5/31/11

The Urban Retreat

Sometimes You Have To Stay

Many of us want to have that rural homestead... maybe a cabin on a couple acres in the hill of Tennessee, perhaps a repurposed missile silo on the Wyoming prairie, could be a cottage on a rugged coast.  But we still have jobs, kids in school, bills, etc... so that dream might be a ways off.

We are fortunate to have a nice compromise.  We're in a small, rural county, but if you drive 35 minutes, you are in the heart of the state capital.  An hour in another direction puts you in an industrial urban area.  Forty-five minutes in yet another direction puts you in a very rural county, populated by long distance commuters, farmers, and watermen.

But what if that compromise won't work for you right now, for whatever reason?  Can you make a go of it in an urban environment?  I won't speak to the idea of living in a giant city of millions like NY, Chicago or LA - I've never lived in a place like that and would flee screaming if I had to.  I'm thinking of a city of 100,000 to a half million, maybe up to a couple of million living in the "greater" area.  A place with jobs, entertainment, colleges, and people.  Although not ideal, I think that with planning and creativity, it could be not too bad of place to ride out some disasters and personal crises.  I don't know that it would be too good for the long-term, wide-spread SHTF, but we take the cards we're dealt.

I'll give you two examples that I think could work pretty well.

When I was a teenager, my dad and step-mom lived in an Edwardian-era row house on Church Hill.  We were just blocks away from where St. John's Church where Patrick Henry gave his "Liberty or Death" speech before the Revolution.  When they bought the house, it had been turned into a duplex, and was pretty run down.  Over the years, we gutted and rebuilt from the inside out.  They also bought an adjoining half lot with a garage/carriage house on it.

It was a long house, two stories tall, with a crawl space.  On one side it adjoined the mirror image house through a brick wall.  On the other, there was a much shorter, more modern house.  Across the street was a park with a view of the river and old tobacco warehouses.  It was all brick construction, and very sturdily built.

Some Pros
  • Durable construction, it had withstood 80 years of weather, including blizzards, hurricanes and blazing sun.  The brick construction would also have been resistant to common caliber ammunition.
  • Good perimeter - the rear and side lots were protected by an 8 foot stockade fence.  The tiny front yard was set off by a wrought iron fence. 
  • Escape routes - roof access could lead to other homes on the block; a trap door into the crawlspace lead to the back yard.  From there one could either get out the back gate to the alley, or out the side lot to the garage or street.
  • Sustainability - the side lot was a great vegetable garden, roughly 25 x 30 feet.  My step-mom has quite the green thumb and at the time they were into making and canning chow chow and relish.  There were also plenty of small game and pest animals that could have been dinner if needed.  The river was about a mile, but a very steep walk to good fishing.
  • Community - the immediate area was occupied by a lot of similar people, and everyone helped everyone else.  Everyone also watched out for everyone else and was active in the neighborhood watch.
Some Cons
  • Crime - although we were never crime victims, there was a fair amount just blocks away.  Burglaries were pretty common, and street robberies (a friend got shot in the butt by a mugger) were not unheard of.
  • Dependency on the city - trash service, water/sewer, natural gas... all came from the city.  Back in the day, most of those homes had wells and outhouses, so that could be done again if it really came down to it.  They all had fireplaces, so trash, heat and cooking could have been taken care of.  But it wouldn't have been pleasant - imagine heating a room with 12 foot ceilings with a small coal grate fireplace.
  • Population density - it was crowded.  Each block had 12 to 15 homes, some of which were duplexes.
This is running longer than I expected, and it's getting late.  I'll wrap up tomorrow with my other example and and some closing thoughts.

5/30/11

Going Covert

Guerrilla Gardening

Until recently, when I heard the term, "guerrilla gardening," I thought of a hippie planting marijuana in a national park or a group of little old ladies sneaking onto the courthouse square to plant some flowers.  I've been hearing and reading more lately about survivalists going guerrilla to expand their growing capabilities.  I've been keeping my eyes open to possibilities for me to try.  I've been eyeballing a little wooded area behind the parking lot at work, but I think it's too shady for much.  Today I found another opportunity, and it was right in front of me.

We live across the street from an old one-room schoolhouse.  A number of years ago, the county deeded it over to a community group, but other than a fish fry once a year, it doesn't get used, doesn't have power, and is not even maintained.  About once a month, I ride the lawn mower over and knock down the weeds, about an acre and a quarter of them.  A line of scraggly pine trees separates the property from the road, and much of the view from my house.

As I was cutting the grass over there today,  I realized that it would be perfect for putting in some fruit trees.  I've been wanting to try some, but I need to clear some of the woods out to make room.  The Southern side of the line of pine trees is an open, sunny area.  With the addition of another 100 feet of hose to my front faucet, I can reach across the road to keep anything watered as it gets established.  Although I can't do anything to keep the deer away, it's so close, it'll be easy to pay attention, keep it pruned, and most importantly, harvest. 

Being on more or less "public" land, of course, anyone would be able to share of the harvest.  But my gut tells me that other than the occasional snack that a neighbor might grab off the branch, I think we'll have the vast majority of the harvest at our disposal.

So, are any of you guerrilla gardening?  If so, is it worth it?  Are others getting your harvests?  What are your circumstances?


Sponsor of the Week

Wise Food Storage from The Berkey Guy is our Sponsor of the Week.  From their convenient grab & go kits to the family-size year's supply, Wise Food is a great option for your food storage needs, and The Berkey Guy at Directive21.com provides fantastic customer service.  Check him out and please tell him that you heard about him here at If It Hits The Fan.

5/29/11

Flu Preps

It Never Really Goes Away

For the past week, my step-mom has been down with the flu.  Late spring is not normally flu season, but it never really goes completely away.  Thankfully, she started feeling better yesterday, but it also reminded me to check my flu preps.

Out in the shop, I've got a bin marked with a red electrical tape cross, and a label that says simply, "Pandemic Supplies."  I put all this together a couple years ago when the H1N1 hit the news.  That ended up being a non-event, but any flu can be bad.

So, what do I have in the flu supply bin?
  • About 150 N95 masks - I'm sure most folks know that to stop "most" viruses, a mask needs to be rated N95...  a regular dust mask like you might wear mowing the grass during hay fever season won't cut it.  Realistically speaking the masks are more effective if the sick person wears it so that it keeps the virus from leaving.  The reason we have so many is not that we expect to wear one for 8 or 10 hours a day as we go about our business... they won't hold up that long, and they are uncomfortable.  I'm considered "essential personnel" at work and my wife works in a medical office.  If there was a pandemic, we'd both have to work.  My plan is to wear a mask only when I have direct contact with anyone.  My wife would probably need to wear one throughout the day, changing it frequently.
  • I have a box of surgical gloves and two boxes of alcohol prep pads - these will be to clean up - wiping down door knobs, sink handles, light switches and the like.
  • A big jar of echinacea - this one is getting ready to rotate into the house and get replaced - echinacea is from the purple cone flower, and, taken regularly, can boost immune resistance.  Taken in larger doses after becoming symptomatic, it can reduce the severity of the flu (my opinion only, seek a doctor's advice before taking).
  • A dozen bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer - these are constantly rotated as we use them at work on a regular basis.
  • I originally had a bunch of Gatorade bottles for rehydration in the event of vomiting or diarrhea - I recently got rid of it as it was way past it's expiration date - I need to get a bunch of powdered Gatorade, and vacuum pack it.  It will keep much longer, and take up a lot less room.
To get the latest information about the flu, including an up-to-date flu activity map, check out the CDC flu website.

5/28/11

We Have A Winner

Bad Voo Doo Daddy

Congrats to Bad Voo Doo Daddy for winning the reader appreciation contest.  Check out his blog, The Retreat, and see what else he has to say.

BVDD - please email me your T-shirt size and address, and I'll get one of our brand new If It Hits The Fan T-shirts out to you.

Thanks for entering!


Memorial Day

Many of us will spend this weekend with family and friends, eating hot dogs and enjoying each others company.  Some will have to work this weekend.  No matter what you are doing, please take a moment to remember what Memorial Day is, and honor those men and women who have given their lives in the fight for freedom.

