Hammer Time

I spent the past week picking up the final few supplies to begin blacksmithing.  I got a couple files, a punch, a chisel, an extendable metal hose, a bag of anthracite coal, and some steel stock, round and flat.

Yesterday I lit some cardboard and shoved some coal over it and... nothing.

I piled up some cardboard and small pieces of firewood, cranked the blower a bit, and piled up the coal... nothing.

Piled up some cardboard and small pieces of firewood, then three of us took turns cranking the ever loving heck out the blower and finally got some nice glowing coals.  Stuck some round stock in and pretty soon I hand a handle on the end of it.  And the coals cooled off.

And then, an epiphany!  Blacksmiths in days of yore had 12 year old apprentices.  I'm guessing that was not so much to pass on the skills, but to have someone to crank the daggone blower!

Then, I hooked up my leaf blower and went to town.  Worked like a charm!

 I ended up making a coal scraper to move the burning coals around in the forge.  It isn't pretty, but I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out for my first ever project.

I made a second one to give to a friend that helped me yesterday and it had a larger handle and a longer scraper end.  I liked it better, but wanted to keep and use the first one.

By the end of the day, I was beat.  Back hurt, hips and knees hurt, shoulders and arms hurt.  It was darn hot too.  But it was good.  I felt like I had accomplished something.  I'm really looking forward to building this new hobby.

I felt better than I expected this morning, and I got in some kayaking.  Did some turning practice in the pool, then took a lap of the 5 acre pond.  I got a good rhythm going a few times and got going pretty good.  Next time I'll take my cell phone and use the GPS to figure out exactly how far my path is.

It was a great weekend.  Next weekend is my NOLS Wilderness First Aid course. The weekend after that starts my 4/10 workweeks for the summer and 10 straight three day weekends.


Kayaking and Blacksmithing...

I've been looking into getting a kayak for about 6 months, and finally went ahead.  I got a 10 ft. Sit on top Pelican from REI last weekend.  My only prior experience was falling off of one during some rough seas at a friend's river cottage, so I was basically brand new at it.

Step one was to navigate around my dad's pool.  Did four or five laps without tipping.  So far so good.

Next step was the 5 acre pond.  Made it all the way around without falling out!  I'm off to a good start.  This weekend I'll practice in the pool, falling out and trying to climb back in.  We'll see...

I think this will be a fun hobby, and help me in my quest to get back in to some kind of shape.  I'm off on Friday's during the summer, so I foresee a couple of pond laps in the kayak followed by a hike with a pack around the pond on the horse trail for some cross training.

The other thing I've done recently is get my smithy set up.  You've seen the anvil I got at auction a month or so ago.  A friend gave me an old forge table and hand crank blower, along with some tongs and a hammer.  His family farm dates to the 1850s and these had not been touched in decades.  Another friend gave me an identical blower.  Both blowers were rusted and would not turn.

My brother came over this past Sunday and helped me get one of the blowers going.  We cleaned it up, rewelded the legs, and oiled it.  Works like a charm.  Then we loaded the forge table and carried it over to his house where we reattached some parts with rusted out bolts and put new brackets on the fire pot because it was almost completely unsupported.  Both are good as new now.

I found a log round that is the perfect height for the anvil and have the table and blower set up right where I want them.  I picked up some flexible vent tubing today to run from the blower to the forge.

I got a shipment from Amazon today with a leather apron, hammer, welding gloves, and a book of 40 basic projects to start with.  A trip to Tractor Supply yesterday got me a 40# bag of anthracite coal and some raw steel to start working with.  I begin hammering this weekend.

Two new hobbies that can contribute to health and to practical use as well.


Memorial Day

Please check out our Memorial Day post from 2012:

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends

Who are you honoring today?  Please share their story in the comments.


Staying Safe on Vaction in a Hotel

We spent the last week at the Hilton in Kitty Hawk, NC on the Outer Banks.  I didn't have a lot of safety concerns.  It's a nice place, not "party central."  But a person still needs to maintain situational awareness and maintain safety.  I made a short video with some reminders and tips for staying safe on vacation in a hotel room.  Take a look here: https://youtu.be/TJ6IXXceepE

If I was staying in a roadside motel, Daytona on spring break, in a major city, or internationally, I'd take a lot more precautions, but this is aimed at a nice resort/tourist destination.

Another tip not related to safety: if you go during the off season, you'll save money and it will be less crowded.


2 Week Garden Update

We've had some weird weather, but at two weeks, my garden is coming in nicely.  Here's a short video update on it.


Spring Gardening Time

We are a little late this year, but we got a small vegetable garden in this weekend.  Check out this short video to see our process: https://youtu.be/nO2A0KLoaGM

And here is the video of all my auction wins from last week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cUSeZZyZY8&t=5s

Have you got a garden in yet?  What are you waiting for?


A Day At The Auction

I went to my first farm/estate auction today.  It was brutally hot, and I didn't get the rocking chair I wanted, but I did get some great stuff.  Vented gas cans, never used...  USMC Jerry cans, never used... a wonderful Columbian vise... some garden tools... a cowbell... and a few other things.

My best finds were a $5 box that had an old coal miners acetylene torch hat, that looks like it may still be functional, and a 110 lb Columbian anvil that is in great shape.  Near as I can tell, I think it was made sometime before 1925.  I've been wanting to try blacksmithing, and now I have a great way to start.  It only cost me $75, and it would probably have sold for closer to $200 with the right crowd.

Anyway, I'm posting a YouTube video about my auction finds.  I'll come back tomorrow with the link.


Unusual Disaster

This past Saturday I was in Appomattox (where Lee surrendered to Grant) for the state Search & Rescue conference.  If I hadn't gone there, I was thinking of going up to Colonial Beach, Va. for a Jeep cruise in thing.  I was going to drive my 72 Commando up and drive on the Potomac River beach with Jeeps from WWII restorations to the latest and greatest.

We had some crazy weather come through over the course of the weekend.  Colonial Beach got hammered Friday evening.

The small town had roads blocked, houses and businesses destroyed, and a nighttime curfew in place.

They are still cleaning up.

Around here we expect late summer/early fall hurricanes and winter ice storms.  These out of season freak storms can be devastating, especially for those not prepared.

Just some quick thoughts...  Keep that blackout kit handy year round.  Check your generator once a month.  Keep your gutters clean.  Maintain that 72 hour kit - go through it a couple times a year.  Have an evacuation plan with family bug out bags and emergency document copies ready to go.  Disasters can and do hit any time.


Good stuff in Texas

Folks in the Lone Star State can save a little money on their disaster preps this weekend.  They are tax free.  Stick it to the man and stock up the larder!

Also from Texas today is a story about the folks at Sheepdog Seminars and their safety programs for churches.  I'd encourage anyone active in a church to look at them for some great information and instruction.


Feeling better...

