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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Guest Post: Firestorm Chapter 2 , by Christopher Young

A battery powered alarm clock started  to beep on the bedside table. Chris rolled over, and tried to focus his eyes. It was 8 PM. His feet touched the floor, the carpet under his feet was reassuring. Too many times, it was only a dirt floor or the wrinkly tent bottom. After years of experience with covert operations, Chris had developed the floor test to see if he was in a civilized place or not. If the feet hit carpet, things were well with the world. The other test was the pillow test. If he could feel the steel frame of a pistol under the pillow, Chris didn't sleep as deeply or as restfully. Last night, he had left the pistol in the gunsafe in the closet. He knew he'd need a full night's sleep to get through the next 24 hours.

Without bothering to put on his eye glasses, Chris stumbled into the bathroom, and stood in front of the toilet. He could hear the furnace running, and feel the warm air coming out of the floor vents. "Wonder how much longer the utilities stay running?" Chris thought as he slipped off his underwear, and turned on the hot water in the shower. That's the other test of civilization -- if the showers are hot or cold. Might be his last hot shower for awhile.

After five or six minutes of letting the warm water wake him up, Chris started to mentally review the bug out list he had been preparing for the last several years. What to take with him, and what to leave behind.

The important stuff was already in totes near the door. A few items were mission specific, and would have to be recovered. But, all in good time. First, he needed to eat.

Chris's kitchen cabinets were nearly empty. There was no hunger in this trailer. Most of the food had been packed in the truck. A few last cans of soup, and ravioli remained. The television screen was black. The speaker was silent. Chris thought for several minutes. Might be just more of the same old. But, who can tell? Might be some tidbit of information that manages to sneak past the government information office. So, he tuned on the television.

It took about ten minutes to hitch the trailer to the back of Chris's Blazer. And about ten minutes to roll the barrel of gasoline out of the shed, and roll it onto the trailer. Then, half an hour to load the totes onto the trailer. Chris loosened the fitting on the gas grill, and put the propane bottle onto the trailer. Clever idea of Gomer's, to make the truck tri-fuel, and then he could use propane and diesel, too. Chris took the spare propane bottle out from the shed, and set it on the back seat of the blazer. He hooked up the flexible vapor line that came up from the floor. The propane feeding into the air stream would extend the range of the truck by many hundreds of miles. The specially programmed fuel computer interface would dispense only the amount of gasoline needed to keep the truck running. With propane coming in, the gasoline usage would be near to zero.

"Ah, that's good. Ready for bug out."  Chris thought as he took a last look at the neighborhood.

In the western end of Pennsylvania, Sam was just settling into his night sleep. Sam had gone about 20 miles due west of the parking lot where the FEMA was confiscating trucks. Not home yet, but Mama's gonna see me one day soon. The camouflage tent was doing its job. It was cold at night, but the closed cell foam pad and sleeping bag were cozy. Sam wasn't in shape like his old camping and hiking days, but at least he was a free man. Sam briefly wondered what happened to the other drivers at the parking lot. Well, he still had to get himself home.

Sam fell asleep to dreams of the good old days. When he was first married, driving short haul. Home to his family every night. The kids who loved to play games in the dining room after dinner, and sometimes fell asleep at the table. It was Sam's job to carry sleeping children to bed, and he did consider that an honor. Sam was as tough as nails with adults, but as gentle as a lamb with children. 

On Chris's television, the talking head reporter wasn't looking as wrinkle free, and dry cleaned as yesterday. Chris wondered what's with that? Might be that the stress and strain is starting to reach the elites? Well, the news cast droned on, and finally another talking head came into the picture. He remarked that News Anchor Joe Harrington wasn't looking his usual self. "No, Michael, I'm not" was the reply. Apparently, the looters had burned down his home, living in an apartment in the city of Houston TX, and so this was the only clothes left for him to wear. And they also burned down the dry cleaners, so his other suit was now ashes. A couple seconds of Michael on the screen revealed that he wasn't looking all that well, either. Much the same situation with Michael, he had been at the studio full time since the firestorm started. He hadn't been home to shave, or eat, or get clean clothes. They started to discuss the MREs that the military had provided, and which of the entrees they like the most. Apparently the spicy chicken was popular with the news room staff. Hope that the military could keep bringing more food, they only brought enough for the next meal.

Chris figured that the nation was really getting critical, if they couldn't find a suit of clothes for a news anchor man. The television signal was getting a bit weaker, and snow was appearing on the screen. The local news guy came on the screen for a few minutes in between the FEMA updates. Said that the station had lost its main power, and was transmitting on backup generator, and was only on about 1/10 of the transmitter power, due to fuel savings. They weren't sure how much fuel was in the generator fuel tanks, but they thought they would be on for a couple more days. The satellite downlinks were still in good shape, the satellites were solar and lithium battery powered, and had enough energy to last for several more years.

