Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet, I'm Huntin' Huwicanes

State Emergency Management Conference - Final Day

First up this morning was a regional coordinator from FEMA.  He accidentally started showing a PowerPoint that listed the locations of the re-education camps, details on the adoption of the Amero on Dec. 21, and a map of the secret headquarters hidden under the Denver airport...  That would be a LOT funnier if this were Sunday!

Seriously, he gave a basic overview of FEMA's role during local emergencies.  He was very specific about the fact that FEMA does not deal with disaster response, they are there to help with recovery.  He talked a little about what they are doing to reach out to the handicapped as well.

  The next speaker was Capt. Frank Duarte of the Pima County Sheriff's Department in Tuscon, Arizona.  Capt. Duarte gave a pretty good after-action report on the 1/8/11 mass shooting by a deranged man that killed a federal judge, a little girl, a 30 year old activist, and three senior citizens... and wounded 13 others including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  In addition to all the logistical and incident management details, he also shared some good information a that preppers can relate to.

He spoke about the importance of first responders and their family members having "go bags" and emergency plans.  That way, the responders don't have to worry about their family so that they can give full attention to the mission.  For the initial on-scene planning, they use dry erase markers on their white patrol cars.  They have grease pencils available if it rains, but like he said, that hardly ever happens.  I had never thought about using the dry erase markers on a car, but it could be a good way to leave a message for family if you are trying to connect in a bug out situation.  He also talked about the Individual First Aid Kits (IFAK) that are issued to every deputy in Pima Co.  Each kit has "combat gauze" (I'm assuming he means a Quick Clot product), two compression bandages (I'm assuming Israeli Battle Dressings), a chest seal, a tourniquet and medical shears.  The IFAKs had been designed and issued, and training given, just a few months prior.  An ER doctor at the hospital who had served in Afghanistan said that the use of those kits at the scene saved three lives that would not have made it if they waited for EMS to respond and being treatment.  I'm sure most of you remember what a kook the Pima Co. Sheriff was in press conferences after the shootings, but despite Sheriff Grandpa Munster, from what I saw today, the law enforcement, fire and rescue professionals of Pima Co. did a fantastic job with a very difficult situation.

Next up was a brief report from a representative from the National Weather Service speaking on the concept of "Weather Ready Nation."  They are promoting the Weather Ready Nation as a new program they will be implementing over the next couple of years.  There is a four point plan to get there:
  1. Assisting at local EOCs during weather emergencies with on demand briefings, EOC staffing, and a new position of Emergency Response Specialist Meteorologists trained not only in weather, but in emergency management.
  2. Full explanations about the range of possibilities that might result from different weather systems and what could impact them.
  3. Awareness of societal impacts from weather (for instance, did you know that the Washington D.C. Metro trains can't run in 8 inches of snow because it interferes with the electrical current running through the rails?
  4. Roll it all together to form a Weather Ready Nation while "saving lives and protecting property."
The final presentation was from Lt. Col. Jeff Ragusa, the Safety Officer for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the U.S. Air Force Reserve.  The 53rd is better known as the "Hurricane Hunters."  These are the men and women who fly right into the heart of hurricanes to take measurements and perform research so that lives can be saved with knowledge about when and where the storm will strike.

Col. Ragusa has over 8,000 hours of time in left seat, and has been a hurricane hunter since 2002.  The Hunters fly the newest version of the venerable C130, the WC130J.  Each of these aircraft cost $70 million, and there are ten of them in the inventory.  There are another two Hurricane Hunter aircraft, P3s, that belong to NOAA.  A unique fact about the Air Force Hunters is that their chain of command leads to the National Hurricane Center, not the upper echelons of the Air Force.

Some other interesting facts:
  • When the Hunters fly into a new hurricane, they typically go in at 500 to 1,500 feet.  Despite the fact that hurricanes can be over 60,000 feet tall, the aircraft never go over 10,000 feet in a storm because of the increased risk of ice and lightning.
  • The five-person crew flies a 105 mile X pattern in and out of the hurricane, with the crossing point of the X in the center of the hurricane's eye.
  • Even Cuba cooperates with airspace clearance.
  • Next time there is a hurricane, use Google Earth and you can get some of the same near real time information that the Hunters are sending to the National Hurricane Center.
  • The Hunters are credited with increasing the accuracy of predictions by 25-30%
  • In addition to the very busy status during hurricane season, the Hunters deploy to Alaska for a couple of months each winter to investigate winter storms, they fly humanitarian aid missions throughout the Western Hemisphere, and they fly combat missions to Afghanistan and Iraq. 
The Hurricane Hunters don't get a whole lot of glory, but they truly do a wonderful job of defending our country against the forces of nature.

Here's a picture of Lt. Col. Ragusa.  I salute and thank him and his fellow Hurricane Hunters.


Still Shaking and Twisting

State Emergency Management Conference, Day 2

This morning my first breakout session was with a look at last year's earthquake and tornado, but from a different point of view.  We heard from the school superintendent of Louisa County, where they lost two schools to the August earthquake and the superintendent in Gloucester County where they lost a school to an April tornado.  Yesterday we heard from the public safety professionals about the immediate responses to these events.  The superintendents spoke on how they implemented Continuity of Operations (COOP).

In Louisa, they lost buildings housing 40% of their students in about 15 seconds... the only high school and one of five elementary schools.  They shut down all schools for a couple of days to give staff and student families a little time to get their own losses under control.  When they reopened, they came up with a plan for the elementary students to co-locate with another elementary school using trailer classrooms.  The high school students were moved into the middle school on an alternating schedule.  M-W-F for high school and T-Th-Sa for middle school.  The days were extended to 8 a.m. to 5  p.m. to ensure they met the state requirements for school hours in a year.  That lasted through the first semester, and they now have trailers set up for the high school with the expectations keep it that way for another couple of years until they can get new schools built.

In Gloucester, they got hit by the same tornado that hit the Surry Power Plant that I wrote about yesterday.  It killed two people in a nearby subdivision and wiped about half of a middle school off the map, along with eight school buses.  Thankfully, it was on a Saturday evening, so there were no students or staff there.  If it had been during school, they could have easily lost a couple of hundred people.  They shut down schools for two days, and by Wednesday had the school moved in with the other county middle school.  Instead of alternating days like Louisa, they had an early shift, then switched mid day and had a late shift.  That went on through the end of the school year, only about 2.5 months.  For this school year, they moved trailers to the high school for 8th graders from both middle schools and have 6th and 7th graders from both school combined at the remaining middle school.