The flu really kicked my butt and I had no energy after work for about 2 and a half months.  I'm feeling better finally, and will be back on here regularly.  The day after tomorrow I do my presentation on the 10 C's of Survivability adapted for Search & Rescue at the Virginia State SAR Conference.  www.VASARCONF.com

I've added a separate 10 C's gear Amazon page with everything I talk about in the presentation.  I'm going to try and video the talk and get it up on the YouTube channel if all goes right.


It's A Dam Disaster!

Have you been following the California dam that might be failing?  The largest, tallest dam in the country is leaking and might have a catestrophic failue.  They have evacuated around 200,000 people down river.  Several entire cities, one with a population of 65,000, and vast areas of farmland.  They are now saying it could be several weeks before people are allowed back in.

How could you prepare for something like that?  Obviously the basics... having go bags for family members, essential papers copied on thumb drives and stored with a family member out of town, enough cash on hand or available in an emergency fund account to stay in a hotel, but I think this particular case goes much deeper.

Everyone these people know and deal with on a regular basis are also being displaced.  Their jobs are ceasing to exist for the duration of the evacuation... or permenantly if the dam fails.  Any livestock will likely die is unattended for two or three weeks of the evacuation.  If the dam fails, everything they own and everything around them will be gone.

Most of us will never have to face such an extreme event.  A tornado might wipe out part of a town, but the rest of the town could be unscathed.  A hurricane can wipe out a city, but the evacuation will only be for a few days before you know for sure whether you'll be able to go home or not.  Same thing with a wild fire or chemical spill... it is a short term situation and then you know whether you can go home or start recovery.  This thing has people in limbo.  Stuck with no answers.  The psychology of it must be as tough as the financial and logistical impacts on families.

If you are downstream of a dam, do some research and check on it's condition and any evacuation plans.  Your local emergency managment office will likely have that information available.  The Army Corps of Engineers has a great interactive website for the National Inventory of Dams.  Here in Virginia, we have just over 2900 dams, and 468 of them are of a "high" hazard potential.

Keep those folks affected by the California situation in your thoughts and prayers.  They are going to have a tough time of it for a while, even if the dam is stabilized.


I got a speaking gig coming up...

I got word this week that I've been accepted to be a speaker at the Virginia state Search and Rescue Conference in April.  I'll be presenting on the 10Cs of Wilderness Survival Adapted for Search and Rescue.  I'm taking the 10Cs that Dave Canterbury teaches and adapting them and adding 3 more Cs.  Cool thing is I got Dave's permission to use his ideas.

As I put it in my proposal, I don't have any SAR experience, but I've camped in all weather conditions, studied the principles under Dave, and I once spent 2 1/2 months never setting foot in a building.  So I have that going for me.

This looks like it should be a really interesting conference.  I'm looking forward to speaking and to learning from the other presenters.

If you are interested, the website is www.VaSARConf.org.

They haven't got me listed yet, but I'll be on Saturday, Apr. 22.

On a side note, I got my 72 Jeep Commando running today.  It sat in the garage tent all winter, so I had to charge the battery and use some starter fluid.

I also worked on polishing up an old Colt Trooper III that I swapped for a few years ago.  The finish was awful and it had some rust, but a really nice trigger pull and tight lock up.  Over Christmas, I soaked it in a rust eating acid bath that got it down to bare metal.  It also ate the springs, so I have some new ones that I need to put in it.  Anyway, it has a little light pitting, so I'm working on polishing and smoothing it.  The end goal is to get it nickel plated and make it my Sunday-Go-To-Meeting gun.  The grips were completely shot, and my wife gave me some old school Pachmayrs for it.  Eventually I'll give a full report on the end product.


Building an Axe Mask/Sheath/Cover

I was pretty productive around the old homestead today.  I got my Cold Steel Trail Boss axe on Friday.  First thing, I sharpened it up with a two-sided stone, and got it pretty good.  Next up, I needed a cover for it so I could carry it safely attached to my pack, and to protect the head.  I decided on a basic mask, inspired by the one Dave Canterbury shows in his book, Bushcraft 101.  I made it a little more snazzy with an antler button and used red 550 cord for the lacing.  Check out my video of it here: Making a Mask for an Axe.


Ever heard of BushFit?  Dave Canterbury (seeing a trend here?) started the idea about a couple weeks ago of the 5x5 BushFit Challenge.  That's hiking 5K with a 50 lb. pack, in under 50 minutes, followed by 50 pushups and 50 situps.  I'm starting way behind the 8 ball on this, but I am going to get there.  I'm tracking my goals and progress at www.BushFit.blogspot.com if you are interested in following along or working toward it yourself.  But I digress...  Today I cleared the old logging trail on the back part of my property today.  It's part of my hiking path.  I have a short video giving a tour of the trail and talking about the BushFit challenge here: Clearing my BushFit trail.

To wrap up the day, how about a Sunday Funny?  You've probably seen the internet meme of the special bacon and 00 Buck ISIS hunting load.  If you look close, you'll notice that the round shown is not 00 Buck, and it is using what looks like polishing media instead of bacon as the buffer.  I made my own bacon and 00 Buck load today and have the video of it here: ISIS Ammo.

Have a great week!


Product Review: 120 Lumens LED Headlamp

It's simple... I am super impressed with this headlamp.  I can't believe the quality for the price.

I needed a couple extra headlamps for some car bags and my hiking pack.  I found this one on Amazon and it had good reviews.  It also had a great price: $9.99.

I went ahead and ordered four of them.  I've been messing around with one for a few days, and it is fantastic.  It has four modes: very bright, less bright, red solid, and flashing red.  It comes with three AAA batteries.  It is bright as all get out.  Twice I've been fiddling with it and turned it on when I was looking right at it.  Try to avoid that.  In pitch blackness, I can easily identify a person by my garage tent, about 100 feet from the back door of the house.  I used it when I cooked on the grill last night in the dark, and it was comfortable, lightweight, and made it easy to complete the task.

Turned on very bright, I left the light on for about 20 hours.  It was still showing a little light - enough to read a map by.  And these were the cheapo batteries it came with.

It is a bright green color, making it easy to find in a pack or something.  It's LED, so no bulbs to burn out and they don't use much power.  And, it's water proof (although I don't know to how deep).

I highly recommend this headlamp for your home, car, and pack.


Using a Tourniquet

I was an EMT 25 years ago.  Back then, tourniquets were a final option for arterial bleeding.  They were discouraged.  You had to loosen it every few minutes to prevent the limb from dying.  At some point in the past 25 years, likely due to battlefield wound care in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone realized that stopping the blood flow is the most important thing.  Tourniquets are crucial for stopping arterial blood loss in limbs.  If you don't stop the bleeding, the patient will die before they get to the hospital.

