Sound “Affects”

Have you ever shouted “Echo!” from the top of a mountain, an outlook point, or in a canyon? If you have, then you know that after a few seconds you will hear the sound you made bouncing back at you. Interestingly, there are several key factors that go into being able to hear this echo. There are many elements that influence sound, but the most common environmental factors that affect sound are the surrounding terrain and objects, wind, and temperature. At Whistles for Life, we know the importance of understanding what impacts sound because it could affect your ability to be heard in case of an emergency.

Sound is an energy that is transmitted through vibrations, and travels through longitudinal pressure waves in a material medium, such as air. The strength of sound, is measured by its intensity, denoted in decibels (dBs). For every 10dB increase, the loudness of the sound is doubled. For example, Whistles for Life’s safety whistle can reach 120dB, which by comparison means the whistle’s sound is twice as loud as the sound of a chainsaw from 3 feet away (running at 110dB). However, sound isn’t limitless like light is. Sound can only travel so far, and can be influenced by many factors, which can either help or hinder noise transmission. Whether you’re lost in the woods, walking in an unsafe part of town, or trapped in a building, knowing which factors influence sound can help you strategize your next course of action in those dire situations.

The largest impediment of sound is typically your surrounding environment. Objects will either absorb sound or reflect it in a different direction. When you find yourself in an emergency and need to signal for help, you will want to move away from objects that suppress and dampen sound, which are usually intervening objects with a large amount of surface area and acoustic absorption properties. Sound-absorbing objects typically have uneven surfaces that catch sound waves and bounce them within itself until the waves dissipate. For example, tall, thick trees and bushes will absorb sound well because branches and leaves are porous and they create a larger total surface area for the object. This is especially important to note in case you find yourself lost in a heavily wooded area, because the distance your sound will carry will be drastically shortened. On the other hand, flat, rigid surfaces such as concrete walls or sheet metal will tend to reflect sound rather than suppress it, because there are no uneven surfaces that can dissipate the sound. When you shout “Echo!” at the bottom of a canyon, your shout is echoed back because your sound waves travel unimpeded and bounce off the rock surfaces, returning the sound to you.

Imagine there was an earthquake and your building collapsed, trapping you and several people inside. You might be perfectly unharmed underneath a large oak desk, but it could take a long time for help to find you, let alone hear you, due to all of the objects and noises that separate you and the first responders. In addition to the debris trapping you inside, there could be a range of competing environmental noises such as emergency vehicle sirens and noise from generators and excavators, which can make it nearly impossible for people outside to hear you. Therefore, having an airhorn or whistle nearby can increase your chances of being heard and rescued. An easy way to implement this practice, in places such as your office, is to keep an airhorn by the fire extinguisher or tape a whistle to the bottom of your desk.

Sound can also be influenced by the wind. As mentioned earlier, air is a medium that sound can travel through. Wind, by definition, is the bulk movement of air, and it can move in different directions and speeds. Wind can carry noises farther away, prevent them from traveling as far, or even push them sideways, causing sounds to appear to come from a different location. For example, if you are at a distance from a friend on a windy beach, you might be able to hear everything he or she is saying clearly, but your friend isn’t able to hear you. Why is that? Wind travels at different velocities depending on the altitude. Wind that is lower to the ground moves at slower speeds, and this speed increases the higher it gets, which causes a “wind gradient.” This wind gradient means that sound traveling against the wind, or upwind, will be directed upwards and away from your intended target, transmitting the sound at a less effective level. While sound traveling in the same direction as the wind, or downwind, will be directed downwards and will maintain a higher level of sound. So, if you’re faced with a headwind, you might want to save your energy until the wind dies down or try shouting in a different direction. Contrarily, if you’re downwind, realize that the noise you make will be heard from a longer distance.

