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Monday, October 11, 2010

Using an Impending Crisis to Raise the Issue of Preparedness, by S.V.

Hurricane Earl at peak intensity on September ...Image via Wikipedia
How do you bring up the issue of preparedness, and its urgency? Some people won’t listen, regardless of how you approach them. They will continue to put their faith in the government and society, convinced that what you do is paranoid, suspicious, and unnecessary. However, if they are family, and truly loved, I believe that it is necessary that we don’t give up.
My brother, God bless him, is an intelligent man. He is pursuing his masters at a university located around the Washington D.C. area so that he can go to work for the Federal Government. He puts his faith in the government, convinced that it can never fail, and that while it makes mistakes, it will eventually do the right thing and will get better.
I have tried, on numerous occasions, to approach him about the need to be prepared. Each time, he has ignored me or changed the subject. My problem is that he is family, and so I have to keep reaching out to him, regardless of his attitude. In my opinion, it’s not an option.
I have been racking my brain on how to approach him, again, and have it stick. I’m not looking for him to buy into the eventual TEOTWAWKI, just to get him to start thinking about being prepared. When I heard about Hurricane Earl, I thanked God for another opportunity to bring up the situation to him. I know it sounds strange that I would thank God for a hurricane, but as I’m writing this, there’s no certainty that Earl will hit the D.C. area or the Eastern Seaboard – and I fervently hope that it doesn’t.
I sat down and sent the following e-mail to my brother this morning. (Note: Some items have been changed to protect his privacy and mine. I have included my thoughts and reasons on why I phrased things the way that I did in italics:
Hey Bro,
I know that you're busy with the start of class and all, but with Hurricane Earl having the possibility of hitting or grazing the D.C. area, I figured that it wouldn't hurt if I sent you a quick e-mail with some things you need to think about now.
I know he hasn’t been following Earl at all. We talked last night for two hours, and he never brought it up once. His text back to me basically said he wasn’t even paying attention.
I've been reading up on what happened at Katrina and some other hurricanes, and how the Floridians prepare for these sorts of events, so hopefully that knowledge can be of some use to you.
He really doesn’t know that I prep, and I’m not going to tell him about my preparations until he’s fully accepted the idea that being prepared is just plain smart, and he’s actually taken some concrete steps to be prepared himself. So, I need to “explain” how I know this stuff.
The first thing I want to tell you is that you need to have a plan in place, if you don't already. Remember that no plan survives its first contact with reality, so be flexible. However, I can't overstate the importance of having your plans thought out before you go to bed tonight. You need to decide if you're going to stay in place or evacuate. If you're going to evacuate, you need to make sure that you have all routes out of town mapped out, including major freeways and back roads, as well as fill your cars up now, and don't let them run below 3/4 tank until after the storm has passed. Also, pull out cash from the ATM now, and take more than you think you'll need. ATMs run out of money very quickly once a crisis becomes apparent, and they don't work at all when the power is out.
Remember that if the order to evacuate comes, or once it becomes apparent that Earl will hit the DC area, it will be too late unless you're already prepared to go. You won't have time to wait in line for gas, or pick up money from the ATM - you'll need to bug out as soon as you start feeling "weird" about the situation. Trust your gut.
He has no plan. He hasn’t even thought about having a plan. He doesn’t know where to start, so I have to give him a starting point. A basic evacuation plan, along with making his cars are full of gas, is something simple that can really help him. He’s in class, so if I ask him to go drive all the evacuation routes, he’ll just ignore that piece of advice, and it may cause him to ignore the letter. Baby steps. Crawl before you walk.