Two different solutions for a similar problem, and both seem to work for their unique communities.

I Hated Irene

The next session was about Hurricane Irene.  Presenters were a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, the emergency manager for the City of Virginia Beach, and the fire chief for my home county, New Kent.  They talked about how Irene was a complete contrast to all of her expectations.  The coastal city really did not get affected too bad, other than some lowland flooding and a small tornado that took out a couple of beach houses in Sandbridge.  A hundred miles inland, New Kent was one of the worst hit localities in the state.  We had 100% of the county without power for multiple days (our homestead was without for 7.5), dozens of homes were destroyed, and about $15 million dollars in damage.  New Kent had three different Points of Distribution (PODs) set up to hand out water, ice, etc... after the storm cleared.  Funny thing is we never knew about the PODs.  Nice thing about being preppers, huh?  It didn't matter to us whether they were giving out stuff or not.

I spoke with the chief for a moment after the presentation and told him of my three-hour trip home from the big city the morning after Irene and the way the community came together with chainsaws to clear the roads.  We agreed that a real benefit of being in a rural area over an urban or suburban locality is that the citizens have a much higher rate of personal preparedness and accountability, along with tools and the skills to use them.

I've got a couple more speakers to hear at the conference tomorrow morning.  I've been very pleased with the conference so far and look forward to the rest of it.  I'm getting quite a bit of good information to help me professionally, and as an individual prepper.


Quakes, Nukes and Twisters

State Emergency Management Conference - Day 1

Today was the first day of the state EM conference.  There are about 400 emergency managers, fire/EMS professionals, and private industry emergency planners in attendance.  We were welcomed by the state Secretary of Public Safety, Marla Decker.  On an interesting side note, Secretary Decker was my CPR instructor when I first got involved in public safety.  I later worked with her on some anti-gang activities when I was a cop and she was in a very long tenure in the state Attorney General's office.  After Secretary Decker spoke, next up was the state Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, Terrie Suit.  She is a former state legislator and the wife of a retired Navy SEAL.  I've had the pleasure of meeting her last year when she spoke to my ASIS chapter meeting,

The keynote speaker was the San Francisco emergency manager, speaking on earthquake preparedness.  That is a hot topic here since we had a good sized quake last summer.  After him came the state geologist who spoke about the physics of the August quake, and the county manager of Louisa County, which was the epicenter of the quake.  They lost 2 schools, and several hundred homes were condemned.

During lunch I visited with a number of vendors.  I met a couple that I'm going to try and get some test samples of their products to review for you.

After lunch, I went to a breakout session on the April tornado swarms that hit all parts of Virginia in 2011.  First up, we heard from two National Weather Service meteorologists.  Even if you walked in late, you would have known thier occupation because while showing radar pictures of tornado activity, they used words like beautiful, perfect, and amazing.  For the tornados last year, the NOAA weather alert warnings gave between 12 and 30 minutes or advance notice.  I asked how that compared to the national average, and how that compared to 15 or 20 years ago.  Before Doppler Radar came about, the average advanced notice for a tornado warning was 3 to 5 minutes.  What a huge difference!  After the meteorologists, we heard from emergency managers for two rural counties (one in the western part of the state and one in Tidewater area) that got hit by the tornadoes.  Both had fatalities and lost homes and businesses.  One lost a middle school.  They shared suggestions and lessons learned for dealing with spontaneous volunteers and donations, and the media.  One stressed and urged everyone to have a weather alert radio and suggested grants, donations and any other way to get them into people's hands.  I have to agree wholeheartedly.

The last session of the day was the two emergency planners for the two nuclear power plants in Virginia.  I've known both for several years from working with them on the biennial VOPEX radiological exercises.  Both power plants were hit with near disasters last year, and both proved that their safety equipment worked as designed.  North Anna was near the epicenter of the August quake.  The reactors automatically shut down as they should.  The 116 ton (!!!) spent fuel rod storage casks moved several inches, but they were not breached.  They inspected it from top to bottom, inside and out and were finally cleared by the feds to start up the reactors again.  Surry had one of the April tornadoes hit their incoming power facility at F3 force.  It was later figured to be 165 mph.  Among the damage was a loss of power causing a reactor shut down, a 30 cubic yard dumpster being tossed several hundred yards, and a number out buildings and vehicles getting destroyed.  It really says a lot for our nation's nuclear power facilities that they can get through potential disasters safely.

That's it for today, more great information tomorrow.


The Danger of Normalcy Bias

Is Normal Forever?

Have you ever heard of Normalcy Bias?  My interpretation and personal definition is a sense of complacency brought on by a belief that what is "normal" always will be, and it leads to the inability or unwillingness to accept that what is happening might not be "normal" and could, in fact, be dangerous.

In it's more extreme circumstances, it is the feeling that lets parents fail to acknowledge when their children are getting molested by the college football coach.  It is also why people don't go to the doctor until after the cancer has gotten too deep of a hold.  It's why at 8:58 on 9/11/01, people thought, "gee, that's terrible a plane crashed into the World Trade Center... there must have been some horrible malfunction in the steering.  It's why people get a raise and immediately increase their standard of living to match the new paycheck and then go bankrupt a year later when they get laid off.

We got a rude awakening to normalcy bias at the homestead today.

Across the street is an old one-room school house that the area black families sent their children to for about 40 years until desegregation.  Since then, ownership has reverted back to a "community center" group, but it has been in disuse and getting more dilapidated and damaged over the past 10-15 years or so.  During Hurricane Irene, a tree fell and busted a hole in the roof.  For the past three or four years, I have been the unofficial groundskeeper, knocking down the weeds several times a year, and trying to keep an eye on it.  The guys in the community center group (some who went to school there and are the sons and grandsons of the families that first donated the land to the county for the school) have gotten old and are starting die off.  Some of their sons are my age and are trying to reorganize into a non-profit with the goal of raising money and restoring the building.  Folks from the area do a fish fry in the school's yard once a year, and folks that live down the road cut through the school yard walking back from the church around the bend on nice Sundays. That is all normalcy bias #1.

