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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Guest Post: Firestorm Chapter 5a , by Christopher Young

David's Generator

Bill says that guy from New York wants me to write a bit. I flunked out of school, so he's going to have to fix it up a bit, cause I don't know much about writing. Why don't I just tell you a bit about what's going on, and you can write it. OK with that?

Anyhow, as this starts, I'm driving down the road to town. I went and visited a couple friends of mine, and see what kind of generator they have to trade. Chuckie says he knows a guy who has one, but he wants a rile and about a thousand rounds of ammo. I know Bill has one in the closet, he's never used it, and so that should be OK. I mean, it's not like he ever used it or anything.

Lot of stuff that never gets used. Like the Model A Ford in Sam's garage. And all that firewood and Pepsi at Gomer's retreat. Heck, even that guy Chris has piles of stuff he's never used. I figure Bill won't miss that stupid plastic gun.

So, I've got the rifle in the trunk, and it's dark. I'm driving down the road, and I know my way around. Lived here for years, and I've been this way a lot of times. Not much cool music on the radio. I scan up and down the dial, and finally found one station that's working. Blast, thought the radio was broken. I'm half way paying attention, and the radio is saying how the President is calling for everyone to remain calm. The Muslims have burned just about everything they could, and it's going to take at least two years to rebuild the power grid. Two years? You mean it's going to take that long? And the radio guy says that they have been burning stuff all around the world, too.

What the radio guys weren't saying, is that a quick conference had been called, of some of the leading minds in the USA. The power grid was off line, and it looked like it might not be possible to get it going again. A few isolated small power companies had isolated themselves from the national grid, and so there were still some pockets of places which had power. A few hospitals have backup generators, and a few fire halls. But, the equipment needed to make more sub stations was not working, account of the failure of the power grid.

The casualty report was also depressing. All states were asked to report back to Washington. Several states were out of contact, the cell phone switching had long since run out of battery backup power, The telephone switching stations, many had been burned down in the initial wave of violence. Many ham radio operators were still transmitting, and many more were listening. However, there was little substantial news. More and more people were starving, dying, and diseased without medicine. The over the road fleet of trucks had been confiscated, and FEMA was holding all of them with no real plans to get commerce running again.

Lucky me, I didn't know all of this at the time. I pull into Chuckie's  driveway, and sure enough, there is a van I don't recognize. Chuckie introduces me to the other guy, and we have a look. In the back of his van he's got a generator. It's the ugliest thing I've seen  in years, it's really old you know? I asked  if it works, and so he pulls the cord an it starts  right up. He plugs in a light, and the light comes on. Good enough for me.

I go to the trunk of my car, and pull out the rifle. I can't  remember what it was, some hokey foreign name like Daiwoo. It's all plastic and black. Doesn't even look like a rifle to me. But the guy smiles, an I have the ammo can with the thousand rounds. He loads the generator into the trunk of my car, and we shake hands. We're all good.

I asks him if he has any cigarettes. Well, sure enough. He's got a whole bunch, and he'll trade them for another rifle and some more ammo. I figure Bill is going to have a big scream about this, but what the heck. After all, it's a generator, right? And that means I'll keep my car chases going all night. I'm thinking quick and ask if he'd consider a pistol and some ammo. Sure, he says. Pistol is good, too. And so I ask what brand, and how many cartons he figures he's got to trade. Well, I've only got the one gun with me so I'll have to come back later. Told him to sit tight, and I'd be back in an hour or so.

Car chases. Well, I wasn't the only person thinking about car chases. I find out later that Gomer and Chris were having a nasty  night sleep, that military thing they did, the exact shun or something they called it. The distraction they did for Sam. They were both thinking too much that day, and so they were having a hard time sleeping. Good thing that they were both pretty tired. Nice thing about being up late like me, not many people out and moving.

At Gomer's retreat, Heather just turned off the television. She and Faith have been doing a lot of talking. You know how women jabber jabber all the time. They sure are up late. I figure that they ought to be friends, they have so much in common. Living in New York and all.

Meantime, it's night, and I want to be home watching TV. Wonder if Connie has any more cigarettes? I'm doing my own car chase, got to get my ass back to the house and grab a pistol before Chuckie sells those cigarettes to someone else. I'm going down the road about 80 miles an hour, the nicotine withdrawal is really getting worse.