The phone on the wall rang. Chris glanced at the call ID, and said "Hi, Faith!" knowing that it was Gomer's ex wife on the line. Faith wanted to know if Chris was coming out today, as part of my emergency plan. Yep, such is the plan. Faith covered the phone, and was heard to snap something at another person on the other end of the phone. She came back to the line and said "Savannah wants to talk." Sure... so for a couple minutes Chris and Savannah made small talk. And Chris got to hear how things were going in first grade, and about riding the big yellow school bus. At age 6, Savannah just had to be talking on the phone to anyone. She had just come home from the doctor and might need eye glasses. Faith let her talk to all the tele marketers, and collection people. Savannah  was great at "the check's in the mail" and "I don't need Viagra, I'm only six!". After a few seconds, there was the sound of the phone being dropped, and two girls fighting. A voice some what distant from the phone said "Here, be a baby, and demand a turn." The next voice was Bobetta, 4, who is Savannah's younger sister. Chris spent the next couple minutes praising her for being dry all night, and learning how to go pee in the toilet. Finally, Faith came back on the phone. She said Gomer had cleared her for a visit, and she'd be there with the kids. Be sure to bring a couple Pepsi, hun?

Inwardly, Faith was cursing herself. She had drunk her last Pepsi the night before. Faith lived about five minutes walk from the corner store, and so it was easy enough to go to the store and buy another one. It also gave the girls a chance to get out of the apartment, and walk. They were so cramped, in the one bedroom apartment. Across the state, at that same moment, Chris was wondering if Faith would ever be able to buy another disposable diaper.

Another call to Bill, to see how things were going. Much the same. At the compound (jokingly named, after Waco) the power was on. The water was on, and everything else was much the same. Bill was enjoying his breakfast of fruit, nuts, and other healthy things. After a childhood of eating junk food and early adulthood of more junk food, Bill realized that he needed more nutrition. Out with the candy bars, and in with granola and fresh fruit. Bill had just walked the perimeter of his property with his binoculars, and a rifle over his shoulder. Came back feeling energized, and he was busy power weight lifting when Chris called. Bill says that Dave and the crew says hi. Dave is Bill's nephew. Married, his ex wife has four kids.

It wasn't long before Ernie knocked and Chris stepped out onto the porch to greet him.

"Sure, Ernie, I'll be ready as soon as I've had some breakfast," Chris said, thinking of the eggs and grits on the stove. Not familiar with grits, Chris had trusted someone's word that they were good energy food and had tried them. That was several years ago. Today, he thought some protien may help sustain him through the possibly long night ahead. A little salt pepper and margarine and they tasted quite fine.

Ernie nodded smartly and stepped off the porch. So much for an update, Chris muttered inwardly.

He'd long since accepted the fact that few people take note of all that goes on around them and process it looking for incongruent details. A slow passing convoy of 7-ton military trucks, for instance, might signal the reconnoitering Guard troops looking for occupied houses and their owners. Chris resigned himself to the great care he'd have to take over the next few hours as he watched Ernie walking back to his trailer.

It wasn't much longer before the sun was set and it was dark. And a couple minutes after that, the lights and television in the living room went dark. Sure enough, the power had been knocked out. People began to come out and check on each other. Chris could see the flash lights up and down the road. The sun was down over the horizon, and the night was dark and partly cloudy. No doubt most of the "day guards" were home in bed, and might not have yet noticed the power off.  Several times, cars full of Muslims had come to the park. But they had quietly kept driving when they saw armed guards outside.  One thing left to do.

On each of the front corners of Chris's trailer were 4 foot lengths of PVC pipe. It was an idea he'd had while talking over possibilities for stashing weapons, survival gear and other things so they couldn't easily be found. The trailer came with decorative columns, but Chris had replaced them with PVC tubing. Inside the northern length, Chris had stored a 12 gauge Remington Model 870 he'd had modified with a composite stock, magazine tube extension, twenty-two inch barrel,  holographic sight and flashlight mount in the foregrip. In the other was a .308 caliber Ranch Model Ruger Mini 30 with a low light scope and extra capacity magazines in one of the plastic tote boxes in the truck. Earlier, Chris had moved several under the driver's seat. Also under the seat were quick load tubes of various types of ammunition for the 870. It wasn't long before Chris had pulled the tubes down and accessed the weapons inside. Both had been encased in heavy plastic bags and the slid out with ease. Looking around again, Chris moved them to the front seat of the truck.

Thinking again of Faith, Chris went back into the trailer. Took all the soda pop off the shelf in the kitchen and carried it out, put it in the trailer. Probably be explosive sudsy by the time I get there, Chris thought. And then Chris got the cans of soda out of the refrigerator, and put them in the trailer also.

