Friday, August 23, 2019

Recession?

Recession fears seem to be heating up.  Between the roller coaster that is the tariff/trade war/China stock market thing to the dire predictions of economists to the media hammering on the topic day after day, there's a good probability that a recession could be on the horizon.  While many people ask "how can I prepare for a recession?", the better question would be how can I ALWAYS be financially prepared for whatever may happen.  To do this...

  • Be debt free.  Including the car, student loans, credit cards, and your house.  If you only have to pay utilities each month, you will be miles ahead, financially, of the average American.
  • Have a very good emergency fund.  The more money you have on hand, or in easily liquifiable assets, the better.
  • Diversify your assets.  Some cash, some stocks, some bonds, some precious metals, some guns, etc.  Never put all of your financial eggs in one basket.
  • Have a very robust stockpile of food and supplies in your home.
  • Be as self-sufficient as possible.  Grow some of your own food, know how to fix your own auto/plumbing/electrical problems, cook your own food, etc.
  • Have multiple sources of income.  Never be completely reliant on only one source of income.
  • Be able to immediately cut back on unnecessary things.  People can and do cut cable (OTA antennas work great in many places), Netflix (free movies from the library are a good way to save money and be entertained), the gym (body-weight exercise are very effective), etc.
  • Know how to reduce, reuse, recycle, or do without.  Basic advice for anyone who needs to cut back on spending.
  • Stay on your toes when it comes to your job.  Never leave a lot of PTO hanging out there (a company downsizing or closure may make all of those days worthless), always diversify your 401k (100% of your 401k invested in your company can spell disaster, just ask the folks from Enron), and use up things like employer reimbursed training or education funds, health insurance benefits, etc. as a sudden layoff can make this things disappear.
  • Go low-profile when it comes to your lifestyle and financial situation.  You don't want to be the person everyone comes to for loans during a recession because everyone knows you have money.
  • If you are planning to sell your home and move to a lower COL area, do so when the housing market is still hot instead of after the housing market has collapsed.

Friday, August 9, 2019

To Open Carry Or Not to Open Carry

While being able to open carry a firearm is your right in many places (more specific info here), using this right to scare the hell out of people is always a bad idea.  Personally I don't open carry anymore.  I choose to carry concealed for many reasons, mostly to not alert people that I am carrying (the element of surprise is always something you want on your side), there is less of an issue with weapon retention, and because I am in an urban area most of the time, and while it may be legal to open carry in many urban areas, it tends to terrify people, especially in our current political climate.

In urban areas there are a few good reasons to open carry.  I have yet to see a convenience store worker NOT open carrying around Miami and this is probably a good thing when you see the clientele they have to deal with daily.  I've seen a few people open carrying in my city, in both cases they had shirts on identifying them as working at local shooting ranges (pretty good publicity IMHO), and we've got a guy who walks his dog around our neighborhood every morning while he is open carrying (it's his right, he doesn't seem like a whack job, and it probably makes our neighborhood a bit safer).

In rural areas it is still quite common to see people open carrying.  With people who work on ranches, a firearm is pretty much part of their daily carry.  During hunting season, it is quite common to see all manner of firearms being carried about, to and from vehicles, on trails, into the local cafe for breakfast, etc.

I think pre-planned open carry events are a good thing.  These events are usually publicized, the purpose is to educate the public about their gun rights (the people who participate in these events are generally very knowledgeable about guns and gun rights and happy to share their knowledge with others), and having a whole bunch of people open carrying at the same event is actually less intimidating than one random guy in body armor open carrying to make a point to the jittery public.

So while it is your right to open carry in many places, in the current climate of mass shootings, it behooves gun owners who want to open carry to be tactful, to know their rights backwards and forwards (this will come in handy if--more likely when--you get arrested), and to be aware that while you may absolutely be in the right, the response from everyone from the police to the general public can be iffy at best.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

10 Resources To Help in the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting

Another day, another two mass shootings.  I could hardly believe my news feed this morning when I woke up to see that not only was there a mass shooting yesterday in El Paso, but another mass shooting over night in Ohio.  I could ask "what is this world coming to?" but no one would like the answer. 