Yesterday I mentioned and linked to the three main types of tourniquets on the market today.  Here are some videos on their use so that you can compare and find the one that fits your needs best.  All of them work. They each do different things better or easier than the others.

RATS Tourniquet

SWAT T Tourniquet

CAT Tourniquet

Of course, clotting gauze is also a huge improvement to bleeding control over the past 10-15 years.  Quick Clot gauze is an amazing product.  Something to keep in mind is that you don't use it to stack on top of a wound or wrap around it.  You take your finger and shove the QC gauze down in the wound.  Pack it in there deep and tight.  Then apply 5-10 lbs of pressure to it for five minutes.  Do not remove the gauze - let the ER docs do that.


Prepper Expo

I rode up to Fredericksburg today for a Preparedness Expo held in conjunction with a gun show.  The place was packed!  I haven't been to a gun show in a couple of years, but it looked like prices were way down.  One thing that struck me was the colors available... light tan, dark tan, gray, turquoise, navy, pink, red, leopard print, zebra stripes (anyone grow up in the 70s/80s in Va. and the Carolinas remember Franc White on The Southern Sportsman show with the zebra stripe canoe, Jeep and Piper Cub?  But I digress...)  There was a good selection of prepper gear like first aid stuff, water purification, crappy knives, good quality knives, and carrying bags and packs.  There was also a fair amount of wilderness or primitive survival gear.

I bought a really cool steel target thing that kind of looks like a large caltrop with discs on each point that tumbles when you shoot it.  I'll try to get a video review out soon on it.  I also got a Rite in the Rain notebook and a R.A.T.S. Rapid Application Tourniquet System. I've carried a SWAT-T tourniquet for years, but it really is difficult to use on yourself and get it tight enough.  I've trained with a CAT tourniquet also, and it is easier to use on yourself, but it is more expensive and takes up too much room for EDC.  It is great for a car kit or in a BOB o4 72 hour kit.  Anyway, back tot he RATS... I've never used one but a friend is a former paramedic and he swears by the RATS for its compact carry, and how easy it is to self-apply.  It comes in a variety of colors, and I got orange so that it is easy to find in my computer bag and will be easily noticed by rescuers if I ever have to use it.

The Preparedness Expo side of the show was a series of speakers with presentations on everything from small scale homesteading and bee keeping to active shooter preparedness to winter car emergency kit building.  This company does gun shows almost every weekend, and has been doing several of these prepper expos each year.  This was my first, but I think I will look into trying to get a speaking gig at an upcoming event.



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My Preparedness Philosophies

So, who am I, and why do I prep?

I'll turn 49 this summer.  I grew up in the suburbs of Richmond, Va. in the 70s and 80s, and spent several summers in the early 80s with my grandparents and cousins in northern Idaho.  I read Soldier of Fortune and American Survival Guide and any gun magazine I could get my hands on.  I got my first gun, a .22 single shot that my grandparents bought in 1936, when I was 12 or so.  I read Mel Tappan and Jerry Ahern, and watched Red Dawn and The Day After.  Under my bed I had my .22 rifle, a Mossberg 500 with a pistol grip stock, and a H&R .22 revolver, along with a couple of canteens, my KaBar, some tuna and sardines, and my backpack with some spare clothes, ammo, and some lifeboat matches.  I wore t-shirts I bought out of SOF, knockoff jungle boots, and Ray Ban aviators.  I "dressed up" to go see Rambo II at the theater.  Yeah, I was "that" kid in high school.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps reserve and turned 18 on Parris Island.  At 22, my artillery unit was activated for Desert Storm and we saw brief, but heavy combat in Kuwait.  From a survival standpoint, I went almost three months without setting foot inside a building, and really tested my body's endurance.  I lost almost 50 lbs in the four months I was overseas.

Once back home, I became a cop, and got back into survivalism.  I got published as a photographer in American Survival Guide, built my firearms skills and collections, did a fair amount of winter camping, but never really set up a solid larder.

In the late 90s I was living in a 80-year-old rented farm house with a couple of other cops.  A little thing called Y2K was on the horizon.  I spent tons of money on guns, gear, food, and supplies.  Two friends and I bought a 900-number and recorded Y2K news and prep tip messages for $2.99 the first minute and .99 for each minute after.  We started our first website, www.SimplifY2K.com.  If the stuff had hit the fan, I would have been sitting pretty, and been the self proclaimed warlord of the small town where I was a cop.  Thankfully, nothing happened.

In the 2000's I got married, bought a rural home with a couple of wooded acres, and got more sensible about prepping.  I'm pretty sure that the Russians will not parachute into a high school football game, and I don't think that I'll be put on a train to the FEMA camp for "reeducation," but...

My main concern now is weather emergencies.  We lose power probably an average of 10 days a year here.  Hurricanes, ice storms, and derecho winds have messed up things around here in the past few years.  My job is about 50% emergency management and planning, so I also look at the big, community picture too.  I think my main philosophy now revolves around a moral imperative to prepare to the highest level that you are able to.  Public resources are limited, and by taking care of ourselves, it leaves more available for those who are unable to care for themselves due to income, disability, old age, etc...  Now, a lot of people who take public aid in a disaster are able to care for themselves, but don't do it because they believe that it is not their responsibility.  I don't think very highly of them.

Other than natural disasters, my two main other focuses are on active killer/mass violence attacks, and wilderness survival.  I completed a masters degree in 2015 and wrote my capstone paper on the evolution of school active shooter response.  Because of my job it is always on my radar.  Because of my background and what I have learned, I know that we can do better about preparing children, school staff, business people... everyone... to respond to an attack.  Teaching children to hide under a table in the dark is teaching them to die.  A few months ago, there was a shooting at an airport.  I don't remember which one.  The airport went into "lockdown."  Video footage showed adults in the terminal, on their hands and knees, hiding their heads under the benches.  You know they were drilled that in school.  I am putting the finishing touches on a school active shooter response training that incorporates run-hide-fight, along with situational awareness and options.  More on that in the future.

On the wilderness survival side of things, I went to Dave Canterbury's Pathfinder school about five years ago and those lessons have stuck with me.  I'm not really a camper anymore, but I enjoy being out in the woods.  Instead of hiding from the Russian invaders, now I want to be found if I get lost or injured out there.  Wilderness survival skills are for those times when the search and rescue folks are looking for you, and you have to stay alive until they get to you.  I am looking into getting involved with a local SAR team in the not too distant future.

I have been away from IfItHitsTheFan for a few years.  Graduate school took most of my time, but I also just plain got burned out from writing something almost every day.  I'm back now.  I won't be every day, but I'm going to shoot for once or twice a week.  I hope you learn something that can help you or your family.  I also hope I keep you entertained.