Back at the house, Connie was still looking at the FRS radio like it was some kind of poison snake. Bill's voice came over the radio again, "Backup, backup...." Connie picked up the radio, and said David would be out in a couple minutes. But, where is he?

Everything is good. I'm coming up the driveway, and Connie is running out of the house to me. She's screaming something about got to back up. I throw the car in reverse, not having any clue what that crazy lady is yelling about. So emotional. She says no, no. Not to back up the car. Says Bill is out at the military thing and he's saying he wants Dave to back up. Finally I figure out what's going on, Bill is having another one of those drills with me. Well, hope he doesn't scream too much.

I go into the house, and keyed the microphone at the house twice, the arranged signal for backup on the way. Connie's got a cigarette going in the ash tray, so I pop it in my mouth. And then grabbed my rifle, and emergency grab and go bag, and ran out the door. It was a quick run down the road. I'm in fairly good shape. So, I quietly came in the back door of the listening post, lit cigarette still dangling from my lips. Bill coughed loudly, grabbed the cigarette out of my mouth and threw the cigarette to the ground. Stomped on the cigarette. Damn, that's the last one too. Bill handed me the binoculars, and pointed. I looked through the binoculars, and said I'd go flank to the left. Bill nodded. I dashed back out of the LP. When the stranger had gone a couple more feet down the road, Bill threw the switch that turned on the flood lights, and lit up the entire stretch of road for about 50 yards.

Surviving in an urban setting

City Skyline
Many of us realize that the city is perhaps the worst place to live, to prepare for a SHTF scenario. Should you choose to stay in the city, the following information may be helpful. This information has been gathered from various sources and compiled.

Cities are formed for the benefit of interacting with large groups of people for mutual benefit. However, they need resources from outside of themselves; most notably, food, water and electricity. Although electricity and water can sometimes be created or found within city limits, cities are dependent on the importation of food. For a long time they have been entirely dependent on the American farmer for their support, something almost all Americans take for granted.

The city presents serious risks during a crisis. The four most serious are: (1.) Rioting and the breakdown of order, (2.) Lack of water, or the delivery of water, (3.) Lack of food, (4.) The power grid going off-line. Some cities may experience only a few of these, although most certainly there will be cities that experience them all.

Social order is psychological. It could collapse under the right conditions. When people realize there is no longer law and order, they behave according to their own whims. Only the threat of immediate death stopped the looting and violence in the L.A. Riots, when the National Guard responded to the crisis. Eventually the National Guard assumed control. Remember, this was only an isolated event, with one city. In a more serious crisis, will the National Guard or local police be able to handle the load? Overnight this country could be turned into a war zone, requiring all-out martial law and military force. The reality is, however, the military would be stretched beyond limits to handle the load.

The greatest risk of remaining in the city is the breakdown of social order. Lack of food, water, and money will drive people to behave unethically towards other people. While certain areas will manage to keep things under control, people will be forming lines at the local (depleted) Red Cross shelter, while other cities will erupt in violence. The gang-infested regions of major metropolitan areas will not stand in line and wait. Racial tensions will simply serve as a catalyst for shooting people in order to get their food or other possessions.

Lack of money results in looting and mass theft, resulting in a collapse of social order. Lack of water has the same effect. The collapse of social order doesn’t require any collapse of the power grid, telecommunications, transportation or banking. Social order is psychological. Global panic can quickly remove the mental barrier that right now keeps people basically “lawful.”

Water treatment plants are electricity dependent. Some plants have already failed emergency testing in the event of a shutdown of the power grid. In one such test, the water treatment plant released a fatal dose of fluoride into the water system when tested. The computers thought they were 99 years behind in releasing minute doses of fluoride, so they made up the difference. If you happened to be downstream, drinking that water, you were dead. Fluoride, no matter what misinformed dentists tell you, is actually a fatal poison. A major crisis likely to demonstrate this fact in more than one city.

More importantly, however is, what do you do when the water stops flowing or is not drinkable? People can live without water only 2-3 days. During the first day of the water crisis, many people will only be inconvenienced. As the day wanes, they'll get worried. By the second day, more will realize the water isn't coming. Social order will begin to break down while they search for water. People will searches stores and eventually those supplies will vanish. If water stops flowing, there will be looting of all the grocery stores, outbreaks of violence with some shop owners defending their goods, a mass exodus from the city by residents in search of water, ransacking of any houses or farms within a gas-tank radius of the city (presumably by desperate people with guns), mass traffic jams as people abandon their vehicles when they run out of gas, and outbreaks of water-borne diseases as people use streams and rivers as drinking water and lavatories.

