Weather Category

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dear Hugh,

I live just north of Atlanta and, fortunately, I work from home, and I also live alone. So I was not stuck in the massive traffic jams everyone saw on TV. I was nice and warm and comfortable in my home while all this happened. My sister, who lives three counties over, had trouble getting home, but nothing like the 16 hour commutes most people had. It did hit home the fact that I live near a major population center and will have to plan any evacuation in a SHTF situation accordingly. All the Monday morning quarterbacks and Northern naysayers blamed it on us Southerns not being able to drive on snow. That was part of the problem; there were plenty of accidents blocking some roads and interstates. The real and most eye opening problem was the shear number of people all trying to leave the city at once. Like Atlanta Mayor Reed and Georgia Governor Deal said, it was like someone blew a whistle and said "Go!". Everyone- schools, government employees, private companies all left at the same time. Any traffic system would have had a hard time handling that volume of traffic. Even without the snow and ice it would have been a nightmare on the streets. In a SHTF scenario where Atlanta had to be evacuated, then throw “PANIC!” into the mix and I imagine it would have been even worse. Desperation would set in and no telling what someone might do to go an extra mile or two, or what they would do to get some fuel or a working car, when their family's safety was involved. I could not imagine trying to get out of Atlanta on any of the three major highways that go through the city and the backroads were just as clogged by everyone trying to avoid the interstate chaos.

It really got me thinking to either move farther out from the city or relocate to a different, less populated state altogether. Snowmaggedon happens once every five years or so and is over in a day or two. SHTF would be an entirely different story.

Side note: Snowmageddon did bring out the best in our neighbors and fellow citizens. People from our sub-division gathered up bottled water and snacks and handled them out along a major through-street near my house that was gridlocked. People thanked us profusely and some even tried to make donations or pay for the stuff. We said no thank you. News report showed people all over the Metro Atlanta area were doing the same. Some in our neighborhood were even willing to open up their homes to anyone who needed it, but the traffic started moving about 9:00 PM, slowly but smoothly. We had no takers for overnight accommodations. - M. in Atlanta


Dear SurvivalBlog,

I made it through fairly unscathed down here in LA (Lower Alabama) with the ice storm last night. Power was out for about two hours last night so we lit candles and got out the battery powered lanterns. The propane stove still worked so we cooked dinner with it and everything was fine. After about 30 minutes we started to see a little haze in the flashlight beams but it raised no red flags. Right after that our carbon monoxide alarm went off. It might as well have blared "STUPID MAN FORGOT TO OPEN WINDOWS". All the years of reading your blog and heeding your advice were neutralized by one mistake brought on by living where a certain set of circumstances rarely happens. Just thought I would fess up so others can be reminded of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. I learned a lesson a long time ago from one of my first AH-1 Cobra instructors that relates to making mistakes...”Those that have, those that will, and those that are lying about it.” Keep up the good work and I look forward to learning more from your website in the future. - V.R.

HJL Replies: I'm glad there was no long term emergency and I am doubly glad you had carbon monoxide alarms. This is another good reason to practice with our preps. We need to know how things work before we really need them.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dear Mr. Rawles,

This week has been a wake-up call for me. Living in the Deep South, I have never worried too much about being too cold. We have made quilts and have had many quilts passed down to us when my wife and I married. We had more quilts given to us when our daughter was born. But, our electric heat pump loses its efficiencies when the temperature is below freezing. Using natural gas is not cheap and the price varies based on the economic principals of supply and demand. We have never had to worry about our pets as we place extra straw in their houses. I have always checked my vehicle’s anti-freeze and thought if it gets down to zero degrees F, I would just stay home.

Then the bitter cold [from the Polar Vortex] ravaged the South.

Lesson 1: Piling on too many quilts can get heavy and the heat pump cannot keep up with the house’s demand. My wife’s sinuses have dried out from running the natural gas backup. I will have a wood burning stove added soon and will cut wood. I will [continuously] use a cast iron tea pot [on the wood stove] to put humidity back in the air.

Lesson 2: The dog and cat are staying inside. I even brought my dog to my office so she can use the facilities. I am blessed to have an office with a gated back area where she can exercise and do her jobs. She is also trained to only go on guard with a key word. I have a very safe feeling with her at my office. In my line of work, I work late nights from mid-January thru the end of April. I have always been reserved working late at night during this time of year. But, I keep my guard up. That may include having my dog with me this year.

Lesson 3: I will make it so the dog and cat can be comfortable outside without disrupting our schedule. I will have to study on this to come up with some practical ideas.

Lesson 4: Better prepare our vehicles for what is to come. I thought I would get one more summer out of this set of tires. They are not real good for snow or ice but work great in rainy conditions. I will have a set of “take-off” tires which I screw some small sheet metal screws into to act as ice cleats if needed.

Lesson 5: Know how your insurance works. I did not have any pipes to freeze; praises to God! But I went to lunch with an agent and talked about what insurance covers. Insurance does not cover the broken pipe, but will cover damage caused by the pipe. So it will pay to re-do your home but not pay to re-plumb your home. It can pay for you live somewhere else while your home is being redone. Talk to an agent in your area.

Lesson 6: If you have water pipes in your ceiling, insulate, insulate, insulate. Several businesses with pipes in the ceiling froze and burst. So many are closed and undergoing remodeling.

Living in the Deep South, I worry more about heat and rain rather than cold and snow, but this has shown me that any part of the US could be susceptible to any type of weather. We never lost power, but we need more options for heating. - Anonymous in The South

JWR Replies: I wholeheartedly agree about insulating houses. Don't forget that it helps with both cold and hot weather!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I have recently been reading, and as an avid hiker/backpacker/adventurer, I am very interested in what this site has to offer. I have been reading the different TEOTWAWKI posts, and I have read different TEOTWAWKI situations, learning and understanding more and more about survival. I enjoy giving back to the community, and I have been searching for my own TEOTWAWKI situation that I can use to help myself and other people learn from it. I realized that about 1 year ago, a really serious TEOTWAWKI situation happened to my community (and family).

I am a religious Jewish 18 year old living in New York. My family and live in Far Rockaway, approximately nine blocks away from the beach. In other words, we are very close to the ocean. About one year ago, we heard on the news that a really big hurricane (Superstorm Sandy) was heading our way. Since we live very close to the ocean, you might think that we get hit with hurricanes all the time. The meteorologists seem to think that also, and about once or twice a year, we get a warning to evacuate. The truth is that we have been getting these warnings since I was born, and NOTHING has ever happened. A few examples are (as quoted from the NYC OEM web site):

Hurricane Felix lingered off the East Coast for nearly a week in 1995, menacing the northeastern U.S. before it finally drifted out to sea.
A weakening Tropical Storm Bertha brought heavy rain to the City in July 1996.
Hurricane Edouard veered out to sea after tracking toward New York City around Labor Day 1996.
In September 1999, Tropical Storm Floyd brought sustained 60 mph winds and dumped 10-15 inches of rain on upstate New Jersey and New York State over a 24-hour period. Flash flooding from this tropical storm — one of the most powerful to affect New York City in a decade — forced hundreds of people to leave their homes in counties just outside the five boroughs. Floyd caused New York City's schools to close for the first time since 1996 and led the city to open emergency storm shelters as a precautionary measure.
In August 2011, Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm right before it made landfall in New York City. In preparation the City issued the first-ever mandatory evacuation of coastal areas on August 26, 2011. The evacuation encompassed 375,000 residents living in evacuation zone A, the entire Rockaway Peninsula, and 34 health care facilities located in evacuation zone B. The City sheltered 10,000 evacuees at 81 shelters.

There have actually been more, but since they didn't affect the entire New York metropolitan region, only Far Rockaway, they didn’t count them. I remember Hurricane Isabella some time ago. But the bottom line is that most of these hurricanes are just fluff and nothing really happened despite all the warnings the news gave us.

As a result of all these factors, whenever a hurricane happens, no matter how intense the warnings are, almost nobody evacuates (at least in my community.) Just to slam the message home, in 2011, the year before Sandy, when the news people, the government, and local organizations told us how “this is the craziest, most intense storm to ever hit the Rockaways…..etc.,” some people did evacuate, and still nothing happened. So in October, 2012, when SHTF, nobody expected it, nobody evacuated, and everything went crazy.

Religious Jewish people in general usually live in the same community, go to the same events, and go to the same Shuls (synagogues). The Far Rockaway Jewish community covers an area of roughly two square miles. The community next door (Lawrence), covers approximately that same, and so on. You can probably walk from Far Rockaway to Manhattan and every few miles walk through a Jewish community. Because of this, when Sandy hit, we were all helping each other out.

There amount of good will was astounding. Just to give a tiny example, we have an online classifieds in the Five Towns (Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Inwood, Woodmere, Hewlett) and Far Rockaway, and to show you how the community got together in order to survive this episode, I will post a few samples of the posts:

“1 pair of Beige and 1 pair of Navy Blue Dickie Pants, New with Tags Size 7 regular. 1 pair each of Black George New with Tags Size 8 Regular. 1 pair of Black George Slightly used Size 8 Regular. Prefer these go to family affected by Hurricane like so many of us.  We also have some polo shirts in similar sizes if interested.”
“If anyone needs some lightly used baby clothes or lost baby clothes in the storm. Sized 0-6 months (boy). Please email or call” 
“you can have wireless internet access at XXX XXXX XXXXXXXX anytime. its wireless network is XXXX. password:   sandy 2012. you can come in or park near driveway and it will work. also for those who need showers come on over until 1 am. you can just come to warm up and relax if that's what you need
Ally and Sean”
“I have room for 3 people leaving to Brooklyn this afternoon.”
From Achiezer (Local organization):

We are compiling lists of those that are in the immediate need of clothing. There is a clothing gemach (lending/free organization) that has already been set up at XXXX Reads Lane in Far Rockaway. Anyone who requires may go there for clothing for men, women, boys and girls as well as coats and shoes. If anyone would like to donate clothing to members of the community, please email
If you have no choice but to remain in homes in the Far Rockaway/Five Towns and do not have food for Shabbos (Saturday) or during the week, please call our hotline and prepared foods will be made available for you. (Please keep in mind that many people do not have access to email. Please share this information with anyone you know.)  Fully catered meals are being made available to anyone in the Far Rockaway/Five Towns communities who require.  Please email XXXX@ACHIEZER.ORG or call  XXX-XXX-XXXX to let us know how many meals are needed.  The MET Council along with the JCCRP have opened up a respite area in the White Shul as well as the Young Israel of Bayswater starting at 7pm for Far Rockaway/Bayswater residents.  Anyone who would like some hot food or a place to charge your phones may go there starting tonight.”
“I have a few bags of challah (bread) rolls and some bread for someone that needs it. I can house a single or couple; sorry I don't have room for kids. If you need a shower; change; place for charging cell phones, computers, etc.  If you need (a) Shabbat meals(s) let me know.”
“Dozens of beautifully catered shabbos packages for any families that would like for shabbos are being distributed RIGHT NOW. These include challah, grape juice, matzo, bottled water, gefilte fish, chicken cutlets, kugels, assorted salads, cakes, cold cuts, soups, as well as cold cereals and other items for your children. There are dozens of people arriving there with hundreds more meals being setup.
The distribution is being handled at Shor Yoshuv, 1 Cedar Lawn Avenue, in Lawrence. There is no charge for these meals, and due to the email/cell breakdown we ask you to spread this service to anyone who may benefit from receiving these meals. If you know of someone who is unable to drive to get these meals, please let us know and we will have it delivered.
If anyone in Bayswater requires, please go to the Young Israel of Bayswater where there is also distribution taking place at the headquarters of the RCSP.”

Please read the following few final updates regarding shabbos plans for this weekend. We believe you will find this information both helpful and useful as shabbos approaches.

“From Achiezer Community Resource Center
1)Gasoline Update:
We are tremendously appreciative to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder who today brought Senator Schumer to our temporary community center to pledge their assistance. Together they are working on a major effort to bring and make available a supply of gasoline to our neighborhood. We should start seeing a major improvement in gas supply before the start of shabbos.
2) Security over shabbos:
We know that many are concerned about the safety of our communities over shabbos. Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has arranged that there will be a major increase of police presence in the Far Rockaway area over shabbos. A call was also made to the NCPD to arrange increased patrols for the Five Towns area. The RCSP is also hiring additional patrols for the Bayswater area over shabbos.
3)Volunteer help:
We have numerous volunteers available to help you clean out your homes, pump out your basements, and whatever other needs may arise. Call the office in the morning, and we will be happy to set you up.
4)Shelter for shabbos:
If anyone still would like to be put up for shabbos in either Queens in Brooklyn, it is not too late. We have numerous homes available for complete families. Please call our office at  XXX-XXXX, or email
5)Financial assistance:
Rabbi XXXXXXX XXXXXX from Agudath Israel of America and a group of community trustees spent hours at our office today preparing this special fund. If anyone would like information about emergency assistance, please email us at, or call us at our hotline for further instructions.
We thank you for your incredible patience, and we will do everything in our power to try and alleviate the stress from what is undoubtedly a most difficult period in your lives.”
“I have power at XXX Grove Ave . you are welcome to power up your devices, and shower (after I am finished). There is a limited amount of refrigeration available since I have a lot of stuff from neighbors, but we can squeeze some more in if necessary.”

I think the foregoing messages illustrate an ideal way for a community to react to a TEOTWAWKI situation. This response was only possible after many years of coordination of the community members. We have our own volunteer ambulance service (the city one takes too long), a volunteer police department, a community patrol, etc.  There was incredible damage throughout most of Far Rockaway and the five towns, and many people’s houses were unlivable, besides not having heat in the early winter. Electricity was a rare luxury in few houses. There was no phone service, cell or land line. I think this should be classified as a TEOTWAWKI situation based on these facts alone. I know that a lot of the people who are reading this are from out of the city area, and are probably thinking that this is normal, should remember that this is a city area where there are not really any communities and most people do not know there neighbors. This would have normally resulted in chaos and mayhem. To show you how this is true, look at the next door community where there is no real community infrastructure in place. A few blocks from where I live is a lower to middle class community, and there was rampant looting, shootings, and burglaries. The local Best Buy, Costco, and strip malls were all looted. Our community was mostly untouched.

As a side point, there were signs in this community that read “you loot, we shoot.” Shows you the value of firearms in this type of situation.
It is worth it to organize and establish a community within your midst just to help each other out in this situation, besides all the obvious benefits. A few ideas are thus:

  1. Create a list of the different streets in your neighborhood
  2. Invite all those who live on those streets to partake in events, house parties, etc.
  3. Create an online classifieds that will bond the community members together. Craigslist is too shady and full of scams for many people to be involved.
  4. Create multiple volunteer organizations
  5. Welcome new neighbors to your area. This usually creates a feeling of togetherness.
  6. Assign communal posts. A few reasons for this: you can keep everything organized, it takes away pressure from you doing everything, and causes people to be more invested in your new community

Friday, December 13, 2013

The ice storm that hit north Texas this past Thursday was forecast at least four days in advance, if not longer, but when it hit  apparently just about everyone was taken by surprise.  Drivers on I-35 north of Denton were stuck for so long they eventually abandoned their cars and sought refuge in local churches.  There was talk of sending in the National Guard to rescue them before that.  These people had days of advance warning about the weather but chose to drive anyway.  (Many of them apparently on their way to a rap concert in Dallas.)  Imagine the conditions if there had been a sudden emergency or disaster. 
The town we live in has one grocery store, and it was out of milk and bread by Saturday afternoon.  As of Monday afternoon, they still had no milk but had received a bread delivery.  When I say "no milk" I mean the liquid refrigerated stuff that is kept in dairy cases.  I walked over to the baking supplies aisle, and lo and behold, an entire stock of canned and boxed Tetra-Pak milk, untouched.  The shelves of powdered milk were well-stocked, too. Either things weren't bad enough yet, or people just aren't aware that there is more than one way to buy milk.  I already had a couple of liters of the Tetra-Pak milk at home, and plenty of canned milk, but I picked up a few extra just in case it takes longer than expected to get the highways clear and the trucks through. (Two of those cans of evaporated milk turned out to be expired.  Need to work on that can rotation!)
In addition to being stripped bare of milk and bread, the frozen pizza aisle was decimated, there was no chicken and no beef left in the meat section.  The store was completely sold out of Coca Cola, but there was plenty left of the other brands.  The canned soup aisle was pretty bare as well.  There was very little bottled water left. My husband and I made sure to note the items that sold out first so we’ll remember to stock up on any of those that we use regularly in our household.
The doughnut shop near our house had plenty of small bottles of milk, and there was milk available at the convenience stores we looked into during the few forays we made outside the house.  Those convenience stores were selling milk for four to five dollars per gallon.  In our area a gallon of non-organic milk is normally less than $2.50.
The groceries that were still in abundant supply as of yesterday afternoon were the things that take a little work to turn into food: flour, sugar, rice and pasta.  There were plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce section.  One takeaway for me- I need to become more proficient at making my own bread so that it becomes as easy as scrambling an egg is.
At one point in the weekend, there were over 250,000 people in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area without power.  We were lucky that our power never went out, but if it had we had plenty of firewood, oil lamps and candles on standby.  I would like to think that our neighbors had similar supplies laid in, but I would be surprised if they did. We lost power one night last summer and our house was the only one on the street with candle light flickering inside it.  (Some blackout curtains are on our list for future purchase.)  
I stayed home with our five year-old daughter because schools were closed and I was told to “use my best judgment” as far as driving in was concerned.  We made a fire and played with toys while listening to the audio book of “The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  When my husband came home and said there was no  milk left at Kroger, our daughter said, "oh, no, now you're gonna have to give me hot water to drink!"  We took this opportunity to explain to her that this is the reason why Mama buys boxes of milk and puts them away in the closet.  We do it because we love you, we told her, and because we don't want you to go without milk just because there's an ice storm.  We went on to explain that people had known this storm was coming for days, but that most people waited until the last minute to go to the store and get the things they would need.  We advised her to remember this when she's older and act ahead of time so she doesn’t have to panic at the last minute.  Our little girl tends to listen and pay attention to us, so we hope she’ll remember this as she gets older and takes our advice about preparation and self-reliance to heart.
Everyone makes jokes about how Texans freak out when a quarter inch of snow falls and how no one around here knows how to drive on ice or snow.  That’s true because this hardly ever happens around here.  Weather like this has become more common in our area over the past few years, though (see Super Bowl XLV), but no one seems to have decided to anticipate or plan for it, especially TxDOT, who as of yesterday, still had crews stuck all over the state, rather than working on clearing roadways.  I saw crews sanding our local town streets for the first time this morning- six days after the storm first hit.
What I’m taking away from this six-day-and-counting inconvenience is that most people don’t plan and they won’t prepare. This would have been a relatively minor weather event if it had happened in another part of the country where municipalities are more prepared in general.  I’m sure readers in more northern parts of the country will be chuckling and shaking their heads at the site a big chunk of Texas brought to a standstill by a few inches of ice. This experience has driven home the need for us to be more prepared, to bring in more supplies, to be ready for whatever may come. This ice storm has also provided us a good opportunity to teach our daughter about being prepared and being self-reliant without scaring her.
It also showed where some holes in our planning and preparation lie.  While he was clearing ice from our driveway, my husband slipped and fell.  He landed on his side and luckily didn’t break anything.  If he had broken a rib or some other bone, we could have had quite a wait for an ambulance and/or faced a dicey trip to the hospital. This is one area where we need to make plans for the future.  What would we have done?  What other contingencies do we need to plan for? 
We cut down one old, dying tree just a week before the storm but there is still one tree that overhangs our roof.  This tree, too, may need to go for safety’s sake. Falling trees and now falling ice have done a lot of damage to buildings and cars in this area over the past couple of days.
As I noted, we never lost power (or haven’t yet), but if we did, can we be certain our fireplace would have kept at least part of the house warm enough?   We’re planning on adding additional insulation to one room in particular so we’ll have at least one room that we can keep snug and warm without electricity.  I’m certain we need to add more candles and oil lamps or lanterns to our stores, as well.  If our power had gone out Friday like it did for some, and was still not back on, as it isn’t for some, we would certainly burned through our supply right now.  I doubt, too, that the small supply of Sterno and Stoves in a Can see us through a five-day power outage.
We don’t let our daughter play on the computer much, so she’s not one of those kids who can’t function without electronic media to distract them, but she does enjoy listening to audiobooks and watching DVDs. We played “school at home” to keep her in school/learning mode.  Putting seed out for our wild birds and then watching them eat kept her entertained as well, but in an extended power outage, we might have had boredom and cabin fever to deal with on top of everything else.  We’ll need to stock up on more coloring books and puzzle books and look into a battery-operated CD player for her.
Our pipes did not freeze, but if they had, would the water we have stored lasted for six days?  I believe it would have, but we do need to store more water and purchase additional water BOBs or other means of water storage in case of long outages in the future.
The real problem in my mind though is what we’ll do if a summertime storm or other disaster, manmade or not, knocks out power for extended period of time while it’s 100F outside.  That would be a much more serious problem.  It’s always easier to get warm in Texas than it is to stay cool, and judging from TxDOT’s lackluster response to our icy highways and overpasses, and the fact that there are still people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area without power we’ll likely have no one to turn to for help except ourselves- as if we didn’t already know that. Thank you for considering this piece.

Friday, November 15, 2013

I have been thinking about writing an article on what is going on in the Philippines since I first saw the news last Friday.  There is so much that I saw I realized that I would need to write far too many pages to explain it all.  But I will write a few.
I saw the news of Typhoon Yolanda, as it is called in the Philippines, live from PI.  They called it Typhoon Haiyan elsewhere.  I am married to a Pinay (a Filipina lady) and we get several of the Philippine television networks right here at home via satellite.  I think we watched all of them.
I wish to make some observations here from what I saw, and I do not plan on giving detailed answers on everything.  I do not have them.  But perhaps we can learn from what has happened.
Yolanda Arrives
On Friday, November 8th, at dawn, Typhoon Yolanda went first to the Island of Samar (my wife’s home island), right over her Barangay Basyao, then onto Tacloban and through the rest of the Vasayn area, touching Cebu (the number two city of PI) and outward after crossing a few thousand of the seven thousand islands in that nation.  That will not mean a lot to everyone on this list, but I know for certain it will to some.  Tacloban (the number three city of PI) is where the most damage was done according to the news.  That is the main city of the area and it has about 220,000 people not counting the nearby towns and villages.

A good number of the Philippine people I have met through the years are not so big on disaster preparedness.  Those that come from a local village (barangay) in particular live very much day to day.  Some have some things stored up, but not so many.  The poorer ones even in the cities do not always have adequate refrigeration.  And even those that do often do not have the space for general prep if they are in the cities.  People do what they have always done.  Not that it is wrong in itself, but that sometimes costs people much, and sometimes everything.
Yolanda came in as nothing like ever did before.  It had steady winds of 195 MPH, and gusts up to 235.  From what I could see, and I do not have all the information, Yolanda flattened many villages and a very big chunk of Tacloban, including concrete structures and many of those with corrugated tin roofs.  The villages typically have a lot of bamboo framed structures with coverings of palm leaves and grasses.
There were stories of people being pulled out of houses by the winds or the water and their bodies later found in the water, in trees, or not at all.  I do not know how many drowned from the twenty foot waves that covered so many people.  They were big enough waves that full sized cargo ships are now on land, on top of what used to be homes.  I do not see how one could have done enough preparations where they were.  Leaving would have been the only solution for most.  Living on an island, even a large one, makes that very tough though.
After the Storm

The stories of people surviving way out in the country are out there.  I do not know how many made it yet.  From what I heard was that some in that group may have survived because they did the only thing they knew how to do.  They went to the same mountains and jungles to hide where their parents or grandparents hid 70 years ago from the Japanese.  It was the same thing some of the Vasayn people did to get away from the Spanish several centuries earlier.  In the past they would also hide in the low laying caves.  That might not have been a good choice this time.
There was a strange side note to this.  Former first lady Imelda Marcos had a secure and fortified shelter and survived well.  Very few others had such an option.  Imelda and her now deceased husband Ferdinand Marcos (the dictator) had in the 70’s done at least as much damage to the people of PI as Yolanda did.
The pictures and videos I saw showed that sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and there is hardly anything you can do about it.  Most of the Philippine people who Yolanda hit did not know it was coming.  They have no TV, radio, or even electric in a lot of places away from any city.  And even some of them do not even have a radio.  The only thing they do is personally watch the weather, buckle down as needed if they can, and they clean up later.  It is what they have always done.
The people of PI found there were too many to bury.  They took tractors and backhoes of all sorts and buried people with unknown identities dozens or even hundreds at a time.  It does not dawn on us, even those who prep somewhat that this can happen.  What a horrid situation.  But sometimes it happens that way in parts of the world.  We have not seen that here in well over a hundred years.  May it never happen here.  It could though.  One of our members on this list has already told me he thinking he may need do that one day, while he hopes not.  Me too.
TV and Media Coverage
The Filipinos have several TV networks.  ABC-TV5, GMA, and ABS-CBN are the bigger ones.  We mostly watched the first two.  TV coverage in the Philippines is not really the same as here.  They are very much to the point, open in what they say or do, and they tend to be fairly graphic in what they show.  What we see is more sanitized; for good or bad, maybe you know?
Some of the saddest things I saw were the dead bodies in the street.  They were in the trees.  They were floating in the water.  And more.  I apologize if that was a little rough the way I wrote that.  I say it this way so that if some horrific event happens you will at least know what to expect.  I have never seen that, but I have seen many dead bodies, including a large number in one place from a disaster.  It does something to you if you let it.  Prepare your mind for the worse if, God forbid, the stuff hits the fan like it did in PI.
I saw a man one day holding onto his young dead son, who was perhaps ten.  He had that thousand-yard stare and did not know what to do.  He just stood there.  Very similarly, another man carried his very young daughter’s body.  He was actively seeking a place he could lay her body down.  I do not speak the language, but the reporter said he did not want to put her just anywhere.  Later they showed a local church building that survived mostly intact.  People turned it into a morgue of sorts.  I do not know if that father found that place or another, but others thought it a good place to place their dead until they could be buried.  Would I do that as a pastor?  Would I allow others?  Yes, in a heartbeat under such conditions.  We are the Church.  The building is to serve the people that serve God.  May it never happen.  But I would allow it.
Some of the reporters did not just interview the people there, but they became the same people.  The network cut to one lady reporter who had just been in another church building.  While she was there the winds took the roof off.  She was trying to explain what happened, but when she looked around at everyone, she just began to cry.  Someone at the studio wanted to cut back when the lead reporter at the studio said, “No, leave her alone.  Let her cry.”  And cry she did, standing there in the rain.  Then she spoke.  She said, “WE have nothing.  Let’s pray to God for help.”  While I would never admit to it if I had, I almost lost it there.  Then the other lady in the studio agreed with her, and said “we must pray to Jesus for help”.  Often enough on air reporters there have said on other occasions they need to pray for their country, but this one really hit.  It took two reporters half way around the world to remind me that God’s people can pray anywhere and any time no matter what the circumstances.
One Philippine TV station began playing early Christmas music with one song in particular that was written to roughly say they were facing very hard times, but if we looked up, looked to the Child that was Jesus, all would be well, that we could make it.  When times were bad we must look up to God to save us .
Government Help
In general the thing that Filipinos know all along happened.  They were on their own.  Most of the gov people who were supposed to help did not help on time.  The people picked up their own dead.  The people moved whatever barriers out of the way that they could.  The airport tower went down.  No lights or radio communications.  All the cell towers went down.  No one in an official capacity seemed to know how to do anything, at least not at first.  Police and other local emergency workers did not show up for work.  Some could not, and those that could took care of their own families instead.  It dawned on me that it was a very real possibility that the same could happen here too.  We could well be completely on our own in some circumstances.
I saw one very good related thing though.  The PI president refused to declare martial law.  I did not fully understand what he said, but I understood clearly that he said no.  He said they would help their people the best that they could, but not like that.  I suspect that he remembered well that his own father was assassinated under martial law for speaking up against the tyranny of Marcos.  It was good that he remembered.
I also observed that the Philippine people know what their gov did or did not do right.  I saw that they did not appreciate what they thought of as meddling by CNN’s Anderson Cooper who reminded them of that “live from Tacloban” (which he could not pronounce).  The GMA network played clips of him talking too much.
I will not downplay the looting.  People were hungry and broke into food stores.  I saw one man standing in front of his store with a pistol in his hand telling everyone to stay away.  They did.  I later saw a different man open his store and tell others to take the food they needed, and they did.  Interestingly enough, there was one very large food warehouse that was never looted or broken into.  It became the distribution center for many when the food supplies did finally arrive.  Some of the food that was sent by boat or plane disappeared into I do not know where or how.  People just came and got what they needed.  But it was food.  They were not breaking into stores for new sneakers or designer “hoodies” that I saw.
I heard plenty of people, even in their desperation say they would not give up.  Some of those lost everything, families included.  A few put up Philippine flags to remember their nation.  One man who was interviewed said, “We are hurt, but we will rebuild.  We will turn to God.”
There was a lot of bravery.  Parents gave lives for children.  Husbands did for wives, and wives for husbands.  People swam out to where the waves took their families.  A few came back.  Many never came back at all.  In one case a sixteen year old gave hers for her mother.  Only one could get out, and the girl did not think she would make it.  She pushed her mother out telling her she needed to live.  That was a very hard thing to hear the crying mother tell.  I thought of the Bible verse that says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Miscellaneous Observations
It the time of a disaster like this, small motorcycles ruled.  I heard time and again that the gas pumps were all shut down.  And that it would not matter, because the roads were all shut down.  But the riders of these little bikes found fuel and were going everywhere.  There were even a few small motorcycles with side-cars holding more people than one would imagine they could carry.  I think it was a business for some.  I also saw people with soda bottles of gas for sale.  For the bikes?  Regular bicycles had a lot of good use as well.  Even in the worse of times people find a way to do things.
I learned that some people walked for hours to the airport, not knowing for certain, but they heard “the Americans are coming”.  It took a few days, but come we did.  It is nice to know some still think we are the Calvary, and in this case we were.  Americans brought C-130s, V-22s (Osprey tilt rotors), and all sorts of choppers.  A lot of supplies.  As of the time I am writing this, we have ships on the way.  It is not exactly a secret in the Philippines, but just because Subic Bay Naval Station and Clark Field closed does not mean all of our stuff left.  We still have things there.  And our military still stops there.  I understand that some of our naval ships can generate enough power to light up a small city.  If they have not by the time you read this, I suspect they will.  Having no control tower for the airport is no problem.  They bring their own.  One might think I was still proud of our troops.  I am.
I watched Philippine President Aquino wade through a crowd and spent some time handing out water to a very big group.  I saw them before and afterwards, but his security team was not visible when he was doing that.  They were either very good at blending, or the guy was just very comfortable with the people there.
The US military ran the airport well enough that by Thursday the 14th (PI time), some commercial planes could land even.  US C-130’s lifted many from Tacloban to Manila.
A couple of the cargo ships that were on land became emergency housing.  Someone figured that the ships were stable enough (we all hope) and were certainly going no place, so people took up residence.  In an emergency it is good to consider all possibilities.
Franklin Graham had his Samaritan’s Purse charter a 747 full of supplies to PI.  Our church took an extra offering and sent money that way through his outfit.  They have a high integrity.  I heard that the Southern Baptists are sending help, and I read that the Conservative Baptists are doing the same.  I fully trust both of these to do right in this also.  I understand there are other Christian organizations also doing right.  I read of one Jewish organization sending food aid, and some medical team arrived from Israel.  There is a team of American doctors helping at no charge too.  There are probably more people doing what is good and right that I do not know so much about.
I read the following in a British newspaper,
“Filipinos have a saying: Weeds don’t die easily,” she said. “When it’s safe, when there is electricity, when it’s livable, I’ll come back.”
Final words
I have said many good things about some people from the Philippines.  As I think about it, I believe that despite our often selfish society, there are many individual people here who would do every good thing I wrote about above.  While I do not think the percentage is as high as it should be, I think a lot of us still have that “I can do it attitude” that would help us get through some very terrible events.  We should accept help when we need it, but it is so very important that we learn to fend for ourselves.
We must never take God for granted.  He has preserved us thus far.  He may not always.  He may choose to let us go as a nation one day.  Job had a good answer for this,
"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.
Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him." - Job 13:15
Pray for the Philippines.  Pray for our nation.  Pray for your families and yourselves. I wish you Godspeed.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

One day, last year, I found myself in a pretty serious situation that tested my nerves and my luck. It happened on the C&O canal in Maryland. The canal runs 184.5 miles from Washington DC to Cumberland Maryland. Living just across the Potomac in McLean, Virginia, I made it my custom to ride my mountain bike on the canal every chance I got. It was and still is my favorite ride of all time. I would enter the trail at the 12.6 mile mark across the street from the Old Angler’s Inn near Carderock, Maryland. where there was ample parking for trail-goers and those who chose to kayak the rapids. I would ride to the Huckleberry Hill Campsite at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. then turn around and ride back. Total ride: 100.6 miles.

It was a Monday, my day off, and I had until Tuesday 5:00pm to be accounted for at work. I hit the trail at about noon, it was sunny and about 60 degrees, perfect weather for a nice long ride. I had my usual gear, Camelbak with a full bladder, cell phone, headlamp with extra batteries, AM/FM radio with headphones, 2 packs of Myoplex meal replacement powder, a couple of Cliff bars, and about a half dozen GU energy gel packets. Also I was carrying my standard rain gear consisting of a jacket, pants, and a bonnie hat. As usual I began riding at a slow and even pace to warm up, around 8-9 miles per hour. Typically I continue this pace for the first 3-5 miles until the gravel gives way to hard-packed dirt which is smooth and fast. Also at this point on the canal the traffic becomes almost non-existent. One can go miles without seeing another biker or jogger, particularly on a weekday. I put on the headphones, tune in my favorite conservative talk radio show, and begin to up the pace. Now I’m going 12 miles per hour, right in my zone. I can go for hours at this pace (on relatively flat terrain). The miles tick by, marked every tenth of a mile with a wooden mile marker on the side of the trail. At around 3pm I take a break at one of my favorite spots where I stretch, consume a Myoplex, and relax for a bit. There’s plenty of scenery to take in, the historic Potomac River on one side and the canal on the other.

I call my girlfriend (now my wife) and chat for a while. She is concerned as usual because I am riding alone again and wants to know EXACTLY when I’ll be done. And as usual I have no definite answer as it’s hard to pinpoint my finish time. I hit the trail again and sadly I’m reaching the outer limits of the other news radio station’s abilities. The traffic and weather on the ten’s are now gone. I find a local AM station that is talking about zoning issues and hear the chance for rain in that area has increased for later in the evening. However the reception is spotty and static makes me crazy so I turn it off. The rest of the ride to West Virginia is uneventful and I arrive at the turn-around feeling great. Here I consume another meal replacement pack and refill my Camelbak bladder from the hand-operated pump, these are located at each campsite along the canal. I meet and talk with another cyclist who has come to the same place from the other direction. We chat for a few about bikes and rides and pesky joggers and part ways. I check my cell phone for reception so I can advise my girlfriend but, no bars. This is no surprise to me as I have never had reception in this area, but I thought I would check anyway. I roll for about 20 miles and the ride begins to take it’s toll. My rear is getting tender, my legs are getting sore, and my arms are becoming heavy. My pace begins to slow as I count down the miles to where my vehicle is waiting for me.

Coming back into radio range again I tune in to listen to yet another conservative talker that I enjoy. Talk radio and endurance cycling go well together and I find the familiar voice comforting. At the half hour news break I hear the updated weather report for the Washington area and it seems the rain is coming. Thundershowers. Could be heavy at times. I notice through the tree canopy that the sky is indeed dark in the direction that I must go. I assess the distance remaining, about 25 miles, and deduce I may need the rain gear at some point. However at this time I’m in the endorphin zone and negative thoughts are absent. Five miles and about 40 minutes later my confidence begins to wane. I’ve got 20 miles to go and the skies are very dark ahead, and night is approaching. I receive the radio news quite well now and they say frequent lightning strikes are to be expected. Adjusting my pace at this point is difficult to justify due to the ground left to cover, burn out too soon and I’m potentially in even more trouble. I’ve bonked out before and it’s not something you want to do when there is the potential for trouble. Once, after a hard ride in town on a hard trail I barely made it back to the car. I was shaking and light-headed and had no food to bring me back. I barely made the two miles to the Burger King drive-thru where I carbed-up. After eating I basically passed out for 45 minutes in the parking lot with the engine running, slumped over the steering wheel. The temperature is dropping but I’m feeling no chill as I’m used to riding in cool weather wearing minimal riding clothing. I consume two more gel packs in an attempt to ratchet up my energy level. The difference is negligible, I get little if any real boost. By the way, when you use energy gel packs make sure you drink plenty of water. The wooden mile markers are my goals now, each one only one tenth of a mile apart. I begin to ride out of my seat as my rear is on fire and very sensitive. Standing up and pedaling creates more power but can only be done intermittently without burning out. So I rotate, pedal 1, 2, 3, and coast, pedal 1, 2, 3, and coast. I am able to maintain my speed without burning out and my rear is spared. The rain begins. It is a drencher from the get-go. No easy sprinkle gradually turning to a downpour. I stop and put on the jacket and the rain pants and the boonie. I take the moment to consume the last GU gel pack and suck the H2O as I start again.

Another minute or two shows me the next marker and tells me I am still 12 miles from my car. I have not seen anyone on the trail for the last hour. I guess they heard the weather report and made their way off the trail. The rain is torrential now, my headlamp only lights the trail for about 10 feet in front of me. I must slow my roll as the trail begins to puddle and I must be careful not to wreck, Remember I have a river one side and a canal on the other. The towpath is roughly 12 feet wide, so there is not much room for error. I am now less than 10 miles from the parking lot and the storm is on top of me. The lightning is everywhere, the thunder is immediate and I am scared. Being at the mercy of nature will make you pray, even if you never have. As I have a deep and constant relationship with my Creator I defaulted to begging for mercy. I had just recently lived through a Derecho weather event in Virginia which devastated my home, left me without power for nine days and put my family in real jeopardy, so I was keenly aware of the danger. Every tenth of a mile was a small miracle that I rejoiced. There was no stopping, no time out, no shelter whatsoever. No option but to get to the parking lot and get in my vehicle. The last marker I saw said I had two miles to go, it was nearly impossible to see them in the drenching rain. The lightning was still everywhere, this was the real fear and it was unrelenting. Quite frankly, I have never been so scared in my life. I continued to pray out loud. I was yelling. Save me Lord! Save me Jesus! The last distance to the car was a time I will never forget. I choose to believe that God spared me that day. And nothing will ever change that. Got to the car, loaded the bike, sat in the driver’s seat and laughed/cried for a solid 10 minutes.

The take away from the experience was, always check the weather. Always have the gear you may need to survive. If I had a simple tarp I may have been able to hunker down and ride out the storm. Most importantly, get good with God and don’t be afraid to ask him for help.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I am an active prepper. I do not have a retreat or bug-out vehicle (yet), but I do what I can for bugging-in and preparing for emergencies. I have extensive food and water preps, tactical supplies, and all of the other trappings of modern-day prepping. Although my family is aware of my prepping, and support my efforts, they are not “in the loop” with how to do what, when to do it, and what to do it with. I have come to realize that many of my preps will be useless if anything happens to me. A good example of this is my emergency comm gear. It’s good gear, easily accessed, and will work well, but there are no user-friendly instructions on how to use the gear. Another example would simply to list where everything is located, as my preps are spread throughout the home, vehicles, and remote locations. There are many, many things that I can do with the gear, but might be a stretch for my wife and children, simply due to the lack of instructions.

To this end I have begun documenting all of the needed information regarding our preps. This is being done in plain text, and then a printed copy will be hidden, and a copy given to my wife. Digital versions on the thumb drive are encrypted with a password that we all know well. The docs begin with a detailed inventory that gives location, quantity, and a short description. After the inventory I have started writing how-to docs for each area of need, and the level of detail is just deep enough to get the job done. As is the case with most such articles on preps, bug-out-bags, etc., I begin with water, food, shelter, protection, safety, communications, and lastly, comfort. I have kept the technical jargon to a minimum, and intend to solicit feedback from my family to clear up any points that need it.

With regard to each are of prepping, in some short discussions with my family that safety and security are two areas where considerable discussion was required before writing my docs. The reason is very predictable, my family consists of my wife and two teenage daughters. While they are all very sharp, and quite capable, some aspects of safety and security are difficult for them to accept. An example is the need to hide the bulk of our preps, while leaving a substantial quantity of food and water out in the relative open. I think this is needed because looters WILL come, and they can more easily dealt with if they are not coming up empty-handed. The other reason may be obvious, they might give up looking once they think they have taken all they can find, so the bulk of our preps will be secure. My family thinks that there will no looters, and that if I think there will be, then we should hide all our preps. Another example is dealing with strangers. My family of females is not as callus as I am, and will want to lend aid much too readily. After having lengthy discussions with my family, I was careful to re-state my concerns for security in the related docs. Mainly, be cautious and suspicious at all times. We should always be ready to lend aid and be charitable, but individual safety comes first. My rules are simple, in an emergency situation, no one outside the family is allowed in the house, and if we are providing any sort of aid the recipient will remain at least twenty-five  feet from the door until it is closed and locked, no exceptions.

In creating my docs, I have tried to write instructions as I perform a task, at least mentally. I have found that when I describe how to do things, I leave out small details that I take for granted. Don’t do this! Be exacting when it counts. We don’t want to bog-down anyone with too much detail, but overlooking a small but critical detail could be disastrous. A prime example is the fact that my gun safe key must be turned before dialing-in the combination or it wont open. It’s a key feature of the safe, and a detail I have long since just taken for granted. Although a tiny detail, this could easily hinder my family in my absence. I’m sure you can all think of dozens of small things similar in this respect.

Another aspect of preparing these docs is the printed version. Digital copies are valuable, I store mine on a pair of thumb drives, but printed copies are mandatory. If there is no computer to read the docs, they are useless. I have started printing my docs on waterproof paper, using larger than normal (14 pt) bold type font. They are then placed in zip-loc bags with moisture absorbers  and stored in a predetermined location, high above the water line of any potential flood. My wife thinks putting a copy in a fire safe is a good idea, I may agree with her. (it’s so hard admitting she’s right!). I have read articles about encoding printed docs, but it seems to be a dangerous practice, except maybe for very sensitive information, and the need for that kind of secrecy is far outweighed in my mind by the need to get the information quickly in an emergency situation. We’re talking about how to start the generator here, not nuclear launch codes!
I believe that the digital copies of these docs should be written and saved in a simple .txt format whenever possible, even if encrypted. You never know what sort of device or program you might have to open them on. The more universal the format, the better. If you have diagrams or pictures, consider using a PDF format for those. The PDF format is widely supported on computers, phones, tablets, just about any digital device available. If you will be printing docs that must contain actual photos, try and use high-contrast black and white in all of your images. In the long run, these images will last longer and will maintain readability better under adverse conditions, and the high contrast will make them easier to read under low-light conditions. Regarding storage of the printed docs, I found some surplus Army signal flare tubes that seem to fit the bill perfectly for this task.  I also put a chemical light stick in the tubes with the docs. This way we have a ready light source if needed to read them in the dark. I found the tubes at a local gun show, but I bet there are millions of these things out there on Ebay and military-surplus outlets. Another idea would be just to make your own tubes with PVC pipe and screw-on caps. If the tube does not fit your docs, there are countless waterproof containers out there. You might even consider fireproof containers in addition to waterproof containers.

So far my family has been supportive in giving me feedback on my docs and it’s going well. I expect that will change some as we get into more sophisticated activities like setting the channels up on a 2 meter hand held radio, or setting the bait hook on a small game trap. In the end, I believe that my preps will be complimented well by a good set of documents and procedures. My original thought was to provide the needed information to my family in the event that I was not here, for whatever reason. After several weeks of typing, I am keenly aware that there were some things I needed to brush up on as well. Now more than ever, I think it’s true: you don’t know how to do anything well until you can tell someone else how to do it. I strongly suggest that you use this opportunity to use and test gear and practice using tools and techniques, having found many times that some things were much easier to do in my memory than they currently seem to be. It can also be a great opportunity to get your family more involved in the practical side of preparation. We live in the deep south east where hurricanes are quite common, and I love the thought of my family knowing how to take care of themselves in the event of any emergency. It also gives me a chance to spend more time with my kids, and that’s always good.

So to recap my thoughts here:

  1. Make a good inventory of all of your preps.
  2. Write a detailed how-to document for each prepping item.
  3. Make no assumptions, where needed be very thorough.
  4. Store digital copies in an encrypted file.
  5. Use a safe but easy-to-remember password on your files.
  6. Make printed copies on waterproof paper.
  7. Store multiple copies of digital and printed versions in safe locations.
  8. Review the docs with the people that will be using them.
  9. Use the docs to practice using tools and techniques.
  10. Setup a periodic review and update schedule for updating your docs.

I hope others find this informative, good luck with all of your preps, I hope you never need them!

For more in depth information on encryption, see the Wikipedia page on encryption software.

And this link will take you to the free encryption software that I use:

Some really good sources for waterproof paper can be found using these links:

Or, you can waterproof your own paper.

Monday, October 7, 2013

I lived in Jamestown Colorado until three weeks ago, and was prepared for various disasters, mostly fire, and I always expected a road system to exist.  Wrong-o!

I have a more keen sense of the Lord's blessings, and they are amazing. The outpouring of support from the various communities that I'm in has been amazing.   I am walking in abundance, but not everybody is. My life has had a hard reboot - I was in some middle-aged doldrums - no more! I anonymized my name and corporate affiliation in the narrative, otherwise, it's unedited, and reflects my understanding of the events at different times, as things unfolded.

This is a narrative of surviving a flood in a small mountain town of 350 persons in Boulder County, Colorado.  After several days of unusual rains, the situation was described as a 500 year flood event.    On Sept 11 I was having barbeque with a friend, and it started raining.   No big deal.  On Sept 12, I could not get to work, because of road flooding, the power was out, and I was prepared with radio, walkie talkies, electricity and food.  I thought we'd down for a couple days, or maybe a week.  On Friday, Sept 13, it became clear that we were cut off from the larger world, and that something extraordinary was occurring.  I was well prepared for the wildfires that come here, but not a flood. I always thought that the road system would exist - and that was the biggest gap in my planning!

Here's a stream-of-consciousness description of events, unedited.

Roger's Jamestown Flood Narrative #1 - Evacuation Sept 18 2013

The Bad:

Last Friday, Sept 13, a Chinook helicopter evacuated my wife and I from Jamestown, Colorado with 3 cats, a backpack each.

Even if the main road is open after weeks or months, my house in town on a minor dirt road was across a bridge. Bridges belong to the  town, as does the water system. Rebuilding Jamestown may occur at the earliest a year, or not at all, depending on FEMA. Given the damage in Lyons, Longmont and Boulder ... well, Jamestown,  with  300 people doesn't take  priority. On  Tuesday, Sept  24, I am mounting an expedition with a couple 4WD vehicles to winterize  the houses, and get 2 cars worth of possessions. Getting things out must be done on foot, over a makeshift bridge and ford with backpacks - even a wheelbarrow or wagon isn't  possible, and I'm hiring some younger friends that meet the inflexible  Sheriff's requirement of having a Jamestown drivers license. I am concerned about squatters and looters, but  the area's secure for a week or so.

There is no vehicle access to the town. Jamestown may not be rebuilt - we've all heard of a ghost town.

Some great  learning opportunities! Did I mention that FEMA forms are full of  questions that you need legal papers to answer? Did I mention that Hospice Thrift Shop is the best  in Boulder? Did I mention that learning to live without my own car is a challenge? Did I mention that learning to use the bus system (which is quite good here) will be a hoot?

The  Good: Really, I'm blessed. My friend Norm picked us up from the Chinook [CH-47 military helicopter] at Boulder airport, and let us stay in his spare bedroom.

Rental with 3 cats is difficult, but it turns out my friend had a tenant not pay rent on Sept 1, and he just had evicted him and the guy left the place  smelling of cat piddle - perfect for someone with three cats! No need to paint, re-carpet, or even put an ad out for a new tenant, it was all done on a handshake.

My wife and I dropped in to my job to do the admin work of setting up a new house. It  is  so good  to have  a place with phone, printer and internet to perform change  of address, phone  service, and so forth.

Someone from my work  offered to loan a spare car!

The future - I may  have lost a house, but may still have  a primitive cabin! My old house above  Jamestown  survived, and because it has a well (with water  that  is rust-colored) and is on the main road may become habitable if they rebuild the road.   Currently, accessibility is via  seasonal mountain dirt roads and the commute to Boulder is 3.5 hours.

How great  is it to have housing, transportation and work's understanding of the situation?

It's  a disaster, but not a tragedy.

Roger's Jamestown Flood Narrative #2 - from response to recovery Sept 22 2013

The initial disaster response is complete.  Immediate physical needs of housing, furniture and transportation are met.   Martha & Marc S. loaned me a Prius, and it's a blast to drive!  Not having internet really hurts, but will be done Thurs, Sept 26.    I'm ahead of the curve in the physical world, but behind in the infosphere, and that's okay.   I can spend way too much time on a computer. Last  week, my wife had an urgent care incident involving  a tiny nick on a finger that turned to a big infection requiring antibiotic injection.   If we had stayed in Jamestown, we would have been in real trouble. Wash your hands!

Weather permitting, I'll muster a team on Tues Sept 24 to recover valuables. This is done with backpacks across a footbridge, and the distance is only 1/2  mile across  a new stream, and up a steep hill.   Our cars are not accessible, and still no word on a temporary bridge to retrieve them. At least our buildings are intact, but they are now buildings, not homes or rental houses. We'll also perform winterization of cars and buildings (drain traps must have anti-freeze, empty water heaters, washing machines, etc). Greg, Rick,  and Nate are loaning 4WD trucks, and I look forward to using trained engineers as pack animals ;-) I also have a couple young volunteer firefighter friends.  I rent a house to one of 'em, and every time he did a call, I told him to take $50 off the rent, to show my appreciation of his public service.   Of course, he's eager to help too.  Karma works.

FEMA help is a mixed blessing.   They provide a lot of help, but are pretty nosy. I paid my taxes for 40 years, and getting some back would be soooo nice. FEMA is a road show - they may leave here this week, so coordinating their inspectors with my Jamestown expedition is challenging.    It  may require 4 trips to Jamestown. My wife is affected financially, as she was a landlord, and now has only a meager state pension, (in lieu of Social Security), and now has rent expenses as well as loss of income. She will be navigating state  and local government assistance, as well as  FEMA. Funny how our plans can change  - I thought I'd be trimming the trees and doing some fire mitigation this month.   That's  one pain in the neck that I don't have! (Later we see this wasn't true ! )

For  my geek friends,   this has been a life-reboot, and I've just gotten past POST, and am in that place where you're waiting and waiting for the OS to come up and display the logon screen.

I  have the understanding of my company management team at this time - folks I know do not have the work flexibility that I've been blessed with.  The outpouring of generosity from employees is noteworthy -  I asked for a  bed, and had 3 on Friday by noon.  I have better cookware  and cutlery that I had in Jamestown.    Physical goods are abundant,  and buying them doesn't make much sense - money's  a lot harder to come by than stuff.

That's all for now!

"It's a disaster, not a tragedy"


Roger's Flood Narrative Three Wednesday Sept 25 A backpack expedition:

On Tues, Sept 26, my wife and I went on an expedition to retrieve our belongings from our homes in Jamestown.

Recap:  The house is standing and undamaged, but after the flood, there's no longer a road  to get  there. The old road that took 30 minutes  to get to Boulder is gone, and some dirt roads must be used, but they're damaged, and the route takes 1.5 hours, and is downright hazardous. In winter it will be impossible to get from Boulder to Jamestown some of the time, and dangerous at all times.

We were able  to get to with 1/4 mile of the house, then we had to cross a makeshift foot  bridge, climb a mud path on a hill with a rope to stabilize yourself, and  backpack everything we wanted out.    Besides getting our things, we wanted to make a start on winterizing the houses - all the water must  be blown out from the  P-trap pipes on dishwashers, washers, sinks, bathtubs and toilets and replaced with antifreeze in order to have a drain system in the springtime.

We enlisted the aid of Nate VanDuine (software engineer), Victor Smith (firefighter), David Lindquist (firefighter), Chris Ryan (firefighter) and Rick Sutherland (painter).   Using  software engineers as pack animals is always an iffy proposition, but after some training, Nate did great.   Also,  Greg Walter graciously loaned the use his 4WD pickup, as did Nate.

It was a beautiful day, and our mission was pretty successful - we got  clothing and computers, but didn't get things like books, cookware, or furniture, obviously! Friends at work and in general, and the thrift stores have all provided  wonderful support.   On Friday, I put out a call for a bed on an employer-sponsored board, and had three offers by noon! People are incredibly generous, and work is incredibly supportive at the local and national level.

Dealing with FEMA  is  my next challenge.   Gathering paperwork is tedious, as is waiting in line, but all in all, I'm impressed with the FEMA response, and with the compassionate and helpful attitude of the workers.   The delivery of services isn't perfect, but the people are pleasant, and that makes a world of difference.  They really must have learned a lot from previous disasters, because my experience is pretty good. One big thing they learned from Katrina is  to let people bring pets on the helicopters. my wife and I have our 3 cats, and that's huge.

In order to get aid for our non-accessible houses, we need to be physically present for FEMA inspectors in Jamestown, and the only scheduling mechanism is telephone at the last minute.

The rumor yesterday was that a temporary road will be up within about a week, so that  we can retrieve our cars in Jamestown.   Not having access to your  car and house is frustrating - so  near yet so far! It's unlikely that the road system will be rebuilt before 1.5 years (two summers), and may not  get rebuilt at all. The water system is a different - because the main access road is a county road, it might get rebuilt. However, the water  system is from 1930s WPA work, and was rickety - it's owned by the town of  350 persons. Now that the distribution system is damaged, and the main plant will go unattended,  it strikes me as unlikely that we'll get the tax base together  to rebuild it to modern standards. A  well isn't an option due to state regulation.  So have a house that's  inaccessible at present, may be uninhabitable for at least a 1.5 years, and possibly forever. As mentioned in the first  narrative I may have a house in a ghost town, but it will make a great weekend getaway - the night sky will be very dark, and perfect for my 13"  Dobsonian reflector!

"It's a disaster, not a tragedy".

Roger's Flood Narrative Four Sunday Sept 29

The finish line for the sprint and start of the marathon, and a word of advice to the prudent.

Sunday Sept 29 2013

It's been 2 weeks since I was evacuated via Chinook helicopter from the Colorado flood.  I can finally use the Biblical and Epic as adjectives without hyperbole. Since then, I've seen an outpouring of generosity from the communities I'm in that's been incredible.  I never thought I'd have so much goodwill to manage!

A few bad things I've seen after the event:

The drunks in my town started "borrowing" bottles from their neighbors who were not home. Societal breakdown happens quickly, and normally honest people become criminals of opportunity. I also experienced a theft after the flood, and that stings. You can't let down your guard, and have to be vigilant when fatigued, and at the same time gracious to others who were affected. These events bring out criminals of opportunity and they hurt those on the margins the most. I've seen of the homeless and marginal members of society hurt a lot. The scene of a mentally ill person at the FEMA site harassing the guards and evacuees haunts me still.  He was eventually arrested.   I can't imagine how the security folks, police and FEMA workers maintain their civility and humor. I've seen scammers trying to game the system and swindle refugees, which is shameful. I've tried Korean toothpaste from the Red Cross and wow - they sure make a different-tasting product.  However, Red Cross will get my donations in the future - for feeding us at FEMA sites, and the general immediate assistance they provide.

In terms of life experience, I was in a rut, and the good news is that I'm not in a rut any more!

The finish line for the sprint: A temporary road has been built, and I'll retrieve the cars today. My FEMA administrative will be finished tomorrow. The time for disaster, new housing for my family, a psychological reboot and return to a semblance of normalcy has been two weeks of running on adrenaline.

Today, Sunday Sept 29, I'm going up for my final FEMA inspection. The drive there is grueling - it takes a couple hours up rutted dirt roads with a lot of traffic and breakdowns, and it will be worse in winter. The FEMA guy and I missed each other on 2 previous occasions. There isn't land line or cell phone there, and a commute of two hours and missing someone makes me depressed.   On the other hand, when God made time, He made lots of it, so I try to enjoy the aspens turning, and there's plenty of chores to do in Jamestown. At 60 years of age, I get a few joint aches doing this much physical work under a deadline, but I'm thankful that I'm in good enough shape to do it at all. JWR's advice about physical and spiritual fitness is to be taken seriously. I did, and now I'm glad for it.

Writing four narratives helped immensely, so that I have some understanding of my new situation, and to get help from folks.

The start of the marathon: Our buildings are undamaged, but uninhabitable due to lack of access and water.  You just can't drill a well, legally, and putting in a cistern and having water trucked may have legal as well as logistical challenges. I have yet to winterize the houses, but I'm hiring that out to locals. I need to complete a fire mitigation project that I was in the middle of, and will now hire that out too.   Expensive. Ouch. The time for a new road to looks like summer 2014. In that time, I hope to rebuild my home, but I have to consider living in an unfamiliar community - which is not a fate worse than death, despite my initial feelings about it ;-)   My bucolic lifestyle had it's downsides, and the ability to get a pizza delivered has some charm. Defending the old homestead from fire, looters, and squatters will be a challenge. I don't know if I'm up to being a combination fire and police department. Winterizing the houses so the pipes don't burst, and maintaining the septic systems is necessary until a water system is restored, and the FEMA funds are uncertain.  If a water system is funded, the time frame is unclear, and there's no guarantee it will be concurrent with a road, but you never know.     I realize more keenly now that homes require constant maintenance and use to keep them habitable. And there's changing building code and occupancy requirements by local government.   The folks relocated by fires in Boulder county found that only a few percent were able to rebuild to code. Insurance does not cover inaccessibility due to flooding, and I've noticed that things have become more expensive than when I was a lad. My best case scenario is re-occupying the house by fall, 2014. That's what I'm hoping for.

This is going to be an interesting engineering and planning exercise, and I'm up for it !

Here's advice in one word.


I had a disaster plan in place with a friend in a neighboring community. We discussed it in advance, and the plan had a list of procedures to follow. The plan was for a fire, but it adapted to a flood.

Laminating a plan brings it to a level of formality that's executable, and if it rains cats and dogs, you can still read it!

The Lord's blessings and lamination are a powerful combination!

Roger's Postscript and Debrief Sunday Oct 6

Situational awareness was key to taking the right course of action. During the rains, after the 2nd bridge washed out, those of us on one of the "islands" that now define Jamestown got together at the 1-room schoolhouse. Most folks didn't understand what was happening, and thought that we'd be back up and running in a week or two, and that between the individual preppers and the government, we'd be up and running in a couple weeks. I had a talk with a friend that I regard as bright, and he simply said "I was in Katrina, and I can tell you that Jamestown is done for a year." That sentence made my situational awareness change, and I could take appropriate action. Most folks didn't get it until a week after they were off the helicopters. I was able to set up a new household based on that one sentence, and I'm now helping others, and participating in small-town government plans to rebuild. Whether we can raise the money is unknown, but there's enough infrastructure left for it to be worth a try.

Some of JWR's readers will take issue with me using FEMA.  Don't judge me.   They are there with money, helicopters and housing. They were effective and compassionate. I suspect that a small town in Colorado can get different treatment than the nightmare that was Katrina, just on the basis of scale.  One of the things that they learned from Katrina is to let people bring pets - many folks had an attitude of "I won't leave without my pet", and they were able to make that a non-issue. I will let JWR know in a year whether I would have used FEMA in the aftermath again.

Families with children were easy to evacuate, older folks were harder. The older folks would not have fared well had they stayed. One had a suspected heart attack, and there was no way to get help to him. Don't be too attached to your home in a genuine disaster.

About 20 people remain in Jamestown.    Some of these have a good chance of over-wintering, and they are all deep preppers whose homes were not in the flood plain.   They are all in the 55 year and up age group, for some reason.  These are the folks who own backhoes and excavators, and there are 6 of them. They will get the rebuilding contracts. Another four are more granola oriented, and they  have experience from Peace Corps living in Third World countries, and they've lived off-grid lives of simplicity for years. They will get the house maintenance (winterize and watch my house during diaspora) contracts. One of the cannabis grow ops was well set up, and that family will thrive, barring crop failure. The others are drunks and young hippies, who appear self-reliant, but just happened to luck out.  I expect a cull of these folks.

I'll check back in a year and let you know my experience with FEMA and more.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thoughts on Preparedness, by Mom in the Colorado Rockies

Most of us have it down to a science on what we are going to do every morning. Wake up, grumble at the alarm clock, stagger in for coffee, etc. You know what time you need to leave to get to work on time, and maybe squeeze in a drive thru run for coffee or a breakfast biscuit. Muddle through the work day and pray for it to hurry by so you can fight traffic and get home in time for dinner, baths for the kids and vegetate in front of the television till bedtime. Our existence as the average, everyday Joe is rather simple and mindless sheep leaving the barn to graze for the day and return to  the barn to sleep. But there are a lot of folks out there that are really beginning to 'wake up' to the fact that our everyday routines need to change.

Moving to the high Rockies has given me a different perspective on what survival means. Folks out here in these small mountain towns have a true understanding of what is needed just to get by every day. There are very few drive-thrus to grab a bite to eat, if any. In fact, a lot of the restaurants communicate with each other to see who is going to be open so they can close for the day. There are not a lot of big box stores nearby so you save the gas and pay a little extra at the local, way over-priced stores if you need to fix your commode or the crack in your hammer handle finally gives way. And snow is practically a season of its own up here. It seems there is snow, summer, then back to snow. No need in putting away your winter clothes or gear as summer can mean 50 degrees one day, 85 degrees the next, then snow in September. Oh! I forgot to list 'mud' season! That's when the snow melts and you have about a month of mud to sludge through to get anywhere!

So, a lesson learned. I know I must keep all weather conditions items in my vehicle year round. I have ice melting spray in my floorboard and liquid in my windshield reservoir tank. And yes, I have already needed it three times in mid-September for ice and/or snow. I keep food and water, map and compass, a candle lantern for light and warmth, a mac-daddy first aid kit, boots and wool blankets, hunting knife and a strong, lite weight flashlight in there too. This is by no means a full listing but you get the point.

Collecting, cutting, processing wood is year round. You never really stop because, like they say, cut the amount of wood you think you will need, then triple it. Never under-estimate your wood supply. You always need more than you think you do. And, trust me, digging around in a foot of snow for those cut logs you haven't split yet is no fun. Neither is splitting them when they are wet or frozen, as you will also be wet and frozen by the time you are done. And you still can't use them because they are wet and frozen!

Most folks have wells, not a lot of city water out here. So, do you have the ability to run your pump when the power is out? Is it a generator you need gas/oil for? Do you have enough in case you can't get to town in the near future? Do you have a standby water supply tucked away? Is it enough to cook with, bathe with, flush with, wash clothes with for an indefinite amount of time? Do you have access to more? Where is the nearest creek, river, lake and how do you get it home?

Four wheel drive is not mandatory up here... but it should be. Most of us have at least one per household. With the access to trails and mountain roads, they are a lot of fun to have. Not much you can't do in the summer if you have one. But in the winter, they are pretty darn handy to have. Yes, they plow the county roads and highways. And yes, you will see the plows out 24-7 through the winter. But what about the folks that commute over the passes for work? Businesses don't shut down because of snow, schools don't shut down because of snow, government doesn't shut down because of snow. Sooo, you still have to be able to get there.  What about the folks that work the graveyard shift or have to be in at 6 am? Yes, we need four wheel drive vehicles. And you will see quite a few with small plows on the front. Not everyone lives on a well maintained street in town. In fact, very few do. And these side roads are not priority for anyone other than those of us that drive them every day. And yes, most of them are still dirt roads.

So let's discuss gardening. We have about a 60 day grow season, if you're lucky. Factor in your potting time, keeping your seedlings warm till it is safe to put them outside. Tilling is not much of an option here as our particular soil is rocky. It costs a small fortune to pay anyone to come out here and drill a new well or put in fence posts because they will spend most of their time hand pulling rocks or breaking auger/drilling bits. So you need to bring in soil to either mix in or cover over. And at almost 10,000 ft above sea level, the sun can burn up your plants if you are not careful. So what do you do? Put up a greenhouse! Oh wait, there are some of us that live in high winds areas. You know the places you drive through that have the big snow/wind breaks by the roads? But that doesn't really slow down the 40 to 60 mph winds we can have blowing over the roads and fields. Trust me and learn from my failures, a greenhouse is a task of its own. Factor in the sun's path for the two months of growing season, the normal wind path, the 'other' wind path for when we get the south to north winds and storms, the questionable soil, etc. Gardening at its finest is still a lot of hard work. Don't forget to figure in the local climate too.

Now, considering all of the above, I will cover food supply. Being gardening is tough, you don't dare want to lose any food you can produce. Be prepared to either make sure you have a heat alternative for your greenhouse or a spot inside to bring your plants. We pot in containers so it is a feasible task to bring them in. Heavy lifting, but doable. So do you have an area in your house with great sun exposure and ventilation to complete their growth and yield? Or do you do what you would do in the cities... go to the market and buy. You can definitely buy whatever fruits and vegetables you could want in the markets here, and we have a lot of option for organic produce. But you will pay for it, literally and figuratively. These local stores can be pricey so do you pay the extra in gas to go to the nearest big town or suck it up and pay for the convenience? You do what most do, buy your day to day locally and make a plan for your trip to the city and hit every store you think you might need something from. Make a list, make several lists. You will need them so you don't forget anything.

With that being said, do you have at least a 30 to 60 day food supply stored? Beans, rice, flour, sugar, and let's not forget coffee! What about that generator we talked about earlier... will it run the fridge? Or do you need adequate cooler storage space to last for several days till you can eat what is in there? Do you have plenty of canned fruits and vegetables? What about meats? Are they all frozen or do you have some canned or dehydrated put away somewhere... Let's not forget the fact that in a short time span you could get extremely bored with peanut butter sandwiches. And what happens when the bread runs out? Oh, do you have a way to actually cook any of this food you have in the pantry if the power goes out indefinitely? Consider what your options are for safely cooking indoors in inclement weather for a family and then factor in a backup. Like they say, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Gaskets dry rot, tanks leak fuel, charcoal runs out for the outdoor grill eventually. And the high winds and snow can definitely hinder your charcoal grilling on the back deck, trust me. And, as we discussed before, do you have enough water to actually cook those rice and beans and dehydrated vegetables and backpacking meals included in your water storage calculations?

Now... this was not meant to discourage anyone from moving to the country or the high country areas. This was meant to make sure you consider what it means to live in some of these more remote areas. I have always tried to have a prepper mentality when it comes to ensuring the existence and safety of my family, but I can tell you that moving from my safety net on the edge of a big city to a small mountain town in the high Rockies has truly been a learning experience and one I wouldn't trade for anything. We live on a shoestring budget week to week and do not have the funds to put into the large purchases I know a lot of preppers have. So we do the best we can with what we have. Our neighborhood barters with each other for things each house may need but doesn't own. We trade off babysitting or canning or dehydrating or water storage containers, whatever can be done to make sure we all are taken care of. We watch each other’s houses, vehicles, pets while they're away. We help each other with cutting wood, mending fences, fixing holes in the roof or moving furniture around. You learn real quick who to trust and can count on should SHTF tomorrow. And, I have to say, that is a good feeling I did not have back in the 'city'.

So for those of you wanting to move to some small town in the middle of nowhere and set up shop, consider the above. Think about it, have a plan, then have a backup plan. It took me several months to find work out here when a job back home was fairly easy to get with a good resume. Research the area, see what type of businesses are there or nearby that you can feasibly commute to in bad weather. If you are going to have neighbors, try to meet them when you look at a house you are considering buying. Are they nuts or fairly like-minded people? Find out the gun laws for the area and state, how hard or expensive is it to get a permit to add a solid greenhouse or storage shed. How many and what size can you have without a permit? Is there somewhere to obtain firewood and water should you need emergency supplies? And, most of all, can you get out of your driveway and to a main road should you have a heavy snow or rainfall? If not, either plan ahead or reconsider your housing selection. These are not frivolous things, these are your survival pitfalls. Think ahead, discuss your options with your family, can you afford it if you can't immediately find work, what do you really need for your family to survive. All the ammo in the world does you no good with a gun that breaks a piece and you have no spare parts. All the food you could possibly eat is of little comfort when you have no way to cook it or water to cook it with. Electric or propane is awesome, but with no power, no way to pump water and losing the food in your fridge and freezer is not exactly what I want to do in the middle of winter with snow on the ground and a family to take care of and a job to get to.

The true lesson here is: think smart, work hard and have a backup plan for your back up plan!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thanks for all you do.  In my quest to do one thing to prepare for the coming uncertainties each day, I thought I would take a moment to remind you and all readers that this coming weekend is the Equinox, the time that I update my car kit to prepare for the coming winter.  Besides my day to day car kit, I'll add extra warm coats, hats, gloves, boots and scarves to the trunk.  Additionally, a few ponchos and garbage bags.  Here in one of the nanny states in the northeast US, there aren't many places I go that will require much more than that.

I also think it it's a good time to remind all that a half tank of gas should be considered an empty tank.

All the best, - Project Manager X.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I live on a small ranch in Northern Alberta, Canada. I'm approximately a half hour drive to the nearest small town, and the winters here can be tremendous. I've always taken a slightly different approach to preps than most of my American counter parts, because most energy, food, shelter, water and defense advice floating around the Internet is not cold weather viable. In this short paper I will attempt to relay to you, the reader, the importance of being ready for winter in all aspects of survival. This is a short collection of some thoughts and experiences I've had living through Northern Canada winters.

1) Heat is what you need in the winter. 'Of course!' you say. It's hard to emphasis the priority having heat takes when it is -40 (Celsius or Fahrenheit it doesn't matter). Food, shelter, water, medicine, and defense all rely on having enough heat. You can't clean with, or drink, water that is frozen. Even eating snow is not recommended because of the energy your body must use to heat the frozen water. You can't eat meat that is frozen solid. You can't live in uninsulated flimsy structures not designed to handle the weight of snow, or the extreme life-sucking cold. You can't stay in a LP/OP for very long without heat. It is harder to fight with a rifle when you cannot feel your hands or they ache intensely from being frozen. Everything takes a back seat to keeping you and your families body temperature at the correct level. You will find that all aspects of surviving a winter are ultimately steps towards providing enough heat to live. I think most preppers agree a good wood stove and a way to efficiently obtain dry fire wood in the winter is a must. A Ski Doo (snowmobile), a sled for hauling, a good chainsaw, extra chains, oils, parts, fuels, tools etc are all requisites as well as the ability to differentiate dead standing wood (the dry stuff) with live trees that are simply dormant for the winter (not dry stuff) and transport it back home. Have multiple methods of heating the indoors.

2) Food is akin to warmth. Your body will automatically try to keep warm if it detects colder temperatures, burning extra calories. You will find that in order to maintain a healthy mind and body, you will need to start a supplement regime through the coldest winter months, when there is little to no fresh vegetables or fruits, and mainly a diet of preserves and game. Canned goods that become frozen may go bad, or the container may rupture. Unless you have an extensive organic garden that provides a winter's worth of preserves each summer, you will most likely end up eating some GMO canned products. Hunting changes with the coming of snow. Deep snow can become a serious problem for most hunters as mobility in four to five feet of snow without snow shoes or a skidoo is minimal and exhausting. For game you will mostly find mammals such as coyotes, deer, elk, etc. All can be taxing to move or prepare in deep snow. Ice fishing requires an ice auger, and multiple lines in multiple holes to really be successful.

3) Water is relatively easy to find. See that white stuff? Yup. Water. It needs heat. For every shovel full of snow you melt, you will get approximately 1/3 that volume in water. Start shoveling! If you have a good well, the water will remain liquid until it is exposed at ground level. If you heat water then put it outside it will freeze even faster, so don't do your animals a favour. All lakes, ponds, and rivers will freeze over and become hidden under snow, so you need a water source.

4) Shelter is a means of efficient heat. It contains the heat from your stove for a longer time. It keeps the wind off you, which can make the cold multitudes worse. It is a place to prepare food, practice good hygiene, and spend time with friends and family, safe from the hostile environment outside. Temporary shelters such as igloos can work if one is skilled enough and snow conditions allow snow to be packed together. This is not always possible in extreme cold. An alternative is using layered pine tree branches in a sturdy lean-to design, with a fire in front projecting heat. Note that you must dig down through the frozen snow before starting a fire for obvious reasons. Be creative. Keep the wind off your skin. Contain the heat safely. Find a way to dry your clothes and skin off while in shelter. Your shelter needs to handle huge amounts of snow weight, and will still need to be cleared. If you own a house you must shovel your roofs off if too much snow builds up on it, or it may collapse or deform, and leak.

5) While I have never been in a gun fight in the middle of winter, there are some common sense things that everyone needs to take into consideration. Cold hands are the least of your worries! We are all taught to 'get off the X', but this becomes problematic in a situation where you may have to run through a foot or more of snow. Its slippery, heavy, and you don't know what you're stepping on under that snow. If it gets a little deeper you simply cannot run, much less retain a sight picture of your firearm. Sinking into a snow bank up to your waist while someone is trying to kill you is probably not a good thing. Going prone may save you, but its a gamble if you'll land softly on the snow and ready to fight, or end up swimming in the snow looking for your buried firearms (which may or may not function after being packed with snow). You will be wet and cold when you stand up again.  The first nations had a proper solution to this. Snow shoes are life savers. I recommend rifle drills where you practice positional shooting with snow shoes as well as getting off the X. Go on winter hikes through a forest area with the shoes on. Skis become problematic due to the length especially if you are in a thick tangle of branches. Cold weather will affect the ballistics of your rifles tremendously. Canadian Rangers still use the Lee-Enfield which is a .30 caliber bolt action rifle, because the AR-15 platform simply does not perform in the super cold climate. It tends to have problems with its gas impingement system and the arctic climate and dense air causes the small .223 round to lose stability much much quicker. Also a bolt action with iron sights is much more likely to function even after being jammed full of ice and snow and moisture. M1As, AKs and VZ58s will all work very well in the extreme cold, provided that you keep your actions clear [and de-lubricated].  Winter is a completely different beast. Everyone can see your footprints in the snow, and tell how long ago you were there. You need a whole new set of winter camo's and gear such as no-fog goggles and proper gloves, boots, and balaclavas.  What will you do if someone blocks the road off in front of you? Your vehicle cant go through the snow in the ditches. If your vehicle is disabled you are put into an immediate heat-shelter survival situation on the side of the road, and you could be wounded as well.  If someone comes into your house in the middle of the night, and you decide to run... will you make it till morning at -40 degrees? A huge truck full of cut firewood would be a target in a winter TEOTWAWKI situation. Snow banks need at least a few feet of width to stop most rifle rounds. The snow will reflect moon light making night time bright as day (almost!) and if you put snow in your mouth it will stop people from seeing your breath. Batteries for night vision devices and red dot sights will die quicker. If you bury a weapon cache in the ground during summer months, that same ground will be hard as a rock and full of ice during the winter. That is... after you find it and shovel all the snow off it first! When the spring comes and all that snow melts guess where that water will go? Yup. Right down into the hole you dug for your end-of-the-world rifle.

Study the Eastern Front of the Second World War and the hardships many soldiers went through during those winters.

Think outside the box. Last winter I stayed in a trappers tent with a wood stove. To handle the weight of the snow on the tent, I drove fence posts in beside the tent and tied all of the supports to the fencing post, and after that I threw a double layer tarp over the entire tent. The result was an outer layer of tarp with a approximately a foot of space between it and the inner tent. This space acted as an insulator for inside. The outer tarp, which was always frozen, would dehumidify the air by building up frost on the inside. I stayed comfortable and warm in a 12' x 20' tent during a deep Canadian North winter. It was dry, so I was able to safely use my laptop and some lights inside. I would not recommend storing electronics in a winter tent such as this because it will collect frost, and when that frost melts and electricity is applied... you may has well have thrown it in a lake. I had to run my stove constantly. Cutting firewood and hauling it on a shoveled drive way with my quad was a huge calorie burn. That's on a day when my quad would start easy. I will be purchasing a good working skidoo this fall, as well as storing several containers of stabilized gasoline.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back in 1979 I found myself in facing a hurricane by the name of Frederic. It had Mobile, Alabama in its cross-hairs. The category three hurricane made landfall on September 12. I did not take the warnings seriously and unfortunately there was little to no preparation made on my part. I barely had a quarter of a tank of gas in my car. I did not have a battery operated radio or a flashlight. There was some non perishable food in my pantry and a small amount of food in the fridge. I was basically like most folks, ill prepared and not taking the warnings seriously.

When hurricane Frederic finally made landfall it did not take long for the power to go off. The winds were fierce and seemed relentless throughout the night. It was pretty eerie. There really wasn't much you could do except wait for it to end. The winds were estimated to be anywhere from 111 to 130 mph. Power lines and trees were down all over the city making some roads impassable. Most of the stores had been emptied out prior to the storm. Then whatever food was left had become spoiled in the stores that did not have back up generators. Back in 1979 that was probably most of the stores. I personally had never experienced power outages on this scale. I did not anticipate the power at my home was going to be out for 22 days. The entire city looked as if a nuclear bomb had exploded. Trees were on cars and houses; debris was scattered everywhere. A curfew was imposed by  the national guard because of homes and businesses being broken into. It took several days for assistance to arrive with emergency items. And even then there were very long lines for ice and canned goods that was distributed by the national guard. Arguments broke out as people were feeling tired and frustrated. It was also hot and humid. So I avoided going because I did not want to stand in the hot sun for hours and then finding out the supplies ice or food items were exhausted.

Each night was the same in my house-dark, hot and humid. It was difficult to sleep. I did have a natural gas water heater and fortunately the gas service was never turned off. So I did not have to take cold showers although that may have helped cool me down. For a few days my neighbors shared what perishable food they had and there were several nightly cookouts until the food ran out. Afterwards I realized that I had made so many stupid mistakes. It was an extremely miserable time that I will never forget. I made a promise to myself to never get caught in that situation again. This could have been avoided with some minimal preparation. It takes a little effort  here and there to prepare.
Since Frederic I have gone through several hurricanes - most notably Ivan and Katrina. I feel I have learned some valuable lessons.

I consider myself more or less an amateur prepper. And I really mean an amateur. I don't worry about the apocalypse but more about the possibility of lengthy power outages because of hurricanes.
My motto is “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. From what I have read over and over is that ordinary people can emotionally break down in just a matter of days. Within a week they can get desperate and then there are those who will take from you what they do not have and if necessary they will take it by force. It could even be your neighbor.

So don’t brag about how you are preparing or what you possess and the post it for all to see on the Internet. Don’t make your supplies common knowledge. Its best to maintain silence. The dangers are not only from ordinary people who under normal conditions are law abiding citizens. There is also the criminal element already established out there and they will become emboldened in a disaster. They will not hesitate to take with force what they want and will often gather together in small or large groups.

Most of you reading this are probably like me and have a budget to consider. All of my items have been purchased slowly and I have not gone on a frenzied shopping spree. I would love to but that is not economically feasible for me. So I just started with the basics and went slowly from there. Its amazing how quickly you can accumulate your emergency inventory.

The first thing I focus on  is having an adequate supply of water. I know that water is extremely important so I keep three six gallon water jugs along with five collapsible one gallon water jugs. One of the first things I do once there is the potential for a hurricane entering the gulf of Mexico is fill up my water containers. If the storm misses I water my plants so nothing is wasted. I try to keep a minimum of six cases of bottled water on hand and rotate them. Fortunately there have not been any issues in the past regarding water contamination but just too be on the safe side I keep several life-straw water filters and a couple of bottles of polar pure water treatment. I also fill up both bathtubs and all of my sinks. Recently I discovered a nearby water stream within easy walking distance from my home. That was a great find. Remember folks water is extremely important. You can go longer without eating than you can without drinking water.

Food is my next priority. I try to keep my pantry stocked with at least a month of food such as canned goods, peanut butter, crackers, rice, beans, granola bars and dehydrated foods. I also have several #10 cans of freeze dried foods. I have not had to use any of the freeze dried foods so far and I am glad they have a 25-30 year shelf life. They can be expensive to purchase so I always look for price drops and free shipping.
The next priority is obtaining fuel for my cars and generator. As a good practice measure I always keep my gas tank topped off especially when it is at the halfway mark. You never know when you are going to get stuck in a traffic jam. In my area it is extremely important the minute a storm gets close to the Gulf of Mexico to head to the nearest gas station and not only top off your car but also fill up your gas cans. If you wait to see if your area is in the five day cone it will be too late. When that happens everyone panics and heads to the gas station. Then the stations start running out of gas. Then there are some who will only accept cash. So its good to keep some cash on hand for the unforeseen emergencies. I keep several five gallon gas cans and fill them up at the early stages of a potential tropical storm.
If the storm doesn't materialize I just put the gas back in my cars. Additionally I have a small generator to keep my refrigerator running for at least two to three days.

Its prudent to have a supply of AA, AAA, C, D, and 9 volt VDC batteries. I also have several battery/solar powered radios. I keep a wind up watch in my emergency prep pack. Recently I discovered a new product by a company called WakaWaka. Yes it is a funny name. The product is a solar powered light with a phone charger. It works well. You can  charge them with 8 hours of sunlight or with a micro USB charger. My kindle charger will charge it. The solar light has several settings of brightness and even includes an SOS flashing light. I have used this to fully charge my iPhone and in less than two hours with plenty of power left for a light you can use to read by. On the lowest light setting it is estimated to last 100+ hours.

