MakeShift Challenge: Survive a Flood: Most Creative

MakeShift 06: Bobby Joe Snyder’s Most Creative Winning Entry
by Lee D. Zlotoff
August 25, 2006

OK, it’s time to assess the situation in a hurry. I have about 15 minutes to get 2 teenagers, my spouse, and myself above the flood level. Of course, I can’t forget my neighbor. There are major ethical implications of leaving him to the flood waters, especially when there is plenty of time to save him.

I decide that the first priority is getting the family above the flood line. It is too dangerous to do otherwise. That is with the risk of someone in the family trying to gather too much and me not having enough time to round them all up. Besides, I have some plans that just may work. The first thing is everyone’s safety, and then we will deal with the other conditions.

Alone, I wake my neighbor. I estimate that we have ten minutes left. I tell him to get the spare tire and wrecking bar that is in the trunk. Then grab the ax that is by the woodpile. Meanwhile, I grab my laptop because it has all my work on it. It is plugged into the router, so I just yank the cables. Ropes are available but too short for climbing. So I grab the next best thing: a 300 or 400ft. of Cat 5 network cable that is wound around a plastic spool, making it easy to carry. While inside, I tip over the freezer and refrigerator and lay them on their backs with the doors facing up. I also open the windows and leave the door open. I meet Dave at the car and see that he has also decided to disconnect the battery. Time’s up. We lug everything to the top of the mountain where everyone waits anxiously.

OK, first and most importantly, everyone is safe. Now comes the hard part of getting rescued and making it back to civilization. Crews are probably undermanned depending on the severity of the earthquake and where its epicenter was.

We will start with our obvious resource–the Suburban. It will ride us to town when the flood waters recede and for now will be the main shelter during the cold nights. I task Dave with removing the backseats and removing the tire form the rim of the two spare tires. (One taken from the Toyota and one in the Suburban) Meanwhile, I will work on a signaling machine to use at night. It is a simple design since supplies are limited. Basically, it will be the headlights removed and connected to a metal plate. Shifts will be assigned to tap the metal plate with the ends of the jumper cables, like a drummer playing the drums. (The jumper cables are carried in the Suburban.) I know it is isn’t perfect, but other than creating a fire, communications are difficult.

If we get ambitious, Dave and I can climb to a higher level on the mountain and try the cellphones. We could build a passive repeater with the wireless router. However the risk is too great and attempts would be futile. But people have been rescued with as little as a signaling mirror, but I’m not really sure if anyone is looking for us.

My plan to save us is to use the spare tires and car seats as a flotation device, or boat. We’ll make paddles out of branches. This is where the network cable comes into play. A tire rim will be connected to a low tree branch through its center, allowing the rim to rotate. A lever will be attached to the rim. Someone will unwind the tension slowly as Dave and I paddle to the house for supplies. Recalling the fact that I tipped over the refrigerator so it would float, we could grab food and just about anything that remains out of the water.

If we can make it to the house and back, it will be much easier in the remaining days. It also adds many supplies that will aid in us being rescued. Things like plastic pipe, candles, shopping bags, Pringles cans, and much more that one doesn’t think about gathering when there is limited time are now available.

Now we can make homemade flares using the Pringles cans as a tube (or plastic pipe to make things like spud guns) and pop bottles filled with alcohol as a flare. Plastic shopping bags can be tied around a candle and let loose to float in the air, bringing attention to our area.

I know it sounds difficult, and we may not be able to make it back to the house. But without getting there, other than the headlights and fire, there is little contact with the outside world. Even if we can’t make it to the house, we can still survive living off the land.

It is a crude picture but serves in showing a few ideas. The spare rim is connected to a tree, or the rim is connected to the Suburban’s wheels, creating a winch. The network cable is wrapped around the rim and also attached to the tire and seat raft. It releases tension when paddling to the house and increases tension on the return trip. Below, the floating refrigerators are ready to provide fresh and plentiful food.

MakeShift 06: Analysis, Commentary, and Winners