Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Few Words on CBRNE

The government is rightly concerned about terrorism, specifically CBRNE forms of terrorism.  CBRNE stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and other words, methods that are unexpected yet pretty much guaranteed to take out a lot of people and cause, well, terror.

While these forms of terrorism are always possibilities, they haven't been top of mind for me for over a decade.  Until last night.  The news came on in the afternoon about the police dealing with a hazmat situation which required the neighbors in the area to shelter in place.  Most hazmat situations are resolved within a few hours.  When this situation was still ongoing 12 hours later I figured "hazmat" was more like "ebola" or something equally not good.  Turns out the problem was ricin which is, well, not good either.

CBRNE forms of terrorism have been used with varying degrees of "success" over the years.  The sarin gas attack in Japan killed 12 people (chemical), the Rajneeshee food poisoning attack back in the 1980s sickened 750 people (biological), Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium a decade ago and "dirty bombs" are always a concern (radiological), fortunately nuclear attacks remain a possibility but haven't been used in terror attacks--yet--and there have been numerous examples of explosives used for terror purposes including the Oklahoma City bombing and the Boston Marathon bombing.

These sorts of attacks are sudden and unexpected and can happen quickly such as a bombing incident or a gas attack when people immediately start dropping or they can take place yet people won't know they have been attacked until later like in the case of Litvinenko feeling ill and it taking a while to figure out how he had been poisoned and what he had been poisoned with.

Needless to say, the government is concerned about such attacks taking place because they can be hard to preempt, in some circumstances hard to detect immediately, and have the possibility of injuring and killing a lot of people.  In addition, wide-spread terror impacts not only the people immediately involved but everyone in psychological, financial, and security terms.

Preparedness for CBRNE attacks mostly rests with the government.  The government works with a variety of agencies (law enforcement, hospitals, etc) to fund programs for everything from radiological monitoring at large public events to syndromic surveillance programs for early detection of health indicators to training and preparedness for large scale disaster events.

As an individual, there is not a whole lot you can do to prevent such incidents except for being aware of your surroundings, reporting anything out of the ordinary so law enforcement can check it out, and using common sense (if you see someone "forgot" their Instapot in a public area don't pick it up--report it immediately and get away from it!).  If you think you have been a victim of CBRNE terrorism (you are in an urban environment and a low flying plane sprays the area with chemicals, you are at a public event and become violently ill, etc), isolate yourself (in your vehicle, don't bring the contamination home to your family or walk into a hospital and possibly contaminate everyone there), then call 911 for instructions on what to do (they may send you to a decontamination location or send EMS to assist you).  Finally, take photos and videos of suspicious people/things/events and take notes about unusual things (license plate number, time order of events, etc) to give to police to use in their investigation. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

10 Great Opportunities for Teens

Getting kids and teens interested in preparedness is good on several levels--it keeps them busy, it opens up internship/scholarship/job opportunities, and it gives them important skills that will serve them well throughout their life.  Here are some opportunities to consider:

  1. FEMA's Youth Preparedness Council is now accepting applications.
  2. Local Search and Rescue organizations often open their membership to teens as well as adults.
  3. The Thiel Fellowship pays young people $100,000 to go forth and create.
  4. Habitat for Humanity is a nation-wide organization that teaches volunteers how to build houses--a great skill for anyone to learn.
  5. For college-bound teens, these programs give students a jump on higher education.
  6. The Army National Guard has the Split Option Program which allows teens to get into boot camp during the summer after their junior year then continue their one weekend a month service during their senior year of high school.
  7. Scouting has always provided opportunities for students to learn new skills, work with others, and increase their responsibilities as they move through the program.
  8. In some areas (not all, it depends on what the state laws are where you live), teens can attend training and become an EMT.  This is a vital position that provides great training and nearly every jurisdiction is clamoring for volunteer EMTs.
  9. The government funds several programs for teens--from Job Corps and apprenticeship programs to special programs for poor and at-risk youth.
  10. Finally, for kids who want to attend college and not bankrupt themselves, have them start early applying for scholarships.  They might also want to consider applying to tuition-free universities, and also doig "running start" types of college programs which are free to participate in while the student is still in high school.

Monday, February 18, 2019

10 Disaster Supplies You Can Improvise

If you head out to the grocery store the evening before a major storm is set to hit, you can pretty much be sure that stores will be running low on several items that people feel they absolutely must have, even if it means fighting over the last loaf of bread.  Fortunately preppers can improvise many things, including the most common "emergency" supplies...