I started making an inventory of my emergency items and this way you can see what you have or what you need to replenish. I keep my items in a backpack and a rolling canvas bag. The items are duct tape, Para-cord with various lengths, a snakebite kit, hatchet, 15" knife, 18" machete, hiking shoes, solar link radio, binoculars, first aid kit, machete, manual can opener, rain ponchos, tarp, wet fire starting tinder, blast match fire starter, soap, toilet paper, spork eating utensil, haululite ketalist tea kettle, outdoor 10" fry pan, siphon pump, emergency tent, emergency blankets, nine volt battery with steel wool-you can easily start a fire with these two items, and various camping cookware. I have learned it takes some practice to master using the fire starters. I try to practice at least once a month starting a fire and either boiling water or cooking on my ember-lit stove. The ember-lit stove is really amazing. Its very light and packs up compactly. It only requires twigs and small branches for fuel.

I also have a charcoal grill as a back up to our gas stove. I have a camp stove coffee maker so I can start my mornings with my caffeine fix. It's good to learn how to use your emergency equipment when there is no emergency rather than to wait until there is one. I keep a baggie by the dryer and put the dryer lint in it. Using a fire starter just place some dryer lint under the twigs and it doesn't take much of a spark to get started. And on windy days I take a toilet tissue holder and put the lint inside and you can easily get a fire started this way.
All of my important papers are kept in a fireproof/ waterproof safe. I learned about storing items the hard way. I had a fireproof safe and discovered that you must also make sure is waterproof. I lost several documents because of this oversight.

I keep my ammunition stored in watertight ammo cans. I have collected a number of flashlights and lanterns over the years. I keep small flashlights and lanterns throughout my home and garage. That way there is always light easily within reach. I have a corded phone stored in my emergency kit as I have had problems with spotty cell phone usage during and after hurricanes. For some reason land-line phones have always worked.
An alarm company representative made some suggestions regarding safety in the home. He recommended hinging my doors so they open outward making it difficult for hurricane force  winds or humans to force the doors inward. Although my front door does open inward I brace it at night with a buddy bar. That prevents someone from kicking the door in with one swift kick. With the buddy bar it takes a number of kicks and of course a lot of noise so you are not caught so quickly off guard. I also have shutters on every inside window for privacy and it also helps keep cooling costs down and limits what outsiders can see at night if you have lights on.
Because of a recommendation from a local contractor I decided to use spray foam in my attic instead of the traditional cellulose insulation. Even in the hottest month my attic is never more than 84 degrees. When the power is out my home should not heat up like most houses.

I recently installed a battery-operated wireless detector alerting me if anyone walks up my driveway to the back of my home.
Anyway these are some steps I have taken and I hope this has been a helpful read for you. All of my purchases have taken me years to accumulate what I currently have. There is still much work to do. But instead of thinking of what I did not have and get overwhelmed I simply started with small steps.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mr Rawles,
You may already be aware of the devastating floods Alberta has experienced in the past 10 days, with some areas receiving up to an amazing 8-11 inches of rain and over 100,000 people evacuated. 

The flood has washed out dozens of highways and bridges, stranded campers in the Rocky Mountains, and saw lions from the zoo moved to city jail cells.  The hippos almost escaped into the river. 

In even more worrying news, police have confiscated firearms from flooded residences 'for safekeeping' much to the outrage of the citizens.  [JWR Adds: It is noteworthy that with Canada's system of gun registration, the police knew exactly which houses to search, for some categories of guns.]

Thanks to you and other preparedness advocates, many of us were able to avoid the shortages that followed.

Regards, - Al D.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hello James,
I read your blog every day and enjoy finding information that is useful. Recently a posting discussed the use of the 5.56 mm NATO bullet and its poor performance in penetrating automobiles.
I took notice of this information about the penetrating power or lack of penetrating power of the 5.56 in relation to single and double barriers.

We moved onto our five acres of land nine years ago. One of the first building projects was to have a contractor installed tornado shelter set in the ground. Then over the next two years I added a 16’x20’x50” high system of concrete walls around the opening to the tornado shelter. I added baffled entrances and a sturdy roof. The concrete walls are 7 inches thick on the bottom and taper to 5 inches at the top.
I designed this kind of wall to get the greatest thickness on the bottom where any residual radioactive might collect on the ground.

On top of the concrete walls is a 24” tall wooden wall with screened openings 7” along the three sides away from the embankment. The insides of these walls are stacked with bricks to increase the personal protection factor (PFC) against radiation and perhaps the penetration of bullets, slugs and shot.

We have electricity and water in the bunker. The roof has survived a single impact of large hail that we measured at 3.25 inches in diameter. Thankfully we had this hail only fall for 30 seconds and it was spread out widely on the property. One of these large hail stones penetrated completely through our house roof. But I had sheeted the roof of the bunker with 3/4 inch plywood. We call this structure our "Weather Bunker."
I have proceeded to attempt to harden it against weather and other possibilities. The south side of the weather bunker is protected by setting 9 to 11 foot tall discarded electric line poles along the roof edge. They average 8 to 11 inches thick and extend up to the roof ridge in height. I get these discarded poles from the local electric company. The north side and part of the east side are protected by a row of railroad timbers set on end creating a wall. These are for breaking the wind and protecting the shingles on the roof. However they do present an initial barrier for bullets, slugs and shot before coming to the concrete wall. We have a 350 gallon water tank on the north side that sets outside. This barrier protects it from visual observation and perhaps from penetration from light firearms.
The weakest part of the structure are the two doors made of 2x4’s and 5/8” plywood.
Recently we replaced our heat pump and the contractor left the old unit. During the disassembly I discovered that the outside was made up of two louvered rectangular units curved around to encase the unit. They laid out nearly flat when removed. They are good heavy steel units. After measuring I mounted these plates on the outside of the two doors. I now have a louvered steel plate plus two layers of 5/8” plywood on my doors. We will be visiting the contractor who did the installation looking for two more from discarded units for the inside of the doors.
As I read this article about penetration of the 5.56mm NATO I realized that the addition of these louvered plates was the correct thing to do.
We are both 72 years of age. Unless there are some really severe mitigating circumstances we will not be leaving this place if all hell breaks loose. This place is our lifeboat. But we are surrounded by hundreds of acres of range land. Some of which is very rough hilly land covered in sandhill plum brush, sages brush and some shinnery oak. The larger draws support a surprising growth of larger trees.

We have developed rally points close and far. Under certain conditions if we were forced to take to the land we have an environmental set of conditions in which we could hide. We have one ATV to use for transport locally in the rough land. As a last resort we have two pneumatic four tired garden carts that could be pulled. If the situation deteriorates we plan to buy another ATV of some sort quickly.
We have had to adjust our outlook recently. My wife had a mild non-debilitating heart attack last year. She is back to normal now. I appear to be recovering from Leukemia after diagnosis in January. Time will tell us how our health is and time will mark the requirements for our survival.
My thesis for this note is this: you should consider these louvered air conditioner plates as additional potential barriers for doors, windows and walls. They should be available if you can find the contractor who has a junk yard full of old units.
Secondly consider using railroad ties or discarded electric line poles for barriers around your retreat or home. Don’t forget to put a barrier around your outdoor privy area. Nobody wants to get shot with their pants down.

From the red hills of western Oklahoma and America’s most secret redoubt. - Joe C.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Let me first say thank you to all who have contributed to this blog for your columns and all your wisdom.  Without this site, my experience during the recent tornado would have been much different!

For some background info, I have only been prepping for about a year. I have been an Emergency Medicine physician for over 10 years.  I treated patients of the May 3, 1999 Moore, Oklahoma tornado during my training years and I was involved in door to door search and rescue for the recent May 20, 2013 tornado. While my house was not hit, it did strike about half a mile from us and we did lose power for about 20 hours. 

My goal for this article is to inspire those who have not prepared, to begin to do so.  To help take what we learn on this site and apply it to tornado disasters.  Lastly, to recognize the problems or holes this disaster caused in my plan and how to correct them thereby help others avoid the same pitfalls. 

Many previous articles have talked about reluctant spouses or family members who do not think preparation is important.  While we can debate the likelihood of certain disasters and calamities ahead, having a disaster plan for your family is the first step.  Part of the plan should be getting the family involved. This is where leadership comes in. It might be hard to convince my wife an EMP attack is eminent and we need a large Faraday cage, but it is not hard to convince her a tornado in Oklahoma will happen.  Basic prepping is a good idea regardless of the situation it will be used in.  

If you are new to this site, water, food, shelter, and protection are the basics. Almost immediately after the tornado went through, there was some concern about the local water supply. One issue was contamination, and the other was pump failure at the treatment plant. Having several cases on hand was such a comfort.  Same goes with food.  I was ready. Shelter may be destroyed, have alternate plans.  Maybe having a stash at another location would be wise with friends, family or a storage locker.  A lot has been said on protection.  We will not directly address that.  

During tornado season, we determined primary and secondary meeting points should our house be hit.  The first one was about a mile away and the second was about two.  This was to insure that if the house was hit and cars were damaged, walking would be a very easy option.  I would also recommend to consider problems with the rally point.  For a flood  it is obvious to choose higher ground, but what about a tornado?  One consideration for me was to choose a point north and west of my house.  Tornados in this part of the country tend to come west to east or SW to NE. This is to avoid both your house and rally point both being taken out.  RP #1 is northwest, and RP #2 is almost directly north.  Learn your region and apply it to your situation. 

My wife and I also carry walkie-talkies and cell phones during storms when we are apart.  As expected, cell phone use was not available for many hours after the disaster.  Text messaging seemed to works some, but it did not at ground zero.  Our wifi worked at the house so out of town family and friends could still text/email/social network us. The secondary plan was not carried out due to us all being ok, however it would have been nice to have while away. 

Because we had days notice that storms would pop up, I went and took the kids out of school early as soon as the radar began to light up.  Not as early as my wife wanted me to, but I will listen to her next time!  This delay meant I was away from the storm shelter when the storm hit.  Trying to avoid a tornado in a car is extremely dangerous!!  Trying to figure out exactly where the tornado will go is impossible.  Many in Oklahoma do this now, and I do not blame them one bit when the television tells us to get underground for this storm.  If you do not have a shelter, what other options do you have? This can and has worked for many, but being in a car when the tornado hits is almost certain death.  The cars we saw had every window broken, and one car had a 2x4 impaled directly into the passenger seat.  If you do decide to leave, do it early!

What worked for me was the kids monitored the texts from mother while I drove.  We also listened to local radio stations broadcast the wall to wall television feed to help pinpoint the danger areas.  The fact that I had a full tank of gas, and on an interstate, I just drove east.  If I had to go all the way to Arkansas, I could have done so to avoid the storm.  This worked well until the traffic stopped (This was a major problem in the May 31st storms!).  Bumper to bumper.  I was not going to be a sheep and just sit in line and risk injury to myself and kids.  I remembered a previous SurvivalBlog post about how to escape a mall shooting by looking official and going through the back hallways.  I pulled off on the shoulder and took the next exit heading more north and west.  Having a 4x4 truck, I considered going off road, but with several days of recent heavy rains, I did not want risk it if I did not have too.  I finally headed more west and found out the storm was past our house.  Now the challenge was getting home.  In a large long track tornado like this one, crossing the path is impossible even on interstates.  This was true for both north south highways in the Oklahoma City area.  Because I was familiar with many back roads, I was able to get home very easy and avoided all the sheep on the main highways.   

In the hours/days after, the interstates were reopened, but sometimes backed up 6 miles or more.  

After a few hours of door to door searches, I was back home and glad to have the generator going,  but now my house was a beacon of light among the dark houses.  I was able to turn off most of the lights, draw the blinds, and try to be just a regular house.  The one thing I could not cover was the noise of the generator. I was fortunate to have about three or four other neighbors close with the same hum or growl, and I hoped since my lights were off, I would blend in.  Be sure to check other things outside to turn off that are not needed.  I did walk around the house and remembered the fountain was running and shut that off.  

I could go on and on about the heroic efforts of Fire, EMS, Police, and medical responders.  They all did an excellent job!  Command posts were set up, ambulances were abundant, destroyed hospitals still set up triage areas, heavy equipment brought in, crowd control, all functioned well.  

Also excellent response was also done by churches, and even local retail stores.  One local big store even opened its doors and gave away whatever people needed that night! By the next AM, supplies were brought in by numerous individuals.  Some brought cash, some drove from other states just to donate a case or two of water! Others brought commercial grills and provided hamburgers free to anyone at a  local church!  Another local community brought two school buses packed full of supplies from water, to diapers, to work gloves to canned foods.  I was also impressed that local grocery stores had palate after palate of water, batteries and food moved up to the front of the store ready to go.  Did you notice all the references to God and prayer in the television interviews?  Not just words, but faith with action!

We did have a few looters in the days after, but I was glad to see a large police presence.  I did see one military person during my door to door searches who was openly carrying on his property.  I was also glad to see the police not even question him about it.  I asked one cop if he would have said anything if he had an AR slung over his back.  He said, "No.  His property, he can do whatever he wants."  When rumors swirled about forcing people out of slightly damaged portions of the neighborhoods, the police were knowledgeable and said they could not force people out unless martial law was enforced.  Most police said they would not force them out.  Many tornado survivors decided to put up tents and stay the night on their property to protect it.  Not sure what I would have done, but the smell of natural gas was significant and I am not sure how safe it was.  


As Rahm Emanuel once said, "Never let a crisis go to waste. " I know Mr. Emanuel meant this to push for more government, but I see this as a chance to learn and fine tune my plans. I was very thankful for the supplies I had, but discovered some problems.  

My water was adequate, but my backup plan of using the pool water was somewhat viable if I had to boil the water, but due to the large amount of debris thrown by the tornado into the pool, this would require a large scale filter of the water before even boiling.  Next step for me is going to be a water filter.  Grade of B- for water.  Food was not an issue. Grade A

Travel was A-.  I did well with getting the kids out early, not coming home, adjusting the plan on the fly, and having secondary routes planned out by local knowledge but this could have easily become a C or worse if I had waited longer, or been stuck in traffic.  I can not emphasize enough how travel is disrupted during these long track tornados. As stated in the previous article, both north/south interstates were blocked for hours.  Consider driving 10-20 miles parallel to the track and than consider crossing.  The length of this tornado caused 12 miles of blocked N/S roads!

Communication is a C.  Primary route of cell phone/text failed (somewhat expected) and the backup plan was not initiated.  My wife knew where I was, but wondered when I would be back.  CB radios may be added and carried.

House is a B+.  Generator worked flawlessly, but hiding the noise is a problem I do not know how to solve.

Community response. A+. This plan worked well for this disaster, but not sure how generous everyone will be when no one has water or food.  I do see the church as a great asset should Schumer happen, but I realize this is not likely to last long term either. 

Just a few other points.  I do know FEMA was there the next day, but they were already dwarfed by the community and other volunteers who can immediately step up and help.  The last thing is related to storm shelters.  If you live in tornado alley, you should have one or know someone who will let you in theirs.  Also each town has shelter registries, but I never saw one and it was not utilized.  When going door to door, we relied on neighbors knowing about shelters, where they were and if the homeowners were home or had fled.  I will add a hammer to my shelter so I can make some noise for the boots on the ground folks to hear me.  One of my LEO friends had a good idea to paint a tornado symbol or write "storm shelter" on the curb by the house number to help us look for folks. 

Lessons learned, don't rely on the government (obviously), talk to your neighbors so the know where shelters are, and begin with basic prepping NOW!

I welcome your comments! Thank you and God Bless! - TornadoDoc

P.S.  After the May 31st storms, many Okies did try to flee and this created massive traffic congestion.  This makes the recommendation to leave early all the more important.  I was on the road during this storm also (on the way to work).  Family wanted me to stay at home, but I left as the El Reno storm was touching down.  I choose the most eastern route north, and avoided the sheep. Had I waited later, I may have never made it to work.  This storm produced lots of flooding. Six inches at my house! Park in a safe place and wait a few hours. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On the morning of August 29th, 2005 we came face to face with TEOTWAWKI in the form of Hurricane Katrina.  An estimated 92% of our community in Pascagoula, Mississippi was inundated with a storm surge of 20-30 feet and 30-55 feet sea waves.  The surge waters traveled well inland, between 6-12 miles and combined with freshwater flooding from our numerous creeks, rivers, and the runoff from the Mobile, Alabama reservoir that opened its flood gates to relieve stress on the dam.  This basically cut Jackson County in half.  Fortunately the worst of the storm hit in the morning just as it was becoming daylight or our losses of 12 souls would have been much higher had it made landfall in the dark of night.  Even though, it took almost two weeks before they found and were able to claim one of the fallen, a young child, because she was under an enormous  20-30 foot high by at least 100 feet in diameter debris pile a block up from the beach.  The devastation completely destroyed all of our basic services: electricity, communications, water, natural gas, and sewage and covered most of the town with debris piled 8 feet or higher.  The storm’s impact was such that the entire state was declared a disaster zone and it knocked out the power to over 98% of the state and damaged 100% of the states power plants.

When we were finally able to walk around and assess the situation after most of the waters receded, we counted ourselves as lucky because most of the houses in the neighborhood where we rode out the storm appeared structurally sound and there weren’t that many trees down.  Even though everyone knew things were going to be tough for a while, we didn’t count on it taking at least two weeks to restore water, another 1-2 weeks after that to restore some semblance of power and telephone services to our temporary abode.  This appeared to be the norm for most parts of town that sustained “minimal” damage.  As it was, it took over three months before it was restored in our neighborhood, not that it mattered as it was uninhabitable and eventually had to be bulldozed down but that as they say is a tale for another day.

Like most storm veterans living on the Gulf Coast, we had planned and prepared but Mother Nature has an inane way of pointing out the futility of all of mankind’s best laid plans.  Yes, we might have possibly been able to evacuate but deemed it in our best interest to hunker down with some friends and ride it out.  After all, we were staying in a well built home on some of the highest ground in town and at least a mile from the beach.  Besides, reports from other family and friends were that the roads were so congested (1-2 million evacuees from 4 states will do that don’t you know) that it was taking over 12 hours just to get as far north as Hattiesburg, a mere 95 miles north and that there wasn’t any hotel rooms available all the way up to Tennessee and even if you could find one, what would we do with our combined 10 pets?  Besides, how safe would it have been to ride out the storm on some desolate stretch of highway in a vehicle, especially with all of the tornados that Katrina spun off, 51 in total in at least 5 states with 11 of those in Mississippi alone?

So, the hatches were battened down and our storm plan was initiated.  First, was securing and inventorying our combined vital medicines, foodstuffs, pet food, drinking water, batteries, candles, grill and camp stove fuels, cleaning supplies, bleach, anti-bacterial gel, clothing, important papers and computer hard drives, tools, firearms, and cash.  Previously, all of the vehicles were gassed up along with all of the gas cans and the generator was prepped and stored high.  The ice chests, freezers and fridge were stuffed with ice and the most perishable foodstuffs were ready for immediate consumption in the event of a prolonged power outage.  The television and storm radio were tuned to the appropriate channels and the bathtubs were filled to capacity to provide general use water for cleaning and flushing.  The attic access was opened and some basic essentials like: food, water, axe, rope, flashlights, etc.  Just in case.  The outdoor surroundings were checked and a few boats in the neighborhood were identified that could potentially be used in a pinch.  All told, we had enough foodstuffs to last 6 adults and 10 animals for 2-3 weeks and at least a weeks worth of fresh drinking and cooking water as long as we were frugal.  Ah, hindsight is truly bliss now isn’t it.

During the height of the storm, when it became apparent that we would be receiving flood water into the house, everyone rushed throughout the house to empty out the lower cabinets and drawers and closet floors, placing everything as high as possible and even opening up the attic and placing more essential supplies and tools up there in case we had to seek higher ground.  Once, the homeowner and I braved the elements to go outside and unlash the next door neighbor’s small boat (they smartly evacuated early on) from its trailer and re-tied it off to keep it from sinking or floating away.  While doing this, we were obliged to add another soul to our motley crew by rescuing a man from drowning out in the street.  He was delirious and starting to suffer from hypothermia so we wrapped him up into a wool blanket and laid him up on a long dresser in the foyer.  Later, it was learned that he woke up when his head bumped against the ceiling of his bedroom and that he had to dive down and swim out of his bedroom window to safety!  He had the clothes on his back, no socks or shoes and a small empty suitcase.

We tried unsuccessfully to get a passing fire truck loaded down with EMT and rescuers to take him, in case he needed additional medical care but they said we appeared to have things under control.  Besides they were headed south into the teeth of the storm to rescue people clinging to roofs along with an apparent heart attack victim.  Later, two guys in a “commandeered” boat came by headed south but, on their return, the boat was overloaded with people they had rescued.  All total, they passed by 6 or 7 times, and each time the boat was filled to the gills with rescued souls.  Later, we learned that they had rescued over 100 people before the receding waters necessitated docking the boat in their front yard.  I’m pretty sure that that tidbit of knowledge didn’t make the media airwaves.  Of the untold hundreds of similar acts of heroism conducted during and immediately after this catastrophic event by our local emergency personnel and citizenry, I felt compelled to add it because in the end, we all need to have a little hope and faith in our fellow man.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, it became quite apparent that we needed to re-assess our predicament and adjust accordingly.  My wife and I knew that our house that sat at a much lower elevation closer to the beach would be untenable so we gladly took our friends offer to stay with them until we could assess it later.  They were extremely fortunate in that their home, where we rode the storm out, only had 2-3 feet of water go through it and that the structure was virtually unscathed from the ravages of felled trees and flying debris which meant that at least temporarily we would have a roof over our heads and a somewhat habitable place to stay providing everyone pitched in and acted quickly to mitigate the flood damage.  This consisted of removing all floor coverings down to the slab, all of the upholstered furniture, wall sheetrock from the floor to six inches above the visible flood line, and anything else that cannot be scrubbed and taking it to the side of the road.  Next was scrapping up as much of the storm water sludge off of the floors and all heavily coated horizontal and vertical surfaces possible and depositing it at the roadside too.  Some of our precious potable water stored in large 5 gallon containers with copious amounts of bleach and general purpose disinfectant soap was used to wipe down and clean one of the bathrooms, the kitchen and dining room, and a couple of bedrooms.  It took a full 2-3 days of steady cleaning by all hands to get the house sanitized for habitability.  The surge destroyed our large reserves of fresh water in the bathtubs due to the force of the flood waters backing up through the sewage system drains.

It is vital that you sanitize every surface that could have even remotely come in contact with the flood waters because they not only contain sea water and sewage, they are also full of chemicals from industrial waste and numerous other biological and toxic substances.  In our case, there was the addition of some of the foulest smelling primordial ooze from the nearby savannahs not to mention an old medical dumpsite from a former leper colony on one of the barrier islands and numerous chemical and gas refineries.  This mire coated everything in town with inches of nasty, foul smelling and toxic ooze turning the whole city into a gigantic Petri dish rife with disease and bacteria.  It was three days before I could make the first journey out of the neighborhood to inspect our property and in those 3 days, our house was filled with every color and shape of mold that you can imagine.  It literally covered the inside of the entire house from floor to ceiling so, I cannot stress enough that the first priority in such an event is to sanitize everything.

This is also a good time to remove any large appliance that was submerged along with any other furniture and belongings that will not be repaired or restored.  Just make sure to take photos and inventory all items being tossed to the road for insurance purposes and be prepared to fight the appraisers in the event the city is able to quickly remove those items.  One of our biggest fears after the storm was that of fire because the entire city looked like one giant maze with debris piles 10-20 feet high lining every street for months after the storm.  It seems as though we went at least two months before it rained again which meant we constantly had to battle the potentially deadly dust and the oppressive sweltering heat, this is South Mississippi after all!

Fortunately, we were able to salvage the mattresses on the beds because they floated on top of the box springs, all of which was set out to thoroughly dry in the sunlight the day after the storm after being wiped down with bleach water.  Everything gets washed or wiped down with bleach water and sun dried so eventually, all of your clothes become severely faded and thread bare after time.

Temporary power and transportation was next on the agenda and even though the generator was submerged after tipping over off of the raised supports that we set it on, we were able to salvage it and get a couple of box fans and table lamps going as well as powering a couple of fans and lights for one of the next door neighbors.  If we ever have to do this again, I think suspending it from rafter eyebolts on rope or cables may be in order.  In the beginning, we only ran the generator at night because of the fuel shortage.  Because fuel was basically non-existent for the first month or so, we augmented our diminishing supply by removing the gas tanks off of the three new vehicles that “died” during the storm and filtering out the water from the gas by emptying them into a large 55 gallon drum and letting the water settle to the bottom before dipping out the gas to fill our jugs.  Make sure to place this drum outside away from the living and cooking areas but still close enough to guard against looters.  We were fortunate that my venerable 1984 Ford Bronco and 1989 Ford F-150 started right up and didn’t have any water in the oil or gas tanks.  The trannys had water in them but as our friend worked for the local Ford dealership and their main repair shop was spared from the flooding and had adequate generator backup, he was able to replace the fluids within a few days so we had transportation until we were able to replace them about six months later.  We were lucky during that time because unlike so many others, neither of these vehicles burst into flames from corroded or shorted wiring.  This was probably due to the fact that they were raised higher than normal and their cabins weren’t submerged in the flood waters.  It wasn’t until months later that I discovered that the flood water had gotten into the rear ends through a rubber vent hole, needless to say, I wound up replacing the rear end on the pickup to extends it life until we could replace it so, make sure to drain, flush, and replace with new, the fluids in the rear ends and 4x4 lockers.

An important note here about transportation is to make sure you have plenty of tire repair supplies as we must have repaired at least 20 flats that first month alone and even had to acquire another tire after we found the cast aluminum head of an old fashioned meat tenderizer imbedded in the side wall after one of our forays across town seeking supplies.

Another note on “salvaging” your vehicles is the electrical system.  A lot of folks spent enormous effort and time in drying out their cars and trucks and getting them to run to no avail as many of these same vehicles later caught fire as the electrical systems shorted out.  So, if you have to resort to this please add a fire extinguisher or two to your survival kits for such emergencies.  I had to stop two cars coming down the road within the first few months because they were on fire underneath the vehicle and the occupants didn’t know it!

The mechanic had to go back to work within a few days because his services were in high demand at the dealership as it became the main repair facility for all of the emergency vehicles.  He was their only front end specialist and in high demand because the poor road conditions were reeking havoc on those vehicles.  At any given time, there were 20 -30 vehicles with license plates from all over the country there seeking maintenance or repair of some sort for months on end.  That basically left it up to me make the twice daily trips to the county fair grounds for food, water, and ice to distribute to the folks of our old neighborhood as well as our “new” neighborhood.  I cannot stress enough the fact that you never turn anything down because whether or not you need it, someone else in the neighborhood will!  Additionally, knowing the locations of facilities rendering assistance by way of beds and hopefully hot food is vital as this will aid you immensely when you come across people wondering around aimlessly due to the trauma they experienced.  One notable experience I had was with a family of four, including two small elementary age children.  I had observed them walking around for a day or two before it dawned on me that they were still carrying the same bundles of stuff.  After stopping them, their story was one of complete despair as they had been walking the streets for the better part of a week because they didn’t have anywhere to go.  A passing National Guard truck loaded with MREs gave me the location of one such center so, I loaded them all up and of to that wonderful church made famous by Ray Steven’s squirrel song we went!  A few days later while dropping off a few more unfortunates,  I was told that one of the many charity groups was helping to relocate the family.

In the beginning, water and ice are vital to your survival and as such, must be stretched to its fullest potential.  Our wives came up with a great simple process for extending the usefulness of ice.  They set up a simple linear process using the four 100 quart Igloo ice chests that we had as the basic line with two smaller Igloo ice chest to hold any excess ice we happened to acquire.  The first chest was raised up on a sturdy chair and contained all of our foodstuffs and medicine that needed to be cooled, packed in loose ice (some ice is also placed into sealed containers to thaw as a means to augment drinking and cooking water).  To the right, sitting on the ground so that the drain plug of the first chest could drain directly into it with little effort was the second chest.  This chest served as our bathing and dish washing water.  It was sanitized with bleach because an inadvertent germ or two could be in the drained water from our hands accessing the items in the first chest.  You bathed by dipping wash clothes into the bleach water and wiping yourself clean.  Bathing was augmented by squirting GermEx with Aloe Vera directly onto a damp wash cloth and wiping oneself off.  While crude, it kept you clean, provided a refreshing tingle from the alcohol in the GermEx and aided in disinfecting any minor sores or scratches you have.  After the dishes were washed, the water from the 2nd chest was transferred to the third chest sitting to its right and then the 2nd chest was sanitized with clean bleach water making it ready for the next use.  The 3rd chest was used to our wash clothes and the 4th chest sitting to its right was used to rinse the clothes prior to hanging out on makeshift clothes lines.  The water in the 4th chest was clear water that came from sundry sources, e.g. excess ice runoff from the extra storage chests, suspect bottled water that was overheated in the sun, and later on pond water from the local park once we were informed it was safe for non-food use.  Because it was suspect, it was always adequately bleached.  After the clothes were washed, the water from the 3rd chest was used for mopping the floors and wiping off non-food areas.  The water from the 4th chest was used to rinse off everything that was washed with water from the 4th chest.  All excess water from the chests was either used to refill the bathtubs for toilet flushing water or kept in buckets in case of fire and later sprinkled throughout the yard and driveway to cut down on the dust.

Our close encounter with the Post-Apocalyptic TEOTWAWKI event named Hurricane Katrina has not only left an indelible mark upon us but has made us stronger because we survived it and has taught us a few things about ourselves and mankind in general that everyone can learn from.  Here are the 10 biggest that readily come to mind:

First and foremost, in the event you are forewarned with an approaching disaster like Hurricane Katrina, do not hesitate. Evacuate.

Second, no amount of planning can cover every contingency so be prepared to improvise.

Third, 3-7 days of supplies are completely inadequate because it can take up to 2-3 weeks before regular and consistent support from outside sources becomes available.

Fourth, everyone impacted that survives is just that, a survivor so you had better be ready to get over stupid prejudices because you either survive together or perish individually.

Fifth, you are going to have to work hard so, accept your fate and “hitch up your drawers” and get at it.  The first responders are going to need your assistance so that they can provide the aid you need.  Everything that you can do initially be that clearing roadways, sharing resources, making signs to identify streets or people in dire need, assisting neighbors, scrounging, and safeguarding will only improve your lot in the aftermath.

Sixth, maintain your vital inoculations for Tetanus, hepatitis, etc.  Get your booster shots.  Thankfully for us, the nurse in our family went over and above to seek us out and administer all of those vital inoculations.

Seventh, get your pets looked at ASAP if they are subjected to flood waters, we almost lost two of ours.  Fortunately, a dear friend that worked as a Vet tech was able to bring and administer the needed antibiotics to save their lives.

Eighth, more people die or are seriously injured after the storm than during it due to accidents while cleaning up, stress, heat exposure, microscopic critters in the surge water, disease, improperly stored or cooked food, poisonous insects and snakes, exposure to the elements, etc.  If you do not have any experience with the art of using a chainsaw to fell trees or cut them off of your house then please, seek the assistance of someone who has this knowledge!  Observe each other and don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance for even the most basic of wounds, especially if you haven’t kept up on your inoculations.

Ninth, an openly well armed citizenry tends to keep the wolves and looters at bay as they are mainly cowards seeking to prey on easy targets.  Down here after a storm, everyone just assumes that everyone is “packing” so, everyone just generally seems to be much more calm and cooperative.

Tenth, thank all those “outsiders” that show up to assist with the cleanup and rebuilding because 99% of them are there to genuinely help.  Especially show your appreciation to all of those folks manning the stationary kitchens and food trucks.  Some of the best hot meals I ever had came from the church group around the corner running a kitchen and the Red Cross and Salvation Army food trucks.

Lastly, keep the faith as it will see you through to the bitter end.  Even though it’s been almost 8 years now since that fateful day, we are still recovering from Katrina, at least economically but hey, material objects are just that, stuff, easily replaced when you get the resources should you desire to do so.  Remember, not everyone will be made financially whole after such an event but hopefully you’ll still have your health not to mention the most important asset of all, your truly good friends and family.

Monday, May 27, 2013

NOTE: This article is adapted from my book When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival.
Who could not be shocked and saddened by the images of massive devastation left in the wake of recent tornadoes that struck in Oklahoma and Texas? Though nothing can guarantee absolute safety in the path of a tornado, outside of a shelter with reinforced concrete and steel walls, understanding something about the nature of tornadoes, safety tips for surviving a tornado strike, and which common folklore is to be trusted or ignored, will improve your chances for making the right decision when confronted by a tornado.

Tornado Facts and Myths

• It is commonly believed that tornadoes happen mostly in the spring, but the peak of tornado season varies with location, and tornadoes can occur any month of the year. For example, the peak of tornado season in the northern plains and upper Midwest is June or July but it is from May to early June in the southern plains, and even earlier in the spring for the Gulf Coast.
• There is a myth that tornadoes can only spawn and strike in relatively flat areas, but they have actually occurred in high areas of the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, and Appalachian Mountains. Though more frequent in the flatter areas of the plains states and the southeast, tornadoes have been spotted in such varied locations as Vermont, upstate New York, Nevada, and one hiker spotted and photographed a tornado at 12,000 feet in the Sequoia National Park of California.
• A common myth is that trailer parks attract tornadoes. They certainly do not attract tornadoes, but due to their light weight and lack of heavy-duty anchoring to strong structural foundations, trailers are extremely vulnerable to damage from tornadoes.
• Another common myth is that you should open your windows to allow the pressure to equalize should a tornado strike your home. Do not waste your time opening windows. If a tornado strikes, it will blow out the windows, and the last place you should be is near a window, where there is the greatest danger from flying debris and glass.
• There is a common myth that owing to the direction of rotation of tornadoes in the Northern Hemisphere the southwest corner of a building is the safest place to be. This myth is totally false. Corners are areas of buildings that are most prone to damage. The safest areas are in the center of the building in a windowless room or closet, and on the lowest level (in the basement if there is one).
• There is a common myth that highway overpasses provide protection from tornadoes. In fact, the underside of a highway overpass often acts as a wind tunnel, channeling high winds and debris, and there are a number of reported deaths of people who parked under an overpass while seeking shelter from approaching tornadoes.

Tornado Prediction and Warnings

A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) when they have determined that local conditions are ripe for generating tornadoes. Once a tornado watch has been issued, it is advisable to stay tuned to your local radio and television stations for further updates. If you live in tornado country, the use of a NOAA weather radio is highly recommended, especially those models that have a battery backup and can emit an audible warning whenever a severe weather alert is issued. This is the time to turn on the audible alarm switch on your NOAA radio to alert you if the watch is upgraded to a warning. Once a tornado watch has been issued, stay alert using your eyes, ears, and other senses to watch for signs of an approaching tornado, and make sure you have access to a safe shelter. Watch for unusual behavior on the part of pets and animals that might be an indication of an approaching tornado.

Once a tornado has been spotted visually, or on weather radar, a tornado warning is issued. Once a warning has been issued, you should take immediate precautions and seek shelter. If you live in a mobile home or other poorly protected building, you should seek shelter elsewhere, if possible. Bring your radio with you to listen for status updates and an “all-clear” signal when the warning is over.

Note: Sirens and severe weather alerts may provide advance tornado warnings, but tornadoes can occur in any season and without warning!

Tornado Survival Tips and Strategies

• If you are at home, seek shelter in the bottommost floor, and innermost area, such as an inner hallway, bathroom, or closet. Stay away from windows, outer walls, and building corners. Do not waste time opening windows.
• If you have a “safe room” (a specially constructed room protected by reinforced concrete and/or steel), a basement, root cellar, or storm cellar, those are the safest places to be. In the basement, the safest place is under a sturdy table or mattress, and in a position that is not directly below heavy items on the floor above, such as a refrigerator or piano.
• Protect yourself as best as possible. Wear a bicycle or hockey helmet, if you have one. Crouching in a bathtub or shower stall can provide improved protection, as can lying under a sturdy table or overturned couch.
• If you are in a car, do not try to outrun a tornado as it can travel at speeds in excess of 70 mph. However, it is worth taking a moment to watch the tornado closely, comparing its motion to a fixed object on the ground, so as to gauge its direction of travel. If you see it moving to one side or the other, and can travel in the opposite direction, then do so. If it does not appear to move to the left or right, it is headed straight for you. In that case, you must make a decision. If you have the option of traveling to the right or left, then do so, but if you are stuck in traffic, or the tornado is very close, you must abandon your vehicle and seek shelter, since tornadoes can easily pick up cars and even tractor trailers, sometimes throwing them hundreds of yards. If possible, pull your car to the side of the road and do not park in lanes of traffic, since with the heavy rains that often accompany tornadoes, a driver traveling at high speeds might not see your car parked in the middle of the road.
• If you are stuck in your car with an impending tornado strike, crouch down as low as you can, with your seatbelt buckled, staying away from the windows, and shielding your head with your arms and hands.
• If you are in the open, perhaps having abandoned your car, seek shelter in a building or culvert, or lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Not a pleasant thought, but people have survived tornadoes by doing this! Stay away from cars and trees, since they will become heavy flying objects with the power to kill and maim.
• Do not park under an overpass, since these tend to act as wind tunnels funneling debris and magnifying winds.
• Avoid shopping malls, theatres, gymnasiums, and other buildings with large open interior spaces where the roof might easily collapse. If inside of such a building, with no time to seek shelter elsewhere, seek shelter under a doorjamb or next to an interior wall that may provide some structural support and protection in the event of a building collapse.

About The Author: Matthew Stein is SurvivalBlog's Back Country Editor. He is a design engineer, green builder, and author of two best-selling books: When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival(Chelsea Green 2011), and When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency (Chelsea Green 2008). Stein is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he majored in Mechanical Engineering. Stein has appeared on numerous radio and television programs and is a repeat guest on Fox News, Coast-to-Coast AM, Alex Jones’ Infowars, Vince Finelli’s USA Prepares, and The Power Hour.  He is an active mountain climber, serves as a guide and instructor for blind skiers, has written several articles on the subject of sustainable living, and is a guest columnist for the Huffington Post.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hurricane Sandy tore through the northern eastern seaboard.  The hurricane combined with two other weather systems to create a Super storm (Some say).  The Hurricane or Super Storm created a destructive path that hasn’t been seen this far up north, ever.  Homes were damaged, properties were destroyed, and lives were lost.  This Hurricane had a lot to teach us.  A lot of us (Preppers) were prepared for this storm and tested our emergency plan for the first time, in real time.  We got to learn a lot about our emergency plan and some of us will patch the holes in our plans, if any.

What Happened:

Hurricane Sandy came through the Tri-State Area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), Maryland, and Pennsylvania with a force that hasn’t been seen in over a hundred years.  Hurricane Sandy ripped through cities, towns, and neighborhoods without any prejudice.  Hurricane Sandy also sent storm surges to drown out these areas.  High winds tore through homes and properties.  People were killed, injured and left homeless.  The Jersey Shores, Coney Island, Long Island, and parts of New York City’s landscape were changed forever.  24 states were effect by the Super Storm Sandy, Canada, and the Caribbean islands.  Hurricane Sandy reached a recorded 980 miles in diameter.

The Problems:

Evacuation Routes:  Many evacuation routes were compromised during and after Hurricane Sandy. Some people waited too long to leave while others tried to stay and found out the hard way that, that wasn’t a good choice. Train tunnels floods as well as traffic tunnels.  Bridges were shut down due to high winds. Some tried to leave after the storm and found out they couldn’t leave.  Taking evacuation advice seriously is a must and not something to take lightly. For this reason having more than one evacuation route is very important and so is leaving early.

Flooding:  Many cities, towns, and neighborhoods along the northeastern seaboard took on more water than anticipated.  The water moved with a force ripping houses off their foundations and relocating others somewhere in the area.  Vehicles were floating down the street.  Entire boardwalks were ripped away from their foundations, swept into the ocean and in many cases found more than a mile inland.  The massive amounts of salt water destroyed homes, basements, businesses, emergency services facilities, medical facilities and vehicles.  People drown from the flooding as well.  Some people were caught in there basements as the water came into their homes trapping them.  Two kids were swept away by waves of water.  The floods were made of a perfect combination of high winds, high tide, and a full moon all happening simultaneously. The highest recorded surge was in Battery Park City, New York at 13.8ft.

High Wind Conditions:  Trees, power lines, homes, and a sky crane were damage by high-sustained winds.  The sustain winds were as high as 80 mph. The gust of winds reached 109 mph.  The winds were not expected to be as high in the first reports of the hurricane’s approach.  The high winds also helped the water surge onto land.  The high winds also killed people as it sent trees through homes and debris into the air.  High winds also knocked the face of a building off and shook many buildings.  The high wind caused roof of homes to be ripped off, windows blown out, and homes to collapse. 

Power Outages: 8.5 million people (roughly) lost power due to Hurricane Sandy.  This included a power station in New York City, which had an explosion causing 800,000 customers to lose power. The power was knocked out due to high winds, fallen trees and tidal flooding.  The Hurricane caused black outs that could be seen from space satellites.  Hospitals and Nursing Homes had to be evacuated due to power loss and flooding. “Customers” went days, weeks, or even months without power.  Businesses were destroyed due to power outage. Rotting food and loss of income put some businesses out of business, for good. Even now, some homes still do not have power (2/11/2013).  With the power outage came something most people didn’t know about. Waste management systems dumped its waste into the surrounding bays, channels, and rivers due to loss of power. So, the floodwaters were contaminated as well.

Property Damage:  There was an estimate of 71.4 billion of dollars in damages that spread across 24 states.  As we all saw, homes were displaced from their foundation by tidal flooding carrying the homes away.  In some cases, home were found in completely different neighborhoods from their original location. If homes weren’t carried away by the floodwaters, then the homes were just flooded, which caused mold to grow in the days to come.  Trees fell through home, completely destroying the structure. Tens of thousands of vehicles were totaled due to flooding and tree falling on them.  Fires ripped through homes as well, mixed with the high winds turned the fire into a blowtorch, destroying hundreds of homes.  Boardwalks were ripped from their century old foundations as some of you seen with the New Jersey Shore boardwalk in Seaside Heights.  Sand also played a roll in destroying home, vehicles, and business. Sand from the ocean floor and beaches were brought onto land by wind and water.

Complete Destruction Of Areas and Neighborhoods:  Areas and neighborhoods were completely destroyed due to Hurricane Sandy. Breezy Point in New York was destroyed due to wind, water, and fire.  Over a hundred home were destroyed by fire.  A few thousand homes were flooded.  Some homes had their roofs blown off.  A few homes were relocated to other nearby neighborhoods via water.  The New York Aquarium on Coney Island was partial destroyed due to floodwaters and power loss.  Most of New Jersey’s shores were destroyed.  Some of the boardwalks were completely destroyed and pushed further inland or dragged out to sea.

Looting and Robberies: Looting came as no surprise to anyone but a few guys did try and break into a bank during the height of the storm.  They try to use a pickup truck to get the job done but once they rammed through the glass doors. They had no plan of action after that. Need less to say, they got nothing.  Some of the big chain stores were looted during the storm but once the storm passed. The looting picked up in pace and locations in New York City, I am not sure if looting took place in other states.  The police did a good job ending the looting spree here in New York City.  There were reports of robberies in some areas of the city after the storm passed.  There was one report of people being robbed for their emergency disaster supplies that had been given to them by Red Cross (I only heard that once during a news broadcast.)  Burglaries also spiked in neighborhoods that were hit hard and had less people due to evacuations.

After The Storm:

There were a lot of issues that arose from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Getting power back on for people. Logistics for disturbing food, water, and other necessary items for people became a problem.  Housing people who lost their homes became an issue too.  Lack of fuel was also an unforeseen problem.  A few deaths occurred from this storm as well. Some of these problems could have been avoided had the city had a better emergency preparation plan. 

Deaths: 118 people in the U.S. were killed due to Hurricane Sandy. 1 person in Canada and 69 people in Caribbean was also killed.  Some people were killed by floods, while others were killed by flying debris and falling trees.  Some people were even electrocuted.

Lack Of Supplies: There were huge problems with the distribution of food and water to those places that needed the help.  There was a breakdown in communication as to where and when food and water were going to be given out.  In Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York people showed up to the assigned time and place to receive their emergency provisions but instead the time would be changed to hours later.  Minor incidents broke out at these distribution locations.  Some fighting was reported but most were arguments that were reported by people who waited on line.  Some people had to resort to getting their water from open water hydrants and walk miles to get there food from neighborhoods that had power.  People in lower Manhattan had to walk north for food, which in some cases was better than a 5-mile walk.  Breezy Point, New York had the most help dedicated to them but even then Red Cross and FEMA dropped the ball.  Shelter became another issue for those that lost their homes.  People were taken to schools, armories, and churches after the storm.  The temporary occupants from a homeless shelter on Rockaway, New York trashed one school by urinating on the lunchroom floors, feces in the water fountain, and food discarded throughout the school.  The lack of logistics and communication breakdown made everything harder than it had to be.

Lack Of Fuel: The lack of fuel was a combination effect.  From gas stations having no power to retrieve the gas from the ground to refineries being shut down due to lack of power or terminals being destroyed due to floods, wind damage, and power loss.  Waterways for importing fuel were also closed due to debris blocking the waterway.  On top of all that 350,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled in the Arthur Kill Waterway in New Jersey, closing that waterway as well.  If gas stations would have had back up generators or emergency pump systems to retrieve the gas, that might of alleviated some of the gas problems. If refineries would of set their backup generators on higher ground like some of them could of done, then that would of cut down on the fuel shortage days.  Fights and arguments broke out on these gasoline lines, one guy got arrested for pulling a knife on another man just to skip the line.  There was free gasoline being given out at one point. Luckily I filled up my truck before the hurricane hit.  

What Didn’t Happen:

A stronger storm with the same conditions Hurricane Sandy had would have done far more damage.  If the winds were stronger way more trees, homes, and building would have been knocked down. More water would of reached further inland, flooding more homes and costing the states million dollars more.  More people would of died.  The recovery efforts would of taken a lot longer.  The fuel shortage would of taken months to recover.  Help from other states would have been minimal due to the fact that the storm might have been bigger in diameter and those neighboring states would have had to help themselves.  Now, just because Hurricane Sandy could have been stronger doesn’t mean that she would have been bigger but considering Sandy was a combination storm, she would’ve been bigger. Imagine if she would have been bigger in diameter.  Hurricane Sandy was 980 miles in diameter, that’s 560,000 square miles.

What I Learned:

I learned that I was more prepared than I original though.  For living in an apartment I had almost everything I needed for the storm.  I also learned that my wife could take care of herself.  I learned that she is actually paying more attention to me than I thought.  She took precautionary measure to assure our families’ safety while I was at work.

I should have had fuel canisters for extra fuel but I have nowhere to really store them in my apartment.  I was thinking at one point to store them on the fire escape but decide against it.  I need to get a battery-operated radio.  The hand crank radios are cool but only as a last resort.  Besides those two things I was pretty much squared away.

I also learned that water proofing most of your gear especially if you are going to keep your gear in the basement.  If you live in a flood zone and can only keep your gear in the basement.  You are going to have to finds a way to water proof all your gear if you want to keep it.  I heard of one prepper that lived in Breezy Point, lost everything due to flooding of his basement.

Bottom Line:

People need to be ready as our weather patterns are changing for the worst.  Having some stored foods and supplies will not break the bank.  Your family will thank you when the time comes.  You don’t have to prepare for the “end of the world” or an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack.  You should just be ready for things that are most likely going to happen such as bad weather emergencies.  There were people that haven’t recovered from Hurricane Irene and then get slammed with Hurricane Sandy.  Some people never even learned their lesson from Hurricane Irene. It is now time to take these lessons into consideration and take action into our own hands.


People need to keep calm and be ready.  Depending on someone to come and help you sucks as many people are finding out in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Be able to help yourself out and be ready. No one is saying to put a years worth of food away but you should have something put away for those bad days. 

The Total Numbers: (As of March 30, 2013)

  • Homes Destroyed From wind, fire, and water:  No exact number, yet
  • Damage Cost: Over 71.4 Billion Dollars
  • States Affected: 24
  • Countries Affected: 2
  • Loss Of Power: Over 6 million customers in 15 states
  • Injuries: Unknown
  • Deaths:  118 in the U.S., 2 in Canada, and 69 in the Caribbean.

Quick Tips:

  • 5/8 thick wood boards and cut to fit windows. If you have shutters use them instead.
  • Clear your gutters.
  • Remove all loose items from porches, terraces, and backyards i.e. Grills, Lawn chairs and kid’s toys.
  • Plan your evacuation route and then have a back up planned out as well.
  • Prepare your vehicle for a possible evacuation. Fill your tank and have your bug out bag at the ready.
  • Turn refrigerator to the coldest setting in case the power goes out and pack with plastic sheeting.
  • Freeze a few plastic water bottles to keep your food cold.
  • Test your generator.
  • Fill up the bathtub using the WaterBob.
  • Unplug all appliances and electronics t protect them from power surges and brown-outs.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Many folks have an interest of viewing solar information and typically subscribe to raw data feeds; however probably do not understand a lot of
the science behind the numbers. There is a gentleman who produces daily morning youtube forecasts typically from 3 to 4 minutes long which covers the
gamut of space weather and it's impact on terrestrial weather.

These broadcasts are extremely informative and he does an excellent job breaking down all of the information. His Youtube channel is called Suspicious0bservers. I have become a regular daily viewer of his short yet extremely informative broadcasts.

Warm Regards, - Dave in Florida

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dear JWR:
You don't always need a snow plow to to free up the streets in a snow-bound neighborhood. I found a video that shows a U.S. military surplus M35 2-1/2 Ton ("Deuce and a Half") truck being used to pack down snow. - Solar Guy


Mr. Rawles,
We in dry Central Texas are having the opposite problem from your "Snowmageddon" contributors: Dry wind-blizzards. On Monday, February 25th we had dry, sunny weather combined with high winds all day and night.

I stepped outside after lunch to check the mail. Uhh-Ohh. The brush pile fire we had burned almost two weeks before, and foolishly thought to be extinguished, threw wind-driven sparks out to a nearby unburned brush pile. The new fire had been burning for a half-hour, but the smoke was going away from the house. My spouse and I were oblivious that a roof-high, whipping fire was outside, while we ate lunch just two hundred yards away! When juniper (here called “cedar”) burns, it flares up to a scary inferno of flames even in mild, damp weather.

My husband got the tractor and frantically covered the pile with dirt, using the loader. I grabbed chain saws, water hoses, the air tank for the tractor tire. But the trouble wasn't over, cinders had blown into the juniper forest! I ran into the woods and stomped/wetted a few smoldering spots. The cinders had traveled 140 feet and, thankfully, hadn't ignited into flames. The kids stepped off the school bus and searched the woods for any other smoldering spots, none found.

I sat out all night in the truck, with shovel/water buckets, in case there was a flare-up in the cold, whipping wind. My 4G Tablet was entertainment, and served as an alarm for short catnaps. My Jack Russell Terrier, a whip-smart little companion, kept my lap and hands warm.

Lessons: (1) I will never again allow a burn-pile to be covered with dirt and smolder. Buried logs and stumps can smolder for months! One will discover how dangerous this is when you get a dry spell and a wind storm. I will make sure future burned-up piles are promptly knocked down and thoroughly extinguished. (2) Since the burn-pile was very near the county road, I was disappointed that no passers-by stopped to offer help, nor noticed the unattended flames, while we were lunching, and inform us of the problem. As other contributors have noted, get to know your neighbors well, make sure they have your phone numbers.

Postscript: The high winds picked up again, a week later, (March 5) and blew the dirt off the pile, exposing embers from last week's accidental fire. After piling more dirt on, we are waiting for forecasted rain this weekend so we can tear down this dangerous pile of buried embers, allow the old stumps to burn and extinguish it for good. - Sarah in Central Texas

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Regarding the recent piece Surviving Snowmageddon: The precursor to Seattle's 2012 storm was the December 2008 Snowpocalypse. While the power outages weren't as severe as 2012, the well-publicized driving conditions were nightmarish. [JWR Adds: Ditto for driving Seattle's steep streets in 2010.]

The storm hit during a workday and dropped about two feet of snow across the Puget Sound region. Temps were in the teens, visibility was whiteout, and the snow remained on the ground at least 10 days - quite rare for these parts. People were totally unprepared, especially for the drive home. Freeway traffic was literally at a stand still by late afternoon. I-5 was a parking lot from south of Olympia all the way up through Everett (approx 100 mile stretch with Seattle in the middle). People were stranded on the freeways for hours - cars were running out of gas while people tried to keep warm. Accidents everywhere. It took my sister-in-law's mother nine hours (9!) to drive from downtown Seattle to her home 15 miles south. My dad and I were working in Portland when the snow hit. As soon as we saw/heard of the traffic nightmare on I-5 we opted for a plan-B route. We headed east past The Dalles and crossed the river on Highway 97, made our way up through Yakima and Ellensburg, then up and over Snoqualmie pass on I-90. We added many miles to the trip but the lower traffic volume on the east side of the Cascades made for relatively easy driving. Ironically, the road conditions on the mountain passes were better than down in the metro area. Since Seattle might receive snow once per season, you can imagine how many snow plows are allocated to the metro area and the city of Seattle. Road conditions were bad, but it was the shear volume of traffic that simultaneously descended upon the freeways (and the poorly experienced snow drivers) that made for the nightmare. Snowpocalypse illustrated the problems with trying to bug out of Seattle in the eleventh hour. 

Seattle is also hilly. Except for the major river valleys, the entire region from the Sound east to the Cascades is a series of gradually rising foothills and plateaus. This means that when it does snow those without a capable vehicle are stranded. By the next morning there were cars abandoned everywhere, especially at and around the bottom of hills. I can remember driving (comfortably, in my 4x4) up the hill to my parents house, weaving through a maze of cars that had been left smack in the middle of the road (did I mention their bad snow driving?) The only boon was that after a couple days the roads were pretty deserted and you could drive around like it was Mad Max. The interesting observation here is that the snow lasted long enough that gas stations on the tops of hills experienced gas shortages - the trucks couldn't make it up the unplowed hills. 

Finally, the whole situation was amplified by the City of Seattle/DOT bureaucrats and their miles of red tape. City residents, for example, weren't allowed to plow their own streets - they had to wait for the City. Most neighborhoods were never plowed. In another brilliant move, the City decided not to clear the roads (the roads they did plow) all the way down to the road surface (to avoid damage), and left behind a solid sheet of hardpack (remember the hills?). Even better, the City decided not to salt the roads (ecological concerns of course) and instead simply sand. When then mayor Greg Nickels gave the City's response to the storm a "B" grade, people were angry. The whole fiasco likely cost Nickels his job in the next election cycle, but it took a major crisis that directly affected their well being before voters came out of their coma to recognize bureaucratic buffoonery for what is was. 

Fortunately my family is used to this kind of thing and was thus mostly unaffected, and I have a nice photo of my wife and I cross country skiing down the neighborhood street to remember it by. - L.D.N. in Bellevue, Washington

Sunday, March 3, 2013

In January, 2012 Washington State went through what the locals called Snowmageddon. My family and I had just returned from being stationed in Germany for the preceding nine years. Some of our belongings were still packed up out in the garage. Mostly my “camping” things. Having just started at the new assignment, I had not yet taken the time to unpack everything. I had bought some heavy duty shelves for the garage (in anticipation of unpacking my gear). While in Germany, I was stationed in Bavaria (Schweinfurt and Graffenwoehr specifically). I had been raised in the Midwest, so I was used to a lot of snow. The love of my life was a military brat, born in Lost Wages, raised in Europe. To the kids, lots of snow meant extra days off of school.

I arrived in Washington in time for the salmon runs, so my freezer was full of fresh fillets, family value packs from the butcher, and a bunch of frozen fruit from COSTCO. I had started to stockpile some canned soups that I got a good deal on, as well as several cases of bottled water. My wife and kids just rolled their eyes and called me a prepper like it was a dirty word. Then, on the 18th of January, the snow fell hard enough to knock the power out, luckily after dinner.

When the power died, so did the heat. While in Germany, we had purchased large down comforters for each bed, as well as some full size blankets. We normally keep the heat at 65 in the house; if we get chilly; we put on some layers or cover up with a blanket. I was not worried about staying warm or food, but cooking it soon presented a problem. The next day, I went out to the garage and started to dig out the camp stove. My gut clenched when I saw that it had been murdered. A forklift tine had punched through the box at some point and the stove was the casualty. The box had been re-packed and nothing said to me or my wife. It happened to be the only thing that was damaged in the move. I went into the house and looked at my wife through the hole, grinning at her facial expression.

I hiked through knee deep snow out to Cabela's, about two miles away. They were operating on generators and the debit cards were still working. On the way, I stopped at the Shell station and got lucky with the ATM and was able to get a couple hundred dollars cash just in case. When I got to Cabela's, the stoves and propane were all gone. I also noticed that most of the sleeping bags and trail food were gone. Undeterred, I tromped another 1.5 miles to Wal-Mart. Same result there. I then went to Big 5 Sporting goods, and was able to get a stove for $45 cash. They were also out of propane. I made my way to Wholesale sports and got lucky on the propane; I got the last six cans. Sales were cash only. While in line, the guy behind me tried to talk me out of half of them “They last a while, what do you need with 6 cans?”.  I told him to pound sand, and he grumbled something about Army attitudes. Since I do not have my concealed permit, I was carrying openly, which he noticed. I got out of line under the pretense of having forgotten something, just to keep him in sight. There was no incident, but I was not going to take any chances. In each of the stores, there was generator power only (while the fuel lasted), cash was the only thing accepted (with the exception of Cabela's), all the stay warm gear and camping food was gone. I went across the street to Safeway and got another can of coffee. Cash only.

I got home, wiped down my sidearm, and started cooking dinner. The psychological effect of a hot meal cannot be under rated! The next day (19 Jan), I took a couple of my Rubbermaid tubs out back and piled snow around them. Everything from the refrigerator went into one and the now semi-frozen fruit went into the other. I cooked all of the pork sausage up and it went into a cooler out on the patio. I had a sedan; it took me 3 minutes to back out of my driveway and 45 minutes of shoveling and pushing to get it back into the original position. A couple of hours later, one of my coworkers roared up in his 4WD and we made our way to Fort Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis-McChord or JBLM). We secured a couple generators and fuel from his shop and drove/ slid home. FYI, the use of the generators was sanctioned by the Brigade Commander.. The generator was enough for the water heater and the kitchen lights were very dim. We decided to leave them off. The value of a hot shower ranks right up there with a hot meal.

Our cell phones we working intermittently, either due to the fact they are 3G, the ice and snow build up on the towers, or both. I have an inverter for the lighter socket in my vehicle, so keeping them charged was no issue. My boss called and told me to just check in on the phone until I was able to get my car on the road. That night we did not run the generator, but you could hear all the other ones in the area and see lights here and there. They would have made good targets if the power was out longer than 6 days. On the 3rd day, I cooked everything from the freezer and put it all into the Rubbermaid containers. We were not going to freeze or starve, and we played a lot of board games, some match stick poker (Texas hold em and 5 card stud) and a couple of snow ball fights. Neither my wife nor I were able to go to work for the whole week.

Most of our neighbors had left to either relatives or hotels where the power was still on. Some of them had even left their pets, which really angered me. On day 7, the power was restored. I disconnected the generator, wiped out the fridge, and put all of the food back into it. I cleaned the propane stove and put it on a shelf in the garage, along with 4 bottles of propane. We had not touched the food stores in the garage, still had plenty of food in the fridge, and our bellies were full.  My neighbors started to return in the afternoon. The single mom next door threw out all the food from her freezer and fridge, as did most of the others who had left. The HOA had not even made the attempt to plow the roads.
My wife and kids no longer make fun of my preparations, and they no longer dive into the bottled water stash. I was extraordinarily lucky to find a working ATM, new stove and fuel when I did. Almost every one of my neighbors chose to flee the situation instead of make due, allowing all their perishable food to spoil and leaving their homes and possessions susceptible to loss. Some even abandoned their pets. I do not associate with them; I find their values and morals to be lacking.
Looking back, I have learned a few things.

  1. Stocking up may not be the cool thing with the family, but do it anyway.
  2. Make sure you have distractions (other than books) for the whole family.
  3. Rubbermaid containers can impress your wife.
  4. Even in the Pacific coast, a truck is a must (I now have a 4x4).
  5. Above ground power lines are stupid.
  6. Make the time to check all of your gear, especially after a move.

This is not a complete list, but it encompasses the points I feel are the most important. The next purchases for my new 4x4 will be a brush guard, winch, and plow. If the HOA will not honor their commitment, I will be able to help my neighbors. I continue to read and learn on a daily basis, as we all should.

Keep prepping and keep your powder dry.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Most preppers probably have a pretty good handle on how to assemble a bug-out-bag (BOB). And, it’s probably so large and ungainly, that it gets stuck in the closet, just like mine. Let's be honest, are you going to have it when you need it? I think we have covered the likelihood of being at home when “it” happens in plenty of detail in the past. We have seen that the chances of you being at home on your couch with your BOB beside you are slim. What about all the other situations? In other words, where to you spend a sizeable quantity of your life in a situation that can easily turn against you? And, in this situation, are you adequately prepared? Lastly, are you just thinking of yourself, or thinking of your dependents…who are what really matter.

Ironically, about a month ago, Alabama had one of those Jesus Is Coming moments when the white stuff from hades started falling. If you don't catch the joke, it's that Alabama shuts down at just the threat of severe winter weather. I was sitting here in my office when the loud speaker told us to go home. In the ice and snow. 2,500 people all recklessly driving to pick up their kids. Not only does Alabama shut down, but Alabamians don't know how to drive in bad weather, of any kind. But they are particularly incapable of driving in snow and ice. Case in point is that on Interstate 65, wrecks caused 24 hour delays. Most of these delays were between exits in a very rural area. Families were trapped in their vehicles for a whole day.

I guess you can see where I am going with this article. The fact is, you use your car every day. You spend a sizeable amount of your life in a car. And of all things that you do, driving is probably both the most dangerous and most likely to put you into one of these situations. Here is the kicker: it is also the most likely time that you will have to fend not only for yourself, but for your entire family. Face it, being stuck in the snow for 24 hours is bad. But, you…by yourself…could hump it, if you had to. It wouldn’t be the end of the world. But it wouldn’t be the case for me.

So, my wife...ever supportive of this hobby of mine...saw a real application of survival prepping. She asked me to make an emergency kit for the car. While most of you reading would think about gas cans, flashlights, and tow straps, recall that many of us have kids. Young ones. We can't just start humping it up the interstate. We need food, water, and warmth. Now, I know times are hard and people have a tough time spending money on things they will probably never use. But, you can't put a price on safety, convenience, or comfort. These things do happen. All the time.

I am going to show you how to put together a simple kit that will buy you 24 hours of comfort and assurance for you and your family. And I am going to do it on a budget that anyone can feel good about, while maintaining the useful space in your vehicle.

After a few weeks of procrastinating, I finally got serious (and got paid...). The first thing I did was to shop at the Emergency Essentials web site. They have plenty of “all in one package” items, but not only was the all in one survival bags a little bit more than I wanted to spend, it took the fun out of shopping and building it for myself. Not only that, but everyone is different in their level of survivability. I started out by buying the 72 Hour Improved MRE kit. This cost $58 dollars.


Contents of the Improved MRE 72-Hour Food and Water Supply

  • MRE Main Dish Entrees 9
  • MRE Side Dishes 6
  • MRE Dessert 6
  • MRE Drink Mix 3
  • Water Pouch 18
  • Bread/Biscuit 3
  • Peanut Butter 2
  • Jam Packet 1
  • Cheese Packet 1
  • Hard Candy 3
  • Accessory Pack 9

Now, that's a big box of stuff, and honestly, as I counted up the calories, I realized that we didn't need all of this, nor could we fit it in the car conveniently. I figured we needed a solid 1,000 calorie meal and days’ worth of water. After all, we are American and it would take weeks to starve us fat people. But kids get cranky and it's hard to keep your wits about you when you have 3 of them telling you how hungry they are. Turns out, by counting the calories in each item, it took one MRE main dish, one dessert, and one fruit for a 1,000 calorie meal. Multiple that by 5 and I actually had 1 person's day worth of food left over, which I added to my 24 hour bag.

Additionally, I added:

  • Wool survival blankets for $11.99. That's a steal. These things are heavy and huge. And they normally cost $25.
  • 5 Hothands Super Warmers. I bought these for $1 each.
  • 3 Mylar emergency blankets. I bought these in a lot of 10 from Amazon for under $5
  • 3 glow sticks. I bought these in a lot of 10 for $11
  • Baggie of vitamins and OTC pills.
  • One large flashlight
  • Basic hand tool kit
  • Straps and bungee cords
  • Can of Fix-A-Flat

Even after I put this together, I noticed that there were some other things that I think should be added, but aren’t necessary. For you, they may be, so don’t forget about things like playing cards, sanitary wipes/toilet paper, extra plastic sacks, spare sets of clothes, and, if you need it as we do, baby formula.

While the people reading this already are like-minded and see the benefit of this kit, I am trying to appeal to those that aren’t. The Top Two Questions you are asking are: 1) I bet it’s a lot of money for something I will never use and 2) That much stuff would be impossible to fit in my vehicle. These two questions were foremost on my mind when I put this together. Why? Because like everyone else, I am on a budget and I have three children and all of their stuff. Yet, it fits nicely behind the back seat of my Chevy Yukon. It isn't very heavy. The total cost was under $60.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
In the past few days, I have noticed many articles and threads from preppers regarding the northeast and our recent  snowfall. The general feeling is that we (from New England/New York) did not learn anything from Hurricane Sandy, and were again caught unprepared. Multiple news clips and sound bites  seem to support this. What the rest of the country seems not to realize, is that empty grocery stores, power outages, and blocked roads are a way of life here in New England, and have been for as far back as we can recall.  The prepper community is always speculating on what they would do days or hours leading up to a SHTF situation. I can speak for the majority of us northerners who can say "been there, done that, doing it again next year".  We all gassed up our vehicles, snow blowers etc, stocked up on perishable groceries, batteries etc. stayed home and weathered the storm safely.  Because in general, we know how to handle this type of event. It is in our blood.

The take away for your readers, is that wherever they call home, there are certain hazards which they will have to deal with on a semi regular basis, be they weather related or otherwise. You cannot prevent them, nor become impervious to them. We all can only be prepared enough to weather the storm best we can. It is up to each individual to asses the dangers presented by their region, and make the necessary preparations. I for one am not prepared for flash flooding, it is just not worth prepping for in my area, if I lived along the Mississippi, I might feel differently.

I think it is a testament to the preparedness of my region, that only three days after the most recent "snowstorm of the century" things are pretty much back to normal. Businesses are open, people are back to work, and we are merely waiting for power to come back on for a few thousand customers. We had no looting, food riots or bank runs.
Thanks for all your work, - Rico

Monday, December 10, 2012

This article bears special mention: Into the vault: the operation to rescue Manhattan's drowned internet Hurricane.

Steve [an acquaintance who is a telephone lineman] wrote to note:

"Having a cable vault under a central office flood is a major disaster in the telecom industry. One splice getting wet is a big job. Losing the entire office brings up comments like I didn’t want any days off this year. Having fixed splices like this that have gotten wet I have a good idea what is involved to fix this. It’s a lot of slow meticulous work. If the damage is only in the splice case and the copper is plastic insulated and not paper then drying and replacing the connectors may be all that’s needed (Two guys around the clock 2 or 3 days). If it’s paper insulated then it’s fish out each pair and replace it across the splice repeat 3,000 times (Two guys around the clock for 5 or 6 days per splice).

Most of these cables will have water under the sheath several feet from the opening which can’t be removed or blown out completely. Eventually this water will rot the plastic insulation on the copper and cause various problems, mostly static that will be intermittent. The only way to fix this is to open up the splices and dry those out. You then cut back on the sheath until you find dry cable or you hit the wall, that’s when you start replacing cable.

They describe replacing the copper lines with fibre optic cables in some of the pictures. The future of the telecom industry is fibre but this will require installing switches at all the customer addresses, no small job in itself. First you have to get a new cable into the building (anybody want to dig up the street in front of every customer because that is where the cable duct lines are). Then you have to find space in the building to place the switch. Building owners are being bombarded with requests for space from all the various telecom competitors for space under normal circumstances and they just don’t have space to spare which they aren’t being paid for. After that it’s time to provide power for these switches. Most of the time you need multiple dedicated circuits and UPS’s for these switches. By the way you think maybe all the electricians might be busy?

Bottom line they have a lot of work to do before they are back to normal. The cost for just this one office could easily reach millions of dollars and if somebody said $50 million I wouldn’t be surprised."

Friday, November 9, 2012

I am an 18 year old guy in a family of 8 in a suburban home 10 miles from the nearest city in central New Jersey.
We knew it was coming a week in advance. So did just about everyone in the tri-state area. There was no hiding the fact. Even with a looming election, Hurricane Sandy got "saturation media coverage". Terms like "superstorm" , "catastrophic", and "unprecedented" were being used in almost every Hurricane Sandy story. This storm was supposed to bring catastrophic damage to New Jersey and New York, with moderate rain, high winds, and an unbelievable storm surge. Some were already prepared. Some listened and followed the instructions given by government officials to prepare for the storm.  However, even with all of this overemphasis, many people did not prepare to any degree. All involved learned a lesson. Here is our experience.
What we had on hand: We had already purchased an 1,250 watt / 35,00 watt peak inverter to power the sump pump in the case of a blackout during a flood. It had been used only once in the past five years (a freak 4 hour power outage a few months ago) and seemed to be a waste of money, until now. An aperture was installed which connected the sump pump in the basement with the inverter in the garage. We tested the sump pump and the refrigerator on this inverter running off the 2004 Honda Pilot family vehicle and both worked fine. Also, we had recently  purchased a hand crank spotlight from Harbor Freight Tools, more as a gadget than a useful tool. I also repaired a defunct 1 million candlepower spotlight with a 6V 3.5Ah lead acid battery, to be used on nighttime prowlers (effectiveness is questionable). FRS radios are also on hand, but one pair for eight people is not much. Further, my dad likes our house to be in top condition and so made sure every one of the slightest bubbles in the siding or loose tiles in the roof were immediately repaired.
I also had a small personal bug out bag (laptop carrying bag) packed to bursting with survival supplies, as well as accessory supplies and documents in my room in easy-to-carry containers. Supplies were also stored in my 2004 Ford Explorer, my bug out vehicle and bug out location in one. Altogether, these supplies would enable me to live more than a week on my own on the road quite comfortably. Other members of my family did not have any such supplies, despite my pleas. As a family, we probably had 2 days supply of ready-to-eat food. With me sharing all of my supplies, we would have 3 days of shelf-stable prepared food, but as all of you readers know, that is only enough to get yourself into a shelter safely.
Before the storm: After being warned that Hurricane Sandy was a potential threat to our area, we immediately began making plans based on NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) forecasts, which were extraordinarily accurate and dependable. (We should have prepared instead for a worst case scenario: remember the New England Hurricane of 1938.) Once we knew a hurricane was heading our way, we got ready for immediate usage of the sump pump by running a cord between the pump and the inverter. During the six inches of rain from Hurricane / Tropical Storm. Irene our sump pump was barely keeping up with the water flow, and an  interruption of power for only a minute would surely mean a flooded basement. Although we were expecting less rain this time around, we were taking no chances. I volunteered as a member of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). We also filled up on gas on Saturday and Sunday. The Pilot was filled on Sunday night, and even then many gas stations were out of fuel. On Sunday night we also brought in all movable outdoor objects. We did not have to worry about trimming trees because we had no large trees around our house. All rechargeable devices and batteries were charged on Sunday. We did not purchase any food, water, or batteries during the store runs before the storm, although we could have used food. College classes were cancelled on Monday, so I spent the whole day watching the slowly increasing winds and reading news reports (which I generally ignored) and NOAA predictions (which I paid attention to). One of the last things we did on Monday before the power outage was to fill a large tub with tap water. We also filled a 5 gallon pot with drinking water, in case of contamination or a loss of city water pressure. Bottled water was already stockpiled due to recent sales, as a secondary backup.
During the storm: The wind began picking up as the storm made landfall, and the rain came down steadily and lightly, which was not a problem. Reports of the storm surge flooding New York began to come in. The house crackled occasionally as a strong gust hit it. We were reading and studying the Bible as a family at 19:00 EDT when the power was extinguished. Internet, land line, and cell phone connectivity were gone. Most of us had flashlights, so we went on without much trouble. Only one of my sisters and my mom did not have personal flashlights, so we found a crank-charged 3-LED Li-ion flashlight from a educational kit for my sister to use. My mom shared a 18V Ni-Cd incandescent work light with my dad. The rest of us used a 16-LED Pb-acid crank spotlight, cheap 9-LED 3 AAA flashlights, and a recently purchased Chinese 1-LED 1 AA alkaline flashlight. Personally, I am a flashlight fanatic and own over a dozen fully functional flashlights, as well as some homemade ones. I used my pocket 9-LED 3 carbon zinc AAA flashlight for a while but soon switched to my freebie Forever Flashlight III by Excalibur. It used to have a 1 farad capacitor but the original owner needed it and took it out. I installed a 0.1 farad memory capacitor from scrap components. It is nothing compared to its former self but is still quite usable and does not require batteries. The wind increased. Some people did not keep their houses in good shape and we went out and pick up several pieces of sheet metal in our yard in tropical storm - force winds. One of the metal pieces got stuck 40 feet in the air in the top of a tree, attesting to the significant strength and dangers of the wind. We were aware of our surroundings and away from any big trees while outside. Back inside the house, we sat and watched the flashes of greenish light from exploding transformers and shorting wires in astonishment for a while before retiring for the night.
After the storm: Tuesday morning, I prepared for my CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) duty. I had signed up before the storm to work an 8 hour shift (8:00 to 16:00) at the Somerset County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) answering phone calls. There were many trees down in my neighborhood and tree branches all over the road. In the news were reports of death and complete devastation on the Jersey coastline and NYC. I almost ran into a tree with attached electrical wire on a curve on a local road. This disturbance was  the source of the brightest light show last night. I  turned around and after some driving met a second partial roadblock and bypassed it, following the example of the car in front of me. We turned onto a major road and got stopped by a police roadblock, having to make a long detour. By the time I got onto the interstate, I had about 12 minutes to go. A trip that normally takes 15 minutes took me 35 minutes. All traffic lights were out but very few people were driving, so traffic was not a problem. I got to my destination without any further hassle and began my duties. One of the first things I noticed was that the Emergency Management personnel and resources were overtaxed. In only once incidence, several shelters closed over the 8 hour period (one due to a tree falling through the roof), with the unfortunates being herded from one to the next just as they began to get comfortable. When I left at 4 PM, much power was back up in the town where the EOC was located, but my township was just as dark as before. Long gas lines were everywhere, and this was not even 24 hours after the storm. I came home to a hot meal as we are able to run the stove without electricity. We were running the car / inverter assembly as little as possible to conserve gasoline, which was in very short supply due to extensive outages and lack of preparedness on the part of gas station owners. The inverter was never turned on for anything other than the washer or the refrigerator. Devices were charged piecemeal throughout the day. This was in contrast to my neighbor, who had very little gas supply but was running her generator 24 hours a day outside of her garage. We watched a legally downloaded movie on my laptop's battery power before going to bed.
Wednesday went very similarly, with everyone finding things to do that did not require mains power. When the refrigerator was turned on, I charged my laptop. I still did not have any phone service or internet access. Radio was the only outlet to the outside world, and several radios were taken out to find out what was going on. I listened to WNYC, which was covering the hurricane extensively. We did not believe the water supply was contaminated so we continued to drink from the tap after initial usage of stored water. However, several people in our home were getting intestinal problems and we were getting suspicious, especially after hearing a boiled water advisory for the neighboring city. Most of us continued to drink tap water, though. In the evening, we decided to try to get some laundry done. The washer ran fine on the inverter, but we only did one load to save gas. The dryer could not start turning though due to the huge current the motor required. We had to assemble makeshift clotheslines and hang up the clothes in the basement. We rationed the number of clothes that could be used to prevent wasteful washing of slightly damp dish towels, night clothes, etc. The Pb-acid 16 LED spotlight was very useful for taking showers, hanging up clothes, and hanging around, although a hand-crank LED lantern would be much better. We made a rule that significant use by a person required 5 minutes of cranking time by the same person. This kept the spotlight fully charged the whole time.
Our neighbor who ran her generator excessively ran out of gas and asked us for some. We gave her our only 5 gallon tank full of gas. She used it up in two days and went to the local gas station to refill it. A left turn onto a divided highway and a lack of police enabled them to unwittingly cut into the front of the line and get 5 gallons of gas. During the whole power outage, we only idled away half a tank of gas (11 gallons) in a 2004 Honda Pilot for the entire power outage; the gas can was only for our neighbor, who continued to run her generator all night. We heard news about 2 mile gas lines in NYC and a possible water shortage in NJ, with critically low fuel levels for some of the water pumps. All college classes for the week were cancelled, but I had no way of knowing that and decided to just not show up due to the gas shortage. Unfortunately, the EOC tried to reach me several times by email and cell with opportunities for volunteer work, but I could not know that and did not respond. After hearing some news of looting, I decided to take a walk around our completely dark neighborhood at 9:30 pm every night with my renovated spotlight. I also hung a dim LED light in our window to give the idea that our house is occupied. Still, to the hundreds without generators living a short distance from us, our high concentration of idling cars and roaring generators parked temptingly in garages and driveways were a security risk. The more the garage was closed on our idling Honda Pilot, the harder it was to notice and get the vehicle, but the more lethal the  CO concentrations were. We were very careful to avoid breathing the fumes and settled on a 1 foot opening for all 3 garages.

[JWR Adds: Every home should have a couple of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. If your garage is attached to your home, make sure that the connecting door has a tight seal and DO NOT idle your car for extended periods unless your main garage door is wide open. Otherwise, CO could creep into your house. Beware that CO poisoning is insidious and cumulative!]

We left twice during the power outage to go food shopping and replenish our empty cabinets. Fortunately, the local supermarket prepared well for the disaster, and was well stocked and well lighted. We would have been in a bad situation if there was no good food in the stores. More alarmingly, we began noticing a foul smell from some of the water that we collected during the storm in teakettles and canteens and immediately discarded all of it. This was probably bacterial or sediment contamination due to the storm, and the intestinal problems were explained. Our power came back on Saturday at 11:00 EDT, and we returned to a normal life. After a time without power, we were really getting used to it, and had only good feelings for PSE&G.
Lessons learned: There are several lessons we learned from this experience. Relying on existing infrastructure or government directly after a disaster to any degree is a bad idea. If Sandy had dumped rain like most other hurricanes do flooding would only compound the problem with important roadways flooded or even washed out and utility crews unable to perform their assessments. Another is that perishable items should be consumed as quickly as possible after a storm to avoid any spoilage. To prevent grocery runs, at least two weeks worth of non-perishable items should also be stocked up. To keep appliances going, at least 20 gallons of stabilized gasoline should be stored to deal with up to three weeks without power. To prevent failures like with the clothes dryer, test out disaster supplies before using them; an expensive tri-fuel generator is useless if it cannot provide the surge current for a vital appliance. To prevent intestinal problems, do not rely on city water in a disaster; store your own drinking and sanitation water. To prevent panic and uncertainty, create a full disaster plan encompassing every situation. Get necessary items before everyone else is grabbing for them. If like me you feel overwhelmed by this task, this blog is an excellent source of material for preparedness, from the simplest tools to the most extreme hideout. Use the links on the left to explore the wealth of knowledge in t he archives. Be ready, - Luke


A friend in Pennsylvania e-mailed me this terse note:

We have had no power now for seven days. Most lines to get gas in nj were three hours long all week. We have even/odd gas rationing now (oddly/unfortunately enough we just found out that all seven of our cars have odd license plates!) The phone system is hit or miss, (I've been getting voice mails 2-3 days after they were left without my phone ever saying I missed a call.) The last we heard they estimate we will have power a week from tomorrow. [November 15th.] Our generator is having voltage problems so the washer won't work. I've had to bring my own gas in a can to Brooklyn to be able to get back. Fights have broken out at a lot of gas stations, even Blairstown. Someone in Jersey pulled out a gun at one station. I was offered $50 for my empty gas can. Full ones sell for $100. We had services today in the cold and dark, no power there either. We fill the cars up with gas in Pennsylvania then siphon it out for the generator to save trips.

Regards, - Bob G.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

James Wesley,
By now you probably know that the mountains of West Virginia got snow generated by Superstorm Sandy so our local disaster looks somewhat different than other areas. 

In our case we got better than 3 feet of very heavy wet snow dumped on us in short order.  Trees came down over a couple of day period in numbers great enough to make walking outside hazardous. One of the local farm families I know had to cut their way to the barn to care for the live stock and then cut their way back home.  Over a week later we are still without electric power at the house.

A couple of thoughts on the storm from our perspective: 

You may not be well when Armageddon descends on you. Prepare to be able to do what needs to be done in a diminished physical capacity.  I was just coming down with some flu like bug when we where hit. Being sick really complicated the situation. I managed everything except getting the snow off of the various buildings roofs resulting in the loss of several roof vent pipes when the snow avalanched on its own.

Having back up plans are nice!  We just moved into a new office.  I designed a full kitchen and full bathroom into it the which was appreciated by all the staff that lived out in the country and are also without electric power.  The new office is on the same block as our local hospital so guess who got power back on sooner than just about anyone else.  The office also has a couple of other things that may seem strange do the unknowing that are use to JIT delivery or have never given much thought to this sort of thing.

Having the ability to lock various interior doors makes you feel a lot better if you have to run cords out the door to the generator instead of out the window you planed due to depth of snow and the fact I was too ill to wade through chest deep snow on that side of the house.  I have lost track of how many hurricanes I have been through having grown up in the Gulf Coast region, but this was my first natural disaster to have a generator available so surviving without one is very doable for any who care to think about it a bit.  Having a generator seems to have spoiled us a bit however and I expect to have one big enough to run my whole house before too long.

An All Wheel Drive (AWD) is not the same thing as a 4X4!  Having driven a 4X4 for years the wife talked me into a nice AWD van with the birth of our son a while back.  It is pretty good for lots of things, but bucking heavy wet snow appears to not be one of them.  I broke out my old diesel 4X4 for the duration with much better results.

Coal stoves are God's gift to a cold wet world!  I burned wood for over a dozen years in several different quality wood stoves and would not trade the lot of them for my anthracite coal stove.