Semper Fi: LCpl. Troy Gregory, KIA Kuwait, 1991 and 2nd Lt. Almar Fitzgerald, KIA Iraq, 2006

5/27/11

ConGRADulations

It's That Time Of Year

In the next couple of weeks, we have a niece, a nephew, a cousin and a friend's daughter all graduating from high school.  All will be going away to college.  When I went to college 25 years ago, I went to the local university and lived at home with my folks for a few months before getting an apartment with friends.  I was already a Marine, had guns and gear, and had been studying survivalism for several years.  Out of these four kids, one is a hunter and fisherman and pretty self reliant, the others I don't think have had to be responsible for much more than grades, household chores, and maybe a summer job.  Plus, they are all going "away" to school.  Instead of a pen & pencil set or a video game what type of graduation or going away present can you give a kid like this, that would have some practical use in keeping that kid alive if it hits the fan?


Gear

First thing to consider is a kit or bug out bag.  It should be scaled up or down considering how far away school is from a safe location.  Check out our sponsors Survival Gear Bags and Essential Packs for just what your graduate might need.

Sexual assaults and other crimes of violence are no strangers to most college campuses.  Unfortunately, most campuses prohibit students from having a gun.  It's up to you and your family to decide how much arming to do, but there are a number of options that can provide some level of protection.  Cold Steel Inferno is a good pepper spray option. It's easy for anyone to carry a tactical folder knife, or even an improvised flailing weapon such as a caribiner with a leather strap running to the key ring.  There is no reason for anyone on a college campus to be unarmed.

A locking strong box is a necessity for a dorm room.  A kid is thrust into a close quarters living arrangement a total stranger who may or may not be a scumbag, thief, or other criminal.  Anything of value must be secured.  Especially anything that might be used as a weapon.


Books

If the kid is going to take a car away to school, I strongly suggest a copy of fellow prepper, Carolyn Nicolaysen's Totally Ready for the Road.  It's everything from a guide to basic maintenance and driving in different scenarios and weather conditions.

If the school is in the big city, get a copy of Preparedness Now! by Acton Edwards.  For those of us raised in rural or suburban environs, it's a good introduction to surviving urban threats.

Maybe your kid plans on ROTC.  Give him or her a leg up with a copy of the SAS Survival Handbook.


Good Sense

These are just a few ideas for some prepping gifts for a new graduate.  It's really going to vary depending on the kid, his or her background and interests, where the school is, where home is... there's a lot to think of.

One thing kids going off to college really need is common sense.  Jack Spirko quotes sometimes, "Don't go to stupid places with stupid people to do stupid things."  That simple sentence will keep a college student out of a whole lot of trouble.  I would add for them to pay attention to their surroundings, be picky about whom they befriend, and have fun, but not too much.

5/26/11

Freedom From 9 to 5

What A Way To Make A Living

Yesterday I wrote of several recent attacks on personal freedom.  This evening, while mowing the grass and enjoying a relaxing cigar, I thought of different ways a person could begin an entrepreneurial enterprise.  Here's a few of those ideas.  They may work for you, or they may spark another idea for you.  Not everyone wants to strike out on their own, and it may not be right for you to start a solo career, but if you can get something going on the side, it can contribute to your personal freedom and be a good cushion to fall back on if something happens to your primary job.


Teach

In The Postman movie, an old guy wanted to join the postal service in their war.  The rest of the mail carriers were young, and the guy says he can't ride and moves slow.  Costner asks what he can do.  The guy says, "I know stuff."  Costner then sees his Vietnam-era Airborne tattoo and understands.

Maybe you know stuff that others want to know.  A simple web page, an ad in the local Trading Post or Penny Saver, and a location to teach, and you've got a side business.
  • Show new homeowners how to use and maintain power equipment and yard tools
  • Offer classes to teen drivers on basic car maintenance... changing oil, tires, wiper blades and belts; jump starting; proper washing; basic tune ups
  • Sewing
  • Canning
  • Marksmanship and firearms safety
  • Extreme couponing
  • Home brewing or wine making

Services for busy people

Think about the household chores and jobs that a lot of young teens might try to make summer vacation money.  Why can't an adult do them on the side?
  • Grass cutting
  • Pet sitting
  • Garden tending
  • Housekeeping
  • "Come to you" car detailing
  • Laundry and ironing (maybe just dry cleaning pick up and delivery)

Special Skills

There are plenty of things that lots of people want, but they don't want to learn how to do on their own or maybe they need long-term guidance
  • Custom sewing (curtains, throw pillows, quilts, costumes)
  • Computer or home electronics set up
  • Personal trainer
  • Gourmet cooking or party catering
  • Event planning
  • Graphic arts (if you can do this, please shoot me an email, I need to get something designed!)
  • Photography
  • Room staging for real estate agents and home sellers
  • Tutoring

Miscellaneous
  • Clean out garages, attics, basements, repossessed homes, etc... with the understanding that you will get rid of everything in the location, either to the dump, or you can keep it (for resale or your own use).  You get paid for the clean up, and everything you keep is a bonus.
  • If you are artistic, make jewelry, picture frames, scrap metal sculptures and other things for sale at craft shows or in a consignment studio.
  • If you have a knack for numbers, think about getting on with H&R Block or another tax service.  You go through their proprietary training and work your tail off for four months of the year.
  • Go to yard sales for specific items, then resell them.  I once knew a lady who was a pretty successful morning drive disc jockey.  She quit the radio biz when she had a baby.  She began buying baby clothes at yard sales, many of which were nearly new, and sold them on EBay.  She made more money doing that than she did as a DJ and she got to be a stay at home mom.

Just a Start

These are just a few ideas I have thought of tonight.  There are countless ways that a person can make side money, and it could even grow to a career.  The key is, you've got to be passionate about whatever it is you do.  You can't see someone else do a particular thing successfully and think that you can necessarily do that same thing.  If it doesn't thrill you, you won't be successful in the long term.

I really encourage you to read Gary Vaynerchuk's Crush It!  Gary is the epitome of entrepreneur and his book is a fantastic guide to marketing yourself and as he puts it, "cashing in on your passion."


Reader Appreciation Contest

Don't forget to enter the contest to win one of the first If It Hits The Fan T-Shirts!

5/25/11

Fighting for Freedom

Prepping For Independence

One often overlooked aspect of the prepping lifestyle is freedom.  Freedom from dependence on going to the grocery store... freedom from the 9-5 grind... freedom from outside interference... freedom to do what you want as long as you don't interfere with anyone else.  Sometimes our efforts to have freedom are beaten down at every opportunity.

A personal example for me happened a couple years ago when I bought one of those prebuilt sheds.  I had torn down the rotted plywood shack that served as a shed when we bought the place, and ordered a 14x24 shed, painted to match the house, and with matching numbers of windows.  Almost a miniature replica.  Turns out I needed a building permit, building inspections, plats, blueprints, and restrictions.  Mind you I live on two wooded acres zoned agricultural.  If I were licensed as a "farm," I wouldn't need any of that.  Who ever heard of having to get a license to be a farm?  I played their little games, and kowtowed to "the man" because it was a no win situation for me at that point.  But it pissed me off and turned me off to my local, rural, heretofore benign, government.  The kicker was that since I had a wooden floor in the shed, I could not have a roll-up door.  For "safety" reasons.  Over at the dump and at the sheriff's animal control office, they both have wooden floored sheds with roll-up doors.  One can only assume that either a-they want the dump and animal control employees to die horrible, painful deaths, or b-they want to soak county residents for more permit fees to build actual garages instead of an inexpensive shed.

So anyway, there are two recent national news stories of overbearing government interference with agricultural freedom...


Land of Milk & Money

Many people prefer raw milk, and think it has health benefits.  The FDA says that is not so, and that we will all die if we drink it.  Never mind that sanitation has improved dramatically since the days before Louis Pasteur, and that poor sanitation probably accounted for most of the old days sickness associated with milk.  Quite a few states allow the sale of raw milk, straight from the farm.  In some places, they have to get creative and do things like sell shares of a cow that are rewarded with dividends of fresh milk.  However, the feds strictly prohibit selling raw milk across state line.

