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Friday, May 7, 2010

Disaster Tip of the Week: Can't Get Through On Your Cell Phone After A Disaster, Try Sending A Text Message

kiwanja_san_francisco_texting_11Image by kiwanja via Flickr
In times of disaster and crisis it is often difficult to get through to other people over the phone whether it is a land line based system or a cellular phone.
However, the one thing that does work is sending SMS based texted messages. This is due to the way SMS messages work, the important thing to know is that they require less bandwidth to send the messages over the network, and once you hit send your mobile device will keep trying to send the message until it is sent if the network is busy. All this increases the chances that your message will be sent to its destination.
Though I wont get into the super techincal of how SMS messaages work or the different protocols and spectrums involved, the important part is that you know that your message will get through and you have other options if you can't place a call.
Here is a little more on how SMS works and here: How Short Messaging Service Works
Why SMS Is Limited to 160 Characters
If you have any doubt the use of SMS messaging goes back to September 11th when people used it to send messages to loved ones. I also personally used SMS messaging duing 9/11 when I could not get through on the phone.
Though other examples may exist before then, this was the first major event to show that SMS text messages are a reliable way of getting your communications through after a disaster.
Since then, other examples include Katrina, the Mumbai terror attacks, and the earthquake in Hatti as well as others.

Tip of the Week for Everyone Not Just Those in the City…Get aTent

We went on a camp-in!
I got a call from a man in far northern Canada this week asking for permission to use some of my articles for a preparedness fair. We had a great visit but it got me to thinking about winter. I know for those of you in the northern hemisphere the timing for this is bad but for those in Australia and other points south now is the time to think winter. For the rest it’s always the right time to learn another self reliance tip.
When my kids were living in North Carolina they experienced a week long power outage after an ice storm. They lived in a home without a fire place and they were poor students without much in the way of emergency supplies and definitely not much in the way of camping supplies. Those camping supplies are such a blessing. They ended up huddling together in one room trying to keep warm. They created a tent under a table and the two little ones slept in there.
As part of your preparedness plan purchase a tent with an outer support frame. If you live in the city and have a large family you may consider purchasing more than one so they are a size that can be carried strapped to your back pack should you have to walk away from home. For those who are planning to shelter in place a larger tent is appropriate. Your tent should be, when possible, large enough to sit in and a best case scenario, large enough to place a chair in and still not hit your head on the ceiling.
Tents are great for both summer and winter power outages. During a winter outage you can move a small table and some chairs inside the tent which you have set up in the room easiest to keep warm or the room with a fireplace. Place your tent a safe distance from the fire. You are now ready to have meals, play games and work on projects inside your tent. The tent will contain your body heat and you will be amazed at how warm you will be. At night simply take out the table and chairs and bring in the mattress, air mattress or sleeping bags and settle in for the night.
During the summer your tent can be used to protect you as you sleep outdoors during an outage. If you get a great breeze through your home stay in your own bed but if you do not, place your tent in a location that will catch a breeze. If you are in the city, set up on your apartment building roof or your balcony, and you will be protected from mosquitoes and other bugs, mice, cats, etc. Open all the flaps and catch those breezes.
If your disaster should make your home uninhabitable a tent can be used for camping in the yard while you protect your possessions. A tent can also be used to store items you have salvaged from your home, protecting them from rain damage and also from curious eyes. A tent is also a great way to create a potty area affording privacy as well as protection from the elements.
Summer sales are beginning now on camping supplies and clearance sales are happening for those with winter approaching. Watch for a great sale and get a tent or two.
Just a reminder, because of my concern for rising food prices,  for the next two weeks I will send any new subscribers to the Totally Ready Newsletter a copy of our March issue which includes the information you will need to store a nutritionally balanced three month supply designed for your family’s needs, not the generic list you find other places.
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INSTANT SURVIVAL TIP: Watch that bleach!

Did you know that bleach has a shelf life of only sixteen months?  In fact, it begins losing its’ effectiveness after about half that time.
bleach 300x187 INSTANT SURVIVAL TIP:  Watch that bleach!image by Pierre LaScott
 If you’re storing bleach as a water purifier, be sure to rotate it.  When you get a new bottle, write the expiration date on the outside of the bottle.  If you don’t see an expiration date, use the purchase date.  We don’t usually think of expiration dates with the non-edibles in our storage, but with bleach, it’s a must!
Oh, and don’t store a bleach bottle on its’ side.  I have white stains on my tan carpet to prove that’s not a good idea!
© 2010, thesurvivalmom. All rights reserved.

Simple survival.

A sleeping bag, of the "mummy" varie...Image via Wikipedia
Survivalism/preparedness gets pretty complicated, pretty fast. Longs lists of stuff that you need to buy and add to a closet somewhere.

Most survival people are gear heads. We like gns, knives, camping stuff, and we like shopping around for it and buying it. But we all know that you don't need to have all of the gear to be "prepared," and there's a slim chance that you'll ever use some of the common survival gear.

Take main battle rifles as an example. They go with survivalism like peanut butter goes with jelly. Its "the" survivalist weapon--a FAL, M1A, Saiga .308, etc. Something semi auto, with big magazines and in .308. Because you "need" that kind of range and stopping power. Now for the question: When have survivors of any US disaster needed to use an MBR to defend their lives and properties? When have normal civvys needed to take 300 or 400 yard shots at bands of looters or home invaders? I'm not dismissing the MBR, I'm just suggesting that it's probably not a "must have" in order for most people to be prepared.