PALights which I thought where probably the most foolish flashlight design I had ever seen when I first saw them several years ago actually rock in a disaster situation.  Their Always-On (Off) position is enough light if pointed at the ceiling to not only always be able to find and lay hands on them, it is also enough light to light up the room enough to see kids, wife, dog, weapons, high powered lights etc as well as enough light to see if/when someone steps into the room who is unexpectedly.

I suppose lastly if you remodel your house do so with it being as functional as possible with no/minimal electric input.  I switched out an electric water heater for a pilot light gas fired instant unit and was able to run everything water wise as normal except the dishwasher/clothes-washer which was very well received by all who benefited by the endless hot water even if the bathroom was lit by a barn lantern at the time.

Still digging out!, - S.D. in West Virginia


Dear Mr. Rawles,
I believe that we are not hearing about the situation in the worst hit areas of New York and New Jersey and it may be weeks or months until we do.  Survival blog readers from this area are without power, phone, water, etc. and are struggling to just get through each day. Let me tell you briefly about my cousin on Staten Island.  I managed to contact him last weekend on his cell phone.  We spoke only a few minutes; with him doing most of the talking and me listening.  What follows are his words.
He was not in an evacuation area but was hit by what he called an 8 foot tsunami; it was storm surge.  He and his wife got out of their house when the water was waist high.  They ran for it and are lucky to be alive.  Everything in the basement is gone; circuit panel, oil burner (furnace), his home office with computers, printers, external hard drives, furniture.  There is 2 inches of silt in the basement.  He had three contractors there at the house, working to try to get it in some kind of shape.  Everything has been soaked in corrosive sea water and there is debris all over.  There may be a mold issue to deal with.  The contractors broke open the sewer pipe to allow water to drain backwards out of the basement.  He had another contractor coming in the afternoon to fix the sewer piper after the water drained.  He said, “You cannot believe the devastation” and I could hear sirens and general commotion behind him as he was talking.  He thinks it will take $30,000 minimum to get the house livable again.  He would like to borrow the money from his pension but banks are closed, it is a long process, forms need to be notarized; all of which is unavailable right now.  His wife is going to take a short term loan from her life insurance policy to get the house fixed, and then he will work through the pension loan and pay the life insurance loan back.  He was juggling multiple issues at once and very stressed (contractors, cleaning up, and work calling him if you can believe that).  They were staying at his stepson’s house that lives more inland and did not get flooded. People were waiting in line for 6 hours near him to get gas.  He cannot get up to Yonkers (north) to visit his elderly mother to check on her.  It is a disaster.  He cannot believe what happened.

Closing thoughts;
1.     My cousin and his wife are in their 50s.  They did not need this at this point in their lives.  It will be a huge financial hit.
2.     They have no internet, phone, power, water; couldn’t contribute a posting to something like the web site and having shelter, food, safety, etc. is their top priority now.  We will only hear from people like this weeks or months in the future.  Their stories will wait until then.
3.     Flooding like this could wipe out all or a good portion of your survival supplies.  Re-think where you put them if you live in a flood zone.  The basement may not be a good choice.
4.     Even if the power comes back on, if your circuit panel or furnace has been flooded, it probably is damaged and won’t work.  What will you do for heat?
5.     I watched people on television looking through what is left of their house.  They were looking for photos; only sentimental value but something that people value highly.  I have to re-think what I am going to do with the boxes of photos I have that I took before digital cameras and have not been organized in books. Maybe put them in one plastic container that I could grab and go or put in the car.
6.     I am going back to re-read all those posting on this web site about what to put in a grab and go bag.  I have supplies in the trunk of my car in case of an earthquake but what else would I want to grab?  Photos?
7.     My cousin was not told to evacuate.  The “authorities” don’t know any more than we do about what the effects of a storm or other natural disaster will be.  Use the brain that the Good Lord gave you, make your own assessment and follow it.  Better to be safe than sorry.  You do not want to be running for your life through waist deep flood waters/storm surge.
8.     The US has had floods, record tornado outbreaks, wildfires, drought, unprecedented hurricanes, etc.  I live in California.  I am expecting an earthquake next.  What else is left? I hope I am wrong but this is how all these disasters are making me think.
9.      It appears that disasters are no longer confined to California.  This is the new normal.  Prepare, prepare, prepare. - A.S. in California

Here is Storm Update # 6, one week after Hurricane Sandy.
Margate City:  Not much to add… it’s a mess. Clean-up at the Shore continues, and incoming weather will exacerbate the problems. Mom is energized, edgy and emotional – can’t imagine why. I’ll drive down this weekend if she needs me.
Princeton: Power was finally restored on Sunday. I sent the promised Text messages to all those neighbors that had left for greener pastures. House by house, life returned. We are lucky. My understanding is that several hundred thousand PSEG New Jersey customers remain in the dark, including people in our township. This was also confirmed by an informal poll at school yesterday. The teachers had gathered the children to discuss storm experiences, and one of the questions related to how many were still without power. My wife reported about 25% raised their hands – the school had invited parents to stay for coffee and assurance that everything was safe. The estimate from PSEG is that everyone in our township should have power by Friday. For those counting, that would be twelve days from Hurricane Sandy’s landfall! Consider that reality next time someone mentions storm preparations.
The load of firewood that I requested on Saturday was delivered around noon Sunday. It was the largest “cord” of wood that I have ever seen…  I greeted the contractor warmly, offered coffee and overpaid for the emergency service. I then sorted and stacked for the next few hours. After that, I scooped the mounting ash from our fireplace (it went into our mulch pile), and then reloaded it with kindling and fresh logs – an old habit – I like it ready for the match after each use. During this time, my wife ferried the girls to quilting lessons and pottery. Gas lines at the local borough stations were fairly short – though we are still under the odd/even rationing order. As you travel to the main highways and north of here – gas remains an issue.
In the late afternoon, I serviced and filled the genny, and then stowed it in the garage. The five gallon safety cans will be topped off with gas today. That Nor’easter is coming, and I won’t lay odds on whether the shaken power systems in our area will hold.
On Monday, I finished returning the house systems to their pre-storm configuration. Cable is still down, but so what… we don’t watch much television anyway. Work - yes I do have a job - once the house Internet WiFi was operating as well as the office phone and my desktop computer… I began the process of catching-up on client communications and transactions. I also phoned my youngest brother at his office in New York City, and to my surprise, discovered that his entire team had procured a U-Haul, filled it with food, blankets, toiletries, etc., and had driven to Queens for direct distribution to folks. Well done little brother.
Halloween had been rescheduled for Monday night. My heart wasn’t into it, but our daughters were so looking forward to the costumes and fun. We all got dressed, and we were joined by another young girl who lives a few miles away – her dad was out of town. I took care of the shuttle service. I told the girls not to expect much and that we would only knock on houses with an obvious welcome mat. I also let them know that we would reverse the tradition in part – I was giving away light glow sticks (12-hour green chemical version) and a few bottles of wine for a handful of close neighbors. The night was abbreviated, but we had a nice time after all. I spoke with every family (renewing ties and asking as to status) and then gave them gifts. We all needed a break.
This morning, I have one eye focused on work, and the other on that Nor’easter. A penetrating rain with 50 mph wind gusts is not the prescription we were hoping to hear. Later today, we will take the girls to Vote as a family. They know about the Constitution and our voting system… we also discuss candidates and their parties – Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Tea, Green, Constitutional, etc., and even write-in possibilities. I make no prediction as to the Election outcome, and I truly wish for peace regardless of who wins.
The switch has been flipped – we have grid power – and yet, the events of this past week have made an indelible mark. Things aren’t normal. Folks are discussing house-wide generators, food supplies, solar energy systems, and water sources. Fireplaces that were either non-functional or which served as little more than interior decoration, are being inspected for duty. I don’t anticipate these sentiments will last… it’s so easy to fall into society’s Lotus-flower sleep… but for the moment, I’m encouraged.
Thank you for SurvivalBlog. I have gleaned much over the years. - Bill H.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I am a native New Yorker who has lived in the city for more than 30 years. As much as I would like to live elsewhere safer, I still very much love the city and have to remain here because of work and my mother. The recent devastation left by Sandy wreaked havoc in the city. You can read about plenty of details on the hurricane from the news and other posts so I'm just going to keep this post short based on some of the problems encountered that were unique to an urban environment. In addition to the basic necessities of being prepared, I would like to add some further precautions that can be utilized to help minimize some future problems that can occur in a highly populated city such as New York.

• Electronics/communications: Many people who were in downtown Manhattan had no power and these days, we are tied to our cell phones, laptops, etc. They had to travel uptown in desperation to charge their lifeline. Without a cell phone, there would be no way for many people to contact anyone. Having an extra external charger would've been handy along with another charger that utilizes AA batteries as part of their emergency kit will make a good last resort back up.
• Money: ATMs were down in certain places and because there was no power, restaurants and stores only accepted cash. If you had no cash and the ATM wasn't working or was empty, you weren't getting anything. Always have some cash on hand.
• Gas: This was a big problem since many people from surrounding areas had no gas due to power outages and so people from New Jersey, Long Island were driving to NYC to fill up. People waited more than 3 hours in line for gas. There was a lot of tension and anxiety caused by a gas shortage. Many gas stations were eventually closed when there was no gas left. My girlfriend had the foresight to remind me to fill up on gas before the storm hit so this should be a good lesson to fill up and stock up in advance of a possible disruption.
• Transportation: The lifeline of New York was cut off since trains were flooded along with extensive damage to the rails and tunnels. There was major traffic lasting hours since it created a bottleneck effect at the bridges that were open. There was also chaos at shuttle bus stops everywhere. Many buses were full and simply bypassed many passengers who were waiting for hours to get on and the city put restrictions by creating carpool lanes into Manhattan with a 3 passenger minimum. Any less and you would have been turned away. This turned what normally would have been a 30 minute commute into a three hour commute. Having a bike or being able to walk for long distances would eliminate the dependency on cars and public transportation.
• Of course, other typical events related to post disaster scenarios occurred (especially in poor neighborhoods like Coney Island) such as: food/water shortages and looting.

A great tragedy occurred in this great city. I hope that people here will start to wake up and become more self sufficient. Those who were spared have been given another chance to do better for themselves and their families in the future. For those who were directly affected, we all pray for your quick recovery. May peace be with you all - A.I.K.

Dear James,
Greetings from New Jersey and thank you for your fantastic blog. My power was not restored until Sunday after losing it one long week ago.

Survival preps, i.e. food, water definitely not a problem for me. Between frozen food,cans and home canned then long term food in Mylar and pails, I can go a year or more. This hurricane is a great "dry run" and those that endured devastation, my heart and prayers go out to them.

On the other hand, so many don't even have the simple things a day or too. Simple things like filling the car or truck fuel tank before the storm, or getting a few more batteries. As the storm hit, I sat back, having gotten my sick elderly mom from the New Jersey shore, made contact with friends and relatives to try and get out of harm's way. The power went out very early and within lays a comfort level knowing you can provide for you and your family.

Sitting around the table listening to the hand crank radio under the glow of the Coleman lantern. As the wind howled communications failed. Cell towers along the coast ceased. Roads closed throughout the state. Those with cell phones had no way to charge them if cell service was available.

As our procedure, the emergency two way radios were put into use. At midnight I heard the call signal and a brief verbal check in. We would monitor and contact every 8 hours. Communications are very important. Even someone's a quarter mile away might as well be in Europe during an emergency, without communication, and a source of immediate back up or help if needed.

As the storm hit us harder, we lost contact with friends and family throughout the night. Communications can not be stressed enough.

The next morning, reports of devastation along the coast, of millions of people without power, without water and food. I'm sure not everyone believes in prepping for a year or more, but please, some cannot even feed themselves for two days without demanding that Uncle Sam must help them.

Within the day, people realized that without gas, you can't drive or run generators. Without generators, no gas at the gas stations. Yes I personally saw lines at the few gas stations with gas and open over a mile long. Society was breaking down after just 24 hours.

Milk could not be delivered, no diesel for the trucks. Milk could not be picked up at the farms, again, no fuel. I ask, doesn't anyone prepare?

During the day Tuesday, I get a radio message, rumor has it there is some looting, and its time to lock and load. So be it.

During the frost two days, you would hear generators running day and night. I thought to myself they must have huge amounts of fuel. In order to conserve, I would run it for few hours, shut it off and run it again. One by one, you heard the generators go silent. By conserving, 50 gallons would last for a month or more.

As for eating, oh my, we ate terrifically. Long slow cooked meals and knowing, it would be a long time before we ran out. And yes, there would be lots of rice and beans in the future, but not yet.

As of today, sunday, there still is no fuel available. Food distribution is at a stand still.

What have I learned. Fuel s critical. If you don't have it, you won't get it.

Cell phones become useless when the power s down. Alternate communications are a must. With that a thought. If the government became abusive, how would you spread the word? How would you get pictures out so others can see? Internet was not available locally and can be shut down at will by the government.

Have backups. My transistor radio stopped working. The crank up took its place.

Be ready to move fast. New York City was locked down. Tunnels and bridges closed. Have a way to travel and avoid check points.

People have lost everything and many more are suffering. Learn what you can from these warnings.

God bless America and pray for out country on Tuesday. - Rich S.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Let me first say we are doing well compared to the rest of the folks here on Long Island , NY . I am no hard core prepper but believe strongly that the need is there. We are in Nassau County and are served by LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority. As I write there are about 300,000 people here without power. Some of the things I have witnessed are very sad indeed and we were blessed to have our power back within two days.
South of where we live along the water the houses have had their basements flooded out. Even with prior storms my in-laws who live near the water had their basement flooded to the ledger board on their foundation. The water has never gotten that high since they have lived there for over fifty years. Everything in their basement was ruined. They had built up a sand berm but the water kept coming and then rushed into the basement, carrying the sand with it. Note to self, use sand bags. Upon entering their neighborhood the people were all on the streets taking their ruined belongings and bringing them to the curb. Everyone of them as I drove by had the “Thousand Yard Stare” made famous in pictures and photographs from World War II. We were able to give my in-laws our generator after they returned to their house. They bugged out to a hotel in a dry area of Long Island . Their Hotel lost power for a day.
Things that got us through the storm.
Over the past few years we have removed large trees that, had they fallen the right way, would have cut out house in two. We have three pre-teens and could not have dealt with their loss. After both my wife and I grew up near open water and the associated wind that can come off the water we learned not to have overhanging trees. While the shade generated from them cut out cooling bills, it’s just not worth it if you, or god forbid, your loved ones lose their life.
You need a generator (period)
Get a generator strong enough to power your refrigerator, a radio and a few lights. This saved us from having to throw out our newly purchased foods. We are fortunate to have both an old refrigerator (which seems to last much longer than the new ones with planned obsolescence built in, we are never getting rid of it) and a new one. The new one has better insulation. So what we did was take the ice from the ice maker and kept it in the freezer in zip-lock bags. This helped us build us the cooling thermal mass. We kept on letting the ice maker make more ice and put it in bags rather than letting the trip bar stop the ice making. If you think you don’t need a generator then get one anyway when there is a sale because someone you know will need it and being charitable may save someone’s life. After the storm here it got down into the 30’s and people froze in their houses.
Stock up on gasoline and stabilize it before the storm.
The Coast Guard shut the ports in NY which supply gasoline here and there are now huge lines for gas. We had about fifteen gallons in the garage and used about half of it before our power came back and we gave the rest to the in-laws to power their pumps to pump out their basement. We could have used a lot more gasoline. (check your local ordinances for storage limits) Again, learning from this instance, if you live in a low-lying area, rethink what you have in your basement. It was never this bad before and they lost everything in their basement.
Digitize every picture of sentimental value.
On the local news channel most people returned to their home to see if they could salvage any pictures. I can not tell you how sad I found this. If you are like some of my relatives and have, over the years amassed footlockers full of pictures maybe outsourcing is a good solution. Since we take digital pictures now, we save them on our hard drive and back them up to an external one terabyte USB hard drive. If we ever had to bug out we’d just take the USB drive and boogey.
Emergency food
Emergency food has helped us out. We went the canned route and slowly purchased canned meals like Ravioli with Meatballs and had them in-hand for use. We need to work on this as we were running out of milk and a few other items for the kids (lessons learned).
While camping this Summer in New England we went pretty deep into the Maine woods to Baxter State Park . There was no running water and we had to carry it in with the pickup. We used hanging bag showers to clean ourselves and we carried in about 10 gallons of water for a couple of days. Get yourself a good storage container for clean water. We used two five gallon Coleman water containers but a few milk containers with screw-on lids (Sterilized) would have helped.
While it could have gotten to an apocalyptic TEOTWAWKI situation here the big drama on “The Island” was as the gas pumps with fights breaking out as people tried to cut each other in line. One man was arrested for taking out a pistol. There is and was looting in other areas where homes are damaged and abandoned. Thankfully I did not have to rely on all the NRA patches I earned when I was a kid (I got to Barr III )
Batteries and power for “Crackberries” were a pretty big story here. In New York City people who had power ran power lines to the street to let others charge their cell phones. I use a battery back up pack for my phone and fill it with four double-a rechargeable batteries and keep them charged at all times. Link .This doubles my battery life but when the area lost power…so did the cell towers. So I’ll be studying for the Ham technician license. We have four hand held FRS walkie talkies that my son won in a Boy Scout Raffle a few years ago and it did not get to the point where we needed them. But they are great fun to use in the shopping mall to find your lost kids at no cost.
Walkability is how friendly your area is to walking. If you have to travel everywhere by car…in our current situation with gas shortages you’d be walking everywhere to get your food and supplies. While this has great health benefits you may end up burning more calories than you can take in. Get a bike and a hand operated bike pump with either a rack or basket to carry items. I need to get a hand operated air pump as I’ve been relying on the air compressor and it never occurred to me.
Psychological lessoned learned
Having survived the horrific scenes of 9/11 and losing many former colleagues (another  story for another day) and of the 2004 blackout here in NY, I learned that yes, you have to get your news from the media but if you watch the TV 24/7 you will lose your mind and get really really depressed. Get up from the “Idiot Box” as my parents used to call it and “Move a muscle and change a thought”. Getting up and around rather than hunkering down in your foxhole makes you feel “Big and Strong”.
Flaws and future plans
What I have learned is that a lot of people here needed our help. My in-laws come for dinner every night. They needed my generator when I was done with it. Our friends needed our extra heaters as they got their power back but their boiler (in the basement) was trashed and could not heat their house. Plan on being generous. Maybe someday it will come back to you as you have paid it forward.
I need to reconsider where we live. Right now I am unemployed from the financial community here in NY and have worked in Project Management and I am PMP certified. Hopefully the wife and kids will buy-in to the idea. Being a conservative in NY has not suited me well. My father had his life saved by a Naval Scholarship as his dad died at an early age from sclerosis of the liver (as my friend Bill says, he never took the first step).
I tried to join the Military but was unable to pass the physical due to a slight limp, I still got my pilots license though. I have not flown since 1995.
Hopefully my Project Management Experience will be able to help me pick up a job in another field somewhere safe. I have worked in banking and software development as a project manager and business analysis. I have traded for the worlds largest commodities firm (at the time) and know a bit about financial derivatives. Enough to know that it’s not the product but the greed behind it that ruins everything. So long as a trading desk is very profitable everybody in management leaves them alone. I’ve seen some pretty smart people (on paper) “Blow-up” and lose everything and then I’ve seen some pretty “street smart” kids make a killing.
In summation, while I’m no hard core prepper, I got by with the help from God and family. The 5 P’s are burned into my memory like a scar. Proper Preparation Produces Perfect Performance. Yes, I know there are derivatives of this saying. I was very happy to help other people. Because as soon as I got out of feeling sorry for myself I was able to feel great in helping others. This by the way has saved my life in another aspect. I’m an alcoholic and if I had not learned the lessons I had over half a decade ago things would have only gotten worse in this tragedy and I would not have my wits about me nor my family as they would have left many years ago.
I hope this has helped you. Best, - One Lucky Guy (and family).

Dear Rawles Family,
I have been an avid reader of your blog for about seven years. You actually recently featured a link on your blog to my radio show on blog talk radio called The Homeschool Homemaker where I discussed what Homeschoolers and Homemakers can learn from Preppers. I followed that with a radio show on how to prep for Sandy. I will be doing a follow up show shortly as the power was just now restored after being out for six days.
Your blog has changed my life.
The Good Lord Almighty and you are responsible for two proud moments in my life this last week. One, when I walked into Sam's Club last Saturday morning among HUNDREDS of people in full fledged panic and a smart alec greeter at the door said snidely "If you are here for supplies we are out of generators, water, batteries and lots of other stuff." I was able to just as smugly say back to him, "Then I guess it is a good thing that I already have those things on hand at home." He looked genuinely shocked. I spent the next two hours avoiding panic stricken mobs, taking my children through the store and teaching them what they should have on hand at all times and forcing them to watch other people's behavior. I told them what they could use as substitutes. I was able to get together a large list of wants (these were not needs as if I had to I could have survived at home, just not in luxury) and provisions for expected/unexpected guests. I shudder to think of what was going through the minds of those who needed those supplies and couldn't find them anywhere. Those poor people.
The second was when we were able to provide shelter to some friends who badly needed it. They said it was like coming to a luxury hotel, and were able to take warm showers, have a large hot meal and tuck themselves and their children into warm beds. It was a joy. They remarked upon seeing how we were weathering things, "You are the most prepared people I have ever met!". It was an honor to show hospitality in the name of the Lord in a time of trouble.
Here are some things I can share that may help my fellow readers.
1. Preparedness needs to be consistent, constant and progressive.
Had I waited till just the threat of Sandy was here I would not have been prepared to the level of comfort, maybe only to the level of survival.
For the last seven years we have moved, purchased and trained guard dogs, increased security, tucked ourselves into a small and preparedness minded community (hard to find for NJ) and slowly accumulated high quality items with long term preparedness goals in mind. This cannot be done in a week, not even in a month. It makes a HUGE difference.
2. Everything you say is true regarding the progression of things. It truly progressed in that fashion. People ignored the warnings, then were terrified when the storm hit, then panicked when they saw the aftermath. It is heartbreaking to see and I am not even in that immediate area. In my immediate area it is more that the cold and frustration was taking over, but the few neighbors who were not prepared quickly got out of town or found a way to manage. This is not what is happening in other areas.
 There is widespread looting. There is genuine hunger, thirst and terror. Others are moving from place to place as they don't want to be a burden. Prices are skyrocketing and people seem to have lost the good sense God gave them. This is not where the storm damage is, it is just where the power is out!
3.We had an attempted break in on my street last night that happened within five minutes of the Husband leaving. Dogs stopped it. Someone tried my doors the night before. My dogs stopped it. The day after the storm my neighborhood was inundated with people looking for work or just looking. My guard dogs took care of that, but scams and criminals abound in even the areas not hard hit. If you have a choice between a security system and dogs, go with the dogs every time.
I will just say that many times when I have read here I have had a hard time accepting all of your advice. Thinking things would never progress that quickly or that bad. I was wrong. Just days in, you had to be very careful who knew you had hot water. People were starting to remark on who seemed to be living the high life and who wasn't. You can see where this can quickly go.
Thanks to you, I was frying up chicken with mashed potatoes and drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream the day after the hurricane hit. I assumed we would not be able to leave the house as we would have to guard the generator and we were able to hold tight nearly a week now.
Of course now the shelves are all bare and the pumps are being rationed AND we have a huge snow storm coming. I am sorry for those who will lose even more.
This has helped me practice many preps, test them out and clarified places for improvement. People who mocked are now listening. People who thought that security wasn't an issue if you "didn't live in that type of area" have come to the horrifying realization that people who want to break in don't have to live next to you to be a danger.
I am afraid we are in for much more because of the snow storm coming, but we shall see.
Thank you for all you do! - The Homeschool Homemaker


I’m grateful to you for sharing my post-Sandy updates. There is a “comfort” in reaching people. Here is Storm Update # 5:
Sunday morning. Relationships. They matter more than ever in an emergency. Yesterday, we burned through the decent firewood. We are now down to the rot. Before Sandy, I had contacted a landscaper to remove this stuff to make space for a new load. However, it fell to the wayside, in part because I had other priorities, and also because I was using this junk wood in our backyard fire pit. I logged in a call to the contractor who had provided us with firewood for the last seven years – his Fall advertisement was still on my desk. He remembered us, and though he was delivering in upstate Pennsylvania with orders backed-up, he understood the circumstances here and promised to deliver a heaping cord tomorrow. I thanked him, and headed out to clean-up our wood stack. This took several hours. The rot went into the mulch piles, which left two empty six by six inch railroad ties clear for the new wood. I also repositioned our eight-foot metal fireplace holder. Good to go.
Next, I turned to refilling the genny. I was mixing the stabilized emergency gasoline that had been under the tarp since last Spring, with the new gasoline I had obtained Friday. Normally, I would do first in, first out, but I didn’t want to risk the genny with bad fuel. While pouring the gas, our neighbor from behind the house (Mike) surprised me with a visit. He lives on a different street, and our last encounter had been testy as he had attempted to dig a drainage line over our property without permission. Don’t get me wrong, we resolved that episode. He had apologized, laying the blame on his contractor. Without rehashing the details, suffice to say that this was a knowing incursion onto our property. Still, I was of a mind to let there be peace.
Mike and I chatted for a while. He was cooking the last of his freezer meat on the barbecue – thus he had seen me – and was also a bit freaked. Though our prior encounter had not been the warmest, he was looking for camaraderie. Most of the neighbors on his side were also gone, and he never imagined that power-down could happen for a week in NJ! His genny, like ours, was also wired into critical systems. He had gasoline issues, food supplies in his basement and a baseball bat by the bed. He and his wife were “creeped out” at night. They had signed up for firearm instruction, but that was next month. Short story – I extended the olive branch, and told him I’d watch his back and to let me know if he needs anything. He agreed to do the same for us. I didn’t give him every detail on our situation, but enough. Relationships – they do matter. Perhaps one can be an island as a “prepper” in a hardened bunker in the Redoubt, but in my experience the folks that truly understand survival always acknowledge that it takes cooperation by a team of like-minded adults and children.
While I was busy at the house, my wife (Steph) was making a run to Whole Foods to see about fresh food. We got word through our friends on Twitter that the store was open, had generator power and had received a delivery. I reminded her that as the pet store was in the same shopping center, try to buy whatever bags they had available of Aslan’s dry dog food. I had bought two 20-pound bags pre-Sandy, but he’s a 70 pound shepherd and he rips through the chow.
Steph returned a few hours later with groceries. The entire shopping center was dark except Whole Foods. Fortunately, the pet store owners had set up a table outside and were walking customers in one at a time with a flashlight – cash only of course. She bought their last 20-pound bag and a few chewy treats.
Goods were unloaded, dishes hand washed, fireplace stoked, lanterns checked (fresh batteries for the non-rechargeables), dog walked and dinner cooked. Steph had purchased a mashed cauliflower side from Whole Foods, but upon sampling it in the pan with the onions, she tossed it. Spoiled. Lesson learned… she would ask for a taste at the store before buying any prepared items. After dinner - it’s dark, cold and windy – I did the genny refueling for the night, and observed that it was running a hair rougher to my ear. Note to self: could be the fuel mix, but six days of 24-hour running means that tomorrow I need to check the oil, carburetor, fuel line, etc.
Turning to the Shore, and a bit of positive news: I confirmed that mom had checked into the hotel. Eventually, we spoke via the mobile. Her phone battery charger had died the other day and she was otherwise busy with contractors, insurance adjusters, FEMA reps, etc. She had brought enough food with her from Pennsylvania, and in South Jersey, gasoline was not as much of a problem. As for our family home on the beach block, pretty much as expected. The garage had four feet of sand, the doors were destroyed from the waves and everything inside was history. The basement of the home (which is more like a first floor due to the home’s elevation) was trashed, a total loss of all systems (HVAC, pumps, washer, dryer, electrical, freezer, etc.). There was a foot of sand to dig out and everything will have to be removed to the foundation before the mold gets a grip. Thankfully, the first floor and above - having been built high in 1938 and all windows boarded-up for Sandy - suffered minimal damage. Mom told me that the local supermarket will not open for several days, but that other stores are beginning to show signs of life. The overall damage to the City is huge, and there is a foul “smell” in the air. She will do the back-and-forth from the house to the hotel until things are repaired. The only dependable contractor that has been helping her is the carpenter that our family has known for decades. Again, it’s all about relationships.
This isn’t the most riveting update, but life is all about the little things. Sometimes they take more energy than we imagine, and it wears you down. Our family realizes that our situation is so much better than that of others in NJ and NY, as well as other regions of the country. In part, that’s through our decisions and actions, but luck also plays a role. I’m told that power should be restored today, and that although our daughters’ school has one building without power or fire alarms, the main building will be open for classes tomorrow – Monday.
Best wishes to all. This might be the last update – in a good way. - Bill H.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dear Editor:
I live in southeastern Connecticut. I am far from wealthy and I live in a section of town while certainly is not what one may consider a ghetto, neither is it in any way "nice". I would not label myself as a prepper nor a survivalist, instead I have common sense. I have a good stock of food and water, preparations and gear in case I have to leave, not for some cataclysmic disaster but because I live in a world that has hurricanes and natural disasters.

Our Governor here in Connecticut recommended that my area evacuate. I did not. Though I am on the coast, my apartment is at a higher elevation and sure enough I did not suffer any of the flooding many others are dealing with. I watched closely every weather channel report, internet weather and government report and I was fairly certain that I would be okay where I am and sure enough I was. I did lose power however, though only for a day.

The reason for writing this and passing it on is an observation of what preparing really is. I have a basement apartment. Because of it's construction I can hear most anything going on outside. The winds died down around 3 in the morning. At 4 a.m. I could hear multiple voices and footsteps in the leaves. the voices were hushed and the steps...hard to explain, gave me the impression of sneakiness. Before I continue I wish to point out I am Christian. While I believe in defending myself, my friends and family, I also believe in following Christ's footsteps in word and deed. Having said that, I went and got my shotgun and placed it out of sight but next to the door and my hand right beside it and calmly opened my door in time to see a twenty something male and four others round the corner and stop in surprise at my smiling face. We all looked at each other for a few seconds and very calmly and in a measured voice I asked them what they were up to. Their claim was that they were just checking out the damage. "While in the dark at four in the morning?" They didn't say anything. 

"Well you know, it would probably be best if you moved on, you're on private property here and I don't think it's safe for anyone." All with a tight smile and friendly voice. And my hand out of sight on my shotgun. 

"We don't want any trouble." 

I responded: "Neither do I."

At this point I let them see the shotgun. I didn't raise it, point it anyone, just swung it over to rest next to my leg. "Look, your in someone else's yard, in the dark after a major storm. Somebody might think you're looting and who wants that sort of nonsense, just go home before we are all in trouble."
"Sorry mister" and they were on their way. I watched them round the corner and as far as I could tell meandered down the road. I sat out on the porch until  sunrise with that gun across my lap.
I saw a policeman yesterday, an acquaintance. Around 6 a.m. on that same morning  of my little run in, a few streets over at the cop had a call. A man confronted a group of young men in his front yard. He came out of his house with a bat and took a swing. He got beaten pretty bad and sent to the hospital. I wonder if he just came flying out of his house set upon violence and such. 
Part of my common sense is that I go for walks in my neighborhood.  Have been since I had to move here. I make sure everyone see's my face, I often greet people with a smile and a hello. It is a rough neighborhood. A couple of streets over there are drug houses. I walk there too. I am easy to recognize. I am over a very large man both in strength and overweight (thus the walking). I figure people are less likely to mess with a friendly person they recognize. Plus I get to see who's around. 
I am pretty sure I recognized on e of those guys. the cop questioned me closely about it. I think I recognized him from walking the neighborhood. Probably said hi or waved at some point. 
"A soft answer turns away wrath" and I firmly believe that, I cant see Christ accosting someone in His yard with threat of violence. I cant see Him judging, in fact He made it clear for me that I should not judge. Yet He also gave me a brain. He gave me a temple of the Holy Spirit, my body, which I need to protect. He was once accosted by a mob, before it was his appointed time and the Bible says He walked through them and they could not touch Him. I do believe the Bible raises a clear admonition to defend oneself  So If my pretty smile and soft words did not diffuse the situation that shotgun had a buckshot in the chamber and the safety was off. I was fully prepared to pull that trigger. Yet I did not charge out on a warpath. Like I said common sense. But the soft answer did turn away wrath. Thank God.
We do in emergency what we do in practice. I have had the good fortune to have excellent teachers of self defense with my fists as well as with firearms. I also have rooted myself in His word and teachings. It pulled me through. I made sure that when the time came my skills were sufficient and I could rely on them. My faith was also strong enough that I could rely on Him. Some call that prepping, surviving. I say it's just common sense. 

I went to work the Monday of the hurricane as it wasn't going to hit us until late afternoon. My boss sent us home at noon time. Gas stations were packed, grocery stores were packed, there were even long lines at drive up fast food joints! Can you imagine? Training of our skills, and more importantly of our spirituality, can not be a last minute rush job. It needs to be done everyday day upon waking up and upon going to bed. It needs to be done with supplication and prayer. What we do in practice is what we do in danger. I've read that so many times. My teachers have drilled that into my head and now I truly know it. I wonder about the guy that got beat. Was he just scared that something bad was going to happen to him and his family? Was this just a result of fear? I do not know. I know I was not too worried about the hurricane. I had done my homework, had food, water, candles, books, ammo. I did not fear for my family or friends, I trusted that they were in Christ's loving hands. And while my adrenaline was pumping for sure during the moment I can't say I felt fear in the confrontation, though I admit afterwards my mind kept mulling over what could have happened, how badly it could have gotten. I would say I felt fear after. Okay, I admit, I had a shaky feeling all over for about an hour. But not in the moment. Was it God's strength? My preparedness? I think it was both and it makes me sad for all the people I see that get into these situations that lash out in anger brought on by fear.

I maintain I just use common sense. But common sense says to prepare, to train your body, your mind, and most importantly your spirit. So I guess I am a prepper. I prepare myself for life.
Christ be with you, - S.H.

A quick note to put my 2 cents in, if I may: I was a regular guy who thought a bit about prepping for years, but didn't really do much of it. After the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue took office, I began to develop a collection of firearms and ammo, with the belief that guys like him will actively seek to make such things harder to get. Then, I happened on the show "Doomsday Preppers" on television. I know the show seems a bit "Made-for-TV", if you will, but it did spur me to some action, including reading SurvivalBlog, daily. I can't get my wife and kids to drop everything and move to Idaho (yet), but I was able to sell them a bit on the notion that we could do some preparatory things and be smart, even if they weren't ready to start canning and burying supplies in the woods. In the last couple years, I've got them all shooting a bit, and we've made sure there's some food in the house for events like this. Then along comes Sandy.....

We live in Southern Ocean County, about a mile from the water, on a pretty good hill in a residential subdivision. I work as a public utility superintendent in a town in Western Monmouth County, central New Jersey, 45 miles north of home. I hate the notion that I could be at work in this type of event for several days, that far away from them. But it is what I have to do, for now. I have a small 12-volt battery setup with a solar charging system, useful, bought it because of what I've read and learned on SurvivalBlog. Also the tricks I've read about here- buying solar landscape pathways lights, stockpile flashlights and batteries, I bought a generator and some gas and made sure I taught my 13 year old son how to do everything in my absence. Gave Momma the keys to the gun safe, discussed safety and security with everyone, and went to work Sunday evening. Did not get home until Wednesday night.

Our house was without power for only 48 hours, and flooding was not an issue for our property. But it was enough to get them all on board, moving closer to accepting what Dad's been saying. Power is still out in large areas of New Jersey, and things are getting ugly- Looting and robbery in millionaire's neighborhoods as we speak (it's now Nov. 2nd, Friday night.) No phone, no power, no way to call the police....Sorry!!

Lessons Learned/Reinforced:
   1. Have food and water for as many as live in your house, plus the in-laws, plus your kid's friend who stayed for the entire event. What is happening now is everything is clear, stores are re-opening, but have no stock, shelves are still bare. And people are nuts- Fully stocked stores are only 50 miles away, and unprepared folks are panicking as if they're going to die in line at the grocery store, pulling guns on line at gas pumps, etc. So if you want to be prepared for a week-long emergency, you need 2 weeks’ worth of food. And gasoline for the generator, firewood, etc.
   2. Have bottled water- I work in the water utility business, and I'm telling you these systems are more fragile than you think, and are susceptible to all kinds of malfunctions even in normal times. Have at least a case for each person in the house at all times, so you can survive a week, brush teeth, make a pot of coffee, etc. I’m talking about minor stuff, not even nearly for TEOTWAWKI, for $25 you can get 5 cases of [bottled] water. Everyone needs to do this. No excuses.
   3. Maintain a secondary system of power, heat, etc....Generator, fireplace, whatever, have multiple options if possible. Right now in New Jersey, there are two kinds of people: prepared people, and miserable people.
   4. Security- You cannot call the cops, and they're not getting there anyway- You'd better be able to shoo away the vultures, so to speak. As I mentioned, there are gangs going door-to-door in very affluent neighborhoods, some of the wealthiest in America, simply kicking in doors and taking stuff- if you can't stop them, they're doing it. These are neighborhoods where people like Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi live, where they never fear for anything, because “They don’t have those sorts of people there”. Roads and bridges washed out means no access to services- Hundred of homes have burned down while fire crews watched helplessly from across the washed out roads, and Coast Guard and NJ State Police are patrolling Long Beach Island as looters try to get there by boat under cover of darkness. Thieves are ingenious and crafty, and we must be as well.
   5. The big lesson of all 4 of those points is this- The government is a mess, and cannot help you. You must be prepared to sustain yourself and your loved ones. Even if, like me, all you have so far is a means of keeping everyone alive and relatively well for a week long power outage, it’s a start. We will learn and continue to build upon this small start, but my family was extremely happy that when the lights went out and Dad was gone, they had food, water, a generator, security, etc. Dad felt a lot better knowing when I could not call them, and could not get to them, they had supplies and were going to be ok.
In the big picture sense, the New Jersey and New York are NOT prepared for these events like the Carolinas and Florida. This will be a wake-up call for many, and it will ruin many others. I hope the riots aren’t too bad, but I do believe they’re coming. Thanks for SurvivalBlog, it is a tremendous help to many of us in lots of ways! - M.B.

Good morning. Here’s Storm Update #4 from Princeton and Atlantic City, New Jersey areas.
Saturday Morning. No power at our home in the Princeton area. Lost another neighbor yesterday. The one with the rental genny, family of five, they left for their mother’s home in Pennsylvania. Last night was cold, and I imagine dealing with one space heater in a bedroom was not comfortable, coupled with the shower situation. We are all on well water here. So, if the genny isn’t hard-wired into the system, no power for water. If I had to figure the circuit connection on the fly, I’m guessing I could MacGyver it - though it would obviously not pass inspection and there would be a risk factor – but they had other options and this is not Mad Max world. Again, my wife and I offered our home, but they politely declined. Another neighbor to text when our utilities are restored.
Yesterday, we gave both of our daughters a break. My wife initially planned to drive them to a horse stable about 10 miles way – this is where my youngest helps around the barn, mucks, cleans gear, and brushes/feeds/grooms the horses. In exchange, she gets to ride – though we do contribute small payments to the owner (a middle-aged woman who has managed horses her entire life), who more often than not refuses to take our money. After the stable, there would be a play date with another family – they were on the way back to our home. I had the discussion with my wife about gasoline for the SUV. I’ll take the hits here for having a guzzler, but when it comes to driving my most precious possessions in the Universe, I got my wife the biggest four wheel drive vehicle I could with height clearance, a massive engine and room to spare for all of us and the dog. To my surprise, my wife acknowledged the gas concern (over the years, she has an amused, but accepting tolerance for my prepping), but she felt the benefits outweighed the costs. I agreed, and noted that our use had already lowered the gas level so we would have to find a refill.
Back to the stable, with 20+ horses needing daily care, the owner had a back-up generator for water, but this was unnecessary as power was restored two days ago. Well, upon arrival, the owner informed us that the utility company had cut the power to restore other areas of priority. Her genny at the main farm building (a good distance away) was pulling water slowly, and the she was busy ferrying water in her pick-up truck and caring for the horses. The kids helped for a while, but no riding. When they arrived at our friend’s home, they were greeted by the sight of 34 trees on the front of the property (more than 15 wooded acres) blown over by Sandy. My theory is that a mini-twister must have touched down, but perhaps it just took hours of sustained high winds. Power was out there too, but they had a great time exploring the grounds. I should mention that the mom is a scientist who regularly spends months in the Amazon jungle. I trust her with my family.
While my wife was out, I rigged up power to our water softener system, and ran it through a regeneration cycle. Our well water is super hard – lots of minerals, but fine for drinking. The water softener has other effects for soap, laundry, the pipes, etc.  Next, I hopped into the garden, grabbed two leeks and an onion, dinner was going to be a stir fry. The genny also needed refueling. One issue, no matter how careful I am when pouring the gas/funnels, I cannot seem to shake the odor of gasoline. Yeah it would be nice to have a pump, and perhaps I will rig one up when I have spare time. For now, the family tolerates it, and after scrubbing, the aroma eventually fades. Aslan, our pooch, also got in a great run in our backyard with a neighbor’s dog. They were visiting their home across the street to check status, and then returning to their parents in a section of Princeton that has power.
My wife and kids returned, and I later reviewed pictures of the fallen trees. After raising the garage door for my wife (no power and it’s heavy even with the spring tension), I noted that the SUV’s gas gauge showed just over half full. I was also thinking about the empty gas cans from the genny usage. The report was that gas lines were still absurd. Our town was e-mailing updates and our friends in the area had formed a close network that was using Twitter to communicate open gas locations. The Airport was offering [AVGAS] gasoline for genny use only with (lead and other additives in the fuel) for $6.00 a gallon! Knowing that I might have to fill the SUV, I opted to stay with regular gas stations – for now.
My wife and I agreed that late tonight (Friday still) might provide a decent window for short lines, so long as the stations stayed open. Short story – I left the house at 10:00 pm and found one of our local stations, waited in line for an hour and twenty minutes. It was unreal, and so was the “look” of the people filling up. As I got closer, I could see folks pulling all manner of gas containers from their trunks – from one gallon grime-encased plastic to ten gallon suitcase sized plastic that was difficult to lift. I half expected to see milk jugs. When I finally got to the pump, I was told either the car or the gas cans, but not both. They were running low. I told the attendant to fill the SUV. In the interim, I removed four five gallon safety cans and one five gallon plastic container from the trunk, and got ready to fill them. He came back and looked on dubiously. I followed my gut. I said, “I’m a local, come here all the time. You must be part of Horhay’s extended family or a friend.” He nodded affirmatively and said, “Family.”  I continued, “Here’s money for the gas, we’ll round it up, you keep the rest. These cans are powering the genny for our home.” With that, I started filling, and he left for another customer – they had six pumps going. By the way, I paid $5.00 per gallon of regular. Free market economics at work: supply and demand. I peeled off $200.00 in twenties – these are the largest denomination that I keep on hand – this was for 25 gallons in the cans and 12 gallons in the SUV.
On the way home, I got a text from our neighbor friend April – she was looking for gas for her car but had bypassed the crazy long line at the same station I had just left. I advised her immediately – she’s young – I told her to get back in that line ASAP and wait it out. Back home, as I skimmed online news after midnight, I saw that the Governor has enacted gas rationing, aka Jimmy Carter style. Beginning today, there is now an odd/even license plate system for filling up. The last number in the plate has to match the odd or even of that day of the month in order to be serviced. That’s going to go over well. Forget commuting to work, and traveling up and down the state for family, unless you have enough gas to get back or can wait a few days for a reliable station.
Turning to the Jersey Shore, mom has gone dark. She was supposed to make her way from Pennsylvania to the hotel near our home in Margate, NJ. We have called her mobile phone and the house line several times with no response. I’m not worried yet, but this morning I will track down the hotel and see if she checked in. One of our local crew who lives in Ventnor City (shut down for infrastructure, but residents allowed back), the town next to Margate, described the area in a text message this way, “It’s the Twilight Zone down here.” He sent a picture of our garage – the waves had knocked the doors out and sand/seaweed/muck was piled high. No one was at the house, and he couldn’t get in to see the first floor or basement. He is going to visit our house again today and see if mom is around. On a separate note, I saw a post on Facebook from another Shore friend, stating that she reported potential looting. There was a private truck driving around her neighborhood and loading up with appliances and similar items at the curb. One Facebook commenter told her to relax, this was acceptable. She replied, “Yeah, but not at 11:00pm, and they were driving way too slow and using a flash light to shine in peoples’ yards.” She notified the police. I have not received an update on this yet.
One final comment for the preppers of the world: The Oyster Creek nuclear power plant confirmed near-total cooling pump failure, and power failure. The back-up diesels saved the day on the spent fuel pool. Salem I, which had the emergency steam release, has been quiet. No further news that I can find. In a real long-term grid down scenario… there are more than a hundred nuclear power plants/reactors in the US alone. And so I ask, with all seriousness, are we doomed under such circumstances regardless of our plans?
I understand that other parts of NJ and NY are in far worse shape than here, and that a Nor’easter might be approaching early next week. However, I keep thinking that things will change in the Princeton area with the flip of a switch, i.e., power restored. But until then, we are in crisis mode, and there are strange concerns occupying my mind while this lasts.
This is neither exciting, nor fun. But I will remain upbeat for my family. - Bill H.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Good day, Mr Rawles...

Here in West Virginia, we have experienced a wide variety of weather from Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy.  Last Friday, it began raining well ahead of storm making landfall. Rains continued off and on thru the weekend, gradually increasing in steady rains all day Sunday and well into Monday. Around 7 pm our local time, that rain turned to snow and that's when things began to get interesting. 

I tend to be a light sleeper so it was the 'sound' of power going off at 2:34 am on Saturday morning that awakened me for the day.  I got coffee started with the percolator then sat by a window watching and listening as trees and branches snapped due to winds and the weight of a foot of heavy, wet snow that fell since dark the night before.  Once your eyes have a few minutes to adjust to the sudden darkness, it is quite uncanny how aware of things you become.  Sounds are amplified, movements are detected more quickly, response time to your surroundings are automatic, perhaps mechanical in a way. I think I like this!

As of this writing (Friday), we do not have power nor do we expect it to be restored anytime soon.  On top of the more than 2 feet of heavy, wet snow that Sandy delivered, there are literally hundreds of trees and power lines down throughout the state.  Our county suffered structural damage to some main power stations (including transformers). Yesterday, I was told by the Dept. of Highways that the county road about a mile from our house would not be plowed due to downed power lines. At the same time, the power company stated they could not begin to work on electric lines when the roads had not been cleared. Go figure!

For us, our preps and food on hand prior to the storm will keep us sustained for a very long time. Heat is not an issue. We have free natural gas on our property, plus more than one heat system that does not require electricity to function.  Water is also not an issue. We have a gravity fed spring, not a well, that does not require electricity to get our water. Cisterns collect thousands of gallons of this pure water and gravity flow delivers it to our home. Water pressure isn't optimal (like having city water) but it's a reliable clean water source (one of many). I can live without being pressure washed in the shower. We have not yet finished our secondary power source installation for maintain electricity but it is still in the works. Currently, we run our generator 2-3 times a day for a couple of hours at a time to keep the freezers and inside refrigerator cold. We keep fuel topped off at all times as well as have plenty of other fuel sources on hand for lights, cooking or whatever else might arise. After the first 2 days following the storm, we were able to clear paths to the main roads and can still get to town for things if needed. 

About five months ago, our area endured an unexpected, black-swan weather event (a derecho) over the summer. Five counties in this area were completely black and without electricity.  It left thousands without power for days, some even weeks. Our electric was out for more than 10 days in a 100 degree heat wave.  I would much rather endure loss of power during winter than summer. That event left many without food and water simply because they failed to heed even the basic guideline of having a minimum of 72 hours worth of food and water on hand in the event of a crisis. Folks did not connect (in their brains) that a lack of power to the city water systems would result in their water supply to suddenly stop flowing. They questioned why didn't the city just have generators in place to take up the slack (they did). These same people also didn't realize lack of power meant no way to pump fuel to power the generators. Panic ensued from many who finally realized their ATM, debit/card cards weren't going to work. The shock of businesses not accepting checks, only cash for payment of goods or services was enough to bring out the 'zombiesque' in many people. I was prepared to begin canning hundreds of pounds of meat, etc. even with the summer heat, rather than throw it away. Many people I talked to hadn't even thought about canning and these are people who grow gardens and routinely do some food preservation each season. Duh-mazing! Fortunately, we were able to keep enough fuel on hand for the generators in order to prevent such loss.

Superstorm Sandy was not a sudden surprise. There were many advanced warnings. Local, state and federal officials spent hours on television, radio and Internet pleading with those in harms way to evacuate or be fully prepared to hunker down with sufficient supplies for possibly a long while. In our area, we are used to snow storms...bad ones are not uncommon here. Yet, people still fail to plan or prepare, fully expecting someone to come rescue them when the going gets tough. The term 'normalcy bias' immediately comes to mind.

Now, we are in the middle of another natural disaster and there are still plenty of people who are clamoring about officials not having some kind of plan in place for everyone. These are the same folks who were demanding they get their food replaced from the summer storm losses.  There are people in our area (and others) who do not even have enough common sense to make a natural, outdoor cooler from all this snow to their cold/frozen goods in for preservation. I have been continually shocked at the complete absence of critical thinking, especially from folks who I really thought 'knew better'.

I read recently that a first responder in the New York/New Jersey area said, "We simply cannot save people from themselves." I don't believe I fully realized just how critical mindset is in a SHTF situation until now.  Sure, I talked about it, saw things first hand with how mindless and crippled society has become but I never really grasped the brevity of that until this storm.  Granted, this is not a TEOTWAWKI situation or even a long term SHTF event (thus far). We are fine in our supplies and, thank the Lord, have not endured loss other than some structural issues with our farm fencing due to falling trees. Our current setup is better than most but yet it is very painful to see other human beings suffer, often times simply due to their failure to do anything to protect themselves or their family.

For those of you out there who are still reading and planning but not yet doing anything, please, please, please get off that carousel of inaction and begin putting that gray matter to use! Don't be one of those people who freeze up during a catastrophe or one of those who crawl back into bed, hoping they will wake up and everything will be okay. You have been awakened for a time and a purpose. Don't waste the opportunity to do better for yourself and your loves ones. Just remember, "indecision is still a decision". Are you ready? - C.A.T., the Transparent Shepherdess


Good Morning,
We faired very well, thanks to our preparations, which were enhanced by the knowledge gained from your fantastic web site these last several years.  Being “old Yankees” farm raised, we always knew that we needed to be as self-sufficient as possible.  We have thirteen older house cats, one feral outside, and one of our cats is insulin dependent.  Hence keeping his insulin at proper temperature is very important.  We have standard size refrigerator/freezer, a smaller one, and a small upright freezer.  We always have frozen freezer packs and containers of ice and many thick foam coolers, so we are set for many days.  Sterno stove is great for warming and even cooking, as well as backup with twig camp stove, small pellet camp stove and charcoal grill.  We ate very well:  grass fed beef, organic vegetables from local farm, and have months worth of No. 10 cans or all kinds of food and MREs.  Hundreds of gallons of drinking and flushing water as we are on a well.  Filled up both cars before the storm hit, and being retired no need to go anywhere, nor plans to do so.   

The living room has propane gas stove and three 100 gallon propane tanks.  We just completed installation of 15,000 watt Wenco generator and 500 gallon propane tank.  The “maiden voyage” of Wally Wenco and Polly Propane was 100% effective, plus we were able to provide basic services to the tenants in the 1200 sq. ft. guest house.  Neighbors notified they could come for hot shower, etc. if need be after the storm.  We ran the Wenco only a few hours AM & PM, to conserve propane.  Had plenty of flashlights, batteries, two crank radios, hundreds of books, hundreds pounds of dry and canned cat food, and the “means” to defend ourselves.  So, these two old ladies were just fine, and the year before had 22 trees removed from near the house on this almost four acre lot in a small town, so the house was safe!  Power went out Monday afternoon and came back Wednesday night.

Because we have always been financially frugal, maintain our older vehicles, and do not spend our money on fancy electronics, clothes, etc., we were able to upgrade our survival comfort with the propane generator.  We know that a long term survival in a true TEOTWAWKI for us is not possible, but we have that covered also, especially as just a few miles from us is a nuclear plant.  Were we a few decades younger, we would be living in the American Redoubt, because we have “knowledge” that would be useful, and physically be able to survive.  We are still trying to convince our younger relatives to be more prepared, because someday we will not be around, though they know that our long term food and other supplies are a legacy we can leave them for America’s uncertain future! - L.H. in Lyme, CT

Good morning. If still of use to your readers, here’s Storm Update #3 for Princeton and Margate City, NJ, that I just sent to our friends.
Friday morning. No power still.
Yesterday, after my early run for gasoline, we did the first laundry since Sunday. I cranked open the window and rigged up the extension cords to the genny. Our daughters hardly issued a complaint with helping to fold – a chore they dislike – but under the circumstances, I’m guessing there’s something extra nice about fresh, warm, clean clothes. I continued cleaning-up the property and then helped my wife (Steph) make lunch. We heard back from our eldest daughter’s piano and singing teachers… they were willing to accommodate lessons cancelled by the storm if we could get there. Both are within a few miles of the house and a minute away from each other. The piano teacher gives lessons from her home and the singing teacher uses a local Church. Both had power restored. Needing a break of normalcy, my wife and I agreed. I would stay at the house with our youngest, while she ventured with the other. My wife was also going to see if the local farmer’s market was open.
Steph went to the farmer’s market and did her first ever shopping by flashlight. There was a line, and the store was allowing five people in at a time with an employee escort for each with flashlight to assist with shopping. Cash payment only. They only had non-perishables and the shelves were sparse. Several items she wanted – mostly soups – were gone. She did find a wonderful organic butternut squash soup among other groceries, and a bag of carrots. These were part of our dinner mix last night. On the way there, she sadly observed the destruction around Princeton. Trees down everywhere, debris, cars and houses hit, but lots of lucky falls as well – a few feet in either direction and the tree damage would have been far worse for many people.
In the afternoon, mail was delivered. I spoke at length with our delivery person. The workers that had reported for duty were sorting mail by lantern/flashlight, first class was backed-up for this week, and if they didn’t find more gasoline, mail would not be delivered for a few days even if the power was restored.
About an hour later, our next door neighbor knocked… they were leaving to find a hotel. This is a neurologist who works at a major medical center. Not wealthy, but he could have afforded a house generator system if like minded. I offered our home (these are also good folks), but they didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. They simply asked that I text them when power returns. Coincidentally, I checked in via mobile text with my best friend from Maplewood, NJ, telling him my concern that all of our neighbors were vanishing to hotels or extended family, and the reply text stated that he was in a hotel in Philadelphia with his family.
So, at this point, we have three categories of people. Those without generators who left days ago, those who have generators but not hooked up to the critical systems (leaving for lack of water, food, sanitation, heat, etc.) and those with hard-wired generators staying put as long as the natural gas flows or gasoline is available. Remember, these aren’t hardy country folk or preppers. They aren’t used to grid down or even making do with less. My friend in Maplewood – I’ve known him since 5th grade – he can afford anything he wants and still no house power system or supplies. I wonder how many people have now received the wake-up call? Perhaps Sandy is a blessing in that regard. Still, as much as I’m grateful not to be overwhelmed by cold and hungry neighbors, the evening walk with Aslan our dog was eerie. Empty houses greatly outnumbered the occupied. What would these people do if there was no external refuge in which to retreat? Would my family be a target even among friendly neighbors? Last night, I began thinking more seriously about the Mossberg secured under our bed… I train/shoot at Range 14 at Fort Dix in NJ.  I’d also like to put in a half-way plug here for solar lighting. My experience is that even the top of the line flood/spot lights will have a failure rate approaching 50% after a year. However, beyond a sizable alert dog, there are few better crime deterrents here than good exterior lighting. Our house is bathed in a blue glow of solar lighting for most of the night. I understand this cuts both ways in terms of standing out… but there are other homes with accent solar lighting on walkways/driveways, so perhaps it does not make us that much of an oddball, especially with the interior of the house dark.
We received a message that there would be no school on Friday - today. The roads and lack of operating stoplights are still a safety hazard, and it turns out the school’s fire safety system shorted out during the storm. They estimate that it will be fixed by Monday, November 5th, and that classes will resume then. Things in Princeton are improving each day, and we hope to have power back soon. Other parts of NJ are still chaotic as you get more urban (Jersey City, Hoboken) and closer to the Shore.
Turning to Margate City, under immense pressure, the barrier island access restriction was partially lifted by the Governor late yesterday. Several of my Shore friends – the locals – were finally getting into town to survey the damage. The ones that stayed had been giving us a reasonable heads-up on conditions. No food or water available on island (but the local bar was serving drinks) and the word is that wherever the water surge line stopped at your house is the measure of damage. Margate has modestly varying heights of property, bulkheads and dunes for protection. But when ocean meets bay, pretty much everyone is in a jam. Mom is stubbornly making her way back to our family home on the beach block. Bull dozers are clearing walking paths through the sand on a street by street basis. We should have a full report later today on the interior water damage. Ventnor City remains voluntarily closed due to the infrastructure issues, and the access restriction for Atlantic City still holds – at least that’s what I last heard.
I’m going to start the day’s work. Best to all. - Bill H.

Hi Jim,
Where I live in southern Pennsylvania, it rained solid, although very lightly most of the time, for 6 days straight. Today it's finally letting off. We did have some high winds on Monday and Tuesday, but we haven't had any flooding (despite living in a valley beside a stream) and no wind damage. The power did go out for a few hours Tuesday morning while we were sleeping, but otherwise it was a non event here.

Having lived through a high wind storm a number of years ago that took out our power for a week, we're a little more prepared than we were then. We now have a 500 gallon propane tank and a gas range (cooking stove), a wood burner with plenty of seasoned wood, and a hand pump for water if needed.

A few notes about that might interest readers:
Regarding the gas range, we can light [the cooktop burners] with matches, which means we need to have a large supply of matches on hand for extended power outages. Also, we didn't realize the oven [portion of the range] won't light without electricity because it has a fancy-dancy electronic control mechanism. Fortunately we don't use the oven much, but we now know better and next
time we'll make sure the oven is usable without electricity.

Also, our
house and well are situated in such a manner that we have a Bison hand pump in our basement. In the event of a power outage, all I have to turn is turn a few valves and we can pump as much water as we need. We also can hook up a hose from the pump directly into our water system. It won't be enough to shower, but it'll be enough to flush toilets, which certainly beats using buckets to flush!

Lastly, where I work, we have a lot of customers that were hit hard by Sandy. I've been astounded by how unprepared they were. It's very clear many did not make any effort to have disaster recovery tests. They need RSA security tokens to access our system, and we've had numerous calls from customers stating "when we evacuated, we left our tokens at the office". I've also heard "our server is under water". I hope they had an offsite backup! If nothing else, this [relatively] "minor" Category 1 storm should help them be prepared for the next one.

Regards, - C.G.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm a long time reader of your blog and books. I live in Philadelphia. We have a house in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Please look at Seven Mile Island Times and Stone Harbor on Facebook for an idea of our situation there. The whole island was underwater. Our docks washed away and our boat is on the sidewalk, still chained to the trailer. 

We lucked out, the house is fine and built high. We still have electricity and water in Philly. What I took away from this experience can be seen in this HuffPo article.

We were prepared: I filled the tub with water, and topped off all our [vehicle] gas [tanks] prior. A buddy of mine lost power and has no water (pump to well died). His new generator is useless because there is no gas available anywhere. He couldn't even drive to work. Thousands are in line to buy gas all across the region, cans in hand. Stations are either empty and can't rely on distribution, or their pumps are down because of power outages. A family member left NYC this morning to drive to the house in Jersey to see the damage. Despite his full tank, he didn't have enough gas and after reaching a line of cars a mile and a half long had to turn back to NY. We have our vehicles filled up and a few cans topped off. I'm the only one that can get there to see the damage first hand, going Friday myself. Things are bad, but this gas situation shocked me and I heard about it all day from friends and co workers who were in a bad way because of it. Many here were caught with nothing. No power, no water, no gas. Thanks to our preps and luck, we're fairing well. Point being, take this type of disaster seriously and encourage people you know to prepare ahead of time. Fill those fuel tanks and stabilize them! Best, - T.H.


Good Morning,
We live just north of Philadelphia in a suburban area. Because of a house fire we are living in a recreational vehicle (RV) on our property during the [insurance] settlement and restoration of our house. Prior to the storm, the RV was parked close to our apple trees (we have several acres and are blessed with a large garden and fruit trees) and so decided that for the hurricane we should move it to the driveway where it could sit on a hard surface.  About the time that it looked like we should head west to our retreat area instead of waiting out the storm...the roads were closed for all high profile vehicles, trailers, etc. so we couldn't leave. As a side note, our retreat area was dealing with high winds and snow. So having said all that, here are some of the results and my thoughts:
1) Had this been a true emergency (G.O.O.D.) we would have been in real trouble as we couldn't get the RV out of the yard (she is older, 37 ft. long and 20,000 lbs. loaded). We had to call a towing service to winch her out and fortunately did so several days before the storm hit. The point? Make sure if you are using an RV as a bug out vehicle that it can actually move. Parking it off to the side somewhere might be convenient but not do so well if you need to get it out fast. The ground was solid when we originally situated her but soft when we went to move her due to recent rain and cloudy days not drying things out. Also, make sure you start all of your systems regularly as they are no different than any other piece of equipment. Heat, air, truck engine, generator, batteries, all need to be maintained and started monthly to ensure that they will work for you when you need them. Tires crack and get dry rot when not taken care of or used.
2) Because of the weight of the vehicle we had very little movement of the RV during the high winds. A couple of scary moments when gusts reached 70 mph but over all, pretty good. My complaint of how much gas she uses over the road because of her weight is no longer a complaint as the weight kept the RV grounded. We put the stabilizers down just enough to support and level but not enough to take the RV off of her tires. I keep the gas tank topped off and stabilized just in case, so always have 75 gal. of gas for driving and generator use but in a bug out situation she will only go about 400 miles on that tank. Our retreat area is 650 miles we would have to carry extra gas. Another consideration is, what if gas is used for generator power before bugging out.
3) We had heat, electricity(generator), water, food and septic when everyone around us was in darkness so things stayed normal for us. We ended up putting the RV right next to the neighbors house so we could use the RV generator to keep his septic pump, sump pumps and our freezer working (he has been so kind as to allow us to put our fully loaded freezer in his garage since the fire). Although we had over 125 gal of gas, 2- 100 lb propane tanks and kerosene, had this been of long duration we would be hoofing it out on foot after a few weeks or in a real rough camping environment. Also, our food stores are in a storage unit for the time being and would have to be left behind if we had to leave. Reality is a sobering thought.
4) If you are bugging out, get out before the roads are closed. That one is a hard decision to make as before a storm or an emergency everything seems normal and you have no idea how bad things will get or good they will be. So when do you leave? Good question and one that we are discussing for the future. We waited too long in this case and had it been catastrophic for this area we would have been part of the catastrophe. Even though we have 2 years of food and our beans, bullets and band aids in order.
5) I went to our storage unit a few hours before the storm was to start to get a couple of buckets of grain and my grain grinder, along with other supplies. While there, decided to pay the unit rent early. Inside the office the young man behind the desk was fielding calls from other storage facilities as to what to do to prepare their properties for the storm. He responded that he had no clue and told me that there wasn't anything in their manual on how to handle this sort of situation. I asked him if he had any personal supplies, he responded that he some canned food. I then asked him if he had a non electric can opener to open his cans with and he didn't think so. WOW... For those who have supplies in storage units, check to see what provisions they have in place for security in grid down scenario and for goodness sake don't let anyone know that you have food stored there. Our storage unit is a mile away and I realized that in a serious situation we would have to move those supplies quickly and quietly.
6) We were able to stay in communications with the children who live in our retreat area through texting when the phones and cell service were spotty. I was able to use my hotspot intermittently for e-mails, news and weather. We also have a hand cranked weather radio that works very well had we needed it.
7) This is off topic but I have a years supply of my blood pressure medicine. I was able to get it through an online pharmacy in Canada. They require a hand written script and communication with your physician but I get six months of name brand prescriptions for what it costs for one month here in the States. I can reorder as often as I feel the need. Just thought that might help some folks out there that are having trouble getting more than a couple of months of their medicines.
I will close this by saying that we were very blessed! This area is pretty much back online with electricity being restored, roads open, shops opening and things getting back to normal. Yes, there were/are trees down and power outages but compared to our neighboring states we fared very well. As for as our personal conversations are concerned...we thought we were reasonably prepared but realized that in spite of our preparations we are still very vulnerable and our way of life, very fragile. I don't know what conclusions will come out of our discussions but I do know that adjustments will be made.
I have really appreciated this blog and the information it contains, which I check daily. It has inspired us and educated us so that we can be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
God's Blessings to all, - Lynda H.


Dear Sir,
I am an resident of New York City and a long-time reader of your web site.  I endured Hurricane Sandy without incident, but frankly, the storm poked a few holes in my urban preparedness model.  Rather than provide a play-by-play account of my experiences, I want to share some of the valuable lessons I gained from this exercise in survival.
*  For starters, I will acknowledge that a densely packed urban environment situated on an island (aka Manhattan) is the worst place to endure any crisis.  I am surrounded by millions, many of whom would have no issue with taking from me by force, largely because they remain entirely dependent on government handouts and have little concept of independence and self-reliance.  Political commentary aside, that is a real threat to my safety.  That threat, coupled with the uphill battle to legally possess a firearm in the city, puts me at a strategic disadvantage should the situation degrade beyond a certain point.  New York City, by its very nature, requires a vast and steady influx of resources via bridge, tunnel, and air.  Cripple this transport infrastructure and the city is left helpless without provisions.  Take home lesson:  some locations are better are inherently superior for a survival situation – this city is not one of them.
*  Fight or flight.  When the reality of the storm hitting New York was largely certain, I had to make my first major decision:  I either stay put and ride it out, or flee the city in advance of the storm.  After careful consideration, weighing factors such as the size of the storm, my transportation options, where I could go, family and work obligations, and others, I decided to ride it out.  Immediately, and without hesitation, once I committed to staying put, I was “all in” – there was no downtime at that point until I was satisfied with my planning and execution.  That said, one of my next projects in my preparedness practice will be to flesh out just what my options are in leaving this city in a pinch.
* Checklists are essential.  In the past, I have scoffed at maintaining a preparedness checklist on the basis that I could pretty much rattle off the items on such a checklist without much thought.  But in crisis mode where my stress levels were elevated, doubt crept in.  I found myself Googling various web sites for preparedness checklists since I was now second-guessing myself.  Granted, I had most of what was on these lists, but I wasted valuable time and introduced doubt into my planning.  Not a good start.  So lesson learned, have a list, periodically review it, and refine as needed.
*  If you use up any of your supplies or preps, replace them ASAP.  I had no water reserves going into this storm.  I had used up my water supply cache some months ago when our water filter was malfunctioning, and never replaced it.  Never again.  I took a three prong approach:  first, I filled used water bottles, canteens, sealed containers and such and put them in the fridge.  Made sense to me to use what I had first, rather than attempt to seek it out at stores.  Second, I ordered some Chinese food for lunch and had them bring me several liters of water with my meal.  I am not trying to sound flippant here; I was hungry, busy with final pre-storm prep work, and needed water – so I leveraged a delivery service to help me on all counts.  Expanding on this point, most people flock to stores to buy water, only to scavenge the shelves bare very quickly.  Restaurants, especially takeout places have generous bottled water supplies for sale, and most people wouldn’t think of is this avenue for a last ditch prepping effort, but I did.  Lastly, I did venture out to a store once done with all my at-home work to literally walk among the sheep and serve as a reminder to myself to never be in this situation again.
*  Beans, Band-Aids, bullets – and batteries.  I was somewhat surprised when a friend of mine told me that the stores had run out of batteries.  Who doesn’t stock up on batteries, I wondered.  I was well stocked, and furthermore have a whole kit dedicated to small-device charging.  I cannot tell you the number of people whose mobile phones were without charge and this was shortly after losing power!  There are battery packs, solar chargers, adapters for charging through a laptop or car.  Not to mention the basic premise of keeping your phone or other devices charged in the first place.  I guess this mirrors the principle of always keeping your gas tank at least half full.  Lastly, I counseled several friends of mine who were without batteries to purchase cheap consumer electronics that came with batteries – there were plenty of these sitting on shelves.
*  Be prepared to leave.  Everyone and their cousin has a Bug Out Bag today.  Filled with survival gear, emergency rations, weapons, and the like.  What about valuable and irreplaceable documents (passport, birth certificate, titles, deeds, business papers, etc.), irreplaceable computer files, cherished possessions (including cash, jewelry, precious metals).  All of these are resources that may not help you survive during the actual crisis, but will certainly help you thrive after the crisis has ended.  While holed up in my apartment, I went over several scenarios where I would be forced to leave.  Regardless of why I would have to leave, I posed the question:  assuming I had to flee with 5 minutes notice and the apartment was later destroyed, looted, or whatever – what items would allow me to rebuild my life?  What was essential, and what wasn’t? I find these questions to be of great value, not only in a weather emergency, but also when applied to other, greater threat scenarios.  It really forces the individual to distill their thinking to what’s vital, and what’s not.  In my case, much, but certainly not all of what I would need to rebuild my life is largely portable and small.  The deficiency in my case was computer backups – not portable by any practical measure, nor weather proof.  This is now being rectified.
*  Communication is crucial.  Ahead of the storm, I contacted the important people in my life, told them I was going to stay put, and that there was a real chance the grid could go down and I could lose communications.  This contact put my mind at ease, which of course makes any survival situation more endurable.  Furthermore, during the storm and its aftermath, cell phone and internet service was largely disrupted.  It’s an important question to answer:  how do you communicate with the important people in your life when the telecom networks are degraded or down?  Small things, like utilizing text messaging (or SMS) more than voice calls.  An SMS will use less bandwidth than a voice call, and will never arrive garbled.  Mind you, it may never arrive at all, but I found the use of SMS to be more useful than having to deal with spotty, hard-to-decipher voice calls.  Technical issues aside, brevity and clarity are key.  During and right after a storm are not the time to talk at length.
*  Emotional health is vitally important.  I had food, water, shelter, not to mention power, TV, and Internet.  I was not lacking materially in any way.  But while holed up at home during the storm, I was anxious, feeling unsettled, and had difficulty sleeping at night.  Uncertainty, doubt, fear of the unknown – these were all forces I was battling with.  Granted, this is normal as the city I live in was being battered.  In truth, I thought with all my provisions and creature comforts, I would not be upset or agitated in the slightest.  Reminding myself that I had taken good precautions and was well-supplied helped to assuage my concerns.  Prayer or meditation may have been helpful as well, but I engaged in neither.
*  Start small.  My preparedness model was premised on a 3-day survival situation in a grid-down situation.  It was uncomfortable mentally to fathom a prolonged disaster situation, and my role in it.   I now see that burying my head in the sand is hardly the answer, and the only way to feel safe will be to expand and refine my survival model.  I am now looking into preparing for incidents of greater severity and duration, one variable at time.
Sincerely, - M.D.A.


I live in Princeton, NJ with my wife and daughters, and my mother resides in our family home on the beach block in Margate, NJ (i.e., the Shore – Atlantic City area). I put together two updates for our friends. Thought they might be of interest to your readers – though I apologize for the clipped writing style.
Update # 1 – Wednesday morning. I finally slept a fair bit last night (Tuesday) and as the electronics have charged from the generator, here’s the scoop. Make no mistake Mother Nature still rules. You are going to lose the head on collision, so best to lightly sidestep her dominion whenever possible.
I prepared my family and house in Princeton, and was still surprised. I think a lot of people were, especially at the Shore. There aren’t a lot of locals left who can remember the 1944 Hurricane, and there was a much different population for the 1962 storm. From the little I have heard from my Shore friends, those who stayed regretted the decision. The Shore got crushed, power will be out for a week or more and the drinking water is compromised – there is a boil alert as well as filtration. That’s assuming they get the news. Generators are great, but few folks had them, and those that did, well let’s just say that six feet of storm surge pretty much kills your genny… as you are unlikely to have it placed much higher on the property.
Let’s come back to Princeton for the moment. I had the house pretty well fixed. Outside stuff stowed and roped, and I put two little giant pumps on the floor of the basement and rigged their hoses 75 feet out one of the basement windows. If the power went early, I had the portable gasoline driven genny on the front porch… sheltered enough to run and ventilate. Many people don’t know that your typical portable genny is not designed to operate in significant rain - though many will last for a while – there is a good chance of shorting the electrical systems and in getting shocked. I also had two 100 foot extensions cords through the front window to the basement for each. Short story – we thankfully didn’t get as much rain as was forecast. No real issue in basement.
On Monday afternoon, before any of the heavy storm impact hit, we were surprised by a knock on the door. Our neighbor lost part of his roof and is looking for tarps, caulk, tape, rope, etc. I was able to help with these items and also the contact info for our home contractor who had put out an e-mail earlier advising they were available for emergency repairs. This neighbor has a wife and three children – good family – bad sign to lose the roof before the real storm winds arrived. Told him our house is open and to let me know if he needs anything else.
While we had the utilities working, my kids were fine. Though by about 6:30 pm, the winds began to escalate dramatically. Even with the games and TV, they were nervous. It was dark and loud outside – things were flying by and the power had been flickering. At 7:00 pm power failed. By 7:30 pm, we made the decision to go down to the basement. The wind was roaring at 60-70 mph plus sustained and higher gusts in the 80’s – learned this later. So we set up an area with sleeping bags, pillows, lanterns and snacks. Our basement is unfinished – cold concrete floor – but does have shelves, storage bins, etc. I was not prepared for the fear in my kids’ eyes, nor was I expecting the knot in my chest as we could hear the house shutter and pipes rattle with the faster wind bursts.
So with all my readiness… I was still humbled and doing my best to reassure the kids that we were fine. Best decision was to give each of them a chocolate bar and burn through the charge on my wife’s laptop watching episodes of Psych – a funny detective show on TV. We had the occasional trip upstairs to go to the bathroom – no flushing without the power. We are on well water. I had water in the bathtub ready for this, but not during the height of the winds. The flashlight showed trees down, fencing gone, stuff flying and I was worried about one of our old growth trees hitting the house. No detours – bathroom and then back to the basement.
After midnight, when the winds had settled at more like 30 to 40 mph, we moved to the first floor guest bedroom. The kids nodded off with my wife and I went outside to start the genny. The temperature was dropping – though we had ample blankets for that – it was more to avoid food spoilage in the refrigerator. Most refrigerators will give you 4-6 hours unopened of decent cold. You can extend it a bit by turning the temp down pre-storm (which I did on both refrigerator and freezer), but after that… food will spoil. Freezers are better – probably 2 to 3 days if not opened - possibly more, and especially if full of food or home-made ice bags to take up the empty space.
So, in the wind and rain, and with a hat to protect against flying branches and lantern, I repositioned the genny near our exterior hard-line hookup. This is where we plug the genny into the house systems and I use the man-high garage door as the rain shield. Exhaust vents outside. Again, never run a genny in a closed garage or home – the fumes will penetrate and kill. I had just serviced and tested our genny before the storm – you need to know how these things work. Choke on, first pull and she kicked in with a reassuring hum. By 1:00 am we had power to the systems. I had to unplug items that were power drains which I forgot, but essentially as I flipped the breakers in the basement on the genny auxiliary panel and we had heat, water and power to the refrigerators/freezers. I spent the night on the living room sofa waking up every hour to walk the house looking for leaks, broken windows, and checking the genny (overheating, gas leaks, oil, venting, etc.).
Yesterday (Tuesday) is a bit of a blur.  Mid-morning, I discovered that our neighbors had sheltered in their basements as well. Trees were down everywhere, roads were closed, flooding by the river, no power. Anyone without a working genny was leaving for friends and family that had one. Temps are getting colder this entire week, and then there’s food and water. I made fresh coffee for folks, offered food and then began assessing damage and clean-up. I always keep the chain saw oiled and ready from the last use, and so I put on my Kevlar chaps and began cutting trees.
Around mid-day I refueled the genny. This means shutting everything down, then pouring in the gasoline, then restart, then circuits. If you don’t, you can blow the systems starting the genny with a full electric load. I heard from one neighbor that there was access to Highway 206 via one road, and I thought about gasoline. Between chain saw and genny… it was a priority. The kids played games, saw another show on the laptop which was charged as were phones, and we had another knock on the door from another neighbor friend – April. After she got hot apple cider, food and good company she walked back to her home.
At about 3:00 pm, and before daylight sank further, I headed out for gasoline. Got about four miles, passed two police roadblocks, all traffic lights out and roads closed, and after passing my 3rd gas station that was closed with a no fuel sign, I called it a day. What was I thinking? This was a surprise to me, but should not have been. Everyone else was burning gas like crazy too. The stations were out until roads opened for refueling, and even then, the rest of NJ is in deep, so who knows how long that will take.
Returning home, I hit my emergency gasoline supply under the tarps outside – the five gallon steel safety cans had been there since last summer, but I had put Sta-Bil in the gas to keep it good beyond the usual 3 months. There are commercial grade versions that will give you years, but I don’t have access to that stuff… at least, not yet. Short story, the gasoline went into the genny and is just fine. This means I am good to go for several days with 24-hour genny use. I’ll venture out tomorrow to see if any of the gas stations are open with fuel.
Back to the Shore… I hopped onto Facebook for a few minutes. It is not easy using your mobile phone for Internet access on some web sites. On a serious note, the Shore is a mess. I was able to find out that our home still stands, but that in all likelihood has been flooded out. Our basement would be a swimming pool with all systems killed. There is 3 to 4 feet of beach sand filling the entire length of the street and from every home. High tides are still bringing in flooding, but not nearly as much as the full-moon tide on Monday. People were evacuated by chopper, the island was cut-off with all roads impassable, and clean-up will take weeks. People had live wires in their yards, short circuits in homes as water flooded, natural gas lines that need to be secured, trees down, windows broken, etc. Numerous homes, though elevated, have been hit with 2 to 4 feet of ocean water (this means mold), overnight temperatures are headed to the 30’s and 40’s this week, and they do not have any systems to boil water, etc. My mom is still evacuated, not sure when she can return. Have not heard anyone mention looting in Margate, but I did see one report in Atlantic City (though I cannot tell credibility of source). Let’s see what happens the next few days.
Going to start the day now… there’s work to be done, kids need breakfast, no school until maybe Friday, Halloween cancelled, and my wife (who is now standing beside me) says her throat is swollen and sore.
Thanks for checking in with us… I’ll send another update when I have a free moment. Internet access is spotty, but I have to say I am grateful for our Verizon portable secured 4 G Wi-fi device. It is no bigger than a cell phone and has about a six to eight hour charge capacity. But it lets us access the Net with multiple devices from anywhere. The data package is expensive for this, but in emergencies that’s not my first concern.
Storm Update #2:
Thursday morning. Yesterday, Halloween was cancelled by executive order, but I spent the day doing more clean-up anyway. Chain saw cutting, and stacking some wood for the fireplace even though green. Helped neighbors across the street who had a rental genny. Offered showers and heat as their genny is only extension cords for refrigerator and small appliances. My girls had a bit of cabin fever and it doesn’t help that my wife is not feeling good. Made tea, soup and fresh wholesome food left in the refrigerator. Also, we still have lots of kale, onions, scallions, leeks and herbs in the garden. These are my winter hardy plants that last well into the cold weather. They survived the storm winds being low to the ground and well rooted. The girls are also helping with the hand washing of the dishes… not fun.
Also took some time to walk the dog… Aslan needed a romp for his mental exercise. Spent an hour fixing the back fence so Aslan could be let outside without a leash and deer could be kept out. The fence will probably need total replacement, but at the moment, there are no gaping holes. The power drill and deck screws worked like a charm. Lots of periodic sirens – I’m guessing medical and fires related to generators/space heaters failures and accidents.
The girls don’t have school this week. We got word that power was restored late yesterday to the school, but that the roads were still impassable. There is an order from the Governor to stay off the roads unless essential travel only. It gets dark early, so by 3:30 pm things are winding down and the lanterns are on for reading and general action around the living room. I have rechargeable lanterns and battery throw away… no issue for now.
The temperature all day yesterday was cool and very chilly by evening. People without power were warming themselves in their cars. On Aslan’s evening walk, I could see the car headlights in various driveways. I think it also let people charge cell phones. This brings up the glaring problem for the moment – gasoline. Our genny is doing very well on gas consumption… but between it and the chain saw, we are burning a fair amount. Same with the neighbors, and especially the ones using the cars for heaters. The town has opened the Rec/Senior centers for temporary warmth and water – but not after 8:00pm. Don’t know how many people are driving to use these facilities. Anyway, back to gas. While I used on/off shutdowns for the genny for a few hours of the time to save gas – I had the living room fireplace raging yesterday – this is not optimal especially for the refrigerators. Yesterday, I heard from two neighbors that they had found open gas stations with ridiculous lines and rationing. As it was getting late, I opted to stay home and deal with it today.
Woke up today (Thursday) at 6:30 am, and headed out with 4 five gallon safety cans looking for open gas stations. The Traffic lights were still out and only the main artery roads are dependable to be open. I was lucky to find two gas stations within 5 miles of the house. Gas stations that were open yesterday were now empty of gas. As to these two that were open, they already had lines of cars 50 deep. They also had police officers enforcing the lines, gas rationing (10 gallon maximum per person) and general traffic flow order. It took me and hour plus, and it was cash only as I expected, but I started home with 20 gallons of gas. I thought about coffee on the way, and pulled into our main shopping center with a Thomas Sweet, or in the alternative, a Dunkin Donuts in the ShopRite Supermarket. The entire center was closed. ShopRite was open with minimal lighting and I had hope, but when I got to the door, there was a sign saying they only had non-perishable items for sale. The mini-Dunkin Donut stand was closed. By the way, we are hearing from other supermarkets… same story. They cooked what they could, donated to soup kitchens and have thrown out the rest of the spoiled food. At this point, I think Whole Foods on Route 1 may be our best bet for fresh food. As you guys know, I have plenty of non-perishables. And yes, I do have organic coffee at the house, so I am enjoying a cup as I type. I just have to unplug other stuff to brew it.
I am breaking to refill our genny with gas. Next agenda once things warm up is to get the fireplace going, and then I will rig up extension cords so that we can do laundry for the first time since Sunday morning. Bear in mind, my genny is only hard-wired into the home for critical systems, and that didn’t include the washer and dryer. So I will need to power them and the house water system – should be fine – but they are energy hogs.
We also got word that five nuclear power plants had issues during the storm, and that Salem actually had a “controlled” emergency steam release and pump failures. Nice. I’m sure it was only safe levels of radiation, no harm to the public. Right. Oyster Creek was offline anyway, but had cooling issues with the spent fuel pool. I’m assuming that the state and Federal folks are on top of this. Hopefully.
The update on the Shore is pretty dim. We still don’t have good onsite intel. Island access is closed and the residents are upset/trapped. On the positive side, there are parts of Margate with power. There is limited non-perishable food and no fresh items, and water remains contaminated. Some areas are still flooded – though its draining. Ventnor City which is right next to Margate, is sealed off due to city septic failure and more than 1,000 homes with moderate to severe damage. We have received limited pictures of our home from locals and a Sheriff friend. The sand is piled against the house three feet deep which means the six feet of water on top of that probably got into the entire first floor and basement. All critical systems will be trashed. We are beginning the process of talking to contractors and getting mom situated at a nearby hotel to make daily trips to the home to coordinate. She’s upset, but holding up - tough nut.
Cheers. I mean that: single malt whiskey does not need refrigeration, is good for brushing teeth and warms the soul. - Bill H.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I'm located in central New Jersey not far from the Delaware River. In the days prior to the hurricane hitting, everyone packed the supermarkets, warehouse clubs and home improvement stores to stock up.