The last factor that affects sounds is temperature. The warmer the air temperature, the quicker sound waves will travel. The air molecules in warm air have more energy, meaning the molecules are vibrating quicker, which allows sound to travel through this medium much faster. In addition, sound that is traveling at a faster rate is less likely to be impeded or absorbed by obstacles. On the other hand, this means that sound won’t carry as far in colder temperatures. If you get lost snowshoeing, for example, be aware that your voice might not be heard as easily as it would if you were hiking in a canyon. As a result, you may want to consider bringing along additional safety tools that will help amplify your ability to call for help if necessary when partaking in activities in cooler temperatures.

If you need to grab someone’s attention and are only equipped with the sound of your own voice, you realistically would be able to reach a maximum volume of 110dB for about ten minutes. But at that level, you will quickly lose your voice. However, if you were equipped with some type of signaling device, such as a safety whistle, you could easily increase your sound level and reduce the amount of energy you exert.

At 120dB, Whistle’s for Life’s safety whistle will make your calls for attention twice as loud, for a much longer period. It is small and compact enough to carry with you at any time, and is extremely easy to use. If you can breathe, you can blow this whistle. In addition to the main chamber’s loud 120dB sound, our three-chambered whistle produces omnidirectional sounds at different frequencies through the two side chambers, giving you an even better chance of breaking through the ambient noises of your environment.

Therefore, consider bringing a signaling device with you on your next outdoor adventure, clipping one on your key-chain, or placing one in your desk at work. You never know when a situation will arise, but being prepared can increase your chances of being rescued when it does.

The founder of Whistles For Life

At the very root of Whistles for Life is a passion for rescuing people in times of crisis. This passion all started with Whistles for Life’s founder, Bob Cameron, who is the creator of the Whistles for Life safety whistle and has devoted his life to search and rescue efforts.

Bob Cameron was born and raised in western Oakland, CA. His dedication to Search and Rescue (SAR) was inspired by two big events early on in his life. When he was 14, he heard that two girls went horse riding in the mountains outside of Oakland, but when they returned, there were two horses and only one girl. Bob and his friend knew the mountains very well, as they had spent a lot of time exploring that area, so they decided to help in the search effort. After hours of searching, Bob located the missing girl. As he watched the girl being reunited with her family alongside the deputies on horseback, his excitement for SAR was sparked.

The second incident occurred when Bob was 18 while he was visiting his grandpa in Avola, BC, Canada, a heavily wooded area. One day, he was out exploring the woods and ended up getting lost for three days. Bob made his way back home by following a frozen creek until it met a larger river, and then followed the railroad tracks near the river bank until he came to his grandpa’s ranch. After spending three days and nights in the wilderness becoming frostbitten and hungry, Bob knew that he didn’t want anyone else to have to experience the same thing.

Bob enlisted in the Air Force with the Aircraft Rescue and Air Police division, where he went on countless search and body retrieval operations. He spent three years in the Air Force, and then moved to Idaho. After growing up in Oakland, he longed to live in the mountains and was inspired by a friend who had recently moved to Coeur d’Alene. This is where he decided to begin his career in SAR. He became active with SAR at his local sheriff’s office, and then spent a lot of time near the border of Idaho and Montana as a Special Deputy Sheriff. During this time, he went on hundreds of SAR operations where he reunited families, caught escaping criminals, and sometimes performed more difficult tasks such as body recoveries.

During these rescue operations, Bob and his team often had to split up. As a result, they needed a way to quickly communicate with each other from a distance. Originally, they used an industry standard whistle, but ran into a major problem: there was a bird in that area that made the same shrill sound. At times, they would hear the whistle thinking it was just a bird, while at other times, they would hear the bird thinking it was the whistle. Additionally, the whistle didn’t have a pea to break up its sound, so the high pitch frequency easily got lost in the wind.

Bob’s initial idea to solve this dilemma was to communicate by shooting a gun in the air. Two shots let others know where they were, and three shots meant the message was received. However, ammunition was expensive and depleted quickly. Therefore, Bob decided to design his own whistle that could be used by his team and other SAR professionals, and as a result, Whistles for Life was born.

