Monday, October 28, 2019

10 Side Affects of the California Wildfires

In addition to the usual problem with wildfires (of which there are many like extended power outages, etc), here are some other things that are happening due to the fires...

  1. Animals are being displaced by the fires, especially if families were unable to find their animals when they were evacuating or if they were unable to bring their animals with them for some reason.
  2. Smoke from the wildfires can be really bad for the average person in the area, even worse for people with asthma or other breathing difficulties.
  3. When the power outages were first announced they were supposed to be "for a few days".  Now that weather conditions have deteriorated, these outages have been extended for even longer.
  4. Fortunately during a disaster, the public often comes out in droves to help.  It's important that those who want to volunteer or donate do so in an organized way so information is now being provided on how and where people can help the fire victims.
  5. Air BnB will be impacted by the fires as they are providing shelter through their Open Homes Program.
  6. The longer the power is out, the more important food safety becomes.
  7. Many school districts have chosen to close schools this week due to the fire.  Not only are kids not in school, they won't be fed through the school lunch program and if parents are still working, childcare will be a big issue too.
  8. Even the rich and famous aren't immune to the affects of the wildfires.
  9. Gas stations in the area are running out of gas.
  10. People are now realizing that if their area burned before, it can easily burn again.

Friday, October 25, 2019

15 Sources of Light During an Emergency

It looks like it may be a cold and dark weekend for folks in northern California if PG&E's plan to shut off power to nearly a million people happens.  Hopefully everyone in the area learned several lessons last time the power was shut off and they are all prepared and ready for a longer-term power outage.  If not, here are some ways to prepare for the light you will need when the power goes out...

  1. Candles and matches, lots of both.  People are generally not used to using candles so just a quick reminder that if you are going to use candles, be extra cautious so nothing catches on fire.  Note that beeswax candles burn the longest and don't forget candle holders/candlesticks.
  2. Flashlights and extra batteries, lots of batteries.  This isn't a 24/7 light source unless you have cornered the market on batteries but every room and every person in the house should have their own flashlight with lots of extra batteries on hand.
  3. Headlamp from your backpacking gear.  Be sure to have extra batteries on hand; these are particularly useful when you are working on something and need your hands free from holding a flashlight.
  4. Hand-crank flashlights.  Useful because the only power source is your efforts to keep it cranked.
  5. Glow sticks.  You can pick these up at the dollar store or in bulk on Amazon and they are good for providing several hours of soft light where ever you need it.
  6. Battery-powered lantern.  These can light up an entire room and are great for longer term use but you will need to have extra batteries on hand (an expensive proposition) or a way to recharge the batteries you use.
  7. Oil lamps.  The old fashioned kind; be sure you have plenty of lamp oil and wicks on hand.
  8. Dual-fuel lanterns.  These run on liquid fuel or unleaded gasoline; be sure to have extra mantles on hand.
  9. Garden path solar lights.  These are the solar-powered lights you see in people's yards which are also great for a power outage since all you have to do is set them out in the morning to charge (sun is required), then bring them into the house in the evening to provide hours of light for the family.
  10.  Jury-rigged candles.  You can make candles out of all sorts of things like crayons, butter, and Crisco.
  11. A bonfire/your fireplace.  The very oldest source of light, fire, can be utilized from your fireplace or if you are outside, from a campfire/bonfire.
  12. The lights from your vehicle.  Not a long-term solution but this system provided plenty of light for many a college field kegger.
  13. The light on your cell phone.  Again, not a long-term source of light since you don't want to run your cell phone battery down, but this is an excellent source of emergency lighting.
  14. Low voltage LED lights powered by a 12v battery (much like you would find on a boat or RV).
  15. Natural light.  Your best bet during a long-term outage will be to work with natural light--get up when daybreaks and be in bed not long after sunset.  This may take some getting used to but it is how our ancestors lived for eons.