Normalcy bias #2 is that we live out in the country.  The shed is unlocked; the cars are unlocked (I even keep the key in my truck); and the chain link fence around the back yard is unlocked - but about a year ago I bought a set of heavy duty padlocks and left one on each gate in case I ever need to lock up in a hurry.  We hardly ever see a deputy on our road.  That is normalcy bias #2.

Sunday morning, my wife and I were in the kitchen and saw a guy walking across the school yard.  My immediate thought was that it was someone walking back from church.  Today my wife was driving to work and saw a guy in the road just down from the school who did not look familiar.  When she waved at him, he did not wave back.  That is NOT normal for the area.  God bless her, she recognized it wasn't normal and called the sheriff's office.  Long story short, he was a vagrant with family a few miles away and some mental illness, and he had been squatting in the school for about a week.  The deputy locked him up on an outstanding misdemeanor warrant and called me to find out about ownership of the property to get him served with a no trespassing order.  When I got home this evening, I connected the deputy with the community center group to get that ball rolling.

I've locked the cars, removed spare keys, and locked up my gates.  I'm printing up a little flyer to deliver to everyone in the area to let them know so they can take whatever actions they need to do as well.  My normalcy bias has been shattered.

What really gets me is that I spent so much of my life as a cop and being naturally cautious, suspicious, and wary.  Since I left police work and have lived so peacefully for so long, my radar is down.  I need to reboot my brain.  Thankfully, my wake up call is the result of a relatively minor event, and not something that resulted in major losses, damage, or threat.

Check your personal environment.  Do you let rose colored glasses affect your perception?  Do you recognize the abnormal when you see it?


Product Review: Larabars

Good and Good For You

Do you have a couple of granola bars in your BOB or stashed in the glove box of your BOV?  Ever looked at the ingredients?  You are probably looking at some high fructose corn syrup and other nastiness.  I've seen Larabars in the store before, but never gave them a second glance.  A few weeks ago on The Biggest Loser, they did a promo and talked about how tasty and healthy they were.  We were in Whole Foods a few days after that and they had quite a good selection of them, so we picked up a couple handfuls and have been trying them out.  My pattern has been to eat one for breakfast with a banana on my way into work each morning.

Larabars are all natural, and have just a few ingredients.  It looks like the main ingredient is dates, and most ingredients are either organic, fair trade certified, or both.  I don't know how they get the flavors they do, but they are super good.  Of the 20+ flavors they currently have, I've tried: apple pie, cappuccino, cashew cookie, cherry pie, chocolate chip brownie, chocolate chip cookie dough, peanut butter & jelly, peanut butter chocolate chip, peanut butter cookie, pecan pie, chocolate coffee and chocolate mint.  Every single one was amazingly good.  Each has between about 180-220 calories.

The ones I'm eating now have a date good through the end of December of 2012, so about 10 months or so.  I don't know how well they will hold up in a hot car in a BOB, but I'll be checking on that as the weather warms.  I have a feeling that they will hold up just fine, but they might be a little sticky.  I'm trying to eat healthier, and these tasty little bars fit that bill.  They are gluten free and almost all of them are dairy free as well.  They meet the needs for a Paleo diet too.

At Whole Foods, the bars were either $1.79 or $1.99 each (I can't remember).  They had a wide selection.  At a Fresh Market, they only had one or two flavors, but I don't recall the price.  Wal-Mart had two flavors, and they were only $1.25 each.  Amazon has the 16-count boxes ranging from $1.11 to $1.89 per bar.  I'd suggest that you pick up individual bars at a store to find out if you like particular flavors, but then buy them by the box through Amazon if you can get a better price that way.


Food Storage Planning

Another Library Resource

The good folks at the Utah State University Cooperative Extension put out several papers on food storage back in the mid-90s.  Tonight I added their Management Guide to Home Food Storage to the Library Resources page.  This is a very simple aid to designing, filling and maintaining your food storage.  It's scalable for a large family or group, or for a single person or a couple.  One objective is to prevent food boredom.

The basics are to record a number of different meals, including side dishes to round out the nutritional profile, then to record the ingredients.  Use the charts to establish inventories, create shopping lists, and plan meals.  They really focus on the principle of storing what you regularly eat.  If you do not have an extensive larder and pantry, operated from spreadsheets, bar code scanning and FIFO rotation (and believe me, some preppers ARE that advanced), then give this a try.  We have a habit of really building up stocks of stuff when we find it on sale, but then not replacing it when we use it.  This simple tool can help manage that.  There are other USUCE food storage documents that I plan to get up in coming days.

Crime Prevention And Home Defense

Crime Prevention Tips for Travel

This article from Security Today has some good basic tips for Crime Prevention on the road.  It's spring break time and a lot of folks will be traveling, whether to some beach resort for a week of regret, or simply across the state to Grandma's for Easter lunch, on the road is no place to let your guard down.  The article has some "duh" tips, but a lot of Crime Prevention is really just that anyway. 

Intruder in the House

Now I don't know about you, but when I need the latest in tactics and advice for responding to an intruder in my home, I turn to the authoritative source, Reader's Digest.  I've always planned to deal with an intruder by protecting my wife and me with a armed response and tactical lighting.  Well, according to this article in the latest RD, my thinking has been wrong.  It's a very short article, so I'll just post it here:
Don’t turn on the lights, says Mark Safarik, a retired FBI profiler. That will diminish your night vision. Plus, if you’re near a window, a potential intruder will be able to see you and know instantly where you are. Instead, dial 911 immediately. Then, if you can, find your car’s remote entry device and press the panic button. It’s capable of triggering the alarm from a distance of some 30 to 60 feet, and the loud noise may well frighten the intruder away.
All kidding aside, the old car alarm trick really isn't a bad idea if you have your car keys beside the bed and you have a fob-activated alarm (believe it or not, my Honda Element is the first car I've ever owned that had a key fob).  But I am also real confident that an armed response is necessary for dealing with a home intruder.