The first whistle Bob designed was a two-chambered whistle, each with a pea to break up the shrill sound it made so it could be heard over wind, roaring waters, or shaking trees deep in the woods. Bob improved upon this design with his second and current whistle, which combines the benefits of his original design and competitor’s whistles. This whistle has one large chamber with a waterproof pea, and two small pea-less chambers, one on each side of the main chamber. The main chamber creates a loud staccato sound at 120 decibels (dBs), while the two secondary chambers create separate, omnidirectional high-pitched sounds.

Once he had perfected his final design, Bob and his team immediately began using the whistle. Then other SAR teams saw the whistle’s capabilities and effectiveness and began using the whistle as well. Bob’s whistle is now used by safety professionals all over the United States.

The whistle is not the only successful SAR-related product that Bob has invented. While living in Montana, Bob designed a para-foil balloon that could rise above the tree lines to identify lost victims. Following his time in Idaho and Montana, Bob moved briefly to Kirkland, WA, to help the FBI and Boeing engineers design torpedoes used in undersea warfare. His Silver Mylar balloons were implemented within the torpedoes to help identify their location when they surfaced. After this project, Bob moved to Bellingham, WA, where he worked for SAR in Whatcom County for 15 years.

Bob believes so strongly in Whistles for Life because he knows from first-hand experience that sound is the #1 factor in being found. For example, in the 1980s, he went on a rescue mission in Idaho to find a nine-year-old boy and his dog who were lost in the woods. After five days of searching through treacherous terrain, his team was ready to give up. But before they packed up to go home, Bob went to an outlook point over the river bank and shouted the boy’s name one last time. He then happened to hear the quiet reply of the boy, “I’m down here,” and they were able to save him. If that boy had been equipped with a whistle, he could’ve quickly and easily alerted the SAR team that he was in need of help and communicated his location. Aside from survival, this whistle can also be used to improve safety in a variety of situations including during natural disasters, at the workplace, or even when walking home alone at night.

With over 55 years of experience in search and rescue, Bob Cameron’s livelihood continues to revolve around his passion. Bob now lives in Bend, OR with his wife, where he is still surrounded by mountains and water, but slightly warmer temperatures. He continues to volunteer for SAR and the sheriff’s office in that area as well. With a lifetime spent finding lost victims, Bob now works on projects like Whistles for Life to give victims the best chance of being found. He knows that something as small as a whistle could be the difference between death and survival.

11 essential items to include in your survival pack

Whether you’re going on an outdoor adventure or just commuting to work, every person should be equipped with a grab-and-go survival kit. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of 11 items that are essential to include when putting together your portable survival pack. These are things that can be packed into a small backpack or handbag, and will help to keep you alive in emergency situations until someone comes to your aid.

  1. Water – This is at the top of the list because it is the most essential item on the list. On average, humans can only go 72 hours without water. Pack several water bottles to ration, and then once they’re empty, you can use them to gather more water.
  2. Nonperishable food items – Bring along nutritional, no-cook foods like granola/energy bars, nuts, MRE’s (meals ready to eat), and snack foods. These are easy to pack and store, will keep you from starving, and will provide you with much-needed energy.
  3. Lighter/matches – Fire is a must to stay warm at night. It can also be used to make a signaling device with smoke. Both lighters and matches are small and lightweight items, making them easy to pack in any survival kit.
  4. Thermal blanket – The key to surviving at night is staying warm. Emergency thermal blankets or space blankets help to prevent heat loss from the body. Make sure you get a thermal blanket that is small, compact, and easy to pack. It is also extremely helpful if you get one that is reflective, as they can make for a great makeshift signaling device during the daytime.
  5. Knife/multipurpose tool – These tools are great for food preparation, gear repair, making a camp or shelter, and first aid and emergency situations.
  6. Safety whistle – Safety whistles can be used to signal to others around you that you are in need of help, and will assist search and rescue teams in locating you if you are lost. Safety whistles can be used endlessly because they are powered by your lungs and not by a battery or compressed air canister, which have finite lifespans. However, because of this fact, it’s important to use a whistle that does not take a lot of effort to blow.
  7. Flashlight (with extra batteries) – Flashlights will give you reassurance by providing you with the ability to see when you are faced with one of human’s most common fears: the dark. They also offer yet another signaling option. Pack extra batteries as well to prolong the lifespan of your flashlight.
  8. Small medical kit – Bring along a small pre-assembled first aid kit with the basics. At the very least, you should have splints and bandages for any accidents that may occur, and any personal medical essentials, such as an epinephrine pen.
  9. Compass – This may seem old school, but when your phone or GPS batteries die, a compass is the best way to determine your direction.
  10. Bath tissue – This item pretty much speaks for itself.
  11. Extra clothing – Pack extra clothing items that may come in handy such as a sweatshirt/coat (preferably water resistant) and an extra pair of socks.