Monday, October 21, 2019

A World in Turmoil

At least Arab Spring back in 2011 had a theme, but within the past few months, in many places around the world, it seems like people have finally had enough and they aren't going to take it anymore.  Among the places with major civil unrest issues...

This is kind of an overview of civil unrest around the world, while another factor, climate change, is spurring civil unrest in many places as well.  Folks are concerned that Brexit will spur civil unrest in the UK, while others are concerned that the 2020 US election may devolve into civil unrest.  Prepare accordingly.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

10 YouTube Channels to Follow

YouTube is a font of information, some insanely useful and some just plain insane.  I use YouTube for everything from "how to fix it" info (vehicles, appliances, home projects) to reviews before I buy things to learning new skills (YMMV and don't believe everything you see on YouTube).  Here are some good channels to follow:

  1. PrepMedic
  2. The Modern Rogue
  3. Cheap RV Living
  4. Drop Forged Survival
  5. Canadian Prepper
  6. Bushradical
  7. Sensible Prepper
  8. My Self Reliance
  9. Black Scout Survival
  10. LDS Prepper

Monday, October 14, 2019

10 Vegas Experiences for the Prepper

Since I live in Las Vegas, I know there are plenty of entertainment options for locals as well as tourists here.  It recently dawned on me, however, that there are plenty of Vegas experiences that would be useful for the prepper to partake in, whether you live here or are looking for an out-of-the-ordinary tourist experience...

  1. Check out Battlefield Vegas and learn how to handle a variety of weapons.  There are actually numerous businesses in Vegas that specialize in shooting experiences, Battlefield Vegas is just one example.
  2. For advanced tactical training, you can head over to Front Sight in Pahrump.
  3. Learning how to hike in the desert is always a good skill to have.  There are several groups in Vegas that hike together regularly and most invite visitors to come along as well (examples here, here, here, and here).
  4. And as long as you are in Vegas, there is no need to skip your daily run.  There are always a variety of running events (both road and trail) happening here.
  5. The apocalypse has happened and you need to rebuild (or tear down what's left and start over).  Don't know how to work heavy equipment like a back hoe or excavator?  Learn the basics at Dig This.
  6. On the other hand, you may need to steal a high-end car and race away from a situation a la James Bond.  Learn how to drive a race car at Dream Racing (or similar business) in Las Vegas. 
  7. If you want to learn actual counter-terrorism skills, there's a place for that too in Las Vegas.  Check out CRI Counter Terrorism Training School.
  8. Oddly enough, in the middle of the desert, there is a huge orchard and farm that provides u-pick experiences for anyone who comes by.  It's always a good idea to learn gardening skills where ever you can.
  9. Do you know how to handle a speed boat, jet ski, or kayak?  After a simple "training" video you can rent a variety of watercraft to practice with on at Lake Mead.
  10. Want to tackle your fear of heights?  The Strat offers a bunch of thrill rides, at the TOP of it's 1150 foot tower, that will either cure your of your fear of heights...or reinforce them.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

When You Have to Evacuate At a Moment's Notice

Just as we were all paying attention to the massive power outage in northern California, folks in southern California were given very little notice that they needed to evacuate--immediately--due to wildfires that had suddenly popped up in their area.  Being prepared to evacuate your home at a moment's notice is something everyone should be able do; in practice this is way more difficult than in sounds.  Do you have an emergency evacuation plan in place?  It should include:

  • How would you know when to evacuate?  In some places, the most common reason to evacuate would be if the police knock on your door and say they are evacuating the neighborhood because of a barricade situation.  In other places, annual flooding and wildfires are the most common reasons for announced voluntary or mandatory evacuations.  Pay attention to the news, especially if it is "the season" for evacuations like wildfire season, hurricane season, flooding season, etc.  Also, it is a good idea to have a NOAA weather radio on hand which will announce such perils heading your way.
  • How would you evacuate?  Ideally you would be able to pack up your vehicle and leave.  Those without cars would probably need to take a community-provided bus (this is common in hurricane-prone areas), get a ride with friends or even strangers, or in a worst-case scenario leave via bicycle or on foot (the worst options IMHO).  Hopping on a plane to quickly leave the area is also an idea (an expensive idea, generally, but sometimes the best option depending on the situation).
  • Where would you evacuate to?  For many people who aren't rolling in cash and don't have friends or family in other areas they can get to, their options may be evacuating to a community shelter.  I heard that there were plenty of people evacuating last hurricane season to inland campgrounds which sounds like a less than ideal situation, and lucky folks were taken in by friends or family members out of the mandatory evacuation zone.  Ideally you would have enough money for a hotel stay but even that is iffy, if in fact everyone and their brother coming from an evacuation zone has the same idea (in this situation people have to travel further and further away to find hotels with vacancies).
  • When would you evacuate?  Ideally you would decide to evacuate at the first sign of trouble.  This is rarely what people do, however.  There are plenty of people who choose to ignore mandatory hurricane evacuation orders, deciding to stay in their homes no matter what.  There are plenty of people who will resist evacuating until the last minute because they can't afford to leave/don't think the situation will be as bad as everyone is saying/aren't prepared and have no idea how to actually evacuate/are otherwise hindered from leaving because their car has no gas and all of the gas stations are closed, etc.  The average person can choose when to leave but those who are old or ill or, for example, women who are 8.5 months pregnant, should definitely get out of the potential disaster area sooner rather than later.  Leaving sooner is also a good idea in potential wildfire areas (these fires travel FAST), and in areas where a million other people will soon be on the road trying to get out of Dodge.
  • How would you actually evacuate?  Take one vehicle, gather up all the family members and their BOBs (bug out bags), gather all pets and their pet BOBs, if you have stored gasoline at your home or you can siphon it from another of your vehicles, fill up your gas tank (this will get you far out of the area before needing to stop for gas), grab the tubs of camping gear, fill up the rest of the space in the trunk with bottled water and food from the pantry, stop by the safe to pick up vital documents/cash/jewelry/etc.  If you have time, leave a note taped--facing out-on the front window with "evacuated on ____. Going to ____. Phone ______".  Lock all doors and windows then leave.  Turn your vehicles's radio to the local news station to alert you to roads that may be closed, call ahead if you are planning to go to a friend or relative's home, and determine if you may need to take an alternate route out of town.  Note that unlike many people featured on the news, you should never be running around your house trying to figure out what clothes to take, trying to determine if you can bring priceless antiques, wondering where the tent is and staring at the pantry to determine if or what kind of or how much food to take...all of these things waste time.  Being prepared ahead of time, having your most important things ready to go, even using a quick checklist so you don't forget anything can save minutes which could mean the difference between life and death.
Prepare NOW even if it is very unlikely that you will ever need to evacuate so that in the event of an emergency, you will be packed, in your vehicle, and hitting the road within five minutes of deciding it's time to leave.  More info on evacuating here, here, here, and here.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

50 Things That Aren't Working With the Power Out

Today was day one of the massive power outage in northern California.  On the one hand, it looks like many people either weren't informed or didn't pay attention when told ahead of time about the upcoming power outage.  On the other hand, this is a good reminder to everyone about what works (not many things) and more importantly, what doesn't work, when the power is out.  Here are 50 things that aren't working according to people in the northern California area when asked about the outage:

  1. Gas stations (some have generators, others have closed down because they don't)
  2. Charging stations (for Teslas, for power wheel chairs, etc)
  3. House power used to charge medical devices (CPAP machines, portable oxygen systems, etc)
  4. ATM machines (have cash on hand for emergency purchases of food, medication, water, etc)
  5. Stores (most don't have generators, some are allowing people to shop in the dark if they can pay cash for their purchases, cash registers don't work so paper addition it is)
  6. Pharmacies (these may not have power for a week or more so having a plan to stock/get medication is necessary)
  7. Home security systems, home security lighting
  8. Water to homes (unless water is provided by a gravity system; wells with electric pumps and other power-assisted systems aren't working)
  9. Water purification systems (residents were told to boil water that came out of the faucets because it could be contaminated)
  10. Toilets (toilets are non-electric, usually, but if there is no water, toilets can still be flushed using other waste water like from washing dishes)
  11. Hot water heaters (on demand hot water systems won't work, electric hot water tanks won't work, some gas hot water heaters will work and some won't depending on the type of pilot light it has)
  12. Internet (no power, no modem, no Netflix, no YouTube, no online anything)
  13. Cell service (either because of dead phone batteries or cell towers with no power)
  14. Schools are closed down (creating a daycare emergency)
  15. Dentists offices (people with dental emergencies need to go further to find an open office)
  16. Hospitals (they have generators but some are starting to divert patients to other areas not impacted by the power outage)
  17. Home appliances (gas stoves still work if you light them with a match, refrigerators and freezers will become useless if the outage continues, microwaves won't work)
  18. Refrigeration for insulin and other medications that require refrigeration are a top concern
  19. Small home appliances (a reminder to keep a manual can opener on hand and have a plan to make coffee when your electric coffee maker won't function)
  20. Home lighting (candles, lanterns, flashlights, and batteries were flying off the shelves of local stores)
  21. Commercial refrigeration (which will soon be a problem for restaurants and grocery stores)
  22. Street lights and traffic signal lights (there have been many car accidents reported in areas without power)
  23. Small businesses (they generally don't have back-up generators)
  24. Public transit which relies on electricity (BART is reported to be having problems with some of their buses and trains due to the power outage)
  25. Elevators and escalators
  26. The website for the power company (PGE's site has been down all day)
  27. Jobs (many workers were sent home if their workplace had no power; for many of these people that meant no pay for the hours/days missed)
  28. Any entertainment options that require power (phones, tablets, computers, gaming systems, etc)
  29. Heating, fans, and air conditioning systems in homes
  30. The airport (San Jose airport is putting their emergency plan in place in case the blackout affects them)
  31. Aquariums (both aquariums in people's homes as well as outdoor pond pumps)
  32. Swimming pool pumps
  33. Law and order (PGE offices were barricaded by police to keep out angry customers, one PGE worker was shot at; some areas have declared curfews to reduce the possibility of crime)
  34. Parks (many national parks in the outage area were closed down)
  35. Zoo (the Oakland Zoo was closed due to the power outage)
  36. Roadway tunnels were closed, including the Caldecott Tunnel and Devil's Slide Tunnel on Hwy 1
  37. TV and radio only work if they are battery-powered or connected to a generator
  38. Electric garage door openers won't work (know how to open your garage door manually)
  39. Generators were either sold out, out of fuel, or people were being warned not to electrocute themselves and/or cause a carbon monoxide poisoning event when using them
  40. Ice, water, groceries, and propane tanks for backyard grills were also sold out at many stores in the outage areas
  41. There is concern that some fire hydrants wouldn't work when needed
  42. 911 dispatch centers were asking people not to call unless it was truly a life or death emergency in order to keep the phone lines open
  43. All first responders (fire fighters and police) were being mobilized to respond to fire or other public safety incidents
  44. Washers and dryers won't work without power so an extended power outage may mean doing laundry by hand
  45. Sewer and septic systems may or may not work depending on if they require power to operate
  46. Many non-critical government offices in the outage areas were closed so things like getting permits were impacted
  47. Some restaurants and coffee shops closed, some remained open; some were cash-only, some were operating in the dark
  48. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was closed down due to the power outage
  49. People were being urged to unplug all appliances so they won't be damaged when the power surged back on
  50. Many people were worried about having to throw out spoiled food; an expensive but better option than getting food poisoning