A couple of other tidbits of background about me... I am the director of the Clan Leatherneck Society and Foundation.  We are a Virginia non-profit corporation and are awaiting 501(c)3 charity status from the IRS.  Our objective is to Celebrate Celtic Heritage and Marine Corps Traditions, while providing aid to Marines in need.  That includes, active, veteran, families, and FMF corpsmen.  So yes, I wear a kilt sometimes.  Check us out at www.ClanLeatherneck.com.  I'm a big fan of old school pro wrestling.  I grew up with Blackjack Mulligan, Ricky Steamboat, and Baron Von Raschke in Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling.  I don't give two hoots about WWE, but I really enjoy going to the local independent matches around here.  I've got a '72 Jeep Commando that I love to tinker with and cruise during nice weather.  It is EMP proof, but in reality, I figure the roads will be so clogged that I couldn't get around them anyway.  My wife and I love our quiet, rural life.  And I still have that 1936 .22 that I got when I was 12.


Political Prepping

You might think that this post is going to be about the riots surrounding the inauguration in DC last night and today.  But no.  Other than staying the heck away (Don't go to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things - Bryan Black), there is not a whole lot to prep for with something like that.

This is about reaching out to your elected servants (I hate calling them elected leaders or officials - they are there to serve us, their employers) and telling them what is important to you.

This past Monday was the traditional Lobby Day for the Virginia General Assembly.  Every year, interest groups and individuals converge on the state capital to tell their elected servants what issues are important to them and how they want their servants to vote.  This year, as I have on many other years, I was there with the Virginia Citizens Defense League, advocating for 2nd Amendment rights.  There were between 750 and 1,000 people wearing bright orange "Guns Save Lives" stickers circulating in the halls, meeting with delegates and senators, and then gathering on the capital lawn for a rally with political speakers.  This year's speakers were candidates for Attorney General, Lt. Governor, and Governor for this year's election.  Also Congressman Dave Brat was there speaking about the fight in Washington.  Nearly everyone was carrying loaded firearms, and many of the speakers commented how they were in the safest spot in Virginia right then.

Other interest groups I saw included hemophilia, alternative fuel toll road discounts, special education, motorcyclists, and of course, the anti gun people.  I'm sure there were many other points of view represented.

It is always great to be a part of Lobby Day and joining in with others for a day of fellowship and making our voices heard.  But one day is not enough.  The people in that building work for me.  If I don't tell them what I think, how will they know.  I have my state delegate, senator, AG, Lt. Gov. and Gov. phone numbers and emails stored in my phone.  I have my US representative and senators in my phone also.  Anytime I get wind of a bill that affects or interests me I call and/or email them.  I know that I waste my efforts on Kaine and Warner in the US Senate... they are opposed to everything I stand for, but it is my duty as their employer to tell them what I want and then work to ensure they lose their jobs in the future.

Even if you do not vote, you are still a tax payer and those people still work for you.  Whatever issue concerns you, let them know.  Guns, farming, home schooling, big-pharma... anything that you want them to vote a certain way on... they won't know unless you tell them.  And THEY WORK FOR YOU.

This website can get you contact information for everyone from your local elected board of supervisors or city council all the way up to the president: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials


Chicken Sitting

One of the best things about living in the country is having good neighbors.  Granted, not all are good, but the ones we have are great.  They have a flock of 22 chickens of a variety of breeds and got in to bee keeping last year.  The eggs are always great and the first batch of honey was delicious.  When they go out of town, we take care of the critters for them.  I call it chicken sitting.  It's easy.  I let the chickens out of the coop before I leave for work and make sure they are secured and have food and water when it gets dark.  That's also when I gather the eggs.  This evening, I brought home 15 eggs.  One of them was the size of a daggone duck egg!  Watch my quickee video (here) to see just how big.  And yes, it was delicious.  

Weather Update

Saturday we had 11" of snow.  Sunday it was below zero.  Today, Thursday, it was 72... Welcome to Virginia!


Last Minute Winter Car Emergency Kit

I had to make a winter car emergency kit because I have a loaner AWD from work for the next couple of days and didn't get my normal kit out of my other car.  Check out this video showing how I put the kit together with gear I have laying around the shop.  It is not ideal, but based on the circumstances, this one ought to do me fine for a couple of days.

What Magazines am I Reading These Days?

Call me old school (or old skool if you are hip and trendy...) but I still really enjoy a magazine rather than reading "e-zines" and what not.  The one downfall to magazines is that I want to save them all because "I'm going to want to use the info in that article again someday."  As a result, I save magazines and fill up boxes and bags, then about 10 years later I get frustrated with all the storage space getting taken up, and I throw a bunch of them out.  I need to start cutting out articles and filing them by subject.  But I don't know that I will ever be that organized.

Anyway, what do I read on a regular basis that might be of interest to you?

Mother Earth News: Great information on sustainable living, homesteading, gardening, cooking, with a left wing point of view.  If you can get past the politics or if those politics are also yours, this is a great magazine.

Backwoods Home: Similar types of information that is in Mother Earth News, but with a libertarian point of view.   Again, if you can get past the politics or if those politics are also yours, this is a great magazine.  The first thing I always turn to is the "Irreverent Joke Page."  They have recently spun off another magazine, Self Reliance, but I have not yet tried that one.

Backwoodsman: I love this magazine.  It reminds me of the metal detecting and old west magazines from the 50s and 60s, with a lot of the articles written by readers about their personal experiences.  It has a very homey feel to it.  The articles focus a lot on primitive living skills, improvised hunting and fishing, shelters, and homestyle foods.  In addition to the reader-written articles, they also have articles by well-known survival and preparedness writers.

American Frontiersman: It only comes out twice a year, but this is a nice magazine with lots of information on primitive and wilderness skills, living off the land, and product reviews.

In the past few years, since If It Hits The Fan has been on hiatus, my interests have shifted some.  I'm not really concerned about the Red Dawn/FEMA Camp/Zombie Apocalypse, but I really want to focus more on general preparedness and sustainability, with more "dirt time."  I think these magazines are giving me inspiration and information that guide me down that path.

What are some of your favorite mags?  Please share in the comments section.

The Weather Outside is Frightful...

We ended up with 11 inches of snow here on Saturday.  There was some radient melting on Sunday, but the temp never broke the mid 20s.  Last night we had record cold of 0, beating the 1 degree record that was set in 1940.  Today (Monday) it might hit 30, and down in the teens tonight.  Looking forward to the expected sunny and mid-60s on Thursday and Friday!


Product Review Video: Pathfinder Search and Rescue Tarp

Please go to the link above to watch our new YouTube video of a review of the Pathfinder Search and Rescue Tarp.  The tarp is very well made of a sturdy, but lightweight ripstop material with reflective edges, loops, and corner Pathfinder logos.  It is a great item to have in your day pack to provide shelter and aid in your rescue if your hike in the woods turns in to an unexpected camping trip due to getting lost or injured.

The tarp is $139.99 and is available from Self Reliance Outfitters

If you order one, please tell them that you heard about it here.