With a last look around, he pulled the cell from his belt and checked the signal strength. Good, back up generators had fired at each of the cell towers and the signal was better than with regular electric service. He punched the preset and Gomer answered before the first ring registered with Chris.

"Put one on ice for me, chief," he said simply and broke the connection after the agreed reply phrase. Hopefully some time before sunrise, he would be finishing a bottle of soda he knew Gomer would have on ice, power outage or not. Gotta love guys who play with LP for fun, he thought, thinking of the LP powered fridge Gomer had in the basement. God knew how long it would run before they ran out of LP. But, it would be longer than the neighbors had ice.

The last finishing touches included the fire department decals on the truck door, and the red light bar on top of the truck.

It was now 9 PM.

Building a Backwoods Shanty

One of the drawbacks a preparedness plan can encounter is the necessity for bugging out against your wishes. You may have to leave your survival homestead and head for the hills with little more than your bug out bag to support you. You’ll need shelter beyond a lightweight nylon tent if you plan on staying anyplace for more than a couple of weeks, but what kind of shelter do you build? The obvious answer in a woodland situation is a log or bark shanty. The log shanty can be enclosed on four sides if needed and used year round as a permanent camp. And these shanty type huts really aren’t hard to build for a couple of people, or even just one if need be.
I pulled this piece from W.H. Gibson’s Camp Life in the Woods, first printed in 1881. It’s too bad that so many people have lost the simple ways and tend to make big projects out of simple ones, wasting time and energy that could be better spent in more productive pursuits. Camps like this were commonly erected throughout the vast stretches of woods that once graced our countryside. A couple of days work would build a luxurious woodland home, and shanties like this could be built in just a day by those who knew how to hone their skills and tools. Keep these instructions in your preparedness binder, you just may find them useful someday.
The life of the professional trapper is a life of hardship and severe exposure, and a man not only requires considerable courage, but also great bodily vigor, in order to combat successfully the dangers of such a wild, adventuresome existence.
The cold and the storm not only imperil his life, but he is often exposed to the attacks of wild beasts. A shelter, therefore, in one form or another, becomes a necessity while it is always a decided comfort, in comparison to a campaign without it.
The reader will find below descriptions of the various shelters alluded to in other parts of this work, and used by trappers throughout the land.
The most substantial of these is the log shanty, commonly known among trappers as the “home shanty,” on account of its being constructed as the only permanent shelter on the trapping line.
It is used as a “home,” a place of rendezvous, and a storehouse for provisions, furs, and other necessities and valuables. Other temporary shelters, known as bark shanties, are also constructed along the trapping lines at intervals of five or ten miles, as resting places. These we describe under the proper title.
Although, to the amateur trapper, the log shanty is not likely to become a necessity, we will nevertheless describe its mode of construction, in order to satisfy our more earnest and adventurous readers, who aspire to a full taste of wild life.
Our illustration gives a very clear idea of such a shanty.
It may be constructed of any size, but one of about twelve by ten feet will be found large enough for ordinary purposes. Select straight logs, about eight inches in diameter. The whole number required will be thirty-six. Of these one-half should be twelve feet in length and the other ten. These should now be built up in the square form, on a level piece of ground, laying the ends of the logs over each other, and securing them by notches at the corners, so deep as to allow the edges of the logs to meet.
Lay two short logs first, and continue building until all the thirty-six logs are used, and we will now have four symmetrical sides about six feet in height. The place for the door should now be selected. The uppermost log should form its upper outline, and the two sides should be cleanly and straightly cut with a crosscut saw. The window openings, one or more, may next be cut, commencing beneath the second log from the top, and taking in three beneath it. Replace the logs above, and on the ends of those thus cut, both in windows and doors, proceed to spike a heavy plank, driving two nails into each log, about five inches apart, one above the other. This will hold them firmly in place, and offer a close-fitting jam for the door, and neat receptacle for the window sashes, which latter may now be put in after the ordinary manner.
The gable ends should next be built upon the smaller sides of the hut. Commence by laying a long log (notched as before) across the top of the frame work, and about two feet inside the edge. This should of course be done on both sides of the hut, after which they should be overlapped at the corners with logs eight feet in length. Next lay two more long logs, parallel with the first two, and about a foot inside them, notching as before. The ends of these should be spanned with beams eight feet in length.
Two more long logs are next in order—let them be one foot inside the last two. Overlap these with beams five feet and a half in length, and in the exact centre of these last pieces chop notches for a heavy log for a ridge pole. The gable outline, direct from the ridge pole to the eaves, should now be cut off by the aid of a sharp axe. This may be done either while the pieces are in position, or the line may be marked with a piece of chalk, and the logs taken down in order to accomplish it.
The roof is now required. This should consist either of strips of bark or the rounded sides of logs split off and hollowed into troughs. The latter method is preferable, on account of its greater strength and durability, but the bark will answer the purpose very well, and is much more easily obtained. The manner of adjusting the roof pieces is clearly shown in our illustration. The first row is laid on with the hollow side up securing them at top and bottom by nails driven through each into the ridge pole and eaves-log, care being taken that one of these pieces projects well over the gable, on both ends of the hut.
These pieces are now overlapped by the second row, and with the addition of the large piece which covers them all at the ridge pole, the roof is complete, and will stand a heavy rain with little or no leaking. The crevices should now be stopped with moss, dried grass or clay, after which the log cabin is complete. When the bark roof is made, additional poles may be inserted beneath as props. They should be three or four inches in diameter, and run parallel with the ridge pole, at intervals on the slope, notches being cut to secure them.
Our engraving represents a chimney, which may be constructed if desired, but the necessity of this may be done away with by using a small camp stove, and making a small opening in the gable end of the hut for the passage of the pipe. If a stove should not be at hand, and our amateur should decide to “rough it” to the full extent, he may build his fire-place and chimney as follows: It will be necessary to cut away an opening in the logs at the gable end, as was done for the door and windows. This should be about three feet square, and the fire place should be built of stone and clay, or cement, to fill the opening, and project inside the hut.
The chimney may then be built up outside in the same manner, sufficiently high to overtop the gables.
Inside the hut overhead will be found abundant room for the hanging of the skins, and any number of cross-poles may be rested across the beams. There are facilities for the swinging of a hammock, if desired, and, in fact, a hut constructed like the foregoing is a perfect one in its way. There are other methods of building a log cabin, but we will content ourselves with what we consider the best way of all, and pass on to the-
This is made by first driving into the ground two forked poles seven or eight feet in height and stout enough to sustain a ridge pole of moderate size. Against this ridge pole other poles should be rested at intervals of two feet, and sloping to the angle of forty-five degrees. The frame-work thus formed should now be covered with bark, commencing at the ground and allowing the edge of each piece to overlap the one beneath after the manner of shingles, in order to shed the rain in case of storm. Spruce or birch bark are excellent for this purpose and the pieces may be secured with nails, and kept flat by the weight of another series of poles rested against them. The sides of the shelter should be treated similarly, the front being usually left open to face the fire, which the trapper generally builds a few feet distant. In constructing a bark shanty, it is well to select some spot protected from the wind, close to the foot of a mountain or in the midst of trees, always letting the open side face the direction most sheltered.
If desired, the front can be enclosed after the manner of the sides and top, but this is not required where the fire is used.
This style of shelter is represented here, and certainly looks very comfortable.