Reader's Digest also has this more useful article with some good suggestions for improving the security of your doors.  You know, most people think of securing their exterior doors with deadbolts and long screws and such, but there is good argument to be made for upgrading your bedroom door to exterior quality and making it just as secure.  Depending on your home's layout and if you have children, it might also be good to install such a door on a hallway or staircase leading to the bedrooms.

Listen!  You Smell Something?

Remember that episode of Friends where Ross is ineptly flirting with the pizza delivery girl and tells her that natural gas is really odorless and they add the rotten egg smell to it?  Do you know what caused them to start adding the smell?  I just found out...

I found this information from the Naval Post-Graduate School's Homeland Security Digital Library.  Seventy-five years ago last week, an unscented natural gas leak at the New London Consolidated School in New London, Texas exploded, killing between an estimated 300 - 400 students and teachers.  The really don't know how many there were due to all the migrant oil field workers in the area.  Legislation was quickly passed requiring the addition of the rotten egg scent that we all know. 


Spring Fever

It's Here

Wow.  Around here we sure did not have much of a winter, and once again, I'm way behind on getting done with cold-weather projects like clearing brush, cleaning under the crawlspace, building a couple bat houses, and building some lean-to storage space.  I didn't even get my lettuce planted soon enough.  My tomato plants are coming along in the greenhouse, but the peppers aren't doing so hot (no pun intended).

I've got to dig the beds for my small scale hugelkulture and top off my garden box with some more dirt and manure compost.  I need to finish the tent garage for Project BOV Jeep by attaching the cover to the middle few cross pieces.  I already started mowing the grass, so that will be ongoing.  I need to dig out and expand my strawberry bed.  Some of my direct sow seeds like cukes and watermelon will need to go in soon.  I've got some trees to take down and start stacking firewood to season.

On the writing front, I need to write two magazine articles for submission; my revisions to my book chapters are due to my editor within the next week or so; my first graduate school class is pretty writing intensive; and I need to keep up with my blogging in here.

It is going to be a very busy spring for me, but I'm really looking forward to it.  If you want to share any of your spring projects, leave a comment below, or send me an email with a guest post about it and some pictures if you want.


Guest Post: The Food Freedom Movement

Tonight's guest post comes to us from James Quigley.  James very graciously wrote this at my request, however he has an agreement with the James River Journal to provide columns for them, so this was actually published there this past Monday. 

James is the Chair of the Peninsula Libertarian Party covering Hampton and Newport News, Virginia.  He is a former active duty military officer with time served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now serving as a contractor. He has a wife named Nicole and three children: Makenna, Emeline and Thomas. Mr. Quigley was also the 2010 Congressional candidate under the Libertarian ticket for the 3rd District of Virginia. 

I want to thank him for sharing his insight with us about this topic that is so important to liberty and freedom.

The Food Freedom Movement

Libertarians have supported a strong and vibrant food freedom movement for many years, advocating for the rights of those attempting to produce food for both personal consumption and sale. The food freedom movement is largely focused on promoting organic foods in competition with processed foods. Our human bodies have evolved to consume nutrients from our food that is lost when food is heavily irradiated. We also consume chemicals that our bodies are not equipped to handle when ingesting food that was been treated with pesticides or preserving chemicals. Members of the food freedom movement are not seeking to force their own beliefs when it comes to food production, but instead are promoting access to organic and non-processed food sources.

People may prefer organic foods for a number of reasons, ranging from an individual’s concern over personal health to moral concerns. For instance, five years ago the USDA approved the selling of genetically modified rice that contains human proteins. A purchaser may decide not to buy and consume such rice due to concerns of long term health effects from this new technological breakthrough or because of a moral feeling that eating such rice may equate to a sort of light cannibalism. Ensuring that organic foods are easily accessible in the market place helps those who dissent from such a purchase.

Americans love large and powerful organizations, which has led to the reduction of individual and community rights. We’ve suffered an ever-expanding centralized government, along with much larger corporations over the last few years. Under our current American reality, large corporations purchase the favors of our Congressmen and state officials, who in turn give tax breaks and subsidies to the same corporations, fattening both government and favored corporations who play the game with ever increasing largess paid for by the citizenry. Corporate farms pay much less in taxes than their family-owned competitors, receive subsidies from the government and do not have to sell off pieces of their land to pay the “death tax” when their founder dies, unlike family owned farms. This allows the corporate farms a significant advantage over private business (as a business needs a ‘charter of incorporation’ from the government to become a corporation, granting it legal immunities a normal private business lacks. I consider a corporation to be a quasi-governmental entity and not a true capitalist private business). One of the costs of this merger of corporate and government interests has been the elimination of small, family owned farms and the regulations that prevent people from producing or selling certain food products. Government regulation has resulted in a black market for unpasteurized milk, where federal officers now raid private farms with the same kind of intensity of an illegal narcotics sting. Local regulations also impair family farms, usually because of concern over property values. For instance, a local land owner on state road 49 in New Kent County talked to me about how his land was no longer zoned for cattle, despite it being in his farming family for generations where they historically had used that same land for raising chickens and cows.

Because of unfair regulations, free passes when corporations break current regulations imposed on less powerful small farms, and because of tax loopholes, food production is now concentrated in the hands of the few. A decade of surging cases of obesity, diabetes and heart conditions have led to questions being asked about whether the food being produced by these few is fit for consumption. There have been greater calls for the government to intervene further in the market. A people unable to take care of themselves will support whoever provides for them, creating a situation where the citizens desire a larger government who offers to provide proper sustenance. It is ironic that the people are demanding action from the same body which caused the situation in the first place. Since government has been the cause of such inequality under the law, it should look internally for the cause of problems instead of creating more agencies, more tax loopholes and more regulations.

Libertarians and supporters of the free food movement are not asking for much. Just common sense rules and oversight that allows for greater independence in the food market and equality under the law.

Suggested Websites:

Stay Free,

James Quigley


Product Review: Circle Hoe

Weeding Can Be A Breeze!

A couple of years ago, my wife's boss told her about the Circle Hoe.  She thought it was neat looking and picked one up for my Step-Mom for Christmas.  My Step-Mom had it hanging around the garden shed, but took over a year before she gave it a try... She was an instant convert and bought them for several of her friends.  She also gave us one for Christmas last year.  Well, today I mowed the yard and then started looking at my garden box... dreading having to pull all the weeds that have come in over the fall and winter.  But then I remembered that I had a Circle Hoe. 