At the home improvement stores, the people who had best luck getting generators were those who purchased them online and selected in-store pickup. There were lines of people 100+ deep from the front of the store to the back waiting for new shipments of generators to arrive. The only people who were guaranteed anything were those who had already purchased and paid online.

For those lucky enough to get a generator, they'd have a hard time fueling it if they didn't already have gas cans and gas stored at home. The shelves were cleared of gas cans days before the storm hit.

The warehouse club that we are members of sold out of water the day before the storm hit. They normally have pallets of water on shelves up to the ceiling along the length of an entire aisle. That aisle was completely bare. They also sold out of most fruits/and vegetables that could store for a little without power. The displays that normally hold bananas and apples were bare.

Flashlights and D batteries were gone days before the storm too. The only ones that were left were plug-in rechargeable flashlights that would be of little use after the first discharge in a power outage.

My sister had luck finding a huge display of batteries at a big chain baby store. Most people went straight to the supermarkets and home improvement stores, not thinking that many other types of stores also kept basic supplies.

The winds really started to pick up Monday afternoon. There wasn't much rain, even at the height of the storm, but the winds were very strong. Our house, which is only 4 years old, shuddered a couple of times in the highest gusts. We didn't sustain any physical damage to the house, but a couple of small trees tilted over but didn't uproot or break. Some sections of vinyl fencing in our neighborhood blew out and shattered from the force of the wind.

Sections of our neighborhood started to lose power around 6 PM not long after the hurricane made landfall. Street lights were out and the power to houses across the street were out. From our upstairs windows, we watched the sky glow blue and pink in all directions as transformers blew. Every minute or so another one would blow.

Finally, around 8:30 PM, we watched a transformer light the sky up for about 30 seconds. When it finally darkened, we and the rest of our neighborhood were out of power.

I had filled our spare refrigerator in our garage with cases of water and the spare freezer with bags of ice. I also took every empty plastic jug and bottle out of our recycling bins and filled them 3/4 of the way with water and froze them in our main/spare freezers. Every inch of freezer space that wasn't packed with food was packed with an ice bottle.

I knew our refrigerator wouldn't keep food cold long, so we immediately transferred our most critical food (milk for the kids, etc.) into ice filled coolers. The main freezer with most of our frozen food and frozen water bottles was never opened. It stayed perfectly cold until the power came back on, and most of the ice bottles had barely started to thaw. The food in our ice-filled coolers also was fine. We did sacrifice non-critical food that we didn't have space for in the coolers to the garbage bin.

We lit the house with long-lasting led lanterns that definitely did the trick. We hunkered around an old battery power radio to keep up with storm news, and gave our two-year old son a spare lantern to play with, which kept him happy. With no power and little news expected until morning, we turned in early (for us) at around 10 PM.

Our furnace was out and we don't have a fireplace, so the temperature dropped to the low 60s in our house overnight. It was a little chilly, but we were comfortable enough. We were definitely lucky it wasn't colder outside.

By the morning the storm had passed and a family that we are very close friends with down the street had their generator running. We and several of our friends congregated there for the day. They had enough power for their refrigerator, several lights, a tv and cable box, and a power strip for charging phones.

Although the power was out, the cable stayed on until around noon so we were able to see the first images of storm damage. After the cable went out, most of us switched to our web-enabled smartphones and social media to stay informed and reach out to friends.

We grilled outside for lunch and dinner, with everyone pitching in food that would go bad if unused. Everyone with spare gas stored was prepared to pitch in whatever they had until the power came back on to keep the generator running. We brought over 10 gallons that wasn't needed.

Cell phone service was spotty. People who were subscribers of one the two major cell providers in our area had no problem making/receiving calls and surfing the web. Subscribers of the other major service had a signal, but couldn't make calls and their data service only worked intermittently.

The day after the storm, most traffic lights remained out. All gas stations and most stores were closed. One home improvement store opened under emergency power. They only let a limited number of people into the front part of the store where they had set up displays with their remaining emergency supplies (flashlights, batteries, power cords, and a new supply of gas cans). They surprisingly even accepted credit cards. Some other stores we checked out only accepted cash if they were open at all.

24 hours after the power went out, it came back on for most of our neighborhood. We're definitely lucky since of the 2/3 of our state that was without power, only about 15-20% of homes had been restored when we were reconnected.

It was an interesting experience for a day, but something that none of us would have been happy to have continue. We all realized, individually and as a group, what things we were missing that could have made us more comfortable.

Although we were lucky that our part of the state suffered little more than downed trees and power lines, New Jersey is very small so we all have friends in the hardest hit parts of the Jersey Shore and we are very familiar with the popular vacation spots that have been destroyed.

I've been in contact with friends who live just blocks from the beach who have raised homes and still have standing water lapping at their front doors. A few other friends live in beach neighborhoods that have essentially become islands with bridges, highways and other access roads out of service and surrounded by water. Others left some of the very hardest hit communities before the storm hit and don't know if their homes are still standing.

Some neighborhoods devastated by storm surge and flooding are now burning. Along some of the barrier islands, emergency services from the mainland are cut off and fires will likely be left to burn themselves out. Some entire towns are expected to burn.

There are a lot of people who have lost everything and many who are still in harm's way. Keep them in your prayers. Thanks, - Brad S.


I have family from Pennsylvania to Maine.  I tried to encourage my family and cousins who I knew would be affected by Sandy to visit me in the mountains of New England, but they were all so sure that they could survive the storm. 
Only one family had a generator.  It wasn't wired into the house, so plenty of extension cords are in use there.  The others had nothing at all setup.  So I briefed them on filling the tub, freezing extra containers for ice, etc.  And all were briefed on staying put during and after the storm.
Of course, some don't listen so well.  While all survived in some fashion, here is the latest and worse from my cousin on Long Island:

"Pumping out water all day.
We had absolutely not a drop of [drinking] water. Storm surge at 830 p.m. and we were seeing it force its way in at the rate of a foot a minute!! I have never witnessed anything like that in my life!
Scary stuff!!!

We tried to hold it back just no way hydraulic pressure was just too much.
Total 10 feet of water. We jumped ship when it got to 6 feet. Then couldn't get to [deleted for OPSEC]'s house... Every path home and on every road trees were down, we didn't plan for that. We slept at a friend's aunt's house. She welcomed us (dog and all) with open arms and we are total strangers. The walls all cracked assuming will be a total loss.

We are going to call it quits soon will be back at it again tomorrow. No [phone] service so can't call our insurance company. Friends are coming from all over to help. No big deal--It is just a material asset. Insurance hopefully covers hurricanes. We are fortunate, as it could've been much worse."

He was right.  They were fortunate.  They could have drowned leaving during the night.  They could have been injured trying to leave that location to their 'safe' house.
I suspect that the next time they will evacuate in a timely fashion.  I doubt that they will ever disparage a prepared mindset again.
We can't save folks from themselves.
I will head into New York and New Jersey when possible to reach them with support.  I expect to have to wait until after this coming Tuesday.
Thank you for your SurvivalBlog site! Regards, - Mike A.

Good Morning to You!
Our area of the East coast was spared the worst brunt of the storm.  Massive snowfalls to our west, and massive flooding to the east.  We were very fortunate.

We live on top of a hill, and by Monday morning, we had water filling our basement.  I went outside with middle son, and we found a deep hole filled with water next to the foundation of our house.  We dug a ditch from the edge of the hole far, far away from the edge of the hole and down the hill well past the fall line.  I would estimate we dug at least 30 feet of mud.  While I dug, my son took the shovels of dirt that I pulled out of the ground and put it back into the hole by the foundation.  Once we were finished, we moved the drainage pipe from the gutters so that it, too, fed into the ditch we had dug away from the house.  10 more inches of rain fell over the next 24 hours, but no more of it ran into our basement. 

I understand now what you mean when you say you need to be physically fit!  I'm a 40 something mother of three, and my 17 year old son and I put in a good two hours worth of physical work in the driving rain, diverting water away from the house.  Maybe insurance would have covered the damage if we hadn't done the work, but I prefer the effort of digging a ditch in the rain to the effort of clearing a basement of water and carpets and furniture.  Best two hours worth of work I've ever done, and our house is still in one piece!
Besides the obvious water and wind damage around here, there is one thing that stuck out more and more:  The number of people killed by falling trees.  Tall trees close to the house really do need to be trimmed back so that damage is lessened if a tree or limb falls on a house.  One gentleman told the story of how he and his father had a conversation on Saturday about how they needed to trim or cut down the tree next to the house.  Then on Monday, his father was killed instantly when the tree fell on the house during high winds. 

Peace to you all. - B.L.W.


The report from Delaware. With the exception of flood prone and some beach front areas we dodged the bullet.

It was an excellent exercise for our small family. The preparation for with this sort of an event turns on do you stay or leave. Different priorities for equipment supplies and staging following from each of those two choices. However what this storm brought home to us (since we have a shelter in place default ) is that within the shelter in place paradigm is,"suppose that tree falls on your house and you must leave in a hurry anyway' sub-plan. Since for us in our location Sandy was forecast to be a wind event, this latter sub-plan rose up from the back burner rather forcefully.

Now, we had to pull out and check the go bags (not seen since last year's windy scare) marshal water, food rations, range bags (did I restock those mags after the last week) , document case, comms and other take-with items by the door while preparing to deal with prolonged electrical outage (potentially weeks) therefore check generator, water reserves, fuel, etc etc.. 

I found that while our shelter in place preps and SOP were fairly well in hand, the "Yikes, we got-a-go now" end was pretty confused. Part of the reason for this is that we really need to have more duplicate gear stashed in the "Go now" configuration, and it was clear from this go round that we ain't there yet. I also know as I write this that I have all sorts of essential items stowed carefully labeled clearly that I will want to toss in the vehicle, but it will take me days to think through the inventory. Not something to be doing as water is cascading through a rent in the building.

So I tell you to tell me, "build the list now while it is still fresh."

One side note: We were "powerless" for only 8 hours, but as a result I am looking to replace my noisy old Generac (such a headache! The thing just roars. I must be getting old) with newer quieter Yamaha or Honda digital. While researching I found this very useful worksheet for calculating loads on the Yamaha web site.

Blessings... Pray for the folks in New York City, Connecticut and New Jersey.... They have a long way to come back. - Dollardog


As per your request for info out of the New York City area: Having grown up in Florida, I kind of knew what to expect. Needless to say, I was well provisioned and my powder, so to speak, was high and dry and at the ready well in advance of Sandy's final approach...

My wife and I rode out the storm in our "Brooklyn Bunker," a fourth-floor apartment in a solid pre-war building. We spent a long night watching for the flashes of transformers exploding in the wind, and darkness encroaching as lights went out in the homes all around us. Luckily, the lights managed to stay on in our neighborhood, and we didn't lose power once. After the storm passed, we emerged to discover no major damage, some trees down on cars and roofs, limited cell phone service, but that's about it...

The same can't be said for lower Manhattan and parts of Staten Island, though. The six-foot security fence around some rental property I own there came down, right into my truck. A violent storm surge turned most of the coastal communities on the island into what looks like a war zone, with the National Guard deployed to keep order. No working street lights, no stores open, no gas. People are attempting to drive into northern New Jersey to find gas stations that have power, with little luck. Con Edison now says power will be out to 60% of the island for more than a week. My tenants are in the dark with no heat...

Looking across the East River into Lower Manhattan at night, I am reminded of my time as a journalist in New Orleans during Katrina, where I witnessed another entire American city abandoned, darkened, and brought to its knees by Mother Nature (combined with a healthy dose of human stupidity). The entire subway system here is paralyzed, and along with it commerce, and most of the city's inhabitants. There are already some rumblings on blogs and other social media platforms about the "lack of government response," like this one here, but for the most part, people have remained unusually calm and accommodating to each other, at least for New Yorkers.

As with Katrina, Sandy reminded me of just how fragile the veneer of civilization that most most city-dwellers often take for granted truly is. During the final 24 hours leading up to Sandy's arrival, lines at every major grocery store in Brooklyn and Manhattan were several blocks long, with hours-long wait times just to enter the stores and clerks taking small groups of people in to shop, just a few at a time.

Given the mentality of the average city-dweller, the run on grocery stores was to be expected. Perhaps more importantly for the SurvivalBlog readership at large, what's transpired here over the past 48 hours is nothing short of an amazing exercise in the efficacy of state control circa 2012 (much better execution than what I witnessed during Katrina). I am at once somewhat pleasantly surprised yet shockingly dismayed by just how quickly the authorities were able to shut down and subdue the country's biggest metropolis. Within a few hours, they were able to - successfully - deploy several thousand National Guard troops, shut down the country's biggest subway system, 15 major bridges and tunnels, three major airports, and cut power to eight square miles of a world-class city...all with nary a whimper nor major objection from the populace.

New Yorkers in three major boroughs were - and in the case of Lower Manhattan, still are - effectively cut off from the outside world. Moving forward, most SurvivalBlog readers like myself who either choose or are forced to reside in cities should perhaps (re)consider their long term plans and preparations given the recent tactics on display here in NYC.

Thanks and best, - KTC in NYC


Dear Jim:
Sheeple no more here. Sandy came and went. Our area is Bucks County about an hour north of Philadelphia. We border the Delaware River. Power here went out early and and only came on today.

I think we weathered it well. I was one of the last minute "run to the store" folks. Bought a gallon of milk. Everything else was in place. As soon as the power went out, I fired up our generator and hunkered down for the 70 MPH winds.

We did lose a couple of shingles and some aluminum trim on the house. Those unprepared suffered flooded basements, many areas will not have power for a week or more. Lots of trees down, snapped telephone poles, sink holes in the road. The emergency services were running 24 hours for two days. Constant sirens all over the place.

Where did I come up short? I never got around to getting my ham radio license or programming my Baofeng UV-5R. It would have come in handy to keep in touch with the others in my group. I have some Uniden walkies and they proved worthless.

At the end of the storm my wife she thanked me for being prepared. Up until this happened she kind of went alone with my "hobby". Always a little smile on her face. It's different now.

What I need to do:

  • Get my ham license.
  • Run a dedicated electrical line to the crucial items in the house. Pumps, freezer, frig, security lights.
  • Replace my burned out chainsaw.
  • Read "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" for the 12th time and update my (your) lists of lists.

Take care and God Bless, - M.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I'm sure that most SurvivalBlog readers--except those who are without power--have by now seen the amazing photos and videos of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, aka "Frankenstorm." All of these many images serve as stark reminders that it is the responsibility of individual families to prepare. Government agencies are incapable of providing assistance in a widespread disaster. (In radio interviews. I'm fond of saying that FEMA should more accurately thought of as an acronym for: "Foolishly Expecting Meaningful Aid.")

The hurricane brought with it a triple whammy: high winds, flooding, and power outages. The power outages--which extend 1,000 miles from North Carolina to Maine--are expected to last as long as 10 days in parts of New York City and perhaps three weeks in parts of West Virginia. More than eight million people were without power, at last report. Even the New York Stock Exchange closed because of weather, for the first such closure in 27 years. There is rain throughout the eastern seaboard, and even some snow generated by the hurricane.

The only impact on my life thusfar is having to reschedule a consulting phone call for a gent in North Carolina who had his local cell phone tower blow down. But I'm sure that a lot of you have some very interesting stories to tell. In coming days, I'm hoping to post some of your observations and valuable lessons learned. Please e-mail us your observations. Thanks!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I read your blog almost everyday and sometimes I get a little irked when someone writes "You can survive without water for three days". Having been an investigator in a desert climate, I can attest to the fact that a person can die of dehydration in a matter of 4 hours, especially if they have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs just prior to going on that hike or riding an ATV into unknown lands. True you can survive longer in northern climates, but you can't count on going three days without water. It is misleading and can cause the unnecessary death of people who get lost!
Another thing, as my good friend Cody Lundin taught me, always carry several gallon sized plastic Zip-Loc bags. They are extremely light weight and make great canteens in an emergency. Furthermore, one can places the bags over the end of leafy tree limbs and suck the water out of trees. True, you may not get much, but every ounce can be a life saver.
I hope this helps someone if they get caught out in a situation they don't want to be in. - T.J.

Dear Mr. JWR,
Food is very important in maintaining your core temperature when outdoors in a northern clime.  I'm talking about being out for extended periods in sub-zero weather.  I go out for a day or two at a time and my favorite high calorie foods are peanut butter and pemmican. They give you good " bang for the buck" and are relatively compact and you can eat them while you're walking.  I also love my kelly kettle.  It's nice to have a hot drink in about 5 minutes even when it's -30F.  If you are going to go out playing in the snow or are living up north where the cold is quick killer do yourself a favor and read Snow Walker's Companion: Winter Camping Skills for the North by the Conovers.  

I also carry a lighter, matches, ferro rod, and old school flint and steel with char cloth.  Fire Is Life, so know it, understand it and make it your friend.  The cold doesn't care whether you live or die, be prepared for it. - Captain S.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

There was a very interesting article in my local newspaper yesterday regarding soil conditions here. We have had so little rain of and consequently that the soil here is turning to stone. Farmers are working at feverish pace to harvest this years crops that are yielding far less volume than normal and of poor quality. However they say that the ground is too hard to till and plant over the winter crops such as wheat. This sound pretty ominous to me If this condition is more widespread the impact on food availability that therefore prices could be very serious. I am buying any 25 pound bags of wheat that Wal-Mart has on hand whenever I stop at the store. It is time to top off the larder. - Carl R.

Friday, September 28, 2012

One recent evening I was listening to the local news as they reported on a Tornado outbreak, in one of the Eastern States. The tornado(s) had occurred at night and the news anchors were horrified that the people would not know that anything was happening until it was all over.

Severe weather can occur almost everywhere on our planet. Within the last 10 years I have heard reports of Tornados inside of New York City, London, England, and in India. Tornados and Severe Thunderstorms can occur during the day but also at night.

Tornadoes vary in size from yards wide to mile wide machines of death. Tornadoes can pack wind speeds of tens to several hundred miles per hour. Tornadoes can pick up semi tractor trailers and toss them hundreds of yards, they can literally scour asphalt off of roadways.

Severe Thunderstorms can produce winds in excess of 60 miles per hour, hail larger than the size of  a quarter, and dangerous lightning. Severe Thunderstorms will sometimes produce straight line winds that can tip over semi tractor trailers. Severe Thunderstorms can also produce a microburst. A microburst is a rapidly sinking column of air from a Thunderstorm, it can sink at several miles per hour to hundreds of miles per hour. Microbursts can topple full grown trees, flatten houses, etc.

I have lived in what is called Tornado Alley for all but 18 months of my 40 plus years (An all expense paid vacation to Bosnia, courtesy of Uncle Sam). I am in no way a weather expert. I offer the following information hoping that it will be of use to you.

During the months of Late March thru the middle of June I am hyper-vigilant when it comes to the weather. I will detail my routine below

a Find a local news station that you can listen to their weather forecast and at least feel halfway comfortable that it is accurate. You have some stations that sensationalize everything about the weather. These clowns will break into the regular programming just because the sky is getting dark. On the other hand you have the stations that are staffed by kids fresh out of school who are inexperienced and are only going off of a script.

By listening to the different stations available to you, you will be able to figure out who you can trust and who the clowns are.
Once you have an idea, listen to the station regularly. Listen to the 5-day forecast to see when storms are predicted for your area. This is your early warning system, think of the local weather guys as the cans on the string with the rocks in them, to let you know something is out there.
Also one note here when they say that there is a 40% chance of rain or storms, they mean 40% of the listening area for that station could expect to see rain or storms.

Refer to the web site of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.  These guys know their business. They can’t predict where and when something will happen but they can give you an area and a day that they think it is going to happen.

The first thing about this site is they speak in weather terms so you will have to find a way to interpret them. The  and NOAA web sites sites have some good glossaries of weather terms.

When you first come onto the page look at the map of the U.S. they will encircle an area and give the probability for severe weather (slight, moderate, high). The "Conv. Outlooks" (Convective Outlooks) give you a synopsis of what they think is going to happen. You will need your weather-speak interpreter here. Watches obviously show you the watches. MD’s are Mesoscale Discussions. This is where the forecasters at the SPC give their impressions on what is now happening in a given area. If you look on the map you will see the area circled in red. Usually if an area is circled, it is about ready to go under a watch of some type.

This site is one that you have to play with and get used to and also do some research on weather-speak. But it can be invaluable with the information that you can get.
Another note here, if these guys start getting fidgety, then bad things are getting ready to go down. This is when they issue Particularly Dangerous Situations alerts.

I think back to the News Anchor and her bleating, “What do those people do when it is dark or at night and they are asleep?”  My first thought was, “Well duh! You use your weather radio”.

Special receivers have been manufactured to tune into certain frequencies and would then activate the external speaker when a special tone was played, then the message was broadcast. The problem with this was that everyone was alerted for hazards that were 20-40 miles away and had little chance of impacting you. Today weather radios are much different. They use SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) technology and can alert you for hazards in the area or you can program in county codes to alert you to threats specific to the county(s) that you program. Weather radios are usually tested every Wednesday unless severe weather is in the area.

When programming you would think that you would want to program for just your county so that you would not have to hear what is going on two counties over. I actually do the opposite, I program not only the county that I live in but all of the surrounding counties. Usually you have the ability to program 10 county codes.

If I am asleep at night and my weather radio goes off for a Tornado Warning for the county to my west I can then get up and see what I need to do by listening to either TV or Storm spotters. As an aside here, have a scanner with your local storm spotter frequency. They will be able to tell you when stuff is happening and may see that Tornado forming that the weather guys are not seeing yet on radar. If you do not know the local storm spotting frequency try the local Amateur radio frequencies. If all else fails local fire or law enforcement frequencies may give you information.

By programming in the surrounding counties I have more time to wake up and to decide do we go to the shelter, or other courses of action. If you only have just your county programmed in, you may only get the warning when the thing is coming down on top of you.
Usually these radios cost between $30 to $100. The radio also broadcasts current NOAA conditions, forecasts, hazardous weather outlooks for most areas. 

So as I am writing this it almost has a "defense in depth" process feeling.

  • Use your local news stations weather as an early warning.
  • Use the Storm Prediction Center as a tool to see what the actual hazards are.
  • Use your Weather Radio as a trip wire to warn you that the wolf is at the door.
  • Listening to your local storm spotters, they can give you up to the minute information on what is currently happening in your area.

Next, After the Schumer has hit the fan and there is no Internet, NOAA, or Uncle Sugar.
You will need to setup your own off grid weather station. I purchased something similar to this one, several years ago. These instruments give you rudimentary Temperature, Humidity, and Barometric pressure. Barometric pressure decreasing would increase the likelihood of rain or a storm.
Or, Thermometers are pretty cheap and can be obtained at dollar stores. Here is a set of plans to build a barometer.
Here are instructions for a Hygrometer

Also, you will have to do your own observations of the conditions around you. As you will not have your weather person to tell you about the weather.

Here is a link to a web site that describes various cloud types. In summary:

  • Cirrus Clouds indicate that there could be rain within 36 hours.
  • Cumulus Towers indicate possible rain later in the day. Watch cumulus towers if they continue to build they will become Cumulonimbus Clouds.
  • Cumulonimbus Clouds – (Thunder Heads, Anvil Clouds) Severe weather makers.
  • Wall Cloud – Usually under a Cumulonimbus cloud. This is a cloud that is part of the cloud structure but is lower than the surrounding cloud structure. A wall cloud will rotate, and usually produce tornados.
  • Mammatus Clouds – Usually seen from under the storm itself, are formed by sinking air as the thunderstorm is dissipating.


  • Oak or Maple leaves will curl in high humidity, which usually precedes Rain
  • Pine cone scales remain closed in high humidity, but will open in dry air.
  • Plants will release their waste in low pressure, generating a compost type smell indicating approaching rain.


  • Easterly winds usually indicate an approaching storm, Westerly winds usually do not.
  • Strong winds can indicate pressure differences which can signal an approaching storm front.
  • Wind changing direction can signal the passage of a front.


  • A rainbow in the west indicates a lot of moisture in the air and the possibility of a storm moving towards you.
  • The old saying of “Red Sky at Night, Sailors delight. Red sky in the morning Sailors take warning.”
    Red sky at night, Sailors delight; The red sky is caused by dust particles stirred up by a high pressure system. This means dry air is headed toward you.
  • Red sky in the morning, Sailors take warning; That high pressure system is now to your East. Low pressure has moved in.
  • If the moon is reddish or pale, dust is in the air. If the moon is bright and sharply focused then high pressure has cleared out the dust.
  • A ring close around the moon is caused by the moon light shining thru cirrus clouds which means rain can be expected within 36 hours.


  • Herd animals (Cows, horses, sheep) will usually cluster together prior to a storm.
  • Large numbers of birds sitting on power lines can indicate low pressure
  • Birds will fly higher in high pressure.
  • Animals will usually get quiet just prior to it raining.
  • Crickets can be fairly accurate at telling you the temperature. If you add the chirps a cricket makes in a 14 second time period and add the number to 40 you should come up with the temperature within one or two degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously the temperature would be over 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ants will stay near their nests and will even cover up the hole on their mound, when they detect low pressure. They will also build up the sides of their mound to shed the rain.
  • Bees can also detect when the pressure is low and will hover around their hives and will not be in your flower beds.

Hopefully this information will be of some use to you not only now, but maybe some of this will be helpful after the Schumer has been flung.   Keep your powder dry!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I spent nearly ten years in the Coast Guard and the US Navy before injuries suffered in the line of duty forced my retirement, this is but one experience in my life that forced me to be a better man and come to grips with the fragile mortality of man and just how precious the gift of life really is. These are the teachings that have prepared me for what is coming. The horizon darkens more every day and the storm approaches. Are we prepared for the coming storm, can we weather it out. I live on 80 acres in south eastern Oregon and have for many years been preparing for what is coming. Heirloom seeds, stocks of dry goods, knowledge in man & animal trapping, combat both bush and open ground plus survival skills, canning, jerky making, smoking meats, fishing and hunting skills. I am nearly 60 years of age and I am trying to get a community of like minded people together for a community that is determined to survive no matter how bad it gets.
Survival at sea:  The worst storm I have ever seen!
After six years in the United States Coast Guard and having been stationed at many small boat rescue stations in the 1st Coast Guard District of Northern New England from Jonesport, Maine to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, New Bedford, Massachusetts, Race Point Small Boat Station, Cape Cod, Massachusetts & serving the crews of Cleveland Ledge Light House near Buzzards Bay Massachusetts. I had the distinct honor of serving with some extraordinarily selfless and at times insanely brave individuals while participating in 300 plus rescues at sea. After all the times involved in high risk rescue operations at sea I thought I had a pretty good idea of the worst weather the oceans of the world could offer.
In the summer of 1976 while aboard the United States Coast Guard Cutter Bibb, WHEC 31 I was also exposed to a near Hurricane, (hurricane force winds are 72 plus miles per hour) in the Bermuda Triangle. The seas raged at 35 to 45 feet for 24 hours and it was estimated at 65 feet for 6 to 8 hours. The storm lasted for a day and a half with winds in excess of 114 miles per hour. The Bibb was an old girl with 34 years active sea service to her credits. She was originally built in the early 1930s as a Sub-chaser in preparation for a war that inevitably spanned the entire globe. She suffered some damaged but got the entire crew back to Corpus Christi , Texas for repairs without any loss of life. This was my baptism by fire as for deep water storms at sea; and I had thought it had prepared me for what ever nature could throw my way, my oh my how I was ever so mistaken;   
It is midnight and the weather has turned foul. Our ship is anchored in channel on the side nearest to the city of Hong Kong and has been for three days. Dozens of freighters and tankers lie off shore waiting to either take on cargo or off load their cargo before heading off to some distant port unknown to the rest of us. The mighty storm has been building power for weeks in the far reaches of the South Pacific around the Solomon Islands . The warning came from Pacific Fleet Headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in conjunction with the Naval Offices of Her Majesty's Royal Navy, Hong Kong, China. The Captain says, “We must weigh anchor and head for the open waters of the South China Sea. There is no way we will be able to maneuver in the tight channel waters of the bay between the mainland of China and the Island home of Hong Kong .”
The Engine Room is firing up the boilers and making steam to get under way. All hands have been recalled from Liberty in an attempt to save the ship. Deck hands are washing the mud off the anchor chain with fire hoses as the anchor is hauled aboard. The radars are checked as well as the radios and the harbor master’s boat ties up to the starboard side. A Harbor Pilot will take the fat girl out of the channel then he will return Command to the Captain. The Officer of the Deck turns and tells the Captain, “All bells answering; Engine Rooms answers ready to get under way, Sir.”
He replies, “Very well, all ahead 1/3.”
From there the Harbor Pilot is in control as he weaves a path between tiny islands and some of the largest vessels to ever sail the open seas of the world while they themselves made their preparations for departure. Military ships come first in the line of succession in departure under duress, and this was certainly a case of duress. Military Ships are always first because they carry so much fuel and a lot explosives; which inherently could make a very bad situation even worse. All the bigger ships left Hong Kong to weather out the storm at sea. While some of the smaller ones decided that they could make for the small islands and seek protection by ducking in behind them and riding out the storm. Unfortunately they were wrong.
This storm is big, really big; about 300,000 square miles and the winds are incredible. Worst of all it is on a collision course with the harbor of Hong Kong which is home to the floating city of 100,000 + just a few miles up river. A human being would stand no chance if exposed to the unbelievable ferocity of these winds. They would be swept off the deck immediately even if they were tied down. In fact these winds are so powerful that they are actually capable of breaking stanchions and davits from the welds that attach them to the decks. Slowly the big girl known as the Wicked Witch of the West gets under way. The clanking of the anchor chain echoes through the hull and we all know what lies ahead. Danger, the worst danger a ship of this type can face. Liquid cargos are highly unstable in high seas. Liquids contained within a vessel tend to move with the seas and gain in momentum within the hull and that poses a threat to the integrity of the hull and the crew.
Time passes slowly as we head into open waters and begin to head north. It is a long way to Pearl Harbor from Hong Kong and we have to remain in front of this storm all the way or it is pretty much a foregone conclusion as to where we will make or next landfall. The running joke aboard ships is that, “Land is never more than 12 miles away, but that is 12 miles straight down.” As impossible as it may seem the storm is still building in its intensity as it approaches the Philippines . It makes landfall and thousands are drowned and entire villages swept away on the low-lying portions of the Island Nation.
We are now faced with being over taken by the storm; … my tired burning eyes strain and my sweating hands ache. I fiercely grip the wheel to keep my balance and stare into the raging blackness of the storm. Winds in excess of 165 nautical miles per hour rip at the ship. The screams and howls of the wind as it passes through the rigging's chill the blood. Big and lethargic, she lies hard over and hangs for a split second. I look behind me at the inclinometer, 40 degrees starboard list. I draw a sharp breath and hold it. My eyes flare wide open. Even the Old-man knows we are at her limits. At 42 degrees she will go over, capsized. 
The seas relentlessly slamming against the superstructure stun the 42,000 ton Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment ship the U. S. S. Wichita. For a split second, what seems like forever to her crew. She stops dead in the water, each 65 foot wall of seawater, weighing in at some million tons of wind-swept Pacific Ocean crashes against the bridge. Solid water rolls off the bridge wings cascading down the side of the ship along the Weather Deck and returns to the black and white angry monster known as a typhoon. Courage is the key to surviving in a typhoon, if one man panics the ship could be lost at sea with all hands.
As each wave slams against the ship and she shudders and creaks, men sit in tense silence. Their faces knotted with deep concern, chills run up the spine. Thoughts of home and prayers to their loving God. Even the old timers look blankly at the over head and wonder is she going to break up? Is this the last time I will think of my Wife, my children, or my parents. Will they find my body and send it home? Then all hands brace for another fall into the trough of these merciless seas. 689 feet of ship, 13 million gallons of diesel and jet fuel, 800 tons of food and explosives, and of course the 381 souls contained within the hull fall helplessly and slam against the flat bottom of the trough between the waves.
The crashing thunder of the waves is near deafening, the ship twists and groans; she sidles her way up from beneath the wave only to be savagely assaulted by the next wave in an endless sea of waves. Day after day we creep along, battered and exhausted the crew tries desperately to keep their spirits up. And sometimes, we actually broke free for a few hours and a hot meal was served. Then we are overtaken by this super storm that now covers nearly a half a million square miles of empty ocean, and every man aboard makes his peace with God.
"Lord God almighty, if I get out of this alive I swear I will be a better man, I will be a better Father to my children. Please God don't let my life end this way."

This is my way of telling you the story of the intensity in life of an every day sailor, that storm lasted for 25 days. My ship left Hong Kong and sailed for the Aleutian Islands of Alaska some 8,000 miles away to make good our escape. 12,000 people and more than a dozen ships were not as fortunate as the crew of the Wichita and I were. Without a doubt that was the longest and most intense month of my life.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Many a prepper may take the time to perform a test of their personal prep systems. Sometimes, Mother Nature will force you to do just that if you haven’t put your preps in practice yet. Ours came in the form of Hurricane Isaac.

With media’s laying attention straight towards New Orleans and no one else, the Gulf Coast area residents laid their own attentions to their respective communities. And this attention consisted of hunkering down for a rain and wind event that would be nowhere near a Katrina event. How wrong were these expectations? At a seemingly last minute, Isaac became a hurricane as the winds and rain pounded Plaquemines Parish, a peninsula south of New Orleans that is split between the Mississippi River. Hurricanes are divided into 4 quadrants; Northeast side, Southeast side, Northwest side, and Southwest side. Each quadrant has its own circumstances but most notably, the Northeast and Southeast side’s as these two bring in the most damage. Plaquemines as well as those to the east felt the brunt of the later half in full force.

Don’t let a Tropical Storm or Category 1 Hurricane fool you into complacency. Hurricane Isaac broke that theory. Torrential rains, damaging winds contributed to a much month-long rain soaked Louisiana gulf coast. Isaac’s storms simply added water with no place for it to go. And with winds pushing tidal surges north, drainage canals, bayous and tributaries were compromised so, that water topped some levees that years ago protected communities during Katrina.

So, as a resident along the Gulf Coast, our preps for future uncertainties also included hurricanes. When Isaac was heading our way, the only necessary preps needing completion were the basics such as boarding windows, anchoring down potential fly-away items, ensuring generator is in good running condition, securing plants, filling our vehicles with fuel along with extra fuel cans and propane for cooking fuels, etc.

Our community was never in the projected path, but experienced residents realize hurricane path predictions are never an exact science. That’s why the projection always includes a swath surrounding it. Any area within this projection can easily be a target based on nature’s unpredictability. And this was evidenced around midnight August 29 while pounding Plaquemine’s Parish, Isaac had stalled just enough causing the eye to dance against the shorelines of southern Louisiana. Over the course of approximately 5 hours, Isaac crawled west for about 35 nautical miles of coastline before slowly edging northwest. Believe me when I say a turtle could run circles around this hurricane as this stall is what changed the expectations of a not-so-typical Cat 1 hurricane.

As of this writing, we are in our fourth day and since Houma became one of the first paths for the eye to cross over, we were actually spared the brunt of the hurricane’s impact effects. To the east as far as Biloxi and due north of it, coastal areas to Picayune, Mississippi were pounded by rain, hurricane force winds and the occasional tornadoes. In addition to this came the flooding to add to many a misery.

With this hurricane, we were able to assess our preps while noting any weak points along the way. It also allowed time to reflect on what many along the coastline deal with when it comes to hurricane preparedness as well as the periods between the beginning and the end. This is where I’d like to take you as virtually all of these experiences and scenarios could apply in any crisis situation.

First of all, we were fortunate. This had nothing to do with being prepared necessarily. Bands of heavy rains that freight trained through communities are a hit and miss proposition. What one area may experience as tolerable winds and rain, another area a couple miles away could be getting pounded with no relief in sight. So for us, the most damage we experienced was minor flooding in the yard along with broken branches and leaves. Our garden consisted of a combination of laid down vegetables and some still standing not too worse for wear. It’ll easily be salvaged while we handle getting our property back to normal. No damages to our home or other property and aside from picking up broken branches, raking leaves and debris and stacking it for community service pick up later on in the week. Overall; we’re in great shape. If you apply the following observations and experiences to any crisis or catastrophe, you can get a better handle on things to expect in any situation you’re preparing for.


Food and water were a non-issue for us. No battling last-minute moron’s fist fighting over the last case of water on Wal-Mart’s shelf. If you think Black Friday before Christmas holidays is a nightmare, come down to witness stupidity, inconsideration and greed to the infinite degree a couple days before a hurricane’s landfall.  The majority of folks are not like this, but there is always a few who show their ass. How some coastal residents don’t live with the basic FEMA recommended preps in their home is incomprehensible.

Ice is a needed commodity to have on hand. It helps first of all for cooling refreshments as well as maintaining foods or keeping a freezer in low temperatures. In a worse-case scenario, this ice could easily be consumed as water should it melt. So, it’s important to keep the bag clean as well as the ice chest you’ll keep it in. Don’t let any of it go to waste if you can help it.

Food should never be an issue for anyone. Grocery stores are closed and were likely cleaned out prior to landfall so if you’re not prepared here, you’re in a serious bind. Potted meat and Vienna sausage can only go so far so having regular consumable foods is a must. Cooking becomes an issue as well. This means electric stoves and ovens are useless. Even ovens that run on natural or propane gas may be an issue if it requires electricity to function. Unless, you have access to the plug that can be used via an extension cord coming from a generator. So, be prepared to cook meals on an outside grill or portable stove. Besides, cooking outdoors when weather permits is cooler and prevents unnecessary heat inside the home if electricity is off and no air conditioning is available.

Water is necessary to survive, period. I don’t need to go into details here but for us, we were already ahead of the curve with water in 4 gallon, 1 gallon, two liter recycled bottles and 16oz bottles in cases. We also have our Berkey to filter water and with any Hurricane affecting low-lying communities, a boil water order will most likely take place so having water preps is a must. You’ll need it for consumption, cleaning, bathing, brushing your teeth, washing and even flushing the toilet. Of note on the later, this hurricane happened to emphasize the need for residents in both city and rural areas to limit toilet flushing due to flooding and overwhelming pressures on the sewerage system. Now you can easily realize the boil water order as sewerage, land run-offs, floating caskets popped out of grave sites, swamp, bayou and canal waters become part of the city water systems. So, I cannot over-emphasize the need for a lot of water. Even if one believes their particular crisis is expected to last for a short period of time. It pays to note Hurricane Gustav shut our entire town down for a total of six weeks. Time will tell right now how long we’ll be out of the basic functioning infrastructure.

Refrigeration is a luxury that we all take for granted. During a crisis such as this, electricity is expected to be an issue so refrigerators and freezers need to be addressed early on. This means no more opening the refrigerator to stare with the hopes some food product is going to jump out yelling “pick me, pick me!” Know what you want, get it out quickly as much needed cool temperatures will be necessary to maintain your food products. Same applies to your freezer. Many in years past and likely this one will find themselves cooking all of their foods at once and sharing with others just so it doesn’t go bad. Imagine an entire neighborhood doing this at one time and then imagining that at some point, barbeque ribs and chicken can only be eaten so much for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, one can expect frozen foods will likely be lost. Do what you can to coordinate refrigeration protocols to manage your foods before they become totally loss if power isn’t restored within a reasonable amount of time. This also includes coordinating foodstuffs with protection using ice chests filled with ice. Another bit of advice, prior to hurricane landfall, collect your frozen foods together in garbage bags while storing them in the freezer. That way if the foods spoil due to the freezer’s loss of power, you’re not handling the individual foods. Just grab the garbage bags and put out for disposal which also makes cleaning your freezer much easier too.

Medications are a necessity from the basic needs for cuts and scrapes to serious needs for prescriptions. Be sure to consult with your doctor for extensions of prescriptions as restoration of structure is an unknown during this time.


Municipalities experience their own breakdown in structures and what that means to you is no electricity, no cell phone service (or spotty), no sewerage, no water, no mail, no garbage pickup, etc. This also includes law enforcement, fire responders and emergency responders. You can also expect the possibility of the National Guard being called out to assist local infrastructure. So, you may find yourself as your brother’s keeper or a keeper’s brother.

Electricity is likely the first to go. Especially if power is distributed through above ground resources. Trees break lines, wind knocks over poles, transformers blow. So expect during some of the worse weather conditions for your power to go out. From that point, you’re on your own for an uncertain amount of time. Having a generator is necessary to get you through this inconvenient time. This means having lots of gas (purchased at ridiculous prices) on hand to power minimal conveniences. Our generator has a conversion kit installed allowing us to run it on natural gas. Propane is also an option but we didn’t have to rely on that, saving it for cooking outside when needed. If your generator doesn’t have a tie-in to power your house, expect to have extension cords strewn throughout your house so tripping hazards will likely exist. Distributing the electricity is an individual preference but maintaining refrigeration is a must as well as powering fans for comfort. Our bedroom was ground zero for crashing occupants piled in at night so a simple 8,000 btu window air conditioner kept us cool for sleeping or naps during the day (as hurricane’s interrupt your sleeping patterns). There will be other issues such as battery charging for spare batteries, cell phones, powering maybe a computer, a Wi-Fi, television, radio or other useable conveniences. Keep in mind though that these should be discussed as to what is priority and what is secondary to the necessities.

Television and radio may or may not be an issue, depending on your area. We gave up on cable television years ago and opted for satellite. Cable regularly goes down so I am not a promoter of cable television. They take too long when their systems go down; sorry but that’s the truth. I won’t promote our provider but for sure I can honestly say that we had very minimal issues throughout the hurricane as satellite experienced blocks during the most severe storm downpours. The rest of the time, we had all of our channels which became irrelevant as local news stayed on 24 hours a day. This was a requirement as news reports, weather reports and road closures were necessary if conditions dictated we needed to get out. Our bug-out plans were pre-performed so this would’ve been something we could’ve easily done if needed.

A ham radio is on my list of necessities so that would’ve been a good source of information for us too, which leads me into the next topic.

Cell phones are great and an important function of our daily lives. Calls, emails, texting, internet and even Facebook (Twitter for some also) are integral for communication, information and entertainment. Depending on one’s personal provider, will depend on available services. For us, everything was going well up to around 10am Thursday morning when our provider began to have issues. We lost Wi-Fi, local phone and DSL internet and Facebook was hit and miss. One minute you could call out, the next minute the network was overwhelmed. Internet through our provider hit and missed and when it hit, download times took twice as long. Texting went well for a while and eventually became a hit or miss proposition. If you have others in your home during this time, check who their providers are to see who keeps service and who loses it. You may note this for future considerations that fit best for your area.

Security becomes a part of your preps. If you are armed, you may find yourself establishing various protocols beyond your daily routines. While security of your home should be an everyday thing, a crisis such as this only requires you increase situational awareness. An hour before the hurricane became an issue, four individuals were arrested in the Slidell area for theft of property on boats docked at a marina. In our community, an adult and a 13 year old were arrested for property theft too. A few other communities had similar thefts and there was a law enforcement officer forced to fire his weapon on two individuals for a situation in St. John the Baptist Parish. You may remember four deputies were recently ambushed leaving two officers dead and two with critical injuries. Theft in an area declared in a state of emergency comes with a mandatory three year felony conviction, fine and no considerations whatsoever. You will be arrested without question and considered a serious threat to the community. Homes of evacuated residents are targets for criminal minds and generators have been stolen while running a home in the wee hours of the morning. So, having theft prevention and home security on your priorities list is especially necessary during these times. Criminals have no moral compass stealing your stuff and in some cases are willing to risk it all for some ridiculous lust for someone else’s property. Another consideration is interrupted sleep patterns cause one to lose sleep during peak hurricane activity. If you have a group of people at your home, this might be a good time to access capable assistance, as having activity in and around a home during normal sleeping hours may deter criminal activity. It also allows people to access restful sleep time in shifts so everyone maintains their optimum performance when needs arise and eventually getting back to your normal routines.


In Louisiana, we are well-known for giving someone the shirt off our backs. We are also well-known to destroy anyone’s dietary structure with rich seafood and other dishes that will add inches to any waistline and shock any family doctor over your recent cholesterol count. So, it goes without saying that many families in low-lying areas will evacuate out of their areas into the homes of other family or friends on higher ground or completely out of the state, depending on one’s locale. The last thing anyone wants to be a part of is a community center of sorts where you are assimilated amongst hundreds of other strangers with their children and/or even pets for that matter.

Sharing a home is the most common circumstance where either friends or family converge on another’s home to hunker down. So, there should be some common sense and courtesies to consider if you are one to take advantage of this generosity. And here, we’ll talk about the “taking advantage of” part of this equation.

As a guest being fortunate enough to be invited to stay in someone’s home, you should try your best to do your part and recognize despite the sincerest of invites, you do disrupt the daily routines and functions of another’s home. So it is imperative to the overall conditions and attitudes there that you take into consideration what you must do to contribute to the smooth transition of the move as well as showing through actions your gratitude for this open house invitation. The last thing you want to do is wear out your welcome and even worse, being told to leave because of it. Most folks are generous, but human nature dictates the rules. And your arrival just increased the amount of humans within one dwelling.

This means do not arrive empty handed, unless you were told specifically not to worry about providing foods, water, hygiene or other personal essentials. Even then, do it anyway. You’ll feel better about it and your host will not be in the position of absorbing the full financial burden of feeding, cleaning or bedding you for an unknown amount of time. Besides, if your home already has foodstuffs and self-supporting provisions, should your home be destroyed by winds or flooding, you won’t lose a good portion (if not all) of your stores. Bring them with you if you can and consume or contribute to the host home. Your efforts will be appreciated.

Picking up behind your self is a precious consideration. You are not in a hotel with maid service. Your host already deals with their own issues and it is selfish to burden them with your bad habits. So, don’t contribute to clutter or messes. During these periods, there is a lot of in and out within a home. Outside, the grounds are wet; leaves and debris are everywhere, including your feet. Over time, a neglected area can look worse than a yard after a hurricane. Help out; sweep, wipe, clean or anything that keeps a bit of cleanliness within your host’s home. Help in clean up after the hurricane has passed and it’s safe to go outside. Bring a rake if you can think about it to help with the debris clean-up. Who knows, that effort alone may get you manpower at your place when you return. Attitudes can deteriorate if others are trying while you’re slacking. Again, your efforts will be appreciated.

Kids and we all love them, get bored quick, require attention and protect what is theirs. And with that in mind, your host has not offered to baby sit too. Your kids are your responsibility so you need to discuss this with your children to ensure they realize the imposition, however generous it may be, need not become a problem for their own family through their actions. If they get out of hand, you are responsible for getting them in check, not your host. If you insist on burdening your host with the responsibility to monitor your own children, expect at some point to be invited to seek refuge elsewhere. As with the other considerations, your efforts will be appreciated.

There are a variety of examples to provide here but the most important consideration is keeping your stay from being a burden on your host. Use common sense and always offer assistance, even if you expect to be told to relax on the easy chair. Offering your services, assistance and maintaining your part of the stay goes a long way. Remember, all of the existing inconveniences already contribute to a family’s stress points. And if there is no semblance of order, someone is likely to snap and another SHTF moment can erupt. The last thing you need is to ruin a great relationship because of laziness, lack of parental disciplines and taking advantage of someone else’s generosity.

As a host you’ll have likely considered the fact that another friend’s or family’s family within your home through your invite will interrupt your daily routines and fill any voids that are normal to your lifestyle. So, you are likely prepared for the inconveniences that go along with this choice. If not, now would be a good time to access the likelihood that you could find yourself with an entire family consisting of adults, children, babies and/or pets. You need to decide how to lay out expectations ahead of time.

Most folks through human nature will invite someone to stay with them without considering the potential inconveniences. And if these are not discussed, you may find yourself getting aggravated over petty issues. Most folks will not discuss expectations in advance either. Which means 9 times out of 10, a host family will find themselves dealing with all sorts of issues they weren’t prepared for, or were, but didn’t want to address (or hoped it wouldn’t come to that). So, one need to determine how they will handle the negatives without incident.

You may be so easy going and generous that you don’t care. And that is a commendable trait anyone could admire. But not everyone is that easy-going and generous as you might be. But you are hosting someone who’s been forced to leave their homes and who’s lifestyle will be interrupted and personal burdens will be eventually shared with you and yours. So, establishing a mindset with your own family is imperative before you consider offering a place of refuge to another. This is a vital step to maintaining sanity in any household during a high-stress period.

All of these considerations can apply should you find yourself and your family at a shelter. However, it is not recommended if you have options with other family or friends. Most communities have a handle to disciplines through rules and regulations. You either comply or move on. The choice is yours and planning ahead on a bug out option is highly recommended.


This is an opportune time to assess your preparedness and survival tools and supplies. Simply keep a journal handy and jot down those little things that can be added to your conveniences. And this shouldn’t be limited to the basic items that make your comfort, consumption or anything else easier to deal with. Consider the worse-case scenarios based on what you’ve learned through media’s and social networks. While you may be at home dealing with simple inconveniences, others are being awakened to water in their homes as low as ankle deep to as high as inches from an attic or roof crawlspace. Think about the unthinkable based on what others have experienced and apply these to your own circumstances. It’s easy to think of it as happening to someone else and not you, but it’s just as easy to happen to you nonetheless. This Cat 1 surprised everyone, experts as well. And as it always goes, folks who never were flooded before were rescued through their roofs by emergency responders or brave volunteers. Ask them if they were prepared.

Finally, one prevalent theme that exists right now is the impatience shown over power companies’ taking what seems “forever” in restoring power. News reports that half of Louisiana residents were out of power. Think about that for a moment. Restoration doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes takes weeks. While it is indeed an inconvenience, being prepared to live off the grid can make a difference in both your comfort and your sanity. Pray for the best, but always prepare for the worse.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

"Fool me once, Fool me twice." Yes, you would think after Hurricane Katrina that people would have learned their lesson about staying in low lying areas.
However, resilient as most people are,  the one thing that many always do, no matter what is stay. Then being caught in an  impossible situation rely on the government for help.
I am a hurricane veteran. At 59, and having lived 20 miles west of New Orleans all of my life, I have survived Betsy in '65 right up and through Isaac.

For Hurricane Besty, I was only a child but I remember the broken tiles flying off the roof, the boards cracking and falling off the windows, my mom praying the hallway, and the aftermath of no sewerage, no water, no electricity and the awful heat and humidity of the next week.  If you really want to know what a grid down situation is like, forget the power and try living without running water for a few days. Fast forward to Katrina, we decided to evacuate for that storm. We left early that morning and arrived at our retreat 70 miles north of my home on the south shore of Lake Ponchartain. Unfortunately we left so fast, we forgot the generator and my son brought some extra food and supplies. For Gustaf, we also went to the retreat but this time we were prepared. We now had solar cells and a wind generator, backup generators, stored food and Direct TV for news. Now for Isaac, we decided to stay home on the south shore. My friend and son went to the retreat on the north shore. The reason we decided to stay was two fold. First of all, it was only a tropical storm. Two, I was sick with a terrible sore throat (flu) whatever and was not in the mood to do anything but try to get through the pain.  (it really was awful) As a result of my illness, I was not able to do last minute preps.
First valuable lesson.  Do not get sick before or during a major event. Then ladies, don't expect you husband to go to the store without a list of what to buy. Cookies and ice cream do not constitute food in a grid down situation. I asked to return with food items like soup. (Just a few cans). Did you know how many types of soup exist? Do you know how many cans of soup can fit into a car? No wonder the stores run out of food.  I can tell you, we won't need soup for a long time. Second problem. How are we going to heat the soup? No I have an opener, I wasn't that sick. Well, with no electricity and no sterno heat cans, my husband suggested we could use his propane torch.   OK, think! by the way, I still have the hot plate and magnetic stirrer from my days as a chemistry teacher. Good.  Using the generator we can plug it in and heat.
Next lesson. Why did the gas generator work fine the day before the storm and then when the power goes off and it is dark, the generator has issues?  Ever heard of Murphy"s Law?
After  an hour, finally the generator decided to work. Now we can us the window air conditioning unit to cool the living room.  Well, that was a good idea until the unit did not put out much cool air because it was underpowered.  Great!! maybe we should have checked this out before the storm hit. Not to mention, it barely runs  the unit and  anything else like the microwave.
Okay, it did power the light and the ceiling fans.  What more can you ask for?  All this time and I am still sick, filled with medicine and wishing the storm would just take me away.
A few years ago I purchased the solar generator. You simply put it in the sun and connect it to charge the unit. It reads FULL.  Plug in the microwave and see if it will work. No,
why not? don't know, it just doesn't work. 
Part three.  Crazy relatives. His sister called and is in a panic because his dad just got in the car and decided to go back to his house. Now we are in the eye wall of the hurricane, the winds are gusting to 110 mph, and it is raining and has been raining for hours and his 83 year old dad is now driving in the storm. Call 911.  Of course, they will not help because it was a mandatory evacuation and they are not obligated to help. About an hour later he returned home to his sister's house. Good!  No, he just called and he drove back to his house for a second time because he was bored at the house.  
Lessons learned.  YOU are NEVER READY FOR AN EMERGENCY!!  No matter how many times you have gone through
a situation, there are always problems and you will need to solve them on the spot.  Please do as JWR suggests and practice through all of your preps.
We have been blessed over and over. We never have had any real damage through any of these storms. But we did learn that just because one is a tropical storm and
not a hurricane does not mean you can not be ready. Check your preps! - L.P.  in Louisiana 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dear JWR:
We have been hit with massive rain and flooding here in the metropolitan Manila area.

We are getting at times more than 1 inch rain per hour. We have received more rain than Typhoon Ondoy already. On August 7 we got 477mm rain in 22 hours.

About half the city is flooded and roads to my area are impassable. The gas stations are out of unleaded gas and only have 97 octane racing grade remaining as of last night.

I hit up the supermarket last night and it was busier than Christmas. I expect food shortages soon and we will be avoiding purchase of fresh and restaurant food from the stores for awhile because of wide spread contamination.

Electricity is on here but Internet went out last night. I still have data plan on the cell that works but very slow.

Our well water might be contaminated now. It has a bad smell. We switched to bottled water for drinking and the ceramic filter for wash water.

Local government weather forecasts are terribly inaccurate. We resorted to making a rain gauge from a water glass and ruler to know the rain fall rate here. I recorded about a inch per hour rain fall yesterday evening.

Flooding has damaged many of the flood sensors here also. The weather agencies are now unable to give accurate flooding estimates in parts of the city and the government flood web site crashed two days ago.

I am out of the flood zone, we have lots of food, back up generator, fuel and security. No worries here, just a involuntary vacation for my family.

I did get a case of pink eye however. Probably while at my shop that had run off water blowing in with the wind. The sides are only wire mesh.

Odd, however, it is not reported on the international news. - B.&L.M.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I'd like to recommend a great web site: Listening to Katrina. The author weaves his personal Katrina story together with fresh and different survivalist advice in a page-by-page format. He gives advice that I don't believe I'd seen before. As a survivalist for years before the event, he explains the mistakes made and lessons learned.

His section on protecting your wealth is outstanding. For example, if you had a regional disaster and needed to bug out/relocate within 60 seconds, would you have your resume, education certificates and references updated and ready to grab, so that you could start a job elsewhere? I hadn't thought of that.

Neither had he; he tells the sad tale of arriving ahead of everyone else in Houston, immediately opening the classifieds to find the same job he'd been performing for the past 20 years, with a $20k pay increase! He'd be the first in line to apply! Only, since he lacked credentials and references, he wouldn't be able to apply.

WARNING: The Listening to Katrina site has rude language. He also says there's nudity. I hadn't seen it yet, though I am only 1/3rd the way through the pages. Probably bodies from Katrina.

- C.D.V.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If you live in the American Redoubt or any of the Northern US, you deal with a lot of cold winter weather. But all of those folk living in warmer places, you need to take heed too, because cold weather can touch you too in a survival situation. In January 2010, Florida experienced temperatures in the mid-30 degrees Fahrenheit (F) range, cold enough to kill the unprepared individual.
I grew up in Alaska, and spent my childhood and teen years exploring the woods and the mountains, often far from any trails. Winter is actually the optimum time for travel in places where there are no roads and trails because Alaska's dreaded thickets of Sitka Alder and Devil's Club are safely buried under many feet of snow and the streams and rivers are frozen. More importantly, large loads can be sledged behind snow machines (snow mobiles for you lower 48ers), dogs, or humans. The first general store in my hometown was actually brought up the frozen river over 75 miles from the ocean this way back in the early 20th century.
For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to define cold weather conditions as temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. I am going to exclude another very dangerous condition that is common to the Pacific Northwest- the wet cold when there is liquid water just above 32 Fahrenheit (F).
You may scoff at cold temperatures, even sub zero temperatures. After all, you can go work all day outside in the winter when it is -10 F and still be fine right? You haven't experienced cold weather until you have went out and lived in it for a few weeks at a time. It takes on completely new dimensions when you don't have a ready supply of clean, dry clothes and warm shelter to go back to at the end of the day.
For the newly initiated: No cotton in the cold weather ever! As cotton becomes moist from your sweat, it will begin to take heat away from your body, resulting in hypothermia. Layering is the key to dressing for the cold. You always want to minimize the amount of sweat you produce by optimizing your layers. As you become more active, take layers off. As you slow down, put layers on. Aim for a perfect fit for your layers, but if this is not possible, get clothes that are looser rather than tighter. The air between the layers will help insulate you.
In our active state, we can resist the cold well. That's why you can go outside and work in the cold weather and be none the worse, even wearing light clothes. But as soon as the activity stops, our metabolism drops, and we are at risk of hypothermia. When you are walking, carrying a load or working in cold weather, your clothing can actually be pretty light. On my cold weather running workouts when temperatures were at -15 F, I would typically wear wool socks, poly propylene top and bottom underwear, fleece pants and jacket, balaclava, and thick gloves.
You will be able to turn up some of the items you need at REI or your local outdoors store. But beware: some mountaineering/skiing type clothing is not made with the durability necessary for work or moving through thick brush. Gear made of materials such as thick nylon and wool will be heavier, but you can ill afford to rip your clothes during a survival situation. Duluth Trading Company, Canada Goose, Woolrich, and military surplus all offer the durable, warm clothes you will need. Also, I love my Carhartt gear, but leave it at home for the winter trek. As far as I know, all of their clothes are made to be worn for the day and dried out at night, an option that will not be available to you on multi day trips.
Start with your base layers. I recommend Under Armor brand boxers. One pair per day if possible, just like Mom told you. Thick, high quality wool socks are a must. It might hurt to shell out $20 for a pair of socks, but it is worth it. One pair of socks per day, and always one clean dry pair to wear into the sleeping bag at night. Wear top and bottom long underwear. I have had the best luck with polypropylene long under wear as they keep you very warm even when damp. Generic brands are readily available.
Now we move up into insulating layers. I have a wool union suit that is excellent, but military surplus thick polypropylene "Extreme Cold Weather System" underwear work as well. If I need additional layers, I prefer my light but very warm alpaca sweater. Wool and fleece sweater/jackets are excellent as well. Remember that as you move up in layers, you will need larger sizes to fit over your other layers.
For outer layers, I wear wool pants and a wind breaker. I have nylon overalls for working. For times when you are inactive, you need a heavy down parka with a hood. Don't skimp on the parka! Your parka is probably the single most important clothing item discussed here. For temperatures less than -20 F, you may need down pants as well. I recommend using suspenders or bib overalls as much as possible. When working and traveling it can be irritating to have too many layers going on at your waist.
Footwear should be bought slightly large so that you can wear two pairs of wool socks if needed. I wear thin Smartwool liner socks, thick wool socks and Baffin brand boots. A quality pair of gaiters is an excellent investment, the only brand I have found that works well is Outdoor Research. Whatever brand of boots you get, removable liners are a must so that you can wear them into the sleeping bag if necessary. Your boots will collect a lot of moisture and can freeze solid at night. To rest your tired dogs at night, get a pair of down camp booties to wear around camp.
If your hands are uncovered, they can become numb in less than a minute. Recently, I discovered that by wearing wool "hobo" gloves without finger tips, I could take off my bulky overmitts to do delicate work for a few minutes without making my hands too cold. The military issues over mittens with a trigger finger for operating a firearm, but I have not tried these. If you need more dexterity for longer periods, I recommend a pair of high quality technical mountaineering gloves.
The arctic sun's glare can cause snow blindness after a few days of travel, so you will need tinted goggles. These will also be necessary to protect your eyes from blowing snow in storms.
Head wear is of critical importance because up to 80% of the body's heat can escape through the head. The balaclava is one of the most versatile, useful clothing items for cold weather survival. It can be used as a hat, scarf, or to protect the whole head. Have at least one with you. Additionally, have a hat, either a wool watch cap or an earflap hat.
If possible, select a campsite near the top of a hill. The cold air sinks into the valleys, so it can be 5-10 degrees warmer on hilltops. Make sure that you are sheltered from any wind. If no shelter is a available you may have to construct a wall or other shelter to block the wind. I'm not going to go into the many styles and techniques for building snow shelters, but I can personally attest to how wonderful a snow cave can be. They warm up quickly to a relative balmy 32 F regardless of outside temperatures.
If you bring a tent, ensure that it will be able to withstand any winds you expect. A tent is not always necessary and I have spent many beautiful nights under the stars and northern lights.
Everyone's body reacts differently to sleeping in cold weather. Some sleep with relative ease, but others sleep "cold" and may want warmer sleeping bags. You basically have two choices for sleeping bag materials, down and synthetic. Synthetic is usually cheaper, lighter, and more compactable but it can lose its insulating value in just a few years as it becomes compacted down. I'm not discounting synthetic sleeping bags... they can be excellent for fast light travel, but don't count on one lasting forever. Down sleeping bags are heavier, but they will last longer and I believe they are more trustworthy. I am a "cold" sleeper, so I generally add 20 degrees to whatever the bag is advertised as (So -20 F rated bag becomes a 0 F bag). You won't necessarily freeze to death if your bag is not warm enough, but you will spend a miserable night with little or no sleep, which could be very dangerous after two nights of sleep deprivation. Make sure your mummy bag fits almost perfectly. The more dead space you have, the less efficient your heat retention. Maximize the bags warmth by keeping the drawstrings around your face tight. Always ensure that your breath vents out of the bag to prevent a build up of moisture.
Insulation from the ground is at least as important as insulation from the air, as lying on a cold surface will conduct large amounts of heat from your body. In the winter I use two thick foam pads for sleeping. I advise against air inflated pads because they are vulnerable to leaks that render them useless. Also, foam pads can be used as splints, makeshift sleds, etc. I have used spruce boughs in place of sleeping pads and it wasn't the most comfortable but it worked.
Wear several layers into the sack if necessary; especially dry socks to prevent trench foot. You may even want to bring a watch cap to be worn only in the sleeping bag. Items that need to be dried can be brought into the sleeping bag, but they will rob you of some heat. At night I like to fill my Nalgene water bottles with hot water and bring them into the bag. You may also need to bring battery operated devices to bed with you to preserve charge. This ensures you have some water in the morning and also keeps your feet warm.
As I learned the hard way a few years ago, compressed gas does not work in extreme cold conditions. Use a stove that is manually pressurized like the Mountain Safety Research Whisperlite. I have used this rugged, self cleaning, reliable stove when I climbed Mount McKinley (Denali) and other Alaska Range trips and it has never let me down. I recommend one stove per person as you will need to melt large quantities of snow for water. Be very careful to not get stove fuel on your skin during extreme cold. Because its freezing point is much lower than water, it could cause instant frostbite. When melting snow, make sure you start with a small amount of liquid water at the bottom; otherwise the bottom of your pan will burn rather than melting the snow.
As with any type of camping, a fire can be a welcome addition to your camp. Starting a fire in below zero temperatures will challenge your patience and skills. See Jack London's short story "To Build a Fire."
The farther north you are, the shorter your winter days, so try to have camp broken by first light. Fill your water bottles for the day with warm water and wrap them in whatever insulation you have in your baggage so that they don't freeze.
For snow travel, you will most likely need skis or snow shoes. Walking through deep, powdery snow without them will quickly exhaust you. You may feel like a crusty Sourdough when you wear your old fashioned ash and rawhide snow shoes, but I recommend modern, rigid plastic snowshoes with crampons for effective travel on hills. A sled is another tool that can make your winter travel easier. Although expensive purpose built can be had, I use a reinforced kiddie plastic toboggan. On level terrain, your sled can be your best friend, allowing you pull more than you can carry on your back. If you are going up steep hills, I recommend you keep most of the load on your back.

Keep in mind that your firearm may not function properly in sub-zero temperatures. Strip all oil from your gun in cold weather, or risk having the action locked shut. Keep in mind that firing a gun in extreme cold weather causes the weapon's temperature to rise rapidly, which could affect the temper of the steel. Usually this won't be a problem if you are just taking a few shots at some game, but if you are in a sustained gun battle with a pistol or an assault rifle, you risk severe damage to your firearm. One solution to this is to hold your weapons inside your layers to keep them warm. Of course, this presents the problem of having a giant chunk of cold metal robbing you of your heat.
Moisture is going to be enemy number one in the extreme cold. Moisture from your body will wick its way through your layers and freeze on your outer layers. Your eyebrows and beard will be covered with frost. You must constantly work to keep this frost off your clothes. Brush it off regularly. Adjust your layers so that you do not break a sweat. Sweat build up can wreak havoc in cold weather. This highlights the importance of conditioning for survival. Carrying a 70 pound pack while pulling a 45 pound sled without sweating takes a lot of exercise. Keep in mind that your nose will run in the cold air. Bring plenty of Vaseline to keep your face from becoming chapped.
As with any activity, hydration is key. The dry air will quickly rob your body of moisture. Drink lots of water, especially hot drinks to keep warm. I have known people who deliberately dehydrated themselves during storms so that they wouldn't have to leave the tent to urinate. This is foolish and dangerous. Consume plenty of food high in fat content during extreme cold. Anything with lots of butter is good. Under no circumstance consume alcohol in extreme cold. This enlarges your blood vessels and increases heat loss. Keep yourself clean to the best of your abilities. Baby wipes work well for sanitation and bird baths. I'm not going to discuss the cold related illnesses and injuries and their treatments because others have written excellent articles that cover these subjects. Suffice to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Cold weather survival, as with anything survival, is about discipline, discipline, discipline. Keep your guard up against the Wendigo, and with a little experience, you will not only survive the cold, you will thrive in it. And when the mercury rises from -40 F to 35 F, you will be looking for your Bermuda shorts and flip flops.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

We have been volunteering at the remains of a home of a prepper here in Ohio for the past two weekends.  Their home was destroyed by a tornado.  I have some simple suggestions that you might incorporate into your future work.
                1.  Store / Organize photos and documents in Ziploc bags.  In this case, they had the preverbal box of pictures stored on the second floor of a three story 1860 brick home with brick interior walls located flood plain.  The tornado remove the upper story plus half of the second floor.  The box of pictures was found in the remains of a closet.   The subsequent rains degraded the condition of the photos and other documents.  If they had simply used Ziploc bags as a means of organizing their photo they would have been in good condition even after ten days in the weather.
                2.  Recovered clothing needs to be washed as soon as it is recovered.  They really wanted as much of their clothing back as possible...  We sorted  through piles of rubble (bricks, plaster and mortar) looking for clothing.   The recovered clothing was bagged and taken to a laundry facility to be washed.  The learning here is that you need to have a means of washing all of your clothing in a mass grid down situation.  Washing by hand in a galvanized tub would have been unmanageable.  Lehman's in Kidron has some possible solutions...all of which would be major work - assuming you had time you could devote to it.
                3. Recovery tools need to be stored somewhere other than in the structure you intend to work on.   The list is long of tools used to recover items from a home.  First off you need to be able bodied, then you need tools and knowledge of how to use them. The tool list needs to include - bolt cutters, spud bars, wonder bars, a Hi-Lift jack, chains, wheel barrow, saws, 5 gallon pails, plastic bags, shovels, gloves, dust masks, hand tools and lots of tarps.  If these tools are all in the basement of your home you will be at a huge disadvantage. 
                4. Food storage - We recovered less than 1/8th of the year's supply of food that was on hand.  The storm took most of it and the rest was in poor condition due to exposure the weather and falling building materials.  Lots of dented cans, ruined bags, broken glass and wet paper goods.  Items that faired the best were dog food, can goods and bulk bagged items.  If here were 5 gallon pails they were lots along with the 3rd floor.
                5. Security -  the home owners were very concerned about looters.  No one can watch a destroyed property 24/7.  A community fire watch needs to be established.   On the second weekend we heard nothing about actual looting taking place.
Lastly, I would encourage your readers to go and work disasters in their area.  There is a lot to learn about tools, recovery, helping people in real need, understanding what damaged is possible, how that damage can affect everyday goods and understanding that it is enough to simply prepare.  The government has professionalized the first responders.  There may be a day when the professional first responders are busy with their own families and you will be the only responder that will ever be on hand.  - Stev

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I found myself in a rather uncomfortable and vulnerable position. Hurricane Frederic hit Mobile, Alabama in September 1979. I thought it was going to be exciting. In fact several friends of mine had a party the night before Frederic made landfall. There was no preparation made on my part for this hurricane. I had no anxiety and could have cared less. At the time I didn't even have a gun. I had barely a quarter of a tank of gas in my car. I did not have a battery operated radio or a flashlight. There was very little non-perishable food in my pantry and a small amount of food in the fridge. I had no idea about hurricane preparation and I did not heed the warnings issued. My family lived in north Alabama about six hours away so I was on my own.

Well, Hurricane Frederic made landfall and it was very destructive. The winds were fierce and the rain was relentless. A large pine tree fell on my house. Many trees were downed throughout the city proper and county making it extremely difficult to navigate. Electricity was out for most of Mobile County so there was no way to obtain gas to fill my car up. Price gouging was rampant - a bag of ice was selling for $10 or more, that is if you could find some. Most of the stores were emptied out prior to the storm. I had never experienced power outages on this scale. My home did not have power restored for 22 days. What little food I had in the fridge if not eaten in 24 hrs was ruined. There was also a curfew imposed by the National Guard. There were very long lines for ice and emergency food being distributed by the National Guard. Fights broke out and looting was rampant. 

I was stuck in a very hot house every night. We were afraid to leave the windows open because of all the looting. Luckily I did have a gas water heater and fortunately the gas was never turned off. My home was a popular stop off for friends who wanted a hot shower. For a few days my neighbors shared what perishable food they had and there were nightly cookouts until the food ran out. I ate well in the beginning. Several weeks later I was finally able to get some food supplies and batteries thanks to my family. My brother drove to Mobile with a well-received load of supplies for me. Federal assistance was slow to arrive and I was feeling desperate still I was luckier than most folks. I made so many stupid mistakes. It was an extremely miserable time that I will never forget. I made a promise to myself to never let that happen again. I was not going to be a helpless victim especially when this could have been avoided with some minimal preparation. And I certainly was not going to depend on any government assistance.

Since Hurricane Frederic I have experienced a number of hurricanes over the years including Ivan and Katrina. I also went through a house fire in 2009. The house fire started due to a lightning strike. It totaled my home. I had to start all over on my emergency kit. The good news is that I was able to rebuild my home and fortify it against category four hurricane winds. This also helped me keep my homeowners insurance at a more affordable rate. But I have learned some valuable lessons.

In this article I will share with you how I now prepare for emergencies since my dreadful days during Hurricane Frederic in 1979. 
I first came up with a list of what emergency items I might need. I kept adding to the list after reading a number of survival books and blogs.
Initially it was frustrating because I wanted everything right now. But I had to sit back and realize it was going to be a slow process. Each month I purchased a few items from my list.
It has taken awhile to obtain what I currently have and my emergency kit is not complete yet. But as I add items I feel more confident. As with most people I had to budget purchasing my emergency items. But you have to start somewhere. Now I do not feel so vulnerable. I feel that I can protect and provide for my family. Even though they think I'm a little weird prepping for the unknown. But whenever the power goes off they come to me for flashlights and lanterns. They expect me to take care of them and have even commented they would have been disappointed in me had I not been prepared.

First thing - I always fill my gas tank up when the gauge nears the halfway mark. You never know when you are going to get stuck in a traffic jam.
I also have (5) five gallon empty gas cans in my garage attic and I fill them up at the early stages of a potential tropical storm. If the storm doesn't materialize I just put the gas in my cars so nothing is wasted. You simply
cannot wait until the storm becomes a hurricane. By then there are long lines at the gas stations and shelves are emptied at the grocery stores.

I purchased a Honda 3000 watt generator that I can plug it into my electrical system. The generator is attached to a heavy chain and locked in place for security. I run the generator for several hours every month to ensure it is in good working order. I also have a small window A/C unit stored in the garage so I can have a cool room to sleep in at night. The generator is mainly to keep my refrigerator and freezer running.
My pantry is kept stocked with at least a month of food - canned goods, peanut butter, crackers, granola bars and dehydrated foods. As a backup I have a closet stocked with long shelf life freeze dried foods.
I have a several six gallon water jugs along with five collapsible one gallon water jugs. I keep a minimum of six cases of bottled water on hand. I have several Aquamira frontier water systems, life-straw, and polar pure water treatment. I fill up both bathtubs and all of my sinks. I recently located a nearby water stream within walking distance from my home. Remember folks a water supply is extremely important. You can go longer without eating than you can without drinking water.

I keep a three month supply of AA, AAA, C, D, and Nine Volt batteries. I have several battery/solar powered short wave radios along with a ham radio. I keep a wind up watch in my emergency pack.
I started out simply with a hurricane kit to get me through at a minimum of 3 to 4 days of survival. Now it has evolved to a more elaborate emergency kit. My goal is to be able to survive at a minimum of three to six months. In this emergency kit there is duct tape, Paracord - various lengths, snakebite kit, hatchet, 15" knife, 18" machete, hiking shoes, solar link radio, binoculars, first aid kit, machete, manual can opener, rain ponchos, tarp, wet fire starting tinder, blast match fire starter, bacterial soap, toilet paper, spork eating utensil, haululite ketalist tea kettle, outdoor 10" fry pan, siphon pump, emergency tent, emergency blankets, nine volt battery with steel wool-(you can easily start a fire with these two items), and camping cookware. I plan on getting some seeds so in the case of a long lived disaster I can grow my own vegetables. I already have several fruit trees in my backyard.

I inventory all of my emergency items monthly and refresh the list when needed. I also include a note where each item is stored. All of my important papers are kept in a fireproof/ waterproof safe.

I have ammo stored in watertight ammo cans. I clean my weapons on a regular basis. There are plenty of flashlights and lanterns. I keep small flashlights and lanterns throughout my home and garage. There are several battery powered fans to use during the day.

I have a grill and an Emberlit stove for backup in case the gas company shuts down our gas supply. I have a camp stove coffee maker so I can start my mornings with my caffeine fix. I practice using a flint/steel fire starter and my Emberlit stove. It's good to learn how to use your emergency equipment when there is no emergency rather than wait until there is one. That also includes going to a range and firing your pistols and rifles.

I have a corded phone stored in my emergency kit. Cordless phones will not function without electricity and I have experienced problems with spotty cell phone usage during hurricanes. For some reason land line phones have always worked for me.

I have precut plywood and each piece is numbered so I don't have to wonder which piece goes to each outside window. I use plylox brackets to quickly and easily insert the precut plywood to protect my outside windows.

I have my rear and garage doors hinged so they open outward making it difficult for hurricane force winds or humans to force the doors inward. Although my front door does open inward I brace it at night with a buddy bar. There have been a number of home invasions in our county occurring at night. It usually involves kicking in the front door and before you can react they are in your bedroom. I also have shutters on every inside window for privacy and it also helps keep cooling costs down. I decided to use spray foam instead of the traditional insulation in my attic. Even in the hottest month my attic is never more than 84 degrees. When the power is out my home should not heat up like most houses.

I have several neighbors close by that I keep in touch with. We have agreed to help each other out if need be. There is strength in numbers. I recently installed a wireless detector alerting me if anyone walks up my driveway to the back of my home. I plan on getting two way radios so I can easily keep in touch with my family and neighbors. My biggest fear is of people becoming desperate and dangerous. From my research it appears to only take several days for some folks to begin looting and killing. Once that begins it multiplies. I want to be able to protect my family at all costs. So ammunition and additional firepower are priorities for me. Most of my emergency items are stored in a backpack and a rolling canvas bag should I need to bug out quickly.

My pipe dream is to buy some land in a wooded area near water. I would build a small but comfortable shelter and an underground bunker. But that is only a dream and not in my budget so I plan to survive with my current method.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Good Morning James,
The recent coronal mass ejection (CME) began interacting with the terrestrial magnetosphere earlier today. Though initially that interaction was rather subdued a rapid fall-off in the proton particle counters is actually leading to some rather elevated readings over at the monitor site. Polar convection, density and velocity are all registering in the yellow band, while the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF) magnitude, angle and the dynamic pressure are all passed up into the red zones. It is worth remembering that a CME consists of hot, charged particles (ionized hydrogen primarily) and as such the situation is similar to the current in the wall of your house when a light switch is flipped on. At the fundament then a "current" of hot gas passing around the earth interacting with the geomagnetic field of same is virtually identical to an electric motor though the geometry seems different. It is the case that the total effect perpetrated on us, on the planet, by the passing of the electrically conductive cloud of hot gas and further, that gas's interaction with the geomagnetic field is an inductive phenomena.

It is easy to forget that when talking about induction we're not talking about relative magnitudes of the flow of the gas but instead the instantaneous rate-of-change of that flow as being central to the effects we here witness. Most especially the preceding applies when focusing on the magnetic aspects. To be sure, the incoming stream interacts with, and in part, is trapped by the Earth's magnetic field, altering it's velocity and transferring momentum as it does so to form the Van Allen belts above or heads, but it is the resulting magnetic fluctuations induced throughout that drive the actual changes in "earth currents" that were so ferocious during the Carrington Event.

If an X-20 erupted on the face of the Solar disk, even very near to the center thereof, the total effect upon us here some few minutes later (light-travel time scale) would be negligible though the subsequent arrival of the mass of ejected gas would be have frightening effects on our civilization.

If, on the other hand, an extremely high magnitude flare occurred - virtually anywhere on the face of the visible disk - say, an X-40 or greater - then a resulting EMP (like the detonation of a 20 megaton thermonuclear device high in the stratosphere) would likely have near-instantaneous effects on the distribution grid on the sun-facing side of the planet. It might well be the case that the installed safety subsystems at most generating facilities would act in time to prevent a catastrophic, effectively incinerating, effect on the facilities themselves, but it is a near certainty that the Very High Voltage transformers which upconvert energy from the generating facilities to voltages making long-distance transmission of electrical energy practical would be summarily annihilated. The problem that would arise in this circumstance is that there are now only two manufacturing
concerns left operating globally at present that manufacture these extraordinary pieces of machinery and the minimum lag-time from order to delivery is two years (presuming that all of the requisite materials are already on hand without supply chain interruptions and that they themselves have ample electricity available to them for the manufacturing itself). Simply losing the grids over one hemisphere would be bad, but losing them globally would be an incalculable catastrophe. Consider that if there is no way available to transmit electricity long distance point-to-point then how would we be able to remanufacture replacements for these units?

Leaving aside the fact that the effects would be the worst in the developed world, resulting in "flash" starvation of hundreds of millions of people - if not billions - as our wondrously efficient, woefully interconnected and critically dependent supply chains vanished like smoke in the wind, how could this happen then?

It could happen as the consequence of a large magnitude X-Flare followed by a subsequent - and necessarily, geoeffective - high magnitude CME. When the mass began interacting with the terrestrial magnetosphere enormous ground currents would be induced by the action of the hot sea of gas flowing around the planet. Also, as a consequence, large voltage potentials would be induced in the ground plane - to which every electrical device on Earth is directly connected. It would not be enough to simply throw the breakers in your fuse panel to isolate your house, business and so forth from Earth voltages and grid fluctuations. Fluctuations on the ground plane itself could/would easily destroy whatever yet remained attached. Disconnecting the ground strap from your your panel(s) to the ground plane would be equally necessary until the large scale fluctuations subsided beyond the event. The actual events involved in this would come upon us rather stealthily. As the ground currents surged there would be no blinding, instantaneous grid-wide failure, no. Instead, the currents through the ground plane traveling into the transformers would slowly, steadily heat the cores in their oil baths until the frail windings began to boil their insulating coatings off at which point massive shorting would occur. Given that the Earth itself is non-homogeneous in it's make-up, it is also the case that the pattern of failure would be equally heterogeneous. Specifically, places like the eastern seaboard, especially, Eastern Canada would see the first failures (Canadian Electric companies have installed strip-mall sized buffers after the 1989 loss to Solar activity and are now relatively safe) due to the hard-rock underlying the region, the Laurentian Shield. But as one failure occurred there would be another, and another, ad infinitum as a cascade of failures shifted further of the burden to the remaining operational grid. The logical conclusion of this process would be the destruction of virtually every High voltage unit globally inasmuch as unlike a Solar EMP which would effect the "day side" only (approx.) the ground currents in the CME case would be global in character.