The sunny south is snowed it.  At my home in rural, central Virginia, today we got 11" of snow, and the temperature was in the mid-20s for most of the day.  The snow has stopped, but tonight it will get down in the low teens, not get above freezing Sunday or Monday, and be single digits Sunday night and in the teens Monday night.  Not a big deal for some parts of the country, but things will be shut down here for several days, at least until we get in the 50s and 60s later in the week.  Glad we have plenty of supplies laid in so we avoided the rush for bread, eggs and milk with everyone else on Friday! ;)


Haven't posted anything in a LONG time!  Since then, I've gotten a new job where I am heavily involved in emergency management and I finished my master's degree in Emergency & Disaster Management.

You are going to start hearing from me again.  Not every day, but once or twice a week.  Stop by tomorrow and see what I have in store first...


Guest Post: Wilderness Survival School Review

Folks, it has been over 2 months since I have posted anything.  Lots of things going on (nothing bad) and I'll get some updates out to you soon.  I REALLY appreciate you for still checking in.  In the meantime, please enjoy this guest post from a long-time reader and friend of If It Hits The Fan, Gene from Kentucky.

LAC’s Wilderness Survival Weekend: Wilderness Survival Basics
It’s time to stop running and take a few minutes to STOPA! STOPA is a survival acronym taught over the weekend at the Life Adventure Center (LAC) hosting a Wilderness Survival Weekend. This weekend class was taught by Kentucky Native, Craig Caudill of Nature Reliance School (NRS) out of Winchester, KY. 
Stop, Think, Observe, Plan, Act (STOPA) is a survival technique that can be used to stay alive if you get lost while in the wilderness and is the first thing taught to our class. The worst thing you can do when lost, or in a survival situation, is panic.  Panic can quickly turn an unfortunate event into a tragic event. Using STOPA will aid in panic prevention.
Our lessons and exercises followed the Law of Three known and taught by many instructors.
The Law of Threes
1.     Three minutes without air.
2.     Three hours without protection from the elements.
3.     Three days without water.
4.     Three weeks without food.
5.     Three months without social contact.
Not meant to be a replacement for First Aid training, and not a level of Wilderness First Aid, but Rule 1 starts with some First Aid situations which one could find themselves thrust into out in the field.  In teams of two, we were given events to deal with, Hyperthermia, Hypothermia, broken finger, torn ACL, head trauma (“It’s Christmas and I see snow”), eye injury and a worst case scenario: abdominal puncture. Tasked with using items from our First Aid Kits, many of us quickly found that our First Aid Kits were lacking in some areas.  But part of this rule is also to learn that you can adapt and if you STOPA – you realize that there are elements which you can use from your pack and from the environment about you.
Protecting yourself from the elements is the second topic of the weekend.  Different types of tarp shelters, tents, lean-to devices are all methods to deal with the elements.  Having materials with you helps quite a bit, but in the event that do not have any resources, you need to use the landscape to keep yourself drier and warmer/cooler.  Our weekend was excellent weather wise; even with Saturday morning drizzle, yet the over night lows were close to 55 degrees and when you are wet, that is a recipe for disaster.
Having a fire is part of the second law as well.  In this rule it is used to help regulate your core body temperature and while it prepares you for Rules 3 and 4 it is essential to survival.  There are a number of ways which work, and a few ways which are just impractical to attempt.  Our instructor states that he carries at least two different ways to start fire on his person daily. The cheapest and easiest is a BIC lighter; they are just to easy to carry around and use, even for someone that doesn’t smoke. Second choice is one of many different forms of a Ferrocerium Rod.  Ironically, I found a Scout Fire Steel near the fire ring from a previous class held here.  After nearly a year in the elements it still works, just brush off the dirt and leaves, and it’s ready to go.
Now that you have ways to maintain your core body temperature it’s time to talk about water. While you may be extremely hungry, know that your body must have water for digestion.  Don’t just start eating stuff if you don’t have enough water to drink, as this can lead to dehydration. There are several places to find water when in the field.  You did bring some, right? No – well again, just STOPA and you’ll be fine. 
Here in Central Kentucky and much of the eastern part of the country, we have seen quite a bit of rain recently. This class had rain Saturday morning, so there are places to find it if you know where to look.  In our location was an active spring, a stream bed and of course trees.  There are a good number of productive ways to find and collect water.  There was some debunking of what does and doesn’t work from actually applied devices such as the Solar Still, from trees, or using a piece of cloth and mopping up from rain soaked or dew covered grass. Rain water can generally be drunk without concern, but other water should be treated by one of many means.  Our discussion of what does and doesn’t work for this purpose covered the spectrum of cheap (boiling) to the extremely expensive and high tech (UV treatment). When you head out, you may have grabbed that plastic sports bottle, or even found a plastic bottle in the field.  While these can be used to boil water, it’s better to have a Stainless Steel container as you can boil your water with no worries. Incidently, boiling water in a stainless steel container is the cheapest method of treating your water. Your dirty water may not look pretty, but survival isn’t always pretty.
If rescue hasn’t arrived yet, now it’s time to deal with next critical item – food. Craig explained that some types of food are zero or negative gain items.  He goes onto explains that if it takes 50 calories to capture a 100 calorie critter and your body uses 50 calories to consume it you have a net gain of zero.  There isn’t any positive gain here and you do yourself a disservice.  We were introduced to obtaining the ‘critter’ component using three simple traps and other devices, it’s also suggested to go after less mobile ‘game’ - wild edibles. Several simple and easy to identify examples of wild edibles from this area were shown.
As each plant is identified and explained, Craig reminds us to be a conservationist as well.  Take no more than you need and be respectful of the amount available in the area.  One plant discussed was the Mullein plant; this plant has several comfort and medical uses, but as there was only one example in the area, it was left standing. <
The rest of the class was a test, broken down into groups, we were set with a situation that a small group or family, could easily find themselves in.  Hiking out a trail, only to get turned around, lost and now there is a storm moving in.
Enacting our training we begin with STOPA and the Law of Threes.  We receive curve balls from time to time; a broken ankle, amputated digit, hyperthermia, lost members of the group and a lost hiker who hasn’t been seen for two days, who comes into the group and is confused, delirious and semi-violent. << there are no degrees of violence and non-violence. I would use “aggressive”
Tasks are divided and conquered and all participants survive the “survival situation”. We gather back together and discuss what we learned over the weekend, what worked and what plainly didn’t.  <
It was an excellent weekend for this class and the instructor presented the information in a manner which was easy to grasp and practical to apply.  While the tone was serious – being lost is serious – survival is serious; it was fun to learn in a challenge format.  I believe we gave as much back to the others as we took from Craig.  While I expect all members of the class will be reviewing mental and written notes over the coming days, I also am reviewing my notes of what did and didn’t work for me personally, as well as what I need to replace or acquire. 
I highly recommend, if you enjoy hiking, camping, hunting or generally being outdoors, to take Craig’s class.   Reading a book or watching someone ELSE do things is not the best way to learn these skills.  You should have a knowledgeable  instructor and you must try it and practice it. I highly recommend you check out Nature Reliance School and take one of their offered classes. I hope you never have to employ those lessons, but should you need to, you’ll be better off knowing what to do.