How do you address “when to leave” for those who haven’t thought about it? The best answer is what another poster stated: When you have that “Oh God” moment. Trust your gut. That’s the best knowledge I can impart to my brother.
I also know that he’s never considered the possibility that the ATMs won’t be working.
Know where you'll go. If you’re going to friends, call them now and make sure it's okay if you show up with little to no advance warning. If a hotel significantly inland, you'd better make sure you have reservations. Again, hotels fill up very quickly.
Who remembers Hurricane Katrina, where every hotel was booked solid? And what about friends, will they be expecting you? My brother hasn’t considered any of this, so, again, baby steps.
Have a suitcase packed for you and your wife ready to go at a moment's notice. Have a meeting place picked out so that if you're at school and she's at work, and it comes time to go, you know where you can meet. Make sure that you're keeping your vital documents with you, including ID, credit cards, social security card, and anything else you think you need.
Bug out 101. Cars ready, cash ready, routes ready, bag ready, documents ready.
If you're going to stay in place, you're going to need food and water, at least 2 weeks worth. FEMA and the American Red Cross recommend that you have a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person per day for basic needs. Since there's you, your wife, and your dog, this comes to 2.5 gallons per day for drinking and very basic sanitation (rag baths - very sparingly). Go to Wal-Mart or Target, and pick up 7 5 gal. Arrowhead water containers - these will work great and you can use them later if the hurricane doesn't hit the area.
Really, in Grasshopperland, who really knows how much water you need to survive? We who are prepared consider this basic level knowledge – but for those who never gave this a second thought, you have to start off with the simplest of items. You have to quantify how much of what they’ll need to get through an event.
If you need extra money because you can't afford this, I'll wire you $300 today as a gift so you can get what you need. You wouldn't need to pay me back.
Eliminate the monetary excuse. I want him to be prepared in case Earl or or a subsequent hurricane strikes. I can’t just give him knowledge; I also have to help him out in case he can’t afford it.
For food, you need two weeks of food that you don't have to cook. Go with canned food from Wal-Mart or Target again, or food that doesn't require any refrigeration. You may have no power, and you may not have access to any cooking fuel. Make sure to get a big variety of canned meat, beans, rice, fruit, chips, etc., so that you're not eating the same thing again and again. Get an extra basic can opener, and some disposable plates. Make sure you get enough to feed you and your wife at least 1500 calories each person per day. Don't forget your dog - make sure that he has extra food as well.
Again, in Grasshopperland, the power always comes on when you turn on the light switch. The stove always cooks, the microwave is always available. Except when they stop working. You have to explain the basics, and lay it all out in simple terms. Again, you have to quantify how much food they need. Is 20 cans enough? 200 cans? It’s hard to say – but if you give the requirements in minimum caloric requirements, he can look at the back of the labels and do the math to make sure he has enough.
A serving, when it comes to food, is very misleading. I have found that if you eat 3 meals a day, you’d better be eating 500 to 600 calories (perhaps more) per sitting. Giving him a base requirement of 1,500 calories a day per person will help him make quick decisions at the grocery store and ensure that he gets enough food.
I also covered the basics of food variety. We all know the importance of that, but your average Grasshopper will probably go out and by 1 50 lb bag of rice, figuring that the rice is enough to keep them alive if they need it. Of course, we know that cooking this rice will be a problem; along with eating rice everyday will get old, quick.