An enormous "buzz" has developed over the last few years relative to "EMP" events of Solar or instrumental origin but in the case of solar this particular effect would be limited except as noted above. Thankfully, we have a vast distance between us and our warm, somewhat tempestuous neighbor and it is this distance that along with the atmosphere and magnetic field in which life here is mainly cocooned that preserves us. The initial open-air testing of the hydrogen bomb in the 1950s early 1960s in the South Pacific is of course when first we became aware of the effects that an EMP pulse might have upon us. I have read a report - somewhere, it escapes me at the moment - that during one of the tests, in which one of the larger devices was detonated, that parts, if not all, of the island of Hawaii lost power, had equipment failures virtually simultaneously as the weapon was detonated. It is for this reason that I call "bull" on those harping on the possibility of a middle eastern agency deploying an "atom" bomb over the US to destructive effect. Hear me out.

Fission bombs have an upper limit beyond which - no matter how much more fissile material is added - simply doesn't produce any further corresponding yield. Our scientists ran into this problem rather early on during America's primal nuclear efforts, this led to the development of the H bomb, [fusion] thermonuclear weapons as it were. H-bombs don't really have an effective upper limit as to the amount of yield which can be obtained...just build a bigger bomb. However, there is a catch: H bombs are really, really difficult to engineer. Without going into detail, suffice it to say that the geometry of the device and the timing of the explosives necessary to coax a fusion reaction out of ordinary, cold matter are formidable--extremely so. The largest thermonuclear device ever tested was the infamous "Czar Bomba", the "King of Bombs" detonated by the Soviet Union circa 1960, which was designed to produce a yield of 100+ megatons TNT equivalent, but was actually only tested with two of it's four cores in place for a nominal yield of 52 megatons. For any who need more about this just traipse over to YouTube and search for "Czar Bomba", great footage BTW. But I digress, the probability that someone other than a major nation-state could develop atom bombs is crazy-high, it is only necessary to laboriously render out enough fissile material from uranium and then slap it together. But the converse is equally and inversely true for thermonuclear devices for the reasons lined out above.

As an aside, while I've been typing this, the polar convection graph over at has shot right up, as has the graph for interplanetary magnetic field. The figure being shown for the convection is nearly off the graph as it is currently scaled. It's about 02:30 CST [Sunday, July 15, 2012] and as I look now the Polar convection is actually above the numbered range on the graph, like when your going faster than your speedometer can show you, the IMF being 'way up there too. I expect that there might be some unhappy northern latitude utility company executives in the morning, the polar convection figure is still getting worse. If I read it right, pushing 280 Kv or more, been up there for quite a while now.

As always, May the Lord Bless and Keep us, His Children, everyone. - J.E.B. in Missouri

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Well I must say after prayer and a heart to heart with the Almighty and many undisputable news about our economy I have felt the need to start prepping.  Oh and where to start? Wow was I ever overwhelmed at the prospect of starting prepping for an economic collapse or other unfortunate event.

First, telling the hubby. I got laughed at. Yes, I was down. But I found, where I got started with baby steps. So off to the grocery store I went. I started a little bit at a time, buying rice and canned items on sale.  Then the adventure begins!

- Now in Texas most of us do not have basements or root cellars. The weather is ever changing. The hot humid weather just doesn’t allow for good conditions. Basements flood out, have seepage or root cement cellars crack due to the ground that shifts constantly in our area especially. We suffer from heat, extreme humidity and we mildew and mold a lot. If you do decide to purchase a pre-made one, you must have a dehumidifier. Your best bet would be to have a good, dark cool closet in your house.  Some people have put there root veggies under the house wrapped in newspaper with chicken wire to keep varmints away. It will keep the potatoes fresher longer (unless your house is on a slab, then find a good cool, dark spot in the house away from everything, do not store on carpet--use cardboard, or cardboard boxes,etc). So I have designated space in a closet or two.  I also purchased some extra shelving, etc.

You must practice your canning before TSHTF. Believe me, don’t wait till it happens to decide to get the pressure cooker out and learn how. Get it out now. Practice, just like anything else, you have got to learn it. It is not easy at first. Enlist help in the older generation, a grandma, aunt, etc. Make sure your stove can use the pressure cooker. Mine was a smooth top. Not all smooth top ranges can use all pressure cookers.  You can also purchase a separate burner or use the Coleman Stove. Make sure you check the cans after a couple of months and see if they show signs of mold or anything. Make sure you did them correctly. Taste test some.  Practice making meals with some of the food you have stored.

Storing grains won’t be hard if done correctly. Remember Texas is humid, all year long, even in winter.  Make sure area is cool.  Use those O2 absorbers, they will be very helpful. If you don’t you prepare well you will have rancid grain and weevils (nasty pests). Make sure you plan for possible rats or mice too (sticky traps or regular traps). From my experience flour doesn’t store well. Wheat stores much better. Best get a good grinder. Storing rolled oats for oatmeal is also excellent.

There are many lakes and tanks (ponds) to fish or gather water on, but these are usually on someone’s land. So be careful or you could have the barrel of a gun pointed at you if you trespass. Most Texans band together in a crisis. If you have something to trade or barter and are friendly, most likely you will find a friend. Also, if you are storing water, be careful of the containers. The cheap plastic milk like containers don’t last long if not stored properly. They leak and make a mess! Buy water storage barrels or water storage tanks if possible.

So far, we have bought a wind up flashlight that will charge our cell phones. It also has an AM/FM radio. We are also installing solar panels for energy. In Texas, we get plenty of sunlight so that will not be a problem.

- Guns and Ammo.  In, Texas of course Guns. But with that knowing how to use them properly. So we are all taking a gun safety course. [JWR Adds: For those in humid climates I recommend buying as many stainless steel guns as possible, and frequently cleaning and inspecting your guns for any signs of rust. (Mark your calendar if you are the forgetful sort.) Your gun vault or hidden firearms wall cache should be equipped with a Golden Rod dehumidifier. That small investment will save you much grief, later!]

- in Texas, you need to be prepared for all types of weather.  Sometimes in December you get 80 degree days and in April you may get snow. The old saying “Yup, if you don't like the weather in Texas, wait five minutes -- it'll change!” Our weather is definitely one of a kind. In the summer it is very hot. The difference in our heat as compared to other I think is the humidity. You could get a heat stroke very easily. So without air conditioning to which we are all accustomed, it would be quite a change. In the summer, in Texas it gets very hot. Do not cook indoors.  Consider installing heat reflective film on your windows or get them tinted before TSHTF. This will cut down on your electric bill and save money right now! We did it and it really does help.  Use shelters like overhangs, patio overheads and awnings to prevent the stream of sunlight through the windows on the sides of your home that face south and west.  Ice down or soak a bandana in cold water and wear around your neck. Keep hydrated. Avoid tea, caffeine and alcohol. You don’t want to end up with a heat stroke. Okay, winter time. Good thing is we don’t have too many really cold days but we do have some. The best thing would be to have a wood stove in the winter to heat the house.  Our roads are not made for ice. Have extra chains for your truck or SUV in case of those rare icy/snowy days. Be able to cover plants and/or bring them in.

- Gardening in Texas can be a challenge, but can be done all year because of our mild winter.     We have never been able to grow potatoes in our area due to fire ants. But now with the new container gardening, potato gardening is so much easier! Texas A&M has terrific information on container gardening for Texans. Another good site for Texas container gardening and hot climates is:

I have also been doing the square foot garden method using cider blocks as I have a bad back and this method has proven to be easier to maintain. I use the holes in the cinder blocks to plant herbs.  An excellent site is There are also tons of YouTube videos that show different ways people have done their cinder block gardens.  I had difficulty getting seeds going at first. So I consulted with some masters of gardening, and they told me to use seed starting system, which is no more than a little divided tray. You use a soilless growing mixture, pre-made you can buy. I bought a tray at Wal-Mart with directions on it, also has directions. It gets your seedlings up and going then you can transplant.  You see ours kept getting eaten up by grasshoppers or bunnies. So really watch them after transplanting.  July-September grasshoppers are bad in Texas. They strip everything. You may even want to purchase something to drape over them.  Trees are also a good investment.  Peach, plum, and apricot trees grow really good around here. You will need several to cross pollinate with each other.  Grasshoppers love these too. The best thing to do is to stock up on Demon pesticide. If you would see how these little pests strip everything, you would be wise to do so, it is worth gold. 

Mosquitoes -   Bug bites bleh…mosquitoes.  They are bad here.  We all have our jokes about our mosquitoes as big as birds.  If you have Off or bug repellant, use it. If you have failed to and are eaten up by the little bloodsuckers, then take cotton balls dipped in witch hazel and rub over affected area. Calamine lotion will help some too. Try not to scratch! (Texas-raised kids like me heard that a lot!) a good plant for repelling those nasty buggers is lemon grass.  This grass is rich in a substance called citral, the active ingredient in lemon peel. This substance is said to aid in digestion as well as relieve spasms, muscle cramps, rheumatism and headaches. Lemon grass is also used commercially as the lemon scent in many products including soaps, perfumes and candles. A related plant, (Cymbopogon nardus) is the ingredient in citronella candles sold to ward off mosquitoes and other insects

Also people put up Purple Martin bird houses to attract Purple Martins. They love some mosquitoes and it’s a Texas tradition of sorts for people to put up Purple Martin houses to get rid of the little buggers.

Remember to always to do lists. Check and recheck that you got everything on it. Talk to family members that are not prepping, but don’t get the Bible out and preach, yet. Just tell them everything that is going on. Let them know it’s better to be prepared and if nothing happens will at least you are ready for when something does. Pray for them. Ask the Lord to put it on your heart what to say.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mr. Rawles:
Today is Wednesday, July 4, 2012.  I am writing from a small town in central West Virginia and I would like to share some thoughts, observations, and lessons from the recent Derecho windstorm experienced by the mid-west and east of our great country.  As I sit here, we are in day six of total power outage caused by a freak storm that came with little or no warning.  Power may not be on for another four days.
I have been a long time reader of your blog and have lots of lists and plans but sadly my preparations for hardship were found lacking.  We here in West Virginia are used to disasters such as floods but the mountains tend to shield us from tornados and high winds are rare.  Within an hour span power was knocked out to 50 of the 55 counties in the state.  The towers of major transmission lines were twisted wrecks.  And then the “fun” began.  This incident has galvanized me and my neighbors.  My observations will be preaching to the choir in this forum but here goes:
·          Gasoline was gone within 24 hours.  Lines were just like the 1970s fuel embargo.
·          Ice became the chief commodity and was in short supply or no supply.
·          Water was out for most people at least for the first two days.
·          Most big box stores and gas stations were up on generator power by day three.
·          A new shipment of 250 generators was sold in a few hours.
·          Temperatures in the high 90s added another layer of difficulty.
     Most people kept their cool and neighbors helped each other.  Many are much better neighbors now.  With all traffic lights out it was hectic but for the most part people were safe and courteous.  We used to have a tourism commercial about West Virginia that showed four cars pulling up simultaneously to a four way stop and each driver motioning for the other to go first.  The tag line was “Traffic jam, West Virginia style”.  I am happy to say that was true in most cases.
     The holes in my preparedness were:
·          I needed good high quality kerosene lanterns with reflectors and extra wicks.  The cheap Chinese red ones at Wal-Mart are toys.
·          Batteries, Batteries, Batteries.
·          Propane, Propane, Propane.
·          I needed a good tough portable radio with multiple charging sources.  I was reduced to listening to a car radio and risking battery and gas.
·          I should have had several barrels of water on hand
·          A couple of deep cycle marine batteries would have been nice.
·          A generator and fuel reserve have moved from the nice-to-have list to the have-to-have list.
The local radio station stepped up to the plate and suspended normal programming and went live 24 hours on generator with news and call-ins giving information.  The unpreparedness of some of the call-ins was instructive.  On the second day several were screaming for FEMA to arrive.  Well, in our recent primary election, Democratic voters supported a prison inmate in Texas with over 40% of the vote, so I do not expect FEMA anytime soon.  It is obvious to me now that there will be a die-off in any major disaster.  Those on medical oxygen or diabetic will not survive.  There is also an element of just plain stupid out there.  One lady drove 30 miles to a neighboring town to get water for her children when simply listening to the radio would have directed her to a fire station two blocks from her house.
Mr. Rawles, I know your feelings about areas anywhere east of the Mississippi but I must say that, in general, West Virginia enjoys some advantages as a retreat.  Property prices and taxes are low, low population density, low crime rate, no urban problems, minimal gun laws, and a conservative and religious population.  For the most part, it is “Almost Heaven”.
I have turned a corner on preparedness and I hope my neighbors have too.  Bottom line: We must have three days of supplies at a minimum and build from there.  Thanks for your blog.
Wavetalker in West Virginia

Monday, July 2, 2012

Good Morning Mr. Rawles,

You probably already know about this, but there are several good quotes in this article about the massive scope of the damage from nothing more than a few lines of strong thunderstorms over two days rumbling through my neck of the woods.

Folks were stranded in trains, stuck in traffic, crushed in their homes, and millions will be without grid power this coming week during a heat wave.

Even central valleys in interior states can suffer damage similar to a large tropical cyclone, so folks shouldn't get cocky and fail to prepare.  As an aside, I finally purchased and just yesterday put into service my new NOAA alert radio (a Midland WR-300), programmed in the local SAME code(s), and got to hear that warning siren several times last night!  Even though the storms were fairly severe, luckily for us the tornado activity stayed northwest of our location by about 30 miles. - Mike in S.E. Virginia

Thursday, June 28, 2012

As Tropical Storm Debby stalled in the Gulf of Mexico off the Coast of Florida it was business as usual in our area. No one was much concerned about the storm as we have become complacent in Storms and Hurricanes in our area of North Florida. I live in a rural farming area 20 miles from Live Oak and 15 miles from the town of Mayo. The following are my observations.
Saturday June 23rd – constant rain all day – all roads passable
Sunday June 24th   - constant rain all day – all roads passable
Monday June 25th – constant very heavy rain – roads passable, drainage ditches filling with water, water puddles forming on road. Rain coming down so hard in the evening very hard to see with wipers full on and defroster on. Observation that it was hard to tell at night just how much water was on the road. I can now see how someone could drive into flood waters unaware due to limited depth perception due to the heavy rain and limited visibility. Late night we had hard rain and thunder and lightening of which I have not observed here before. One lightening strike that was 3miles away the blast of the strike shook my house. I have survived high hurricane winds in this area before but not a lightening strike as that one; I can imagine how it was at the point of impact.
Tuesday June 26th – A hard rain continues to around noon, went to local grocery store. Upon trip to return home a distance of 4 miles local roads becoming flooded and rain became extremely hard downpour.  I arrived at home to find out my wife a LPN at a Health Care Facility had been requested to report for work due to the extreme weather conditions as personnel were already reporting they could not get to work due to flooded out roads. City of Live Oak was Flooded at this time.
The moral of this story is this; you need to always know alternate ways home from work and to work and also for evacuation routes. I knew the roads my wife did not (was never interested until this wake up call) her normal way to work was blocked in many directions. I advised and provide instructions of which roads to take and due to the nature of the falling rain that she would have to leave immediately. A normal commute of 15 minutes took almost an hour and she described the trip as very challenging. If she had delayed in leaving when I told her to go she would not have been able leave due to our road became flooded and impassable. 1st time I have seen this since I located here in 1999. This was a wake up call for me. “Do not count on roads that have never flooded not to flood”.
Wednesday 27th – Rain ceased and Sun came out some water receding but still a lot of road closures due to flood waters, washed out roads. If I needed to get to the Town of Live Oak I would not be able to do so. Today I counted on a list of over 100 road locations impassable or barricaded. My road by afternoon had receded enough for local alternate traffic to use.
What did I learn from all of this – do not count on local routes and or your planned alternate routes to be available or being told they never flooded before. As stated on this blog in other’s letters have a local map handy showing all roads including the dirt roads some of which were passable only by having a 4x4 during this extreme weather. Learn all alternate routes and drive them from home to work and back to home and also your evacuation routes. That way you will know them before hand and can adjust due to road conditions.
I have kept a list of all road closures published to mark on my map in order to find other alternate routes to get to my destination for the future and which roads to avoid. Also with this amount of rain you will find any leaks you may have in your dwelling and what areas of the roof to protect for the future.  Water will find a way in from the unlikely places, example rain hard enough to bounce off the roof and come back down the furnace vent and the stove exhaust fan. This happened even though the vent pipes have rain caps.
I had planned to have a rain barrel system in place, and now whish that I had completed that project due to the amount of rainfall we received.  I could have had emergency water supply to last for weeks.
Due to the amount of rain there is boil water advisory now in affect for all of Suwannee County including private wells. Learn on this blog how to purify water for drinking and cooking, I was already prepared in having clean drinking water on hand.
My observation of interest was today when a Medevac Helicopter landed in the neighbor’s field across the road. In order transport someone.  There is no way for EMT services to have driven to our area and take you to the local hospital via ambulance. It must have been a real serious condition as the helicopter flew off in the direction of Gainesville where our major medical facilities are located.
I also observed a SUV on my road carrying a kayak on the roof. It would be nice to have a boat of some type even an inflatable one just in case of an emergency. Air boats in Live Oak were put to use to evacuate people from flooded areas to emergency shelters.
As I complete writing this letter water on some of the roadways are receding but I can still not get to the Town of Live Oak but other services are located in my area; i.e., gas, food, water. I do not need it but it is available.
Other observations – people ignored highway barricades and drove around them and ended up needing rescued from flood waters. Note if the sign says flooded it means “Flooded”.
Just because you have a 4x4 does not mean you can drive faster than anyone else in extreme weather and or fording through flood waters. One 4x4 owner posted that to avoid a certain road because he tried to cross it but had to back out. If you are intent in fording high water you need to be experienced in doing so and your vehicle needs to be prepped for fording abilities. Most SUVs, Trucks are not equipped or have the experience to do this.
I also learned that I needed to have sand bags on hand and I know it has been stated before on here but until you realize this is something you really need to have on hand you do not think about it. I did not need them but I can see where I may need them in the future.
Also without communications or access to the Internet I would have had a hard time in finding out which roads were closed in my area.
If you are not in immediate danger of flooding stay in your home and don't go out driving to sight see the flood damage. Many found out the hard way when they had to be rescued.
Sinkholes can happen in Florida but rare for our area yet there was three sinkholes in Live Oak and surrounding area. When they occur it is with frightening speed.
I will close in thanking JWR for his site and to the ones that have had letters posted that contained valuable information to me. I was better prepared than most but learned a lesson from this storm. - Wayne of North Florida

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I never realized how dark and eerie our house could be.  Even at night, there were usually two or three nightlights casting their brave glow to prevent midnight mishaps. But on this evening, there was no electricity to power this smallest of luxuries.  Another thing I noticed as I kept vigil over my sleeping loved ones by emergency candle light was the extreme, echoing silence.  There was no fan humming in my son’s room. There was no whir of the compressor cycling on and off in the refrigerator.  There was no air blowing through the central air unit of our home.  Instead there was lingering, creeping silence that accompanied the knowledge that it would be a long time before normal service was restored.

This may sound like the beginning of an apocalyptic horror movie, but in truth, this is what happened in my town after the Super Outbreak of tornadoes on April 27, 2011.  We experienced our own localized TEOTWAWKI when an EF4 tornado ripped through the center of town on its 38 mile long trek of devastation.  The world as we knew it was about to shift dramatically.

The day started off with tornadoes ripping up the town just south of us in the pre-dawn hours.  Everyone was tense as the Weather Channel meteorologists were forecasting a TorCon index of 9/10; the highest numbers they had ever seen.  Yet, we all felt comforted by the fact that storms seem to veer off before hitting our town.  We have weathered many near misses and become a bit complacent.  At 3:00 PM, me, my 15 year old son, my 72 year old Mom and Dad, and my 92 year old grandmother sought refuge in a back basement bedroom of my downstairs apartment as the tornado sirens blared.  The camera located on the tallest building in the center of town provided an excellent view to the local News Channels of the half mile wide tornado as it barreled straight towards us. 

Like most people who are confident that disasters only happen to others, we stood on the driveway after the power went out.  It wasn’t until we realized we were looking up into the center of a side funnel and we could hear the tortured wailing of the winds in the main tornado that we ran like frightened rabbits to the back basement bedroom.  We were lucky that the true devastation started a block away from our house. After the tornado sirens stopped, the police, fire-engine and ambulance sirens began to scream only a few blocks over.  Within the city limits, 910 homes and 98 businesses were damaged.  

As we huddled in the dark, listening to more storms rumble by, we expected things to return to normal within an hour or two.  What no one knew at the time was that the Super Outbreak had destroyed almost all the large high voltage transmission towers that brought electricity into our substation from the north.  We were without grid electricity for six days and without cable television and Internet service for 12 days.  Gasoline was scarce for three days.  Land line phones were inoperable for 21 days.  Cell phone service was sketchy for nearly a month.  Also, schools were closed for 12 days.  Our cushy world as we knew it had suddenly ground to a halt. 

Let me start by stating that I’m not your average “survivalist.”  In fact, I don’t personally own a stitch of camouflaged clothing.  I’m a middle-aged, overweight, desk-driving, city dwelling, mother of one.  I don’t like camping and my idea of roughing it is to pitch a tent on the drive-way so I can come into the house whenever I need something.  I hate baiting hooks for fishing, and the only things I like to shoot are aluminum cans. 

I never made a conscious effort to prepare for the end of the world as we know it.  Sure, the thought that some cataclysmic event could disrupt our cushy every-day lives has always lurked in the back of my mind, but I never acted on it in a big way.  Despite the fact that we did not have an organized response to a disaster, we survived quite well due to several things we had set into motion over the past few decades. 

Our location was selected for a number of factors.  We chose to live in town, to be close to hospitals and utilities.  Our electricity is never out for very long, due to the numerous grids that can be used to reroute power around problems.  We also chose a home with a basement, which is crucial when living in tornado alley. 

The first necessity for survival was food.  My mother and I have always kept an emergency supply of non-perishable food in the basement. She began this practice in the 1970s, during the Cold War.  As children, we thought it was normal to have extra food in the basement.  Of course, raiding the stash to snack on the powered Jello didn’t help her, but we sure enjoyed it.  She stopped for many years, but then started stockpiling peanut butter and jelly again in 1999.  It started out as “Y2K supplies.”  When that didn’t result in grid disruption, those supplies were renamed as “tornado supplies.”  In the winter, we jokingly renamed them “ice storm supplies.”  This wasn’t some organized, labeled food storage.   We just stuck extras of what we normally used in some boxes in the basement.  To prepare food we used the propane barbecue grill and the side burner while we were without electricity.

The second necessity we had prepared in advance was electricity.  Since weathering Hurricane Fran and ice storms in North Carolina in the 1990s, we have never been without a generator.  Years ago, we had an electrician wire a separate breaker box into the house so we could power most of the house, most of the kitchen appliances, and the HVAC unit by plugging in the generator.  Also, I have had a inverter box in my van for road trips for years which allow us to plug in regular appliances to an outlet that is run off car battery when the engine is idling. We used this to recharge our phones, laptops and fluorescent lanterns.

The third necessity we required was information.  Our first line of access was a wind-up radio.  My Dad’s reason for buying this was not disaster related.  He simply got tired of replacing the batteries in his radio that he listened to daily.  With this, we could get information on more storms coming through, as well as the condition of our town, and the availability of limited resources, like gasoline.  We also had cell phones that could generate a Wi-Fi hot spot.  Although we couldn’t use them to make calls, our phones allowed us to reach out and connect with the outside world through the Internet.  Facebook was a Godsend since people were creating pages for the City where vital information was shared.

One resource we did not expect to be scarce was gasoline.  Apparently, very few gas station owners were prepared for an extended period of time with no electricity.  On the first day after the tornado hit, there were only two gas stations that had the foresight to purchase generators for such an emergency.  The lines of cars queued up there were staggering. 

We were lucky, in that we had five full gas cans for the lawnmower.  After a failed attempt at purchasing more gas, we rationed the generator by running it only three times a day to keep the freezer cold and several hours at night.  Next we started siphoning gas out of our vehicles.  We started with the least necessary vehicle. We reasoned that the last to go should be my mini-van, since it can hold the most people, and got the best gas mileage, in the event we decided to evacuate.  So, with this plan, we were set to weather several days without gasoline.

One resource we didn’t have to worry about during this localized TEOTWAWKI was water and waste.  Our water treatment plant was not damaged, and the service was not interrupted thanks to back up generators.  Though since that day, we have had the opportunity to suffer the loss of these luxuries due to non-disaster plumbing disorders.  We have become quite efficient at what I call a Japanese shower, where you wet and soap your body with a washcloth, then only turn on the shower to rinse off.  We did not drain the tub, and used that water for flushing the toilet.  Waste management is something we do not have a solution for yet. 

Our safety was not an issue as we were fortunate to not suffer any criminal activity as a result of this TEOTWAWKI.  At the time, our only defense was a very old, pistol and a shotgun with one box of ammunition.  Luckily, there was no breakdown in civility in our little town as might be expected in an extreme disaster.   

I am proud how our town of 18,000 responded to this disaster.  Several churches set up cook centers for food that was about to spoil, and to provide meals to senior citizens, government employees and workers.  Charging stations were set up at local shelters to charge phones and battery powered tools.  Volunteers and sports teams from the high school mobilized to help clear debris and cut fallen trees.  Government offices were open to help citizens get permits to be able to drive through downtown.  Police and National Guard were mobilized to help with directing traffic and prevent looting.  Tide mobile laundry service came to town to provide clothes washing facilities.  Trucks loaded with bottled/canned water drove through the affected areas handing out water to whoever wanted it.  It was a wonderful affirmation of all that is good in human nature.  

The End of the World as we know it doesn’t have to be an event that impacts the entire world.  Sure, there will always be the looming threat of global catastrophe, but it’s the “as we know it” part that we experienced in our localized disaster.  You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  Our outlook on the world changed that month.  People no longer scoff at tornado warnings.  Storms are watched more closely.  Schools close more readily when severe weather threatens.  More families are prepared because they purchased some of the items they needed to survive that month.  Cities are purchasing and installing community storm shelters. 

My family no longer teases us about our TEOTWAWKI supplies.  They simply nod and feel more secure knowing that we are taking steps for the next event. I doubt I will ever have a fully stocked “retreat” outside of town, but are doing what we can.  We are taking baby steps that will add up to a solid plan for coping with a disaster.  If this middle-aged, overweight, desk-driving, city dwelling, mother of one can be prepared, then so can you. 

What we had before the Super Outbreak of 2011:
-Second breaker box for generator to run essentials
-Coleman lantern and Emergency long-life hurricane/tornado candles and hurricane lamps and oil.
-Night lights that become flashlights when the power goes off.
-Non-perishable food and paper items in storage.
-Propane grill with a side burner eye and an extra tank
-Power converter for van – used to charge cell phones and laptops.
-Internet access via cell phones
-Internet hotspot via smart phone.
-Blue ice blocks to keep in the freezer or use for emergency coolers.
-Several tanks of gas for the mower/generator.
-Filled up the tubs with water and filled 10 gallon jugs with filtered water.
-Important papers and prescriptions in satchel. 
-Folding chairs for safe room.

Additional steps taken after tasting TEOTWAWKI:
Researched solar powered water heaters, solar and wind resources for electricity. 
We have purchased a solar charger and plug adapter for small appliances.
We have purchased a camping solar hot water shower bag for emergencies.
Researched pedal powered generators.
Researched storable food stuffs.
We have tried several freeze-dried meals from a camping supply store.
Researched water collection systems.
Designated ICOE ("In Case of Emergency") contact person.
Came up with our own list of supplies in the event of TEOTWAWKI
Inventoried our battery powered tools.
Researched tents and sleeping bags.
Researched reusable defensive weapons that do not require gun powder or gunsmithing.
Practiced fire starting with flint.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I will begin with a brief introduction. I have been an avid reader of SurvivalBlog for a few years. I have never found a better collection of tips, ideas, and information. Every time I view the blog I learn something new. I was born and raised in the south, spending most of my time outdoors or in church. I grew up hunting, fishing, camping, and learning the value of a hard days work. I had believed that growing up as I did would provide me advantages in disaster situations without really making any in-depth preparations other than the occasional power outage. In my early twenties, I joined the Army. That is when I woke up and began to see the need for long term preparations. I started paying more attention to news reports and world events and realized I would not survive long on only good intentions when TSHTF.

I knew I needed to be better prepared, but I had no idea where to begin with such an enormous task. One of the soldiers in my unit suggested that I read the novel Patriots by James Wesley, Rawles. It was as if someone turned the light on. I now had a place to begin, a plan. I started out getting a bug out bag together and a small kit that is kept in my vehicle. I then moved on to food stores and other necessary tools. After I built up about six months worth of supplies I began to slow down. I had no real reason to slow down, I knew I still needed to have a larger stock of goods.

My continued efforts to increase my stores were given a new life and faster pace after April 2010. At the time of the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak I was serving in the Alabama National Guard and living in north Alabama. My Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was Military Police, so as soon as I heard of the storm system heading our way I knew the probability of my unit being called up was high. The day seemed as if it would never end, the devastation was awe inspiring to say the least. One of the many tornados that touched down that day cut a path nearly a mile wide just a few short miles from a nuclear power plant which was less than an hour from my house. By God’s grace alone, the tornado left the power plant itself unharmed. This served as my first wake-up call, I hadn’t yet prepared for any kind of a nuclear disaster and hadn’t thought of a natural disaster effecting the nuclear power plant. Although the tornado missed the power plant, it did not miss the transmission lines supplying most of north Alabama with power. The few small hydroelectric dams in the area simply did not have the strength to cover the demand. Even if they could compensate for the loss of the nuclear plant the physical line damages would have prevented power coming back on line soon. From the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham areas north to the Tennessee state line, nearly half the state of Alabama, was dark and would stay that way for a week or more in most locations. Let me tell you first hand, it is one thing to hear someone say with the loss or damage to a supply chain or basic utilities we are only three days from total chaos, quite another to live it.

As I believed, my unit was called up within 24 hours to aid our fellow residents. We loaded up and headed to a city in the area that had been directly hit by an F-5 tornado. Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw upon our first arrival. More than half the town had been erased. Many had lost their lives in the storm and many more had been injured, lost their homes, or were missing. It was like rolling up to a live combat zone. We handed out nearly every scrap of food and water we had with us within just hours of our arrival. We continued to provide medical care and any other aid we could until other agencies arrived. Needless to say it was a long day for all involved.

In the coming days our role shifted to providing security for the area. After the initial shock wore off problems began to arise. We found that most people were completely unprepared for anything like this to happen. Most people didn’t even have any cash on hand, relying only on their debit or credit cards to buy anything they could from the few places that were able to quickly reopen. The problem with this was with a lack of power and phone service to authorize payments stores were only accepting cash. To make matters more stressful to people trying to snatch up any items left many stores, in an effort to prevent fights and theft, were only allowing customers accompanied by an employee in the store for a specified time limit. Many of the stores were even putting limits on how many items you could buy. The lines at the few grocery stores and gas stations quickly stretched to several miles long full of panicking people desperate for supplies. The grocery stores were full of empty shelves within hours. There was only one gas station that was able to sell gas at first due to the owner’s foresight to have a back up generator. Due to the lack of an operational power grid the fuel at other stations sat in the tanks with no way to operate the pumps. This too sold out in just hours.

There were a few small fights here and there usually occurring over the last of an item, bags of ice, or people cutting in front of others in lines. There were a few reports of people being robbed in parking lots after leaving a store, thankfully no one was harmed in these attempts but could have been easily. At this point power and distribution had only been interrupted for two days. People were becoming very desperate and in turn much more willing to take any step they thought necessary to get what they needed. The third day things started to improve overall. Many resupply trucks had rolled in to restock the open stores. Most of the larger chain stores and gas stations had brought in large generators to operate refrigeration systems allowing for cold items such as milk to be sold for the first time since the tornados. The generators also allowed the power needed to begin to process credit card payments. The next few days followed similar patterns with stores being resupplied in the mornings and empty at night. Stores still had incredibly long lines to purchase anything with waits ranging from 30 minutes to several hours. It seemed that the ability to purchase goods again and credit card systems back online provided enough of a sense of normality to keep most people from steeling or escalating to violence despite an operational power grid in many locations. From conversations with my family back at home I learned that things had followed a similar pattern. There were no large areas of destruction in my city other than trees down and a few houses missing roofs from trees falling on them. It was simply the loss of power that seemed to get everyone all riled up.

If there is only one thing that you take away from my experience here I would hope that it is the need to sit down and think of every possible thing that could occur in your area. As I stated above, I had not given much thought to a nuclear power plant being in my area simply because it would not be a likely target for a terrorist attack because of its location. I really hadn’t given much thought to something like a tornado hitting it directly, although looking back now it seems like such an obvious possibility. I guess that’s why they say hindsight is 20/20. I have now provided the necessary provisions for this possibility. Another area I would like to touch on is probably widely realized already by most survival blog readers but I feel the need to mention it anyway. As prepared individuals, we should never rely on the government or any other organization to provide us any aid in times of disasters or attacks. For our own safety we should never be in a position where we might have to give up our freedom or other rights in return for assistance, as in the case of many FEMA camps and shelters where once you enter you may not be allowed to leave until officially released.

One other topic I would like to discuss here is one that I have had difficulties with from time to time, tunnel vision. Tunnel vision can be problematic when making preparations. It can be very easy to focus too much on one aspect of survival needs and allow another area to fall behind. To put it another way, what good is it to have a two-year supply of food if you have failed to provide everything necessary to cook your stores or do not have the knowledge needed to properly utilize your stores. What would happen if someone showed up trying to take all that you have, would you have the necessary gear and training? One thing I have noticed in my own extended family is a family member would go out and buy a tool, no matter if it’s a rifle water filter or other survival tool, and feel like they were covered in that aspect. If you do not have the skills and knowledge to use the item then you might as well not have it. It is very important that you follow up the purchase of something with whatever training is necessary to make you proficient in its use. Take for example a rifle. This is a very important and useful tool if used properly. To use it properly you need training of some type on the safe operation of the rifle as well as fundamental marksmanship skills. Beyond the initial training it is crucial that you continue training with your rifle. Keep your skills sharp, shoot as often as your time and finances allow.

Getting back to the tunnel vision issue, having a military background I tend to lean heavily towards the tactical aspects of prepping because it is what I am most comfortable and familiar with. I have to constantly remind myself to take a step back and look at the big picture. I encourage all of you to also take a step back and look at the big picture. May God bless you and keep you safe in your prepping adventure. I leave you with a verse to look up, one of my favorites Romans 8:28.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hi James,

At about 12:30 UTC this morning Sunspot 11476 flared at the M4.7 level thereafter remaining at an elevated emission state. As of just a few minutes ago it re-flared, peaking to M1.8. Last night's read at gave the area as 1100 SM and noted significant complexity at at least two points within the spot. This morning's HMIB from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) platform has in the leading spot a section in which very high positive and negative magnetic gradients are immediately adjacent to each other with strong intermixing occurring. This is almost always a sign that further high-grade flaring will follow. Looks like the next 24 hours will be "interesting."

Extreme close-up examination of the HMIB (magnetic gradient) of  the leading segment of 11476 shows a very high gradient area of negative polarity strongly infiltrating an equally high magnitude area of positive polarity effectively placing the very strongest +/- zones in extremely close proximity to each other. This circumstance forms a basis for high magnitude (X-Class to high X-Class) solar flare activity. I expect the next 6-12 hours will tell the tale.

Update 00:10 AM EST Thursday, May 10th:

11476 is closing in on it's maximum geoeffective position at this time. The current estimation for it to be along the polar meridian is about ~18 hrs. Concurrently, the spot has grown to over 1100 SM (in NOAA's estimation, I'm sure that will be listing a larger size at the midnight report) and maintains a complex magnetic configuration, even NOAA has acknowledged it as "BGD", Beta-Gamma-Delta, the most complex type of solar magnetic configuration observed. In addition, the most recent HMIB from SDO, when closely examined, indicates that a segment of the lead spot has an area within it where an extremely strong gradient exists between positive and negative polarity fields. It therefore goes without saying that at this time a very high potential for X-flaring exists regardless of the official line given. (NOAA is abysmally slow at evaluating spot state.) Be assured, this spot merits significant attention - as much or more than any we've monitored thus far in this solar cycle. - J. Boston

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
There has been a substantial loss of several fruit crops in Michigan due to unseasonable weather (warm weather caused budding followed by freezing temperatures that killed the fruit blossoms) as reported by AccuWeather.
Michigan is third in apple production and produces a fifth of this country's sweet cherries and three quarters of its tart cherries, and prices are expected to increase. SurvivalBlog readers should take advantage of sales and supplies as they find them and can or "put by" accordingly. - Home's Cool Mom

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
G.T. has some very good points regarding the feasibility of Alaska as a retreat locale.  Granted, the pros and cons of Alaska are almost as varied as such classic arguments as 9mm versus .45, and if I were there when TSHTF, I would probably beat feet for the American Redoubt as quickly as I could.  However, there are a couple areas of interest that his article did not touch on that may be relevant to the topic.

First is the feasibility of gardening.  It is true that for most of the state the summer is very short, as short as 2-to-3 months in some parts.  However, due to the high latitude of most of Alaska, those 2-to-3 months are a time when the sun never sets.  So, while the growing season may be very short, it's also 24 hours a day, so the plants will grow faster.  I did an internship with last summer with a missionary aviation group based in Soldotna, Alaska, and I was amazed by the number of people who had open air gardens and greenhouses in a region I had thought was impossible to garden.  I was also amazed by the number and variety of critters that many people kept on hand.  I'm not sure of the specifics of how they keep them alive through the winter, but many of the same people I saw gardening also had chickens and rabbits.  There were even a few ranches with everything from horses to alpacas.  I don't know how sustainable these ranches would be post-Schumer, but you could do a lot with only a few big animals.

As for hunting and subsistence, even in populated areas like Anchorage, game is pretty abundant.  It may or may not be able to sustain a population the size of Anchorage or Fairbanks, but in the Kenai/Soldotna area, they average almost a moose a day in traffic accidents.  I had a few close calls myself, and I was only there for two months.  Between commercial fishing of the Kenai River, and what residents put away for themselves, the number of salmon harvested was several million just on the Peninsula, and this is apparently sustainable, as the Alaskans fish the Kenai year after year.  Granted, that particular location is literally the best salmon fishing in the world, but there are other places in Alaska where one can still do well with rod, reel, or dip net.

Another thing I found out from a gent who ran an alternative energy/battery shop was how feasible it is to run a mostly solar power system in Alaska.  During the summer, there's sun aplenty, but I had thought that the long, dark winters would put solar plans to rest.  As it turns out, the colder Alaska gets, the more efficient solar generation becomes.  I was informed that, if you keep your batteries warm and your panels and wiring cold, the resistance in the wiring drops off so much that you can actually generate more power in the short cold days of November than you can in the longer, but much warmer days of September.  Granted, you would definitely want some other form of backup power to get you through the darkest days, but that particular vendor said that he had personally helped over a hundred households go completely off grid, mostly by solar, in the last several years.  This was all on the Kenai Peninsula on the southern coast of Alaska.  G.T. was right about microclimates varying across a state.  Alaska is huge. ( Most map projections don't give an accurate picture of it's true size.)  These principles of gardening and solar power very well may not be valid in other parts of the state, especially up in the interior, but on the Peninsula, they seem to hold true.  Just some food for thought. - John in Spokane

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hello James:
Attached is an e-mail I sent to my daughter.  Her boyfriend is from Honduras and she dreams of doing missionary work there.  I thought it may be of interest to some of your readership.  I left out a great deal of information on building site selection (her boyfriend already owns five acres) and foundations.  There seems to be differences in opinion regarding firmly anchored and sand-bed isolation between footings and walls.  Most of my information was gleaned from the book Technical Principles of Building for Safety (Building for Safety Series) by Coburn.

Dear X.:
I did a little bit of reading this weekend regarding safe house construction in earthquake and hurricane prone regions.  I thought of you since you might be spending significant amounts of time in that part of the world.  Some sobering pictures of what an earthquake can do to masonry structures (Italy) 

Key points for concrete block construction (very common in Honduras):
1. Don't build the house out of masonry, use wood which is lightweight, strong and flexible.....but if you cannot.....
2. Single story construction (probably the single most important thing)
3. Use thick blocks (at least 8" across).  Use good blocks (should ring when blocks are struck with hammer or another block, mortar should be mixed on-site, in small batches by somebody who knows his business.
4. Simple rectangular outline.  Long, skinny houses shake to pieces while those that are closer to square in outline stay together
5. Small rooms.  No room larger than 15' by 15' (5 meters by 5 meters)  (probably #2 in importance....especially for bedrooms)
6. Use concrete block for interior partition walls to tie exterior walls together.  See note below about corners.
7. Door and window openings small, minimal number and evenly spaced around the building.  It is advantageous to have the tops of the windows and doors at the same elevation (see note on ring-beams)
8. No window or door openings in walls within 3' (one meter) of an outside wall or inside partition wall
9. The strength is in the corners (see points 4,5 and 7).  Reinforce the corners with steel wire, mesh or rod laid horizontally in mortar as the walls are built.
10. Build with two ring-beams.  One even with the tops (lintels) of the doors and windows, one along the very top of the wall.  Ring-beams can be cast of concrete/steel rod or constructed of wood.  This is a picture of a structure with FIVE wooden ring-beams
11. Use a light-weight roof that is well tied together (plywood sheathing is recommended) but steel is OK.  See picture from line above.
12. Roof should be relatively steep, 30-to-40 degrees is recommended.  Flatter roofs can act like airplane wings and lift off more easily in high winds.
13. Roofs should not extend more than 24" past wall
14. Hip roofs tend to be most resistant to blowing off.  House with five ring-beams is also a hip roof house.
15. Put the bed in the middle of the room.
16. A decent article about how to make an existing house safer


Saturday, February 25, 2012

I'll start this by saying I'm a single 33 year old. I've been into preparedness long before I knew there was a word for it.  I don't really know where it came from in the beginning, though my mother was my Cub Scout leader in elementary school. Some of my best memories were sitting on the floor underneath the dining room table tying knots around the table legs. I also remember reading The Hardy Boys Handbook: Seven Stories of Survival in elementary school, which was a mix of survival stories and information. It is worthwhile to find a copy for your kids.

As I graduated high school in Texas, Y2K was looming.  I had always been someone to keep a flashlight and jumper cables in my car, but that seemed just sensible to me.  I bought several magazines on Y2K preparedness but being on a college student budget and living in the dorms there was little I could do besides buy a couple of plastic water storage bags. Then after graduation I moved to Florida.

Florida, it would seem, would be the natural place for someone with a survival mindset. Having never lived in Florida before but being someone that watched the news often, all I knew about the state was: Hurricanes.
My father and extended family had lived in Florida for several years and had been through at least one hurricane and the wildfires of the late 1990s. My father being ex military I was sure they would be accepting of the idea and most certainly were several steps ahead my concept of preparedness. Boy, was I wrong.

When I arrived at my father's house, I couldn't find a functioning flashlight. They had no water storage. They had a grill that was electric. They had a generator that was not only undersized, but had never been taken out of the box. When I inquired to where there fuel storage was, the reply was 'we're going to siphon out of the cars'.  Ok, reasonable idea. Where is the siphon pump? Where are the extension cords for the generator, or do you plan to put it in the middle of the living room?

These questions bothered me greatly, and then Hurricane Floyd came.  I was working for Radio Shack store on Merritt Island at the time, and we had set up a display full of weather radios. I even went as far as to print a picture of the satellite track and tape it onto the stack of boxes. It was mostly ignored. 

Until the final few hours.
I was at the store with a co worker when the wind started to pick up. I made the decision to go home to help the family pack for the evac.  The story that was told to me later was that about  5 minutes after I left, the district manager called to tell him he was free to close the store whenever he felt uncomfortable.  The story goes, that after the district manager hung up, the store was inundated with local people, buying every flashlight, battery pack and weather radio they could get there hands on.  Good day for business, bad day for common sense.

We were lucky enough to have a house in Orlando, so we had some place to go.  I was in the first carload to the house that I had only visited once. The Orlando house had even few preparations than the primary house had.  I fell asleep that night in my clothes with my five year old 4-cell MagLite next to my bed, trying to figure out how to put the skylight back on with duct tape, that I was sure was going to blow off during the night.
As with most Hurricanes that head for the Space Coast, it blew itself out before it barely made landfall.  We didn't even lose power, thus the complacency continued.

One of my windfall moments was a few months later when Hurricane Irene hit.  [By the time it reached us,] it was a tiny storm, barely a Cat 2.  We had put up our opaque lexan window panels by that point. Irene hit late in the morning and I had slept though most of it. Ironically enough, though the winds were pretty minor, we had lost power.  Since my windows were darkened due to the panels, I had problems finding my way out of my own bedroom. I've slept with that 4-cell Maglite under my bed ever since. It's there right now,  11 years, two states, and many cities later.

I lived in that house on the Space Coast for another year, quietly building a first aid kit, some batteries, flashlights and other equipment quietly. I hid a lot of two liter coke bottles re-filled with water under my bed. It got little attention, until we got our latest 'boil water order'.  As my father started to fill pots to put on the stove, I pulled a couple of bottles out from under the bed and passed them out. Not a lot of appreciation, but not a lot of scorn either. I was okay with that.

A year or so later, I was on my way to my student research project on my off college day.  I wasn't much one for the local Orlando radio stations, so it wasn't until I got to work when I found out about what was going on in New York.  It was 9.11.01.   My boss was e- military and we had several active duty military personnel in the research project. I watched the Internet go to a crawl and cell phone service die.  I finally decided to go home and began filling up anything I could find with water, not sure what would happen next.   My brother got home a little while later. He was working at Sea World at the time and for the first time in remembered history, they had closed and emptied the park.

I remember the uncertainty of the following few months. I recall the anthrax attacks, the invasion of Iraq and the D.C. Sniper.  I was in college in Orlando at this point and had a few extra dollars.  I gathered what I could, mostly first aid and water storage as quietly as I could manage.

Many years later I found my way back home to Texas, and to a place of my own.  I didn't have to answer anyone about preps and though Y2K had long passed and the overall sense of dread of domestic terrorism was starting to subside, I still wanted to continue prepping.  I had been a member of an online survival forum for a while at this point and it was gaining momentum. As I tried to talk to friends and family about prepping, I had mixed results. When you talk about prepping, people's minds often go to the extreme.  While there certainly are people sitting in cabins in the woods, surrounded by MREs, I'd put them in the extreme minority. 
I try to talk about balance and threat analysis.  I currently live in Central Texas, which has a stable climate, stable power grid,  no major targets for attack, and is seismically stable.  We did have some radical flooding a few years ago but other than that, we've been pretty lucky. I've mentioned that about the most extreme plausible thing I can think of is a freak ice storm.

Then Hurricane Katrina happened.
I was working for another Radio Shack store at the time, and it began with strange phone calls from other stores.  Locations were selling out of weather radios and flashlights as fast as we could get them in.  I hadn't been paying attention to the news lately so I was caught unaware of the situation.   I remember going home that night and reviewing my preps. I was pretty solid at that point, but decided to venture out for some last minute items.
You couldn't find a pack of batteries in Austin if you tried. You couldn't find a bottle of water if you had $1,000 to spend on it.

I remember going to an Academy Sports store to look for items. There were several very confused and frightened looking people in the camping aisle, staring at the wall of water filters with glazed over eyes.  I reached for the last 5 gallon water jug a half second before another man did. I had 3 at home, so I let him have it.  He turned and started to look at the MSR Miniworks water filters and I made a quiet comment about what to look for. I glanced up to see 8 pairs of eyes, fixated on me, eager for information.  I answered what I could and made my way home. Seeing that the parking lot at my local grocery store looked like Wal-Mart on the day after Thanksgiving, I found a new respect for Walgreens. They had everything I needed, with reasonable (if not slightly higher) prices.  Keep an eye out for a Walgreens or CVS pharmacy if you're in an emergency situation.

I watched the news that night and attempted to keep my stress level down. I'm a marginally high strung person and I though I've been into prepping for  a while, I had yet to actually be in an emergency situation. I packed my freezer with as many bags of ice as I could make and filled everything I could find with water. I moved a mattress into my closet and even made plans to block the windows.  You see, in those final few hours, there were news reports that estimated that Katrina was supposed to go right up the middle of Texas, through Houston and up and through Austin and onward.  Bastrop (a South East Suburb of Austin) had evacuation orders was another rumor.

The next day was a mix of emotions. Texas barely got anything, while the insanity of New Orleans took hold.  My own personal temper was fanned by my employment situation. You see, when no disaster came to pass in Texas, virtually every pack of batteries, weather radio, flashlight or pocket television was returned. I wanted to scream at every customer, standing there holding there receipt. It was less about my deflated bonus check about the frustration that was so similar to what I felt in Florida.  It wasn't like we were selling generators or gas masks. It wasn't like the items were thousands or even hundred of dollars. I couldn't understand why someone would return a $5 flashlight 'because nothing happened, so now I don't need it.'

I've stopped trying to beat people over the head with prepping. I've found that you catch my flies with honey than you do with vinegar. When I talk to people about prepping, I focus on realistic threats and low cost solutions.  People think that prepping is expensive. It doesn't have to be. I tell people that if they stop to think about it,  probably 80% of the things they need they already have, and another 15% of things, they should have. Does every house need a flashlight, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher?  Have you ever gone camping? You probably have a stove, blankets and sleeping bags. Water storage is as cheap as a 2 liter soda bottle, or  a $12 Aquatainer. It's not about guns and gas masks, though I don't discount those either. It's not about zombies or EMPs, though I don't discount those either.

If you stop and look around your town or city, you can probably come up with a few plausible, reasonable situations that could happen with little to no warning.  Are you prone to snow, ice, flooding or extreme heat?  Do you live near a rail line? (overturned chemical car anyone?). If you live near a nuclear power plant or military base, do you know several ways to get out of town?

Mostly, focus on the little things. I still feel strongly that most of the situations that you're going to come across you won't be home for. Do you carry a flashlight, tool kit, jumper cables and a flash light in your car? You don't even want to know how many of each of those are in mine. I don't feel normal if I leave the house without a knife in my pocket and a flashlight on my key ring. Why?  These are things that I use every day of my life. People reading this would say that will probably think that is too basic a thing to even mention, but look around you. How many of you have friends or family that don't own flashlights.  How many of your friends don't have jumper cables in their car?

I've slowly got friends and family into prepping. It was a hard road. Being subtle helps. Christmas and birthdays provide opportunities.  I wouldn't suggest buying a relative a gas mask if they aren't already on board.  Start easy, like a wind up weather radio or lantern. Something they will likely use even not in a disaster situation. Even cheesy disaster movies like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow (one of my favorites) provide opportunities. Anything that will give you the chance for a discussion is of benefit, just keep it light. Let them come to you for more information when they are ready. Let them know that you love them and you're trying to help save their life, but don't beat them over the head with it if they aren't ready.

Most importantly, keep a good attitude. At the end of the day, unless you're Bill Gates, you can't prepare for every single situation. Pick your battles and your primary threats. Do what you can when the finances allow.  By reading this and going to the store, you're already ahead of 95% of the population.  Regardless of what the voice over on Doomsday prepper says about the odds of a disaster happening, remember:  It's not about the odds, it's about the stakes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

To say we have had a mild winter here in Iowa is an understatement to say the least. That was until recently. It would be safe to say that with temperatures in the 50 degree range I have gotten a little complacent this winter. Like many who read SurvivalBlog I spend time watching the news and trying to keep an eye on the big picture. At least in this case it came at the expense of some of the details. Like everything in life I would like to remind myself as well as all my Brothers and Sisters out there that might read this that like all things in life we need to take a balanced approach.
We did have a snow storm and nature reminded us that it was still winter. I guess this would be one of those situations that Attitude made the difference in the whole day. That was something else that I think I may have forgotten. At my house we don’t prep just to survive. If all I was interested in was surviving I would not put so much time and effort into what we have done. Personally I want to survive with a life worth living.  I personally am not someone that is going to wonder through the woods with a backpack eating bugs having lost everyone and everything I love. If they are going to get to the people and pets that I love and care for then they are going to have to go through me to get there. So if those things are gone they would have had to take me out to get there. So while I’m here I might as well enjoy the life that I have.
Instead of taking the doom and gloom look at what all went wrong let’s take a positive outlook on the day and see what I was able to learn from our experience. Life is a choice. Where you are in life is a sum of the decisions you have made so you are exactly where you have chosen to be. Look at it this way: If you are now willing to make changes to your lifestyle such as giving up cable or eating out then you have made a conscious choice. You have chosen to keep things exactly the way they are. Since you are not willing to do anything different you must be happy with the way things are in your life. So let’s take a look at where the choices I have made took me for the day.
Waking up to about 4 inches of snow meant that my first duty of the morning was to get out and get rid of the snow off the driveway and sidewalks. Not a big deal. My Cub Cadet has a two stage snow blower on it and I race my neighbor to see who can do the others sidewalk first.

The first thing I notice is this has got to be the heaviest and wettest snow I can remember in a long time. As soon as you step down on the snow it instantly turns to ice on the sidewalk under your feet. This is the first time I can ever remember my machine struggling to throw the snow out of the way. I’m usually having to angle the shoot down so the snow does not go too far and end up where I don’t want it. I happily spend an hour or so removing the snow from our property and a couple of my elderly neighbors. Rats, Rick has already gotten the sidewalk. Score one for him. I’ll get him next time.

I pull the tractor back into the garage and notice that it is unusually dark inside. I thought I had turned on the lights in the garage when I went in but must not have. Well no big deal there is plenty of light coming in from the open garage door. I put the tractor away and pull my truck back in and prepare to go back into the house. Like most people I go to walk out the door and hit the automatic garage door switch and nothing happens. Click, Click, Click? I looked over and I had turned on the lights but they were not on? I guess all this heavy wet snow has taken down some of the trees in the area.

A power failure is not a huge deal. I pull the release cord on the door to disconnect it from the drive and close the door manually. Here is where our first learning experience comes into play. Don’t you just hate those? With the door being connected to an automatic garage door opener there are no operating locks on it. Being an accountant by trade I’m not the most mechanical person on the planet so I have to subscribe to the K.I.S.S. principle.  So believing in this instead of trying to do something elaborate I just grab a set of vice grips and clamp them on the rail to secure the garage. It would have been no big deal if the door had been closed when the power went out but since the side was all the way back there was no way to secure the door. A nice set of Vice-Grips on the rail worked quite well in my opinion.

At this point my vicious guard dogs decide to wake up and come downstairs and see how much of my breakfast they can talk me out of. This is where I would really suggest one of those LED head lamps if you don’t already have one. The kitchen is on the North side of the house so does not have a great deal of outside light this time of year. Having both hands free makes tasks much easier than trying to hold a light with one hand and do everything with the other. Of course there is always the hold it in your mouth and slobber all over yourself method. Personally I prefer the head lamp. Slobber all down the front of your shirt first thing in the morning seems to bring a lot of pesky questions. Or at least it does at my house.

At this point the power has been out from probably an hour and a half at my estimation. With Winter having shown up with the snow the temperature outside was far from what we had gotten used to. No big deal “I HAVE PREPS”. Quite proud of myself for having thought ahead I have a backup heat source. I have a kerosene heater out in the garage that I keep around for just such an occasion. So closely watched by my ever vigilant guard dogs we go out to the garage to get the heater and bring it into the house.

I do have to interject here that I was quite proud of myself at this point. I have read here on SurvivalBlog quite a few times that you can never have too many flashlights and the read many praises on the new LED flashlights. Having done so a while back when I was at Home Depot I saw bulk packs of them on sale and picked up several. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I then went around the house and put at least one flashlight in every room of the house. Several rooms we put a couple. Luckily for me the flashlight was right where I expected it to be and worked great.

The Dogs and I then went out and brought in the heater and wiped off the dust and checked it over for proper operation before I tried to light it. I used to use it regularly to heat the garage before having a heating system put in. Since then it has sat patiently on the shelf waiting. This is when I noticed that last time I used it I had forgotten to refill it. Not a big deal. I was prepared. I knew I had extra kerosene in the garage. I had several unopened cans that I had purchased for just such an occasion. So the dogs and I trekked back out to the garage to get some kerosene to top it off before we put it into operation. I knew the cans were unopened and therefore full. I checked on them by looking over at them to make sure they had not been damaged several times a year but had never physically touched them since I had put them off in the corner against the wall. I know they were full because I had purchased them and put them over there.
This was when I realized that Murphy's Law had not been repealed. The cans were strangely light when I went to pick them up. Almost as if they were empty. I look at the top and the seal is still in place right there where it is supposed to be. They simply can’t be empty could they? They were new when I put them there and the seal is still on top right where it was supposed to be. I shake the can and there is no slosh like there should be. No one ever told me that if you put a steel can on a cement floor that the bottom of the can will rust out. It must have happened over a long period because I never remember smelling kerosene in the garage but the bottom of the can was rusted and the cans were empty.

Well we must keep our beautiful wife warm so we go back into the house and strategically place the heater in the kitchen on the bottom floor of the house and light it. I did this because heat will radiate up. So by putting it at the bottom of the house farthest away from the stairs the heat will radiate through the bottom floor and eventually upstairs. The sun has finally come out so I open up the curtains on the south side of the house to let in as much sunlight as possible. I was surprised that within a half hour I had to go back downstairs and turn the heater off. It was starting to get way too warm upstairs.

Not knowing how long my existing kerosene still in the tank was going to last I went to plan “B”. Being a believer in "two is one and one is none", I had recently purchased a backup heat source to my backup heat source. Truthfully I had picked it up for the 5th wheel we have recently purchased and placed out our bug out location. On another trip to Home Depot I had purchased a Mr. Heater tank top heater. I had plenty of propane. All of my back up cooking is based on propane if the gas were ever to go out I had stocked up with the normal grill tanks with the adapter to fill the small tanks our camping stove uses and had a supply of tanks for our grill as well as three different 100 lb tanks to take down to the 5th wheel. We are still in the process of setting up the camper so they have not been moved down there yet. All were fully charged for just such an occasion.  With no better time to test our new heater than the present I assembled our new heater and attached it to the tank. I was amazed at the heat this thing put out and had to quickly turn it back off. I was confident that we were going to be nice and warm for as long as we would be without power.

So that gave me a few minutes to sit down and go through my checklist to see what needed to be done:

  • Shelter is in place and safe? Check
  • Water? Plenty stored and water still running check
  • Food? Well stocked for both 2 pawed and 4 pawed family members so Check
  • Everyone Safe and warm? Check
  • Light? Plenty of candles, flash lights with back well over 100 back up batteries (Sale at Bass Pro shops on back Friday), Oil Lamps with extra wicks and oil, all in place so check  

Not being the type that would be willing to leave a heater on and unattended this gave me some time to sit by the window and go over our situation and evaluate what still needed to be done and see where I had missed things. As I sat there in the a comfortable chair looking out the sliding glass door watching it start to snow again I noticed a few things. Please let me share them with you.
As I sat there in front of the window I had a sense of calm and peace flow over me. It had started to snow again fairly aggressively. I could see several neighbors loading up their cars forced to trek out into the storm looking for a warm place to go. Meanwhile I was sitting there in my chair warm and comfortable. Knowing my family was safe and warm. I didn’t have to care what the roads were like. I didn’t have to care how much it snowed. I didn’t have to care when the power came back on. For the first time in several years the house was quit. I could almost hear the house talking to me. Those subtle noises that a house makes that are always there but are hidden behind the background noise of all the gadgets of our modern life create. I had a calmness and peace that I had not felt in quite a while. The simple things in life were all taken care of because we had the foresight to prep not just for the big disaster but also for the little things.
I realized the mistakes I had made. I had gotten complacent in knowing my preps were there and had not taken the time to periodically check and make sure they were still in operational condition. Luckily I had subscribed to the "Two is one, and one is none" theory and that had saved us.
My pointed out an area I had thought of once and had completely forgotten about. As unromantic as it sounds at this point feeling so good about how well things had gone overall we forgot about the toilet. Where we live we have a high water table so the sewer system cannot be buried very deep. Because of this we have what is called a grind pit in our back yard. All the waste from the house drains down into this pit and a device in the bottom grinds up all the solids and then pumps them “UP” to the sewer system. With no power there is no pumping action and the pump would become full rather quickly if we did not monitor how much water went down the drain. Of course this is when Murphy decided to make his presence known again. I had not really worried about it too much because I had a nice Kohler generator. Well as you might guess we don’t currently have our generator. It is over being worked on by the small engine person of our Mutual Assistance Group. We are experimenting with retrofitting the generators of our group with automobile mufflers in an attempt to quite them down considerably so they will be safer to use at our bug out location in a SHTF situation. The loud roar of several generators will carry for quite a ways in that type of situation and we are attempting to lower our decibel output as much as possible. Because of this my generator is not currently available.  Not a severe problem I can always grab one from work and bring it home once the storm passes if necessary but defiantly something that I need to work on.
At this point there is only one thing left on the list to do. So I go upstairs and see my beautiful wife and my vicious guard dogs all curled up on a pile of pillows on the bed. This is a scene that would make the cat proud. My wife is comfortably reading a book basking in the sunlight coming in from the window. My lab is comfortably curled up on my pillows and my Shepherd is sprawled out across what is left of the bed.
I update my wonderful wife on our situation and my conclusions. Then I inform her the only thing we have left to do to insure our survival is work on shared bodily warmth and comfort. That this is a critical part of our survival plan. The fate of the world could depend on it.
My loving wife then looks up from her book. She looks at me with those beautiful hazel eyes. Her long beautiful hair cascading down across her shoulders and pillows. The absolute picture of loveliness. A gentle smile crosses her face only to be replaced by her tongue sticking out followed quickly by a raspberry thrown in my direction. Dejected and rejected I was banished to the couch where I had to spend the afternoon taking nap lessons from the cat.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles:
n reference to the recent SurvivalBlog article "Surviving The Cold", by The Other D.B.: It is never repeated enough: wet cold kills.   The advice to test your rain gear with a garden hose is priceless.

A piece of kit that I have found invaluable exercising or working in the cold is the Neck Warmer / Head Wrap. This is a simple tube of stretch polypropylene or polyester fleece or wool.  Critical to better protect the vascular area where you lose the most heat--our head and neck.

You can see some examples at these three vendor sites:

Using a Wrap as a base layer allows you to apply the layering effect for your head and neck, fine tuning your head and neck insulation to your level of exercise and heat buildup.  If you only have one thick layer on your head, you have to choose between a hot, sweaty head with your hat on, vs. chilling off too fast going bare.

These Wraps are so light you can keep extras in pockets, so you can swap out to a dry wrap if you do get sweaty.   In the cold I like to use two at a time - one as a neck and lower face wrap, and one as a base layer on the head, under helmet or cap.   I keep two in my car, two in my pack, and two in the pocket of a jacket.

Another great feature is that they dry out very fast attached to the outside of your pack.

Beyond being a neck warmer or head warmer the Wrap can also be a balaclava, helmet liner, dust mask, facial camo, goggle cover, sun protection, etc., etc.:


Another somewhat obscure article of clothing with similar benefits is the "neck dickie".

These are available in a Coolmax sweat wicking Military Brown at Vendio and heavier fleece.

This is literally a  polo neck that has been cut off to just cover the neck and upper chest and back.  The huge advantage here is that you can add a layer without adding more bulk on the shoulder socket/arms, and it can be quickly and easily pulled off to adjust your layering (without the hassle of taking off a jacket or pack, or webbing).

Important proviso - as with almost all synthetic materials they are lighter than wool - but are vulnerable to melting in a fire, causing more severe injury than a natural fabric burning.  Don't wear synthetics in high fire hazard areas!  (Note - there are synthetics made out of Nomex that are fire-retardant - but they are very pricey.)

Full disclosure: We sell head wraps as accessories to our tactical goggles, but - we specialize in Body Armor, not clothing, and are really not looking to sell small, individual clothing items, so our bias here is quite minimal!

Yours Truly, - Nick at

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Most of us take for granted the fact that if were cold we can find someplace warm to retreat to. In the event of a catastrophe that luxury is going to be one of the first things that goes by the wayside. Animals adapt to their environment or they perish, survival of the fittest. I’ve talked to a few folks that have a couple tons of food and ammo stashed that have never even thought about the clothes situation.  So, What can we do as smart animals to prepare for that day?

Unfortunately a lot of people have no clue at all how to dress themselves for cold and inclement weather. Usually we put on what we have that we think is the warmest and hope for the best. That is not going to work when there is no warm house to run to and warm up in! Get rained on and your sol. Yeah that nice brown popular work gear is great but at most it’s used 12 hours and then you have a chance to dry it and you out. Try spending a few days in it without drying it out and see how comfy you are!

The best way  to stay dry, warm, and comfortable is layers, and they have to be layers of the correct material. Cotton is pretty much useless for  staying warm. It holds moisture, does not breath well, and is not a very good insulator. Cotton is good for warm days and summer time, It’s cheap and easy to obtain. So don’t plan on getting any usable service out of any of your cotton clothes in the winter.

The fundamental key of staying warm is to simply stay dry. Wet clothing dissipates body heat at a phenomenal rate. The saying  “If your wet your dead” in the winter is pretty self explanatory.  So in order to stay dry we need to fist keep the moisture and sweat our bodies produce away from our skin.  We do this by our base layer. It is clothing that is designed to allow moisture to pass through it without absorbing it. One of the early forms of this is silk. Yes, that luxurious cloth does have some functional value! Silk is expensive, and is not very stretchy or conforming. Silk blends however are very conducive to  functional base layers! I’ve found silk base layers to be functional and comfortable but they don’t seem to be as durable as I’d like.   Just as effective and more affordably priced, and more durable, are base layers made from polypropylene and the like. There are a variety of manufactures out there that each have their own magic blend so shop around. Just keep in mind the intended function of the base layer is to keep you dry, not to keep you warm.  As a side note there is “base layer “ underwear available from a variety of manufactures. This extends the wear time of your pants and tops base layers by letting you change your skivvies once a day or so… One key to look for on your base layers are pants and tops that are large enough to cover your lower back with no gaps. And they need to do this in all positions so bend over twist lift your legs up do some PT and make sure they don’t work their way down or up. FYI, women’s bottoms seem to ride a bit higher than men’s on the backside. Your base layer needs to fit like a second skin, skin tight is what you want. This prevents it from working and moving around and bunching up in places.

So now that we have a good moisture wicking base layer on lets talk about the insulation layers. Again, anything cotton is useless so don’t bother, even a cotton T-shirt can cause you problems. The old standby for insulation is good old wool. It’s plentiful, and has some insulation value even when wet. The cons are it’s itchy, and tends to be heavy. Luckily technology has provided us with a cheap and extremely effective material called fleece. Fleece is a form of spun plastic, often times made from recycled plastic bottles. It’s extremely lightweight, durable, available in varying densities and thickness, and is just plain comfortable. It dries quickly and does not hold water well so it even maintains some insulation value when it’s wet! About the only negative I can think of is the fact it tends to melt quickly around fire so br extremely careful if you try drying it out over an open camp fire! Again the key is layers so throw on a couple layers of it depending on how cold it is outside and your activity level. You can also mix it up with a layer of fleece and then a wool sweater. Other options include fleece jackets and vests. These are handy as they usually have some pockets. Jackets and vests are good calls when it’s cold on sunny days when there is no wind or precipitation. Layer up, you can always take some off if your hot, or throw an extra layer in the pack and add it if your cold.

The last layer you should put on is your first layer of defense against the elements, and yes, you need to think of this as war against mother nature and all that she can bring because that is exactly what it is. If she wins you die, simple fact. This outer layer is your coat and bibs. Now I know you all think that you have plenty of coats and pants for winter so let me offer you a test. Put on your best coat and bibs /pants and stand outside and let someone hose you down with the garden hose for ten minutes ( obviously not spraying you directly in the face but pretty much everywhere else). Take your stuff off and see how dry you are. If your not completely dry then your gear is junk. Sorry but that $500 you spent on that hunting coat was more for the name and the funky camo pattern on it!

Your coat and pants/bibs needs to do two things, one it needs to let moisture out, and two it needs to keep any moisture on the outside on the outside. Lucky for us humans we’ve invented just such a material, Gore-Tex is the most popular, been time tested and proven, and is what I prefer. Not to say that there are not other materials out there that can’t do the same job. I just prefer to stick with what has worked in the past. The next technical feature you need to look for are taped and sealed seams on the jacket and pants. It will look similar to a good tent that is taped and sealed only it will be a much better job usually. This is an important feature as it actually makes the coat waterproof. No leaky seams that can leak water or air. You would be surprised at how much air can permeate the holes made by a sewing machine when it’s a 40 MPH wind! Another feature is a built-in hood, usually made from the same materiel as the coat. These typically roll up and stow in the collar of the jacket when not in use. The hood is a huge component to keeping you dry when it’s raining or snowing as it’s your “roof” to keep it out of your neck! It also provides a complete barrier from the top of your head to the bottom of the coat against wind, blowing snow and rain. Another must have feature is under arm zipper vents. These allow you to ‘vent’ heat during physical activity, even when it’s raining! So when you find yourself heating up you open the vents up. If you have a fleece jacket with under arm vents as well then the next step is to open them up. This allows you to quickly cool down without removing any insulation layers. If it’s not enough then you will need to shed the fleece jacket or a layer underneath it.  A good coat will also have a powder skirt, this is an elastic flap inside the coat that you snap together around your stomach before you zip up the coat. This is the sealing mechanism between your coat and bibs to keep out blowing wind and snow. Seems like a minor trivial thing, but it is very important. It keeps all the cold air from getting inside your jacket from the bottom and wasting your body heat. The cuffs will also have velcro sealing bands that allow you to seal the ends of the sleeves to the same end. The zipper should also have a full length closure flap / gusset for sealing off the zipper against wind and rain.  A good coat will also have a number of handy pockets here and there to stash your gloves and hats and what not. Do not get in the habit of using this space as stuff space for all the things you think you might be needing. Use these primarily for your jacket accessories, hats, gloves, glasses, face protectors and the like. You need to start thinking of the coat as an important survival tool, and the tool needs to be filled with all the things you need with it so when you grab it in a hurry and run your not forgetting anything. The best coat and bibs in the world are going to be useless if you forget your hat and gloves. Most coats have a couple inside pockets for a small sidearm or radio, but much of that needs to be on your pack or utility harness, not on or in your coat.

Snow pants or bibs, this is the question.
Snow pants are nice if your never going to bend over or fall down on your backside. Even if your sitting they tend to leave a gap at the back, and that is not good! So from my experience pants are pretty useless in long term winter exposure. Bibs are the way to go, they fit higher up around your back and chest, and have suspenders to keep them in place. You may not be the suspender type of person so let me explain why it’s so important. Suspenders allow you to adjust your bibs to the point that they are not bunching up in the crotch and choking you to death. This allows you to move your legs and your body in all positions very freely without stretching your bibs all out of proportion or even ripping them open. And no matter what position you find yourself in that spot on your lower back is always covered! The height of them also bridges over the seams between your top and bottom layers under it so all your seams are not in one place making things a lot more comfortable. The freedom of movement that bibs give you in normal circumstances is critical when you need to do things like run and jump a long distance or scale a rock face or jump off a vehicle quickly.

Another feature of bibs is they usually have zippers along the outside legs, this lets you vent excess heat like your coat does. There are fleece pants that also have zippers on the side as well for more ventilation options. The cuffs are also specially designed with an internal  cuff to seal out air and snow like the one inside the jacket. Cuffs should have adjustable velcro closures to allow different boot sizes as you may be wearing packs for snowshoes one day and the next you may have on cross country ski boots. Even if your home or in camp and have on work boots or something it’s important to have the option to seal them up to keep the draft out.  The zippers should also have closures over them like the coat.  Now most of us are accustomed to cargo pants pockets and may think that you need these in the snow pants. I’ve found plain no pocket snow pants is the way to go as they shed snow and rain much better. The other factor is that if your on snow shoes or cross country  skis the last thing you want is a bunch of stuff chaffing your legs back and forth every time you take a step. Stick it in your pack. Again, make sure the bibs are constructed of a breathable fabric such as Gore-tex.

The Hands:
Treat your hands the same way as your body, layers. Everyone seems to think that they need gloves as well. Sad truth of the matter is if it’s cold out there are no gloves that are going to keep your fingers warm and toasty very long. If you want them to stay warm and dry then use mittens for your outer layer. Now were not talking the knitted red ones grandma used to make, were talking full on technical gore-tex with leather or abrasion resistant palms and thumbs. They should also have nice long gauntlets with shock cord closures on the cuffs to seal them up over your coat. Your also hook those cords to your coat sleeves so you don’t loose your mitts when you pop them off to do something. What works best is a good wicking base layer glove, these are really thin, and offer little or insulation value. On top of that you can place a fleece glove for insulation. Best to have a selection of different weight fleece gloves for different activity levels and conditions. Fleece gloves with leather palms and reinforcing are nice as you can shed your mitts quick and then have the dexterity to use your fingers. The leather give some protection against them getting wet when you grab things. For those really cold days a thick pair of fleece mittens that fit inside the liners will be warranted, and much appreciated by your fingers. Now the top layer mitts are not going to fit tight, probably even when you have the thick fleece mitts on, this is no reason for concern as they were intended to work that way! Ice Climbing and mountaineering are by far the best type of gloves to get. If your going to go cheap on something don’t let it be hand protection….

Now for the head. We all know that our heads radiate and disperse heat more than any other part of our body, so it’s critical that we insulate it to prevent all our precious body heat from escaping. Again, same principal, layers. Nice long “balaclava” wicking head liner to start the layer, then some fleece, maybe a fleece neck gaiter, nice fleece or wool hat to top it all off. Helmets - ski or snowboarding are also very nice in some situations. Just make sure you can close all the gaps between your torso and the head, the neck is a very annoying place to have a draft! Your hood on the coat completes the outer layer in time of moisture or precipitation. Make sure you have enough layers to cover and insulate your face right up to your eyes. If it’s really cold nasty and windy out your going to want everything covered… and I mean everything. Frostbite can happen in a few minutes if conditions are right, and the tip of the nose is where it’s going to occur, and you not going to know about it till it’s too late. Have extra so you can rotate them out if they ice up from heavy breathing. Goggles are a must, have at the minimum two pair of each ( Daytime and nighttime ) so you can rotate them when they ice over or fog up bad. If they are fogging up you need to vent your head a bit more to prevent it. Have some clear goggles for when it gets dark, and a couple shades for the daytime is nice as well. Yellow/orange tinted ones provide greater clarity in the snow during the day, but can sometimes not provide enough shading to protect your eyes. If it’s nice out sunglasses work just fine, goggles are for inclement weather and let you seal your face up completely against it. Gently clean iced up goggles off and place inside your coat to dry them off. Remove and let cool before you put them back on.

 If your going to be out in the sun a long time and it’s nothing but snow cover you should really have glasses with protection on the sides. Mountaineering “glacier” sun glasses have these or you can quickly fashion something from a scrap of cloth or leather. This prevents the reflection of the sun off the snow getting into your eyes. What happens if your on a snow pack on a sunny day without glasses, or with poor ones, is that you basically “sprain” your eye. This feels like someone took a 3” long needle and jabbed it into each eye. The treatment, drugs to dilate your pupil and staying out of the light, rather lengthy recovery as well. Get a few pair of good cheap polarized sunglasses  for everyday beating around in, and have a good pair of glacier glasses or two to use on those really sunny days on the snow!

The Feet. Treat your feet with the same layering technique we’ve been talking about all along. The exception is that fleece socks don’t seem to be that great of an idea! Get some good thin wicking liners and then some nice insulated socks. Most of us seem to have a pretty good handle on this so I’m not going to go into detail. Just make sure you have plenty of socks, and boots, to keep your feet dry and warm! Pack type boots are a favorite of mine and have proven themselves time and again. 

Your layers should depend on your activity level, dress for the least active you plan to be and then shed layers as you or the day heats up. Look for options like vests and fleece jackets that have zippers under the arms for vents. Try to keep from sweating as much as possible by shedding layers and venting. Antiperspirant on the feet is also a neat trick to keep them from sweating quite so much if it’s available. Try to stay away from “fashionable” Brand names and stick with time proven companies that have been outfitting climbers and mountaineers for a few decades. North Face, Marmot, and Patagonia are names I trust.  If you want warm fleece the Patagonia stuff is the bomb in my opinion, paddlers in 33 degree water do seem to know how to dress for it! About the only ‘house’ brand stuff that I’ve found and trust is REI's stuff. They make some pretty decent items that are reasonably priced. Make an opportunity present itself to test your gear, see how long you can last on a single digit day and you’ll either impress yourself at your ability or scare yourself from the fact of how ill-prepared you are for cold weather survival. Stay warm!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I am not trying to offend anyone or represent myself as an expert. I know there are many preppers on this forum that will see none of what I am writing here as new. However, some people may need this information or have not thought of it. As for me a lot of this was learned over 13 years in the active Army and seven years as a policeman. I was placed working and living in some of the most inhospitable weather situations someone could find themselves in. Enough of my ranting and I will get to the point.

As I was finishing my final preparing for winter and watching the news about the storm hitting the plains states I realized that I should call my family to make sure they were ready for bad weather. This caused me to get a migraine real quick. Then I thought that I should put this all in writing so I could send it to them every winter and make my life easier. With that I figured why not share this information to everyone who reads this forum.

The first thing you should consider is weatherproofing your winter gear and camping gear just in case you actually need it. For my Goretex jackets (Yes even Goretex gets soaked thru eventually) and my canvas work jackets I waterproof them using Camp Dry (you can use any commercial waterproofing spray but I prefer this one). I recommend doing this outside if possible due to the fumes or in a well-ventilated area. It can also contaminate the area where you are working, due to silicone overspray. Also test the fabric of what you are about to weatherproof to make sure it doesn’t stain or ruin it. If you decided to use this product or others inside put something on the floor under the work area to protect it from staining.

For Bivvy Sacks for sleeping bags also use a product like Camp Dry to keep your sleeping bag dry. Also use a seam sealing product to make sure the seams are extra protected. You don’t want water just pouring in at the material seem and causing you to get soaked. Now I know they say the seams are already sealed, but do you trust them with your warmth and safety?

Now on to the topic of weatherproofing your boots. If they are leather boots use a product like Snow Seal and liberally coat the boots and then put them in the oven at 180 degrees for 1 hour (yes I said oven, by doing this you open the pores of the leather and allow it to absorb the Snow Seal. If your boots are made of something other than leather, then use Camp Dry, of course test the boots first to make sure it doesn’t ruin them. Wet feet can make you miserable real quick along with being a deciding factor in if you survive or not. Now to socks, cotton socks are evil! They will cause you to lose toes or worse. The reason for this is cotton doesn’t wick moisture away from the skin very well, but it is great at wicking away the heat from your feet causing your feet to stay cold and end up freezing. So get wool socks or advanced fabric socks as they are the best choice. They wick moisture away from the skin and will still keep your feet warm even when wet.  Always remember warm feet are happy feet and will help you survive.

Now your vehicle as you will most likely depend on this greatly in bad weather. Make sure your headlights are working properly and are bright after a few years they start to get dim and should be replaced. Also if you have the type of headlights that have a clear plastic cover you will probably notice that they are milky white. You need to fix this with a commercially available headlight polishing kit and follow the directions. I found one at a local auto parts store for fewer than thirty dollars. It made my headlights like new.

Windshield wipers should be in good working order and of a good quality that won’t clog with ice and stop working properly. If they are bad replace them before you need them. Not seeing and driving are not a good combination, with that also make sure that you have a winter grade windshield wash as if it freezes up then it won’t help you.
Next is your battery and alternator, the two things that almost always fail when bad weather hits. Go to an auto parts store and have them put the tester on them to make sure they are okay. This will go a long way in easing worries about your vehicle not starting when you need it most.

As for vehicle maintenance not only does your oil need to be changed regularly but so does your antifreeze, power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, differential and transfer case oil if you have them. With these an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Now to your emergency kit for the car, in this should be a minimum of jumper cables (not everyone has them, but every care has a battery so if you have them you can get a jump), a set of work gloves (for changing tires and such) a knit cap or some other winter headgear, warm gloves, blanket’s, a few common tools (to tighten battery cables and such), emergency markers (I prefer flares and strobe lights over reflectors, as reflectors require headlights to hit them to be seen). Also having a days’ worth of food and water in the vehicle is nice in case you get stranded in your car. You can get emergency food rations and water from most survival or prepping web sites.  Having sand for traction and a compact shovel to dig out is a must also. You can also make traction ramps buy cutting heavy grate material about the width of 1 ½ the size of your tires and 3 feet long. Using this can also help you or someone else get unstuck in snow. Tire chains or snow tires are a must and if your tread is getting to the point of being only ¼ an inch deep get new tires. I know this seems a lot for your vehicle but when the worst case scenario that you never thought would happen to you does happen you will be better off for it. I know there is more for this topic but this is a good start. I also add my bug-out kit to my vehicle every time I get in it to drive. Also my bug-out kit and vehicle kit are one and the same. It makes it larger and heavier, but then I am never in the situation of saying why did I leave that at home

Now for the house besides back-up heating, food, water, lighting and the normal prepping stuff for bugging in there are a few items to consider. On backup heating you have to be careful due to carbon monoxide poisoning. I use the Mr. Heater MH18B Portable “Big Buddy” Heater by Mr. Heater as it has an automatic low oxygen shutoff system and tip-over safety shutoff.  If you don’t have something that senses when the oxygen is low or is made for indoor use then you need to have someone stay up preferably in shifts to watch the heater along with making sure there is enough ventilation in the room so there is not a build-up of Carbon Monoxide. This also goes for daytime heating and also for cooking. For lighting using low sulfur mineral instead of lamp oil in your oil lamps as it is cleaner and safer. Also it will keep you from having to repaint your house when everything is back to normal. This also goes for candles they will stain the pain in a house along with being a fire hazard. This is since we don’t run around using candles every day we will make mistakes that can and will be tragic. On that note with heating, cooking, and lighting you should have a couple a house-sized ABC fire extinguishers for emergencies.