For those who are impacted by such a traumatic event, there are usually several resources to help afterwards.  Note that you don't have to actually be a victim of the mass shooter to be impacted by such an event.  I know first responders who were on scene during the Columbine mass shooting 20 years ago and these events stir up renewed trauma for them even after all of these years have passed.  There is no shame in asking for help when you need help, and there are several resources available to help after such an event...
  1. The federal government has a "Post Mass Shooting Resource Book" available here.
  2. Community response agencies usually set up incident-specific resource centers which are open to victims as well as the general public.  Simply Google the name of the event and resources and several links should show up (examples here for the Vegas shooting and here for the Gilroy shooting).
  3. The SAMHSA Disaster Distress Hotline can be found here.
  4. Follow social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) of local response agencies such as the local police department, the local fire department, the local Red Cross, etc.  Information on local post-incident resources is often shared through these channels.
  5. If you want to help (doing something to help others can often be cathartic), consider donating blood at the local blood bank, donating to the local Red Cross or other response agencies, donating to Go Fund Me campaigns (make sure the campaign you donate to is legit and not a scam; scammer come out of the woodwork during events like this), or helping those on the front lines (after the Vegas mass shooting people brought food to first responders, donated water to those standing in line to donate blood, set up prayer vigils, etc).
  6. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be found here and the Veteran's Crisis Line can be found here.  If you are in immediate crisis, you can always call 911 or check yourself into a hospital; some people prefer to talk or text with someone who is trained in helping which is where these crisis line services come in.
  7. Many states have Crime Victim's Assistance organizations that can provide resources and even financial assistance to victims of violent crimes, including mass shootings.  Example here.
  8. Contact your physician for a referral to a mental health specialist who deals with PTSD.  There are many resources available online which address all facets of PTSD, here is a place to start.
  9. Connect with others.  Often victims want to isolate themselves after a traumatic event but connecting with others--attending prayer vigils, seeking out grief counseling groups for survivors, talking about the incident with others who had the same experience--can be very beneficial (info on these groups is usually posted on local newspaper websites and government agency websites as well as on their social media pages).
  10. For first responders (law enforcement, EMS, hospital personnel, etc), there are many resource available after an incident (with, fortunately, less stigma for those seeking help than there used to be).  CISM teams are usually available on-site or on-call after an incident, the Code Green Campaign is specifically geared to help first responders after any kind of traumatic incident, and the First Responder Support Network also has resources designed to help.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

20 Items to Carry With You for a Mass Shooting

Who shoots up a Garlic Festival?  I guess that question could be asked about elementary schools, country music concerts, and yoga studios as well and the answer would be the same...there are a lot of unstable people out there.  In light of yesterday's shooting in Gilroy (and the hundreds of mass shootings that have happened over the past couple decades), it just makes sense for everyone to be prepared for a mass shooting event.  Here are 20 items to consider carrying with you in your EDC pouch, specific to the needs of a mass shooting:

  1. Nitrile (non-latex) gloves.  If you are assisting shooting victims, best to try to avoid getting blood and other bodily fluids on you.
  2. A tourniquet.  From RATS to CATS, there are many types of tourniquets available for civilians to purchase online.  The objective here is to keep shooting victims from bleeding out prior to getting them to a hospital.
  3. Tampons.  The main purpose of this item is to contain blood, which means they can also be used to stop bleeding in gunshot victims.
  4. Condom.  Using a condom as a makeshift tourniquet (with or without a tampon over the wound) is another way to help prevent someone from bleeding out.
  5. QuikClot.  Again, using this item can help prevent someone from bleeding out after being shot (ditto Celox, WoundSeal, and similar products).
  6. A first aid kit.  Preferably with copious amounts of gauze, wraps, and pads to use to apply direct pressure to a wound.
  7. Specialized trauma medical gear.  If you are trained in trauma medicine, there are several items you may consider carrying as part of your kit including a chest seal kit, a decompression needle, airway kit, etc.
  8. Trauma shears.  These may be a luxury to carry but are great for removing clothing around wounds.
  9. Face mask.  After a blast-type of event, there will be a lot of crap flying in the air.  If you can't breathe well, you can't help others so having a mask on hand is a good idea.
  10. A compressed towel.  These come in tiny, coin-shaped, form and with the addition of a bit of a water spring into full towel form.  These are useful for any instance you would need a towel, from fashioning a sling to using as a compress to wiping up afterwards.
  11. A knife.  A good folding knife is useful for many, many things in a disaster situation.
  12. Flashlight.  Again, this is a useful item no matter the type of disaster you are facing.
  13. Waterless hand sanitizer/Wet Wipes.  Useful to keep everything as sanitary as possible.
  14. Sharpie.  A permanent marker is useful for several things during a terrorism event--from writing down notes and details to writing x-codes on damaged buildings to writing a patient's name and social on their arm if they are at risk of passing out and don't have ID with them.
  15. Shoes.  Specifically for women who may be dressed up in heels at an event.  The ability to run away from a shooter may be your first--and only--form of defense and to be able to run away you will need shoes which allow this (not spiky heels).
  16. Duct tape.  Duct tape has a hundred uses in a disaster situation.
  17. ID.  If you are a credentialed responder, carrying your professional ID with you and making it visible after a disaster event is a good idea.
  18. Knowledge.  Fortunately knowledge takes up no space but yields considerable results during a disaster.  Take a basic first aid course, take an advanced first aid course, take a Stop the Bleed course, get certified in CPR, etc.  The more useful knowledge you have in regards to a disaster situation, the better off you will be.
  19. A weapon.  Preferably a firearm, maybe MACE if that's all you can carry (although both of these options might be off the table depending on the venue in which case you will have to improvise some sort of weapon).  What usually stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
  20. A vehicle you can access.  One thing that saved many lives after the Las Vegas mass shooting was people with vehicles (their own or borrowed or hotwired, etc).  Many non-medically trained people threw victims into the closest vehicle and rushed them to the nearest hospital and this, getting victims to definitive care ASAP, faster than even ambulances could respond, saved many lives that night.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Power Outages

Power outages may well be the next big disaster to prepare for.  Between recent country-wide outages like the one that took down power in several South American countries, planned power outages to avoid wild fire which were recently announced, and the major power outage that hit New York City last night, it's a good time to plan for what you would do if there was a major power outage in your city.  Fortunately in these instances power was quickly restored (unlike the 11 MONTHS it took to restore power to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico) but if you are planning, you might as well make a few plans for both short and long-term outages.  Here's what to do:

  • For short-term outages, having a battery back-up system is a good option.  From power banks that charge your cell phone, to battery banks to power an entire house, battery power systems have a place in preparedness.
  • One of the main go-to's for power back-up during a disaster is a generator.  The plus side--one adequately-sized generator can power an entire house, the length of time which depends on how much fuel you have.  The down-side is that you need to somehow procure copious amounts of fuel to keep your generator going.  In places where short-term power outages are common, stored fuel and generators that are hard-wired into your home's electrical system are common.
  • An off-grid, solar-powered home is an ideal solution for today's power woes.  Although solar systems and battery storage systems are expensive and require ongoing maintenance (and a goodly amount of sun), having your own home-generated power will make you say "what power outage?"
  • A smaller solar power system may be another option.  Solar power systems have been brought down to such a small size that backpackers can carry them to keep their cell phones and camera gear easily charged.  These systems are much, much smaller than whole-home solar systems and can supply a little bit of power (although nothing near large enough to power a refrigerator, for example).
  • Doing without.  This is, unfortunately, the long-term plan for most people.  If power will be out for a considerable length of time, reverting back to the Dark (literally) Ages may be most people's only option.  When you think about how much power is required for your everyday life--literally from the moment you wake up until you turn the lights off at night--doing without power for the long-term sounds like a difficult option to even consider.  The Amish seem to do well with this and most people can figure out short-term solutions like candles and oil lamps, but for long-term planning, check out power-less options for your daily needs.
  • Finally there is the "cobble together a solution" option.  I've seen one (very long) extension cord power an entire block in some poor countries (this is also how one fire can wipe out an entire village but that's another post).  Backpackers are used to doing without power; the old timers literally only had a camp fire for their cooking/reading/protection needs but today's hikers at least use battery-powered headlamps and flashlights.  Most people have a hand-cranked radio on hand for emergency use during a power outage, and many people in Puerto Rico would power up devices while they were at work (where there was power) to use at home (where they didn't have power).