And really, who wants to do dishes in a short-term emergency?
If you don't have a first aid kit - get a basic one with some bandages, ointment, and some big gauze pads. Make sure you have flashlights, and an emergency radio with a hand crank. Don't forget extra batteries.
Here's what I really want to impress upon you - you need to do these things now. Once you find out that Earl is barreling towards D.C., everyone will be out in panic mode. It's better if you have everything figured out now, in your apartment, ready to go. If you wait, it may be too late.
How many people think that if they need something, they can just go down to the store and pick it up? The shelves are always stocked in Grasshopperland, and there are always happy and helpful people waiting to assist you. It never occurs to the fine citizens there that a time may come where things may not work quite as intended.
Also, don't tell anyone what you're doing. If Earl hits D.C. and things get really bad, you want to make sure that you don't become a target. This includes making sure that no one sees that you've bought extra supplies. Wait until very early morning or very late in the evening so that you don't run into your fellow apartment dwellers. And tell your wife to keep it off of Facebook.
OPSEC 101. His wife is an avid Facebooker. Their entire lives are up on that infernal site. Hopefully, she’ll keep this one under wraps.
One of the reasons Katrina was so bad was that people waited on the government to come and rescue them. They took no precautions, had no plan, and had no supplies ready. If something really bad happens, it takes the feds at least three full days to mobilize and come in. Until then, you're depending on local police for protection. The best way to not be a target is to not identify yourself. Or as Monty Python said, "The first rule of not being seen is not to stand up."
There is a great Monty Python skit, of which my brother is a big fan. The skit is a parody of an informational film entitled: “How Not to be Seen.” This is something that my brother can relate to though funny, it can be used to parallel the need to be discreet. I used this so that he would quickly grasp the need to be discreet and apply some basic common sense towards OPSEC.
So, just to close, here's a quick list of what you need:
1. Plan to get out or stay put.
2. Plan on where to meet and how to get out.
3. Fuel up both cars and keep them full.
4. Suitcase ready to go.
5. Two weeks water.
6. Two weeks food (including dog food).
7. First Aid Kit
8. Emergency Radio
9. Flashlights
10. Spare Batteries
11. Disposable plates, forks, and knives.
Repeating what I had said in paragraph form, so he can print it out and head off to supply. The simpler you make it, the more likely they’ll follow your advice.
Hope this isn't necessary - but it's better to be safe than sorry. If Earl completely bypasses DC, you can always drink the water and eat the food, but if it hits, then you'll really need it. Think of it as short term insurance. - S.V.
I know that this will not cover everything that he needs. I know that there are many more subjects that I would need to cover for him to deal with any of the possible scenarios that could arise if Earl strikes DC. However, this is simply for him to think about and to put in place some basic precautions.
Immediately after I sent him this e-mail, I texted him to read it when he got the chance. After about 10 minutes, he sent me a bunch of questions, which shows to me that he’s taking this seriously. He promised me that he would go get supplies this evening, as well getting his plan together.
His immediate plan is to shelter in place. He thinks he’ll be safe in his building – a high rise that was built 3 years ago. His building also has a fairly large amount of military personnel living there as well, so it may be secure if SHTF.
I pray that he follows through, and actually does prepare for this. Since I’m on the other side of the US, there’s really no way to know for sure; but it sounds like he’s serious. This potential emergency may have been what he needed to open his eyes.
Sometimes, we have to make use of an impeding emergency to impress the importance of preparing on those who are closest to us who haven’t listened so far. - S.V.