In a twisted modern version of Smokey and the Bandit, it's not Coors and a Trans Am followed by Buford T. Justice.  It's an Amish milk buggy pursued by undercover federal agents. A Pennsylvania Amish farmer, Dan Allgyer, has been selling his raw milk to Washington, DC foodies who crave the taste and nutrition of his fresh, clean, raw milk.  The FDA spent over a year of undercover work with controlled purchases, informants, and a 5 a.m. raid with agents, US marshals and a state trooper.  Farmer Allgyer is now under a federal court order to not sell across state lines, pending  further legal action.


Bountiful Bunnies

A family in Missouri started raising rabbits as a hobby several years ago.  They eventually started selling meat by the pound and pet rabbits to friends.  They then started selling to a local pet store operating as a part of an amusement park petting zoo.  That got them on the USDA radar.

Surprise inspections, followed by allegations of minor violations when there are no written regulations lead to further investigations and meetings, and finally, a call from Washington saying that the family would be made an example of.

From selling a few hundred rabbits over the years (by all accounts, very healthy, clean and happy rabbits) for a few thousand dollars, and profiting a whopping $200 to $400 over the course of several years, they were fined over $90,000 dollars!  That is not a typo, Ninety Thousand Dollars for 619 rabbits in 56 transactions.  They are standing firm and fighting.  I hope they prevail.


The Camel Has His Nose Under The Tent

I'm not an anarchist.  I do have libertarian leanings.  Freedom is much more than "nothing left to lose."  I'm sorry I caved on my shed process several years ago.  Each time we allow the "authorities" to take more of our rights, liberties and property, we make it easier for them to take more next time.

There are plenty of people that believe that the government should be able to take the extra food from "hoarders" to feed the neighborhood after a disaster.

Liberty, once given away, can not be claimed back without a fight.

Reader Appreciation Contest

Milestones

This is the post that would have gone out last night if my computer had not been acting up.  There will be a regular post tonight.

Over the past few days, we've had our one year anniversary, hit 300 Facebook fans, and are approaching 50,000 total page views.  Wow!

To celebrate, I want to give away one of the very first If It Hits The Fan T-shirts.
Front

Back




Here's how to win... 

Post a link to IfItHitsTheFan.com on your blog or in a survival/preparedness forum that you frequent...

Then, leave a comment on this post with a link to the place where you left the link to here...

Do both before 8 a.m. (EDT) on this Saturday.

That's all there is to it. 

Hopefully, this will spread If It Hits The Fan to a wider audience, and some lucky reader will get a stylish new T-shirt to wear!

Thanks for your support over the past year.  I look forward to many more.

5/23/11

Hurricane Season

Thoughts for Joplin

Joplin is a quiet town of 50,000 in SE Missouri, with Route 66 passing through.  From the single tornado that destroyed 2/3 the town yesterday, the current toll is 116 dead and 1,150 injured.  My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Joplin.

I read an article that looked at the nearly 500 tornado deaths so far this year.  The expert from NOAA said that there have not been an unusually large number of tornadoes this year, the problem is that they are hitting populated areas.  That just goes to show that a tornado can hit anywhere at any time.  In the last century, each of the 50 states has been hit by a tornado.  Wherever you live, please get a NOAA weather alert radiofor your home and work, and develop a tornado sheltering plan.


Hurricane Prep Tax Holiday

Wednesday marks the start of the hurricane prep sales tax holiday here in Virginia.  Florida and Louisiana also have a hurricane sales tax holiday, other states may as well.  It's a good opportunity to stock up on some basic supplies and save 5% while sticking it to the man.  This link details what is and is not eligible.  Unfortunately, weapons, long term storage foods, and clothing are not exempt, but quite a bit is (and there is a clothing sales tax holiday in August).  Weather radios are included, so its a great time to get one!  We'll pick up a couple for gifts, and flesh out a few other preps this week.


This Season's Predictions

This time of year, I check the National Hurricane Center each morning to look at what is forming out in the Atlantic.  As storms form, I check throughout the day.

Once again this year, the Center predicts a higher than normal Atlantic hurricane season.
  • 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:
  • 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including:
  • 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher)
Over the past few years, they've called for active seasons, but for the most part, the East Coast has been very fortunate.  That is not a reason to ignore or scoff at this year's predictions.  We have to pay attention as storms form, and if in the path, we really need to consider if we need to evacuate our families BEFORE the order comes.  Waiting to be told to leave will result in being stuck in bumper to bumper gridlock, and being in a potentially more dangerous situation than staying at home.  Not to mention, if you evacuate early, you have a much wider choice of where you can go.

5/22/11

Faraday Cage

I Missed Two Important Anniversaries

Yesterday morning, at zero-dark-30, it marked the 25th anniversary of me, at the tender young age of 17, getting off the bus and stepping into the yellow footprints.  If you know what that means, Semper Fi.

May 18th marked the first anniversary of If It Hits The Fan.  It did not become a daily venture until January 1st, but the basics were there.  Here's my first post to give you an idea of how we came to be.  In that year, I've had nearly 50,000 page views, built a solid advertising base, and have thoroughly enjoyed talking to many of you through post comments, emails and Facebook.  I hope to actually meet up with some of you this year, and I want all of you to know how much I appreciate you taking time out of your day to read what I have to say.

My Faraday Cage

A couple of days ago, I wrote of solar storm preparations and mentioned that I was building a Faraday cage for my radios.  My original plan was to use a super-heavy-duty Pelican-style case, lined with foil and with perfectly cut out foam for each item.  That proved to be a tremendous pain in the rear... the case wasn't really large enough for all the equipment, and the foam was a lot more expensive than I expected.

I then went to plan B, and I think it is much more sensible.  I already had a Plano four pistol case with a waffle foam insert.  I simply took out the waffle foam and used a spray adhesive to line it with two layers of aluminum foil.

Lined with foil



With the waffle foam

With radios and accessories

























I think this will be a fine Faraday cage for my Midland GXT 1000 radios.  If I was going to do it again, I'd probably buy an aluminum pistol case and be done with it.  I was at a friend's for dinner tonight and he was showing us the progress on his rec room and his preps closet.  I noticed he had two microwaves off to the side.  He said one would go in the rec room kitchen area, and he was getting rid of the other one.  I let him know that it was a Faraday cage and he could just stick it in the prep closet with his electronics stored in it.  That suggestion made him happy and saved him some trouble.


National Hurricane Preparedness Week

Today marks the start of Hurricane Preparedness Week.  FEMA is featuring information in their blog all week.  As much as I think FEMA tends to overstep their bounds, I think they do a good job of informing the masses about minimal disaster preparedness, and they can really help out community preparedness efforts.


Sponsor Of The Week

Our Sponsor of the Week is Essential Packs.  Essential Packs has a huge selection of emergency kits in every price range and for a wide variety of purposes.  They currently have some great items on sale, including office and car emergency kits, 50 person trauma packs, CERT kits and emergency radios.  Check them out and please tell them you heard about them here at If It Hits The Fan.

5/21/11

Ammo Compatibility

From the OK Corral to Afghanistan

From the early days of cartridge firing weapons, there has been a school of thought that promoted sharing the same round in your handgun and long gun.

Some classic examples are the Colt Peacemaker revolver and Winchester 1873 carbine, both in .44-40.  Other possible combos were in .32-20 and .25-20.  In The Rifleman TV show, Chuck Connors spun a model 1892 Winchester in .32.20.  Moving up to WWII, we can't forget the venerable 1911 .45 automatic pistol matched with a M3 "Grease Gun" submachine gun in the same caliber.  Across the pond, a British commando might have carried a Browning Hi Power pistol and Sterling subgun in 9mm, while German soldier could be found with a Walther P38 pistol and MP40 subgun, again in 9mm.

In modern times, Cowboy Action Shooting competitors frequently use recreations of those old guns in .44 special/.44 magnum, .38 special/.357 magnum, and .45 Colt.  Child competitors can use revolvers and lever guns matched up in .22 long rifle caliber.  You local police officer might carry the Beretta Storm carbine/pistol combo that not only uses the same ammo, but the same magazine.  The Kel-Tec P2000 carbine can be had with lower receivers that use magazines from Glock, Beretta or Smith & Wesson for complete compatibility with the corresponding handguns.  A camper or squirrel hunter might go to the field with a Ruger 10/22 rifle and Mark III pistol, both in .22 long rifle caliber.  A unique combo is the WWII era M1 carbine matched up with the discontinued Ruger Blackhawk single action revolver in the same .30 caliber.  That combo is deadly on coyote sized game and would be great for a rancher's holster and pickup gun rack.

