Don’t be a hero: Tips for surviving the road

December 7, 2006

The bad news across the blogosphere today is that James Kim, the CNet journalist missing this last week, has been found dead. I didn’t know the guy, but like many I’ve been following the story this last week, and the news is sad. Obviously not all the details have been released as yet, but what we do know is that Kim’s car appears to have either broken down or become stuck, and Kim left his family to find help. He’s death however, was totally preventable. Broken down cars and people leaving them to seek help is a fairly regular occurrence here in Australia, and 9 times out of 10 it’s tourists who are in this sort of situation. Here’s some tips for others in case you are ever caught in a similar situation.

1. Never, ever leave your vehicle
You never hear stories of people dying who have stayed with their vehicle, but you regularly here stories of people dying who did leave their car seeking help. If rescuers are looking for you, there a lot more likely to see your car than you. By leaving your car you also leave yourself exposed to the elements. No matter how desperate your situation, unless you know for sure that there was a house 2 miles back or similar, always stay with your car.

2. Buy an EPIRB
Basic model EPIRB’s cost a couple of hundred dollars. They are compulsory in Australia for boats going a certain distance offshore. They should be compulsory for people driving off the beaten track into wilderness areas or similar. If you’re stranded in the middle of no where, EPIRB’s are a sure way for rescuers to find you.

3. Take extra fuel
This is probably more an Australian thing, but if you’re traveling long distances sometimes roadhouses (gas stations) can be few and far between. That extra 10, 20 of 40 litres of fuel in your boot can get you to the next roadhouse.

4. Take water
You can never have enough water. If you get stranded, you’ll need it to survive

5. Get your car serviced prior to leaving
Probably a given, but plenty of people don’t do it. If you do break down, even if you can get help, you can often end up with an enormous towing and repair bill. A couple of hundred for a service is small change in comparison.

6. Let people know where you are going
Telling people your heading to a city but failing to mention you’re taking the scenic route doesn’t cut it. If James Kim had been more specific in letting people know where he was going, via with roads etc, be it a loved one or someone else, he may well have been alive today because there was a delay between when he broke down and when the search effort started. I’m not sure about the US, but certainly in Australia there are services where you can register your movements when your traveling over a long distance. Check with your local State Automobile Association for more details.

13 responses to Don’t be a hero: Tips for surviving the road

  1. Hey Duncan,

    What’s an EPIRB?


  2. “EPIRB”

    That should answer your question.

  3. Wow — thanks for the link.
    Sounds like almost everyone should have one … or at least those who are at risk of getting lost or traveling through the country side.

    t @ dji

  4. These are good tipcs but you know, the title of this blog is incorrectly written. James Kim was NOT trying to be a hero. Who in their right mind would want to leave their family all alone, especially with two small kids??

    No, James Kim was NOT trying to be hero by leaving his own family to go find help. It was six or seven days and no one was coming after them so he had to do the impossible and unthinkable. He had to leave his family to go find help or else he thought they would all die.

    Even though he should of stayed there with his family and would have been found, we weren’t in his situation at the time and have no idea what he believed had to be done. James Kim was a hero…but he most certainly was not trying to be one.

  5. Good tips overall, but I agree, the title of the post is in poor taste.

    Not knowing *when* or even *if* help will come, after spending NINE long days in the car is an eternity. I have two young ones myself, and spending even two days with them inside my comfortable home is a long time.

    I’m not sure if most if not all of us would have done exactly the same thing as James did. I would have, and probably sooner than 9 days too.

    Such a tragic ending to the Kim’s family…

  6. I agree with nell, that Jame Kim was not trying to be a hero. He might have been desperate, he might have been delirious after 9 days in the car, but he was not trying to be a hero. We teach 1 st year Boy Scouts to take with them anywhere the “Ten Essentials” Compass, matches, Whistle, MAPS of the area, Water, persoanl first aid kit.
    First Rule is first rule given above. STAY PUT !!! If you need something to do, MAke shelter, MAke a smoky fire, make Noise BUT NEVER EVER LEAVE THE AREA.
    3 rd Year Scouts are taught Winter Weather Awareness, How to survive for no less than 3 days in winter wilderness (OKPIK training)
    So as much as I admire this man, I still consider him stupid. AS much as I mourn his loss, and pray for his family and children, I pray as much that this situation will teach others the necessitty of Boy Scouts as a youth training course.
    My condolences to the family, My prays to those who knew him, my prays to all who read this and have no Boy Scout Training.

  7. One report mentioned they burnt all five tires of their car for heat. That doesn’t make sense at all. This is where I agree with you considering him stupid. Like cutting your own lifeline. Burning the spare to kindle a huge bonfire – I can see that.

    But why in the world would one immobilize himself by burning your car’s tires? Or may be they where out of fuel also….

  8. Pater – The Kims ran out of gasoline after heating their car periodically. They only burned the tires after this happened, for heat and for signalling. Therefore their car was already immobilized and no one was stupid here.

    Please have some respect, especially if you don’t have the facts.

  9. NO… it was NOT stupid. You have to SURVIVE.
    If this means BURNING your tires AFTER you are OUT of GAS, then DO IT.

    Also, A MAN will GIVE his LIFE for HIS family.
    IF that means… leaving them to..
    1. Find HELP
    2. NOT take away from the food/water supply
    3. NOT take away from the warmth factor
    THEN YES… a man will leave.

    Fathers,Mothers,Husbands and Wifes everyday sacrifice for their family. IT is Natures way of keeping the rest of the GROUP alive and prospering. We do without to make sure OUR children have more changes to succeed in life.

  10. The Poor sacrifice every day….
    They wear cloths that are worn out, because they ONLY have enough money to buy cloths for 2 people.
    Problem is… there are 3 of them. SO the mother will “do without” so her 2 children HAVE cloths.

    This is NOT fantasy, this is NOT 20 hears ago. NO, this is YESTERDAY. OUR Wifes,OUR Children come first. THE END.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. The Blogging Times » James Kim’s body found - December 7, 2006

    […] From blogosphere: Boing Boing, John Chow dot Com,, Deep Jive Interests, Joe Duck, KGW-TV, The Tech Report, Lost Remote, Alice Hill’s Real Tech News, Rex Hammock’s weblog, Listening Post, BlogHer, Gizmodo, John Furrier, Podcasting News, ShoutBlog, Monkey Bites, 4 color rebellion, Lifehacker, Engadget, J. LeRoy’s Evolving Web,, Chuqui 3.0 and digg […]

  2. I Worked with James Kim ~ Chris Pirillo - December 7, 2006

    […] What’s so ironic about this tragedy is that James, of all people, was the person most likely to have gadgets that could have saved him. I don’t mean that as a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” statement, mind you – just that I knew James was about as geeky as they came. If anything, I believe he’d want us to learn from his passing; Duncan posted a handful of fantastic tips, should you find yourself in a similar situation some day. Please read James and Kati’s Web site for all the latest official information, including where to send your donations. death, deceased, gadget, gizmo, james kim, tragedy […]

  3. 901am - December 9, 2006

    The cynical take on the death of James Kim…

    Cnet?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s senior editor James Kim was found dead in the wilderness in southern Oregon, after his family?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s car had broken down. Cnet has an In Memoriam on Kim if you haven?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t read about it yet ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s all over the blogosphere. Our condolences to th…