That thing is the ticket!  It was extremely easy to use.  Slide it through the weed's roots, give a little twist, and the whole thing comes right out.  Most of them scooped right out without me even needing to bend over to pick them up.  It probably would have taken me over a half an hour of bending and reaching pulling the weeds by hand.  With the Circle Hoe, it took about ten minutes and was pain free.  I'm actually looking forward to weeding the strawberry bed this weekend.

They have three different sizes of Circle Hoe.  I have the long one.  The hand one would be perfect for weeding a patch where you had to or wanted to be on your knees.  The mini one looks ideal for window boxes or herb pots.  I can't speak to how well they work, but if they are anywhere near as good as the long one, they should really do the trick.  The prices are very reasonable, too.


Something's Cooking

A Dutch Oven Cookbook

Dutch oven cooking is a very traditional method of one pot meals from the wild West chuckwagons to campgrounds of today.  It is also a great thing to learn if part of your SHTF planning involves cooking in a backyard fire if you lose power or gas.  I found a Dutch oven cookbook that is aimed at Scouts, but they are willing to share as long as the sharing is for the good of Scouting.  I've put it in the Library Resources, so if you know a Scout, print off a copy and give to him.  Some of the recipes in this thing sound delicious!  I'm looking forward to trying a few out this summer!


The Feds Study Preparedness

New Library Resource Document

While working on a paper for the class I'm taking, I found this 2007 document from the Citizen Corps of FEMA where they have looked at 50 different preparedness surveys around the country and kind of pulled all the information together.  I think that it is very interesting that so many people are somewhat prepared.  I think it is also kind of scary that so many of those people are only prepared a little bit.  Is it a false sense of security?  Visit the library resource page and take a look at it.  It's pretty interesting.


Breaker, Breaker

Ya Gotcher Ears On, Good Buddy?

For Christmas, my wonderful wife gave me a CB to put in the Honda Element.  In my long commute each day, I sometimes get in traffic jams, and I have used an old hand-held CB in the past to find out about the hold up and determine if I need to take the next exit to detour or if I should just stick it out.  My new CB is the Cobra 75 WX ST.  It's not like a typical CB.  The entire unit is in the hand piece instead of having a microphone attached to the radio, plus a junction box that takes the antenna cable and the power source.  I also got a Firestik II antenna, a spring for the antenna base, an antenna mount that attaches to the channel between the hood and the fender, and an external speaker.  The radio includes NOAA weather channels to keep up to the minute with dangerous conditions.

Today, my old friend, Mark, came over with his tools and equipment to install it for me.  Mark is a big time amateur radio enthusiast, and really knows what he's doing.  He did a fantastic, professional grade installation.  He also had the watt meter and the skill to tune my antenna for optimal performance.  We mounted the antenna to the passenger side fender well, ran the cable under and through without drilling any holes, wired the junction box to the cigarette lighter power source, mounted the junction box inside the center cowl cover, and then mounted the hand piece and external speaker to the front of the center cowl cover.

After we got everything put back together and cleaned up, he drove his truck down the road while I stayed in the yard so we could test out the range.  In one direction, we got about 3/4 of a mile with good clear contact.  In the other direction we got nearly a mile and a quarter.  The CB is usually a line of sight radio, and there is more terrain change in the shorter direction.

After the sun went down, we messed around with the radio some more and were getting skip and were able to listen to guys in California, Washington and Utah.  Skip is a phenomenon, usually for a few hours after sundown, where the radio waves "bounce" off the charged ionosphere  and you can communicate at ridiculously long ranges.  During a nationwide breakdown situation, it can be a great way to gain intelligence about what is happening in other parts of the country.  Channel 26 is one of the main channels they use for this.  Aside from just highway safety on a regular basis, this ability can be a real asset when SHTF.

I'm very pleased with the installation and the performance of this CB and antenna combination.  It is great for the Element because there is not a whole lot of space to mount a traditional size CB, and I love the fact that it has the NOAA weather channels.  The CB is not just for 1970s trucker movies, it is still a valuable piece of communications technology.

Silent But Deadly

After we got the CB installed, we broke out a couple of .22 pistols and Mark's Silencerco Sparrow suppressor.  We used my Ruger .22/45 and Mark's Walther P22, both with threaded barrels.  I shot some good video that I need to edit, and will put it on the YouTube channel when I can.  It might not be until I have Spring Break the first week of April, but I'll do it sooner if I can.  All the real details will be written into an article that I'm submitting to a magazine.  Suffice it to say, it was a ton of fun shooting those pistols with the "can" in place.


Close Call

Hitting The Fan On The Highway

While we are preparing for disasters that life might throw at us, most of us are in the car driving somewhere almost every day.  Have you ever been in a wreck?  Have you ever had a friend or loved one seriously injured or killed in a wreck?  I'm sure most of us can answer yes to at least one of those.

This morning, I was boogieing down the interstate at about 78 mph, following a big rig in the hammer lane when all of a sudden, I heard a loud boom and saw a big puff of smoke from one of the rear tires of the rig.  It felt like slow motion as I moved toward the shoulder and watched pieces of tire and road debris fly past where my windshield was just a moment earlier.  Fortunately, I was driving defensively and paying attention, and there was little traffic at that time of the morning.

The ideas are simple, and we probably all learned them in drivers ed, but it bears repeating.  Leave plenty of room between you and whoever is in front of you; always have an escape route planned; don't get caught surrounded; and pay attention.  I eat breakfast, tune the radio, talk on the phone, and drink a bottle of water, and I can say with certainty, that I am not paying attention then like I do when I'm not doing those things.

I've had the good fortune to have been through more and better driver training than most...  police pursuit, ambulance EVOC, State Department protection detail driving, and I had my driver training teacher endorsement a few years back.  But I still get distracted.  For yourself, your family, and the others on the road, try to keep the distractions to a minimum.  I am.