You need one or two heavy tarps, parachute cord, and small sandbags so that you can put a temporary patch on your roof should a tree fall due to ice and snow and uses your house as a target. For windows having 2 inch wood screws, sheet plastic, and a couple of sheets of plywood to close up a broken window or door is a lifesaver. Also if you can precut the plywood for the windows it makes the repair a lot quicker.

A note on shoving snow, shoveling snow is considered heavy strenuous labor. It is also one of the leading causes of heart attacks in winter. So like any heavy workout take 15 minutes to warm up so your body realizes you are about to do something difficult. While working on removing the snow take many breaks. I normally only shovel snow for 15 minutes at a time then take a break so my heart rate can go back down. Also it may be cold but stay hydrated.

I hope everyone has a great winter, and hope that at least some of this information is helpful.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I have been a daily visitor to your site for about three years now. I want to drop you a line regarding our experience in the big Pacific Northwest ice storm--wit effects still being felt.

I live with my wife in a suburb of Tacoma, part way between the city proper and the farm country. The television and Internet news sites all warned of a "massive" and "record breaking" storm that would move into our area this past Monday. We are on PSE power and have our own water well.

We consider ourselves pretty well prepared (we read your site, right?) so all we did was top off the gas in our vehicles, plus put another 20 gallons into five gallon tanks. We did all our dishes and laundry, unplugged electronics, brought in a mighty heap of firewood, and got out a bunch of candles and hand-crank flashlights and radios. Because we knew we would have no water if the power failed, we filled the bathtub with water to have some extra if our bottled water (both drinkable and non-drinkable "flushing" water) was exhausted.

After getting a foot of snow Tuesday, (which is a lot for around here), on Wednesday the power went out. A one-two punch of cold arctic air and lots of moisture from the Pacific gave us  one nasty storm. Trees loaded with snow fell over left and right, taking out power lines and blocking roads. By Thursday frozen rain put a coating of ice on top of the snow, making driving almost impossible. Temperatures dipped into the mid-twenties but our wood stove kept us nice and toasty. For two and a half days we had no power, water, land line phone, television, or Internet. Not a big deal really, it was actually kind of an adventure since we knew we had the skills and the stuff to go quite a while without any of these things.

We did learn a few things, and spotted some holes in our plan. We could have used a generator but  it was beyond our budget, but I did use an inverter to run some electricity from my truck into the house, enough to recharge cell phones and my laptop, and to run the television to watch a movie. Lesson: get a hand-crank cell phone charger, and generator when we can afford it.

Because there was so much snow and it stayed below freezing for several days, we took most of the stuff from our refrigerator, put it in plastic tubs, and nestled them into the snow on our back deck. We packed snow around them and weighted the lids to keep critters out. Lesson: we should have done this on day one, rather than day two. By waiting we lost a few items and the fridge got stinky. And we had to empty some tubs to use, so next time we will pre-empty them, set them on the deck early in the storm, and transfer food to them sooner.

I went out to my truck to tour the neighborhood, more to see what was happening than anything else. I put on my chains but they rattled like crazy, which didn't sound right. I limped over to the tire place a few miles away, suspecting that the chains were the wrong size, and sure enough, they were. (They did have power but in the case that they were open but had no power, I brought cash. No power means no registers, credit card or check payment, and they might not even be able to make change.) The truck is new to me and I did have chains but I had never put them on. Apparently I bought the wrong size  a few months earlier. Lesson: use your tools! Not just chains but everything. Practice with them before you need it. Stuff without training is just expensive doorstops/paperweights.

After chaining up properly I drove around a bit. Nearly all the traffic lights were out but most people obeyed the treat-a-failed-light-like-a-stop-sign rule, though I did see a few who just ran right through the intersection without stopping at all. About 80% of the area was without power but there would be a few blocks that had juice and boy were they packed. At least a hundred vehicles lined up for gas at the few stations that were open. The one grocery store that had power was absolutely mobbed. I didn't go in because I didn't need anything, but the parking lot was a madhouse of ice, slush, heaps of bulldozed snow, cars parked at crazy angles, and lots of angry people. I can only imagine what it was like inside the store.

Didn't these people know a storm was coming a few days before it got here? It was all over the news, even the national mainstream media talked about it. Many, if not most, of the vehicles had no chains or snow tires and I saw several fender benders and cars stuck in the snow. Some lunatics drove way too fast for conditions, showering other cars and even pedestrians with ice and slush. No cops were anywhere to be seen.

I stopped to help one person but the conversation we had only made me shake my head in bewilderment. This guy wanted fresh coffee and hot food, so he put himself and others at risk because he was unwilling to sit at home and eat from a can and do without his precious coffee. He'd heard the news but disregarded it, he had not stocked up before hand, and was so used to his modern conveniences that the idea of going without them drove him onto roads he had no business on at all.

I have neck and back injuries so I was going to put my health at risk to help numbskulls like that guy, and I reluctantly did not offer anyone else roadside help. It does raise the obvious question: what will it be like during a long-term and/or large scale emergency? What if people like that guy have to go weeks, months, or longer without electricity? Just how long will it take for the helpless, handout-dependent, unprepared general public to turn nasty? Based on what I saw, not very long. - P.P.P.


Dear James:
I am writing to to you on Sunday afternoon. We have been without power since Wednesday at 3 a.m. I live in western Washington.

Most of the contents of our refrigerator are history. My wife is cooking and canning the now thawed frozen meat.

We scored 5 gallons of gasoline from Fort Lewis for our generator. The generator has had problems with fuel starvation from ice and gunk in its fuel line. Had to work on that Saturday and today. Seems to be fixed. We are using the generator to recharge computer batteries and to pump water, running it about two hours a day. Dried some clothes that were in washer Wednesday when power went down.

We have been very well off with kerosene lighting and propane heating. Even so, getting reset for the new day is very tiring in a mad rush to get everything done while generator is running. Believe it or not, we are sustainable. We could go like this indefinitely as long as I can locate gasoline. Having said that, we did not go to church this morning to conserve energy for the day's chores.

I read that Yelm city limits has regained power as of last night. Hopefully we can buy gas there. Here in the hinterboonies we may not see power service again until Wednesday evening.

A new wind storm is blowing in Sunday, which may worsen an already rough situation. At it's peak there were 3/4 million people without power. This was the ice storm that kept on giving, and many people were without heat.

We are blessed and thankful for what has worked, and are on notice for what has not. Next time we will be in even better shape. I'm thinking that we will switch to propane refrigeration and diesel powered cars/generator with a 250 gallon diesel storage tank. It's now on the list. I am online right now thanks to the generator.

This isn't just a how are we doing letter. I'm writing this to show you the value of all the preps we have done over the years. I wear my tin foil hat with pride. Some, if they were with us might say "You guys are weird," then in the next breath ask if there is any hot coffee left. My wife is running both ovens at the moment (they were imported from Italy). Try that with a glow bar start oven--which is presently all you can buy in the states.

Signing off until generator run time Monday. - D.&D.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The human body can do little to adapt to a cold environment. This is in contrast to the body’s ability to adapt and become more efficient when exercising in a hot, humid environment. Cold, wetness, and wind challenge the body to maintain core temperatures above 35oC (94oF). Heat loss or inadequate heat production elevates the risk of physical discomfort, hypothermia, or surface injury such as frostbite. Blood flow bears principal responsibility for maintaining peripheral temperature in cold weather and is the metabolic vehicle for the transportation of oxygen and generation of heat.

The one adaptable characteristic that can contribute to better tolerance of recreational activity in a cold environment is aerobic capacity (physical work). When working muscles and the thermoregulation system must compete for the same limited blood supply, reduced demand for the same level of work in persons with higher aerobic capacity can mean an increased margin of safety when temperature regulation becomes critical. A second advantage is that at the same workload, aerobically fit individuals derive a greater percentage of energy from stored fat. This is in plentiful supply even in the slimmest of individuals. Therefore, a lesser percent is required from the limited supply of carbohydrate foods, which need to be conserved in any survival situation in cold weather.

It can therefore be concluded that the ability to exist safely in cold, wet, or windy environmental conditions does not depend on a robust, adaptable body, but on mastery and use of information that enables self-preservation. Two major areas of information are critical: (1) knowledge of physiologic phenomena relative to exercise and temperature regulation and (2) knowledge of the insulation, ventilation, and protective properties of outdoor clothing and how to employ such clothing to gain the greatest advantage in a cold weather survival situation.
Management of Thermoregulation:
  As metabolic machines, humans produce heat profusely during recreational activity. Heat energy increases as the rate of physical activity increases. Roughly between 80% and 90% of the energy produced is in the form of heat. Just sitting on the couch produces 60 to 70 kcal/hr, or a body temperature rise of 2oF if none of the heat is dissipated. A moderate hiking pace with a day pack could raise core temperature 8oF in an hour if the heat were not dissipated. Thus generation of metabolic heat can be a threat to proper thermoregulation. It is remarkably easy to overdress for activity in cold weather, to sweat needlessly, and to thereby lose heat rapidly. The adverse effects of sweating in a winter survival situation can be compounded by wearing clothing that sweat can permeate. This reduces garment temperature to that of a refrigerator. Clothing manufacturers have done a marvelous job of producing materials that preserve a warm microclimate for the body to maintain warmth at rest or at low levels of physical activity. However, most have not designed garments that can efficiently ventilate metabolic heat during more vigorous activity. To minimize the risk of this situation, a person surviving in a harsh environment must know what clothing is appropriate and how to use their garments correctly.

At rest body heat is lost primarily by radiation of body surface area. Radiant heat forms a barrier of warm air around a person, unless there is a breeze. In the presence of moving air or when a person is moving, significant amounts of heat are lost by convection. Loose fitting clothing pulled by body movement creates a bellows-like convection action of air between the skin and clothing, purging body heated air out, like smoke up a chimney. The neck, waistband, sleeves, pockets, and pant legs are the usual orifices. Using garments that have the ability to selectively loosen or close these “chimneys” to intentionally lose or conserve heat from the microclimate within the garment is always prudent.

Heat loss by conduction is the least frequent mode of transfer in a wilderness environment, although conductive heat loss occurs across the skin whenever it is in physical contact with matter that is 2 degrees C cooler or warmer. Some examples of heat conduction that occur in the outdoors include sitting on rocks, lying on the ground, or being in contact with clothing that has been cooled by evaporation of sweat or environmental moisture. Unquestionably, the most important mode of heat loss is through evaporation. A body engaged in physical activity of sufficient vigor to produce sweating will lose 70% of body heat loss through evaporative cooling. Because cooling occurs at the site of evaporation and, of most consequence, when evaporation takes place on the surface of the skin, the value of garments that can transfer, or “wick,” moisture away from the skin to be evaporated on outer layers of clothing is readily understood.

It helps to know the mechanisms of heat loss to critically evaluate the design and type of clothing material selected to be worn in a hostile environment. Being able to selectively control the amount of heat loss by evaporation and convection is the key to outfitting. Most important is the ability to regulate skin temperature in the trunk, where most sweat glands are located, the head and neck, and the areas of natural folds in the body such as the axillary (arm pits), crotch, and backs of knees. Using buttons, zippers, and Velcro fasteners and simply adding or shedding layers of clothing are methods by which to regulate heat loss. Despite manufacturer’s claims about product ventilatory capability, any activity of greater activity than walking requires conscious temperature regulation. The challenge is to maintain near normal core body temperature, to conserve body energy stores, and to lose body heat to the extent that sweating is minimal. This requires balancing clothing to be worn against expected climatic conditions and properly assessing the amount of physical activity that one will endure. All of these factors influence thermoregulatory balance.

Selection of Clothing:

Material properties important to outdoor activities: (1) THICKNESS. The thicker the material, the greater the insulative value, so long as it stays dry. (2) FIBER REACTION TO MOISTURE. Four qualities are important: (a) The ease of “wicking” action. Transferring moisture from body surface to material. (b) Evaporative ability. The rate of drying. (c) Moisture regain. The amount of moisture the material can absorb before it feels cold. (d) The amount of insulative value a material loses when wet. (3) THERMAL CONDUCTANCE. The less the conductance, the better the insulation. (4) RESISTANCE TO WIND.
  The most commonly used clothing materials for outdoor activities are wool, cotton, nylon, polyester, and polypropylene. The four material properties are different for each of the fibers cited.
   WOOL is a poor conductor of heat and therefore a good insulator. It has a moderate affinity to absorb moisture, but it can absorb a great deal, about 35% to 55% of saturation, before it feels wet. Its evaporative ability is poor, but its fiber suspends water vapor without decreasing its insulative value.
  COTTON feels great in summer time, however has meager value in a harsh environment, where conservation of heat may be needed. Cotton loses up to 90% of its insulative value when wet. It readily regains moisture therefore its moisture regain is poor.
  NYLON evaporates moisture quickly, is a good insulator, and has good quality of moisture regain. Because of its durability it is often the material preferred for outerwear. However unless nylon is tightly knit, it doesn’t screen wind and water well.
  POLYESTER is justifiably the most widely employed material in outdoor clothing today. Polyester is a poor conductor (good insulator), high in moisture regain, and in some forms good in wicking.
  POLYPROPYLENE, like cotton, wicks moisture well, but unlike cotton it has a very low conductive index and high evaporative qualities. These properties are what make it so popular as an under layer material for active outdoorsmen.
  DOWN and SYNTHETIC LOFT material are not often appropriate for clothing to be worn by the physically active. They certainly have value when insulation is needed for quiet situations such as fishing, sitting around a camp fire, using a sleeping bag, or other relatively inert functions. The greater amount of “loft” possible in the material, the better the insulative value. There are other synthetic hollow-core fibers such as QUALLOFIL, THINSULATE (THERMALOFT), or POLARGARD that approach the insulative value of down, and are much less bulky, lose less insulative  value when wet, and, being predominantly hydrophobic, dry more rapidly when wet.

Layering Clothing:

  UNDERLAYER: Warmth and wicking ability are the principal requisites for layers next to the skin. Polyesters designed for moisture transfer and polypropylene best satisfy the needs of this layer. Some manufacturers have added a small percentage of Lycra to the polyester to achieve a consistent snugness to the skin. This enables the garment to be somewhat more effective in both insulation and moisture transfer. On days when the temperature is above freezing , the under layer may not be needed.
  INSULATION LAYERS: Adequate insulation and ability to selectively ventilate are by far the most important characteristics of the insulative layers. When protection from wind and moisture is not necessary, an insulation layer may also be the outermost layer. Finding garments that are well designed for selective adjustment can be a challenge. Zippers or Velcro fasteners that vent areas around the trunk (core) are extremely important. Also ability to adjust tightness around waist, sleeves, and collar can augment the bellows action of clothing movement by providing a chimney for air circulation.
  PROTECTIVE LAYER: wind and moisture can be serious challenges to thermoregulation, so protection against the elements and selective ventilation are the most important functions of the outer layer. Tightly knit, tough shells of nylon or webbed layers of nylon polyesters are the most popular materials for this layer. Gore-Tex laminate remains the gold standard for qualities of both water resistance and breathability. In vigorous activity performed in rain or wet snow, however, no garment will satisfy the weather because body heat production overwhelms the breathability of any material. Special finishes can be sprayed or laminated to polyester weave or microfiber garments to be used as outer layers which may be somewhat less expensive and less moisture repellent but the tradeoff would be for more breathability.

The wide variety of gloves made from polyester fleece, synthetic down, and wool, with a nylon outer cover are appropriate. Glove liners should be used when more insulation is needed. As with all cold weather clothing, gloves should not fit so tightly that peripheral blood flow is restricted.

Appropriate footwear remains a problem in cold environments. Boots are vulnerable to moisture and cold wherever they are stitched, although sealing compounds and waterproof tape can help. Instead of trying to keep moisture and cold out of the boot at the expense of sweaty feet, an alternative strategy may be to use breathable and less waterproof boots such as Gore-Tex or comparable sock liners with the intent of keeping the inner sock dry.
All for one and one for all.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I am 69 year old Connecticut native, grew up on 100 acre farm in Eastern Connecticut during the 40’s and 50’s. [The late October 2011 snowstorm caused a lot of damage and the lengthy power failures upset a lot of people. See: Tempers flare over six days of Connecticut power outages.] I know most of the hardest hit areas, and am also a prepper!  Like most of New England, our state was clear cut during the 1700s and 1800s.  I have seen old photos of our rolling hills with nary a tree to be seen.  As a child on our farm, I never remember a winter power outage, and I do remember big snow/ice storms!  This is because the 2nd and 3rd growth timber was small and not overhanging power lines, and the many rural subdivisions had not yet been built.  Most people lived and worked in our then wonderful cities and the local manufacturing plants. 
Over the last 30 to 40 years, due to higher taxes, many businesses have left, people have left the inner cities and been able to buy a new home in the suburbs.  We have had a huge residential building boom, and people were happy to live in mostly upscale communities with tree lined lanes.  We are paying the price!
We had many power outages in last August due to Tropical Storm Irene, and most people were not prepared with supplies, and most could afford the basics.  They did NOT learn!  We have become soft and dependent on the Government!  They complained in letters to the newspapers, and to television reporters, and even complained about the MREs given to them from the local fire departments.  My little shoreline town is a very wealthy town and even here, they complained and many were not prepared.  Even the elderly people have not prepared!
Propane stoves and companies that sell the tanks and service them are readily available in our state, and are safer and easier for our aging population to operate.  We have one in our living room with three large tanks.  Enough to take us through most of the winter.  These citizens can afford to do this, but have chosen not to.  For a few hundred dollars, they could have a little camp stove, a twig stove, a sterno stove, a charcoal grill (we have all of these) and dried and canned food.  No need to go hungry or freeze to death.  Food from the freezer can be put in large plastic totes, weight the lid down with rocks or bricks and put it outside in the shade.  We have five months of cold here, and the frozen food will stay frozen. 
I am equally frustrated that the town officials do not have town meetings to talk about how to prepare.  In fact, though my elderly sister and I want to keep a low profile, I think I will e-mail our Town Selectman and tell him that I will personally give a brief talk and provide a list of what every homeowner should have so that they are safe, warm and fed when the next outage occurs. 
I have read all of Cody Lundin’s books, your books, the Army Survival Manual and other such literature, and we had parents who were always prepared.  Perhaps I can get through to some of our citizens! - L.H. in Lyme, Connecticut

Sunday, September 25, 2011

One of the most often overlooked and underestimated issues regarding first aid are environmental related injuries.  In the event that ambulance services and advanced medical personnel are unavailable, there are measures that a person can take to alleviate symptoms, prevent organ damage, and possibly save a life.  From my own personal experience as a paramedic, I have found that these emergencies are usually unexpected even in people who are in relatively good medical condition.

Environmental injuries are problems we don’t usually encounter on a regular basis in our daily lives.  While our bodies can usually compensate for extreme environment exposure, the natural protective mechanisms that our body provides can sometimes prove to be inadequate.  When these extremes are too much for our bodies to handle, the result may lead to shock and even death. 
There are basically two extremes that a person is likely to encounter; extreme hot conditions and extreme cold conditions.  Heat related injuries, or hyperthermia (abnormally high body temperature) can result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.  Cold related injuries, or hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature), can result in chilblains, frostnip, or frostbite.  Another environmental injury not related to hot or cold conditions is trench foot, also called immersion foot, which is similar to frostbite.

There are preventative measures that should be taken in order to ensure that the chances of these types of injuries occurring are avoided.    Dehydration is a symptom that presents early and can be avoided by drinking plenty of water.   Wear proper attire accordingly for the environment you expect to be exposed to.  Wear loose, light colored clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade in hot weather.   In cold weather, make sure to cover all exposed skin, and layer clothing to provide dead air space to act as insulation from the cold.  One should be careful to not layer to the point of sweating.  If sweating occurs, you should begin removing layers, as sweating will quickly lead to hypothermia.  Monitoring the amount of physical exertion in extreme environments, getting plenty of rest, and maintaining a proper diet are also important factors in regulating body temperature.

While anyone can be affected by these extremes of climate and temperature, it is often those with certain risk factors that are at a higher risk of developing an environmental illness.  Risk factors include:

  1.  Age of the individual – Children and elderly are at higher risk because of their inability to tolerate variations in temperature.
  2. Current health of the individual – Fatigue, hypoglycemia, malnutrition, and other chronic health issues such as diabetes, cardiac related illnesses, respiratory disease, and mental instability can interfere with the body’s ability to recover from environmental exposure illness.
  3. Medications – Many medications can affect body temperature.  For instance, diuretics can worsen hyperthermia; beta blockers affect the heart rate and can interfere with the regulation of body temperature.  Anti-psychotics and antihistamine medications can also alter the temperature in certain deep tissues of the body.
  4. Level of acclimatization – This is the person’s ability to adjust to changes in environmental conditions, or climate.
  5. Length and intensity of exposure – Factors such as humidity and wind can contribute to the susceptibility of environmental illnesses, and accelerates the effects of exposure on the human body.

Heat Related Injuries
Signs, symptoms and treatment of heat related injuries are best described as follows:

  1. Dehydration – This occurs when your body does not have as much fluid as it needs, and usually leads to other heat related disorders if not addressed immediately.  Signs and symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, blurry vision, decreased urination, skin loses elasticity, and altered mental status (confusion, disorientation, etc.).  Note:  Thirst is a poor way to identify the level of dehydration.  Treatment includes rehydration by drinking fluids if the person is conscious and able to hold fluids down.  Encourage them to sip small amounts of water frequently, rather than to take large amounts at once.
  2. Heat cramps – This occurs when a person’s muscles are overexerted while exposed to hot temperatures.  Signs and symptoms are sudden painful cramps of fingers, arms, legs, or abdominal muscles, weakness, feeling dizzy, moist and warm skin.  Treatment consists of removing the person from the environment by placing them in a shaded area.  If the person is alert, have them drink a sports drink (such as Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) if available, or substitute by mixing a solution of 4 teaspoons of salt to a gallon of water.  Salt tablets are not recommended because they may cause stomach irritation.  You may even try massaging the painful muscles, and placing moist towels on the forehead to reduce body heat.
  3. Heat exhaustion – A mild reaction to heat exposure.  If not treated, it may lead to heat stroke.  Signs and symptoms include increased body temperature, skin is cool and clammy with heavy sweating, and breathing will be rapid and shallow with a weak pulse.  Other symptoms may include diarrhea, weakness, headache, anxiety, numbness and tingling, impaired judgment, and sometimes loss of consciousness and even psychosis (hallucinations or delusions).  Treatment for heat exhaustion includes placing the person in a shaded area, lay them on their back with the legs elevated, remove or loosen tight clothing especially around the neck and wrists, and cool them by fanning but not to the point of causing them to chill or shiver.  If the person is conscious, have them drink a sports drink if available, or substitute with the salt solution mentioned above. 
  4. Heat stroke – This occurs when the body is unable to regulate its core temperature, and can cause damage to kidneys, liver and brain.  Signs and symptoms are lack of sweating, hot, red, dry skin, but may still be moist from prior sweating, deep respirations that become shallow, rapid respirations that become slow, a rapid pulse that may slow down later, confusion, disorientation, unconsciousness, and possible seizures.  Treatment includes removing the person from the environment to a cooler environment, attempt to rapidly cool the person by removing the clothing and placing a wet sheet over the body.  Fanning and misting with water may also be necessary, but be careful to not cool to the point of shivering.  Please note that cold water immersion or sponge baths should not be attempted, as this can cause a rapid change in body temperature and result in shivering causing further complications.  If the person is alert and able to drink, fluid therapy should be attempted with a sports drink or using the salt solution.  Seek advanced medical care if available.

Cold related injuries
Signs, symptoms and treatment of cold related injuries are best described as follows:

  1.  Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature falls due to heat loss caused by exposure to cold weather.  A person’s body will naturally try to warm itself by producing “goose bumps” or shivering.  Signs of mild hypothermia are shivering, impaired judgment, slurred speech, and stiff muscles that cause uncoordinated movements such as stumbling or staggering.  Person’s with severe hypothermia will become confused and disoriented, possibly to the state of euphoria or a sense of well-being.  Shivering will stop, and muscles will become more rigid.  To treat for hypothermia, begin by removing any wet clothing.  Lay the person down on their back and cover them with blankets, and prevent from further exposure to moisture.  Heat packs may be used, placing them in the armpits and in the groin area or between the thighs.  If heat packs are not available, heated rocks from a campfire may be used.  Be sure to cover heat packs or rocks with a cloth to prevent burns.  You may also use your own body as a heat source to assist re-warming of a partner by simply lying next to them under the blankets.  If you are re-warming specific parts of the body, you may place the frozen areas like, hands or feet, on your chest or abdomen.  Take care to handle the patient gently, as rough handling may cause disturbances in the heart.  If the person is conscious and alert, you may give them something warm and sweet to drink.  Do not give them alcohol or caffeine.

  2. Frostbite occurs when tissues in the body freeze, typically in fingers, toes, ears, nose cheeks, or any exposed skin.  The person may complain of a burning or itching sensation.  The affected area will be red at first, which is known as frostnip.  As the freezing reaches deeper tissue, the skin will become white and waxy in appearance, hard to the touch, and blisters may form.  There may not be any pain at first, but could become numb, leading to severe pain as re-warming occurs.  Do not attempt to re-warm if there is the possibility of re-freezing, such as the need to continue walking from a dangerous situation.  Do not puncture any blisters, and do not massage or rub the frozen area.  Cover the area with loose, dry dressings and seek advanced medical care if available.

Also known as immersion foot, trenchfoot is similar to frostbite but does not require freezing temperatures to occur.  The term “trenchfoot” comes from World War I when soldiers were forced to stand in trenches with standing water.  Although today we don’t usually find ourselves standing in trenches, trenchfoot can still be caused by wearing boots and socks that have become wet, either from walking in rainy weather, or from our feet sweating.   The most important thing to remember is prevention.  Keep your feet dry and frequently change into clean socks.   If possible, waterproofing your boots with mink oil or other waterproofing products can help in the prevention of this environmental injury. 

While environmental injuries can encompass anything from altitude sickness to zombie infiltration, the topics discussed here are related to extreme weather conditions only.  Some other topics regarding environmental injuries you may want to investigate are chemical or radiation exposure, drowning or near-drowning, bee stings, snake bites, etc.  With any injury that might require first aid, prevention is the best medicine.  It is always a good idea to keep a well stocked first-aid kit handy.  I would recommend anyone and everyone to take a course in CPR.  An EMT class or other basic first aid training would also be beneficial. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

In this day and age of being able to go to a store and get practically anything you would ever need or want, the concept of preparing for a disaster escapes some individuals.  The time of “Victory Gardens” and canning your surplus vegetables and fruits have fallen by the way side in our current culture.  Our society sees people storing vast amounts of food and supplies as paranoid because they are simply not accustomed with the practice, nor do they see the need.  Most people cannot conceive the idea that they can be left without food or water, or that they may need to leave their homes in an emergency for a prolonged time.  The need for preparations extends to living day to day so you will be prepared for any situation that may arise.  Below I will share two separate instances during my childhood where my family being prepared either saved our lives or made life a lot easier to live.

When I was a teenager, myself, my parents, and two of my three brothers lived in rural Oklahoma.  One summer we had a massive barn fire which not only destroyed the majority of our cherished belongings but also burned our well pump house to the ground.  With the well pump buried under charred wood and sheet metal we were effectively cut off from our fresh water supply.  Luckily we are an avid outdoors family and had several water containers for fresh water, and a camp toilet.  We were able to simply go to the nearest State Park to get free drinking water for whatever we needed it for.  Seeing that we were stuck waiting for the insurance company to provide a settlement to replace the well pump for several weeks, we saved quite a bit of money not having to buy water to survive.  Since the barn was so far away from our house this was not a life or death situation but being prepared definitely made life a lot easier for the time being.   

Several years later we had a massive ice storm.  Several inches of ice covered completely everything, effectively causing the power lines to break under the weight of the ice knocking out power to a large portion of the state.  The roads were so iced over that when they sent out a repair truck it promptly got stuck in our hilly region.  For approximately one week our region was out of power.  Seeing that we only had two wheel drive vehicles and no snow chains we were effectively stranded from the outside world.

Luckily my parents loved to buy things that in my adolescence I thought were simply not needed, such as a wood burning stove.  Not only did it lower our heating cost but it had a substantial cooking surface.  We also spent several summers at our grandparents’ ranch clearing trees and picking pecans to sell for extra money (being a kid I thought that those pecan trees were like a gold mine).  We either hauled the trees to saw mills so we could use the wood to build our own furniture or we chopped them up for firewood (our wood pile would have made Paul Bunyan proud).

Furthermore since I was a child we always kept some form of livestock (mainly pigs or cattle) which we raised and butchered.  I learned how to care for the livestock and was responsible for their feeding and upkeep (as well as their far too often escapes from their pastures or pens).  We also always kept a large garden.  Being a teenager you can imagine how much a teenager loved to spend his afternoon picking vegetables, followed by a green bean snapping session.  The majority of teenage summertime bliss was spent pulling weeds, tilling, watering, and fertilizing the garden.  More than half of these vegetables were then canned and put away for whenever we needed them.  Over the years we accumulated quite a bit of surplus canned items and frozen beef and pork.  I also learned the extremely valuable art of canning.

During that ice storm we were able to put that woodstove to work and not only survived on our stored food, but we thrived.  Due to not having electricity we turned our wood box into our new freezer, keeping all of our frozen food frozen.  Turns out that all of those summers chopping wood and keeping up the garden paid off and being prepared saved us.  Also we saw the writing on the walls for the electricity going out and used our water containers to store more than enough water before the power went out.  The living room where the woodstove was located became everyone’s bedroom.  Since we were prepared, even though at the time we didn’t really see ourselves as “preppers”, it wasn’t a horrible experience.  Cooking on the woodstove and spending a lot of time reading and listening to my parents stories of their life experiences and the experiences of my grandparents living through the dust bowl, it was actually kind of fun, living like our ancestors without electricity for a week. 
In those real life experiences I learned very valuable lessons, which are always be prepared for whatever may come your way and learn everything you can to prepare yourself.  Luckily I always listened and learned from my parents. 

No one knows what will happen or when, take for example of the current wildfires in Texas (Summer of 2011) or the all too often hurricanes or tornados that devastate towns or entire states.  You never know when a natural or manmade disaster might displace you from your home, take out your utilities until god knows when, or strand you from the rest of the world.  Also it is possible that you might need to utilize your preparations for smaller emergencies.  In a time in which our nation’s unemployment rate seems to grow by the minute having the knowledge to grow your own food and having your previously stored home grown food can get you out of a hopefully temporary loss of wages. 

Nothing says that you have to go out and spend a small fortune on freeze dried foods or MREs.  I am sure that there are some people that say that they don’t want to prepare because of the price of the food, but canning is a good alternative.  You also don’t need a garden to can food.  Some grocery stores and a lot of farmers markets sell un-snapped green beans for a reasonable price, which cuts out the growing and picking aspect.  Although your canned food will not last as long as freeze dried food you will just have to rotate it more often meaning you will need to eat it and nothing tastes better than food you produced with your own two hands.  Keeping a garden not only reduces your grocery bill but if a disaster occurs in which the food supply is disrupted or non-existent you will already have the knowledge on growing your own food and the experience of knowing what grows best in your region.  Also using heirloom seeds you can learn to harvest seeds from your current crop to use the next year.  Another option is the use of five or six gallon buckets in conjunction with heat-sealed mylar bags and oxygen absorbers can enable you to store grains and beans for an extended amount of time (over 20 years for white rice, dried beans, and wheat).  Pinto beans may not sound great to some to eat for an extended amount of time but they are high in protein and will keep you alive in an extended time line emergency.  Keeping long term storage food in buckets also gives you the ability to be mobile if the need arises.  There may come a time in which your home may become compromised and you have to leave, or bug out to a safer location.  If you have your items in buckets they will be easier to transport to your secondary location.

Keeping drinking water grade containers around the house also helps a lot.  Most people that don’t prepare just flock to the store when a massive storm is heading their way and clean out the shelves of bottled water and canned goods.  Due to the current stocking practices at major retailers (what is on the shelves is what they have, they only order more when that particular item is bought), if you wait little or no supplies will be left.  But if you have containers handy you only have to go as far as your kitchen sink to fill your containers.

The preparations I have talked about should only be your first stepping stones to a well rounded plan.  The need for medical supplies, self-defense equipment, communications equipment, etc. and the know how to use all the items is still needed. 

I make frequent trips to our local Atwood's Farm and Home Store, where they carry everything you will need for canning at great prices.  The last time I went I was able to obtain a case of quart jars with lids and rings for approximately $8. (One of their frequent sales).  Canning requires a canning pot, a jar rack, a jar funnel, and a jar lifter all of which Lehman's carries for a decent price and they even have a starter kit including a canning book. There are multiple books available to learn how to garden and can food but unless you get out and do it and use trial and error when there is not an emergency you will not know what works the way you want it to and what just simply doesn’t work at all. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thanks to the information presented in your book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" we were able to “weather” Hurricane Irene without much difficulty. It was amazing to the pandemonium at the super markets; people were waiting for water to be brought out from the stockroom and wondering whether they would “die of thirst”. If they had only looked over their shoulder they would have seen a pallet filled with cases of soda (on sale: four cases for eleven dollars). The same goes for D-cell batteries; people were lamenting that they didn’t have batteries for their flashlights; if they were only to look up they would have seen plenty of flashlights that took AA batteries and a plentiful supply of batteries to go with them.

There were of course long lines at the gasoline stations; I had been keeping the tank in my car at least 3/4 full (thanks advice from the “Fong-man”character in "Patriots" if I’m not mistaken).
Everyone in my neighborhood was extremely calm and we checked on each other. One of my neighbors had just returned from the mountains so we were able to give her some of water and supplies I stockpiled. We were only without power for 14 hours and the [public utility] gas and water were still functioning.
One thing I did after a few days was to conduct a “post mortem” on my contingency plan. For example, I took your weekend challenge but was unaware that our hot water heater, which runs on gas also requires electricity [for ignition.]  Some of my supplies and gear could have purchased for much less; especially one of the pre-packed go-bags I purchased.
I live with an older parent. I was okay with the devotional candles and the flashlights but I was worried about my elderly mother stumbling around with a hand held light source.
Thanks again for publishing this information; I’m sure you’ve made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. - Greg T.

[JWR Replies: Thanks for your encouraging feedback. In my experience a headlamp (such as a Petzl) is ideal for keeping your hands free for other tasks. They can even be used by elderly folks with walkers.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I thought I'd share with you some thoughts and experience I've had with Hurricane [later Tropical Storm] Irene. I live in southwest Connecticut in a city slightly less than 100,000 population.  We are about 50-65 miles from New York City. As of this evening, I am still running my generator five days after being hit by Tropical Storm Irene on Saturday evening.  As of this evening, the power company said they will restore power "by middle of next week".  If that ends up happening, we will be without power for around 10 days.  We shall see. 

A few details about our setup.  I think it's pretty typical for around here.

  • Well with 1/2 HP 220 VAC submersible pump.  The well is approximately 250 feet deep.
  • Septic tank
  • Oil heat boiler
  • Oil hot water heater
  • Generator - 6,500 Watt gasoline unit converted to propane many years ago. 

Overall the wind could have been much worse.  I've read some recent articles that said the hurricane was over-hyped by the media.   Although there is probably some truth to this, most of the articles don't mention how vast the power outages are in Connecticut.   Connecticut ended up having a record number of power outages from this storm (50-60% homes just  after the storm).    Parts of upstate Connecticut, New York and Vermont were hit with very heavy rain and flooding.  Some covered bridges which stood for over 130 years were washed away.  Sounds like it wasn't hyped too much to me!

I converted my generator to propane years ago for less than $200.  Its a rather simple setup which I can remove and run with gasoline without much work. I have 50 lbs tanks which hold holds 12gallons of propane.  I also have a few 20lbs grill tanks which hold 4.7 gallons each.  One thing you have to be careful with regarding small propane tanks is that they don't allow the propane to turn to gas quick enough to supply the generator with enough gas.This also depends on the size of the generator.  I find that the grill tanks never empty because about half way through, they start to frost on the outside.  Obviously, this is a bigger problem in the winter when it's cold outside.  This is why I use the bigger tanks because they have more surface area of liquid propane to convert to gas.  With the 50lb tanks, I can get them close to empty with my genny.  Also, a 50 lb tank is about 72 lbs full.   Anything larger than this for me is harder to move around and handle.   

I get about 12-to-24 hours off a 50 lb tank.  This depends on my electrical load and how often I turn it off to save fuel.   I have two tanks, so every morning I head down to the propane dealer to fill up the empty one.  The system isn't great but it works.   I asked the propane dealer and they said their filling station is run on a generator so it should be available.    A majority of people have gas generators so in theory I should have an easier time to get fuel. Another surprising observation is that the oil in the genny doesn't get dirty.   I have about 100 hrs on the oil and it still looks new.   Propane burns so clean that there is no carbon deposited in the oil   I'm not sure if the oil still breaks down and I should change the oil regardless of what color it is.  I plan to research this. 

Some of my friend who were also hit hard in Eastern Connecticut coast said that a few days after Irene hit, it was very difficult to find gas.   Long lines at stations and/or driving far away was required to get gas.   I didn't wait in any line.  Most of the time, I was the only person there filling my propane.

Generators were darn near impossible to get around here the day after Irene hit.  It was also very difficult to get extension cords and plastic gas cans.   Everyone was sold out.  Thankfully, I had everything I needed and got to listen to everyone complain.  It's nice knowing I had prepared my family long ago for days like this.  Sure does give me options.

My wife and I saw a lot of people jumping for bottled water at Wal-Mart as the worked rolled out bottled water on carts from the back.  The carts were emptied in minutes.    Grocery shelves were still empty in a Target store, four days after. I've read about these situations before, but it sure hits home to see it in person.  God forbid something big ever happens some day.   Grocery stores will be empty in no time.  After seeing this weekend, I really believe this now.  Scary stuff.

A 6,500 watt generator does everything you need to live comfortably.   I can't run my central AC but who cares.  I saved a window AC unit in the attic for days like this.  We can cool one room with window unit with no problem for the Genny.  I have no problem running my well, oil blower, hot water heater, refrigerator, lights, attic fan to keep attic cool.    In a similar situation in the winter, I can also run the blower on my oil boiler to heat the house.  One problem with my genny is that it runs pretty much full out all the time.  If you are only running a refrigerator at the time, it consumes a lot of fuel to keep it running.     I plan to look at the Honda Inverters to just run the refrigerator so that I can shut down the 6,500 watt unit for large portions of the day.  I could turn it on only at dinner time or bath time for the kids.  It doesn't take long before the drone the generator will drive you crazy.   I would shut the thing off once in a while just to relax.   The white noise really does wear on you.   Also, everyone on the street knows you have one because it is so loud.  

The biggest problem for me with power is the well.   You start to respect how much power they consume to when you have to "provide" it instead of the local power plant.   I'd love to find a way to consume less power to get water to flush toilets etc.   Still research to do here. 

The other thing you'll learn really fast is how inefficient generators are compared to buying electricity.   I figure my house typically cost $3 per day in electricity.   When I have to make my own power, it costs me $30-60 per day in propane!   Another reason to investigate the Honda Inverters because of their efficiency. 

People should plan on hosting friends and families with them.   Even in our case, we had friend living with us who were evacuated from a house on the river.   I am grateful we could help them but one should plan on extra supplies and time to have others join your safe haven.  It doesn't take long for the word to get out who has a generator, gas cans, power cords, chain saws etc. 

One more thing:  Cell phones have been terribly unreliable.   I guess some towers went down due to the outages or they are overloaded because no one has wired phones anymore at home.  When the power goes out, all their wireless phones don't work!    Text got through but regular phone calls were very hard to place for days.

Overall, it has  gone well because I read your site and was prepared.   My wife is very grateful that we and our friends have a safe comfortable place to stay.    She is now interested in getting a wood stove because if this had happened in the winter, we would burn even more fuel to keep the boiler running.   If I had a wood stove and stored wood, all I would need electricity for is the refrigerator and well.  This would make a big difference and make us even more independent.

Thanks for what you do. - Joe from Connecticut


Dear JWR:
I really enjoy your blog. I’m fairly new to the whole “survivalist” thing, I look at it as more of a “common sense” thing. I’m in central Massachusetts and we knew we were really in for it with Irene. I’m a weather nut and I know what to look for and what sources to follow. We are always fairly well prepared for anything and my wife is just as much a “be prepared” person as I am. We always have batteries and such on hand so that was not an issue. Battery powered radio? Check! Lots of bottles of water frozen in the freezer? All set thanks to my wife! I went the additional step of filling the bathtub full of water to flush toilets in case we lost power. Despite having no supply of MREs we had plenty of food ready to go. My biggest concern was my basement flooding and us losing power. My generator is only a 2,400 watt model but it’s enough to handle my sump pump. It was ready to go with a 220 capable extension cord running to the house right to where the cord for the pump plugs in. The generator is kept in my 20’x12’ shed 120 feet from the house. Later the afternoon before the storm the cashier at the general store up the road and I had a good laugh at all the people panicking buying milk, bread, batteries and anything else not clamped down. One guy bought seven huge bags of ice and we wondered aloud what he was going to do with all that ice.
That night I set my alarm for 6 a.m. and went to bed knowing I was ready. I woke up at 6am to it raining cats, dogs, and bears. My sump pump was already firing off every 25 seconds. As the storm got closer this increased to a maximum of every 15 seconds before it started going down as the morning progressed. The lights flickered 4 or 5 times but the power never went out. You see, there was a reason for that. We survived the ice storm of December 2008. With temps never above 20 degrees we roughed it out for seven long days without power. The night of the storm my generator died and my wife and I bailed that sump pump well for 8 hours straight before we finally gave up but we saved our furnace and hot water heater. I went through 2 face cords of wood that week but we stayed in the house and it never got below 54 degrees. The trees and branches that came down during that incredibly devastating storm saved us during Irene. Earlier this year National Grid came through and took out any of the dying or bad trees along the power lines. All of this saved us from losing power. Many other towns in Massachusetts were not as lucky, but as I remind them, at least it’s not December.
Next step is to stock up on MREs and more importantly get an auto-standby generator to replace my small one, which will run off my propane tanks that power my furnace and other things. Thanks for all the tips and looking forward to following your blog. - P.R.C. in Massachusetts

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dear Mr. Rawles:
We've been without power for 3-1/2 days and Internet even longer, so I'm late in writing, but I wanted to say that the grace of God and deep preps won the day, here as hurricane Irene blew through.

When the power went out, we went to our generator, so we had water for ourselves and less prepared neighbors.  Those votive lights, the ones in the tall glass containers that often have saints' picture on them were perfect for our windowless bathrooms, and they're fairly cheap.  They burned safely almost the whole time and there's still a day left, I'd say, in each one.  That was a SurvivalBlog idea I picked up on - thanks.

When our old stove died, I went through a lot of hassle to get one with pilot lights instead of those newfangled glow plugs.  Few companies make them - mine was by 'Summit'.  We had to do part of the installation ourselves because the gas guys weren't used to dealing with such old-fashioned stoves, although one old-timer did give us some good hints so we were able to set the flames.  But...this mean that as long as we had propane we could cook anything, bake whatever we wanted.  The Summit stove is very efficient (as is our generator) so it needs no preheat time for the oven.   It also has no timers, lights, etc., which is okay by me.  I have the old-fashioned wind up timer and find I don't really need an oven light now that I'm used to not having one.

We froze a lot of water ahead and also got some bagged ice.  Running the generator 4 - 6 hours a day kept the freezer at 12F or less during the night, covered with quilts. 

It was eerie how the whole thing played out exactly according to the disaster scenarios.  Not only were we isolated - a tree blocked one road and floods another, but when people did get out, they found they had to drive a long way to find stores with power (they were lucky there were any).  In town there was no gas, of course, because no power, and cash only, because no computers.  The local banks were closed, of course, and grocery stores in all directions.  Some people were miffed that the power wasn't restored instantly and didn't seem to understand that there are no guarantees.  Also, the local power companies admitted on the radio that they've cut back on crews, partly because of government regulations, trying to ease their bottom lines.  There were also people who were just plain in denial there was going to be a hurricane.  It read just like a novel.

While we didn't have any security issues, we were armed, having gotten the permits and the weapons and spent range time when the sun shone.  The whole time we were grateful it was 'only' a hurricane and not an EMP or nuclear attack, or some other systemic meltdown.  Having read the survival literature, we knew this was just a bump, a chance to test our preps.

Thanks so much for your site, and for those who write in. - An old farmer in Connecticut

Dear James, 
Hurricane Irene taught me a valuable lesson.   At 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, the alarm on my septic tank went off.  The storm was raging outside and the rainwater had  filled the septic tank.   I went down to the basement to check things out.   The laundry tub has a pump that sends the water up to the soil pipe.  Water was running down to the pump from the overfull septic tank and soil pipe, and the pump would dutifully pump it back up to the soil pipe.  Up, back down, up, back down.   I realized that if the tank got any fuller, the pump would run continuously.   If the electricity went down and the pump stopped working, the waste would have started backing up into the house.   I prayed that the situation would not worsen.   Eventually the rain tapered off, the tank drained off some,  and at 8 am the alarm went off.
Up until now, I figured I needed backup power for the well pump and lighting.   It never crossed my mind that the laundry tub pump was a weak point in my preps. I am looking at ways to solve this problem.   I thank the Lord that we did not have a hurricane and a power outage. - L.C. in Pennsylvania


Dear Rawles Family,
I started reading your blog about six years ago (shortly after the birth of my first child, motherhood will do that to you) and am grateful everyday because you confirmed the mindset my Grandma gave me and helped me move forward. I hope this gives some marriages some hope.

Last Tuesday I was shopping with my three children. I got out of our vehicle, and noticed people pouring out of the store. I received a text message from my husband to call him immediately and was unable to. (Gee, those handheld radios I keep trying to get him to buy would have come in handy). People were running around saying this was another 9-11. I asked what was going on and was told "earthquake". I have actually lived in places where earthquakes were a common occurrence so the hysteria was a bit funny, but it was dangerous because people were freaking. Kind of like when people down south can't drive when it flurries. Accidents that should never happen do happen. I finally made contact with my husband and was able to assure him that not only were we fine, but if we were unable to make it home I had supplies with me.

This is important because he hated that I am a prepper. He took stuff out of the car that I put in. He removed supplies when I am not looking from bags I have packed and has gotten into heated arguments with me when I try to get him to buy one extra can of meat at the store. He will not, under any circumstances allow me to store water. He would rather sock money away, I would rather sock supplies away. For the first time, he was glad I was a prepper. I warned him that if he took anything out of our vehicle without telling me and we needed it on the way home that I was going to kill him. We were fine.

Less then two days later we were told the Mother of all storms was headed directly for us. This is the first time my husband has taken a storm seriously. He ran around clearing the yard of all items and what stopped him cold was when I calmly asked him what he planned to do about the whole week long, at least, power outage. He looked worried for the first time. See, we have wells powered by electricity. My pleas for a generator and solar power were ignored. My attempts for storing water were mocked and forbidden. So I just calmly reminded him of that. He freaked out.

Now I knew I had a Berkey (my Christmas gift one year) and a swimming pool. And that equaled drinking water. I had several large bathtubs and that equaled flushing and washing water. I knew that I had stashed oil lamps (which had precipitated a massive verbal fight in Wal-Mart over me buying "clutter") and two lanterns. I knew I had three battery powered radios  and the batteries to run them. But he didn't. He rushed out to stores and found...nothing. I let him. I wanted him to see that reality and feel that for once. Then when he got home I calmly took him through my plans. He was then called into work with only an hour to respond.

While he was upstairs dressing to spend an untold period of time away from us while during a massive storm (something he has told me I do not need to prep for--because it would never happen), I calmly pulled together a BOB kit for him. See I had already packed one for him, several times, and he removed them from his vehicle and warned me to never put them in his car again. So I waited for him to get dressed and was able to run down a list in my head and pull from various sources (you see my husband will not prep for an emergency, but he will "prep" for spontaneous we had junk food and drinks, extra bedding and towels, first aid kit et cetera for guests. There are ways to work with reluctant spouses :) and had his car packed in less then the 15 minutes it took for him to get dressed. He was very worried and begging me to prep away. I was praying, calm and had a plan.

I prepped as fast as I could for the storm. I made sleeping quarters in the basement. Put the children to bed after full baths, fully clothed. I was putting batteries in my radio when the power went down and the storm hit. Yes, I could have been really mad because I should have had everything in place if I didn't have to prep in secret but I have to spread my supplies around so I don't look like I am doing "that stupid prepping again", but I had the stuff.

I had ten minutes before tornado warnings started blaring on the radio. I calmly woke the kids up, got them to the basement with the dogs and barricaded them down there while I ran around to all my stashes getting supplies we would need to survive the aftermath. I made it back down with one minute to spare and got us in the closet. Thank God that I had "prepped" for a birthday party with glow in the dark jewlery--which is a great way to lighten the mood for small children locked in a closet during tornados.

My formerly anti-prepper husband then spent the whole time trying to reach us through the cell phone. See he has always refused to install the land line I wanted for emergencies. So we were at the mercy of the cell phones, which didn't work well or lost power quickly because they are "smart" phones". He came home to us safe, but the power down for "one week to three weeks" according to the power company.

However, I had talked him into keeping extra gas on hand for all his power tools. He bartered that (because there was no gas to be found) and one of my radios and batteries to hook up to a generator. So we didn't lose all the food. But we came close.

Needless to say, my husband just purchased our first generator, is calling about a land line and hasn't said a word about the water bottles I have begun storing since the power came back up.

The most profound thing that happened is that it shook him from his "it will never happen" sleep. Thank God, and not a moment too soon. So for any of you spouses out there dealing with this. Pray and don't stop. God is much better at waking people up and changing hearts then we are, And being willing to take the heat and prep within the parameters still works. Thanks for all the work you do Mr. Rawles and Family. - Mrs. L.B.


Dear JWR:
My husband and I read SurvivalBlog  regularly and want to share with other readers a way to keep insulin cool during periods without electricity. My husband has been a Type I diabetic for 43 years (44 this coming Thanksgiving) so I am always reading magazines, etc. about diabetes. A couple of years ago I came across an article about Frio insulin cooling wallets. I immediately ordered one but we had not used it until Hurricane Irene came through eastern North Carolina last weekend.

Thankfully our power was restored after 25 hours, but many people in other parts of the region may be without power for up to a week. If this had been the case, my husband’s life-saving insulin would have been available without our worrying about it being denatured by high temperatures.

The Frio wallet contains crystals activated by immersion in cold water and maintains its low temperature (77-to-79 degrees Fahrenheit) for a minimum of 45 hours through the evaporation of the water. After 45 hours, the wallet can be reactivated by simply immersing in  more cold water! The wallet also works in cold temperatures to keep insulin from being frozen.

The Frio wallets come in several sizes from the mini, which holds one vial of insulin, to the extra large that can hold eight vials of insulin. The wallets can be bought directly from the manufacturer. Or, depending on size of the wallet and the vendor, often less expensively through - Brenda W.

We live in Southern Vermont and have weathered Tropical Storm Irene rather well.  Our preparations included filling up our vehicles with gasoline, making one last run to the grocery store, bracing the chicken coop, and clearing up all the recent construction bits and bobs.  We just completed replacing our steel roof and we had put in a  new deck so there were a lot of small items that needed to be either thrown on the burn pile or put away for use later.  Outdoor furniture was placed in the barn, in the house, or tied down.
The recently completed chicken coop was certainly a target for high winds.  It would need bracing it to prevent the coop from being tipped over during the expected high winds.  I drove 2 four foot pieces (2x4s) into the ground on the downhill side of the coop.   The bottom of those 2x4 stakes were then attached to the top of the chicken coop with two 2x4s.  This effectively increases the width of the chicken coop and any strong breeze to either side of the chicken coop would have to work against those braces. 

Two eye hooks that were screwed into the top of the chicken coop on the other side of the braces.  A piece of polypropylene rope was tied off using those two eye hooks to a conveniently located apple tree and tightened down hard.  This created tension from the tree, through the coop framing, to the ground stakes.   My wife always complained about how I loved to tie my knots, but they certainly came in handy in securing our chicken’s home.
We tested the generator and manual transfer switch.  We expected heavy rains and some flooding so any elements located in the barn that would be damaged by flooding were placed up on wooden skids.  The pond is drained by two four-inch pieces of PVC.  Their grates were cleaned and replaced.  All fruit and veggies were harvested as much as possible from the garden and the hoop house.
The hoop house (green house) was tied down internally by using the remnants to the polypro rope to two five gallon buckets loaded with stone.  Two cinder blocks This anchored the hoop house on each end, yet allowed a little flexibility depending on the amount of wind being delivered by Irene.
These are all the preparations that were in addition to the regular activities and items that we had already performed as a normal course of ‘just being prepared.’  Gasoline and propane stored and ready to go; water stored in the basement with a gravity-fed water source into the house; food frozen, food canned, food in the fridge; backup generator filled and ready to rock; BOBs loaded and ready to run if necessary; full med kits filled out for ‘most any emergency.’ 
Everything was looking just fine for Irene’s visit.
We watched Hurricane Irene as she tracked her way through New Jersey and into New York City.  Her forecasted track did not change very much at all.  As she progressed up through New England we watched as she come across Connecticut dropping in severity to a tropical storm, and dropping significant amounts of rain.  As it approached our home, the rain starting to come down filling the storm drains on our property and on the road at the end of the driveway.  Our early estimate was that the rain fall was an inch per hour.  Two hours later we were experiencing 2 inches an hour.  That is when things started to get interesting.
The property was saturated.  The storm drains over flowed.  Our pond over flowed.  The drainage along the road started to over flow and began to cover our driveway.   And our basement started to flood.  My wife announced that we had two inches in the basement.  I had expected some seepage into the basement, but no more than two inches.  There was a monsoon occurring in New England and it wasn’t likely to stop anytime soon. 
There was a drain just to the uphill side on the road that was supposed to direct the water into a drainage pipe.  The DOT team had performed some pre-emptive grass cutting a week ago.  I had expected that the drain may end up getting clogged and prepared for it.  I grabbed my rake, hat and slicker and headed out to the road to address the problem.  I was in luck.  The grate was obviously clogged, but the water had risen significantly to over three foot in depth.  I had to use the rake handle as a walking stick to get down closer to the grate with unforgiving, slick footing.  I wished I had a safety line on and my wife on the other end.  If I slipped, the suction of the rushing water could have pinned me underwater.  As soon as I felt the grate under the rake handle I stopped, reversing the rake, I dragged the business end of the rake across the grate removing the long grass, sticks, and twigs that had created a mat of vegetation blocking the flow of water.   It didn’t take much to clear that grate; maybe four or five passes with the rake.  I then reversed my way out of that stream to the road surface.
To make sure that both ends of the pipe were clear, I also walked the 100 yards to the other end of the drainage pipe and ensured that was flowing clear and that there were no obstructions.
Once that was taken care of I headed up to our pond.  The volume of water off the mountain had created a small stream that was flowing from the back of my property, through the pumpkin patch into the pond.  The two four-inch drainage pipes from the pond were partially clogged by the grass carried down by the stream.  Water was flowing over the earthen dam and if left unchecked would have eroded and cause the pond to empty down into the barn below and end up in the road.  Again, using the rack handle I walked gingerly into the pond checking my footing along the way.  We had previously placed quarter-inch square rabbit wire around the ends of the 4-inch pipes in order to prevent the grass and leaves from clogging the pond drains.  However, with the large volume of water flowing into the pond, those drains were now insufficient to prevent the pond over flow.  I had to remove those wire filters that were partially clogged to ensure that the water would flow through the drains and not over the earthen top of the pond.  Once that was accomplished, I figured I would allow nature take its course at the pond.  The pond water was merrily flowing into and out of the barn taking with it all manner of dirt, sawdust and manure.  From the pond and barn I had to return to the house and examine the basement.
The water had continued to rise in the basement.  It was where our long term food supplies were stored both in five gallon buckets and on shelves canned and prepped for future use.  We couldn’t allow the water to rise much higher or it would ruin the freezer, the furnace, or the hot water heater.  My wife started to panic with that.  She grabbed a bucket and started to bail, carrying the water out the rear access door.  I rigged a small pump, a real small pump, to a garden hose and let that do some the work.   I assumed that with a small pump plus the drain in the floor working we could hold our own and not need to use a five gallon bucket. 
Big mistake! The floor drain, which worked so well taking the output from my dehumidifier, was clogged!  The water continued to rise.  We were now at five inches.  In a moment of inspiration, I decided to use the house pump.  I didn’t even need to rewire it, but I did have to disconnect the pump from the water from our spring.  I turned off the pump circuit breaker for safety sake.  After all, I was up to my ankles in water and therefore well grounded!  Closing a few valves stopped the spring water entering the house and also closed off the pump output from the house plumbing.  The 1 ½ inch hard plastic hose was quickly disconnected and redirected into the high water.   I turned on the pump at the circuit breaker and relaxed.  Away the pump ran, starting to drain the water out through a suitable garden hose and out the onto the backyard grass. 
All was well in the world.  Once again I had proved myself to the wife in coming up with a brilliant solution to a major issue.  Definitely a MacGyver moment.  I ruled!  Then the power failed.  I was crushed.  Needless to say, I was exhausted and soaking wet from the rain.  Having the little swim in the pond and the drainage ditch didn’t help.  Those are my excuses and I am sticking to them.
So I figured that I need to get more output from the small pump… Obviously!  I decided to add a garden hose T-connector to the small garden hose to increase the volume.  Obviously not thinking straight really.  The small pump had a limited volume.  You cannot get more water out of a small pump by having two, three or four garden hoses.  If it can pump 20 gallons per minute out of a garden hose, two garden hoses do not get you 40 gallons per minute!  It was obvious that this was not working and my patient wife, who was still bailing was under impressed with my efforts so far. 
I decided to run to the hardware store and buy another pump!  A great idea, but so flawed.  By this time we had been under the influence of Irene for over 16 hours with the last four hours of significant rainfall.  Needless to say, off I went into the 4x4 pickup and down the road heading to Brattleboro.  I believe that all your readers by now are intimately familiar with Brattleboro courtesy of the national news services.  I made it down two miles or so when I ran into massive road wash that made the road impassable.  Not to worry, off to the other town in Southern Vermont.  Wilmington!  Well I never made it to Wilmington either.  Water had washed out the road.   Two small trees, approx 80 foot in length, had collapsed across the road at approximately the same location as the same stream had washed away the roots.  In short, I wasn’t going to make it into Wilmington.  Dover was out of the question as well as the bridges on those roads were simply gone.
In record time, I returned home completely deflated.  My wife was exhausted upon my arrival.  I told her to stop for a break and I briefed her on the lack of a second pump.  ‘Why don’t you turn on the generator and plug in the pump?’   Now you know why I married her…  I realized that I had to rewire the pump, I needed a plug, which I didn’t have.  But I did have plenty of extension cords…  So the plan was set and I fired up the generator, which I should have done an hour ago.  I ran out to the barn where I had a smaller appliance grade extension cord only 10 foot in length.   Cut in half I could use the male plug to wire in and replace the 12 gauge wire running into the pump. 
You see, we had a gravity fed water supply to the house.  We added the pump to provide a stronger water pressure in the house (45 psi vs 17 psi from gravity) as the pump wasn’t required for TEOTWAWKI I hadn’t wired it into the transfer switch to the generator.  So the immediate and safest solution was to wire it to this male plug end of the extension cord and then plug it into a ‘hot’ plug in the basement.  Where the water was…  Where I was standing.
So the re-wiring was straight forward.  Even running the extension cord was simple, when  I heard my wife say, ‘You don’t mind if I leave the basement when you plug that in do you?  Just give me a head’s up before you do something stupid!’
So, the two of us left the basement and cheated death from Irene.  We plugged the cord into a suitable plug located in the kitchen.  The pump began to whirr, spin and drain the basement.
Currently we are still isolated in the interior of Vermont.  The road crews started work on sorting out some of the roads that may provide drive routes to towns with supplied grocery stores.  Well-built bridges will be required to carry commercial loads of food and supplies.  I understand Wilmington has issues with sewage, septic, water, food, and structural issues.  Vermont highways and bridges are washed out or down all over the place.  But we do have shelter, water, food, electricity, phone, and even an Internet connection.  In about a week there may be some convoluted solutions to get to a local grocery.
Lessons learned? Plenty!  Once I catch a breath, I am going to wire that pump into the transfer switch and I am going to buy another pump.  Maybe something like a large capacity marine pump that will run on DC.  I will also plumb that existing pump up with a garden hose fitting as an option to simplify using the house pump in case of an emergency of this nature. 
"One hundred year storms" don’t know how to read a calendar.  Another Hurricane just like Irene (or worse) could arrive next month or next year.
Stay safe from Southern Vermont – J.A.

In the wake of hurricane Irene, many of your faithful readers are probably re-assessing their emergency preps.  As I will explain, it would be prudent to do so immediately.  I live in central Florida and experienced hurricane conditions three times in a period of six weeks during 2004 (Charlie, Frances and Jeane).  During that time, I observed an interesting reaction to the storms.  For the first storm, most people were under prepared, unaware of the potential difficulties, and took minimal precautions at the last minute. 

The second storm was an entirely different matter.  As soon as the forecast threatened the area, people were out in droves filling gas tanks and cans, buying supplies, and buying out storm prep items from store shelves.  People who were not prepared before the storm forecast was announced ended up being inconvenienced, or out of luck, if they needed to go out and get anything.  This is an important point for your readers in the areas affected by Irene: final preparations will probably be more difficult if another storm is forecast to hit your area.  If you need to tweak your hurricane preps, do it now before another storm comes along.  Observe how public officials have reacted to Irene with an early robust response in light of what happened with Hurricane Katrina.  The general public will do the same for the next storm, even if it is not for another year or two. 

Finally, when the third storm came, most people had their preps ready from the previous storms and everyone knew the drill.  It has been several years since the last storm hit, so I would not be surprised if the cycle repeated.  It is hard to appreciate the intensity of a hurricane if you haven't experienced one, but the learning curve is steep.  I can see one potential benefit of hurricane Irene:  It will probably motivate many people to become better prepared and learn form great resources like your SurvivalBlog.  - John in Florida

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
I am in northwest N.J. I wasn't affected as badly by the hurricane as others were, but I did learn a few lessons about my preparedness.

1. Inspect your gear on a regular basis. I live on a dead-end street, and the road goes over a country stream, which flows underneath through a 2-foot culvert with a paved berm built over the top of it. Yesterday, that country stream became a 40-foot wide river about 10 inches deep and flowing rapidly over the road surface. To get across that, I got out my waders -- and discovered that mice had chewed some holes in them. They were still usable for getting through that water, but I can never use them again to go fishing. P.S.: inspect one's bug-out bag regularly; also inspect food storage containers, including the back side and the bottom, to ensure they haven't been compromised. I plan on doing this once a month going forward.

2. Mindset change: don't skimp on temporary arrangements. I have lots of supplies for preparedness, but when the situation is going to be temporary -- for example, power will be out for 6 or 8 hours, instead of multiple days -- one thinks, "I don't really want to drag out (gear, supplies, etc.) to set up, only to have to clean and put away everything tomorrow." Wrong attitude. If you need light, set yourself up to have plenty of light. If you need an alternative cooking arrangement, set it up. Not only does it fix your mindset, but it gives you good opportunities to (a) train in "actual" survival, (b) test/inventory your stuff, and (c) train yourself in expedient setup/breakdown of your gear.

3. You never have enough light. Have a candle (safe to burn unattended) or other light in each room you'll be using, multiple lights in any room or space where you'll be spending most of your time or doing any kind of work, and always have a light source that you can carry with you at all times. For the last, I like a Petzl headband lamp. If it's too uncomfortable to wear continuously, it fits easily in your pocket.

4. A fully charged laptop is a great tool to recharge your cell phone or smart phone during power outages. More: I got (and was able to give) lots of information with a smart phone during an extended power outage.

5. Perform (or augment) your preps at least two seasons ahead of time. Start stocking up winter items during the summer and vice versa. Not only will you be more prepared, but you're likely to find better prices.

6. Change your fuel. I have a 2-gallon gas can that I use only for my chainsaw. When I was getting ready for the hurricane, I realized that the gas in the can had been in there for 2 or 3 years, so I had to get rid of it (my mechanic took it) and get some fresh gas. New rule I've implemented: first weekend of the month, I will empty the gas can into my car and refill it with fresh gas. Not only does it keep the gas fresh, but it ensures that I have 40-50 miles of emergency driving stored in a can in my garage.

7. Use your batteries. How many people stock up on batteries, rarely use them ... and then discover, when the batteries are needed, that the expiration date was 6 years ago? In my experience, such batteries still work but have a markedly decreased useful life.

8. Set up some supplies/gear explicitly for temporary, "expected" emergencies. For example, if you know from past experience that you will always see at least one summer power outage lasting for 3 days, set up a specific section of gear for that situation. That way, you don't have to go through everything -- in the dark, no less -- saying, "I need (this) from the pantry, and (this) from the downstairs gear locker, and (this) from my under bed storage." Have one shelf set aside for "summer power outage" in this example

9. Do training scenarios to review your preparedness. Say to yourself "There's a hurricane forecast for 4 days from now" or "Forecasters are seeing a blizzard occurring 3 days from now." Where am I deficient? What supplies do I need to restock? What outdoor preps (clean gutters, clear dead tree limbs, secure gear from wind, etc.) do I need to accomplish prior to that emergency? Not only is this good training -- but if you write it down, you author a prep manual to which you can refer and that you can use to instruct others.

10. Charge anything that can be charged the night before. Cell/smart phones are handy for emergency communication (presuming the comm networks aren't knocked out). Laptops enable you to do some work. A portable car starter battery can be used for its intended purpose or it can run an inverter. If everything's charged before the emergency hits, your peace of mind is a little better. I've made this a mandatory "day-before-the-emergency" prep.

11. Get more money. This one is presenting difficulty for me. Like many readers of your blog, I have been struggling financially for several years -- you probably remember that I've commented a couple of times on this topic. I've done, I think, a pretty good job of preparing on a very limited budget. But there are some things, pricier preps, on which you can't skimp: you either pony up or you do without. For example, I'm in a pretty good position on food and water but deficient on quality hand tools, fuels, and durable clothing (and I'd love to have one of those Berkey filters!). I can't magically make the prices go down, so my only option is to generate more cash and then purchase as wisely as my budget permits. Have to explore this further, as I'm already working two jobs, 7 days a week, just to survive.

One positive reflection: someone asked me a few days ago, "What are you doing to prepare for the hurricane?" Other than gassing up the car, cleaning the gutters, and filling the aforementioned gas can, I didn't need to do or purchase anything.

One other note for preppers: don't ever let anyone get away with calling you a "hoarder." There is an important distinction: Preppers stock up 12 weeks or 12 months before an emergency; but people who stock up just 12 hours before the situation are the hoarders.

Best, - J.C.


Living on the east coast, Hurricane Irene was a concern. However, I wanted to share the wonderful sense of already being prepared (much thanks to your wonderful site). I called the wife and asked what I needed to pick up, she said: "nothing." It was truly heartening to be able to drive past the crowded parking lots as the hordes swamped the supermarkets as the week progressed. Naturally I filled the fuel tank and extra gasoline cans. We had
minimal damage, trees and limbs down, and the power stayed on. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who were not so fortunate. - Ken


Good Day JWR,
I live and work in the people’s socialist republic of Neu Jersey, in the Central Region less than five miles from the Atlantic Ocean (the way the crow flies).  Being a prepper and working in the law enforcement field at a major penitentiary, I was in tune to what was going on from the initial projections.  Thursday and Friday before Hurricane Irene hit we were in statewide video conference after video conference.  All the figure heads were running around like a chicken without a head.  Each time one of them would ask me a stupid question; I would smirk and say something smart like “had you been paying attention to me over the last four years, we wouldn’t be in this situation now”.  To make a long story short, a smaller correctional facility in the Southern Region had to evacuate all 1,500 inmates – because they were housed in trailers.  Obviously that wouldn’t stand up to well to the more than 75mph winds.  In the end, all were successfully transported out with much fanfare, then returned with no bells and whistles today.  But, all department resources were dedicated to that effort – meaning the other dozen or so institutions were on our own.
We moved over 100 minimum security inmates out of our outlying camp and into the main facility Visiting Hall because they were housed in trailers.  We moved two of our medium security housing unit dormitories (another 100 inmates) inside the main complex to the Gymnasium due to the flooding.  Thankfully our food service staff had stockpiled approximately half a week’s worth of food and water and our maintenance staff was on site fixing damages that could be repaired in the storm.  Uniformed custody staff were held over (most volunteering due to the shortage of overtime in the last two years under Governor Christie) and the institution was run on an abbreviated schedule with no mishaps or problems other than a temporary power loss from outside the facility; which was counter acted by our in house generators.
On the personal front, I was dismayed at the Governor declaring a state of emergency on Thursday at noon.  Friday the major highways were shut down and nobody allowed South bound of certain points.  This was not due to a reverse lanes evacuation strategy.  Christie was on television over and over telling everyone and anyone it was a “mandatory evacuation” and that they better leave now.  Local police and fire and emergency medical services all went on abbreviated response postures.  Most followed FEMA guidelines that more than a 40 mph sustained wind equaled no emergency response.  Some municipalities established curfews.  Some emergency services ignored the FEMA response guidelines and ‘eyeballed’ the current conditions before determining if they would respond immediately or wait for better weather.  Regardless, the call volume significantly curtailed once the real storm front came into play.
During the tropical storm, there were/are many areas without power.  The typical areas subject to regular flooding are of course flooded.  Other areas not usually flooded had also experienced flooding.  We lost our cable service, thus no television, telephone, or Internet/E-Mail was working for about 24 hours.  Supposedly our telephone had battery backup for just such an instance, but that obviously was not the case.  Security problems would not have been an issue for us, but an actual serious fire or medical emergency would have been a problem.  Our cellular telephones never lost service, but had it gone on for a few days we would have been up the creek without a paddle.  Note to self: maintain at least ‘old fashioned’ Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) with at least one handset in the home for just such occasions.  If electrical power goes down, POTS still works.
My wife finally decided on Friday evening to go to the supermarket to pick up last minute things.  Surprise, surprise, the shelves were bare.  She works for a grocery store chain and came home Wednesday and Thursday and again on Friday stating this store and that store were closing and canceling deliveries.  Some are still closed as of this Monday evening due to no power.  While I have some food stores squirreled away and wasn’t really concerned, she most certainly was.  I used the moment as a teaching aid and informed her that this is the reason why I have been preaching regularly adding to the cupboards and pantry whenever non-perishable items are on sale.  Of course she never took me up on it, stating ‘yeah, right’ and the like.  So now I told her that she and the kids would not go hungry as I had plenty of MREs available and that now perhaps she would heed my suggestions.  She was praying this would get over quickly as MREs were not looking very appetizing to her.  Bottom line, store shelves were bare and were not getting restocked anytime soon.

Nursing Homes and group homes were evacuated in Southern New Jersey.  They sent them up to the Central and Northern Regions.  Rutgers University in New Brunswick put over 400 residents in two gymnasiums and the Mennen Arena in Morris County housed another 500 or so residents.  These were all moved by about 50 ambulances from Pennsylvania in on mutual aid compacts.  Likewise, the New Jersey Disaster Medical Assistance Teams was already deployed to North Carolina and the New Jersey EMS Task Force was deploying 100 ambulances to Virginia.  Apparently under FEMA edict, state resources cannot deploy to their own state in a disaster?  That sounded odd, but that's what I was told.  The problem was there was not enough medical staff to go around, and the few who traveled with the 'convoys' were "not allowed" to assist other homes' patients.  I am filing these little tidbits as well into my memory just in case I ever have to put a relative in a nursing or group home.  It was great that they were evacuated, but what was to be their fate upon reaching the evacuation center?
Locally, my town suffered numerous power outages killing street lights and snarling traffic after the storm.  Many homes were flooded and had to be evacuated.  Many stores and houses still do not have power, a friend only six blocks away was told they’ll be lucky to have power back by the next weekend.  The fire department is running around to numerous building foundation collapse calls.  Public Works is cutting down felled trees and big branches are being removed.  Sanitation is back on a normal schedule.  The police must be working beau coup overtime because most major intersections have officers directing traffic as the street lights were out.  We had battened down our hatches and secured all outside furniture and toys and the like on Friday so we had no major concerns other than perhaps some water leakage into the basement.  We didn’t even have that.  Other than our cable issue, we never lost power and had no other problems to speak of.  Being a prepper had us well ahead of the learning curve both at home and work.  While everyone was scrambling around like crazy, I was sitting back smoking a cigar and drinking a scotch.
Keep up the great work you do in keeping us informed and providing thought provoking topics to read and learn.
Sincerely, - The Last N.J. Conservative

Mr Rawles,
I'm not sure if you heard this news out of Pennsylvania but the Cabela's at Hamburg was discounting generators by $180 due to public need.  I could be sinister and think they made more off sales from survival supplies to make up the difference, but they did go ahead and ship all available generators from across the country to the east coast.  I think this is a stand up company and they will get more of my business.
Thank you for your time. - Bradley A.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Here's an article on the New York Times web site about the extraordinary preparations being made in and around New York City as Hurricane Irene makes her way up the East Coast. They're evacuating a quarter of a million people, including a number of hospitals and nursing homes; making the main arteries out of some locations into one-way, six lane evacuations routes; and shutting down the entire public transit system, including several commuter lines to Long Island, New Jersey, and upstate. New Yorkers tend to forget how close we are to the sea.

Nothing like this has ever been done before. The only times I can remember the subways being shut down were in the infamous blackouts that have descended on the city from time to time. And mandatory evacuations? In Brooklyn?? Fuhgeddaboudit!

I'm grateful to you and all your readers for the knowledge and insight to make the preparations I've needed to. I live out in the country now, up on a nice little hill. The greatest danger around here is the trees that are likely to come down. I expect to be without power for several days, and feel secure and comfortable in my little house -- plenty of food and water, light sources and a camp stove, a bucket for flushing all squared away and ready to rock. And I've given away some of my supplies, will give away more tomorrow, to a conductor who's in from out-of-town to conduct a concert nearby. He has no idea what he needs, so I've prepared a basic kit for him, of water, candles, matches, and food that doesn't need to be cooked.

Thank you for being there, and for the good guidance. We won't feel the full force of the storm here in my valley, but I'm a little scared. And my trust is in the Lord, here and now.

Best, Mary in Rosendale, New York

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thanks for the timely letter on Hurricane Preparedness Steps by Florida Dave.  Unfortunately, I am by necessity working on that checklist this week. 

I'd recommend adding a couple of items to his list:

At 48 hours before landfall, when securing important papers and photos, I suggest that video or photos of the contents and exterior of the home be recorded for insurance purposes.  

Also, at 24-to-10 hours out, super shock your swimming pool if you have one. (A swimming pool is a great resource if power and water go out for a few days.)

- John in Florida

Monday, August 22, 2011

Now is the time for those in the Southeastern United States to check their preparations for hurricanes.  Below is a list of steps I go through anytime there is a hint of a potential storm.  These steps were derived from past experiences and lessons I have learned from other posts.  I do this prep so as not to get caught up in panicked crowds on the days immediately preceding the storm.  Should the storm not hit me directly I consider this prepping chance to practice and shore up my supplies.

7 Days Out

1)    Water (1 or 5 gallon jugs) is purchased and any filter systems, storage systems and well pumps are checked. 
2)    Storage food is checked and additional food is purchased if necessary.  During his phase any non-perishable food needed, including comfort food should is purchased. 
3)    Fuel Stores such as gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas, Coleman White fuel, kerosene are checked and topped off as needed. 
4)    Cooking fuels are checked and purchased as needed.
5)    Battery stores are checked and additional batteries are purchased as needed.
6)    Flashlights, lanterns and other alternative light sources are tested and batteries are replaced, fuel is added to each device as needed.
7)    Alternative cooking devices are tested.
8)    Radio communications are tested and made ready.
9)    Storm shutters and fasteners are made ready for deployment.
10) Blackout curtains are located and made ready for use.
11) Generators - run on a load for 30 minutes, tanks are topped off and any maintenance need is completed.
12) First aid supplies - are checked and additional supplies are purchased as needed.
13) Double check prescriptions and fill if necessary.
14) Firearms (If you have them) are checked and cleaned and lubricated if necessary.  Ammunition is checked and the amount needed for a possible event is moved from storage to an easily accessible, but secure location.
15) Daily used household items such as cleaners, soaps, tooth care; toilet paper etc. should be checked and purchased as necessary.
16) Start making Ice and have bags ready for when the container for the ice maker gets full.
17) G.O.O.D. packs are checked and replenished as needed.
18) Fuel tanks for vehicles from this point on are not allowed to go below ¾ths filled and as a normal procedure should not be allowed to go under ½ full. 
19) Check vehicles for tire pressure, fluid levels, belt tensions, and any pending maintenance critical to the operation of the vehicle should be done at this time. 
20) Communicate with your preparedness group, family and like-minded friends; discuss the possibility of implementing your preparedness plan assuming you have one.

4-to-5-Days Out
1)    Grocery store – last minute items and surprisingly perishable items such as fruits and vegetables that do not need refrigeration are purchased.   The event may be short term and this will allow for one to two weeks of fresh fruits and vegetables before the need to move to dry and canned food.
2)    Mail all bills due in the next 30 days if possible.
3)    Start freezing water in 2 liter soda bottles. This will help freezers and refrigerators stay cool longer when the power goes out.
4)    Have family or group meeting and discuss preparedness plans to include responsibilities for final preparations and survival responsibilities immediately after the event and contingency plans for when things go wrong.  
5)    Start consuming primarily refrigerated perishable food.
6)    Assuming the garbage trucks are still running; make sure all trash is removed. 
7)    Any member of your family or group who has to work will need to place a survival pack in their vehicle, that should include 3 to 7 days of food and water and one or two Jerry can(s) of fuel if possible.  If possible, preposition short term emergency supplies at the place of employment. 

Experience has demonstrated the hordes of panicked people are beginning to start at this phase, but depending on the event and how the event is covered in the media, the hordes could potentially start earlier than expected; making some of the preparations at this stage more difficult to accomplish.  

48 Hours Out
1)     Impact shutters are installed, leaving one or two off on the back side of the house to allow natural light in.    When shutters go up it gets dark and gloomy fast.  The last few shutters can be installed right before the storm hits.
2)    Loose objects outside of the home are secured or moved inside.
3)    Rain gutters and downspouts are cleaned out.  
4)    Charge any remaining batteries and radios.
5)    Data from computers is backed up and securely stored. 
6)    Paper records are secured.
7)    Important personal items, such as family photos are secured.    
8)    Persons doing prep work in the immediate vicinity of the home should have a two way radio with them at all times, with someone in the home monitoring the radio.  This is especially important for those living in rural areas with large amounts of property and when working a fair distance from the home.  
9)     One person at all times should be monitoring Radio, Internet and television news. Continue to monitoring these sources while available.

10 to 24 Hours Out
1)    Any items still outside the home are secured.
2)    Remaining storm shutters are installed.
3)    Vehicles are moved to the garage or a secure location. Depending on the situation and location this step may be done sooner in the process.
4)    Internal alternative light sources are made ready and strategically placed. 
5)    Food stores and water for the next 24-72 hours are made ready.  Some perishable food for immediate use can be moved to coolers, which if properly packed and insulated will stay cool for two days. A layer of dry ice on the bottom of a cooler separated by a dish towel can keep items frozen for up to 4 days in the proper cooler)
6)    Turn freezer refrigerator temps down).  Get them as cold as possible without freezing the coils.
7)    Turn air-conditioning down and get the house cool before the power goes out.
8)    Entertainment such as games, books are located and made ready.
9)    Charge laptops and cell phones.
10)  Wash all dishes by hand.
11) Any remaining laundry is done (earlier in the 24-hours before landfall and well before the likelihood of power failures).
12) Depending on the water situation, sinks, bath tubs and containers should be filled with water and treated appropriately.  
13)  Move some frozen bottles to the refrigerator.
14) Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed (once the power goes out, It may be 12 hours or more before the generator can fired up). 


3 Hours Out – (Power is Out )
1)    Alternative lighting sources are activated.
2)    All AC Powered lights and appliances, televisions, computers (except one lamp) are unplugged.  The breaker for the HVAC unit and water heater is shut off.   Leaving one light connected to the AC [utility power] and in the on mode will provide an indication when the power returns.  Once power returns, lamps and appliances can be powered up gradually to avert the effects of a power surge.  Those with standby generators will handle this step differently depending on how their backup system is designed.    
3)    If possible, use the remaining hot water; take a shower(s) assuming conditions warrant.
4)    Once hot water is used, and if using a hot water tank, close the incoming water valve; a fresh supply of water is now available.  
5)    Activate the battery operated television or radio and monitor events.
6)    Sleep when and if possible in rotating shifts.
7)    If the situation warrants, move to a storm shelter or the most secure part of the house.  
When prepping for a storm, I print the list and the items are checked off as they are completed.  Doing so allows for a fast and efficient approach to prepping for a storm and helps to ensure nothing is forgotten.   The list is tweaked as needed and steps are added and /or removed based on the perceived severity of the storm in my general area.  Regards, - Florida Dave

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Yo Jim,
We live in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma next to the Texas Panhandle.
This summer when the weather reports from Oklahoma City were pointing out temperatures in the 105 to 112 range in areas north and south of us ours here were considerably higher.
We have a large face thermometer in the back yard on a post inside a wooden open faced box facing away from the sun and not in a shaded area.
Yesterday it read 114.
Today it is reading 113 at 3 pm.
Many days it has read 120 pegged to its maximum.
I personally have never experienced such intense heat during my 70 years.
That includes a tour of duty in Niger in the Peace Corps in the Sahel, the southern regions of the Sahara Desert.