Personally, I have three different combos.  Each has it's own job function, and I find the ammo compatibility to be a true benefit.

Competition:  I occasionally shoot in Cowboy Action matches.  I use a Winchester Model 94 Trapper carbine and a pair of Ruger Bisley Vaquero revolvers, all in .44 special/magnum.  I load my own .44 special ammo for matches, and have a fairly mild load, pushing big slow bullets.  The 94 was originally made for rifle length cartridges, and many say it won't function well in pistol calibers, so they use a 92, 73, or a Marlin.  I seat my bullets a hair longer than a standard .44 special round, and I have never had a lick of trouble with my Trapper feeding or failing to function.  Maybe I'm just got an unusually good one, but I've put several thousand rounds through it and would trust my life on it if I had to.  A competent shooter can quickly learn to get off 10 rounds from a lever action in 10-12 seconds.  A champion class shooter, using a race tuned carbine, can get off rounds faster than the cyclic rate of some full automatic weapons.  Same thing with a pair of single action revolvers.  I shoot a bit slower with mine than I do with a semi-auto pistol, but there are plenty of shooters that can make the single action go faster than a 1911 can action it's slide.

Sport:  I have several .22 rifles.  My favorite is the venerable Ruger 10/22.  I am currently without a .22 pistol (other than my NAA mini-revolver) but plan soon to buy a Walther .22 that I can later get a suppressor for.  I also have a Henry lever action .22 and plan to get a Ruger Single Six .22 single action revolver for inexpensive cowboy action practice.

Defense:  A few Christmases ago, my wonderful wife surprised me with an Olympic Arms M4 style carbine in 9mm that takes Glock magazines.  I also have a Glock 17, so my standard 17 round magazines can go in either one.  I also have plenty of the 31 round G18 mags that will function flawlessly in either one as well.

Especially in the defensive realm, there are those who say that a pistol caliber carbine is of no use... that a .223 or 7.62x39 round will be much more effective.  Depending on the situation, those people are right.  But out here living in the woods, I would never have a clear shot over 35-40 yards, and the pistol caliber is great at that range.  If my lanes of fire were over 75 yards, I'd probably rethink things. 

Is anyone else a fan of sharing their ammo betwixt their handguns and long guns?

5/20/11

Prepper Ponderings

Lots of stuff going on out there...

Here's The Dam Houses

As the Mighty Mississippi spills over her banks and her levees get blown, she floods out countless acres of farmland, small towns, and homes,  some folks have taken it upon themselves to build their own dams around their homes.  Check out these amazing pictures and stories of self reliance.
DIY: This home in Vicksburg, Mississippi is surrounded by tons of earth and sand as its owner tries to hold back the floodwaters from the Yazoo River


I Plan On Posting Tomorrow

I'm sure you've seen all the hype about the group that is predicting the Rapture this Saturday at 6 p.m. (apparently rotating through all time zones at local time).  I'm not a Biblical scholar, but I've read up a bit on Revelations and the End Times.  I've read the whole Left Behind series and find it a great story, and it may very well be what is experienced by those who are not raptured.  Frankly, I think this particular group is made up of kooks.  The Bible itself says that only God knows when He will return.


The Sugar

Here in the South, folks are not diabetic, they have "The Sugar."  That translation being clarified,  if that affects you or anyone in your family, I encourage you to check out this guest post and follow up letters at SurvivalBlog.com over the past couple of days.  In good times, diabetes can be easily controlled with a bit of effort and planning, yet so many do not take care of themselves and suffer extensively for it.  In a SHTF or grid-down situation, without extensive preparation, diabetes will cause rapid problems.  In the book, One Second After, a diabetic little girl is a key character.  Her suffering is tragic.

5/19/11

Brains! Braaaiiiinnnnsssss!

Zombie Fun From CDC?

I don't know about you, but when I think of clever humor, federal agencies always come to mind, especially those wacky pranksters at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Those guys crack me up!  Well, the king clown, the Asst. Surgeon General of the US, Ali Khan, is at it with another one...

Fox News reports that a recent official CDC blog post from ASG Khan dealt with planning for a zombie apocalypse.  Here's the full text of the blog post.

Aside from wondering why CDC is putting out this message instead of FEMA (duplication of efforts can't be good for the taxpayers' bottom line), I actually like this.  Zombies are very popular right now.  Video games, movies, and books about zombies and surviving them are all coming out at a record pace.  Personally, I'm not in to zombies, but you can't miss the zombie walks, zombie survival forums, and flash mob Thriller dances.

General Khan (do you think he's tired of the Capt. Kirk imitations every day in the CDC employee cafeteria?) uses a tongue in cheek way to present sound advice about preparing for real disasters such as hurricanes and pandemics.  There are a lot of people who might otherwise not pay attention, but this way makes it "cool."  It can reach younger people, and can open up conversations among others.

That being said, I think that those of us who talk and practice preparedness should avoid using zombie apocalypse as a reason.  Our relatives, neighbors and coworkers already think we are a bit off, and it takes a gradual, subtle approach to reach them.  They might fail to see the humor if we start talking about zombies as the CDC has done.  I say leave that talk to the professionals, and we continue on our normal, non-zombie path of preparedness and spreading the word.

I'm curious what you think about this?  Is the CDC approach a good one?  Would your brother-in-law be more likely to listen to you talk about preparedness if you used zombies as an example?  Will your Aunt Sally be more likely to put away some food and water if she can joke that it is for the zombies?  Please leave a comment, I'd really like to know.

5/18/11

Nickel For Your Thoughts

The 9 Cent Nickel

Do you know the thrill of finding a pre-1965 dime in your change from the grocery store?  The current metal value of one is $2.59.  Prior to 1965, dimes, quarters, 1/2 dollars and dollar coins were 90% silver.  The coins were debased in 1965, leading to the current ones with the copper centers (1/2 dollars were 40% silver through 1975 1965-1970).  All those silver ones are long since disappeared from general circulation.

The lowly 5 cent nickel may soon be going that way.  According to this article, the current cost to the US Mint to make a 5 cent nickel is 9.24 cents.  You don't have to be an economist to figure out that we really can't continue like that.  The Mint recently had a public comment period to get feedback on coin compositions.  From what I've read in different places over the past year or so, the conventional wisdom is that the nickel will be debased to cheaper metals sometime in the next few years.  So what does that mean for us?

When the coin is debased, the current "nickel" will quickly dissappear from circulation.  People who understand melt value will grab all they can and hold them for that 250% ROI 45 years later like silver coins enjoy now.  I'm gradually building up a stock of nickels.  There is absolutely no risk, it costs me 5 cents today, and it will be worth 5 cents tomorrow.  It will never be worth less than 5 cents.  We have two coin jars.  One, all nickels go in...  they do not get spent in pocket change, not left as tips, not dropped in the fountain, they go in the jar.  The other jar is for all other coins and goes to the vacation fund.  I also get rolled nickels from the bank whenever I get there.  Sometimes it's only $4 or so, other times $20.  It depends on what they have available in the drawers or if the vault teller is available.  Those rolled nickels go in the safe as a part of the household emergency fund.  If we truly need the money for an emergency, they are available (the hassel of taking care of an emergency with nickels really makes a person think if it is truly an emergency or not).  If we don't need them for an emergency, they are just sitting there, awaiting the debasement of their nickel brothers, so they can go up in value.  According to the base metal coin calculator at Coinflation.com, the current melt value of $1,000 in nickels is $1,295.04.  That is a 29.5% return on investment just by not spending a 5 cent piece! 

Should a person dump their 401K and put all their investments in nickels?  Of course not.  But saving your pocket change and adding a few rolls of them to your emergency fund can really pay off in the long run.

5/17/11

Solar Storms

Storm's Coming

GENEVA (AP) -- A senior official at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says solar storms pose a growing threat to critical infrastructure such as satellite communications, navigation systems and electrical transmission equipment.

You can read the full, but short article here.