First Impressions - Luke Swenson Custom Sheath


Those of you on Facebook might have seen a sneak preview of my new custom sheath that knife maker extraordinaire, Luke Swenson, made for my USMC Ka-Bar.  Well, it came in the mail today and it is even better in person.  It is incredibly well built, heavy leather, beautifully finished, and fits the knife like a glove.  And to top it all off, Luke put the If It Hits The Fan logo on it.  The sheath has M.O.L.L.E. attachment points on the back, and a similar attachment point on the front where I can add a small pouch, or wrap some cordage.  It has a very secure snapping strap to go across the hilt and hold the knife in place.  The belt loop is generously cut to fit a web belt, or slide over a pack belt.  I carried a Ka-Bar throughout my time in the Marine Corps, including all through Desert Storm, in the factory sheath.  I THOUGHT the factory sheath was just fine, and just accepted that it was kind of floppy and that I would lose the knife if the strap ever came loose.  No more!  I have now been spoiled!  If Uncle Sam got real desperate and needed a middle aged fat guy to go into combat and called me up, I would be supremely equipped with this Luke Swenson sheath carrying my trusty Ka-Bar.  I'll get a little dirt time this weekend and put it through its paces, but I am confident that it is just as functional as it is useful.  Do yourself a favor and visit Luke's website at http://www.swensonknives.com/ and check out his gallery. Hmmm, my birthday is coming up and I think something like a scaled-down "Mrs. Wolf" about 3.5-4" oal and a 3/4 - 1" width to use as a neck knife might be just the tickets, you know, if my wife is looking for something to get me?

Book Review: 1491

I recently read 1491 - New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann.  If you are a bit of a history geek like me, it is a fascinating read.  Part college text book, part adventure novel.  Did you know that there were an estimated 100,000,000 people living in "the Americas" in 1491?  Far from being scattered bands of "noble savages," many of them lived in advanced civilizations and large cities.  Being in Virginia, of course I grew up hearing about the Eastern Woodlands Indians such as the Powhatan and Pamunkey, but I never realized that by the time John Smith met Pocahontas in Jamestown, the native populations had been destroyed by disease that spread much faster than explorers did.  When the earliest explorers came, the natives had vast areas of forest cleared for grazing bison and other game.  They would use a region for generations, then let it grow back and clear another area.  By the time Jamestown was settled in 1607, 115 years of disease had reduced them to small tribes and bands who could not maintain such infrastructure and the forests had reclaimed from the Atlantic to the Mississippi.  I also never really thought much about the Central and South American cultures that were just as advanced as the Egyptians and other ancient peoples.  I'm really looking forward to reading his next book, 1493.


I've recently connected with the folks from FloodSax USA.  What's FloodSax, you ask?  FloodSax are designed to take the place of the traditional sandbag in water retention efforts in the face of floods.  They weigh about a pound, and are filled with some substance that absorbs water and swells to 40-some pounds, and then becomes a water barrier.  If you live in a flood-prone area, you can have a few boxes of these on the shelf, then put them down for the flood, without needing a truckload of sand or the backbreaking labor of filling sandbags.  They are sending me some to test and review for you, and we are working up a way to have a reader contest so that you can win a kit as well.  If you happen to be going to the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando March 26-29, they will be there on the exhibitor floor in booth 329.


News Notes

Fox Business News has five tips for investing in gold.  Seems like pretty sound advice.

Small towns are not immune from crime.  Cheyenne reports that last year, 23 guns were stolen from cars... and 16 of those cars were unlocked.  Lock 'em up folks!

I put this news up on the FB page earlier, but if you missed it, Discover Channel has fired Bear Grylls, suposedly due to a contract dispute. 

Have you heard of the small house movement?  I think this dude wins with his 84 square feet home.

Remember pulling out the old set of encyclopedias to research a term paper?  Maybe you spent a cold rainy day reading Aardvark-Archeology.  Well, those days are over.  Encyclopedia Britannica announced today that after 244 years, they are going to go all on-line, and end printed production.  If you are concerned about a true grid-down, long-term survival situation, you might want to pick up a set in lieu of being able to access the on-line Britannica.

Within the past few months, McDonald's, Burger King, and other fast "food" joints have announced that they will stop using pink slime in their hamburgers.  Conveniently enough, the USDA announced this week that they will buy millions and millions of pounds of pink slime burgers for school cafeterias.  Needless to say, that is causing an uproar.


Prepper Ponderings

Blog Plans

I've got some good stuff going on in the near future for you all.  A friend is writing a guest post reviewing a pneumatic, hand-cranked log splitter.  The same guy has a suppressor and a Walther P-22 that he is bringing over this weekend and we are going to write an article to submit to a magazine comparing the Walther to the Ruger 22/45 threaded barrel, with and without the suppressor.  I've got a variety of subsonic ammo for us to try, along with some Shoot-N-C targets.  We are also going to use the tests to shoot a video to post to the If It Hits The Fan YouTube channel.  I'm working with a couple of manufacturers to get test samples of some unique, preparedness products, and hopefully an extra or two to give away in reader contests.  For another guest post, I've got a former Libertarian Party Congressional candidate writing a piece for us on food liberty.  That should be very interesting!

Portable Shooting Bench

To get ready for the .22 shooting this weekend, I built a portable shooting bench... something I should have done years ago.  I used a couple of Stanley plastic folding sawhorses, and made the top out of two 2x6s and two 2x4s, all 2'4" long.  On the underside I screwed in 18" 1x2s on either end and 1.75" in from those to bracket the tops of the sawhorses.  It's light enough to tote under my arm (I might screw in a small handle on the underside too), but heavy and sturdy enough to stay in place on top of the sawhorses.  It's not big enough for formal bench rest shooting, but should be great for an informal pistol rest shooting from my knees.  If a person wanted it bigger, it'd be easy to make one with longer boards or by adding a 2x6 or two to the top.

School Update

I have finished my first week and first assignment for my first graduate school class in my American Military University program for a Masters of Disaster and Emergency Management.  As my classes progress, naturally that has to take priority on my computer time.  In January I tried backing off to two or three posts a week, but I didn't like that and I'm going to do my darnedest to get out at least five or six posts a week.  To help me keep up with that, I welcome any guest posts that readers might want to submit.  A gun, book or product review, a lesson you learned from a wilderness survival experience, how you became a prepper... anything like that that you think readers would enjoy and hopefully learn from.  As If It Hits The Fan grows, eventually I'd like to do guest post contests, but until then, you'll get my gratitude and thanks.  If you want to promote your own blog or business in the post, that is fine.  You can mail your guest posts to me here.