We have many trees dying.
You could virtually look out the window and see the vegetation of the countryside dying.
We have had about one inch of rain in the last two weeks.
But it is not enough to save many of the native trees.

Under intense watering twice a day our garden has simply been cooked by the sun.
The only thing doing well are the sweet potatoes and the melons.
The melons are shaded most of the day by 4 rows of dried up corn.
The surviving tomatoes and peppers are mostly in pots in the shade.
But they too are shriveled and not producing any fruit.

Which leads me to mention that I just finished reading The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.
The book is an historical account of the Dust Bowl days centered around 'no mans land' of the Oklahoma Panhandle, the north Texas Panhandle, southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas.
This is one of the most fascinating books I have read in many years.
You better keep a box of kleenex handy.
The descriptions of the dust pneumonia deaths and the hardships will bring tears to you regularly.
This was an environmental war against humans.
Caused primarily by the regular cycles of drought coinciding with the plowing up of the prairie to meet the demands of an expanding wheat market that paid huge profits.
Then the whole ecosystem of the high plains collapsed.
With no grass to hold the soil and persistent winds 'saltation' of soil began.
Once the soil begins to move with the wind it builds downwind into great storms of dirt that last for hours.
Many many miles wide and extending up to 20,000 feet high.

Want to read about what hard times are about?
Read about these people's bug out plans.
The Last Man Standing Club.
Jackrabbit roundups.
That is another whole story.
I personally experienced two jackrabbit roundup's in Kansas in the late 1950s.
These roundups were held SE of Rush Center, Kansas.
The killing frenzy of men with the trapped rabbits in a large enclosure is hell on earth.
The enclosure where I witnessed this killing contained between 2,000 and 2,500 rabbits.
There is no description of words that can describe the chaos, the death sounds of the rabbits, the movement of rabbits in an enclosure with moving rabbit bodies continually in motion 6 to 8 feet high, the blood, wounded rabbits stuck in the fence, rabbit hair floating in the breeze and the absolute maniacal insanity of the killing frenzy of humans after those rabbits.
Then throw in 2 or 3 or 4 coyotes in the pen mixed in for more excitement.
The rabbits were sold for mink farm food and shipped out of state in box cars.

During the Dust Bowl days they canned the rabbit meat for survival.
There was life in the dugout and simple wooden frame homes.
No amount of sealing could keep out the dust.
It was life with dust in everything you owned.
Cars shorted out in the static electricity and stopped running.
Vehicles had a chain over the rear axle dragging on the ground to discharge the static electricity.
People could not shake hands nor touch each other in a dust storm because the discharge of electricity would knock you down or cause you pain.
Dust was in what you ate, what you wore, your nose openings had to be covered in vaseline to keep the dust out of the lungs and it was in your bed.
Buildings were covered in dunes of dust.
Homes were shoveled out, not swept out.
Automobiles, farm implements, whole gardens, chicken houses, the outhouse all were subject to disappearing under mounds of dirt.
Some of these mounds collected into 50 ft. drifts over the years.
Fence lines were buried with only [the top of] the fence post above the dirt.

People caught out in the open when a dust storm came up frequently never survived.
Cattle, horses and pigs chocked to death on dirt.

The story of these peoples endurance, spirit and love of the land is without equal.

There is more.....

Here is raw survival at its best.

There is no fiction that can better this story.

I recommend this book highly.

A regular reader, - J.W.C.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hi Jim and Family,
If you have the time, will you please pray for rain in the South?  My extended family and I live in the Austin area.  The drought in the South, especially in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and parts of Louisiana is especially bad.  The temperature hovers around 100 degrees F every day.  Obviously, when your family has lived here all their/our lives, we cannot move to another state.  We have to stay here because of our jobs and each other. 

If you don't mind, please implore all of our dear readers of the SurvivalBlog, to please ask our Lord and Savior for some blessed rain.  We are so desperate for it.  Many of our ranchers and farmers in Texas are hurting so badly.  It is sometimes costing up to $1,000 [per week] for the ranchers to feed their horses.  Farmers have lost countless tons of crops.  I know you are busy, but we would so appreciate it.  My family all knows about you and your wonderful blog.  I have been reading it for about two years now and I love it.  I am in my mid-fifties and my husband in his mid-sixties.  I convinced my husband to begin preparing and stocking up for the future.  He has begun to take this seriously and I am so proud of him.  We are definitely reading the handwriting on the wall and believe that we are very likely in the last days.  If not, then the country is most likely headed into a deep depression for many, many years.

I would like to thank you over and over for the blog.  It is so appreciated and so are you.  I am so happy that you have remarried to "Avalanche Lily" so soon after Linda passed away.  I hope that everything is going well for your new blended family.  I praise God for wonderful Christians such as you and your family.

May God continue to richly bless you, - Sheryl in Texas

Saturday, July 23, 2011

As it is affecting so many of us right now, seems like a good time to give you some information about heat-related problems and preventing heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Heat Exhaustion most often occurs when people work or play in a hot, humid place and body fluids are lost through sweating, causing overheating of the body.  Usually a person is dehydrated to some degree, from mild to severely.  The person's temperature may be elevated, but not above 104 degrees.  Now, most of us can go inside a cool down either in air-conditioned vehicles or homes.  Even the movies are a great cooling spot, (as bad as they are until that ape movie comes out that I want to see...creepy apes).  This will not be so simple WTSHTF.  Again, making some assumptions about TEOTWAWKI that may or may not hold true; but, if there are basements that are underground, usually the temperature there is never really dangerous for heat-related illnesses.  Go there for the worst weather of summer.  Or your favorite cave nearby.  Or Starbucks...oh wait...that won't work.  Find your cool area now so that you can plan for it if we get this kind of weather next year. (Possibly without a grid power?)

Heat stroke, also referred to as heatstroke or sun stroke, is a life-threatening condition. Your cooling system, controlled by the brain, stops working correctly and body temperature rises to the point at which brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result, usually 105+ degrees.  About 700 people die yearly due to heat-related illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And that's now with power and air for most of us to spoil ourselves with.  Think of what that number may reach without a grid and a medical system to back us up.

Infants, children under four years old, overweight folks, and the elderly are more likely to have heat stroke, as are those who are taking certain types of medication.  So if you are fat, lose it.  If you are an infant or child, hurry up and get over four before this all "goes down".  If you are elderly, well, nothing you can really do about that now unless you get some of that swimming pool deal from that old person/alien movie.  If you do, don't tell my granny cause I don't want to have to hear about it constantly and watch her dancing around. The short message of this paragraph is pay special attention to little ones and elderly folks in this kind of heat...they might need it more than the rest of us.

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Prevention
Avoidance of heat exhaustion is pretty easy now but may not be WTSHTF.  Your best try is not engaging in strenuous activity in hot, humid environments.  People who are not used to the heat should be particularly careful.  Intersperse periods of rest in a cool environment with plenty of available fluids to drink.  Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day.  Hydration is key. Fluids will be important every day but on those days 100-fold more so.  Don't forget electrolytes too, water alone with profuse sweating can cause some electrolyte imbalances in potassium, sodium and chloride that can really get you too.  Best things to do now when it's really hot or then (WTSHTF) are simple things:

  1. Rest in a cool, shaded area.
  2. Drink cool fluids like water or electrolyte-containing drinks.  Salty snacks are appropriate as tolerated.
  3. Loosen or remove clothing.
  4. Apply cool water to skin.
  5. Do not use an alcohol rub.
  6. Do not give any beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.
  7. If you are treating someone that is overheated with exhaustion or possible heat stroke:
    1. Move the person to a cooler environment, or place him or her in a cool bath of water (avoid drowning the person by watching them, please!)
    2. Alternatively, moisten the skin with lukewarm water and fan the person to blow cool air across the skin.
    3. Give cool beverages by mouth only if the person has a normal ability to swallow.

This is really basic information, but hopefully it helps and may get you thinking seriously about this issue if you currently plan to live out on a trailer in the desert WTSHTF.  You won't make it in this weather unprotected from this kind of heat.  Try turning off your air for 48 hours and see what kinds of temps you run in your might surprise you how hot it gets fast or how cool your lower level actually stays.  Everyone's situation is very different so start to plan yours accordingly.  Even you northerners can end up dying of heat stroke when the temp stays above 100 for a couple days, so figure out your preventive strategies now.  And everyone can in theory die from heat stroke if they push themselves without proper cooling.  There's tough, there's smart, and there's alive.  Better to be smart and alive than tough and not.  Stay strong, - Dr. Bob

[JWR Notes: Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who dispenses antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is:

Dear SurvivalBloggers,
After reading "The Thinning of The Horde" by Matt B., I would like to make aware the realization that if TEOTWAWKI were to happen during the winter months, which may be as long as five months in the northern tier states, the Transportation Departments (state or local) will not be plowing roads making them impassable by most vehicles. I can imagine the local Good Samaritan plowing out a neighborhood, but in the urban areas, most people do not own plows. In rural America, the distance between neighbors is sometimes measured in miles. A foot of fresh snow would minimize looting in many areas as well as minimize [travel by] those searching for food and warmth. I think that if SHTF during the winter months in the northern states, it would be a dire situation to those that are not prepared. - Dave K. in Washington

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dear Survivalbloggers:
I just finished re-reading JWR's novel "Patriots". Anyone who has read it knows that in Chapter 21 a number was given on the percentage of the population that perished during the Crunch. This has allowed me to open my mind. There will undoubtedly be a Golden Horde, but as you will read, it will quickly and overtime diminish considerably.  

This last semester I took a human geography course which I found especially relevant to the way that a ‘Horde’ would move. In the course I have learned that in a typical East Coast suburb, there are about 5,000 people per square mile! A choropleth map of the United States shown in class illustrated that almost two-thirds of the 300+ million Americans live East of Tornado Alley. A choropleth map is one method to depict population density. The scale of the choropleth map that I was shown depicted one dot = 100,000 people. I feel that referring to the split by Tornado Alley is easy to remember since I still remember it from grade school. For those of you that don’t recall, Tornado Alley is the string of states (the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas) that are most prone to Tornados touching down due to the plains. The states East of these states are home to 2/3rds of the population.

I read You're Ready for the Outlaws, But What About the In-Laws?, by Ellie Mae and that made me think as to how the Golden Horde would thin out in a short time. She portrayed her in- laws as the diabetic-obese type. Data released from the 2011 Diabetes facts sheet indicate that 26 million Americans are diabetic and 80 million people have been deemed ‘prediabetic’. Prediabetic means the blood glucose levels are higher than average but not high enough to qualify as diabetes.

When The Crunch strikes, it won’t strike lightly, it will come with an overdue vengeance. The way I understand it, if there is a socioeconomic collapse or some disaster which renders the whole country disabled (which seems fairly easy to do), power would be the first thing to go. People attached to life support or that cannot breathe on their own would helplessly wither away. Dialysis machines would be unable to operate effectively, meaning those people with kidney and liver damage, as well as other people which require regular treatments, would have no treatment. Hospitals would have no way to effectively operate, especially without anesthesia and sterile operating tools. Oh, and good luck if anyone will stay behind WTSHTF.  Most hospitals don’t keep a large supply of sterile equipment so their supply would quickly diminish.

This will be about the same time that citizens begin looting. Most will go for material objects like jewelry, watches, electronics (but no power to use them), while others who have a family to support would raid supermarkets and gas stations, although they would still be looting. Some of the looters may have small arms like handguns, large kitchen or hunting knives, bats, clubs, and some may have hunting rifles, nothing of a substantially large caliber that could qualify as a battle rifle. Many people that don’t own a gun will begin looting gun stores. Most will be inexperienced with properly operating a firearm, which will lead to accidental shootings, thus thinning the horde by internal bleeding and resulting infection, if the initial gunshot wound didn’t kill quickly enough.

Starvation and disease are the next phase toward thinning the horde. With many people unable to fend for their own food, either by physical inability or lack of knowledge, much of the population will be weakened by lack of nutrition which leaves them susceptible to disease. Without running water or access to proper hygiene products, skin infections, dental problems, disposing of ‘waste’, and lack of nutrients, disease will run rampant across the country, especially in areas with a dense population. Dental problems are not fatal in themselves, but when a tooth is pulled, it is prone to infection and a lot of pain. Fecal matter can penetrate over 10 layers of toilet paper, so always wash your hands after going ‘number 2’ and disposing of it.

Children and the elderly are the most at risk for disease. Children are prone because of their developing immune systems and introduction to extremely harmful diseases to an underdeveloped immune system make children most at risk. The elderly are at risk for the same reason with the exception that immune systems weaken with age, especially if their body is weakened by another type of hereditary or age-dated disease.

The absence of medical supplies, surgical equipment, basic penicillin and antibiotics can turn a simple wound, into a fatal wound. Not only that, but a doctor would have to have survived the Crunch until this point and have a sterile facility to operate. Even gaining access to a facility or even a doctor, are really bad odds.

Another aspect of thinning the Horde to consider is that just because our government and economy have collapsed, nature won’t stop giving us grief! When Hurricane Katrina touched down in New Orleans, gas powered pumps were used to prevent over flooding of water to civilian neighborhoods. When the pumps failed, there was no way to prevent flooding and many people and homes perished. During a collapse, there won’t be any fuel for the pumps, there won’t be any way to get fuel to the pumps, there won’t be anyone in control and there won’t be any emergency responders. Not only that, but unless you have lived in the area of your retreat for your whole life and know the weather patterns during the year, you can and will be hit by unexpected weather. Most of us get a weather report from the internet or a news channel. During the Crunch, that will not be an option.

Given the events for the people living along the Mississippi River, that type of disaster can ruin your whole plan to survive TEOTWAWKI. For those who are unfamiliar, the Mississippi River over flooded, swallowing hundreds of homes and businesses along the river and even miles inland. Hundreds of thousands had to relocate, many of them only with the clothes on their backs. The lucky ones were able to drive out in a recreational vehicle (RV) and now there are communities of RVs with refugees. Most won’t be able to return to their homes for months to over a year. Many don’t have anything to return to.

If your area gets a lot of rain in the spring, but nothing in the fall, you will know when to collect and how much to last through the season. Hurricanes, blizzards, tornados and any other natural disasters you can think of won’t stop because our country has collapsed. Just as the pepper’s motto goes “the Crunch won’t wait for you to be prepared, you must prepare now”, Nature won’t wait for us to reinstate a government or emergency responders, you must have contingency plans in place is a disaster is set to strike.

The requirements for working against a hurricane disaster, goes ten-fold for nuclear power plants. I’m not an expert on them, but what I have gathered so far entail that nuclear reactors must be kept at a cool temperature, usually done by using water, to prevent overheating. If a reactor overheats and is unable to be cooled, another Chernobyl can occur. When the reactor melts down, the concrete shell of the reactor is unable to contain the massive amount of radioactive energy. All of this is prevented by people that work the computers. The effects of Hurricane Katrina would be rice cakes compared to the effects of a reactor meltdown. When radiation escapes into the atmosphere, it travels with the wind. There would be little hope for people in the initial radius of the plant, but the radiation could spread across several states, even continents, affecting tens of millions of people that may have survived the beginning stages of the Crunch. When the radiation escapes the atmosphere and reaches the ground, water sources and crops are prone to being radioactive.

Small amounts of radiation reached New York, from the reactors in Japan. Take the information from the news reports and how low levels of radiation have reached the East Coast of the States. If this can happen half a world away with emergency responders, think of the impending disaster with none of the information and no manpower to advert the crisis.

The effects of radiation are worse if a nuclear warhead is detonated close by or up-wind. Refer to the previous paragraph about radiation, but when a nuclear warhead is detonated, it releases an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). Basically an EMP releases a burst of energy which can literally fry any electronic device within the blast radius [and a considerable distance beyond, via linear coupling through power lines and telephone lines.] Unless you store electronic items in metal ammo cans, then you will be without their use for a long time.

Many of the articles on SurvivalBlog encourage us to gain medical knowledge and stock supplies and medication for our families and member of our group. The spread of disease and starvation have been talked about a lot and are a major portion of the prepping agenda. But other disasters can and will strike even when the Crunch is in full swing. If the contents of this article plus other areas that may have been omitted, the nation’s population of 300+ million citizens would be depleted to a few million citizens. As stated earlier, just because our government is in shambles, nature will still continue to have its depredations. The Golden Horde does exist, but genetics, general stupidity and nature will drastically reduce the numbers. I just hope that any people I come across are ones of sound, rational minds, and the people that reduce themselves to baser instincts of animals, pillaging and murdering, are the first to perish through any means mentioned above. If this does happen, then I may not ever have to raise my rifle.

My Suggestions

  • When scouting a location for a retreat, be sure to take into account seasonal weather, how to prepare for these conditions and take note of typical wind speeds and direction.
  • Get a large map that shows your retreat and mark where potential threats can hinder your ability to live securely. Mark where chemical factories, nuclear power plants, et cetera. Are located and in what conditions would it affect your ability to farm.
  • With recent odd weather patterns in the news, take into consideration event that could happen, even if the threat is moderate to low.
  • On the same or similar map, draw contingency escape routes in case you are overrun, mark off where hordes of people would travel that would affect OPSEC.
  • Create a travel map that would show you how to travel the surrounding areas of escape by avoiding major roads.
  • Have a secondary location and cache if your retreat were to be compromised by the Horde or a natural disaster.
  • If your yearly home and retreat are a distance away, be sure to have several routes to take to your to your retreat and maps
  • Discover if you have any venomous or poisonous plants or animals that you could encounter en route to your retreat or at your retreat. Be sure to abide by laws and research the FDA standards on all medication you are considering purchasing. Remember, we’re thinking of a SHTF scenario where it would be impossible to get access to anti-venoms, which most hospitals will keep on hand if the area has a high concentration of venomous or poisonous animals. But if you’re in an area with a concentration but hospitals have to import the anti-venom, then it would be best to have it on hand before TSHTF.
  • Get elective surgery now. Elective surgery exists to improve your quality of living. Lasik eye surgery which will cancel out your need for an eye glasses prescription. Anything that the doctor says is benign; it could become something later, so it might be good to get it removed. Seek second opinions.
  • Get updated shots, boosters and necessary vaccines as well as dental work. As stated before infection is a major concern of any operating procedure.
  • Get educated on emergency medical care. Especially dressing wounds since once the skin is broken, the wound is vulnerable to disease and infection!
  • Get familiar with performing minor surgery. This can go between patching up a large gash, a non-fatal gunshot wound, or setting broken bones or dislocated joints.
  • Get educated with firearms and how to properly use equipment. A stupid mistake or slip up will make the difference between a completed project and a fatal error.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This is in response to Deep South Charlie’s comments about the heat in the South. I live in the Deep South, and yes, it is hot, but there are ways to cope. It’s been over 100° F. every day for over a month now, and there has been no rain until recently. But I am not going anywhere. This is my home, and I love it. I believe that the benefits of living in the South far outweigh the drawbacks.

First off, there are ways to deal with the heat. People have done it for thousands of years. In the absence of air-conditioning, your body will adjust to the heat. It’s the in-and-out-of-the-cold that messes with your body’s temperature. Drinking lots of water is essential and it also help to use watered down lemon juice as an energy drink. It is very important to stay in shape and exercise a lot. Working in the heat helps with that. I have found that doing some basic Yoga exercises also help, though being a Christian, I just call them exercises, since I believe that God created those exercises for me to use to stay healthy. It carries oxygen to my joints and muscles, which increases my energy and endurance. And, when working in the heat, you learn to know when to stop. The old timers used to use the hot afternoons to either take a nap or a swim in the creek. The Mexicans call it a Siesta. It is helpful to keep your head covered in the heat, to keep the sun from beating down on you. I use an old fashioned light-weight cotton bonnet. My husband uses a baseball cap, but a lot of guys use a cowboy hat. I wear long-sleeved light-weight cotton shirts and skirts.

Down here, we endure the heat, but are petrified of the cold (really!). When it gets down to 40° F., nobody goes outside. Thankfully, winter is only about a month long. Up North, the summers are milder, but the winters are brutal. We have enough wood fall naturally from trees (branches, etc), to keep us warm in our short winter, if we were heating with wood, which we will if need be. Up North, I guess that the majority of the population isn’t prepared for hard times or natural disasters. Down here, since we live in a perpetually economically depressed area and in a hurricane zone, most people live prepared. We don’t worry about it, since it’s how we live. Us country folk know how to deal with it. We depend on each other and work together. Our family wasn’t “preppers” when Katrina came through, but we hooked up the generator, opened some jars of food and went right on like usual. Here, the lights go out every couple of days, so our oil lamps stay handy.
Crops sometimes don’t make it. That’s why, when I am saving my seed, I save much more than I would ever need for the next 2 or more years. I never know when a crop won’t make it. Of course, here, we have three growing seasons: two long summer seasons and one cold season (for greens and strawberries). Whatever area you are living in, you have to learn what will grow there. Corn has to be started early here, and if it doesn’t make it, you have to wait until next year. But beans, peas, okra, tomatoes, and peppers, will all grow whenever. If one crop dies, you replant with some of your spare seeds. Always plan for some crop to fail, because they will. Always preserve way more than you need for at least 2 years. I have found that mulching is extremely beneficial for small crops, like okra, peppers and tomatoes. It prevents erosion and evaporation; it also provides a home for beneficial bugs like ground spiders. It is always helpful to grow vegetables and fruits that do well in your area. My okra, for example, is loving this heat.

Since most people in this area plant a massive garden, there is always extra food to give away. It is very important to share whatever excess you have. People will share with you, so it's really good to throw back into the pot. People start to notice if someone is a hoarder that doesn't share anything, but takes from the pot.
It is also a good idea to plant some bushes and trees and vines that are a more permanent food growing source. Our apple and pear trees are producing tons of fruit, and our blueberry bushes are usually loaded. Grapes love the hot, dry weather, since they hate having "wet feet".

It also helps to be very observant of what naturally grows in your area. Observe the animals, and how they cope with the heat. Observe the bugs, how they interact, and how nature keeps in balance the good bugs and the bad. Observe the weeds. Learn which weeds are edible, and how to use them. The basic purpose of weeds is provide a ground cover to prevent the sun from leeching out the nutrients in the soil.  Here in the South, we are abundantly blessed with bugs and weeds. Some year, weeds may be the only thing we can grow, so we may need them. At least here, I have observed that the natural plants often have the nutrients we need to endure the weather conditions. Example: We have a weed here called a “Mock Orange”. It grows prolifically (one of the weeds we are “abundantly blessed with”). It has big long spurs that will poke out your eye if you aren’t careful. These mock oranges are edible, and I will use them if I need to. For now, we try to not let them spread, since they are such a nuisance.

I can’t tell you about how to live up North. I have never done it and do not want to try. I can’t imagine how you Yankees ever get it all done in such a short growing season. I love being able to take all summer to get my garden planted if need be. If it doesn’t get planted one day, I’ll work on it the next. There’s plenty of time.
So anyway, Mr. Charlie, I love living in the South. I love the things I can grow. It just takes some patience, but the heat is teaching me that. - Anita R.


As an old Boy Scout I appreciate you admonishment to be prepared.  Too many folks forget that they are terribly independent on others and fail to care for their own needs. I like the gents comments on the penny wall as it would also make a great thermal mass.    

FYI, our current temp is 103 degrees F with about 5% humidity.  Its 1450 local time.  Bare ground is about 140 F.  

Anyway, there was an article posted about acclimatizing to southern heat, which is more oppressing than anything in the deserts or dryer parts of the US. To lessen the heat issue in the dryer US a technique to consider is “ night radiant cooling .”   It is generally explained at the Cedar Mountain Solar site and at Wikipedia. The concept may be useful to folks designing retreats or homes.  The folks responsible for this site have actually done practical research on the topic.  

Perhaps the aforementioned links may help some folks.   Thanks for the blog!   J. in Carlsbad, NM


Greetings and Thanks, Mr. Rawles,
Reading Deep South Charlie 's letter brought back memories of the stifling heat that Hurricane Katrina Survivors experienced after the storm passed. In our area the electricity went out several minutes into the storm, and remained down for 2 weeks. This was actually a short time compared to what people were saying was going to happen. Rumors had it that we would not have electricity for several months. My husband and I live in an old, farm house in a rural part of Mississippi that has plenty of windows, but they are not all screened, nor do all of them open. Before the storm, I had purchased some sliding window screens that adjust to fit different size window widths, and in the Spring and Fall, I would use them in the windows to open up the house. I love the feel of a cool breeze, especially at night. These turned out to be very handy to have after the storm. Although, there wasn't much of a breeze, it was better than having the windows shut. After the storm passed, it left behind a strange vacuum - no birds, no breeze. But the stifling, humid, heat remained constant. My brother (who had evacuated from Louisiana) and I had to make do.

I had a screen door on the front of the house, but no screen door for the back, as it is an odd size door, and would have to be custom made (expensive). Luckily, I had some mosquito netting that I was able to  drape over a dowel, securing with safety pins, and hung over the door. Other folks in the area were smart enough to have generators, and were able to run fans, and small air conditioners. In order to sleep at night, I would fill sandwich size plastic bags, and my "hot"water bottle with ice, and place them next to me in order to get cool enough to sleep. This "luxury" was only possible because the military dispensed bags of ice each day at different locations throughout the storm's path. My brother and I would leave every morning, after basic chores were done, (and there were many extra) to go and get a bag or 2 of ice. We would come straight home with it and repack the ice chest that I had in my bath tub. Each time I drained the ice chest, I kept the water, because we had no electricity to run our water pump, and at that time, city water was not available.  Before the storm, I had filled (3) 50 gallon plastic barrels (and several other plastic tubs) with water. I had placed the barrels all near a shed in our pasture, thinking that they would be easy to get to there. Well, luck would have it that a huge pecan tree fell on top of the barrels, smashing one and making the other two impossible to reach. So, the water I had stored was of no use. Fortunately, I had an extra barrel and a kind neighbor with a generator who allowed me to fill it twice, and that's how I was able to water my three horses.  Anyway, because of the ice that the military provided, and the kindness of my neighbor, we were able to survive. Looking back, I guess I should have filled more barrels, and not have stored them all in the same spot, which brings to mind our dilemma...

After Hurricane Katrina (in 2005), there were predictions that we could expect hurricanes of this magnitude for the next 10 years due to El Niña. Determined not to go through any more hurricanes that Winter, we purchased 50 acres in Colorado between Canon City and Westcliffe. We chose this particular property because it had a lot of usable land, with many areas of grassy meadows for our horses to graze. It was also fairly remote, but not so remote that we couldn't be part of a community, or be trapped indefinitely with no way out, should heavy snows come. There is an old, hand - hewn log cabin there that might be able to be restored to a livable condition. Electricity is also at the property, which is a plus. To make a long story short, in the end, we chickened out of moving there because of the costs to build a small house, and barn for our horses. We also didn't have four wheel drive vehicles which are required for the terrain. Even though we changed our minds about moving, we kept the property. We eventually decided to make it our summer retreat.

In 2008, we had a water well drilled, and it turned out to be a financial hardship for us. The first well caved in, and a second well was drilled nearby that required an all steel casing, which ended up costing twice as much as the original quoted price. We had to take out a second mortgage on our home to cover the extra costs. We recently found out that this may have been a scam that a particular drilling company (now going bankrupt) was practicing. We will never know, and at this point, we can only hope that we have a good well.

Also, in 2008, after the economy tanked, and I found SurvivalBlog, my husband (begrudgingly, at first) and I began making some changes in preparation for hard times. I have put in various fruit trees and berry bushes, and recently some raised beds. We compost all of our kitchen scraps, old hay, and horse manure. We have some long term food storage items (beans, rice, red and white winter wheat), and  many canned goods. I am building a gardening and survival library, and have purchased several good gardening tools. We also bought a Mossberg shotgun and a Ruger .22 handgun (although I don't know much about shooting them). Financially, we are paying off some credit card debt, and we purchased some junk silver for bartering. Compared with many, we are just getting started with prepping.

In any case, we live with an uneasy feeling that maybe we should not stay here in southern Mississippi. As Deep South Charlie described, the heat and humidity in this area may just be unbearable without air conditioning (should the grid go down). Mississippi was not on your list of chosen states to pick for retreats (although Louisiana was, and I have often wondered about that). Besides the brutal heat and humidity, we also have the yearly anxiety of the hurricane season, and who knows what the end results of the gulf oil spill will be. I also don't know what to think about moving to our property in Eastern Colorado, as it is not included in the Redoubt states (but almost was). My husband and I are in our 50s. My husband's mother, who lives in a small cottage next door to us is in her 80s. Would it be wise to move and start over, or just stay put? Should we decide to move to one of the Redoubt states, could we even sell our property here, or the one in Colorado, or is it just a bit too late?

Thanks so much for providing such a wealth of knowledge, and your great willingness to share. - S. in Mississippi

JWR Replies: I believe that our economy is in a "slow slide", and that we will experience several years of continued economic deterioration before it becomes impossible to relocate. In the depths of the coming Depression, prices will be galloping and the big cities will become incredibly inimical environments. My advice is to kneel down for some concerted prayer. If you then feel convicted to move to one of the American Redoubt states, then don't hesitate. Find a church home, find work, and MOVE! There may not be a "next summer" window of opportunity.

Friday, June 10, 2011

As a homeschooler, I enjoy reading books about survival techniques. I have to admit that I have never been in trapped in the jungle, stuck on Mount Everest, or lost in the desert (sometimes we homeschoolers do tend to get a little rambunctious and we wish we could just get lost for one day, just to test our knowledge). Nevertheless, I do know of many stories I could tell. But, that’s not why I am writing. I am writing to help homeschoolers (or other people who have some time on their hands) realize that they have an opportunity to prepare themselves. Whether you are planning to hike in the jungle, climb Everest, take a walk in the desert, or even just go on a camp out, you need to be prepared for anything that can happen. I have picked up some practical techniques from reading, talking to friends, and experimenting. Preparation is the key to just about every survival story, so I hope as you read this essay, you will find a few practical things that you can use to prepare yourself and others for whatever may happen.

First let’s talk about the survival kit. It is possible to survive without one, but the methods you must use require a lot of practice. So, save yourself some stress and be prepared! A survival kit can be purchased from various outdoor stores, or you can make one on your own. A basic survival kit should contain: a knife (some knife’s actually have a survival kit inside the sheath or handle of the knife), flint/steel or some sort of fire starter (this is very important), compass, signal mirror, water purification tablets, fishhooks and line, snare wire, and a large plastic bag. There are also many other items that could be added, but these could fit in a very small container. If you decide to buy a bag or something to put all your gear in, be sure to get something that attaches to you. For instance, you might be hiking a steep pass and all of a sudden start to lose your footing and then you fall down a mountain and you are stuck somewhere. Now you need your survival gear, but if it wasn’t attached to you, you probably lost it in the fall. It is also important if you are traveling in a group that everyone in the group has their own personal kit. You never know when you will get separated. Good shoes and clothing are also of the utmost importance, so be sure when you go on that cam pout, or when you go on that hike, think before you set out. This is all part of good preparation!

You should also have a basic home survival kit, in case of a natural disaster, or survival situation. Make sure you have enough water on hand for every person in your house. It is also a good idea to keep some Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) in your home.

Also, make sure that in your home you have some type of fire starter (tinder) ready to be used. It is also very important to keep some tinder with you if you go on a hike, or any kind of adventurous outing. You never know when you may need to start a fire quickly, and it could be a life or death matter! My family has a car survival kit, carried mainly in the winter, but it’s not a bad idea to keep one in there all year round. One of the main things we keep in there is a candle with some matches. Believe it or not, that flame from that candle will keep you, and the people in your car warm!

Before I leave the subject of a survival kit, I want to mention two very important medical books that everyone should have. I personally have read both of these books and they are outstanding! The first is Mosby's Outdoor Emergency Medical Guide by David Manhoff. My copy is spiral bound and has tabs on the ends of the pages to give it a flip chart approach. It is very fast to look up things. It was very profitable when I had to use it for a slight emergency situation! The other book is called Wilderness Medicine, Beyond First Aid by William W. Forgey, MD. This book is amazing! It gives you everything you need to know! It even shows you how to do stitches. This book is a must in every homeschooler’s survival kit. It will allow you to be calm and have confidence in case of an emergency.

Next, let’s talk about water and food. You can live without food for three weeks, but water is more important since you can only live three days without it. Good preparation would be to carry purification tablets with you just in case the need would arise. It is better to not drink water than to drink contaminated water. So, if you did not bring purification tablets with you, you should look for streams or rivers with no dead animals upstream. Look for rivers with lots of rocks on the bottom. Also, always remember that you can always boil water that is questionable, to kill microbes.

Another last ditch method of getting water is making a solar still. First, pick a spot where there is a lot of sun, but where the soil is somewhat damp. Then dig a hole that is about 2 feet deep and 3 feet wide. You can put non-poisonous plants or pour contaminated water around the edges of your hole. Then put a cup, or something to catch the water, in the middle of the hole, but don’t let any un-purified substances get in the cup. Then lastly, cover your hole with a plastic sheet, and put rocks on the ends to keep it from blowing away. Also put a slightly weighted object in the center of the hole (directly above your cup) so there is a slight downward indent in the center of the plastic sheet. After a few hours, you will have some water.

Yet another last ditch method is this: take a plastic trash bag (or any sort of a large bag) and tie it onto a tree branch, with some of the nonpoisonous vegetation inside it. Make sure it is in full sunlight. After a couple of hours you will start to see some water condensing. I found both of these ideas in Les Stroud’s book, titled Survive! which is another good book for homeschoolers to read to help prepare themselves.

Dew and rain water are also generally fine, but rivers will undoubtedly lead to civilization, so, if you find yourself lost, go downhill until you find a river then follow it till you reach civilization.

As for food, MREs are the wisest means of food preparation. It is also wise to bring some vitamins with you if you are planning to trek, or go somewhere where there is a bigger possibility that something could happen. You could also bring energy bars along with you on your hike or whatever. If you do find yourself lost, set some small traps before you go to bed, and also set some improvised fishing poles or logs with hooks hanging down from them into a river. If you think you have food poisoning, you can eat a little bit of charcoal from your campfire and it should help you vomit the poison up. But, as I have already mentioned, you should always have a good supply of MREs with you.

Next, I am going to give you a tip for predicting weather and navigation that you should practice at home to prepare yourself. Since weather plays a factor in everything, here’s one of my favorite tips for predicting weather (and the one that I have found to be most helpful): if you stand with your back to the wind and the high clouds are coming from your right, that means that the weather is likely to get better. If the high clouds are coming from the left, that means that the weather is likely to get worse. If you decide to use this rule in the southern hemisphere then you need to reverse it. It is best to practice this at home, or in a place that you know what the weather is supposed to be. Get comfortable using this you never know when you may have to use it.

Navigation is also another important factor in your fight for survival. You should always be prepared with a compass, but if you do not have one, you can use your watch. This is another one of my favorite tips, but you should practice this. Point the small hour hand toward the sun, and then make an imaginary line between the hour hand and the twelve, this is now your south / north line.

Now, let’s leave these specific things and talk about our fourth key to preparation which is shelter. Let’s say you get lost in the mountains, one of the first things you should do is descend to a valley and pick a good location for a shelter. Caves make a wonderful short-term shelter, while lean-tos or A-frames make a great long term shelter. Good preparation would be to practice building these types of shelters in your back yard before your life depends on it!  Find a survival book and look at pictures and make a lean-to or a-frame. It’s not as hard as it looks!

Next, let’s say that you are camping and you and your buddies want to go on a real hike, and you know that there is a river that you will need to cross. Preparation would be this: put everything that you will carry in your backpack in a plastic bag before you put it in your back pack. This way if you fall in when you are trying to cross the river, all your stuff won’t get wet or ruined! It is also wise when crossing a river to get a long, sturdy stick, to use while crossing. This will give you the tri-pod approach, and it will give you a little more sturdy footing. Also, keep your shoes on while you cross. You don’t want to step on a sharp object.

I have just given you a few tips for preparation that every homeschooler should be familiar with. Let me give you a practical illustration that might help to clarify what I mean by preparation. My family and I were on vacation in North Carolina, and we decided to hike part of Table Rock. The probability that something was going to happen was very, very slim. I knew this but still, before I went I packed my survival kit (which, by the way, goes around my waist, so it attaches to me) and a little bit of water and a little bit of food. I also packed a few medical supplies since I have a bunch of younger siblings and if anything were to happen, I knew probably one of them would get hurt. Well, nothing happened, but, I still was prepared.

Practical Preparation is the key to surviving. Exercising and staying fit is also vital to winning the survival battle. Preparation is a very good habit to get into, and homeschoolers- you can do this!  If you don’t take time to prepare yourself, when disaster strikes you will wish you had! Learning to prepare as a young person will give you confidence that if anything happens, whether you get lost, separated from your trekking group, or a natural disaster strikes, you will be able to keep your head, not panic, and get out of that predicament alive!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
Thank you for your service to our country.  In the deep south we are presently in the mist of a drought with high heat and humidity. As two-year preppers, my brother and I grow a few acres of vegetables and field corn for livestock that consist of chickens, hogs, milk goats and rabbits. A milk cow is in the planning. My brother is 71 and I am 68 and we were raised on the farm. I left for the air-conditioned work-force many years ago but still spend several hrs a week at manual labor. At my age I am in better physical condition and have greater rural knowledge than a very high percentage of people over the age of fifty. That said, I can only work four hours or so in the mornings before running out of gas. In a world without electricity, this means starvation. The drought has fried our crops and if we were depending on them to survive, we would be in trouble. (Watering crops without electrical pumps is only available to a few with spring fed creeks.) My point in writing is on preparing to survive without air-conditioning.      

First, relocate to a cooler climate. (To the Redoubt States in the Rockies.)    

Second, keep yourself hydrated at all times.   

Third,  get your body in shape by working out inside or outside early in the morning. (Only with a buddy in summer).     

Fourth, be very careful when out in the heat but try sitting in the shade for a few minutes each day to become acclimated to the stress of high temps. Start with a few minutes and work up to an hour. Read a book. If at any time you feel ill or 'light-headed' go inside.     

Fifth, if you are overweight, please slim down.    

Sixth, whatever you think you are capable of doing in a world with no air conditioning, reduce it by 80% and then see if you can survive.      

By no means am I an expert, but given the condition, health, and mind set of most people, I believe we will have a human disaster the first summer without air-conditioning in the south. I know some older folks will say, like me, they grew up without air conditioning but that was with a different body and frame of mind. Most homes built in the south in the last fifty years were designed for air conditioning and become death traps without it. They do not have screens on windows or screen doors so if you open them you are eaten alive by insects and invite unwanted two-legged villains.

FWIW, I have purchased rolls of screen wire, not the plastic type, for eventual barter). 

I know this doesn't do justice to the subject of heat, but if you live in the south and have a family, consider moving. Odds are, if you stay, you aren't going to make it [in a grid-down collapse]. Best plan: relocate!  - Deep South Charlie

Thank you for your continuing work.

1. How would you suggest we research micro-climates in areas of interest in the American Redoubt?

2. For those of us in the 50-60 age group, single, and raising grandchildren is there a place for us? I don't believe I have the physical strength/endurance and certainly not knowledge to forge out a place in the "wilderness" at this age. How about the possibility of teaming up with a family who needs a "grandma" and extra pair of hands to help with domestic/garden duties?

Yes, I do have skills I could make a living most likely as long as there is high speed internet access. But would prefer not to rely on its existence if I could.

May I suggest that you add a FAQ on the American Redoubt Page?

The Lord's Blessings on you and your family. - Maggie B.

JWR Replies: The old saying is: "Climate is what you expect, and weather is what you get."

To start your research, see:

The widely-cited Climate zones map (from the publishers of Sunset magazine.)

Microclimates ("In the real world, we garden in micro-climates, not hardiness zones.")

Western Regional Climate Center (and drill down to the wealth of information here: Historical Climate Information)

Climate Maps

Current temperatures

Climate Central

Precipitation Maps

Wind velocity map

Gardening in the Inland Northwest

Be sure to also look at soil maps

Then, moving down to the state and local level, see:

Washington climate data

Introduction to short-season gardening in Idaho

Western Montana

Cold Climate Gardening - how we do it here in Wyoming

Gardening in Eastern Washington

Oregon Gardening

After you do your basic research at the state level, it is best to check with the NRCS extension office in each of the counties that you are considering, for their insights on microclimates.

Monday, May 30, 2011

James Wesley:
When I constructed my home six years ago I decided to add a storm shelter in a surprising location (at least for me). I noticed the front stoop and porch already had a full foundation and adjoining basement wall and I only needed to add a single additional wall to create a reinforced concrete bunker with concrete roof, at minimal cost. I also included a 2'x3' opening into the basement that provided access to the concrete bunker. Although the inside area isn't large (4' x 8') it is completely surrounded by 8" of reinforced concrete that could survive any tornado. I had an electrical outlet installed during construction so the possibility of lights, heater, or radio is within easy reach providing the power stays on. The main problem is how to referee my two cats and two dogs in the case of a storm. Sincerely, - T.R.S.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dear JWR:
First let me say I don't consider myself a expert.  However I have studied on the subject and would like put  forth what I have gleaned from my research.

1 Weather patterns shift.  When I was a kid in Louisiana  you never heard of a tornado's there.  Now they are commonplace.
2 Stick built houses (2 by 4 construction) and trailers cannot stand up to even a weak twister.
3 Even in a weak storm the flying debris is deadly.

I also found out that a large numbers of deaths were caused by this lethal debris as people were waiting for the last second to get into their shelter/safe place.
So why were people waiting so long to get into their shelter or safe place?  The answer is simple, they are not comfortable places to be.
Again why is that so?  There are several contribution factors to this.  Most are smallish.  8'x10' is considered large for a shelter.  They are not (usually) maintained well.  The outside ones are usually dank and have bugs etc. because of this lack of maintenance.

The inside ones are (usually) considered a waste of space, are cramped and lack ventilation.
In my opinion the #1 reason is the lack of information/contact with the outside world!  Prior to going into the shelter you are glued to the television watching the progress of the storm.  This is especially true at night. 

Think about it, prior to going into your shelter, you have television, radio, weather radio, telephone, cell phone, computer and Internet.  Also you have things like HVAC, water, bathroom etc., IE comfort.  When you enter (most) shelters all of that is gone.
After the first time you have sat in your man made cave under the stress of a deadly storm coming and nothing happens, Your mind makes it hard to repeat the process until the last moment.

I understand the cost of a shelter.  (That is the reason most are smallish.)  But with a little pre-planning you can turn the uncomfortable to bearable.
For those dealing with an preexisting structure a outside shelter will probably be the least expensive.

For the outside shelter:
Run in a couple antenna wires for a small television and or a radio.  Think about a hard line telephone or cell phone repeater antenna.  Install a solar powered shop light, and/or vent fan.  Add a bench or a couple folding chairs and that should work. Just make it work for you.
Note: For those that live in areas with high water tables, there are several integral (one piece) shelters that are made of steel or fiberglass that will greatly reduce the water issue.

For the inside safe room it's usually less expensive to deal with this during construction.  A lot of people put it under the garage since you have to have a slab floor for that already.
I took the approach of turning one of the basement bedrooms into a safe room.  I was able to take advantage of three existing concrete walls, and only had to add one concrete wall and a slab roof.  This gave me a nice sized bedroom and full bath under a "hard" roof.  I had it preplanned for HVAC, television and radio antenna wires, hard line telephone.  After construction I added emergency lighting.

This may not be the best approach for some but it worked for me.
Bottom line make your shelter/safe room as comfortable as you can so that you and your family won't mind going in there.  Kids especially will be nervous.  You may think about pre positioning coloring books or something to take their mind off of what is actually going on.  The stress of the weather event itself will be bad enough.  You family, especially the kids,  don't need the added stress of being in a "scary" place. - Wolfgang

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jim --
Thanks for all that you do and the many able contributors to your site.  This evening, Sunday, 05/22/2011, I am listening to the "live audio feed" of the Jasper County and Joplin, Missouri, law enforcement scanner traffic.  As I am listening, the various agencies are dealing with the aftermath of a deadly tornado that hit Joplin.  As a former police officer I have been through this sort of event. However, listening to their radio traffic is eye-opening, even for me.  I am getting a new perspective on many of the nuances of dealing with a catastrophe of this sort.  They are dealing with gas leaks, trapped individuals, medical emergencies, numerous deceased victims and numbers of newly homeless folks. 

By the way, I am very impressed with the officers and emergency responders that I am listening to.  My hat is off to them.  Your readers may be too late to listen to these events in Missouri that are unfolding but many of them might like to listen in on the next disaster.  Believe me, just listening will help them consolidate survival plans of their own.  Once people from around the country hear of some local disaster, they can go to and see if they can locate a nearby emergency services agency whose radio traffic is available as a "live audio feed" and listen in. - S. in Kansas

Friday, May 13, 2011

We are preppers. I love reading the prep/survival books. There’s so much information out there and so many people involved in prepping now, there’s just no reason to not do it! We learned from experience that you can never be over prepared. Since 2004 I’ve learned how to store food for the long term, how to filter water (okay, I’ll give credit to my Berkey on that one), I’ve learned about bug out bags and how to build a fire with a flint, but what I learned the most from was living for more than two weeks without electricity after hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. Even though we were only thinking hurricane preparedness then, we were still leaps and bounds beyond most of our neighbors.

The obvious things that one can’t miss are non perishable food and water. You’d be surprised how many people wait until a hurricane warning to stock up on these basics. Once a hurricane is within 3 days of hitting, the stores get crazy and empty out. Shopping during that time is no longer an option for us, we’re prepared far in advance. The only food I can see getting right before a storm is bread (although we stock up and freeze bread when it’s on sale) and fresh fruits and veggies. When a warning is issued water is the first to go, then canned soups, tuna, Spam, etc. Let me tell you folks, eating soup when its 98 degrees with 98 percent humidity is not appetizing. We have to think about what we’d normally eat and work with that. I stock up on canned meats and fruits and veggies.  We have an extra freezer stocked with meat. Unfortunately, during Hurricane Frances the storm lingered for 3 days over our area. We could not run the generator during the storm. The power went out immediately and all of our meat was lost by the time the storm passed. So stocking up the fridge and freezer’s a great idea but in the end you could lose it all. We regularly eat tortillas of all kinds, so I have a stock of masa and a tortilla press. Tortillas can be cooked on a skillet over a grill in no time at all. Speaking of the grill, we have at least four ways of cooking outside and only two of those require gas. We have many propane tanks (I’m not even going to tell you how many, it’s almost embarrassing!).  But we also have a charcoal grill and a fire pit, with wood stocked up for fuel if needed. The wood needs to be covered or brought in during a storm so it doesn’t get soaked or blown away.

So food and water, obvious, but how to live without electricity? Well folks, that’s where the rubber meets the road. The everyday little things soon become a chore. Take brushing your teeth for instance. When no water comes out of the faucet it’s a little more complicated. Not only is there no running water, but because we are on city sewer (and remember, no electricity) only minimal waste can go down the drain. Basically because whatever you put down the drain could potentially come back into the home once the power goes back on. This happened to several neighbors, but not us.  The water that we store is not just for drinking. After a storm we take a 5 gallon bucket and fill it, halfway or so, cover it and put it on the back porch. This is where we get water to brush our teeth and wash ourselves. All the dirty water is poured into a corner of the yard.

We did allow for toileting inside but only flushing when necessary. Again water is needed for flushing and you can see our supply dwindling as I type. Washing not only ourselves but dishes also needed to be done outside. We set up a table and again a 5 gallon bucket of water for our outdoor wash area. We used a lot of paper and plastic but some things still needed to be cleaned (pans, pots, etc). Whenever possible I used just cold water, soap and bleach, but with very grimy stuff we’d boil water on the grill and wash dishes in that. I added bleach to every wash load just to keep the germs minimal. That’s just breakfast folks. Now, I’m going to admit, after a few days my husband hooked the generator up to the water pump and we were able to bathe and have water from the outside faucet but it’s very hard water, normally used for irrigation only. It’s not potable but can be used for bathing and washing. Again, it had to be done outside which was fine because we actually have an outside shower.  Only cold water though. We were able to have a little warm water by hooking up a hose to the faucet and laying it on the roof. The heat from the sun warmed what was in the hose. It was good for a quick shower and I do mean quick.

A normal day was extremely hot and humid, we were inundated with biting flies and mosquitoes and we were typically dirty and very tired. Having decent screens on the windows was crucial as they were open all of the time.  Bug spray helped but it made us feel dirty and grimy.  I was not up on hand washing clothes at that time and the laundry pile was a nightmare. If I have to go through it again I would do things differently. I’d have two 5-gallon buckets, one for washing, one for rinsing and a hand washer. They look something like a plunger and are sufficient for hand washing shorts, underwear and tank tops. I’d also re-wear whatever possible so not to create so many dirty clothes. Now you may be wondering why we didn’t just hook up the generator to help take the edge off of the misery. We actually had the generator hooked up most of the time. It ran the fridge/freezer and a window air conditioner at night. Generators are great but they’re expensive to run and it’s important to be of the mindset that you may be entirely without electricity. Even the gas stations took several weeks to get up and running.

Being that the inside of the house was miserable, we spent a lot of time on our porch. It’s actually more of a deck, with privacy fencing surrounding us but no roof. My genius husband rigged a shade screen from material we had stored. That worked for giving us a shady area in which to clean and eat but it didn’t help with the bugs. I now have two mosquito nets stored away. If we have to do this again my husband can surely hang those to give us a protected area.

In the end we made it. My neighbors made fun of me when I washed our dishes outside but when the power came back on sewage didn’t back up into our house. We both missed a lot of work but managed to feed our family of four (my husband, myself, young teen daughter and a handicapped adult) and keep us clean and entertained. We played games at night before it got too dark. Bedtime came early. I put cute bandanas in our hair to keep it back and my daughter loved that. We put stickers on ourselves so as we tanned up (in the sun much more than usual) we had silly designs all over. We had a stash of special snack foods and kept our spirits up by joking around and not taking everything so seriously. When the power came back on after the first storm we had been over two weeks living primitively. I have to admit, I cried.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dear Mr. Rawles:
I first became introduced to the survivalist movement in the 1970s when I read Howard J. Ruff's books Famine and Survival in America (1974) and How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years: a Crash Course in Personal and Financial Survival (1979). These books dealt mainly with financial preparations but also pointed out the need for food storage, security, and other preparations that would benefit you and your family in emergency situations. I did take allot of his advice on financial investing but ignored his chapters on all of the other advised preparations like food storage and security.  I dabbled in gold and silver stocks and future contracts. I didn't make a lot of money on the contracts but did take Howard Ruff's advice on the need to own the physical silver and gold.   Even having witnessing one of the worst storms in American history, I continued to ignore the need for more preparations other than just financial planning.

In August 1992, I was employed by the State of Florida as an Adult Protective Investigator for the Department of Children and Families in Dade County, Florida.  One of my main responsibilities was to evaluate the risk of abuse and neglect of elderly and disabled adults living in family homes and institutions. On Friday August 21, 1992, I was the investigator on call and was responsible to respond to emergency calls made to the Florida Abuse hot line. Most weekends produced about 4 or 5 calls but due to the local news reporting of a storm with winds exceeding 50 miles per hour there was an increase in calls on Friday night.   On Saturday morning I had numerous reports that I dealt with and my last  call required me to remove an incapacitated elderly woman on Miami Beach from her apartment since she had no caretaker. This was difficult since most hospitals on Miami Beach were not accepting these types of victims in ER. I felt relieved when I was able to locate a hospital that would accept her in North Miami and after getting her situated, I hurried home to put up shutters for the incoming storm. Thank God that I lived 30 miles from the point of landfall of what was coming. Little did anyone know that on August 24 Hurricane Andrew would slam into South Dade, blowing 214 mile per hour winds that peaked at over 350 miles per hour in the early morning hours. 

A total of 8,230 mobile homes and 9,140 apartments vanished off the face of the earth that night. The Hiroshima-like horror that was beyond catastrophic and entire families perished in ways too horrifying to describe. The stench of death saturated miles and miles of the massive devastation; the hot humid air was reeking with foul, rotting flesh.  The looters were in many neighborhoods within hours of the storm.  People were fighting over food and water; they were totally dependent on the government and relief agencies causing a total feeling of helplessness. Generators that sold for $300 a week before were fetching $1,000 or more - if you could find one.  I worked with family's that were out of shelter and food for months observing the stress and desperation that occurs for those that aren't prepared. Even after witnessing this disaster I continued to view it as a localized short term natural disaster and for the next 25 years while still going through smaller hurricanes, I continued to ignore the need for being prepared. I did continued to follow Howard Ruff's advice on preparing for financial crisis and purchased many physical pieces of silver and some small amounts of gold.

When purchasing silver, I have been buying one ounce silver rounds from Kitco because you don't pay the premiums (currently about $3.00) that you pay on silver dollars.  They also offer $100 face value bags of junk silver coins. Lately they have been running out stock of these but they do have an alert system for customers that will notify you when in stock.  Although sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to receive there orders,  I  have found them to be very responsive and reliable.

Last week many new precious metals investors saw a severe shakeout. This began on May 4 when Gold was down more than 2% to $1,508 an ounce. Silver fell more than 8% to $39 an ounce. It's down 19% from its April 28 closing high of $48.70 per ounce and continued to drop on May 5.  Absolutely nothing has changed in recent days with regards to the fundamental backdrop for precious metals. Real interest rates remain negative (the Federal Funds rate vs. the expected inflation rate as represented by the TIPS-to-T-note yield spread is deeply in negative territory), the dollar's exchange rate is still under pressure, and the euro area's peripheral sovereigns remain mired in a fiscal crisis. All that has happened is that a big run-up in silver ended with the usual bang just as the traditionally seasonally weak period of the year, roughly May to August, for precious metals is beginning. There is nothing terribly surprising about it - and while it represents a severe shakeout, it seems highly unlikely that the crash in silver has altered anything with regards to the long term outlook for both gold and silver. Gold has of course declined in sympathy with silver, but it has held up much better in relative terms, as always happens in correction phases. This shakeout offers opportunities for preppers to purchase physical silver and gold for their emergency money supply.

Since retiring two years ago I have been more aware of  the need to prepare not only financially but to develop a basic plan concentrating on the basic survival needs of food, shelter, security, and positive relationships. Since I have spent most of my life as an abuse investigator and social worker working with frail elderly, the developmentally disabled and autistic clients I wasn't exposed to the needed mechanical and technical skills.  After analyzing my personal situation, I decided I needed a simple organize plan addressing these basic survival needs. What I mean about simple is that I looked at each need (shelter, food, and security) and decided to begin by addressing each major aspect of what is needed. For shelter, I decided on the need for an emergency retreat closer to other family members who would be able to provide additional support. For food, I decided on developing an organized food pantry that meets our nutritional needs for at least one year. For security, I decided to improve my skills with firearms by taking firearms training from skilled professionals.  I know all of these (simple goals) are very minimal and barely touches the needs for long term preparations but some planning is better than no planning at all.

When I discussed the need for an emergency shelter with my wife I meet some resistance. She is hesitant when it comes to change did not want to abandon our current home. However, with the recent disasters and my constant nudging she is becoming more willing and is seeing the need to make changes. She became more cooperative when I told her of my plans purchase a mobile RV both for vacations and use it in case of emergencies.  Since we live in South Florida near the ocean we could evacuate to either our son's home in western Broward [County] in case of Hurricanes or during a social or other type of crisis we can escape to the Florida Keys (where it is slightly more rural) where our other son resides.  I have been pricing them on eBay and Craigslist and was able to locate numerous 1999 to 2005 RVs that start at about $10,000. I expect that these prices will drop with the increase in gas prices and I will be able to pick one up at a lower price in the near future.   With my limited mechanical skills I have been reading basic articles on what to look for when purchasing used  RVs and have made arraignments with an experienced mechanic to inspect ones that I am considering. I am also conducting research on what would be the best type of power source (gas generator or photovoltaics) that would fit our needs in the R.V.

After reviewing my emergency food pantry, I soon realized how disorganized and inadequate my collection of foods would be in time of crisis. I never considered breaking down daily menus that would meet the nutritional values (protein - 50 g, fats - 65 g, fiber - 25 g, carbohydrates - 300 g) for 2,000 calories per day as recommended by USDA web site.  I began organizing pantry for 2 with one year's worth of food and located food calculator sites that offer advice on recommended amounts. Before getting started I took stock of the storage space that I had available and organized the food into the following groupings:

1. Items that you normally eat and store what you eat. These foods should have be rotated every 3 or 4 months and have a long term storage life of at least 2 years.
2. Things that must be purchased from preparedness providers because they are the only source and have a longer storage life.  I have began to sell some silver investments and take the profits and purchase freeze dried meals, vegetables and fruit (especially like blueberries and bananas) with my morning protein shake. I also purchased some freeze dried dog food for my 80 pound lab.
3, Bulk items I can buy locally and inexpensively that can be stored for the long term. I am very new at these types of purchases, preparations, storage and I began to educate myself reading numerous available articles and purchasing small amounts to prepare utilizing trial and error method


When I was making up my menus I thought about an article I read on the SurvivalBlog on March 24 of this year. It was titled “Thrive to Survive by P.M” which pointed out that “Cornerstone food storage recommendations do not recognize the need for high bioavailability proteins during a TEOTWAWKI situation.  The view is towards long-term storage-ability and meeting the basic requirements of the appropriate balance of fats, carbohydrates and protein".  Protein powder also has advantage of simple preparation since all you need for a "meal" is water or milk, whatever additives you like ( especially freeze dried fruits) and if no power use hand or battery powdered mixer. I began to try different protein shakes using whey protein and other ingredients but these shakes often had a gritty texture and left a bitter and/or metallic after taste that lingered and had poor long lasting hunger control.   When I discussed this with my son who had been using protein shakes for the last year, he pointed out that he recently began using Vi-Shape Nutritional Shake Mix after he and his wife were in North Carolina visiting her relatives. They were introduced to the ViSalus program. This is a program offering higher quality, better tasting meal replacements designed to deliver all of your nutritional needs in a single serving.  His wife had just recently given birth to their first son so she was using them for weight loss. My son who had a very active lifestyle was using them because of the balanced nutrition and the high quality of protein that each shake provided. When I visited his home and he gave one made with 2 scopes of the mix and wheat germ, one banana, and a half cup of milk (although any type of liquid can be used).  I loved it and it controlled my hunger all morning. 

I went home that afternoon and calculated the nutritional values which came out to 500 calories per drink giving me 7 grams of fat, 94 grams of carbohydrates, 18.6 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fiber.  What a great nutritional way to start the day.  I read the July 2010 Consumer Reports that P.M. referred to in his March 24, 2011 article that warned of some protein powder drinks being heavy in metals exceeding USDA safety limits. The maximum limits for the harmful heavy metals in dietary supplements proposed by the U.S. Pharmacopeia are: arsenic (inorganic), 15 micrograms (µg) per day; cadmium, 5 µg; lead, 10 µg; mercury, 15 µg. Vi-Shape and other high grade brands little is any of these heavy metals. I decided to buy one bag per month for personal nutritional maintenance use and two more to be stored in my emergency food pantry. When you get started on the ViSalus Program they also offer an excellent distributor program with discount pricing.


As I read the numerous articles on security, I really became discouraged due lack of any survival skills and the complexity of most of the topics. However, I did find a basis to start a simple security plan after reading a SurvivalBlog post dated Jan 3, 2011 and entitled “No Matter Where You Live, The Most Important Thing is”, by E-Grandma.  It pointed out that "Perhaps his arsenal is the most important thing a true Survivalist can possess.  Without the means to keep his water and home from marauding pirates, wild animals bent on finding their own supply of food or zombies out for their own type of destruction, a person will lose everything he has accumulated, perhaps even his family.  Everything he holds dear can be taken if a Survivalist cannot defend what is his."  The only experience firing weapons I had was when in 1966 when I enlisted in National guard and U.S. Army Basic Training . I was activated in 1968 for the riots occurring in Miami at the Presidential nomination convention and was sent out to patrol the streets.  But unlike Kent State, they issued us our weapons but did not issue any ammunition. In March of this year, I purchased the first weapon I ever owned ( 9 mm Luger) and latter  read that this would provide very minimal protection.  Realizing I need both education and training I decided to enroll a marksmanship clinic.  I have convinced my sons to purchase weapons and this summer we are going on a family outing (including grandchildren and wives). Hope to attend Project Appleseed Training in Myakka City, Florida.  For more information: go to the Appleseed web site.

The most important part of the plan was pointed our in E-Grandma’s article when she quoted Charles Swindoll  "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.   Attitude, to me, is more important than facts…it is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company…a home.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…life is 10% what happens…and 90% how I react to it .“  As I initiate this long overdue basic plan. I just do it. I will better off today than yesterday and hopefully be in a better position to help my family, friends and community.
Thank you, - David M.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Last week my city was taken by surprise by a terrible windstorm.  There were some weather warnings but nothing prepared residents for what would come.  Winds reached 110 km per hour and the damage to property was extensive.  Several people lost their lives due to flying debris and downed power lines.  While some were without power for only a couple of hours, others were without for up to a week.  Although we got our power back after 48 hours, we still suffered sporadic outages for two more days.

It was with a completely different attitude that I met this storm.  Before I began prepping, I would have been woefully unprepared and getting through the ordeal would have meant getting in my car and driving somewhere to stay with someone who was unaffected.  Of course, how I would have found that elusive place would have meant driving until I saw lights on, since our phones and internet didn’t work either.  This time I looked at it as a “dry run” for something bigger.

It was really interesting to “test” our preps and see where improvements were needed.  We only started preparing a few months ago but have thrown ourselves into it wholeheartedly.  Here is what we did and what we learned:

Candles: We had a great supply of candles laid in. Unfortunately, they were all over the house in various places. If you can't find them in the dark, they aren't very useful.  Now I've placed candles in every decorative holder in the house and stored the extras all in one easily accessible place. I've stashed a box of matches in every room as well, protected from dampness in Ziploc bags.

Food: We have tons of it and most of it does not need electricity for safe storage. Unfortunately, most of it does require cooking and we had not yet purchased a method for doing so. Now I've purchased a little hibachi that can use charcoal or a mix of wood and charcoal. I've also begun to purchase more stuff that can be eaten immediately: peanut butter, crackers, pudding cups, canned fruit, etc. Also, we learned baked beans from a can aren't horrible at room temperature but soup is disgusting at room temperature. I ended up purchasing two meals out in the one small area of town that was not affected. We would have remained far safer if we had stayed at home, because the streets were perilous with falling trees and downed power lines.  Those who died all passed away when they were away from home.

Refrigerated items: We did not open our deep freeze the entire time the power was out so things in there fared perfectly. Most of the things in the refrigerator had to be thrown out, though. Luckily there wasn't a lot: a little bit of milk, some leftovers, half a head of cabbage and some sautéed mushrooms. Next time, we will concentrate on the items in the fridge first. Things from the fridge could have been moved to a cooler and stored with the ice from the freezer to have lasted longer.

Water: We had water, even though we ran out of hot water pretty quickly. I was pleased that we had stored a lot of water in the attic, as some places in town had no water.  I still plan to continue increasing our stored water on a weekly basis.

The Unexpected: Something I was totally unprepared for was a quick emergency repair.  Our kitchen window imploded in the high wind and my makeshift cardboard repair was not the sturdiest. I'm going to get some good duct tape and some plywood in various sizes for that type of repair. If it had been a winter blizzard, the broken window would have been disastrous.

Neighbours:  We checked on our elderly neighbours several times and were able to bring them something to eat and make sure they had everything they needed.  We also gave them some candles, holders and matches. Next time it would be nice to be able to offer them a hot meal.

Entertainment:  Our enormous piles of books certainly came in handy, as did our supply of board games and card games.  My youngest child (10) is not as much of a reader as my oldest daughter (15) and I, so we had to listen to “I’m bored” about 10,041 more times than I would have preferred.  I found some interesting picture books and some craft books at a yard sale that I’ve hidden away to be brought out at a later time for the novelty value.  I’ve also organized her things in a way that it will be easier to find something to do when there is minimal light.

Communication:  A true family disaster was narrowly averted.  My youngest was home from school with a sore throat and a fever.  The high winds howling around the house and the tree that fell outside terrified her.  Suddenly the power went out and I was at work.  My power at work did not go out at the same time, so I was unaware of what had happened.  The phone lines at the house went down also.  My daughter panicked and decided to walk to my workplace.  It is very close to home, but the weather was far too treacherous for a child to be out walking around.  She stopped at a convenience store and the kind woman there would not allow her to continue her trek.  She was able to get her a ride to my workplace and all was well. My oldest daughter gets bussed to school in a different city.  I had no communication with her all day.  This situation definitely brought to the forefront the need to prepare my children and make a plan to reunite in the event of some type of catastrophe.  I stressed to them both the importance of staying put if they are at home, and the importance of getting home if they are away.  We’ve now planned routes home for them so I would know where to begin looking for them if something happened.  I also bought a rotary phone that does not require electricity at the Goodwill store.  We’ve planned “safe places” in case they cannot get home.  I realized the importance of knowing where to look for the girls.

Security:  Fortunately, there was no need for increased security during this storm and subsequent power outage.  We were careful to keep the door locked and the blinds pulled in the evening.  I explained to the girls that there was no point in advertising that we were better prepared with lighting than most.  I did begin to give more thought to a world in which the police are not a phone call away, however. Because of strict gun-control laws here in Canada, we have no firearms.  It makes me feel very vulnerable, as I grew up in a household were guns were part of the interior decor. It’s not a situation I can change so in the interest of making the best of my situation, I have attempted to do my best to provide us with security and protection. We do have bear spray, which is basically mace for bears (sold at hunting and camping stores).  I’ve invested in a few more cans of this to stash around the house.  As well, the girls and I discussed regular household items that could make useful weapons in a crunch.  I’ve applied to take the required class to be able to own guns here and my oldest daughter plans to attend with me.  I’ve also done some research to discover that small air guns like BB guns are readily available and inexpensive.  Although they are not at all powerful, they are better than nothing and might even serve as a deterrent, here in a place where most people are very unfamiliar with firearms.  Finally, I’m going to install a new frame around my front door to allow it to withstand an attempt to burst in.  While it isn’t foolproof, a much more concentrated effort would be required to break through the door.

My kids think I am slightly less crazy now, after seeing the value of the preparations that we had in place.  We had talked a lot about preparing after the horrible situation in Japan and after hearing recently from our family members back in Arkansas, who were flooded into their homes for over a week.  After our brief experience, the girls are applying the lessons we learned.  When shopping, they excitedly point out things that would not require cooking.  They also look at second-hand shopping in a whole different way, thinking of the usefulness of an item in a world without power.  The episode has increased their critical thinking and problem solving skills, while also heightening their awareness of how things can change in an instant.

Our little disaster was nothing in comparison to the issues going on in the Southeastern US, or Japan, but it was eye-opening. I think we will be far better prepared the next time around. We will be able to stay safely at home and off the perilous streets. We have been able to identify many of our weak points on this trial run. The difference between us and the other people going through this?  We will use this experience to fill in all of the gaps that we discovered in our preparations.  I have a list of things that we must acquire as quickly as possible and a list of things that would just be nice to have.  This experience has deepened my determination to care for my children no matter what life throws at us.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dear James,
As most of your readers know, on Wednesday, April 27, 2011, one of the worst tornado outbreaks in history hit the Tennessee River Valley area of northern Alabama, northern Georgia and south central Tennessee as well as parts of north central Alabama such as Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Over 140 people were killed in northern Alabama alone and the final death toll from these storms will probably exceed 350. Hundreds of people in these areas lost their homes and are suffering greatly as a result. Please pray for these families as they cope with the loss of property and, mostly sadly, the loss of loved ones. The storm also affected the lives of most inhabitants as all of the main transmission lines from the Tennessee Valley Authority in northern Alabama were damaged or destroyed by tornadoes and high winds, leaving almost half a million people without electric power. This included those from the Brown's Ferry nuclear plant (whose three operating reactors all went into emergency shutdown). Our power was out for more than four days.

As a resident of these parts, I have some preparedness observations! On our community's level, most gasoline stations lost their power, and therefore their ability to pump gas. The same was also true of grocery stores. About two days passed before generators were brought in to power some gas stations and food stores, and the first stores to open quickly had long lines of people. Fortunately, some grocery stores opened even before they had power - but they would not allow people inside the stores as they were too dark. Why are grocery stores not made with windows all around the building to allow some light in? One had to give an order of desired non-perishable items to a store employee, who then would proceed into the store with a flashlight to find and bring them! It underlined to me that most people do not seem to even have a few days of food or gas stocked up to meet even a short term crisis as this. We were very fortunate that this was basically a widespread local event and not a national event, as trucks still brought in supplies, food and gas. The main problem was the lack of electricity to pump the available gas or to preserve frozen and refrigerated food and power the stores' lights and payment processing systems. Now on a personal level, we did fairly well but there were a few things we could have done better. I will list categories of items and what we did in each category. My hope is that this will be beneficial to most of you to hear about real life preparedness and how it played out in this admittedly not totally TSHTF event.

Food: We were fortunate to have a decent quantity of high quality grains (including whole wheat, millet and oats). We were also fortunate to have a generator which we used to keep our refrigerator running and preserve the frozen and refrigerated food we had. To prepare grains, we have a hand-cranked Country Living Grain Mill which is awesome at preparing quality flour. For cooking, we used our Alpaca kerosene cookstove. We had plenty of kerosene for this (which we normally keep on hand to power the kerosene heater we would use if it were cold outside and a power outage occurred). Fortunately the temperatures were very nice (even if the volatility of the weather wasn't!) and we only needed the kerosene for cooking purposes. We also have a Grover rocket wood cooking stove that we could use if needed, but the kerosene stove is a bit easier to control. We were a bit low on fresh fruit when the weather struck, and it would have been nice to have more on hand than we did. Fortunately, one of the grocery stores that opened the day after the storms had plenty of fruit and we were able to purchase some while only waiting 15 or 20 minutes in line. That was a real blessing!

The preceding reminds me of another point: Having cash! While some stores (such as Lowe's and Home Depot) quickly activated backup power and were able to process credit/debit card transactions, most grocery stores could not. The store where we purchased our fruit was calculating prices the old fashioned way: calculators and pencils and open cash drawers! My advice is to have plenty of food that can be stored at room temperature! While we were able to keep our refrigerated food from spoiling with our generator, we still would have been fine without it (although our diet would have been a bit different!).

Water: Fortunately, we never lost water service during this event. Water was always available on tap whenever we needed it. However, I wasn't sure that we would always have water, so I filled up a bathtub with water to use for flushing toilets and the like if needed, and filled up potable water containers for drinking water. We also have a Berkey Light water filter that we use on a regular basis already. I recommend having your water resources squared away before a crisis occurs!

Fuel: Within a day after the disaster, long lines formed at the few gas stations that were able to quickly get emergency power. While we were fortunate to have half a tank or better in our three vehicles, we did not have much gas in storage containers. It was one of those things that I had wanted to do but did not yet get around to doing. Most of you know how that goes! I had roughly a gallon and a half or so of gas to run our generator, which would only have given us at most two days of run time. I tried to siphon gas out of our vehicles but it seems that most newer vehicles these days have anti-siphoning systems. My advice would be to ensure that you have enough gas on hand to run your generator for a week. Fortunately, the son of our neighbors (who were out of town) had come by to check on their home and had power in his town (about 30 miles away). He was very kind and gave us gas on two occasions so that I did not have to stand in the long lines at the few pumps that were open. This was enough to see us through until power was restored. But my advice is not to be dependent on others' charity if at all possible! Make sure you have enough fuel on hand to weather (pun intended!) the most likely crises you might face. Also, be sure to have plenty of fuel on hand for any non-electric cooking devices you plan to use in a crisis. In our case, this was kerosene and wood. We added PRI-D preservative to our kerosene, and our kerosene heater worked great on three year old kerosene that was so treated.

Lighting: It is amazing how dark it can be inside a home without power! Fortunately, we had plenty of flashlights and the batteries needed to power them. Most of our flashlights were LED and therefore put out a lot of light with minimal energy use. We also had some oil lamps that we had purchased back during the Y2K scare at the turn of the millennium, and we used one of these along with some candles during this time. We stationed flashlights in each bathroom to make it easy to use the facilities. I recommend everyone have plenty of LED flashlights and batteries on hand.

Security: Due to the widespread lack of power, the local authorities imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the whole area. Reports so far seem to indicate that crime either remained the same or actually went down during this event. Our local police were very vigilant and I saw them stopping a curfew violator right in front of our home! We also had our own security implements (firearms) available and well stocked with ammunition. Fortunately there was no need to use them, at least so far, during this time.

Finances: As I alluded to earlier, many of the businesses that were open but had no power operated on a cash-only basis. We were fortunate to have some cash on hand to pay for goods. I was amazed that Lowe's quickly had activated backup power and was actually processing credit card transactions (and I used the debit card when I could) but this was the exception rather than the rule in the first day or two after the widespread power outage occurred. When it comes to purchasing, cash is king in disasters. Keep plenty of cash on hand at all times!

Charity: One way to emotionally deal with a disaster is to reach out to others. By God's providence, I was able to help with some of the cleanup efforts in one of the towns that was devastated by the tornado outbreak. I realized how fortunate we were as most of the homes in the neighborhood I worked in were totally destroyed and unsalvageable. Carrying debris from devastated homes and yards to the curb is a sobering experience but was very helpful. Some of the residents of these homes were there helping to clean up as well and expressed great appreciation for the help. But in order to administer help to others, it is important to have one's own house in order first! I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and reaching out to others is a desire all true believers have. So, I encourage all of you who know Him and accept Him as Lord of your life to cultivate your relationship with Him and your relationships with others who know Him. Part of the community of believers is reaching out to others in need.

My prayer is that our experience in the midst of the recent tragedy in northern Alabama would be helpful to the rest of you. Blessings, - R.A.

Mr. Rawles, I just finished reading the letter from R.A.  “Observations on the Recent Tornadoes”.  I live in the northern Alabama area also, less than five miles from the path of what has just been reclassified as an EF - 5 tornado. (For your readers in non-tornado prone areas, an EF - 5 is the most powerful category of tornadoes with winds in excess of 200 mph, completely tearing even substantial concrete and brick buildings from their foundations), and I can agree with the author’s points.  A few additional comments:

1)      Have a good radio handy that includes both a NOAA weather channel and normal AM/FM stations, and make sure it has multiple sources of power.  Alabama alone experienced over 20 tornadoes last Wednesday, and the stormy day began in the early morning, with multiple rounds of severe weather broken by short periods of calm until around 6:00 p.m. when the final tornadoes moved through.  Although I find that our local weather forecasters on television provide the most precise info as long as power is up, the NOAA weather radio is incredibly important once power goes out, but more rounds of bad weather are still expected.  And once the storms were over, the normal AM/FM stations were a lifeline to the world.  For five days we had no power, land-line phone, or internet, and only spotty cell service.  My radio, with those wonderful Eneloop batteries and a hand-crank back-up, provided all our sources of information. 

2)      It’s very helpful to have FRS or GMRS radios to communicate with trusted neighbors.  I had saved back an old-fashioned phone that requires no electricity for use, knowing that in a lack of electricity most land-line phones used these days won’t work.  I still think that’s a good idea to have one of those .  But when the phone lines are taken out too, it doesn’t matter what type of phone you have – it’s not going to work – and relying on a cellular network is taking quite a chance.

3)      I had no refrigeration capability, and decided to try an old method of keeping some juices, water, sodas, etc. cool.  I watered down several small towels, wrapped each bottle in one, and set them in areas where they would receive a slight breeze.  I re-wet a couple of times each day.  Even though our daytime temps were in the 70s, I managed to have cool drinks due to the evaporation/wind effect of the wet towels.  I don’t suggest trying this with milk or other products that are more easily spoiled, just items that taste better when cool.

4)      Support local law enforcement efforts, and work to elect common-sense officials.  When up to half a million people are without power ( the Huntsville metro area had NO power coming in to the utility grid for several days), some places would be making headlines for the crime and looting.  The night of the tornadoes, we had a looting attempt in which someone tried to break into a gas station.  To head off crime waves, our city police and county sheriffs worked together to implement a dusk-to-dawn curfew that was unilaterally enforced, and as R.A. commented, completely minimized crime for the duration .  It allowed the police to focus on dealing with true emergencies resulting from the lack of power rather than on looters and traffic accidents resulting from a lack of lights at night.   

It was a temporary public safety restriction, but a very practical one that was supported by even my most libertarian friends, and it was lifted as soon as the majority of the power was reestablished .  And lest you think that our sheriff is a liberal, eliminate your rights individual, in his same announcement about the curfew, he made it quite clear that “you have the right to protect your property”.   That looting attempt I mentioned?  The alleged offender was shot and killed by the gas station owner.  No charges were filed against the gas station owner, and it was made quite clear where law enforcement sympathies would be.  Given the number of gun owners around here, looting never got off the ground after that and we remained crime-free during a week of the worst natural disaster this part of Alabama has ever experienced.

I encourage your readers to pray for the 250+ families who have lost loved ones and the thousands of families in this state who now have either no home or a home too damaged to live in .

Thanks for all you do, - C.K.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Things can fall apart rather quickly.  Today's example is why you always want to carry a survival kit (BOB) in your vehicle.  People are stranded all over western North Dakota on the last day of April.  Who would have anticipated this?  The weather service put out warnings that many ignored and those who stayed home are without power. A total of five major electrical feeds into the state are down which is unheard of.  What couldn't happen, happened. Mile after mile of power poles are sheared off and snow drifts of up to 10 feet and zero visibility is slowing any attempts to rescue stranded motorists and stopping power company personnel trying to restore power.  Readers may listen to this interview with the power company manager by Jim Olson from KX news, Channel 13 out of Minot, North Dakota.  Jim Olson Interview

Thanks for SurvivalBlog. - Bob (At the end of the gravel road in North Dakota)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thank you for providing all the information in SurvivalBlog. It is truly a lifesaver. I live in Arkansas, and I’m sure you’ve seen the devastation the tornadoes have caused. This season is possibly the worst I’ve seen in the past 20 years that I’ve lived here. The tornadoes and severe weather have pummeled our state. Thankfully, when disaster strikes, neighbors help neighbors, strangers, and everyone in between. I wanted to tell your readers who haven’t considered the value of neighbors, who have a go-it-alone attitude, they are more valuable than all the gold you could stockpile. When the tornadoes come through, all my neighbors get under one house – the only house in the neighborhood you can get under. All the other houses are on slabs, but none are sturdy enough to really hold up to 100 m.p.h. winds.

Knowing that there will be at least 8 of us and 12 pets, we’ve made some small changes. We’ve placed bottled water, blankets, tarps, and kennels for our animals under the house. I’ve also beefed up my bob bag with consideration to the storms. I’ve added a portable weather radio, battery powered fans, a strand of battery powered Christmas lights (they can light up areas where other lights can’t fit), a gas meter (you don’t want to be close to a natural gas leak), a medium duty stapler (just in case you have to secure a tarp quickly), and last but not least, dog biscuits. They are a small comfort to animals in stressful situations, like being in a kennel under a house for extended periods of time.

Something else I would recommend to your readers are natural gas or LP standby generators. They are expensive, but worth every penny. Also consider a little red wagon, yard cart, or roll around suitcase. When bad weather is coming, and you know you will need more than just a BOB bag, cases of water and snacks are easier to transport on wheels. I hope you will emphasize that a BOB bag is essential in times like these, not just TEOTWAWKI.  

Remember, it might take a while for help to reach you. You will want neighbors who will be willing to risk their neck for you when you are in need. I know that while most of my neighbors are not as prepared as they should be, I will try to take up the slack, just for having the security that I can count on them when the times get bad. - Mrs. D. in Arkansas

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Having read the daily entries on SurvivalBlog for a few months now, and reading the novel Patriots it seems to me that an often visited topic is whether and when to “Bug Out.”  As a resident of Houston, Texas, I will try to provide insight from the perspective of a person who has been through the evacuation drill twice…and never evacuated.  So there you have it, I will go ahead and show my cards up front; I am in the “hunker down” camp.  Although I will explain my reasons, I will not try to convince others it is the right option; that is a personal choice.  Additionally, it would be foolish and short-sided for me to suggest that hunkering down is appropriate in all circumstances; it is not.  As with all best-practices, the decision of whether and when to leave your home requires a common sense judgment call on the part of each individual. However, one thing is certain: if you have prepared for most contingencies in your geographic locale, you will be able to choose whether to Bug Out or Hunker Down.  If you have not prepared, you have effectively robbed yourself of the freedom to choose, and will become a banner waving member of “the Golden Horde.”

First, a little history is in order.  I grew up in a small town South of Houston, Texas and was educated in a small religious private school.  I spent as much time as possible neglecting my studies so that I could dedicate my time to the more important pursuits of bike riding, playing guns, building forts, swimming, and exploring the trails at the back of our neighborhood.  By age 15, I had tied enough knots, built enough fires, shot enough arrows, and pitched enough tents to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.  While I would not consider myself expert, I know the outdoors…and being “prepared” continues to be a part of my being.  My wife and I consider Big Bend National Park one of our favorite places, are avid backpackers, and as such have accumulated enough camping gear to open a small shop. 

In September of 2005 I was living in an apartment five minutes from downtown Houston.  Hurricane Katrina had just devastated New Orleans and now Hurricane Rita was heading to Houston and was twice as big and ten times as bad! While many packed up their vehicles to G.O.O.D., I drove South on I-45 to Friendswood to help my mother and her husband board up their windows with plywood and PLYLOX. By the time we had finished securing the house, I was too late.  I-45 Northbound back to Houston was at a virtual standstill.  Having dealt with Houston traffic my whole life, I had the foresight to get online and find a different route back to my downtown apartment.  Unfortunately, the route I had chosen required me to drive for quite some distance on a toll road.  After sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour, and driving less than a mile, I called my mother from my cell phone and asked that she get online and navigate me back to downtown from the very next exit via farm to market and county roads. 