This is the rare potential disaster that preppers worry about that the government and (increasingly) the main stream media are also talking about.  I'm no physicist, but as I understand it, the sun's activity happens in cycles, and in the coming couple of years, several different cycles are coming together to form strong solar storms, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections at levels not seen in many, many years.  The last time we had this large of a storm series, we didn't have satellites, airplane, circuit boards, power grids, etc...  In fact, the storm of 1859 caused aurorae as far south as the Caribbean, and shut down telegraph systems around the northern hemisphere.

The effects of CME can be very similar to an electromagnetic pulse, shutting down electronics and "frying" circuits.  So what could this storm look like, and what can we do about it?

With technology today, scientists will know when these CMEs or flares happen, and we'll have some notice before they hit our atmosphere.  Current thought is that if systems are shut down, they will probably escape damage, so some discussion is that upon reports of a major CME, the electrical systems will have to shut down.  It's not as simple as throwing a switch, especially with nuclear plants.  They may end up powering down the majority of the systems and just running minimum safety equipment, possibly shielded somehow.  I am not aware of how they might plan to protect the lines.

Within our homes, we may need to plan to unplug electronics and appliances on certain days.  They think cars will be OK if they are not running, so we may need to adjust work schedules or commute times during peak periods of solar activity (or break out the '74 Monte Carlo for the commute).  I've been building a Faraday cage to contain my GMRS radios.  I'll build a larger one as I add to my supply.  I should finish it this weekend, and I'll get a couple pictures up.  Essentially, it's a case, lined with foil, and the electronics are separated from the foil.  There are some who say it needs to be grounded, but others say that a small box for home electronics is OK without grounding, but if you have a large Faraday room or walk-in cage, it needs to be grounded.  Mine won't be.

I think the key to the next couple years will be to pay attention to news about solar activity, and plan for alternative, protected power.  I feel kind of like I did in 1998 about Y2K.  That turned out to be nothing, but only because industry and government spent billions of dollars and millions of man-hours fixing it.  Today I have a much better overall level of preparedness, which prevents "panic prepping."  By continuing with my steady preps, I'll be much better prepared for a solar storm to cripple the electrical grid... or a hurricane... or an ice storm...  Disaster commonality - so many potential disasters need many of the same preparations.

I'll be trying to stay on top of this, and as things develop, or new ideas are presented, I'll bring them up here.


iPhone Weather Alerts

I found the source information on the iPhone weather alert offer today.  Here's the press release:

More than likely, almost everyone would agree that there's no price tag when it comes to their safety. Weather Decision Technologies, the creators behind the new iMap Weather Radio app, agree.

For 24 hours on May 19th, they're offering this app completely free to the first 100,000 customers.
Just like a weather radio, this app will broadcast life saving weather alerts and hazards. Mike Gauthier, the Interactive Vice President with WDT says, "Mobile Weather Radio is a product we designed to reach people where people live in today's world which is mobile, cellular."

He says, picture this, "This is the scenario: it's 3 o'clock in the morning, your iPhone is laying next to you on the nightstand, your location has just been put under a tornado warning. The phone will literally come alive, it will issue 3 tones and talk to you and tell you your location is under a tornado warning."

Using this app, you can get alerts for up to five locations. You also have the option to view an interactive map with the current radar, or live stream your Storm Team 10 Forecast.

Gauthier explains that WDT has the experience behind this app too.

"We've been doing this weather alerting, weather safety for over 11 years now. We just feel that this is a life saver, and it's going to reach people," Gauthier said.

This app couldn't have been launched at a better time. It hit the market just weeks before the record tornado outbreak of April 27th and 28th, where approximately 15,000 copies of this app were downloaded in a mere 12 hours.

If you're interested this app can be purchased on iTunes for approximately $10. WDT said they plan to branch this app out to the Android market next.

Here it is on iTunes.  Don't forget to check it out on Thursday to save $9.99 and get it free.  My wife is going to do it on her iPhone.  The less that people listen to radios and watch local TV, the more they will miss weather and other emergency alerts.  Mobile devices are the future.

5/16/11

In The Kitchen

Cukes

I love cucumbers.  I had a pretty good crop last year, and hope to again this year.  But they get a little boring just eating them raw as a snack.  The middle part can also contribute to a little heartburn or indigestion.

My wife was cutting up some veggies yesterday to take to a family cookout, when she had a great idea for slicing them in strips.

I now present the first How To video on the IfItHitsTheFan YouTube channel

I'm going to slice some up and dehydrate them on the Excalibur to make some long term storageable and nutritious snack sticks.  I'll let you know how that works out.


Popcorn Preps

After dinner tonight, we wanted some popcorn.  My wife thought she had used up all that we had and we would have to resort to the microwave type.  A quick trip out to the shop, and I came in with a 5 3/4 pound jug of Orville Redenbacher.  A great example of eat what you store, store what you eat.  I still have one more out there, and will add two more next trip we take to BJ's.


Water Harvesting

So long as you don't live in a state like Colorado, the water that hits your roof, driveway, and yard belongs to you.  Being on a shallow well, I value every drop I can get extra.  I have not yet invested in rain barrels to attach to the downspouts, but I have a smaller scale method.  I have quite a few 5 gallon buckets that I use in gardening, digging up rocks in the yard, etc...  This week, we are getting heavy rain storms every night.  While that does my garden good this week, we'll be under bright sun by the weekend.  By leaving my buckets out this week, I'll get a couple more days of "free" water after the rain stops.  I just can't let them sit for too long, lest they become mosquito breeding grounds.  I plan to get a true harvesting and storage system in this year, but this temporary measure helps out for the time being.

5/15/11

WTH is GIS?

Geographic Information System

Kind of like Google Maps on steroids.  Many localities have GIS websites that show maps of the community, with optional overlays showing bodies of water, property lines, municipal buildings, and many other features.  The government uses the GIS overlays when looking at zoning, growth, and yes, disaster management.

Here's the Newport News, Va. GIS site.  It's pretty user friendly, and is a way that residents can truly know what is around them.  During disasters, in the Emergency Operations Center, a GIS programmer will manually add layers to reflect reports of damage or problems.  At the emergency management conference I went to last week, a guy spoke about his business that markets GIS programing that allows individual users to add layers to help keep the system updated during disasters.  It can use GPS coordinates, manually entered locations, or hidden data in photos, Facebook updates, Twitter tweets, etc... to do this.  Rather than relying on a 911 call to report power lines down, then having the GIS programmer manually add it, this system lets a person take a photo, send it to the city as a text message, and it automatically becomes a layer on the GIS.  While this is fine and good for municipal emergency management, how can GIS help us as individual preppers?

When I was a kid, I collected beer cans.  I had over 1,200 of them dating back to the late 30's.  Many of them, I found by going "dumping."  This wasn't going to the landfill, this was finding places where people used to gather and drink, leaving their trash behind.  The collecting guide books and magazines suggested using topographical maps to find old recreational areas, and abandoned houses or communities to help find such "dumps."  That was the height of mapping technology back in the 70's.

We can use GIS (or, Google Earth / Google Maps) in a similar way today.  Plan on walking home from work after an EMP?  What's blocking a straight line path for you?  If I'm trying to cut across from the highway to our property in Wyoming, I'll run right into a very deep chasm.  I wouldn't know that unless I had looked at it from Google Earth.  From ground level, you can't see it.  If I need to hike home from work here, two of my three routes involve crossing rivers.  I need to account for that in my plan.  If I can use the bridges, great, but if they are closed or gone, I need to take option #3.  We're lucky that the neighboring property has a small pond (only about 15 feet from our line) and a couple acre lake.  If those weren't there, I could look at Google Earth and find that there is another body of water, touching a public road, about a mile and a half away down a side road.

I encourage you to use such resources to really learn what is around your home or on your expected paths between work and home.  You'd be surprised what's out there, waiting to be found.  Maybe you have a private pond, fed by a stream, within walking distance of your home.  It's a whole lot easier to build relationships and gain permissions from the owners when it is not a crisis than it is after it hits the fan.