Hurricane Preparedness Week

Welcome, WRVA Listeners

Thursday morning at about 7:30 a.m. (EDT) I'm scheduled to be interviewed on Richmond's Morning News with Jimmy Barrett to talk about hurricane preparedness as we get ready to enter the season.  You can listen in on 1140 AM (it's a 50,000 watt clear channel, so you can pick it up across quite a distance.  You can also find it streaming at www.1140WRVA.com or using the I Heart Radio app on your smart phone.

As an intro to the listeners who may want more information, I thought I'd offer some more details, resources and links for what Jimmy and I will be talking about.

Time To Stock Up, Save Money, And Stick It To The Man

It kind of snuck up on me this year, but this week is Virginia's Sales Tax Holiday for Emergency Preparedness.  Through May 31, Virginian's can save 5% by skipping the sales tax on tarps, flashlights, bungee cords, coolers, batteries, weather and 2-way radios, and other prep items that cost up to $60 each.  The tax holiday also goes for generators and inverters that cost up to $1,000.  For a complete list of tax exempt items, you can follow this link.  For folks in other states, Alabama and Louisiana have similar programs.  Here's a list to all state sales tax holidays.

It's Not All About Hurricane Preparedness

So, how can folks prepare for a hurricane now when we are unlikely to get one until late summer or in to fall?  The first thing is to keep in mind all-hazards planning and disaster commonality.  What other disasters can befall us in Central Virginia?  Tornadoes, Snow and Ice Storms, Derechos, Earthquakes...  all of these, like Hurricanes, can result in long term loss of power, loss of other utilities, injury, blocked roads, home and property damage.  Preparing for one makes us prepared for all. 

Here are some specific things to do on a year-round basis to help stay prepared for whatever Mother Nature sends our way:
  • Hurricane Straps - these are thin metal strips that are screwed (or nailed, but screwed is stronger) that attach rafters and roof trusses to the walls.  They can also attach a second floor to a first and a first to a foundation.  If you are doing new construction, this is a very cheap way to go.  With existing homes, depending on your attic situation, you may be able to retro fit straps to your roof at least.  These can help keep roofs attached and prevent home collapse in heavy hurricane direct hit.  They can also help in a small to moderate tornado.
  • Garage Door Braces - these vertical braces can prevent your garage door from imploding in up to 180 mph wind.  They can also make your garage door a more difficult target for burglaries.
  • Windows - modern, double and triple pane windows are more shatter resistant than old fashioned single panes.  With the energy savings, if you haven't put in new windows, you really ought to.  They'll cut your electric bill, and make your windows a little more sturdy in a storm.  Hurricane or storm shutters are not really common in Central Virginia, but would probably be good to have along the coast.  You can buy expensive, custom made shutters, or simply cut 5/8" plywood to fit and figure out how to attach them (wood screws to the window frame, masonry sinkers, etc...).  The key is to mark which covers go on which windows, and keep the attaching tools and devices where you can easily find them.  Don't wait until the day before a storm hits to try and buy plywood, and once a year or so, go ahead and do a dry run to practice putting them up.
  • Generators - at my home, we average 10-14 days a year without power.  We've gone as long as 8 days at a stretch after last year's derecho wind storm.  Whole house generators are great, but they are expensive.  We have two portable generators so we can rotate use.  We have a transfer switch hard wired into our electrical system by a licensed electrician.  The key with a generator, whether automatic/whole house, or portable, is to know how to safely run it, know how much energy you need at any given time, and maintain it.
    • Safety
      • If you just have a small generator to run a fan, a couple lights, and the refrigerator for a couple hours at a time, extension cords are the way to go.
      • With larger generators, you'll need a licensed electrician to set up a transfer switch that you plug a main cord into and it feeds into your home's electrical system.  You then control which outlets get power through your circuit breaker box.
      • Do Not "backfeed" a cord from the generator directly into an outlet... you can kill a lineman working farther down the line
      • Be sure you have adequate ventilation - don't run a generator in the garage or with the exhaust right under an open window
    • How Big
      • Do you know how much power you need?
      • A generator sales rep might add up all the electrical devices in your home... washer, dryer, refrigerator, microwave, four TV sets, three computers, two window unit air conditioners, three space heaters, 17 laps and overhead lights, hot water tank...  Adding up all of the watts needed to run those items will tell you how big a unit you need, right?  Wrong.  Have you ever run all of those things together at the same time?  Probably not.  Add up a couple of lamps (CFL bulbs use a heck of a lot less power than regular bulbs), TV, one appliance, and a TV.  Maybe add in one space heater OR one window AC unit.  You'll get by on a much smaller generator.  Our 7,500 watt generator easily runs what we need, including a window unit when it was 100 degrees outside.  We ran the fridge for a while, then shut it off to run the well pump and hot water tank.  It's not as convenient as just flipping a switch, but it is a WHOLE lot more economical.
      • You can get a device called a "Killawatt" that will accurately measure your various electrical items.
    • Maintenance
      • The automatic whole house generators kick on for a few minutes every week.  You still need to do or contract for routine maintenance such as oil changes.
      • A portable generator should be run under load (plug in a leaf blower or something) for about 15 minutes every month.  The oil needs to be changed every 25-50 hours of running time.  Be sure you have extra oil and filters on hand for those long-term outages.
      • You can't simply fill a 5 gallon can with gas and leave it in the shed for years.  The gas goes bad.  I keep 12 gas cans filled with treated gas.  Each can is labeled with a month, and each month I use that gas and refill the can with fresh treated gas.  That ensures I always have about 60 gallons on hand and can run my generators for over a week.  I have the ability to safely store that much gas... check with your local regulations and keep as much on hand as you can legally and safely.
  • Food, Water & Other Necessities
    • Richmonders are famous for clearing the grocery shelves of bread and milk on the day before a storm - wouldn't it make more sense to have a larder or pantry that you rotate on a regular basis and have enough food and other needs to get your family through most any emergency?
    • FEMA suggests 2-weeks worth of food and water - I encourage at least a month, and more if possible.  MREs, freeze-dried "survival" foods and the like have their place in long term preparedness plans, but for most folks, regular grocery store foods will work fine.
    • Copy-Canning; FIFO; Eat What You Store-Store What You Eat
      • You don't need to run to BJs and buy case lots.  Simply buy an extra can or box or two of what you normally buy each time you go to the store.
      • When you buy these extras, mark the date on them and rotate your stores - First In, First Out
      • If you like SPAM, buy SPAM (or tuna or canned peas or whatever).  If you hate it, don't buy it.  It ain't gonna taste better to you if you HAVE to eat it.  Buy foods your family already eats.
    • Water/Drinks
      • You don't need 50 gallon barrels of water in the basement.  Pick up a couple of cases of water on each trip to the store.  Fill up cleaned 2 liter soda bottles with tap water.  Store about 2 gallons of water per person for 2-3 weeks.  You can go less than that if you have alternative ways to get water.
        • If you are on a well (and a genny for the pump), have a pond or pool, or water catchment from the gutters, you have extra water.  I suggest a Berkey Water Filter system for every home that will make all that "outside" water clean and pure.
      • Water gets boring.  Pick up tea, coffee, lemonade, and Kool Aid powder mixes.
    • Toiletries/Necessities
      • Running out of toilet paper sucks.  Why does anyone buy a 4-pack?  Pick up the giant pack and get another one when that one is halfway done.
      • Don't wait to run out of soap, toothpaste, razors, deodorant, etc...  Buy multipacks, and get the next pack when the first one is halfway done.
      • If you are on any kind of maintenance medications, work with your doctor and insurance company to try and get a month ahead so that you always have at least 30 days worth on standby
  • Blackout Kit
    • Anytime the lights go out, whether for a week after a hurricane or ice storm, or just for a couple hours when a drunk runs into a power pole, a blackout kit will make your life easier.  Use a soft cooler or a small tote bag.  I keep one in the bedroom and one in the laundry room.
      • Have a couple of flashlights and extra batteries.  I've become a convert to using headlamps instead of flashlights.  They keep both hands free for hooking up the generator, walking the dog, or pretty much anything else you can imagine.  I love my Petzl Graphite that is linked below.
      • Keep an index card with the phone numbers for the power company and other emergency contacts
      • Candles and a lighter - I like a handful of those battery operated votive candles to just spread around the house.  Some prefer regular flame candles.  At after Christmas sales or thrift stores, look for jar candles since they are safer than a stick candle
      • We already said batteries, but have more!  Have different sizes for anything that you might not even think of.
  • The MOST Important Piece of Storm Preparedness Gear
    • Every home should have at least one NOAA Weather Alert Radio plugged in with fresh batteries year-round, 24/7
    • With S.A.M.E. technology of current models, you can set it so it only picks up warnings for your county
    • Technology has made the warnings more accurate and longer range to give us a chance to prepare and seek shelter - especially for tornadoes
With a 30 day supply of food, water, and daily needs, not only will you be ready for most any natural disaster, but you'll also be that much better off if you get laid off or have to miss work due to a serious injury.  You can also use the extra as charity for neighbors or family who are less prepared.