Lesson: Carry a map detailed enough to show all roads.  Highway maps are not good enough. Here in Texas we have a company called Keymaps that makes books with detailed maps broken into an easy to read grid system that is searchable by street name.  I highly recommend if available in your area.

I would have been in a bad situation had the power been out or had the cell phones been down. For those unfamiliar, I was lucky in that the Houston road system is not only a series of circles connecting freeways that run North, South, East and West; but also a vast maze of connected city streets and county roads.  Literally you cannot get out of your vehicle and walk for more than a quarter mile in this part of City without crossing a road.  Needless to say, I made it back to my apartment safe without too much inconvenience.  I would later learn that many of those motorists I shared that mile-long stretch of toll road with were in the infancy of what would become one of the most harrowing 72 hour ordeals they had ever faced. 

The following day, my mother and her husband joined me (with their five cats) in my 715 square food apartment for a 48 hour ride-out of the storm.  It was tight but we had enough food and water to sustain us for an extended period.  They navigated the same route we had discovered the night before (minus the freeway portion) traveling approximately 40 miles in less than an hour; not bad considering the parking lot formed by thousands of cars stretching North on I-45 from between Houston and Galveston and then on to every major city to the North and West of Houston.

As we sat in my small apartment something occurred to me that I will never forget: Downtown Houston was as quiet as the open range of West Texas.  Anyone who has lived in a big city can attest; it is never quiet.  Day and night you hear horns, engines, sirens, and every other conceivable combination of background noise.  In the hours leading up to the hurricane’s approach Houston was at peace; a stark contrast to the nightmare that was unfolding on our city’s highways and freeways.  90% of the City had bugged out. 

Every person I spoke with in the aftermath of Rita told the same story: “We were just going over to a relative’s house in Hempstead or a friends house in the Woodlands (both within 45 minutes of downtown Houston) so we got in the car, stopped and filled up the gas tank, grabbed a bag of chips and a soda, and got on the road to “get out of Dodge.”  48 hours later, when Rita made landfall, most had traveled less than 20 Miles from where they started (in 48 hours).  I don’t think anyone facing a storm of constant bearing decreasing range would argue that they are safer in their vehicle, not to mention the more serious danger they faced: desperate strangers. During the 48 hours leading up to landfall and the approximately 24 hours it took them after landfall to get to a final destination, they witnessed the worst of humanity. 

Folks, keep in mind this was September in Houston; it was about 100 degrees and 100% humidity; people are easily agitated.  Your sweat doesn’t evaporate, you can’t get cool, tempers run high and patience is a commodity in short supply.  Cars broke down, ran out of gas, or overheated, turning the freeways into parking lots. People were thirsty, babies were hungry-crying-not enough diapers, nowhere to go to the restroom; people, young, old, rich, and poor, defecated in broad daylight next to their vehicles.  The situation was unsafe, unstable, and unsanitary.  People got into fights, businesses on the interstate were stripped bare of anything to eat or drink, the young-old-sick were in real trouble and some did not make it through the awful ordeal.  A bus of elderly evacuees from a retirement home caught fire, burning to death those who were bound to wheel chairs or oxygen tanks.  The sad part is the vast majority of sheeple sat helpless in their cars waiting for help from the federal government and local authorities. 

The federal government and local authorities were not able to provide much assistance because they too were stuck in traffic without fuel.  The irony is these people suffered and died not from the natural disaster but from bad information and an overall lack of preparedness.  Yes, the storm came and Houston took a hit, but the media-fueled hysteria proved to be far more dangerous.  Unless you lived on the Gulf Coast, you probably didn’t hear these dirty facts because it would have necessarily highlighted the borderline criminal negligence of the major networks for their ratings-driven “news” coverage. 

Fast forward three years to September of 2008.  I was now married and living in my current home just North of Houston in an unincorporated part of Harris County.  Hurricane Ike is barreling toward Houston; once again the “media” seems to be taking language straight from the King James Version of the Book of Revelation.  Because my wife works in the safety department of MD Anderson Cancer Center, she was a “first responder” and had been stationed for the day at the Office of Emergency Management helping to evacuate the elderly from hospitals and retirement communities in the evacuation zone.  My wife is was of those whose mission included heading into the Texas Medical Center while the traffic was heading the other way.  On the way home following her shift her car had a blowout and hit the concrete wall of the freeway.  This was September 11th, approximately 24 hours from when Ike would make landfall.  Once again, sheeple were scuttling about Houston like rats on a sinking ship looking for flashlights and batteries.  We were headed to the ER.  Thankfully my wife was examined and released; we went home to “hunker down.”  Once again my mother and her husband joined us. The extra hands were helpful as my wife was confined to the bedroom on pain medication.  Lesson: When one of your team members is down, can you handle making ready your fortifications?  Unlike Hurricane Rita, Ike devastated Houston.  Much of the City was without water/power for weeks.  The effort mobilized by the City of Houston was epic and the relief effort was inspiring.  Volunteers poured in from all over the U.S.  It was the opposite of New Orleans.   However, had the disaster not been so localized, who knows how long it would have taken to get the grid back on line?  Would it have become New Orleans eventually? 

During the ordeal I had a huge “duh” moment.  With my wife’s car out of commission, we were left with one vehicle.  Due to my own procrastination at having a leak fixed, I had been adding air to one of my truck’s tires for about a week. Guess what happened when I wasn’t able to air it up for the 24 hours we rode out the storm?  The problem gets worse; it wasn’t until I went to put on the spare I discovered that my lock lug was missing.  Apparently the dealership had failed to put it back the last time they had rotated my tires.  In two days we had gone from 2 operating vehicles to 0 operating vehicles. 

Lesson: much like Dental work, keep up with routine vehicle maintenance!  There is ample discussion on this board related to preparedness and somewhere I read the recommendation to have a practice weekend.  I agree.  Practice would have revealed the most glaring omission from my fortifications: power.  Luckily we were at Ace Hardware when they began taking orders for generators that were in route from somewhere out of state.  While I waited something like half a day, other members of our party scavenged for gas canisters and gas to fill them.  

Lesson: get a generator and storage containers and fill them ahead of time!  I cannot tell you the piece of mind it provides given the hot humid summers here in Houston, especially now that I have an infant at home.  Ultimately Houstonians kept a calmer head than during the mass exodus of Hurricane Rita and were all the better for it.  Minus property damage and the few fatalities attributable to people who absolutely would not evacuate Bolivar Peninsula, we all came out okay.

My point in telling these two stories is this: even if you are absolutely prepared to “Bug Out” when the Schumer hits the fan, are you confident you would be ahead of the Golden Horde when your car’s rubber meets the road?

First, let’s considers the source of our information today.  The “media” cannot be trusted to provide unbiased information- even in the face of an emergency.  Unfortunately, all media outlets are in business to make money-sensationalism sells.  However, I will mention that from my experience the local media and local authorities were a pretty good bet.  After all, they are in the same boat as you.  The question remains: How will you really know it is time to bug out?  Face it; you are probably rolling the dice on a gut feeling that is at least partially influenced by fear.  Fear-based decisions are rarely sound and will likely lead you into a situation you cannot control.  This leads to an even more dangerous place: Panic. 

I would argue that unless you live in a locale that cannot be made safe (on the beach, for instance) you face far fewer unknown and dangerous variables in your own home than you will encounter out on the “open” road.  Again, let me be clear here, in some cases the smart decision is to Bug Out no matter what.  However, in those cases I would argue maybe you are better off bugging out long before the Schumer hits the fan and find a safer place to live.

I realize that for many, moving is simply not an option for many reasons; but most often it is more the case that people are just too set in their ways.  Ultimately my advice is: in the face of an emergency, don’t follow the crowd of fear motivated sheeple.   Exercise common sense and Be Prepared!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

We live on the western slope of the Sierras about half way between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. We recently experienced the worst snow storm in the last thirty years, with snow depths in excess of 36", massive, wide spread power outages, and closed roads. We had virtually no inconvenience because we have literally have lived being prepared for decades.

Our home is small, about 1,000+ square feet and we have an adjoining cabin of 525 sq/ft., which serves as my office. A few years ago I added an additional 12" of insulation in the ceilings of both units, double glazed windows, and availed ourselves of the PG&E [California power utility company] energy saving policy which allowed us to seal and repair every air leak in both residences and receive a rebate from PG&E for being good, green citizens. In other words, PG&E paid us for doing some common sense thing we were already planning to do, even without the enticement of the rebate. (You gotta love this country!)

My wife is, after 31 years, used to my peculiarities. For example, I have been what is euphemistically called a “survivalist” since the age of 11. We never buy a home on a flood plain. We always check out the USGS maps located in the county planning offices to avoid buying on a known geologic fault line. I consider these things as basic as breathing, and wonder why everyone doesn’t take these simple trouble avoidance steps. Being a survivalist should be, literally, a part of your psychic makeup. It should be part of your very existence.

When we first moved up to the mountains to this property in 2000, we had two separate propane tanks, the larger one (170 gals) for the home, and the smaller one (90 gals) for the cabin. Both were located right next to the wall of the cabin in plain view, and were an eyesore.

The first thing I did was replace the two smaller tanks with one 500 gallon tank and relocate the tank closer to the road, and out of sight behind some trees inside our gate. This relocation not only concealed the tank from view, thus greatly improving the “curb appeal” of the home and cabin, but made it more accessible for propane deliveries. I make it a practice to never let this tank drop below 50% full, as even 250 gallons of propane will last us a few months in the winter.

Both the main house and the cabin have full kitchens and full baths. Both water heaters are propane, as are the stoves, the heaters, and even the dryer. Next I added a propane generator large enough to power the well, the fridges, some lights, the television and the Internet.

When this last storm shut down the entire area for days, literally nothing changed for us except we could not go anywhere until they finally managed to get the roads plowed. We have one four wheel drive vehicle with studded tires and chains for back up if needed, and when snow is in the forecast, we always park it facing out at the end of the driveway and near the road. I hate shoveling snow, and this keeps it to a minimum.

We have two dogs, and in our planning, we extended the decks so that there is ample covered dirt areas for them to do their business when they cannot get into the yard due to the snow depth. These areas are easily accessible from the main house without having to traverse snow of any depth. Because our dogs have short legs (Corgis) this allows them to live comfortably when many other pups are confined to the house. When you plan for emergencies, you have to plan for all your family members, two and four legged.

Of course we had ample food on hand for several months and when the crunch came, I got to enjoy some work free days because while I still had phones and internet, most of my clients did not.

The point is, by advance planning and living our normal lives from a survivalist viewpoint, we have the luxury of maintaining our normal lives even in the extreme situations such as we recently faced.

While I absolutely believe TEOTWAWKI is rapidly approaching, many crises we face between then and now will be somewhat less that TEOTWAWKI, but serious enough in their own right. Growing up on a ranch, my father taught all of us that almost any fool can survive in discomfort. It takes planning and skill to survive in comfort. Now in my sixties, my father’s advice still rules my life, and for this I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In November, it started to snow in the British Isles.  I remember this date well because on the way to Edinburgh from Manchester, my car hit a patch of black ice and skidded at roughly 60 miles per hour. The car was wrecked; I staggered away unhurt.  I wasn't the only one to have a nasty accident on the first day and I was certainly one of the lucky ones.  There were many injuries and deaths on the first day.

Matters only got worse over December.  There was an unprecedented level of snowfall in Britain.  The roads were jammed up, even in the cities, making it difficult to travel around even on a local scale.  The railways cancelled many trains; airports were closed and even shipping was badly affected. 

To be fair to the local authorities, they had been making preparations for snowfall after the events of the previous winter.  It had been bad in 2009-10, but worse in 2010-11.  Even so, their logistics were badly dented by the snow; it was impossible, despite their best efforts, to grit many or even all of the roads before the snow fell again, clogging up the transport lanes again.

In Edinburgh, where I observed personally, the main roads were opened by the council, who deployed grit lorries to melt the snow.  It was not, however, a completely successful endeavour.  Accidents continued to multiply, while the roads gridlocked as traffic that would normally have gone on side roads poured out onto the main roads.  The bus services – normally fairly good – were badly impacted.  The buses were often packed so heavily that they couldn’t pick up new passengers and, on at least one day, all services were cancelled, leaving your humble writer with a two hour walk back home.

At first glimpse, compared to some of the other natural disasters that are reported on this site, it doesn’t seem that the snowfall in Britain is very significant.  It did, however, have a number of extremely worrying implications for the future, should the SHTF on a wider scale.

-Food deliveries into Edinburgh were delayed, quite badly.  The smaller shops ran out quickly – milk was a particular problem – and even the big supermarkets were adversely affected by the delays.  There was an air of ‘calm panic’ in the air, with people buying as much as they could, often without worrying about storage or cost.
-Fuel deliveries were also limited.  While there was no rise in the cost of fuel, there was a shortage of fuel in Edinburgh and elsewhere, as deliveries couldn’t get through. 
-Private transport of all kinds was badly affected.  In the minor roads, cars were – quite literally – buried in the snow.  I saw people using everything from salt to boiling water to try to get their vehicles out of the snow, mostly unsuccessfully.  Even those who did succeed found themselves gridlocked when they got onto the main roads.  It should come as no surprise that the accident rates in Edinburgh rose sharply.
-Public transport was slowed or stopped altogether. 
-Crime rates rose as the snow made it easier for the perpetrators to carry out their crimes and then vanish.  The police were unable to respond as quickly as normal to any crisis.
-Death rates rose nationally as people, mainly the elderly, started freezing to death in their homes.  Community support services were badly weakened by the snow – worse, many elderly people were unable to afford to heat their homes in the snow.  A number of people were reported to have starved through lack of food.
-Water services were badly affected, both when pipes froze and when they burst.
-Electric power lines were damaged, causing blackouts in part of the country.
-Demands for cough medicine – indeed, any kind of medicine – rose sharply.

It is probably also worth mentioning, although an indirect issue, that the economic effects of the snowfall were extremely bad.  Insurance payments rose sharply in the wake of the snowfall, while businesses suffered badly from reduced personnel as workers couldn’t get into work on time. 

As I noted above, the local authorities did what they could.  The problem was that the scale of the disaster was simply too great for them to tackle immediately.  Most citizens had to fall back on their own resources rather than wait for the government to help them.  If the disaster had been much more serious, I doubt that we could have avoided a massive die-off. 

Three years ago, it would have been reasonable to say that we would never get such snowstorms in Britain.  There are no longer any grounds for refusing to prepare.  Therefore, I suggest:

-Stocking up on preserved food and drink that can be used as an emergency reserve if the stores run out completely.
-Stocking up on bottled water and other drinks.
-Preparing camping equipment, on the assumption that the electric services will cut out completely.  Store gas for campfires, battery-powered lights and sleeping bags.  A collection of old, but warm clothes would be very useful.
-Stocking up on de-icer, [tire traction] grit (if available), salt and sugar (for melting ice) and suchlike.
-Refueling the car prior to the first snowstorms.  Ideally, using the car should be kept to a minimum in such bad weather, but if you have to use it…also, familiarise yourself with emergency procedures for a crash.
-Consider the situation of any elderly relatives you have.  If they live with you that should be easier to handle than if they live apart.  If they live away, do what you can for them before the snow starts to fall. 
-It’s probably also worth looking into Britain’s often absurd self-defence laws.  The blunt truth is that the whole situation is a nightmare for anyone charged with using excessive force.  As I understand it (I am no lawyer) one can legally use the minimum necessary force to remove an intruder from one’s premises and no more.  Be careful!  There will be plenty of idiots who will look back with the benefit of hindsight and say that you used excessive force.  Even so, remember that your family’s safety comes first.

In the immortal words of the British Army, remember the Seven Ps.
“Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents P**s-Poor Performance.”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

During the winter of 2007 Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado had a major winter event in the form of a blizzard and a wide ranging ice storm.

Saturday morning came and no weather, by that afternoon, Eastern Colorado and Western, Kansas was in a full blizzard and ice storm. Within hours the ice was over 3 inches thick on power lines and was popping power poles in every direction. Then the wind picked up and we went black and quiet. The storm took down cell towers, radio towers, internet towers, emergency communication towers.

The small rural communities were shut down. No vehicle gas, no grocery store, no trading at all. Everything was closed, banks, grocery stores, and convenience stores. They had no electricity.  They had no way of selling anything.

We work in agriculture, so we had to be prepared. We are also home canners and put up a years worth of food in jars and our freezers. Our town was able to keep the water on because of diesel engines. They were also able to keep our sewer on because of diesel generators. We were able to cook because of propane grills. We were cold in our homes.

There was a shelter opened with generator heat, but no blankets, beds, or toilet paper, they asked that you bring your own. They also asked that you clean out your refrigerator and bring it to the shelter for food for the group that was there. We were trapped in an 8 mile radius because of down power lines on the highways. We were stuck for 3 days and went without electricity for seven days.

Means of communication was almost non existent. We did not know about the shelter which was two blocks from our home because we were able to still work with generator power, and it was warmer at work than home. There was no central communication in our town. We had no idea what was going on in the world, our town or our area. We did not know how long we were going to be without electricity. Cell phones did not work; radio was out in our area. We had no land line phone or Internet. Our news was received at the post office window from handwritten posts. Most of those were people looking for other people or looking for firewood or a generator.

One day we came home from work and noticed everyone on our block had a new gas generator. We asked the neighbors where they got theirs and found out our county commissioners had asked a large box store to send two semi loads of generators to our county. They sold them at the courthouse steps, first come with $1,200 plus tax, no checks or credit cards accepted.  We didn’t get one; they were gone by the time we got home from work. Many people did not have a five gallon gas can and there was no where to get gas as all the pumps were down. Our local farm coop brought out their bulk fuel truck to help fill the gas cans. Cash only and only five gallons at a time.

It took over four years for our electric company to finish replacing electric poles.  Our electricity comes from a coal fired plant and with the blizzard, the train tracks were shut down for three days. It was a good thing that the electricity was off or they would have run out of coal. No trains across Western Kansas or Eastern Colorado for three days. No freight, no passengers, no movement.

When the local grocery store reopened, they had to close the next day because the store had a run on fresh vegetables, meats, water and most everything else. Milk was gone in ten minutes; people were hoarding thinking it was going to happen again tomorrow. The store was empty faster than a truck could get in to replenish the store shelves.

What did we do for seven days? I cooked on the propane grill with my cast iron cookware. We pulled out every quilt we owned and piled it on our beds. We had a battery operated clock and we used our kerosene lanterns. We rounded up our flashlights and ate our food that had been canned in the summer. We got cold, took hot showers and dived under the covers. We got tired of being cold and we called around to find a hotel room even if it was 150 miles away, they were all full. We went to work and did our jobs.  We were paid electronically, but could not find out if it actually made it to the bank or not. We had no way of getting cash. We stayed at home and did not go to the shelter as it may have been warm, but who wants to sleep on a concrete floor with people they don’t know. We tried to find a radio station, use our cell phones, find a newspaper and waited for the electric company. We watched as our trees were trimmed off the electric lines and watched as most all of our trees fell over with the ice. We were lucky our small town was able to keep on our water. Our pipes did not freeze. We communicated with our neighbors. We gave food to those who had none. We thanked God for heat on night six from a very expensive rented generator. We told our kids to remember this storm and always be prepared. We found out we rely on electricity way too much.

We now keep our gas cans and propane bottles full. We installed a wood stove and keep firewood. We have a gas generator for the freezers and refrigerator. We keep water on hand. We continue to can our garden and can up meats and other items. We continually work to have our life as it is with electricity even if we have no electricity.  We keep cash on hand as well as dry good items, like flour, popcorn and toilet paper. We are working to have two years of supplies.

Did FEMA ever show up?  Yes, eight days after the storm, and that was after electricity was restored to our town.  Did the National Guard show up?  Yes, four days into it with cases of water for the residents. They gave one case of water to each household that they could get to. The National Guard stayed at our high school for three weeks, there was no school in session. They patrolled our town day and night, they helped with people rescue, water distribution and passing out information.

Many people in the county were out of electricity for over a month. They were able to survive because they still live off the land and depend on their selves to help themselves.

The two things we learned during these seven days were: we had a lack of communication locally and world wide, and lack of heat. We installed a wood cook stove and are looking into other means of communication.

There was no run on the gas pumps or the stores in our small town because there was no way to exchange money for product. When electricity came on in the large regional town, everyone that could get to town was there. Then there was a run, everyone was looking for the same thing. The first to go was small propane bottles for gas grills. The next thing to go were all forms of heat, generators, inverters, gas cooking and heating stoves, wood for fireplaces, extension cords and accessories, batteries, matches, small electric heaters to hook up to generators. Other things like, flashlights, toilet paper, ice scrapers, gloves, blankets, cast iron skillets, metal spatulas, kerosene lanterns, hand can openers, crackers, popcorn, soda, cheese in a can, bottled water, paper items, bread and lunch meat. The large grocery store had no electricity for three days, but because people were hungry they bought what they could and then complained that it was spoiled, the milk, cheese and meats were not good, they had no refrigeration for three days, but people still bought the items. People complained that the shelves were empty even though they knew there was no transportation for three days, in or out.

When electricity was restored to our one regional town, people from three different states came from far and wide, which meant people were driving 100’s of miles to come to this one town. Vehicle gas was in short supply; firewood went for a premium in a few tree country. Batteries were non existent. There were lines at the fast food restaurants, and banks, water and ammo disappeared. Three days and people were hungry, cold and wanted a change.

There were also those who wanted someone, anyone, to come fix this problem and give them food, water, and heat. They didn’t care who it was, they just wanted their life as it was before the storm and only in their home. They would not go to a shelter, but expected someone to provide them with their lifestyle. They had no provisions.

Hospitals, long term care homes, prisons, sheriff departments, all were on generator power. Schools were not in session. Businesses were closed; city and county offices were closed. Banks and ATMs were closed. Convenience stores, gas pumps, grocery stores, restaurants, closed. No pizza delivery. No street lights, no noise, just dark silence.

The amount of reliance we have on electricity is amazing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dear Sir,
After reading A Tale of Two Hurricanes by N.D., I thought I would share some lessons that my family and I learned from Hurricane Ike. First off, I became turned onto the prepping mindset about a year and a half ago. I have been trying to get my father thinking in this mindset and he recently read "One Second After" by William R. Forstchen which seems to have truly sparked something inside him. I plan to let him read my copy of your novel "Patriots" as well.

Well we live in the “country” northwest of Houston. Most people remembered all the hoopla about hurricane Rita and how that turned out to be nothing but an inconvenience and a stress headache. All of our neighbors had no thoughts of evacuating and getting stuck in the traffic from Houston, they just stocked up on a few provisions and called it good. My family did the same thing. We got a couple of cases of water but not much else. We have always had a well stocked pantry with what I believe to be a month or two of food at full rations so there wasn’t any worry of starving.

We prepped our property for the high winds by borrowing some sheets of plywood from a neighbor to cover our windows to protect them from flying debris. Dad used the storm as an excuse to cut down some trees that he had wanted to get rid of. We took out a very large one that could have removed half of our house including my bedroom if it were to come down during the storm. Then we cleaned everything out from under the stairs so we could cram in there in case there was a significant threat of a tornado hitting us. (Stairs are usually the most framed part of a house and thus the most structurally sound place to be in case of a tornado, in less you have a basement.) We were “all set” for what was sure to be a disappointing storm.

Hurricane Ike made landfall on Galveston Island at a little past 2 a.m. on September 13th, 2008 as a strong category 2. In most cases a category 2 hurricane would not be considered too bad for someone who has gone thru some of the weaker storms like Rita. However Ike was different. Looking at the radar, it seemed to take up most of the Gulf and had a strong eye. The storm didn’t really hit us until the early morning hours but the eye came within 9 miles of our house. I woke many times to lightning and the roof creaking. That morning the sky had a greenish color and the wind was still blowing the rain almost sideways. A quick look outside revealed about a dozen trees had blown over or lost large limbs. Our entire neighborhood was without power.

 After the storm calmed down, we went out for a drive to survey the damage in our community. Every one of our neighbors had trees down and almost half of them had some sort of roof damage. There were trees that had taken out the power lines and fallen unto the roads making them impassable. Luckily there were some good samaritans out with their chainsaws clearing the roads enough so cars could pass one at a time. The entire town was without power and the gas station up the road had the covers blown off of the pumps and had sustained damage.
Living without power was not too bad for us. We just pulled out the Coleman stove and lantern from my Boy Scout days and got to work clearing the damage. My Mom however was not very happy. Even though it was much cooler than it usually was at that time of year, the 80 degrees, humidity, and the lack of power and communication with the outside world was more than she wanted to stand. After the first night she took off to my older sister’s house about an hour inland to stay with her. She came back the following day to bring us a little 1,500 watt Honda generator and about 5 gallons of gas. The generator had just enough power and fuel to keep the contents of our refrigerator cool.

My dad sent me out with four 5-gallon gas cans and told me to find someplace to fill them up. I drove my truck to the next town and found that the grocery store’s gas station had gas but even more importantly they had power. Most gas stations had thousands of gallons but no way to get it out of the underground tanks. There was a line on every pump about 50 cars long when I arrived. It took three hours for me to make it up to the pump where there was police officers posted to obviously keep everything in order.  Lucky there was not a ration in place so I was able to fill up all the cans and my truck. As I left the lines were around 200 cars long and things were beginning to get tense as pumps shut down [due to depleted tanks] from such rapid use. I passed several other gas stations on my way home and they were rationing gas to 5 or 10 gallons with just as many cars lined up. When I finally made it back home Dad wanted me to take his truck and get it filled up too, but I told him it was too dangerous and we would have to just make do with what we had, which was about 60 gallons combining what was in the cars and cans. The following day, Mom came back from my sisters with more fuel, a new generator, and a window A/C unit which she bought. The generator is a 5000 watt 7,500 peak brand name with a pull start. It has a 220 volt plug and two 110 volt plugs. Dad and I cut the main breaker so we wouldn’t back feed into the power grid and then took some wires from a 220 volt extension cord and crudely shoved them into the electric dryer socket. We couldn’t run the central air conditioning but we could run the window unit mom had bought (which of course went in her room), the refrigerator, and the lights as normal. We just had to be mindful of how many things we could turn on at once. The generator was locked to the house with a heavy chain and padlock and we always turned it off before night. When there is no power for miles around, a running generator at night is like a “come steal me!” sign.

Another problem that was arising about this time in the neighborhood was human waste. Our neighborhood is remote and everybody has about 5 acres. Because of this we do not have city sewer but instead an aerated sprinkler system. Without power the pump can’t spray the treated liquid waste and the tanks become full in 2-3 days. Toilets begin to back up and smell occurs. For us, everything was fine once the generator was going. We did have to go to some neighbors houses to do some emergency electrical re-wiring so they could get their septic systems working.

Our street was without power for more than 12 days. Part of the problem was a power line went down in the woods behind us and since that line only serviced five houses it was not at the top of the priority list. Luckily we never lost water although we were extra cautious and made sure to boil it before consuming.

Lessons learned from all this:

  1. If it is going to be a big hurricane, then evacuate early. It isn’t worth all the trouble if you can leave in time and trust your neighbors to watch your property, but take your papers and valuables with you.
  2. Have a working generator. We now have ours and had a proper hookup installed by an electrician after it was all over. Make sure to run your generator bi-annually and store it for long-term storage following your user’s guide. For us, that is running it dry with stabilized gas in it.
  3. Have plenty of fuel beforehand. We keep our cans filled with Sta-bil gas and rotate them regularly.
  4. Of course be prepared with all of your usual preps. Food, water, first-aid, etc.
  5. With a hurricane, it is very important to protect your house from damage as much as possible. Cover windows, brace large doors like the garage doors, remove trees close to the house, and remove anything in your yard that could become a flying object.
  6. Have a pump system designed to get gas out of underground tanks. There was just a recent post about how to make your own in the blog. You might be able to let your local gas station owner use it in exchange for some fuel. It’s a win-win. He can still sell fuel and you can get what you need.

I think the most important thing to remember during a disaster like this one is to be courteous and helpful to your neighbors. Get to know your neighbors beforehand and pull together after to clean-up and make repairs. Ike brought all of us on our street closer together. This country is threatened by many different types of natural and manmade disasters, but with a hurricane you know it is coming. Get prepared.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
In August of 2005 Hurricane Katrina had slammed into the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi.  I really don't need to tell you the destruction and subsequent aftermath of that storm as it is well documented for all to see.  We had lived in New Orleans for sixteen years and had moved to Houston five years prior to Katrina so were used to living in hurricane alley. We thought….

September of 2005, a month later, the Houston area was threatened by Hurricane Rita.  Rita was the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. The paranoia at the thought of it hitting Houston after the devastation of Katrina was intense in the Houston area. The local government started to issue evacuation orders for the coastal area's three days prior to the forecast landfall date.  There were no planned evacuation times or schedules so everyone got on the road as soon as they were packed up.  People as far as fifty miles from the coast were evacuating because the local leaders never came out and said who was most at risk.
We work in the Medical Center in Houston and live 39 miles north of there, commuting across Harris County and through downtown Houston. I was ready to go whenever we got released from work but my wife being a nurse would be held longer even though she was not doing actual patient care. I was anxiously monitoring the traffic which was getting worse by the minute while waiting for her, I finally told her we had to leave or we were not getting home at all. Our usual commute on the way home is an hour and a half. This time it took us three hours only because I took every back road and side street I knew of to beat the mad rush on the freeway system which was rapidly turning into a parking lot.

We have several friends that evacuated and spent twenty or more hours stuck on the freeway. They told many tales of woe about their experience’s out there. There were gangs from the inner city traveling up and down the shoulders of the freeways causing hate and discontent.  Water and bathrooms were nonexistent.  People in recreational vehicles had people knocking on their doors to see if they could use the bathrooms. Every neighborhood off the freeway had people coming in to see if they could get something from the people that lived there. Some areas had sheriff's deputy's block the exits from the freeways so that people couldn't get off and wander through their area's. One of my friends finally put his pistol on the dash in plain sight just as a warning to people walking up and down the freeway begging for anything they could get.

My wife decided to go to the store and get some odds and ends the day before Rita was to make landfall. She came out of our subdivision and made a left hand turn before realizing the traffic jam that was still on the road. She called me in a panic back home because the road was full of people just sitting in their cars waiting to get out. I told her to go see what she could get and I would guide her home. She went to the Kroger in town and it looked like a store that had been plundered. There wasn't anything much worth buying left.  I guided her home on some back roads and the lesson here is to learn as many routes as you can to your destination. You never know when it might mean sitting on a freeway for 10 or more hours and making it home to get your preparations done.

Hurricane Ike
Fast forward three years to September 2008. Once again the Houston area is under the gun from a major hurricane. This time because of the near miss with Rita officials are taking a less frantic position. The storm is supposed to hit to the west of Houston in a farming region of the gulf coast. The officials do call for the evacuation of just the immediate coastal areas but by all accounts are not worried by a direct hit on the greater metropolitan area.

Getting home was no problem. Many people that went through Rita said “to hell with it” and stayed home thinking we wouldn't get the worst of the storm and were not going to spend the time sitting in traffic again. The local officials made it abundantly clear that the storm was only going to graze Houston.

We were safe at home when the storm veered north, straight at Galveston Bay.  That night it roared ashore and cut thru a wide swath of the area that was supposed to be spared.  We lost power in the wee hours of the morning. The next day we woke up to still no power and no water (our water company is on the same circuit as our neighborhood).  Fortunately the storm was followed by an unexpected cool front and made for a beautiful day.  I won't go into the damage to our property.  I set up my Honda 2000 generator and plugged in the portable television and refrigerator and waited for the power and water to return.  About 8 p.m. the power came back on and we were all excited but, it went out two hours later.  By the third evening we were wondering when it would come back on. Thank God for being having bought the generator for our small truck camper.

I was getting cabin fever three days into this, and wanted to go up and check on our fifth wheel trailer up at the lake. We knew there were trees down and power was out across the region but decided to run up and see for ourselves. Thankfully there was no damage to our rig.  When we got home we went over to the neighbors for shared supper and to socialize.  While we were gone that afternoon,  a band of men (read thugs) from the subdivision were going around checking to see who had generators.  The story went  that the power went out the second time because someone had their generator hooked up to their house and when the power came back on it “back fed” through the main lines and killed a power worker.  So these guys decide to take it upon themselves and check everyone's setup. One particular and well prepared, gentleman was the given the wrath of the gang.  The sheriff was called and told “he had to go over and disconnect this guy's generator or we would never get power back”.   The poor man was told he should be prepared to “protect” his property.

The power did not come back on for a week. There was no food in the grocery store, if people got power they were not sharing and water was still an issue.  Generators were being sold for three and four times their normal price.  Gas was still four dollars a gallon if you could get it with the gas stations not having any power and being sold out quickly if they did. Getting gas supplies in took days as the refineries in the area were without power also.  The lines for "free" food and water were tremendous. People that didn't even need it were going to get it. We were prepared and had bottled water and food in the pantry.  The cooler than normal weather we had been blessed with helped keep a bad situation from becoming worse.  If the normal heat that follows a hurricane had arrived it would have been a different tale for the Houston area.   When I finally was able to get to the web I learned that power in my area was going to be out for another week at least.  Fortunately, our local Wal-Mart had gotten some larger generators in and we were able to purchase one that is tested bimonthly to be sure it is “up and ready”

The news media was really funny. They would have a story about where you could get something and then at the end say “Check our web site for times and locations”. There were four million people without power, how are you going to check the web site if they even saw the broadcast?  The local news was all about the aftermath. We did not get any news beyond our local area and really didn't think much of it. When we finally got national news we found out that the economy was collapsing.  We are now preparing for a different type of disaster….

In hindsight, we are much more prepared now.  We have the means to protect our home and are constantly supplied with food and water. The whole experience was  very eye opening and we have been preparing for any eventuality ever since. WTSHTF in your everyday life you find out just what your made of. There are tons of things I will do different next time.  But don't under estimate what your “neighbor” will do and stealth is the word in preparedness. They will take what you have and not look back.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I want to relate a story that happened to me this past week that I think will be instructive for many SurvivalBlog readers.

My journey into prepping started about a year ago, when my eyes were opened after reading a contrarian economist's books about the fragile state of our economy, and the impending implications that will inevitably result if our world continues to operate on tomorrow's dollar and with a Nanny-state mentality. The very same day I finished his latest book, I went to my local bookstore to find similar titles that could augment what I'd already read.  This is how I came upon your book "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It".  I've since gone on to read "Patriots" (which took me only a couple of days - I couldn't put it down!) and rarely is there a morning that I don't peruse your latest blog updates after my morning Bible devotional and prayer time.

Despite all the reading and planning I've put into ensuring the safety and security of my family's future over the last 12-18 months, my experiences over the last two days have served to remind me that, even if you think you have everything squared away, there's always danger in resting on your laurels.

While driving through a rougher part of my city's downtown core, a pleasant senior citizen rolled up beside me in his minivan and motioned for me to drop my window.  I hesitantly lowered the passenger window a crack, only to hear the old fellow tell me that I had a flat on my rear passenger-side tire.

I proceeded to turn the radio down, flick the noisy heater fan off, and sure enough I heard the unmistakable "crunch-crunch-crunch" of my SUV's right-rear rim, grinding away on ice and asphalt as I crawled up the street, scanning the road for a safe place to pull over. On a side street, in front of some seedy apartments, I parked my vehicle beside an empty curb, turned my four-way flashers on, and got out to inspect the damage.  The sidewall of the tire had been completely obliterated, the friction from driving a mere six blocks on a flat had ground a white ring into the black rubber and nearly severed the tire into strips of uselessness.

Not only was this horrible timing (I had an appointment on the other side of town, about 20 minutes away), but I had to desperately go to the washroom. (I was going to hold it until I arrived at my appointment).

Note: In times of emergency, it's imperative that you not only keep your powder dry, but keep your bladder empty!

To top if all off - My cell phone had just died literally 30 seconds before my silver-haired informant pulled up to inform my of my lack of a working fourth wheel, and my car charger fro teh cell phone was useless as I had somehow burnt the fuse out for the cigar-lighter and couldn't use it to charge my phone.

All I could do was quickly lock up my vehicle, stow away out-of-sight any valuables I had (a video camera, files for work that contained sensitive private information, and numerous other emergency tools and gear that were worth a good chunk of change), and make my way as quickly as possible to the nearest washroom.

As an after thought, I grabbed a handful of random change from the concealed cup holder in my center console, thinking I'd use this at a pay phone to call a cab, or to postpone my next appointment, seeing as my phone had turned itself into a paperweight due to my lack of foresight the night before.

Note: If the grid is up, charge your phone and use it!  When this fails, make sure you've got some dimes or quarters stowed away in your glove box.

Well, wouldn't you know that nobody observes pedestrian crossings in this part of downtown.  So I stood there, or rather, squirmed there for what seemed like an agonizing amount of time (likely only a few seconds) until oncoming vehicles slowed down to let me cross to the diner that had just closed five minutes before I walked up.  (I know, what a day this is turning out to be, hey?)

[Details on an agonizing search for a restroom deleted, for brevity.]

I get back to my SUV and start packing my attache case with aforementioned valuables, because my plan now is to hoof it with my business dress shoes, in ice and snow, all the way to a useable phone at the first establishment that will let me make a call.  This, after all our recent snowstorms that have blown through and dropped 3 and 4 foot snow drifts on the side of the roads.  (The stuff you Americans are getting this week is courtesy from my local weather man, and a big low pressure area stretching from Texas to New York).

So typically the unwritten rule in this part of town is that nobody will let you make a call, or use a washroom, because if you live nearby you're probably homeless, a drunk, or a drug addict.  At this point, I'm hoping they think at worst that I'm a nice drug dealer, at best that I actually am truly down on my luck with the circumstances at hand and I do really need to use their phone--to call a cab--not to book a drug deal.

The lady at the liquor store said it was okay so I dialed a local taxi dispatch center.  They say five to fifteen minute pickup time.  I say perfect, as this will get me to my appointment on time and on with my day.

And with not a moment to spare, up pulls my friendly neighbourhood Turkish cab driver, who regales me with stories of how crazy it is to live in Turkey, how his Somalian cab driver friends had it even worse before coming here, and how he hates the snow.  I don't blame him.

Now, why the whole story about a flat tire and how does it relate to prepping?

Here's what I had thought:

  • I thought I knew where the spare tire was in my vehicle (under the back covering in the SUV's trunk).
  • I thought I knew where the jack and tire iron were located (back right side of the trunk space, behind a removable plastic covering).
  • I thought I knew I could get a tire changed in just a few minutes and be on my way.

Here's the problem: Upon closer inspection - none of the above items were where I thought they were.  It took me 10 minutes to realize the spare tire was under the trunk, removable only by inserting a rod into a mysteriously-located opening and turning clockwise to lower said spare tire to the ground.

Did it have air? Was it even installed properly by the previous owner? Where was this blasted rod I'm supposed to have?

After my wife picked me up at the office (I never did go back to the SUV until today), I spent a good chunk of time on Google figuring out where the jack was located and how this rod worked and where I could find it.

(Turns out, an SUV elf had hidden them beneath my rear bench seats, and then neglected to tell me about this...)


1)  If I had practiced changing a tire in this particular car, even if it was merely visualizing it in my head with vivid detail, I would've had the muscle memory to rely on, instead of trusting my faulty noggin's faculty for recalling needed-facts when I needed them most.

2)  If I had imagined such a simple scenario (getting a flat) in my SUV instead of stocking away beans, bullets, and Band-Aids in preparation for armed conflict with invading nations, or mutant zombie biker hordes, or green-lizard-aliens, then I might've actually remembered where the jack was, where the tire iron was, and where that confounded spare tire release rod was located.

3)  If this had occurred on a middle-of-nowhere country road, I would've been in a lot more trouble, as my phone had died, I was under dressed for the weather (business attire is stupid in cold weather, even if you're in business).

At the end of the day, no amount of emergency winter shovels (I have two, one large, and one small foldable one similar to the U.S. Army's entrenching tool), no amount of get-home-gear in my bug-out-bag (which is stuffed full of food rations, water, fire kit, med kit, spare clothes, winter coat, gloves, survival gear, knives, hatchet, kindling, tarp, rope, etc. etc. ad nauseam), the spare jerry can of gas, the tool box full of tools (bolt cutters, socket set, wrenches, pliers, wire cutters, hammer, crow bar, duct tape, etc), the set of gas masks with NATO NBC filters encased in an air-tight cylindrical storing containers... Absolutely none of these would've helped me get my vehicle back up and running.

I could've been stranded on a side road, a long hike to a major highway, in shoes that barely keep my feet warm when the heat is on in my vehicle.

Even worse - my wife could've been driving my vehicle that day, with our young daughter, and she could've had to deal with this on her own. I'm glad this all occurred, because now when I look back at the situation, I realize that I made a few critical errors:

  • Not charging my cell phone every day before going to bed.  This should be a SOP.
  • Not dressing for the weather (it was -35 Celsius with wind chill that morning) or at least keeping a spare set of winter boots in the trunk
  • Not knowing where my critical tools were for my vehicle
  • Not understanding how my vehicle's spare tire system operated

The first two items are common sense, which sometimes isn't so common and is in short supply.

The latter two items could've been prevented by being prepared, this being accomplished by ensuring that I make it a habit to practice simple things like changing a tire on your own vehicle.

This week the price was a few postponed appointments with clients, a $32.30 cab fare, plus a $7.70 tip, and a lost afternoon the next day as I proceeded to change the tire now that I knew what I was doing.

Next time, it could've been a much steeper price.

No doubt, any criticisms from yourself and your readers is warranted. And the stupid thing is, I know better.  My job in getting my preps squared away has inadvertently prevented a number of scenarios over the last year. Some of them were things that we never even saw coming. (Thanks for God's providence!)  You think I would've never had something like this, a simple flat tire in the dead of winter, get me off track. But it did. And it can happen to you if you don't practice, practice, practice. Hopefully somebody else benefits from my mistakes here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dear JWR:
Regarding the recent Cold Weather Patrol Tactics and Techniques article, just one note about condensation prevention from bringing a cold weapon indoors. Packing or leaving a heavy duty garbage or similar bag outside and placing your weapon inside the bag can greatly reduce condensation from the indoor climate. Just place your weapon completely inside the bag. I like to compress the opening in my hand like a balloon opening and instead of blowing into this opening, I suck as much air out as I can with my lungs. If two or more deep inhalations are required to remove excess air after manual compression of the bag, remember to close your hand around the bag opening to avoid the bag expanding. Once you are satisfied you have removed as much air as possible, tie the opening very tightly with a rubber band, tape or the bag itself. I have found this technique to nearly eliminate all condensation on the weapon as the metal warms to ambient indoor temperature, but the plastic bag will have some moisture on the outside.

I do not recommend the usage of heavy duty compression or vacuum bags if the weapon is your first line defense arm. Unless these bags have a rapid way to open and extract your weapon, I prefer the tear-away and cheap garbage bags to allow rapid rearming when needed. However, as an aide to the air removal, I have seen the usage of small hand pumps and even a small battery powered air mattress inflator used in a reverse role. - J.G.

JWR Replies: That is a good suggestion. Of course, once a gun fully equalizes to room temperature, it should soon be removed from the bag, so that any trace of moisture doesn't settle on the gun an induce rust.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

As you know the Midwest experienced a large snow event this past Tuesday and Wed that left many people dealing with a large amount of snow and the associated problems that come with a large scale storm. I am fortunate that I was able to be safe with my family due to my preps however many were not as fortunate. This storm was predicted for several days and beginning as early as Sunday 1/30/11 the shelves at the local stores were getting thin.

By Monday night there was large swaths of empty shelves and staples such as Bread and Milk almost nonexistent. I was well stocked but I did stop to pick up a couple of things. It started snowing Monday night we opened on Tuesday to light snowfall but by 3 in the afternoon it was looking bad and we sent everyone home. My boss lives about 35 miles away in one direction I live about the same the opposite. I left when he did around 4 and I was home around 5:30 and by the time I got 10 miles from home it was bad! I ate dinner and was washing up when the phone rang it was our friends who have two kids and their power was out. We offered for them to come over but they insisted on staying home due to being allergic to our cat. We checked in with them a hour or so later and it was getting cold ( Keep in mind we were getting about 3 [inches of snow] per hour and had wind gusts of 50 mph plus.

I heard that my boss had slipped off the road and was stuck on a back country road. No tow trucks would come and get him and a attempt was made to get him but failed as there was zero visibility. I decided that my friends without power needed some help so I loaded up my generator, two jerry cans of gas, and a couple of space heaters. At least they wouldn't freeze! It was only a mile to their house but that was about the longest mile I have driven. Without four wheel drive I would have never made it. I got them hooked up and running and got home about 9:30.

In the meantime my boss walked to a farmhouse and in the process went off the road (he couldn't see it) walked through a farm field and luckily saw a porch light to guide him. Thank God for the kindness of strangers! I slept well and in the morning woke up to drifts as high as 5 ft around the house. I have a [snow plowing[ service for the driveway but it was obvious they were not gonna be there anytime soon. I got out the shovels and went to work.

My only prep failure was that my snow blower was in storage. In hind sight I should have gotten it out Sunday. Well shoveling is a good workout for young men like me. I dug out and also checked on several elderly neighbors digging several doors out in the process, some of them could not have got out. It was so high if they'd had a medical emergency. That afternoon I swung by a buddy's house to find out he was snowed in although he did have a snow blower, that he couldn't get started! All that was wrong was a gummed up carb but he is not to mechanical so I showed him how to do it and we got it going.

Overall it was amazing to see everyone pitch in as neighbors and help one and other. That's the way it should be and renews my faith in man to do the right thing Oh, and my boss? He got out Wednesday night with the help of the community. I think there will be a few more preppers in the Midwest soon!   - B. Rogue

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I just wanted to write you about an experience I had recently. First of all I own a very dog eared copy of your novel "Patriots" that was given to me by someone who I look up to a lot. This individual was the first person to expose me to the "bug out" bag concept. As a result I've always been a preparedness type of girl. In high school and college I always kept provisions for myself wherever went and as a result I've been able to rise to the occasion many times when things got tough.

As a long distance commuter I try to ensure I have things in my car for whatever may happen whether it is an unexpected overnight stay or just a band-aid. My daily drive to work is 85 miles from the small town in the country I reside in to one of the nearest big cities where I work. On January 31st the first predictions were ice storm with sleet and snow accumulations. Soon after they started calling for 3/4" ice and 10-15 inches of snow by the end of the day the doomsayers were all out declaring it would be a bad one. I had to work Monday and Tuesday so Monday I finished out my shift and went over to a friends house so I wouldn't have to drive up in a storm. Tuesday I came in an hour early. At 11 am my boss told me to get done and go home as soon as possible. 15 minutes later I was out the door. I fueled up and posted to Facebook my intentions and estimated time of completion. Before I had even left the city limits I had to stop and fix my windshield wipers that weren't wiping. Common sense may dictate to me that I needed to stay put another night, but my heart was telling me I needed to be home with my loved one. The pace started out at 40 miles per hour but by the time I hit I-44 things were getting worse, my average speed was about 15-25 mph and it took me from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to make it from mile marker 69 to mile marker 11 which was the exit I needed to head south towards home. I got off at the exit and realized that all the traffic was stuck, after a chat with a truck driver I learned that two trucks ahead were immobile, side by side in a snow drift. We were about a mile and a half from the nearest truck stop. I could have sat and idled for a few hours but the forecast called for temperatures in the negative after dark. So at that point I knew I had to make a decision, to gamble on staying or to try to walk through the blizzard and get to shelter before dark.

I decided to walk. Thankfully, I had my bug out bag with me and packed plenty of warm clothes in my overnight bag. Unfortunately I didn't have anything waterproof and I didn't have any snow boots. I chose between running shoes that had ventilation which would allow moisture to get in or my oxford work shoes that were made of leather and would insulate my feet better. I chose the oxfords. The next issue was energy, I needed a facility but I also needed to keep my energy up. I didn't have enough water, in fact I was only able to refill my Starbucks tea cup partway, but it sufficed. I got rid of the stuff that needed cooking. I also had dates. I read in the past that Medjool dates are really high in energy and nutrition. Those I did grab. I was ready to go. I wore jeans with a loose pair of cotton pajama pants over the top. on my upper body I wore a turtleneck, a vest and my Carhart sweatshirt over everything. On my hands I had cheap dollar gloves with leather work gloves over the top of those. On my head was a thin microfleece mask and my hood.

I started walking. The snow was difficult to navigate and ranged from a few inches to a few feet at times. I made over I-44 on the overpass and then decided to walk through the woods and in essence make a short cut. This is where things got really dangerous. I climbed a snowy embankment and started going through the woods but the farther I went the deeper the snow and the thicker the brush. Many hikers die every year because they take what appears to be the shortcut and then run down their energy too much and die of exposure. So I started backtracking out to the interstate. Only then did I realize that I didn't navigate properly to go in a straight line and I probably would have wandered in circles before I passed out from exhaustion. I was becoming quite fatigued by then and started to wonder if I was going to run out of steam from my own stupidity. Back on the interstate I followed it towards the exit but I was pouring sweat and fatigue was setting in.

Several cars went past before a tow truck stopped and offered me a ride. It turned out that they were headed to the truck stop and then south towards the area I lived in. Would I have passed out from exhaustion or made it to the truck stop? That is a question I will never know the answer to but a lesson learned about shortcuts! Little did I know that God had an even bigger test of my faith and resolve ahead of me. I learned that we would be stopping at the truck stop to pick up a key for another tow truck that was stuck. So we made our way south to where the truck was stuck. But as we started getting off onto this single lane highway the roads went from bad to worse. These men had a job to do and they were very determined to do it. We might have even succeeded had our way not been blocked by an 18-wheeler that was stuck. Soon after that we became stuck for the first time trying to find an alternate route. Four more times after that we got stuck in drifts and ditches trying to turn around the large flat bed F650 tow truck and it took us the next three hours to get out of the mess we got ourselves into. So we put all our faith in God and started praying.

About the time I finally admitted to myself that I was scared a tractor showed up and towed us back out to the highway. The rest from there is now history as I made it home and gave the tow guys each a dry new pair of socks to replace their cold wet ones. They wouldn't accept any monetary compensation. And they truly were sent by God to save me from what could have been a very dangerous or even deadly situation.

In reflection back on my situation I learned some important lessons about survival. Things would have been a lot safer and easier with hiking boots and some Carhart coveralls. Never try to go through brush in deep snow if you down have to, its too easy to sap your energy and pass out. The left over tea bag and the water I kept putting in there helped me stay hydrated. The medjool dates were easy to eat and kept my energy up throughout those long frustrating hours of waiting and worrying.

Would I attempt the same thing again for the same reasons? Probably. Next time, however, I will be even more prepared than the last. The last thing is my faith in God. I prayed hard, and it was that faith that kept my courage up and gave me the hope. I knew in my heart that it wasn't my time to die yet, this was simply "trial and tribulation". We can never leave God out of any situation that we get into. The driver of that tow truck was right there beside me praying for all he was worth as we were trying to get unstuck and out of valley we got stuck in. It was Jesus Christ that gave me the peace in my heart not to panic. And that was my first real life serious bug out experience. Sincerely - Erin D.


I've worked for a major food store in Michigan for over 20 years and just wanted to let you know that over the last few days that with the news of the winter storm that was coming people were panic buying like I have never seen before. They were buying anything they could get their hands on not just water and canned goods. Must be very few people in my area that have any food or water stored for any type of emergency. We have been prepping for a couple of years now and thank you for all of the information that you have put out for people. Thanks, - Steve in Michigan

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I would like to add my two cents to the discussion of the Great Carolina Blizzard of '11. I had some similar experiences to B.H.: Deep frustration over dead batteries in cars. I had two every day drivers that just would not start. While it was fairly cold for our area, I suspect that high humidity added to the cold had a draining effect on the batteries. In the future, I would think about a short start and warm up every 8 hours or so on vehicles that I knew were to be needed on short notice. 

It took me an hour and a half to get our cars started and out to the street the first day that we ventured forth. That compares to the usual turn the key and go. This is another point in favor of a regular dry run up and down the drive way with essential transportation.

Times like these provide windows into the minds of our neighbors. This situation and the others similar to it lead me to conclude that, at least in our area, folks will cocoon for hours or days when something happens. After that, who knows what will happen, there has not been any precedent locally on which to base an opinion.

The most sobering lesson was the effect of personal injury. I was taking my portable jump starter out to my stuck vehicles when I stepped on a patch of ice. I dropped like a stone and landed with my arm under my chest. "Crack", my ribs said. As I lay in the snow, rolling my eyes at my natural graceful coordination, I assessed my condition. There was no real pain and I had no chills that I had had after my other bone fracture experiences. I could breathe deeply in and out with out any more than some minor soreness. (Different answers to those questions would have led to a trip to the Emergency Room ) After I passed my personal triage, I got up and proceeded to get the vehicles going. I found I had some serious difficulty using the arm on the effected side. Any movement with even a minor load was seriously difficult. I was reminded how our body works through stiffening our core to provide a solid base for the movement of our limbs. To make a long story short, I concluded that I had cracked a rib. There is no real treatment for this other then tincture of time: 4 to 8 weeks. As I sit here this morning 10 days later, I still have to sleep in my recliner due discomfort when prone. I had to change my plans for getting outside and working today due to my limited upper body strength. I am getting better, but it is frustratingly slow.


1. While we are used to having our bodies ready to do what we need them to do, that can change in less than a heart beat. Believe me, I will be more thankful for a normal day from now on.

2. Especially for us Gray Panthers: listen to what your body is telling you. I tried to push through this injury, and just made it worse. Know your limitations, and realize that you do not exceed them with out paying a price.

3. In spite of all our plans, serendipity will play a role in our future. Some things, perhaps most things, will be as we expect. There will always be the unexpected and unplanned that will stretch our flexibility. 

Regards, - Wh2thdr

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Our family lives in a rural area of South Carolina, recently affected by a freak snow storm that shut the area down for a week, and is still affecting our area in other ways more than 10 days later. Our family was much better off than most we knew, but this little test really showed our weaknesses. We thought we were prepared, but we found some holes in our planning that came as a complete surprise. I've taken notes, and hope to be better prepared for next time, and hopefully can pass along some advice in the process.  

First mistake - not shoveling right away while the snow was fresh and newly fallen, or even while it was falling. This was a mistake because the very first day, the snow was very light, almost pellet-like, and easily brushed away with a broom or any form of shovel, no machinery needed. However, we let it sit a day, in which it partially thawed, and then froze overnight in subfreezing temperatures into a solid mass that did not thaw for ten days. Had we shoveled, swept, and dug out the very first day, we would have had clean walkways, accessible vehicles, a clear driveway and sidewalk. Instead, we experienced the inaccessibility of two of our vehicles, and treacherous injury-inviting conditions everywhere we walked.  

Second mistake - when the snow started falling, that's when we needed to move our vehicles to the most accessible point in our drive area. Instead, we had one very reliable front wheel drive vehicle parked behind our house, on the down side of a slope, encased in ice, surrounded by solid ice, unable to move. Even if we could have moved it, we found the battery died after a couple of nights of subfreezing temperatures, and the front of the vehicle was pointed away from where we could reach it to jumpstart with another vehicle, so it wasn't going anywhere until it thawed. Another full size vehicle, with a full tank of gas and great tires, pointed the wrong way on the back side of the driveway, encased in ice and also on top of a solid ice driveway, unmoveable. Only one, a large 4-wheel drive truck, full of gas and having new tires with great mud and snow grip, plus all the goodies needed to traverse any road conditions, was positioned in a place where it could have left the driveway under its own power, and it had a flat tire. Not just a few PSI flat, but down-on-the-rim, not-going-anywhere flat.  

Which brings me to ...  

Third mistake - actually a combination of mistake #1 and #2. The only moveable vehicle we had, had a flat tire, and although it had a full size spare, we had no way to change it. The truck was on a solid sheet of ice with no traction. No way to position the jack without making the truck unstable and possibly sliding it dangerously into the house, another car, or ourselves. No way to secure it to safely change the spare. Our way to resolve it was to pump the tire as much as it would safely hold and then  try to make it as far as we could towards civilization (we live outside the city limits) where I could then find a flat spot, maybe a gas station that had cleared its parking lot, where the spare could be safely put on. Luckily, and I wasn't expecting to be this lucky, the leak was very slow and I made it all the way to work, where I bought another tire.  

Fourth mistake - not keeping track of our portable jumpstarter. We had a nice one for years, even had its own little mini-air compressor. It had some problem a year or so ago where it would not charge up any longer, so I brought it back to the store where we bought it to exchange it for a working one. They no longer sold that model, so they exchanged it for a cheaper one that did not have the air compressor feature. We had this cheaper one for a while, but then one time someone from work borrowed it, and ... and ... I don't know. It's somewhere. I forgot, and didn't replace it, and now I had a perfectly good reliable vehicle completely inaccessible.  

Fifth mistake - losing patience. That was me. Everything took so much longer when you had to walk slower, avoid carrying items, keep your hands free, avoid running certain errands, bundle up every time you go in and out, take an hour and a half to drive on single lane roads what used to take only 30 minutes with plenty of room to spare. I had no patience, and the stress this generated was entirely self-inflicted. Like I said, the bad conditions lasted 10 days, with the first four days being complete shut down disaster, and things barely returning to normal in a trickle after that. Work was difficult. Customers were stressed out. No deliveries showed up on time. The snow hit us on the night of the 9th, and just today (the 20th) I got some deliveries that I had been expecting between the 10th and the 12th. There are some suppliers that are experiencing a "snowball effect" ... no pun intended ... of the further they got behind, the worse it got. Some delivered once a week, some daily, some three times a week, some once a month. There are some deliveries I was expecting between the 10th and the 14th that still have not showed up, and that I am told will be the end of this month before they have caught up, because they had to just cancel all their deliveries from those times and start their schedule over. I have had some very tense, and very unpleasant, conversations with suppliers because their inability to deliver parts to my business meant my customers were waiting, which meant my customers heaped their frustrations on me, and I dumped all that right back on my suppliers. It doesn't help anything to get bent out of shape. I'm going to remember how this feels next time something like this happens, and just try to be more patient. Sometime around the 17th (the last day of actual ice causing problems, but still while the repercussions of business interruptions were troublesome), I finally stopped stressing and just decided to embrace the horror. I stopped apologizing, after all I was doing everything I could, I stopped berating my already weary suppliers, I stopped lying awake at night freaked out about what might be waiting for me tomorrow. I just let go of all the negativity and decided it was all going to have to go on without me. The snow and ice have since melted (it's the 20th as I writing this today) but we are not over the damage done yet.  

Things we learned for next time:  

Lesson #1 - Really evaluate your errand-running. When it takes ten minutes to dress properly, and an hour and a half to get anywhere, you seriously evaluate what you "need" to go and get. Driving was a tension filled event, not so much the act of it, because I had a very reliable vehicle, but because other people on the roads were so unpredictable. Every Yankee joke about Southern drivers happened right in front of me, too numerous to mention. I really tried harder than anything else to maintain distance between myself and other drivers, even if it meant pulling over in a parking lot and waiting for cars to go by so I could have a several car-length cushion between me and anyone else with a Southern license plate. I just had no idea what they would do - maybe they just moved down here last week from Maine, or maybe they've never been in the snow before ... I didn't know and treated everyone like they were crazed maniacs bent on destroying themselves and everyone around them in the process, and avoiding other drivers meant slow going. Worse, I actually did see several drivers being intentionally reckless - several that were intentionally spinning out in the middle of the road, doing donuts, or racing down the road at higher speeds than the speed limit for unknown reasons - maybe to prove to everyone else that they could, I don't know. Many older rear wheel drive cars, when stopped at a stop light, would gun it when the light turned green and whip their car sideways, then get traction and take off, fishtailing down the road. So if I saw a car stopped at a stop light, I intentionally slowed way down and didn't approach the stop light, instead crawling in the other lane way back until the light turned green so I wouldn't be in the damage path when they decided it was play time. When it takes you that long to do any simple thing, you find there are so many errands you don't really need to run. Doing this really kept us efficient, as I would leave the house, I'd be sure to get everything done in one shot.  

Lesson #2 - Be patient, kind and pleasant. Everyone is stressed. Everyone is trying in their own way to get through it. Nobody cares that you are stressed. So, be the nice one, be the one who does not add misery.  

Lesson #3 - Wear waterproof outer clothes, especially if you are in and out. You're not going to keep changing clothes, you're going to trudge around in what you put on that morning and maybe layer some extra to go out, so as soon as you let snow build up on your pants and boots and sleeves, you'll go inside and it will melt and you're going to be miserable all day until you change again. It was silly of me to not know this, because I have plenty of waterproof hunting clothes, but I didn't wear them. I could have just pulled them over the outside of my daily wear clothes. I will next time.  

Lesson #4 - Is your fireplace usable? What, you live in the South, and it's only decorative? Check and see if you can actually use it, and if you have firewood! We got lucky and didn't lose electricity or any heat function in our house - but we were lucky. We didn't have firewood, we would have had to venture out and cut some ... in the snow ... and even then I don't know if the fireplace was safe to use. We didn't have to find out the hard way, but we are going to check on this before next time.  

Lesson #5 - Find relaxing things to do. Pacing, complaining, and growling at your family are not preferred options. When things slow down, and things aren't happening like they should, and you feel impatient, find something relaxing to do. I settled on reading (although it took me a few days to realize this), and that helped pass the time and calm me down.  

Things we were happy to see we did correctly:  
Gold Star #1 - Filled up all the cars with gas before the crisis! Had good tires (with one unforeseen sudden problem)! Lights working, horns working, brakes in good working order, belts in good shape, all caught up on maintenance. Had emergency kits in every car - blankets, flashlights, bungee cords, spare tires, bottled water, gloves, etc.! Lets not mention that 2 of the 3 vehicle were unusable for several days. We were at least not so bad off once things were moveable again.  

Gold Star #2 - Plenty of food and cooking supplies! We even fed our pets and the local wildlife with plenty of food to spare. The deer hung out in our yard and ate dried corn, bruised apples, molasses and salt. We had tons of birds on our back porch in all daylight hours feasting on the bread and scraps. The raccoons at night ate all our leftovers and stale food. Our pets were well fed and didn't mind having us around the house to pay attention to them.  

Gold Star #3 - Everyone stayed healthy, and did not experience any injuries, no falls on the ice, and limited contact with the ice at all. Having everything we needed at home and limiting our movement outside the house decreased our chances of injuries and health problems.  

Gold Star #4 - Semi-ready if the power had gone out. We had candles, warm clothes, and a generator. Not bad.  

Gold Star #5 - Did not require any emergency services whatsoever. Did not request roadside help from any of the overworked and emergency-limited roadside service companies, just handled our problem ourselves. No medical emergencies, really I believe due to our careful thinking and moving slow, avoiding leaving the house unless we had to, and not trying to behave as we normally would on a normal day. Did not get ourselves in any unneccessary troubles. Avoided traffic accidents, which were everywhere all over the roads, many of which sat in place as testament to their mistake for a day or longer since tow companies were way overbooked, I believe due to my intense paranoia of treating every car on the road as if it would spontaneously attack me if I got too close. Did not attempt to use the fireplace we weren't certain about, therefore possibly avoiding a fire problem that we might not have been able to get help considering our ice-locked driveway. So we were not a burden on the already over burdened emergency services, or anyone else, we did have some challenges but we handled them ourselves.  

In general I think that we did pretty well. We do plan on continuing to learn, and improve, should anything else interesting happen around here. Thank you so much for your very informative blog and for the good work you have done. Take care. - B.H. in Upstate S.C.

Monday, January 17, 2011


One of the parts of SurvivalBlog that I enjoy the most is when folks contribute their real life experiences after going through some sort of hardship. Reading the examples from others helps me to fine tune my preps. Let me participate by providing my observations from the ice storm, amusingly titled Snowpocalypse 2011, that hit Atlanta recently. The roads were impassible due to the city's lack of snow removal equipment, and pretty much the entire city was stranded in their houses. What would've been a blip of a storm in the north ended up crippling this city, and everything ground to a halt.   I started creating this list of observations for myself, but decided to share. Here they are, in no particular order:  

• The statistic I've frequently heard of "every family has only three days of food on hand" always sounded like bunk to me. Who goes grocery shopping every three days? Shopping once a week seems more realistic, so I figure a week's supply of food is in everyone's home. However, consider the pattern where Family A typically shops on Mondays, Family B shops on Tuesdays, Family C on Wednesdays, etc. Imagine what happens if the stores are closed for three days in a row, like they were due to this storm. Everybody that missed their typical shopping day now has to go, and the stores were cleared out. That, plus the expected panic buying, happened here. Imagine, say, 40 feet of shelving without a single item of food on it. I saw photos. It was real.  

• Injuries exponentially increase stress, especially if it is impossible to get to a doctor. A family member developed a wound that needed seven stitches, and I had no way of making that happen for five days. I've recently purchased a skin staple gun.  

• No matter how deep your larder, chances are excellent that you will not have something very important when you need it. In my case, it was antibiotics. I had topicals, but I needed something more significant because the above-mentioned wound got infected. Mentally prepare yourself for the idea that you won't have everything, and when you do discover that you are missing something, the idea won't come as such a shock.  

• A routine is a powerful thing, and three days without the ability to leave the house is enough for cabin fever. It would have been much worse without Internet or television, and even that got old after visiting all of my usual web sites. Have something to read. Have a lot to read. I personally suggest studying some sort of skill during your normal work/school hours, then having fiction or entertainment to read during your normal off hours. It helps keep a semblance of a routine.  

• Keep enough of your regular food for at least every other meal. My wife and I feared a power outage, so we ate all of our typical "Sunday fancy meal" foods from the freezer in succession, and it made me sick.  

• Expect typical governmental lunacy. Some of Atlanta's main streets downtown weren't touched for days because the roads themselves belong to the state. The city said clearing the roads was the state's job/expense, and the state said that since the roads were downtown, they were the city's responsibility. So nothing happened.  

• People who make poor decisions during normal circumstances will continue to make poor decisions, only now the impact will be worse. Despite repeated pleas by the local government not to drive, folks went out anyway, and got stuck or crashed. Some were killed. Those stranded/abandoned cars prevented the few plow trucks the city has from clearing the roadways. Also, the crashes were so frequent, the police said they would respond to accidents only if somebody involved was injured because they were overwhelmed by the volume. If no injuries took place, you were on your own.  

• Your family is just as stressed as you are. Don't be at each other's throats. If you've been with your spouse long enough, you know what will make him/her happy, even if it is just a small gesture. Do them. Such efforts will pay dividends when the crisis is over, too.  

• Those with alcohol will drink it, to the point where it was treated like a mandatory vacation. I frequented an Atlanta-based message board online, and was surprised to discover how many people posting said they were doing not much more than spending the entire time drunk. I would say that 65% percent of the posters said so. I don't have anything against alcohol, but decided to spend the duration sober, if only to stay sharp. If the huge tree in my back yard fell on the house due to the ice load, I didn't want to have to evacuate my house while inebriated. WTSHTF, I would expect the same sort of people to react in the same manner, at least until they run out. See my point above about the people with poor decision making skills. In this case, they knew the ice would eventually melt, and things would go back to normal. When it is TEOTWAWKI, these folks might make some unpredictable choices.  

• A job that can be worked from home is a huge benefit. I racked up hours even though I wasn't able to get to the office.   • Ice is the great equalizer. Traffic was snarled, cars abandoned, making roads impassible. Everyone should have chains for their vehicles, even if they live in the south and own a 4X4. A recent news story said that 49 of the states had snow. It can happen anywhere. My four wheel drive was parked because I didn't have chains. I live on a slight hill, and a neighbor of mine had his car slide down the hill. Bear in mind that no one was in it at the time, as it was parked and the doors were locked. It just slid away. He managed to run after and catch it in time before it hit another car. If anything, this observation should reveal just how slippery the roads were.  

• Down here, some houses are poorly insulated compared to northern levels, and many heaters weren't be able to keep up when the weather got record-breaking cold. Be prepared for the idea of wearing outdoor clothes indoors. A co-worker of mine had her furnace fail because of the stress load. She spent three days freezing (temperatures were in the teens) because the service technicians weren't able to get to her. An alternate source of heat would've saved her a load of turmoil. Keeping her equipment maintained would've been a good idea, too. She confessed that she skips the typical service checks to save money. Guess that didn't work out so well.  

• Unless you are very fit, everything will be sore as you are forced to vary from your daily routine. Have pain reliever ready. I'm a black belt, and consider my balance exceptional. That said, I still slipped and fell on the ice. It can happen to anyone. My training included the ability to take a fall and not get hurt, so I came out ok. Not to say that I wasn't sore, of course. I'll take sore over a broken bone any day. The news reported of one poor gentleman that fell and was killed.  

• Have enough preps in your home to last at least a couple of weeks, even if there is a store within walking distance of your house. Depending on the circumstances, even three blocks will be an impossible distance. I read stories about locals who fell on the ice and broke bones. Also, not only will the stores get cleared out by panicked buyers, some employees were not able to make it to work so the stores couldn't open, and in other cases, resupply trucks were not be able to restock due to the roads.  

• Services, such as mail or trash pickup, stopped. Public transportation didn't run, schools were closed. I haven't had mail for an entire week, and UPS and FedEx suspended deliveries completely. That's a shame, because I had some stuff on order that would've been nice to have. Banks were also closed, which ended up no big deal because not only could you not get to them, few stores were open anyway so you had no place to spend your money. A town north of here had a boil water advisory, for whatever reason. I wonder how they got the word out if people were without power. A Berkey, with a policy of using it regularly instead of just emergencies, would probably be pretty useful for those folks.  

• Local television newscasters couldn't get in to the stations, and were posting their on-the-scene news reports online by using the video capture provided from their iPhones.  

• Emergency services were also compromised. An ambulance is nothing but a big car, and in some circumstances, they weren't able to get where they needed to go either. I saw a fire truck, with chains on, stuck. The crews were using shovels to clear a path under the wheels, one foot at a time. Slow, hard work.  

• A retreat is useless if you can't get to it. Pre-stage your preps there, if you have one, but have something to fall back on at your regular home. You might find that you have to dive into those reserves unexpectedly.  

• Fortunately I never lost power or water/sewer, though some did lose electricity. If the lights had gone out in mass quantities, with impassible roads and well below freezing temperatures, people would've died all over the city. There would've been no way to extricate them from their homes, and if the outage was wide spread enough, no place to put them.  

• There is one bright spot in the story. In my area, neighbors relied on each other, communicated, and provided assistance to each other. My neighborhood has a Google message board, and if anybody learned any useful knowledge, it was passed along to the group. I highly recommend setting up one of these, no matter how big your community is. Our group is populated by a wide variety of socioeconomic levels, and it still works. Even if no useful information is conveyed, the gallows humor passed along provided a great stress reliever and offered the "We're all in this together" attitude.   Hopefully this list will provide value to someone. Stay safe! - John C. in Atlanta

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I would like to bring you and your readers a synopsis of the floods in Australia and their probable scenarios; firstly I have a first hand view through sandbagging and seeing friends through rising floodwaters, so I have a strong viewpoint. Around where we were in Brisbane east side , the water rose very quickly, the house where our friend  is on a flat concrete slab, the water rose within 2 hours about 3 feet ! The house was saved along with much prayer.

It is estimated that seven billion tons of water has been dumped on Queensland !

Let me explain, Brisbane had floods in 1974, the city then was more like a very large country town, the population was a little over 1 million people, there was very little high rise then, the previous flood peaked  at 5.45 meters and put  6,700 homes under water contrast that with today 60,000 homes  and last week over 100,000 people had no power. The peak this time was about 1 meter lower I think.The devastation this time was over a much bigger area.

As of now 28,650 properties were still without power, sewage plants are not functioning, 75% of the state is has lost crops such as avocados, which happen to be very sensitive to having their feet wet,  they stress, prices for capsicums, tomatoes, lettuce and broccoli will skyrocket, the states sugar cane crop is under water, $500 million worth is wiped out. Two growers in Chinchilla have lost $20 million between them.

For many of the farmers are getting wiped out, this will be the end for many of them, in this part of Queensland most of the nations crop of sweet potatoes , zucchinis ,cucumbers, macadamias mangoes and lychees are grown.

In Queensland  beef prices can only go one way up! Livestock can’t get to market because the roads have been destroyed, also 200,000 tons of wheat and barley have been wrecked. Mines need to be drained and supporting infrastructure needs to be completely re built or replaced, in the mean time though countries around the world that rely on Australia’s coking coal will go elsewhere to get it, its estimated that Australia  loses 100 million every day the mines can’t get their product out.

When will the rail roads be up and running again? when will the large produce markets be up and running again ? what about the road networks ? no one knows !

Add to all that, some of the mining companies like Energy and Easternwell have reported damaged or non-operational rigs.

There have also been looters at work, they row along in small dinghies jump onto a roof of a flooded house, prize away some roof tiles and get into the roof space stealing peoples money and valuables stored there in safety and make off with the goods, people have enough heartache to contend with without having these low-lifes steal all they have left.

My wife thinks I am too harsh (I think the cops should shoot a them,  then hang him up on a pole with a sign around his neck  saying “LOOTER”) how many will loot after that? Not many I suspect.

Also there have been some instances of women being sexually molested in evacuation centers ( reminds me of Katrina )

I saw people come  in canoes or boats with what they considered their most valuable possession , one woman came in make up with all her diamonds and jewels with a mink coat, another woman with a short statue of eastern origin, and another guy with a old bottle of whisky , amazing to me, I guess under pressure we all will take what is most valuable to us.

My family had our 72 hour kit, our Bibles and our pets, we were ready and we are doing well, ( much better than almost all we know ) lots of people laugh at us and think we are nuts, not any more though.

It seems to me that the country is in for a rough ride around the world because of the loss of the floods,  people are now losing their jobs in other big cities such as Sydney or Melbourne, friends of ours have been laid off because the banks call centers and marketing firms have closed because of the Queensland head offices are under water.

Thanks to SurvivalBlog my family has a heads up and are miles ahead, I see many totally unprepared for food shortages ahead, this has greatly impacted this country and will effect many more areas in other states.

So in the meantime, I would encourage anyone, have your bug out bag (BOB) ready and food and water for at least 12 weeks as a minimum.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dear James,  
I read much of your blog site and started to get prepared two years ago when the financial crisis first hit.  Now, while staying dry enough, I am surrounded by flooded towns and washed out roads and bridges.  So much of what you have written is of value here right now.  I thought you would appreciate an on-the spot report.  Now my friends are scrambling and I don’t look like such a fool.     

We in Jandowae have potable water but our nearest neighbouring town, Dalby was trucking in a million litres a day.  Even locally I have seen some gastrointestinal infections and am grateful for good water filtration equipment.  We have needed our battery operated radio as there have been frequent blackouts, the bug out bags are ready in case we get more rain upstream and evacuation is needed, and it is a comfort to have sufficient food for a year and a good supply of heirloom seeds to plant as soon as the water goes down as they expect food prices to double in the coming months as more than half of the state has been underwater with massive stock and crop losses.  I even bought a spare house to have more land to cultivate and storage room, and I think we are going to be glad of that. (I live in the shop.)  

Everything that seemed common sense and intuitively correct is coming true – we are all so interconnected and interdependent that without a functioning road network, no one can get anything in or out.  Livestock cannot get to the slaughterhouse or meat or milk to market or processed and packaged goods back to the country.  Many large towns are out of fuel, and no one anywhere can get bread or milk. No one.  The bakeries are out of flour so can’t even bake any.  There has been panic buying and shop shelves are stripped bare, but you can still get the odd treat like chocolate at our local store.  There are only a few of us in my town who can go to work as most men I know are truck or transport drivers, farmers with paddocks and sheds under water or coal mine workers. (The mines have shut down as both rail and roads are washed out and there is no way to get the finished product to the ports or export. They are losing $100 million every day in exports, and Australia supplies half of the world’s supply of coking coal).  When the holiday pay runs out, many will be unable to meet their mortgage payments and with food costs about to go through the roof, there will be widespread hardship.  

I have enough issues with my store and looking after the unprepared that I am so glad all our personal needs are well looked after.   

I also look at the big picture, the months of recovery ahead, the isolation which will continue for a very long time and the huge inflation we will be dealing with and it has all happened just as you predicted.   It is still unfolding tonight as the capital city, Brisbane, loses 3,500 businesses, 20,000 homes and many kilometers of roads and bridges. You probably saw what happened to people in the Lockyer Valley when a wall of water went through the main street of Toowoomba, (where we do most of our shopping), and then down the mountainside, washing away houses.  Many were stuck on their roofs and no one could rescue them because it was too large a scale of disaster and torrential rain continued all the next day, which hampered rescue efforts.  We are pretty good at handling disasters here in Australia, but at the moment, the resources are stretched very thin. When things get this bad, we have to be able to take care of ourselves and each other.  

Thanks once again – the amount of stress that I don’t have on account of listening to you and acting on your advice is fantastic. - Karen in Queensland

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hi Jim,  
Just to let you know, a TEOTWAWKI situation came to our town (Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia) two days ago.  Toowoomba is known as the Garden City, and sits at the top of the Great Dividing Range, at 3,000 feet above sea level.  After weeks of constant rainfall that soaked catchments of a drought stricken region, we received six inches of rain in an hour.

This deluge caused a flash flood (that has been since called an “Inland Tsunami”) that raged through the middle of Toowoomba.  The speed of the flood took everyone by surprise and cars and people were swept away.  Four people were drowned in the town.  I helped two friends who narrowly escaped drowning when their car was washed away and overturned.  A rope was thrown to them before they were washed away and another floating car hit them. We are now cut off in a city of 100,000 people, as Queensland faces the worst floods in its history.  Our capital city, Brisbane, is now facing its worst floods in over a 100 years.  The president of my local rifle club has heard his uncle and niece were drowned when the floods headed down the hill and washed away two other small villages.  Currently death toll is 10 with 90 still missing from the two villages.  It is truly horrific.  

Here are a couple of links to videos and photos.   

I crossed these waters further up the street in my 4WD Ute.  The water was not flowing as fast where I crossed.

This next one is at a high point of town near the Grainco Wheat Silos.  

Another video from down near Grand Central Myers. It all happened so fast – 30 minutes later this intersection was clear as you can see in the next video.

Here is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) news reports and videos.    

Thankfully I have been a follower of SurvivalBlog and had made basic preparations.  Our house was not affected by the flood.  I immediately went to the shops to top up on supplies. Shops are now running low on food.  The French Toast [milk and bread] Brigade had cleaned out the shelves the next day. Bottled water went on the first day.  We are now in day three, following the flood event.  My wife scoffed at me when I came home on the first afternoon. I can tell you the scoffing stopped the next day when she realised I was right.  

We have people staying in our house who can’t go home because roads and bridges are destroyed.  Thankfully we have supplies on hand to provide.   Our church has swung into action helping various people.   I am keeping a diary on the events and will forward a full story of events for you to publish soon.  

Please keep us in your prayers.   Kind Regards and God Bless, - W.J.


Hi Jim,  
I ran across this article today on the continuing devastating flooding in Australia including video footage and details of people swamping grocery stores with bare shelves. Thought you might want to share it on the blog.   Best wishes, - Steve C.

Monday, January 10, 2011

James Wesley:
It is beginning to snow in Alabama.  In small towns all around, the grocery stores have been stripped down to the shelves.  People were buying food to cook in fear that they might not make it to the grocery stores when they need to.  Milk is all but gone.   

I went to the grocery store Sunday morning to pick-up a few doughnuts for our Sunday school class.  I saw one of my wife’s friends on the junk food aisle.  She is a single mom of two.  She said, “I have $40 to buy groceries to get us by for the next few days.  What do you recommend I buy?”   

We quickly developed a plan based on what her kids would eat and drink and under the assumption that the power will go down.   This was her shopping list…

1.       Pop tarts - She wanted a hot cereal for her boys; I said stick the pop tarts in an oven.

2.       Coca-Cola.  She said that she had to have caffeine.

3.       Bread.  She asked about sandwich meat. I recommended tomato, banana or peanut butter.

4.       She wanted milk.  I said good.  Asked if she had a cooler.  She said yes.  I said if the power goes out, stick it in the snow and throw the milk in it.  By the way, she bought a half gallon because there were no gallons on the shelves.

5.       She bought a few soups and cans of chili in case the power does not go out.

6.       She also got the ingredients to make vegetable soup from cans and potentially some cornbread.

7.        She was going to buy a case of water.  I got her to buy an extra case.  

Then she surprised me when she asked if she could cook on their natural gas stove.  I asked it got hot enough to boil water.  She said it did.  So we talked about cooking on the stove if she needed to and she only had to worry about the power going out and not having electricity to keep her fridge running.   So she bought some chips and Little Debbie cakes.  She said she had a popcorn popper on the wall that was given to her.  So she bought some popcorn to pop on her stove in her antique corn popper. 

We then talked about how to make snow cream and she realized that she had everything she needed to give the boys a treat.   After talking to her, she realized that she was in better shape than people with just electric heat and water heaters.  She has a gas stove and gas water heater.   I then invited her to church and I was surprised to see her and her boys sitting in our sanctuary.  I told her I was glad to see her.  She told me that she was confused about what to buy and prayed that if someone would help her she would go to church today.     

Being prepared to help others can pay dividends for our Lord.    By the way, she had $12 leftover from the $40.  Most of all, she does not have to worry about what the kids will do for food.  She has it all laid out.   - J.E.H.

JWR Replies: Coincidentally, I was recently sent a photo link that illustrates the immediate result of yesterday's ice storm warning in Trussville, Alabama: No Bread at Trussville Wal-Mart. (Thanks to J.B.G. for the link.)

Mention of all that soda pop and those high-sugar processed foods really makes me wonder. Do people really eat that way? We don't claim to have a perfect diet here at the ranch--yes, plenty of corn chips and even a few potato chips have passed through our portals without alarm--but we certainly eat a better diet than that young lady. Please, folks! For the sake of your health and your ability to perform physically and mentally when the proverbial Schumer hits the fan, adjust your diets:

  • Less refined sugar
  • Fewer processed foods
  • Little or no MSG
  • Moderate protein intake
  • Fewer carbohydrates
  • Wholesome oils (like coconut oil and