Product Review: Zenni Optical

I'm blind as a bat... horribly nearsighted.  I regularly wear contact lenses, and just have glasses for emergencies or right when I go to bed/wake up.  If I try to read with the naked eye, I have to hold the book about 8 inches or so away from my face.  From across the room, I can't recognize facial features.  Yet with glasses or contacts, I have 20/20 vision.  For my purposes, I can't see spending several hundred (or even one hundred) dollars on a pair of glasses.  My insurance will give me a pair of the hundred dollar type every other year, and that seems to work just fine.  But in the prepper mindset, two is one, one is none.  So I need a couple extra pairs.

You've probably heard of Zenni Optical, home of the $7 glasses.  But are you skeptical of the ability to mail order glasses that will not give you headaches or worsen your vision?  Does your optometrist warn you that you need her expert fitting and that bargain glasses will cause a rift in the universe?  Maybe only Louis Vuitton or Calvin Klein glasses are good enough for your exquisite tastes.  The first two applied to me, but I figured I could try $15 to give them a try.  Back in the fall, I did so.

First, I had read that having the proper pupilary distance was crucial.  I had to get my "free" insurance pair anyway, so I had the optometrist tell me what the various measurements were, and I wrote them down.  I looked around Zenni's site and found a pair of glasses that were available in my measurements, and didn't look too bad.  They are metal frames, just your basic glasses, nothing fancy.  I thought I had my measurements all correct, and compared what I was ordering to the glasses I had just got through insurance.

All of Zenni's glasses include UV coating, anti-scratch coating, and a hard case.  Shipping is $4.95 whether for one pair, or you are outfitting the whole block.  Tinting is available for an extra fee.  My plan was to get one pair, and if they were right, I'd order several more, including some with tinting, to keep in the car, at work, in my BOB, the shop, etc...

Well, my glasses came in about a week and a half.  They look good, are well made, and give me perfect vision.  The only problem is that I messed up my frame size measurement.  I think I measured from one edge of the glasses to the other edge, but I should have included the earpiece hinges.  These are too small.  They almost look like child glasses.  They work, I'm wearing them right now as a matter of fact.  But they are truly emergency back up.

I'll order from Zenni again.  I'll just get a larger size.  For extra glasses, especially if you can't function without them, Zenni is a great option.  Just make sure you have the right size, and all your measurements are correct before you order a big batch.  Try one pair first.


Sponsor of the Week

Our Sponsor of the Week is Directive 21, The Berkey Guy.  Jeff has all sizes of Berkey filter systems back in stock.  I recently got the Big Berkey, and am thrilled with the quality and workmanship.  Everyone I know who has a  Berkey loves the water quality they get from it.  Even with the recent price increases, the value is still there.  The per/gallon price is way cheaper than bottled water or a Britta pitcher or similar product.  Jeff has Potassium Iodate pills back in stock as well.  I got two bottles the other day.  Not as a knee jerk reaction to the Japanese disaster, but because I carry a Nuk-Alert on my key chain and the city where I work is surrounded by nuclear facilities.  For great service, great products, and great prices, check out Directive 21 and tell Jeff that you heard about him at If If Hits The Fan!


Rugged Maniac Video

We were using a new Flipcam, and haven't had a chance to figure out the downloading and editing.  As soon as I do, I'll put up some footage on YouTube and the Facebook page.  On a side note, I also plan to use the Flipcam to shoot some product reviews and prepping techniques.

5/14/11

Weather Alerts on Your iPhone

Free App Offer

If you've been reading If It Hits The Fan for a while, you know I am a huge proponent of having a NOAA Weather Alert radio in your home and office.  In fact, tonight we had a series of severe thunderstorm watches and warnings on ours.  I'm currently looking at CB/NOAA radio combos to find one to put in my truck on my commute.

If you have an iPhone, you can go one better and have NOAA weather alerts no matter where you are.  I got some information this week that there is an app for the iPhone that lets you have NOAA weather alert radio sent to your iPhone and you can program it for up to 5 different localities (great if you are like me and have a long commute, or if you travel around throughout your workday).  It normally costs $9.99 for this app, but on May 19th, for the first 100,000 people to download it that day, it will be free. 

I left the details at work, so I'll put them out here on Monday.  My wife has an iPhone, so we'll be putting this on hers.  Seems like a great application, and you can't beat the special price!


Rugged Maniac

Well, I ran the race today... "ran" is a generous term.  But I finished the race, successfully completed every obstacle, and even beat two of the people in my 9 a.m. wave.  The course was laid out over a motocross and trail riding track, so there were lots of steep hills and uneven terrain.  Obstacles included crawling through a drain pipe to 8 foot walls, a cargo net, a knee deep mud pit, low crawling through mud with strands of barbed wire inches over your head (that one brought back memories of Parris Island, just no explosives going off around me this time), diving under floating PVC pipes, balancing on a 2x4 over water, a 35 foot water slide, and a finishing leap over a fire.  Going in unprepared, I was hoping for about an hour and 15 minutes, but I actually made it in 1:05.  I was pretty pleased.  Next year, I'll be prepared, and shoot for sub 40 minutes. 

This year, there are nine Rugged Maniac races along the East Coast, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Denver.  If you get the chance, give it a shot.  It's tons of fun, and you get to challenge your body to see if you still "have it."  It's a great way to evaluate your overall fitness in a wide range of activities that could have bearing on how you get home or get away after a SHTF scenario.

I'll get some pics and video up tomorrow.

A huge thanks to all who donated to Shelter Box USA to help motivate me to the end!

5/13/11

Rugged Maniac

Blogger Update

This is hosted through Blogger.  They were down for nearly 24 hours, and I even lost Wednesday's posts, comments and design updates.  If you left a comment yesterday, and it's gone, please leave it again.  It looks like things are back to normal now.


Can You Help?

Tomorrow I'm running in the Richmond Rugged Maniac Adventure Race. It's a 5K (3.1 mile) race, set up on a motocross track, with a dozen obstacles built in.  Cargo nets, walls, mud pits, rope swings, and even a fire to jump over at the end.  Related to survival?  It's part of my quest to improve my physical fitness and health, so yeah, it is related to survival.

The problem is, I'm not ready.  I signed up for it thinking I'd have plenty of time to prepare.  I'm down a few pounds, but I'm still overweight and out of shape.  For the last month or so, I've been having trouble with a tendinitis flare up in my knee.

I'm going for it, but I'm going for slow and steady.  I'll finish... eventually.  It will be a family outing.  My sister-in-law is also running (she's going to be A LOT faster than I will), and my wife and her husband will be cheering us on.  We'll all be wearing the new very cool and very fashionable If It Hits The Fan T-shirts!  I'll be giving a few away soon, so stay tuned.

Now, here's where I can use some help.  As you might know, I've adopted Shelter Box USA as the official charity of If It Hits The Fan.  If you can spare it, I'd be honored if you would pledge to donate a couple bucks to Shelter Box to help motivate me to becoming a full fledged Rugged Maniac.  The donation page is here.  They do some great work with disaster victims.

Wish me luck tomorrow, and I'll be back with some pictures of us in our shirts, some video of me on the course, and a return to regular writing!

5/11/11

It's War

The Raccoon is Beating Me

I mentioned the other day that the neighbors have a large raccoon, possibly with rabies, that I'm trying to trap before it gets any chickens.  I'm using the Havahart 1079 live trap.  I've had great success with this in the past with skunks and raccoons.  This guy is giving me trouble.  The first night, he ate all the canned cat food, but didn't trip the trap.  I had no more bait, so I tripped it and left it there.  The next day, he had dragged the trap about 20 feet away from where I had it.  I left it in the new location and put in a new can of cat food.  This one, I opened, but left the lid sitting on the food.  The next day, he had removed the lid and eaten all the food, tripped the trap from the outside, and dragged it another 20 feet or so.  I'm starting to think he isn't rabid, he's too doggone smart and agile.


I'm going out in a minute to try again.  He's developed a taste for cheap, store brand canned cat food.  Tonight I will use a bungee cord to attach the trap to a tree.  I'll just crack the seal on the cat food can so he can smell it, maybe get a finger in there to get a taste, but he'll have to struggle some to get it open...  That ought to trip the trap with him inside.  We'll see how it goes.