Where to store all this food, water, and mondo packs of toilet paper?  Be creative!  Under the beds... the dead space above the cupboards... the coffee table or footstool might be able to be used for storing more than a couple throw pillows...  that attic crawl space that is too small to store a bunch of junk, can easily hold a couple packs of TP and paper towels.

If you take these steps, gradually and without building debt (when's the best time to buy a generator? a month after a hurricane hits when half the people who ran out to buy one at Lowe's before the storm end up selling them on Craig's List because they didn't even open the box), you'll be much more prepared for a hurricane, or any number of other personal or widespread disasters.

Check back here over the next few days for more info on preparedness efforts to take as we get farther in to hurricane season and for the last minute things to do in the days before a hurricane hits the area.

For more information on securing your home against high winds, FEMA offers several free download documents here.


Interesting Week

Moore, OK

We were on vacation this past week down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Taking a break from the beach in the room, my wife was stunned to see live footage of the tornado that devastated Moore.  Her best friend from high school lives there.  As soon as the news showed the tornado had ended, she got on Facebook and reached out to her friend.  Thankfully, they made instant contact, and she and her family were safe.  Her work was destroyed, but her home was unscathed.  In the aftermath of the tornado, the photos were amazing.  Entire square miles are destroyed and there are no recognizable landmarks.  Chance Sanders put a comment on his FB page suggesting folks also record grid coordinates, along with addresses, of their family meeting or rendezvous locations.  Great idea!  But how do you do that without an old school map?

Here's what you do...  Go to Google Maps and find whatever location you want to make a meeting location.  Right click on it and pick "what's here?"  The 16-digit coordinates will show up in the search box.  Simply save these to your notes page on your smart phone, then, if you need to find the location after a disaster, just go to Google on your phone's web browser, enter the coordinates, and it will pop up in Google maps.  You can then get directions to there from your current location. 

For OPSEC, you can simply do a "plus 2" to each pair of numbers when you record it, and you can give them labels such as "gym combination" or "bank account #."  Let's give it a try... using "plus 2," my "elementary school locker combination" is: 39.625758,-79.580219.  Figure out where I went to 5th grade, and email it to me here.  All correct answers received by noon on Saturday, June 1, 2013 will be entered in a drawing to win some cool prep gear from my bunker.  It won't be huge, but it will be cool.

A word of caution - I also tried this with Google Earth.  I got completely different grid coordinates for the same location.  I used the coordinates that I got off Google Earth, and I ended up about 40 miles away on the other side of town.

Five In The Pocket

No, I didn't spend vacation in a pool hall.  We were at the beach.  How to ensure you have protection, even in the bare minimum of clothing (it's OK, you don't have to gouge your eyes out, I wasn't wearing a Speedo).  I carried my NAA mini-revolver with five rounds of .22LR CCI Stinger in the pocket of my swim trunks and my Buck neck knife the whole time.  Super lightweight and convenient, and while not much, it would have been a very rude surprise if anyone on the beach had nefarious intentions.  NAA Mini-Revolver Review  Buck Neck Knife Review

Memorial Day Message

Tomorrow is not for car and sheet sales.  It's not for getting drunk at the ball park.  It's not for having a hot dog on the grill.  You can do all of those, of course, but only because others have given their lives for us to have that freedom.  Have fun, but please take a moment to remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  Go to the local veterans' cemetery and render a salute.  Visit a Gold Star mother and thank her for her son's or daughter's service.  Read some Medal of Honor citations to your children.  Please visit my last year's Memorial Day message and read about two Marines that I have had the honor of knowing.


Prepper Ponderings


The other day, I went again this year to TREXPO in D.C.  It used to be the Tactical Response EXPO back in the 90s when I started going, but I think now it is just plain TREXPO and is done in cooperation with the GOVSEC trade show.  Tons of cool gear, much of it applicable for preppers.  Numerous body armor manufacturers and suppliers were there.  Since I bought my last vest about 8-9 years ago, it is amazing how light and flexible II and IIIA armor is.  Compared to when I bought my first vest over 20 years ago, it is like comparing it to a knight's shining armor.  There was a lot of first aid gear that would be great for a blowout kit or 72 hour bag.  I got a samples of a couple of tourniquets I'm going to review here soon.  Big brother was prevent, of course.  Several different drone manufacturers were there.  These things are getting smaller and more maneuverable every day.  All-in-all, a good show again this year. 

