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.

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