Boating safety: 5 things you should have aboard

Whistles for Life is the official whistle for the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) and their “Wear It” program. This partnership was developed to further promote safe boating practices on lakes, reservoirs, rivers and oceans in an effort to prevent boating and water accidents. With almost 4,500 boating accidents in 2016, continuous education on safe boating habits is extremely beneficial for boaters and essential for the prevention of future incidents. One of these habits is to ensure that your boat has the following vital items aboard in case of emergency or boat failure:

Portable flotation devices
Most states require by law that a portable flotation device (PFD) is on board for each passenger, but it’s always wise to carry more than you will need on your vessel. Even in the states that don’t require a PFD by law, the U.S. Coast Guard requires all children under the age of 13 to be wearing their PFD at all times while on a vessel, unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin. Portable flotation devices, such as life jackets, are classified by type by the U.S. Coast Guard depending on their buoyancy. Therefore, make sure that your PFDs are appropriate for your boating conditions and that each one is the right fit for the corresponding passenger.

If you would like to learn more about safe boating and personal flotation devices, check out the National Safe Boating Council’s “Wear It” program here.

Signaling devices
An efficient sound signaling device is now required on every boat on the water. Examples of when these sound-signaling devices need to be used include during times of reduced visibility, while at anchor, or when meeting, crossing, or overtaking other vessels. Attaching a sound device, such as a whistle, to every PFD is also highly suggested in case of an emergency situation in which a passenger is no longer on the boat.

The boating safety requirements for sound-signaling equipment is similar for all vessels, but varies slight depending on size:

  • Under 39.4 feet: needs to be equipped with some “means of making an efficient sound signal,” such as a whistle or horn, but it can’t be a human produced noise.
  • 4 to 65.6 feet: required to carry a horn/whistle that is audible for one-half mile for a duration of 4 to 6 seconds.
  • Longer than 65.6 feet: obligated to have a whistle/horn (audible for one-half mile for a duration of 4 to 6 seconds) in addition to a bell with a mouth diameter of 200mm (about 8 inches) or more.

Visual signaling devices are also required in most states, and highly recommended. Hand flares, flare guns, and light sticks are all generally accepted as sufficient visual signaling devices, and are typically inexpensive.

First aid kit
Keep a well-stocked first aid kit on board to resolve small injuries and support bigger injuries until you can get medical attention. Some common items to include in the kit are: gauze, band aids, latex gloves, scissors, sea sickness medicine, pain relievers, and some sort of anti-infection cream or liquid (such as hydrogen peroxide). If possible, it is ideal to have a kit that is waterproof as well.

Fire extinguisher
It is a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher on your vessel and know how to properly and safely use it. Depending on the size of your vessel, fire hazard conditions, and what state you reside in, it may even be mandatory to carry one on board, so be sure you are aware of the federal and state laws. In addition, only specific types of fire extinguishers are U.S. Coast Guard-approved.

If you do keep a fire extinguisher on your boat, be sure to keep up-to-date on the extinguisher’s expiration date and replace any that have expired.

Portable jump starter and tool kit
Batteries can stop functioning at inconvenient times. Just as a battery can die in cars, it can happen in boats too! Don’t let a dead battery kill your day. Be sure to carry a portable jump starter and/or jumper cables on your vessel.

Carrying a small general tool kit will also help you to fix any problems that may arise on your vessel so you can get back to shore. If you know certain parts or fuses that have a tendency to fail or become faulty quicker than others, be sure to carry spares and the tools necessary to replace them.