3 Things To Help Prevent Home Burglary

The following three actions will frustrate a home burglary attempt, quite possibly denying break-in altogether.

Install longer screws in door strike-plate

A strike plate is the metal plate screwed to your door jamb with a hole for the bolt of the door-lock. When the door is closed, the bolt extends into the hole in the strike plate, and holds the door closed. Since the door jam is usually soft wood, the strike plate ensures a more secure latch.
The problem is, the majority of door-lock strike-plate’s are installed and screwed into the door jam with short screws. That is, shorter than ideal. A door can be fairly easily kicked in with strike-plate screws of around 1 inch (some are less).
It is an easy task to replace the existing strike-plate screws with longer screws, say, 2 or 3 inches. All you need are the screws and a proper sized drill-bit to pre-drill deeper holes.
#8×2-1/2 DeckMate screws worked for me. A 7/64 (softwood) or 1/8 (hardwood) drill bit is perfect for #8 screws.
Just be sure that the screw you choose will fit flat to the surface of the strike-plate, and not protrude out (which will probably snag with the door when closing it).

A barking dog

Having a dog goes a long way toward home burglary prevention, assuming that the dog barks. The deep bark of a big dog will deter burglars more than the yip of a small dog, however even the yipper-yapper dog will bring adequate attention to the situation and likely stop a burglar break-in because the typical amateur burglar will move on to easier opportunities.
Even if you do not have a dog, there are electronic dog barking alarms that will begin barking when motion is sensed. Some can sense motion through walls (through the front door).

An alarm system

No burglar wants to hear the sound of an alarm. Not only will the burglar alarm alert anyone within earshot, but the burglar will not know whether or not you have a contract with an alarm monitoring service who would send over the police upon receiving an alarm alert. The point is, you don’t have to pay for monitoring to have an effective alarm.
Another very effective trick, something that I did prior to actually installing an alarm system sometime later, is to get yourself some alarm stickers or decals that you can affix to windows or doors. The burglar won’t know that you actually do not have an alarm and will likely move on to somewhere else instead.
You could also get yourself a security yard stake sign, similar to the typical ADT alarm signs that you see on lawns of some homes.

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