Are You Ready Series: Off Grid Refrigeration

General Electric brand refrigerator of "M...Image via Wikipedia
Many would not argue that our entire way of  life is dependent upon gadgets of convenience.  The air conditioner cools off the home, the home’s main water supply is pumped by a fuel source, and our food is kept cool and fresh by the refrigerator in your kitchen.  Did you know that your refrigerator consumes on average 8% of your monthly electric bill?  If  a sudden emergency were to occur, all the food in your refrigerator is spoiled.  Some individuals do not see this as a real threat to their well being.  However, the threat is real and entirely possible.
In an article at SHTF Plan, a physicist states that a solar flare is a real possibility and could pose a serious threat to our way of life.  This type of threat is such a concern that in the physicist’s own words believes, “We’d be thrown back 100 years.”  
If we do find ourselves in a sudden long term emergency where the use of electricity is non-existent, what are our options as far as keeping food rerefrigerated?  Are you equipped and prepared to live in an environment where there is no electricity?  Many off-grid homesteaders have found a few solutions that could help us out of with this predicament and save us on our monthly electric bill.

Off-Grid Solutions for Refrigerating Food

Battery Powered Refrigerators - Many of the refrigerators that operate on 12v or 24v DC battery were designed for those that live on boats or in smaller living quarters such as an RV.  The DC motor compressor operates on 12 or 24 VDC.  In comparison, the average off-the-shelf refrigerator operates at 250v-300v.   However, a drawback to this type of refrigerator is the insulation walls can be quite thin making it inefficient in terms of preserving it’s fuel source.  Another drawback is these types of refrigerators are expensive and could be maintenance intensive.
Gas/Propane Refrigerators – A gas or propane refrigerator has no moving parts and use gas or propane as their main energy source.  Many boats, RV and off-grid homes use this type of refrigeration method.   The average cost for a propane fridge is $800.  Many would argue that these types of refrigerators eat through gas, so plan on lots of trips to fill up on fuel. Of course, if you can afford a little extra, there are models that are “multi-fuel” — propane/AC, propane/DC, and propane/AC/DC (which might be the best way to go for “insurance” against possible shortage of one fuel/power supply).  Ideally it would be advisable for the homestead using this type of refrigerator to have a natural gas well in order to have a continual free source of fuel.
Solar Powered Refrigerator - These innovative types of refrigerators use evaporation to cool the box off.  Another type of solar powered refrigerator works with the help of a solar panel.  By creating electricity with the help of the solar panels, it then uses the electricity like a normal plug in refrigerator.  Battery free refrigerators such as the SunDanzer DDR165 Battery-Free DC can be hooked right into the solar panel.  Many believe that solar refridgerators are expensive, however, old refrigerators can be converted into solar powered refrigerators.  An article on Mother Earth News explains it all.  Layout Plans for a Solar Powered Ice Maker
 Prototypes – The prototype zero-emission fridge doesn’t need gas, propane or kerosene and is powered by regular fire.  According to an article on ecogeek, “At that point it begins to grow cold, and it is inserted into an insulated container of some sort of a jug, or even a hole in the ground. It gets colder and colder, bringing the temperature of the container to just above freezing, and keeping it that way for about 24 hours.”  It is also fairly affordable to.  At $40 per unit you can’t get any better than that!
Ice Houses – This is another alternative refrigeration source.  For more information on this refrigeration source, click here.

What  Do I Do With My Current Refrigerator?

If a long term emergency occurs and you no more have use for your electrically operated refrigerator, convert it into a solar dehydrator or a solar cooker.  It could also be used as a bulk storage container for preparations.  This would be a great way to keep bulk preparedness items like wheat out of contact with insects and temperature fluctuations.  Additionally, some feel that due to the zero oxygen inside the refrigerators can be used as an anaerobic digester to create bio-fuel.
Whether a person is planning for a hurricane, EMP or TEOTWAWKI, electricity or lack there of, will pose a problem to those that are not prepared.  There is a lot of great information out there regarding this topic.  Finding which alternative refrigerator source works best for your family, requires some researching on your part.  Here are some additional articles that may be helpful:

Fruit Leather

It's harvest time and I've got my hands full of extra fruit. Making fruit leather is an easy way to use up any fruit that isn't ideal for eating or canning. Here are my favorite two methods:

1) Hot Car Method
Make your fruit leather on a clear, hot day. It won't work if it's cloudy or too cool (less than 85 degrees). Puree any combination of fruit in your blender. Place parchment paper into a cookie sheet (cookie sheet must have edges). Spray parchment paper with Pam or wipe with vegetable oil. Pour pureed fruit onto parchment paper until it is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. If it is too thin it will break apart too easily. If it is too thick, it won't dry. Park your car out in the sun. Leave your cookie sheets in the car. It might take two days for the fruit to fully dry. Finish drying in a low-temp oven if it hasn't dried after two days.

2) Dehydrator Method:
Puree any variety of fruit in your blender. Spray or wipe fruit roll-up trays with Pam or vegetable oil. Pour fruit into trays until full. Turn on dehydrator to recommended temperature. It takes about 24 hours until they are dry. Don't bother to roll and wrap with plastic wrap if your house is like mine. I made my first batch two days ago and it's already gone.

These trays have (clockwise from the top) peaches mixed with applesauce, only peaches, and strawberries mixed with applesauce. I add 1 T. of lemon juice per blender-full of puree to help slow browning. Applesauce is a great extender. I buy it in #10 cans at Costco for about $4.

I dried this batch too long and it crackled apart. It still tastes good, but is harder to roll onto plastic wrap.

For more information: Dehydrating Foods At Home

Audio Podcast: -511- Ten Wild Edibles to Consider Planting on or Around Your Property

Today it is time for a bit of a change up, we haven’t discussed either foraging or gardening/permaculture in depth for quite a wile, so why not today.  Looking to make things interesting though I decided that today was a good day to come up with 10 edibles that you can find in the wild [...]

Bushcraft Oil Lamp

Olive oil lamps were used on ships since if spilled, they go out instead of setting everything on fire. This video shows how to make one using traditional bushcraft skills.