The Gift of Safety: Take the Burden Off First Responders This Holiday Season

December 16, 2021Noelle Wiehe
NOAA gift ideas for disaster preparedness

Being aware of the forecast with a weather radio is a good way to make sure you’re not venturing out in the middle of a storm. Photo by NOAA, via Unsplash.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has a few recommendations for gifts designed to take the burden off first responders in 2022.

The good news is that there’s something for everyone this holiday season, with the perfect gift geared to “the interests and activities of the person you’re buying it for,” said NOAA’s National Weather Service Weather-Ready Nation ambassador lead Douglas Hilderbrand.

NOAA ideas for gifts weather radio
Firefighters worked around the clock to get fellow New Yorkers and visitors alike to freedom Sept. 1, 2021. Photo courtesy of the Fire Department of the City of New York Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Weather Radio

A NOAA weather radio broadcasts immediate warnings about tornadoes, floods, and even chemical spills in your area. 

“Everyone should have a NOAA weather radio to be used as that lifesaving source for information,” Hilderbrand said. “With severe weather, you don’t want to be playing with your life.”

Hilderbrand said buyers might consider the “Swiss Army knife” of weather radios — models that include a flashlight, a hand crank as a battery source, and even a dog whistle. That whistle could come in handy if you’re “trapped under rubble” because the “high-pitched noise that humans can’t hear would be able to be reached by rescue dogs,” Hilderbrand said.

NOAA ideas for gifts EPIRB
A remote mining camp near Nome, Alaska, where a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak aircrew rescued the survivor of a bear attack, July 16, 2021. US Coast Guard photo.

Emergency Locator Beacon

An emergency locator beacon makes a great stocking stuffer, especially for your mariner friends. But Hilderbrand said pilots and weekend hikers could also depend on the device.

It would come in handy for someone stranded or lost. They could shine a beacon that used search and rescue satellite technology so NOAA and US Coast Guard rescuers could pinpoint their exact location.

Christmas tree hydroid
If you’re a mariner trying to stay above the waves, you might not want to greet this Christmas tree hydroid. Closely related to jellyfish, this hydroid in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary gets its name from its branches, which look like a Christmas tree from afar. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photo by Greg McFall.

Hilderbrand counted more than 35,000 people who’d been saved thanks to the satellite-aided tracking system. The emergency locator beacons relay registration information to search and rescue personnel.

Consider Coffee or Die’s Nov. 13 story “Alaska SAR Alarm: Daring Coast Guard Rescue Saves 4 Mariners.” Because the mariners used an emergency position indicating radio beacon, or EPIRB, a US Coast Guard crew from Air Station Sitka rescued them 15 nautical miles off Cape Ommaney

“I commend the survivors in this case for having the boating safety equipment they used,” Nicholas Meyer, Sector Juneau command’s duty officer that night, said in a prepared statement emailed to Coffee or Die. “Their [emergency position indicating radio beacon] confirmed their distress location allowing our aircrew’s timely response, and the survival suits and raft greatly contributed to their safety.”

NOAA gift ideas emergency beacon
The fishing vessel Laura grounded on rocks off Alaska’s Sitkalidak Island, Nov. 1, 2021. The crew activated an emergency position indicating radio beacon, or EPIRB — one of the holiday gifts recommended by NOAA. US Coast Guard photo.

NOAA Diving Manual

For the scuba fanatic in your life, why not consider the NOAA Diving Manual: Diving for Science and Technology, 6th Edition?

It’s the NOAA bible for diving equipment, breathing-gas mixtures, safety, first aid, marine life, and the history of underwater exploration. NOAA recommends the encyclopedia for divers who are serious about safety.

Daytona Beach
Volusia Sheriff’s Office divers joined the underwater hunt for a missing man on Sept. 4, 2021, off the coast of Daytona Beach. US Coast Guard photo.

Mobile Weather Apps

Your buddy’s smartphone might have a basic weather app on it, but NOAA’s Hilderbrand thinks you could search for something a little better that uses data from NOAA.

“There are really good radar apps,” Hilderbrand said. “Much more sophisticated than the basic one that might come on your iPhone.” 

Look for an app that tracks lightning strikes, tide levels, sea state, and other weather conditions.

“Having that data on the phone that shows the storm coming helps with decision making, like when to get off the golf course or getting out of a dangerous situation ahead of time instead of waiting until the actual danger arrives,” Hilderbrand said.

NOAA gift ideas mobile weather app
A coating of ice endangers the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Miller Freeman in 2010 in Alaska’s Bering Sea. Such icing can affect a ship’s stability and cause capsizing. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Operations Center-Pacific photo.

Tidal info is important to mariners, swimmers, divers, and people going fishing. 

“For people vacationing in Puerto Rico or just enjoying a day at the beach, we highly encourage you monitor the sea state and heed any warning signs for dangerous rip currents,” Lt. Cmdr. Alberto Martinez, a search and rescue mission coordinator, said in an emailed statement to Coffee or Die.

elephant seal
This elephant seal hanging out at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on Sept. 24, 2007, might look friendly, but seals are dangerous in the fall. They flock to beaches to molt, give birth, and mate, and you should give them plenty of space. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photo by Steve Lonhart.

Emergency Kits

What happens if your sleigh poops out when you’re going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house? Can you really count on that reindeer with the red nose?

An emergency kit stashed in the trunk of a car can be the perfect present for travelers.

“You’re giving the gift of potentially saving someone’s life, if not saving their life, certainly easing the misery that they’re going through in an extreme weather event,” Hilderbrand said.

Read Next: US Coast Guard Is ‘Captain Santa’ on the Great Lakes

Noelle Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

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