Friday, July 5, 2019

50 Earthquake Preparedness Tips

Since yesterday's major earthquake in Southern California has been on the news nearly non-stop since it happened, this is a good time to remember that everyone should be prepared for an earthquake whether you live in a seismically active zone or somewhere that might someday have a rare earthquake occurrence.  Here's 50 tips to get started:

  1. Have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms in your home.
  2. Have working fire extinguishers in your home.
  3. Have a gas line shut off tool in a convenient and easy to get to place (make sure everyone in the home knows how to use it).
  4. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to shut off the main electricity breaker in your home as well as how to access the main water shut off for your home.
  5. Take a Community Emergency Response Team course in your community.
  6. Take a basic first aid course (and an advanced first aid course if available).
  7. Have a comprehensive first aid kit on hand.
  8. Determine if you should have earthquake insurance; purchase this if possible.
  9. Have a good assortment of earthquake and preparedness apps on your phone.
  10. Utilize other online earthquake preparedness resources and websites too (examples here, here, and here).
  11. After an earthquake, monitor local news sources (radio, TV, social media) for up-to-date information and emergency response news.
  12. After an earthquake consider texting instead of calling to leave phone lines open for emergency calls.  Also, avoid calling 911 unless you specifically need emergency medical/fire/rescue help.
  13. Consider seismic retrofitting for your home.
  14. Secure the items in your home to mitigate the damage caused by an earthquake.
  15. Study up on earthquakes and earthquake safety (examples here, here, and here).
  16. Participate in the Great ShakeOut.
  17. Create a Family Emergency Plan.
  18. Always keep your shoes, keys, wallet, phone, and EDC/BOB near your bed so you can grab these items and go in the event of a nighttime earthquake.
  19. Put together a Bug Out Bag for each family member and leave them in an easy to access place.
  20. Create a family emergency communication plan.
  21. Always keep your vehicle's gas tank at least half full.
  22. Have the gear which will allow you to camp outside your home in the event of a major quake (tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear, etc).
  23. Keep a video and/or written home inventory for insurance purposes.
  24. Know how to assess your home for damage after an earthquake. 
  25. Whether inside your home our outside your home, after a major earthquake be aware of any hazards you should avoid including downed power lines, unstable/unsafe structures, broken glass, gas leaks, fire, crumbling buildings, etc.
  26. Know what to do during an earthquake.
  27. Know what to do after an earthquake.  More info here.
  28. Stay in good physical shape (sheltering under a desk and climbing out over rubble is difficult if you are in poor physical shape).
  29. Always keep extra prescription and other necessary medications on hand in case you can't access your pharmacy after an earthquake.
  30. Have a good amount of cash on hand to use in case of emergency.
  31. Keep digital copies of all important documents on a thumb drive in your EDC/BOB; keep the originals in a safe deposit box or a fireproof/waterproof safe.
  32. Stockpile food and water to use in the event of an extended emergency.
  33. Consider getting a generator to use in the event of an extended power outage (don't forget to safely stockpile enough fuel for it).
  34. Have alternate forms of transportation in case roads are inaccessible to vehicles (bicycle, boat, motorcycle, etc).
  35. Have triple-redundant plans for water, heating, cooling, cooking, electricity, food, waste disposal, etc.
  36. Be prepared to render assistance after an earthquake (but don't risk your own life to do this) including search and rescue, medical aid, extrication, evacuation, etc.
  37. Put together a disaster response plan specific to any special circumstances in your life (people with severe medical conditions, if you have infants or small children, if you or your family/neighbors are elderly or infirm, if you have pets or livestock, etc).
  38. Consider becoming licensed to use a HAM radio; a HAM radio may be your only form of communication during a region-wide disaster.
  39. Have basic items on hand for extrication after an earthquake (gloves, face mask, breaker bar, shovels, picks, sturdy shoes, safety goggles, headlamp, etc).
  40. Know how to mark yourself as safe after a disaster (here and here).
  41. Have multiple ways to power your electronics when the power goes out (rechargeable batteries, solar charger, AC/DC converter for your vehicle, battery banks, etc.).
  42. Google for local resources on earthquake preparedness (examples here, here, and here).
  43. Be prepared to evacuate your area after a disaster if necessary.
  44. Be connected to social media (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit); this is often the quickest way to access information on earthquakes and other disasters.  Note: as I was writing this post we experienced a big aftershock; my social media feeds lit up like a Christmas tree with reports of the earthquake...and people freaking out.
  45. Be sure to have your pets and livestock microchipped.  Animals tend to respond to an earthquake before humans and often panic and run away, with a microchip your animal will be easily identified if found.
  46. After a wide-spread disaster, be prepared to band together with others for both safety and the sharing of skills and resources.
  47. Know where to apply for assistance after a disaster (examples here and here).
  48. Consider reporting any earthquakes you feel for research purposes.
  49. If you live in a coastal area, also be prepared for tsunamis.
  50. Be prepared for additional aftershocks which are common after major earthquakes.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy 4th of July...And An Earthquake