Travel Safety

One of the promotional give-aways I picked up at TREXPO was a glow-in-the-dark door wedge.  Much more useful than the countless pens and can coozies.  We are heading on vacation soon, and this will go with us to help secure the hotel door at night.  I don't know who the actual maker is, but it is just as simple to get an old fashioned rubber door stop or a chunk of 2x4 cut on an angle.

Great Customer Service

I've always heard about the great service from Dillon Precision, but never had a need to experience it.  Some time ago, my Dillon 550 press started having problems feeding primers.  I finally got around the other day to calling them to see what I needed to do.  I was on hold for about 45 minutes, but considering the current state of affairs in the firearms and ammo industry I didn't really mind.  Once the fellow got on the phone with me, I described the problem, and he asked a few questions to further trouble shoot.  He quickly determined what my likely problem is, and said he would send me out some replacement parts.  I was shocked to have them in my mailbox less than 48 hours later... at no charge.  If you are in the market for a reloading press, strongly consider Dillon.


Fleeing Felon

It Can Happen Anywhere

Friday afternoon I got a call from the local police that a guy had escaped from state police custody and he had 50 years of time hanging over his head for parole violations, and he had vowed never to go back to jail.  He was in the vicinity of three elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school.  We put the schools in a modified lockdown with the exteriors secured.  As dismissal time rolled around, the five lower schools let the students go, with one bus getting loaded up at a time and a police officer standing by.  The high school just got all the students to their cars or on the buses quickly, with plenty of adult supervision and a couple of police officers on site.

The police were using bloodhounds, helicopters, and about a hundred officers to try and find this guy, but never was it like Boston with people ordered inside and warrantless searches of private homes and businesses.  He was found about 12 hours later, holed up in an apartment, less than a half a mile from two schools.  This situation worked out pretty well with minimal disruptions, but what if it were a worse or larger problem?

So how can a person prepare for an event like this?

Really just like any other event that might make it difficult to get home.  A communications plan and alternate travel routes, along with a 72-hour kit that fits your particular needs.

If your kids are at school and dismissal is delayed, can you get to them, or do you have a nearby trusted friend or family member that is on the "pickup" list and can get them if you can't?  Do they have age-appropriate kits with them at school in case no one can get to them?

If your main road is shut down, do you have alternative routes?  Perhaps cutting through residential areas, or maybe skirting outside of town and coming back in the back way.

How about communications?  Make sure your cell phone is always charged up.  Have phone numbers for school, neighbors, and family members.  If you have a smart phone, be sure you know the webpages for you local media outlets.  You can also download an app that allows you to listen to your local police, fire/rescue, state police, and other emergency radio broadcasts.  There are a bunch of them out there, many free, so check them all out to see which ones carry your local frequencies.

Using an "all-hazards" approach, prepare for any eventuality that could reasonably happen in your community.  Disaster commonality will ensure that you are pretty well prepared for even those things that you may not have thought of.


Video Review: Surviving Civil Unrest

Surviving Civil Unrest with Chance Sanders

Disclaimer: Chance sent me a free demo copy of this video for me to review.

First, a little background...  I met Chance Sanders, and his wife, Laura, when they were assistant instructors when I went through Pathfinder Basic class in Ohio a couple years back (you can read my 5-part review of the school here).  They were both very knowledgeable and all-around good folks.  We've kept in touch since then, and I've followed his growing presence in the survival and preparedness field through articles that he has written for several magazines.  About a year ago I was excited to find out that he was working on this training video and have been eagerly awaiting its release.  As many readers know, I work in a major city, but commute over 50 miles to and from my rural homestead each day.  I frequently take alternate routes home and refine my get home bag (GHB) for different times of the year.  I dread the situation that  might force me to hoof it home, but it is a possibility that something could happen.

Recent news has given us examples of where the skills to escape and evade from an urban environment could be of great, and even lifesaving, value.  The Boston Marathon bombings come to mind.  Thousands of participants, race supporters, and even bystanders suddenly had their plans disrupted and many were separated from their belongings, and/or injured.  Just last night, the Va. Beach oceanfront erupted in civil unrest with shootings, stabbings and mob violence.  Imagine being a family on vacation and either out to dinner away from the hotel when things got bad, or simply at the beach for the day and trying to get out to get home in one piece.

As I watched Surviving Civil Unrest this afternoon, I learned quite a few techniques that I can put into my get home plans.  I also got some ideas that will make me think differently or alternatively about my particular situation.

Chance teaches throughout the video by simulating an on-foot evacuation from an urban environment to his rural destination.  He demonstrates and explains what he is doing, and has interspersed guest commentary from some subject matter experts.  Aside from just "how-to" information, he also teaches a system of planning, using the Marine Corps 5-paragraph order.

I'm not going to give away the great information that he covers, but here are some highlights that I gleaned and particularly liked:
  • For his every day carry (EDC) bag, he uses a simple messenger case or musette bag, not some "tactical" kit that may draw unwanted attention during normal times
  • He notes repeatedly that gear alone is not the answer - you need to develop skills
  • He highlights the importance of advance planning - communications, maps, caches, redundancy, etc...
  • He shows a few ideas of scavenging urban materials
  • He has two great ideas for cache locations that might work out perfectly for my situation
The production quality of the video is very professional.  The video and audio are both well done.  I do, however, have a minor critique and a suggestion:
  • I had a hard time getting the video to play on my laptop - it wouldn't work at all with my RealPlayer, and it froze at several points using Windows Media Player - it could very well have been my computer, though and not an issue with the video.  Playing it on my bluray on the TV, I had to try a few different buttons to get it started (this could also have been me, though, I'm not real used to watching discs on the player), but once I got it going it ran flawlessly.
  • edit - I just heard from Chance - he had sent me a burned copy of the disc, and the production ones ought to run fine on anything that can play a DVD
  • Chance used some really cool gear in the video.  I'd love to see a supplier or resource list, perhaps on a related website, or linked on his YouTube channel.
If you regularly spend time in an urban environment, there may well come a time when you can't get home your normal way.  Part of your preps should be studying this video and practicing the techniques that Chance presents.

You can order the video here.
Check out Chance's YouTube channel here.


Book Sale

Staying Home - by Alex Smith

Alex wrote his first post-SHTF novel, Going Home, under the nom de plume of Angery American.  It recieved rave reviews on Amazon.

He let me know that his latest book is on sale for .99 cents in e-version through Friday.  It is not a novel, but a how-to guide aimed at the beginner or intermediate prepper.  I haven't read it yet, but I'm sure it will be great.  And you sure can't beat the price.