Amazing Survival Story

Did you catch this story about the woman who survived lost in her broken down van for 49 days?  I'm sorry her husband has not been found, but it sounds like a Mother's Day miracle for her family.  The story also brings to mind a couple of points:
  • If lost, and your current location does not put you at risk, stay there and wait for help
  • Have a method of signaling in your car kit - a bright sheet, fire making materials, a mirror, a whistle, an air horn, it depends on where you are traveling
  • You can't rely solely on GPS, have a Gazetteer for unfamiliar territory
  • Have water and a method of getting clean water
  • Have clothes and other gear appropriate for the time of year
  • Several days worth of food for each person - Yeah, you probably won't have 49 days worth in your car, but even if she had a half dozen MREs and a couple boxes of granola bars, she'd have been better off than one bag of trail mix and some hard candy
  • This woman's faith went a long way to keeping her alive
When people think I'm nuts for having my kit in my car, I can point to this story as a reason.

5/10/11

EM Conference

Emergency Management Stakeholders Summit

Well, I made it up to DC this morning for the conference.  I had my subway preparedness kit ready to go, but we had no problems.  I did get a bit lost when I got off the Metro and wandered around for about 2.5 miles before finding the hotel where the conference was.  Turns out it was only about 3 blocks from the Metro station.  I guess I need to add a GPS to my urban preps.

The conference was mainly oriented to municipal emergency management, but I got some things out of it that are good for personal preparedness as well.  Garry Briese, a former FEMA regional administrator (that's a very ominous job title, sounds very authoritarian) talked about the five traits that make up a successful emergency manager.  One that is applicable to us is "Relationships."  I won't go into details about what he said about it, other than having and keeping contacts are.  I'll apply that to the personal preparedness line of thought.

If you have a cellphone, Rolodex, or business card scanner, keep track of people from all walks of life.  If you meet a tree trimmer, get his card.  Butchers, gun shop owners, pest control operators, HVAC repair, plumbers, the list goes on.  You meet these people in day-to-day life, but how often do you remember how to get a hold of them if you need them?  Build relationships with them.  Send them an email after you meet them.  Drop into their shop periodically.  Refer them to friends and ask the friend to tell them that you refered them.  If you need emergency help, and other folks do too, who do you think they'll be more likely to help?

Also get to know the emergency services people in your area.  If it's a small town with a 4 officer police force and a volunteer fire station, you're probably related to half of them anyhow, but if it's much bigger, it will take more effort.  Take a pie or a venison tenderloin to the firehouse.  Get involved in the neighborhood watch or go through the "citizen's police academy."  Trust me, most will appreciate it and remember you.

Like anything else worth doing, it will take time, and might not be easy if you are shy.

The other good topic from the conference was about social media, GIS, and emergency management.  I need to do a bit of research on that, but I'll have something for you tomorrow or Thursday.


Follow-Up

I need to answer some reader comments from yesterday.

Robin asked about vacuum sealing rice in mylar, and if it will keep it safe from bugs.  That's really two different questions.  Regarding bugs, sealing rice (or flour, etc...) will not keep it free from bugs.  All staples like that have a certain amount of bugs, larvae or eggs already in them.  Yep, pretty gross, but it's there, and the food inspectors allow some in everything we eat.  We need to kill whatever is in it.  I know of four ways that don't use poison.  First - oxygen absorbers.  I've never used them, but plan to soon.  You need to be sure you use ones that are large enough for the container (needs to be air tight) you're using, and that they have not been compromised and rendered ineffective.  Second - dry ice.  Usually used with mylar bags.  Put a small piece in the top, wait for it to dissapate, which indicates that it has displaced the oxygen and replaced it with carbon dioxide, and seal the bag.  It's kind of a pain, and it's hard to keep dry ice to use, so you need to do a bunch at one time.  You also need to use caution to be sure you don't let it stick to your skin.  Third - diametaceous earth.  This is a powdered natural substance that you mix into your food.  It doesn't poison the bugs, it scrapes their skin and then gets inside and drys them out.  I've used it successfully in 5 gallon buckets where I could really get in there and stir it together.  In smaller containers, it might be harder to do.  Finally, there is freezing. Before repackaging, put the food in the freezer for 5 or 6 days.  That will kill anything inside.  Then, package however you wish.

Regarding vacuum sealing rice, I don't think you'll be satisfied long term.  I love my vacuum sealer, and am actually on my second one.  But it works best with larger foods where the bags can mold around them.  Rice, pasta, macaroni and similar foods tend to move around in the bags and prevent a true vacuum.  They can even puncture the bag if they are moved around.  If you are rotating and doing "eat what you store, store what you eat," then you really don't need to do a whole lot of prep work on these staples.  They'll last just fine for a year or more of shelf life, and the most basic of storage efforts can really prolong that.  My frozen plastic bottles of rice ought to be good for a couple of years, but I expect to eat them and constantly replenish.  If you want long term, say 5+ years of storage life, I'd suggest either buying it from one of the major manufacturers (like Thrive), pay a visit to the local LDS cannery (I'm hoping to go this summer and I'll write about it), or use food grade 5 gallon buckets, heat sealed mylar bags, and dry ice or O2 absorbers.

Robin also let me know that she is an independent Thrive consultant.  Thrive is unique in that they have a system of home sellers with parties and great deals for party hosts similar to Mary Kay, Amway, and others.  I'm not sure what part of the country she is in, but check out her blog at http://www.str1ve-2-thr1ve.blogspot.com/ and see if she might be able to help you and your family.  Thrive consultants usually have the best prices on the Shelf Reliance line.

Anonymous sent the correct link to the Lowe's chicken coop designs: www.lowescreativeideas.com/idea-library/projects/Fowl_Play_0511.aspx

RiverRider: wow, a 30 gallon barrel of rice and bugs?  I can imagine how frustrating that was, and thank goodness you didn't need it for something major.  That's a great reminder of the benefits of using smaller containers.  It's easier to move, and if some goes bad, you won't lose it all.

Thanks to all of you for joining in the conversation!

5/9/11

Hip Shots

Hip Shots - not long enough to be Prepper Ponderings...

Garden Update

This weekend I ate my first strawberry from my patch.  Delicious!  My tomato plants are looking very nice and have sprouted some buds.  We should be eating lettuce and carrots by the weekend. 


Subway Urban Prep Kit

I'm going to DC tomorrow for an emergency management conference.  Several weeks ago, I did the same thing and built a last minute kit.  I'll put one together tonight with a few modifications for the warmer weather.  I'll let you know tomorrow what I get out the conference.


Chicken Coop Design

The latest issue of Lowe's Creative Ideas magazine has a link to plans for a cute little chicken coop for the urban farmer.  My wife suggested that it might help convince the spouse who might be opposed to having chickens if they have a large, slapped together coop in mind.


More Pests

Our neighbors have seen a very large raccoon running around in the daylight.  Of course, rabies comes to mind with that description.  I set out my live trap Saturday with a can of cat food for bait.  Next morning, the trap wasn't tripped, but the can was empty.  I closed the trap and left it there.  I carried a new can of cat food down this evening and found that the raccoon had come back for more and been very upset at the lack of cat food.  He dragged the trap roughly 30 feet through the leaves.  I put the new can in, but instead of having it all the way open, I pulled the tab and opened it, but replaced the lid so he'll have to make more of an effort to get in to it.


Rice

A few days ago I talked about using 3 liter water bottles to hold rice.  A reader, RiverRider, suggested that I ought to use O2 absorbers or diatomaceous earth or else I'll end up with a bottle of bug poo eventually.  I'd like to try O2 absorbers as an experiment, but I'm worried that the bottles might collapse from the vacuum created.  I used DE back with the 300 pounds of rice I put up in 5 gallon buckets for Y2K, and it's kind of a pain to use.  I'm going try a different approach.  I've got some room in the big freezer, so I'm going to put the bottles in for about a week to kill off anything inside.  I've read a lot of things about freezing flour, rice, etc... before storing to kill off the bugs.  I will get some O2 absorbers to try, though, and I'll report how the bottles hold up.  Thanks, RiverRider for pointing out the risk of bugs.