Video Extravaganza

I don't normally post a bunch of videos at one time, but I came across all of these today and they each struck a chord with me.  Two of them are about freedom, and the other is just for fun.

This is a three-parter of a speech that Judge Napolitano gave a couple years ago.  The man really understands freedom, liberty and government excess.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

In California, a raw milk dairy man was arrested. Here he recounts what, if he is being honest, truly amounts to torture of a US citizen at the hands of law enforcement. For selling raw milk to fellow citizens who want to buy raw milk, he was held on a $1 million bond. Alleged child rapist, Jerry Sandusky, was only held on $100,000. I got this via NaturalNews.com.

When I first saw a picture of the Arsenal Firearms 2011, I thought it was an airbrushed gag. How wrong I was. Now this has absolutely zero practical application, but it is cool as I don't know what. If anyone is looking for a birthday present for me, this will do nicely!


Busy Day!

Photos Are Up

I just put pictures up on the If It Hits The Fan Facebook page of sprouts from a pepper seed and from a tomato seed.  Can't wait for all of them to be big healthy plants!


I had to go into work this morning for a community violence meeting.  When I got back, I did some organizing in the shed and the garage tent.  I moved a shelf unit to the garage and carried all my gas cans out to it.  In the workshop side of the shed, I put in a different shelf unit (made out of 1/4 inch angle iron, 2'x4' and 6.5 feet tall with five shelves - very heavy!) moved all of my different oils, cleaning supplies, spray paint, chain saw supplies, some gardening stuff, and there is room for my propane tanks under it.  I moved out a cheap, 25 year old plastic shelf and some junk that had accumulated.  It made a huge difference in there and really expanded my working areas.  Organization makes life SO much easier.



The Greenhouse Works

I went out to check my seeds this evening and saw that quite a few of them took advantage of the sunshine yesterday and today and have sprouted.  I've been keeping four grow lights aimed at them 24/7 and will keep that up for a couple more days, then go to using the lights only as a few hours of supplemental light in the evenings.  The heater has been going in the greenhouse keeping it nice and warm for the babies to start.  I'll keep that up for a few more days, then use the thermostat to just keep it warmer than about 45 degrees or so.  Each year I learn more about gardening and get a little more success.  This is my first try with large scale seed starting, and so far I'm pretty excited about the progress. 

Growing any part of your own food supplies helps relieve you from the chains of Big Ag, and even if all you get is some herbs in your apartment windowsill, you're fighting the system and increasing your freedom.  If you are worried about not having the time to garden or about not being successful, do like I did and start small, learning as you go.  There is nothing quite as satisfying or as tasty as eating something that you grew from a seed in your own yard.

National Flood Safety Awareness Week

Winter snows are melting and spring rains are coming - it's getting to be flood season.  FEMA and NOAA have joined together to declare next week to be National Flood Safety Awareness Week.  If you live anywhere that could even remotely be at risk for flooding, it is really important to ensure you have flood insurance and that you take whatever precautions you can.  Check out this flood safety site for more information.


Homegrown Terror - How It Happened

Another Library Resource

Tonight I've added a fascinating document to the Library Resources page.  We've talked about "sudden Jihad syndrome" adn homegrown terrorism on here before, but have you ever really thought about how it happens?  Tonight's addition is a Senate report on the radicalization of Zachary Chesser, a seemingly normal high school kid in Northern Virginia "who converted to Islam after graduating from high school in the summer of 2008 and just over 2 years later pleaded guilty to three felonies, including attempting to provide material support to al-Shabaab."

Was it a descent in to madness, or could it happen to any kid who fell into the wrong crowd? 



Humpday Humor

I heard this comedian on the radio yesterday.  His name is Aaron Aryanpur and had this hilarious bit about needing a wife who was ready for SHTF.

He performs in Texas mostly, but is an up and comer on the national comedy scene, and I think we'll be hearing some good , funny stuff from him for a long time to come.  You can also check him out at his website here.

I don't know about all of his stuff, but this bit is clean and family friendly.  Check him out, and if you like his stuff on YouTube, leave him a comment and let him know you heard about him here at If It Hits The Fan.


Helping Those Who Help

Rural Fire Districts Rock!

Long time readers know that we have some land in Wyoming, outside of Cheyenne, where we hope to move well before it becomes our retirement location.  It is a pretty rural location, with public safety served by a volunteer fire department.  We're on the monthly newsletter list, and periodically send in a donation.  This is the type of VFD that has potluck suppers, a scholarship program, and will take whatever level of assistance or volunteer time and skills that a person can provide. 

A couple of years ago, they bought some AED devices, trained up a couple of folks in each part of the district, built a weatherproof box at the edge of each area, and gave all residents the phone numbers to their trained neighbor.  The ambulance could be 30-45 minutes away, so if you are having chest pains, call your neighbor who will grab the AED and come running.  THAT is a community taking responsibility for itself for sure.

We got a postcard in the mail today announcing a free First Responder Basic Emergency Care Course.  No need to join the VFD.  No cost to the participants.  Simply a commitment to two nights a week for two months and the expectation that you'll use the skills to help yourself and your neighbors if the need arises.  It is truly a community supporting itself.  Won't find that around these parts.

If you are lucky enough to be served by a VFD, I encourage you to see what they do and what you can learn from them.  And don't forget to send 'em a few bucks when they do their fundraising.

BELLA Medical Ministries

BELLA stands for Believers Evangelizing through Lifesaving Leadership and Aid, but is named after the first little girl whose life they saved when they went to Haiti after the huge earthquake a couple years ago that killed over 300,000 people and left 2 million homeless. 

BELLA is led by Brandon and Jon-Erik, a couple of young paramedics who felt called to serve in disaster locations inside and outside of the US.  They are all around good guys.  Brandon has been interviewed on The Survival Podcast a couple of times and his stories are truly amazing.  They operate boots on the ground with minimal logistical support.  They are currently deploying to the tornado ravaged areas of Indiana and Kentucky.

