people died or were hospitalized due to exposure while lost and waiting for extract. Your contribution will help you and others be prepared, avoid exposure casualties, and reduce the time it takes for Search and Rescue teams to find people in need.
What You Get
The design and packaging is small, light, and durable enough to be thrown in cargo pockets, glovebox of cars, bottom of backpacks and forgotten about until needed. An instruction manual is included to help guide the user in deployment under duress (which is the most likely condition if rescue is needed).
For donors who contribute $40 or more you'll get one of our SSR Panels which we suggest you combine other signaling tools that fit your needs and environment. You can follow our lead and add items seen in our Extract modules, add it to your standard issue gear, or roll your own. The SSR Panel comes with 20ft. of kevlar cord (400lb. break strength) and a small S-biner to help you secure the panel in a variety of circumstances. We add extra-length, strong cord because, in addition to securing the panel, the cord can be used for other sheltering or survival uses. The whole package weighs in at 4.4 ounces and fits flat in pockets.
If you are a hiker, hunter or international traveler and already have communications gear but want a compact signaling component, a donation of $90 or more will get you a travelers version of our Extract module. It is the absolute minimal set of tools needed to keep you alive for the potential couple of days it may take to get rescued and items to help the rescue teams locate you. In addition to the SSR Panel it includes standard signaling tools such as whistle and signal mirror, chem light sticks that help you operate in darkness (for example to gather wood to start a fire), fire starter and tinder (as well as rubber bands for additional burning fuel), a 1 quart resealable bag (diving-grade ziplock bag) that can be used to collect water or as floatation for signal panel, (2) water treatment tablets that each sterilize 1 qt of water, and hand warmer packs that can be added to the pocket of the SSR Panel to heat your body. The package is vacuum sealed and weighs in at 8 ounces, easily fitting in a cargo pocket.
For our team, when we deploy overseas, or even go on vacation to exotic locales, the Field Extract Module is what we rely on. That is what we are offering to donors who contribute $390 or more. It contains everything in the travelers version (whistle, signal mirror, chem light sticks, fire starter and tinder, 1 qt resealable bag, (2) water treatment tablets, and hand warmer packs) as well as an infrared strobe for use at night and a truly global satellite signaling and locator beacon. There is no guessing or double checking coverage maps, no service contracts that may lapse, no new technology or procedures that foreign-nation rescue teams won't have, no missing critical tools for a new environment, no batteries to charge. With this module you can signal for rescue anywhere on the planet (including the poles) with a GPS fix, signal rescue teams, overhead UAVs, or ground based teams in any condition. The package is vacuum sealed with a 10 year shelf-life on the satellite beacons internal battery. While weighing 14.4 ounces and slightly larger than the Travellers version it still fits in a typical cargo pants pocket.
Our timeline and plan for production is as follows:
01 JUN 2014 (half-way mark of campaign) - If it appears that we'll need to employ the larger industrial manufacturer rather than our existing partner, due to far greater demand than we anticipate, we will schedule a slot in their manufacturing line for August and order the initial proofs of the existing design. They are confident that they can deliver with an 8 week lead time on order.
15 JUN 2014 (projected end date of campaign) - We place the order with our custom manufacturer for the quantity of panels needed for the rewards of the project. This locks in our slot in their queue. They've earmarked a small slot for us already in July but final confirmation of numbers needed from campaign will either grow that slot or schedule an additional one. If the campaign is far more successful than we expect, we are already working with the industrial manufacturer at this point.
30 JUN 2014 (or as soon as campaign ends and processed) - On successful completion of the campaign and transfer of the funds from kickstarter, we will order the materials from our suppliers. We've already confirmed availability and shipping times for the materials and our suppliers are confident they can fulfill our needs. We also order any additional items needed for rewards.
15 JUL 2014 (projected material fulfillment time) - Materials are delivered to selected manufacturer. Our custom manufacturer begins production or if using the industrial partner the materials are ready for scheduled slot. We begin sorting and preparing reward packaging.
30 JUL 2014 (projected completion of custom manufacturer) - We receive the panels from our custom manufacturer, if chosen, and start packing and shipping rewards.
30 AUG 2014 (project completion of industrial manufacturer) - We receive the panels from our industrial manufacturer, if chosen, and start packing and shipping rewards.
We have already produced a small batch of panels for our testing and internal use. We're happy with the design and are already using the panels ourselves. We've gotten sample material from both suppliers and are ready to order the larger batches needed. Our custom manufacturer has scheduled floor time to produce runs in July. With your help in making this campaign successful we will be able to start manufacturing in July and shipping out in August!
Some Important Notes
If you are going out into the wild, responding to a disaster, or traveling through unpopulated areas by yourself, we STRONGLY recommend that you have some form of wireless communications tool that you know will work in an emergency in that environment and area. Maybe it's a cell phone (beware coverage/batteries), maybe it's a sat phone (beware batteries), maybe it's a VHF radio (again, power and reach), maybe it's one of the various satellite beacons on the market (be sure to research these). Our SSR Panel will help you endure the elements but it can only help Search and Rescue teams locate you if they are out looking. Colleagues, friends, or family may trigger a rescue if you are missing for longer than expected but it is better to be able to trigger a response yourself and potentially give an approximate location. That's why we include a satellite beacon in our field extract module ($390 reward).
The contents of our Extract modules are designed around 48 hours of exposure before rescue. If you know you are operating in an environment that is greater than 1 day from rescue we suggest additional training and packing. Ping us, we can suggest training, reading material, and additional packing.
The satellite beacon we supply as part of our $390 reward does not have any coverage plans or fees but it must be registered (for free) with NOAA/NESDIS (US) and other foreign search and rescue agencies to be effective. Instructions, links, and information are included to help with that. The beacon has a 10 year shelf life on the internal battery. After that expiration it needs to be sent in for replacement.
The US-manufactured, high-visibility fabric that we've selected meets the following specifications: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-visibility_clothing#ANSI.2FISEA_107-2010
It is worth being familiar with US DoD signaling protocols: http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/fm21_60.pdf
If you are looking for a pure signal panel marker that is more akin to the standard issue VS-17, we are big fans of the improved model by Battle Systems. It's what we carried prior to developing our SSR Panel:
Risks and challenges
The primary risk is exceeding the capacity of our custom manufacturer. They are a small local business that does extremely high quality work but limited in capacity. The campaign goal is the amount needed to order the smallest allowable rolls of materials from the suppliers and our custom sewing partner is able to produce two to three times that quantity in the short term. If the campaign goes over the goal we can order more materials and do larger batches up to a point. If the demand is much greater than we are anticipating we can partner with a local industrial sewing manufacturer for very large batches. Our custom manufacturer has a long standing relationship with the industrial sewing company and experience in handing off larger orders. Switching to the industrial partner would extend the shipping time by a month or so.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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