5/8/11

Connections

Comments

I don't always reply to comments (I'm getting better), but I always read them.  I really value what you have to say.  A reader left a comment about storm shelters which led to last night's post.  If you have a blog, feel free to leave a comment that links back to your blog.  One frequent commenter, BadVooDooDaddy, has a great blog that he calls The Retreat.  I never would have found it if he had not left comments here.  I'm adding it to my frequent read list, and I encourage you to give him a try.


Facebook

If you use Facebook, please "like" If It Hits The Fan.  I use Facebook to announce when a new post is up and also to put up links or comments sometimes during the day if something new comes up.


Email

Feel free to email me with questions, suggestions, criticisms, etc...  Send emails here.


Great Backyard Shootout

We had the two sisters-in-law and their husbands over for a cookout last night.  One had said a couple weeks ago that she wanted to shoot my "noisy cricket."  That's what we call my NAA mini-revolver ala the alien gun Tommy Lee Jones gave Will Smith in Men In Black.  So, we set up a target and the two ladies and one husband took some shots with the cricket and my Glock 17.  It was the first time he had ever shot any gun, and one sister had never shot a handgun before.  They all shot just fine, and seemed to like it. 

Exposing non-shooters in a safe, but informal manner, can go along way to connecting them and taking away fear or misunderstanding.


Sponsor Of The Week

Our Sponsor of the Week is Shelf Reliance, home of Thrive storage foods and the Cansolidator Food Rotation System.  They have a great selection of recipes, a food storage calculator, and what they call The Q pay as you go storage food.  You decide on your total purchase, set your monthly budget, and they begin monthly shipments, charging you as you go.  Build up a food storage program without going into debt to do it.  Please check them out, and tell them you heard about them here at If It Hits The Fan.

5/7/11

Storm Shelters Part 2

Can You Dig It?

Most prefab or manufactured storm shelters require digging a big hole.  Kind of like what you might need for a small pool.  My first up close look at one was a few years ago at a home improvement show.  I wish I remembered the company, but they had a big fibreglass shelter that was cutaway so you could see the hatch, the steps, and the inside layout.  Theirs could seat about 10-12 adults, but it was available in different sizes.  If we ever build a house with a deep enough water table, I definitely want a storm shelter built in.  Where we live now, we might add on in a few years, but our water might be too shallow to go down.  I will have some sort of at least partially buried shelter with access from inside the house. 


Designs

There are a number of basic designs out there, including fibreglass prefabs, buried steel shipping containers, welded steel purpose built shelters, and converted concrete or corrugated steel culverts.  The key with all of them is keeping out pests and moisture, having easy but secure ingress and egress, and ventilation.  Let's take a look at a few suppliers.


Severeweatherpods.com

This Texas company offers a huge variety of styles, designs, and capacities from 4 to 600.  They have a really cool website with lots of pictures and videos.  They even have custom designed and built completely underground bomb shelter homes up to 7,000 square feet.  They look like they put the one in Blast From The Past to shame.  They've been in business for over 13 years and serve all 50 states.


Ingroundsafetyshelter.com

Granger Plastics of Ohio makes this unique shelter our of polyethylene molded plastic.  It only comes in one size, and seat 3-5 adults.  They make a wide variety of molded plastic things, so they seem to know what they are talking about and doing with their shelters.  It doesn't look as comfortable as some of the larger ones, but in most cases, you wouldn't be in the shelter but for a half hour or so during a tornado warning... around these parts at least.  Maybe in Kansas or Nebraska folks might spend extended periods of time in a shelter.  They are looking for dealers in different states.  Could be a good opportunity for an entrepreneur.


Familysafeshelters.com

These folks designed their above ground safe-like shelter in 1998 with Texas Tech University's engineers.  Sizes from 4x4 to 8x12 in two grades are available.  These shelters are designed to be built into new construction or added to an existing garage or other room with a door big enough to get the unit in and flooring suitable for anchoring.  They claim the ability to withstand EF5 category tornadoes and have received an award from the Better Business Bureau for ethics.


Huron Culvert and Tank Co.

This company makes shelters out of corrugated steel pipes.  Their website doesn't show much, but it looks like two basic designs, both of which seem kind of bare bones.


Many Others

These are just a few different types of shelters that are on the market.  A Google search for "underground tornado shelter" turns up 1.6 million responses!


Probably a Good Idea

Tornadoes have hit in all 50 states in the last 100 years.  It's one of those things that as an individual, you are very unlikely to get have your home hit by one, but every year, hundreds of people lose their homes to twisters, and many die.  Does everyone need a tornado shelter?  Probably not.  But if your area is susceptible to getting hit, it might be something that saves your family's lives.  Underground shelters can also be used for temperature controlled storage and might add to resale value.

Like I said, I don't know if we can have an underground shelter with our water table, but I think I'm going to check with a couple of these to see if it might work for us at some point in the future.

If you are in the market for a shelter, I'd encourage you to research thoroughly.  Check with multiple suppliers and manufacturers.  Post on survival forums looking for successes or horror stories from those who
already have them.  Ask the manufacturer to connect you with some of their prior customers in your area.

If any of you have a shelter already, I'd love to post your pictures (anonymously of course) and if you are satisfied with your purchase.  Have you ever used it for a tornado?  Email me here, and I will keep your personal information completely confidential.

5/6/11

Storm Shelters

Going Underground

In the FEMA blog today, they talk about a group of nearly 200 Oklahomans who survived a recent tornado in a community storm shelter in a school.

The high school where I went in the early 80's and a couple of the older schools where I work now still have their civil defense fallout shelter signs.

A reader recently asked about personal underground shelters.

I'm running low on steam tonight, so to start with, I'll just leave you with this FEMA guide to building your own safe room.  Tomorrow, we'll look at some prefab and other storm shelters.

5/5/11

Secret Agent Man

Colt Agent

I haven't written about any guns for a while, so I thought I'd evaluate my Colt Agent for you.  The Agent had several variations from when it was introduced in 1962 to when it ceased production in 1986.  It's a 6-shot small frame revolver based on the Detective Special, but with a lightweight aluminum frame and a short grip frame.  The first version went through 1973 and can be identified by it's exposed ejection rod.  From 1973-79 it was slightly heavier and had a shrouded ejection rod.  These early versions had a blue finish.  The Agent was reintroduced between 1984 and 1986 with a Parkerized finish.  In high school, I drooled over the Parkerized Agent in the magazines.  About 6 years ago, I found a used one at my local gun store so I snapped it up.  It has been refinished in teflon and has the longer, standard length grips on the short grip frame.  One of these days I'll get it re-Parkerized and find some original grips.

So how does it shoot?  Pretty good.  It has a heavy, but very smooth double action trigger pull.  The hammer does not need to go back as far as some revolvers, so it has a short trigger pull.  The single action pull is crisp with no creep or drag.  As far as accuracy, I haven't done any bullseye shooting with it, but when I was still a cop, I was able to shoot the standard duty qualification course (out to 25 yards) in the low 90s with it.  With standard velocity .38 special ammo, it is very manageable and comfortable in recoil.  I carry +P Speer jacketed hollowpoints in it, and occasionally shoot a cylinder full through it.  If you don't know, +P ammo is not recommended for lightweight revolvers because it can eventually erode the forcing cone where the barrel joins the frame.  My personal belief is that carrying the best ammo I can and only shooting them every now and then is worth the risk of wearing out the gun.  I wouldn't shoot +P through it often or in great quantities, but that's what them make wadcutters for.

How does it carry?  It's lightweight, only 19.4 ounces loaded.  Colt hasn't made a small-frame .38 for years, and it won't fit in a holster designed for a 5 shot S&W snubbie.  It was hard to find a holster.  In fact, in one gun shop (it's no longer in business, go figure) they had never heard of a Colt 6 shot .38 and tried to sell me a holster for a S&W.  I ended up finding a Bianchi 6D ATB inside the waistband holster that works just fine for my needs.  I also got a few HKS DS-A speedloaders for it.  I don't carry this gun all the time, but it's great for taking a walk in the woods or for tossing in the backpack as a campsite gun. 

In today's world of exotic metal snubbies and high capacity semi-autos, there is still a place for an old school .38.  A used one in good shape from S&W, Colt, Ruger, or Charter Arms can be found for $2-300.  A good gun smith can tune it up or get it just right for not too much money more.  I've never had a revolver jam or fail to feed on me either.