I've had ShelterBox as the official charity of If It Hits The Fan for some time now, but it's time to change that to BELLA Medical Ministries.  I just made a donation here.  I challenge all my readers to donate some money if you can.  If you can't swing some money, they can also use MREs or prepared freeze dried foods like Thrive or Mountain House; sleeping bags and tents; water filtration equipment; and most especially, prayers.  If you make a donation (including keeping them in your prayers), please shoot them an email and let them know that you are a part of the If It Hits The Fan community and that we support them.


News Notes

Good News For Maryland Gun Owners

A U.S. District judge has ruled Maryland's law that requires a reason for a concealed weapons permit is unconstitutional.  Maryland is one of six states that requires a "good and just" reason for a law abiding citizen to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon.  The plaintif in this case had a permit after fighting off a home invader.  When he went to renew it, he was denied because he no longer had a good reason.  While I disagree with the position that a person needs a government permit to exercise a civil right, I accept the reality that most places do require the permits, and "shall issue" is the only way that should be.  Hopefully the Maryland legislature will do the right thing and get rid of the baseless regulations of "need."

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

Folks in the San Francisco Bay area were awakened at 5:33 this morning by a 4.0 earthquake.  No damage or injuries were reported, but BART subways were shut down briefly so tracks could be inspected.  Something about this article impressed me.  They actually provided links to a couple of earthquake preparedness sites and to a gas company site showing how to turn off gas service after a quake. 

Underground In Alabama

With the Southeast getting clobbered by tornadoes over the past couple of years the sale and building of storm shelters has really taken off.  Alabama has been the number one state for tornadoes for the past two years... who'd a guessed?  The article talks about the pros and cons of in-house vs. back yard shelters.  Also, like the last article, it gives information for preppers and links to the FEMA guidelines for building safe rooms.

Sam's Prepper Foods

A friend sent me this link to a Sam's Club offering for a 30 day emergency food supply on sale for $82.88 with free shipping.  He asked if I thought it was a good deal or not.  Well, yes and no...  I think if you are reading this blog and are truly concerned about preparing for disaster, then you can do a lot better by shopping with my sponsors or any of the numerous long term storage food dealers.  This kit has a very limited menu selection, and is essentially carbohydrate mush of various flavors.  But, if you have a family member who won't do anything to prepare themselves, this could be a non-threatening gift just to give you a little peace of mind that they can get through a minor disruption.  "Gee, Aunt Sally, I know you think my prepping is crazy, but do me a favor and keep this bucket with 30 days of food, just in case.  I got it from Sam's Club; so how crazy could that be?"


Greenhouse Report

It's Up And Running

Well, after a little over two months I finally got my greenhouse finished and my tomatoes and pepper seeds started!

The greenhouse is about $125 or so in materials.  The basic frame is 6'x6'x6' constructed of pvc pipe with some 1"x2" bracing and support.  The sheeting is 6 mil plastic.  The roof has a pretty high peak and sharp angle, and with a recent 5 inches of heavy, wet snow slid right off.  I used 3" Gorilla Tape to attach everything.  That stuff is the bomb diggity!  It really puts duct tape to shame.  The door is a simple flap of plastic that I tie to three bolts sticking out the back.  The upright PVC pipes are sunk in the ground about 4 or 5 inches, and it is pretty sheltered from wind.  I built a three layer shelf, and put raised edges on the perimeter of each shelf.  I then lined each one with a contractor grade trash bag to make each shelf a water trough as well.  I put another trash bag along the rear wall.  No sun comes in that way, and it ought to help retain some heat.  I've run an extension cord out to a power strip.  I have a small ceramic electric heater in there, and currently two grow lights.  I will add a couple more grow lights I think.  In a few days after my seeds sprout, I'll put the lights on a timer.

To start my seeds, I used small plastic cups (I think they are 10 or 12 ounces), one per seed.  I ran a drill down through the stacks to get drainage and the ability to pull water up from the trough/shelf.  To fill the cups, I used super rich, dark, loose soil from my garden bed.  It's nothing but topsoil and a couple of years of horse manure compost.  I used a Sharpie to number each seed envelope, and put a corresponding number on the cups holding those seeds so I can keep track.  When they get too big for the small cups I've got 20 ounce cups to transplant them into.  I've got four types of peppers, four tomatoes and one tomatillo.  Later this week I'll get my onions and eggplants started.  I'll let you all know when the seeds sprout and start growing.

Here are some pictures.


Rear view, showing the door flap

Wide shot, showing its position - lots of sun exposure here


Product Review: Shelter Logic 10'x20' Auto Tent

An Option For Storage

Last weekend we put together a Shelter Logic 10'x20' Auto Tent to house the Project BOV Jeep Commando.  If you don't have a regular garage or a barn, it can be a nice addition to your prep storage needs.

The Auto Tent is not secure storage, and is not designed to protect the contents completely.  There is no floor, and the sides don't go all the way to the ground.  But it keeps the rain and other weather off your stuff.  It's perfect for a BOV, small tractor, ATV or storage of yard and garden implements.

To put it together, it took six of us about 4 hours.  If I had to do it again, I'd use three more socket sets, and I'm pretty sure we could get it done in about an hour and a half.  One hint - don't tighten all the nuts up until after you get the cover situated.

I've seen a couple pictures that show these things collapsing under a few inches of snow.  One of our neighbors lost one a few weeks ago when we had about 5 inches of wet, heavy snow.  I've got a few strategies I'm going to try... first is to use a few 2x6s with a notch cut in the end as supports of the top bar cross beams... second is to run an extension cord out to it to power a small electric heater to help melt off any accumulation.

If you need extra storage space, but don't have the money or space for a full fledged garage, check out the Shelter Logic Auto Tent.


Disaster Day

Tough Day For Part Of The Country

I spent the last three days in a disaster management and EOC operations class.  It was put on by TEEX, the Texas Engineering Extension Service.  During the course of the training, we went through scenarios planning and organizing emergency responses for events such as terrorist attacks, flooding, and tornadoes.  It was kind of ironic that we were pretty much cut off from the constant news influx of a normal day, and what we were training for was really happening in much of the country.

I haven't yet had the opportunity to really see all of what went on with the storms and tornadoes, but I'll be digging into it tomorrow.  I do know that it was devastating and a huge number of people were horribly affected.  I'll be saying prayers for them tonight.