  1. Bread.  Yes buying bread is the easiest way to acquire this staple but head over a couple of aisles to the baking supplies area and for the price of a loaf of bread you can buy the ingredients to make a dozen loaves of bread.
  2. Milk.  A gallon of milk is another critical item that people grab first when prepping for a weather emergency.  Head over a couple of aisles and grab a big container of Nido powdered milk and you will be able to make gallons of the stuff whenever you want it.  Bonus the stuff has a really long shelf life.
  3. Toilet paper.  It's always nice to have a large supply of toilet paper on hand (giant packages of the Costco stuff is the best IMHO), but if you run out you can always substitute wet wipes, newspaper, leaves (!), or even a bandanna (be sure to wash in it a bucket of bleach water).
  4. Bottled water.  Again, Costco bottled water is cheap and it is always a good idea to keep a few cases on hand but if you need emergency water you can: fill up the bathtub and any other containers you have on hand with tap water, bring water up by the bucket from a local creek and purify it, even melt snow if necessary.
  5. Light.  A lantern and flashlights are things to always have on hand but there are several items that you can improvise a candle with including Crisco, crayons, and even rubbing alcohol.
  6. Water filter.  Sometimes when the power grid goes down, so does your water supply (usually a well pump won't work without electricity).  Even if you have bottled water you may run out and end up needing to filter rain or creek water so here are a few ways to MacGyver some DIY water filters.
  7. Mittens.  With a few inches of snow falling on Las Vegas yesterday evening, many people were unprepared because it rarely ever snows here.  Having snow gear isn't something many locals keep on hand but if you need to improvise such gear, it's easy enough to layer jackets then throw on a pair of wool socks in place of gloves.
  8. Tourniquet.  Not many people keep an actual tourniquet on hand for an emergency (although this may be changing due to active shooter and Stop the Bleed training) but in an emergency you can improvise many items (sock, t shirt, belt, bandanna) to keep someone from bleeding out before they reach a hospital.
  9. Baby supplies.  If you always use disposable diapers, keep a supply of cloth diapers/safety pins/plastic diaper covers on hand.  If the spouse breastfeeds, keep a canister of baby formula in reserve just in case.  If you always feed your baby jarred baby food, keep a mortar and pestle on hand in case you need to DIY your own baby food when the power goes out.
  10. Evacuation.  If you don't have an easy and straight forward method to evacuate during a disaster, here are several examples of how to improvise such things.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Daily Preparedness Tip: If You See Something, Say Something

A quick reminder that if you see something unusual/inexplicable/possibly something pointing to crime or terrorism, say something (ie: alert law enforcement so they can check it out).  I learned today that our local area has a counter terrorism task force which relies on tips from the public (in the form of a SAR--suspicious activity report) to provide information on criminal activity/possible terrorism activity which law enforcement then follows up on.  Apparently tips through this service have alerted law enforcement to potential school shooter events which were able to be pre-empted before any damage was done.  If your area doesn't have such a system, you can always report tips to the FBI or call 311/911.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Teach Your Kids...Everything

I saw this post on reddit today and my first thought was 'this has to be a shitpost'.  I mean, what grown adult is lacking the life skills of a twelve year old?  Apparently this is a trend (exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C)?  And while I may be old and judgmental, there is no way in hell an adult shouldn't know the basics of survival.  Cooking is a survival skill, working for money is a survival skill, driving, depending on where you live, is a survival skill.  Parents do their kids a huge disservice when they don't insist (and teach) their kids basic life skills.

Years ago--and I do mean YEARS--it was a given that anything parents knew how to do, their kids would learn the same skills as soon as they were physically able.  You want to eat fish?  You go catch one.  You want vegetables with your meal?  You grow them.  You have a hole in your clothes?  You mend it.  Young girls were babysitting even smaller children by early elementary school.  Young boys would be hunting/ranching/fishing by early elementary school.  All kids were expected to entertain themselves, likewise they were also expected to solve their own social problems with their peers.

Of course times change, but creating human beings that lack the knowledge of how to cook for themselves, clean for themselves, earn money, fix things that go wrong in their lives, is just mind-blowing.  Parents should strive to impart as much knowledge and as many skills to their kids as humanly possible; you never know when such skills will come in handy whether in ordinary life or during an extraordinary crisis.  And for parents who themselves weren't taught much, YouTube can teach you just about everything.

Friday, February 15, 2019

PTSD, Stress, Suicide

While this blog is usually focused on people who are doing everything they can to survive a crisis or a disaster, a growing segment of our population are either attempting or completing suicide.  Among those, military members and law enforcement members are showing steep increases in attempts and completions, and then there are the ever increasing rates of teen suicides as well as suicides by middle-aged white males.  Here are some resources if you or someone you know is suffering from stress, PTSD, or suicidal ideation:

Thursday, February 14, 2019


I'm driving down the street and I see a group of young people, who look like tourists judging by the bags/blankets/pillows they are schlepping, try to shuffle faster through the pouring rain.  It isn't uncommon to see people who look like they are carrying nearly everything they own as they walk down the streets of Las Vegas, but doing this in the rain is definitely an uncommon thing in this city as it usually rains about four or five days per year.  It's been a soggy few days here.

So I began to wonder why these people would let everything they have with them become a soggy mess and it dawned on me that they must have missed life lesson #234--learn how to improvise.

If you unexpectedly find yourself caught in the rain, in a big city, and DON'T want all of your worldly possessions to become a wet mess, find the nearest pubic garbage can (sometimes on city streets, other times in public restrooms, hotels, etc) and pull out a trash bag (look under the bag that is in the garbage can as many janitorial folks will leave additional bags under the bag they are lining the can with) and...instant pack/suitcase/blanket rain cover.  You can also improvise a rain coat this way by tearing holes in the bag for your head and arms.

Need a water bottle?  You can find these discarded everywhere, just go to a public restroom and wash them with soap and water before filling it up.  Doing the vagabond thing and want to heat up a meal only you have no stove?  It's simple to scavenge the materials to make one.

Where ever you find yourself, take a couple of minutes to look around and notice everything in your area.  With the things you see, what can you improvise with them?  Weapons can be commonly improvised from everything from a stick to a rock.  I've lost count of how many times I've seen homeless guys pick up a cup from outside a fast food restaurant, go in, and fill the cup up with their beverage of choice (highly unsanitary, of course, but it seems to work for them).

Learn to improvise things--whether you actually need these things or not--as yet another survival skill that may come in useful in the future.