First, a happy 4th of July to all on this patriotic holiday.  Next, an earthquake that shook southern California and Las Vegas too.  Our 4th will be spent quietly at home (we have enough pyromaniac neighbors that we get a professional-grade fireworks show without leaving our home each--and every--holiday).

And then there was the fairly good-sized earthquake that happened this morning which shook our city and brought about a number of interesting reactions--some people didn't feel a thing, others pondered diving under the poker table, one elderly gentleman thought his blood pressure dropped suddenly since he felt dizzy and unsteady on his feet, and one woman felt nauseous because of the movement.  Everyone was surprised since earthquakes are fairly rare here.  Among my immediate thoughts:

  • Do we have earthquake insurance (no), do we need earthquake insurance (maybe).
  • Where is the spouse (a quick call ensured that all was well).
  • How are the relatives who live in southern California (several elderly cousins live in the LA area, fortunately this quake caused no damage where they live).
  • What would happen if there was major damage in Southern California (we might have been hosting these relatives if they had a way to get here or we had a way to go and get them, both options would be impossible if there was major road damage.  Another problem would be the hoards of people coming this was from southern California since even a simple holiday weekend can turn the I-15 into gridlock for hours on end).
  • What if this quake had caused major damage in our immediate area (we are generally well prepared but there are several things that could exacerbate such a situation including: it is 105 degrees here since it is summer, the spouse has several health issues and medical care may be in short supply after a major disaster, we don't have a generator--and haven't needed one in the past decade--but a long-term power outage would be quite the problem, and we are pretty land-locked with small freeways and long distances through the hot desert to get away from this area.  Add to this the 300,000+ tourists in our city here for the holiday weekend;feeding and housing and evacuating and providing medical area for all of these people would be quite the mass casualty response).
  • What can I do to be better prepared in the event of a future quake (we are well set on food and water, I will look into earthquake insurance, I will talk to the relatives about their current plans for an earthquake or other natural disaster, and getting a generator to power at least a small air conditioner just moved up my priority list).
Bottom line, even if you aren't in an area prone to earthquakes, they can happen just about anywhere so take a bit of time this weekend to learn more about earthquake preparedness and determine how you can be better prepared should such an event happen in your area.