So, what are the need vs the wants? I'm honestly not sure, and the needs will vary with everyone's situation. I think a good rule of thumb is to think "when would I ever use this?" If the scenario that you come up with involves zombies, alien invaders or is otherwise completely far fetched, you probably don't need it.

When someone asks you about how to prepare, what do you tell them? "Well, you need to put together thirty lists and invest tens of thousands of dollars in equipment just in case?" Probably not. We all realize, somewhere in our heads, that you don't need that much crap to be fairly well prepared.

So, here are a few, fairly small and affordable "baseline" things that anyone can do to be more prepared.
  1. Buy a gun and learn how to shoot. Everyone needs a home defense gun of some kind. If you don't have a gun, you're at the mercy of those who do. If you do have a gun--be it a pump action shotgun, AK-47, handgun, whatever--you can defend yourself and your family. The type isn't especially important, though it needs to be able to drop an invader dead. 
  2. Have a month worth of food storage that's fairly easily transportable and can be eaten with minimal preparation. MREs, backpacking food, crackers, peanut butter, poptarts, canned food, cereals, etc. If you're going to store staples, make sure you have a reliable way to prepare them (plan on having no stove, electricity, natural gas). A month will see you through most of what we're likely to face in North America.
  3. Two weeks worth of water, also in a fairly easily transportable form.
  4. Keep your gas tanks filled up and store some spare gasoline.
  5. Have a first aid kit and take some basic first aid training.
  6. Get a tent that your whole family could sleep in, blankets and sleeping bags.
  7. Have some emergency cash savings at home.
  8. Store some basic supplies (food, water, first aid, wool blanket, repair tools) in each vehicle.
  9. Carry some basic gear with you on a daily basis (emergency cash, pocket knife or multitool, water bottle, CCW).
  10. Have a bug out bag or 72 hour kit ready to go; a change of clothes, scans of important docs, etc.

Got any other suggestions for basic survival "must haves"? Comment away.

Disaster Planning: Kind of a Big Deal

Three days after Hurricane Katrina devastated multiple states around the Gulf of Mexico, there were people who were on the verge of revolting.  For three days, they had been wading through contaminated water, searching for food only to find it spoiled and desperately searching to find any kind of safe drinking water.   They were also exposed to water born diseases, infections caused by injuries sustained during the storm.  These conditions coupled with the irritation of having no help from the government, caused the people to become angry and desperate.  They were in a nightmare and were living on the edge. Many of these inconveniences could have been avoided just by preparing for a disaster.
Disasters come in all shapes and sizes.  Hurricane, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, home fires, floods – there are so many, and they happen quite frequently.  But, for one reason or another, many do not prepare for any type of disaster that could affect them in the area they live.  Despite their reasoning, disasters happen to everyday people all over the world.  We may each be faced with a disaster some time during our lives.  Starting to prepare simply involves sitting down and writing a list of survival needs.  Once the list is complete, start acquiring items.  Those that are prepared for those unforeseen disasters stand a better chance at surviving than those that do not.

Food and Water

Storing a short and long term food supply a little at a time is not a difficult task, nor is it excessively expensive according to many prepping and survival sites.  With water being one of the most important items required for survival, having alternative means of getting this invaluable resource would be a good idea.  Some alternative sources to use as a back up plan would be rain water collection barrels, water filters or gravity filters.
Small amounts of food can be purcased each time one steps into a store or whenever they can afford it.  There are food storage calculators to help a person obtain the right amounts of food needed to survive for a year, and the numbers can easily be multiplied for further food storage calculations.  Taking time to read the nutritional information on the back of the food source will help a person make the best choices for their needs.  If a person needs to use their stashed food supply, having foods high in vitamins, nutrients, and proteins will provide their bodies with what it needs for mental clarity, rational thinking as well as maintaining energy levels in order to carry out more intensive, “survivor oriented tasks”.

Skills and Tools

Surviving a disaster will require more than just stored foods and water.  Having first hand knowledge of skills, such as first aid, CPR, basic survival skills, fire safety skills can help ensure safety until help arrives. These skills will create avenues of opportunity that can help a person thrive or help a neighbor or person in need survive.
Tools are another category of necessities on a preparedness plan.  Tools such as generators, flashlights, batteries, utility knives, etc are necessary items to assist in surviving a disaster.  For a complete list of suggested tools, click here.

Medical Supplies

Injuries may occur during disasters.  Typically, those in need to medical assistance are elderly people that were unable to escape the devastation, the handicapped and those that had no transportation to escape.  Having a well stocked arsenal of medical supplies is essential to any one preparing for any type of disaster scenario.  Therefore, someone should prepare for the worst case scenario.  If a person has any medications they take regularly, or prescription glasses, get extra refills of these items and stash them away.  If someone has a heart condition or diabetes, prepare accordingly.

Mental Preparation

It is always hard to see the aftermath of a disaster.  For those that have not mentally prepared for such possible scenarios to occur, post traumatic stress disorder and mental illnesses such as depression can occur and the person experiencing these will need to get help.  Children especially should be watched closely after a disaster occurs.  Having the right frame of mind to handle the stresses before and after a disaster is a key component to surviving the event.  Without mental preparedness for a given situation, many succumb to the traumatic event, due to distress, shock, indecision or panic.
Obviously a disaster is not something to take lightly.  With food and water shortages occurring and basic needs not being met, desperation from the unprepared could turn violent.  Preparing for any type of disaster puts a person at a greater advantage than most.  And, while many are still enjoying the greater things in life, some are using their extra cash streams and using it to the best of their ability for preparing for an unforeseen disaster that may come there way in the near future.