Supplies of food will dwindle quickly. Breakdowns in the transportation sector will result in major delays. Any shipment of food that arrives will be quickly grabbed and eaten or stored. Expect the atmosphere to be that of a “near panic”, the level varying from city to city, if food is delayed by as little as three days. A shortage of food results in the same behavior as a shortage of water.

The power grid goes off-line. Nothing is as suddenly obvious nor has such a psychological impact as a power outage. When electricity stops, almost everybody knows it at the same instant (unless it happens at night). People assume it’s temporary. What if it doesn’t back online? Without power, everything shuts down. Looting begins in the more crime-ridden cities. The longer the power stays off, the worse the social disorder. Vehicles may get around, but businesses won't be operating. Houses that use electricity for heat will reach Winter temperatures, freezing many occupants to death. Those that depend on electricity for AC will just as quickly reach Summer temperatures, some dying from heat stroke. Hospitals and police stations may have generators with a few days worth of fuel, but eventually that will be depleted. Water treatment plants will almost certainly be off-line causing all the events mentioned in the water section. If you have power, you can survive a food shortage, perhaps even a short water shortage. If you have a “bug-out” vehicle stocked and ready to go, this might be the time to bail.

Okay, so you're stuck in the city and made the decision to stay. What now? You really have only two options. You can (1.) Stay and defend your home, or (2.) Bug out. Of course this is not an either/or situation. You can begin by staying in your house and assessing the situation. You'll want to have a “bug-out” vehicle stocked and ready, but you may never actually choose to bug out. When you bug out, you face major risks and disadvantages. Among these: You're severely limited in how much you can carry; you have limited range due to fuel; you expose yourself to social chaos, roadblocks, random violence, etc.; your house will certainly be looted; you run the risk of mechanical breakdowns; you must have a place to go that you know is in better shape than where you currently are.

In general, unless you have a specific, known safe place as your final destination, it's not advisable to bug out. Staying and defending your house is sometimes the only reasonable course of action, even if it seems dangerous. For the most part, looters and people looking for food are going to have plenty of easy victims, so if you show a little willingness to use force to defend your property, you’ll likely send people on to the next house. That is, until the next house is already empty and you appear to be the last house on the block with any food and water left. Your neighbors may “gang up” on you. The best situation is to keep your neighbors informed and help them get prepared. Then you can act as a group, defending your neighborhood and sharing supplies with anyone willing to help defend you.

Storing food is important, but hiding it is far more. That’s because in the worst areas, marauders will be going house to house, demanding your food or your life. To count on having any amount of food left over after the marauders break in, you'll need to hide your food. One alternative is to plan on defending your home with force. If you have enough gun-wise people in the house, and enough firearms and ammo, you can probably pull this off. But most of us aren’t nearly as experience with firearms as the gang members. The best way to hide your food is to bury it inside airtight containers. Bury your food at night so nobody will notice, and make sure you don’t leave a map on the refrigerator door! Try to get the ground to look normal after you're finished. You’ll want to bury your food as early as possible give the grass time to grow over. If you’re in an area that snows, you’ll have great concealment. Most marauders won't go to the trouble to dig up food, especially if you insist you don't have any. Also, have smaller amount of food stashed around the house, letting them find something. Better to give them something and send them on their way. Be creative in hiding your food. Use the walls, the floors, and the structure of the house. If hiding your food is not possible, then don't advertise it. In reality it would be easier to simply build a false wall in your garage and seal up your food behind the false wall. Sure, you might loose 2-3 feet of usable space in your garage, but the trade off is knowing everything is safe.

Water can be stored in exactly the same way. Make sure you treat your storage water, rotate it or have filters on hand when you get ready to use it. If you don’t have a yard, or it's not practical to bury your water, you’ll have to store it inside your house. Water takes up lots of space and is difficult to conceal. It’s best to get containers made for long-term storage, but you can use almost any container: soda bottles, milk jugs (although it's very difficult to rinse the milk out), and even rinsed bleach bottles (in that case, you won’t need to add bleach). Many of these containers will deteriorate quickly, and they may break easily. Also, consider what happens if your water may be subjected to freezing. Will your containers survive? Be sure to leave enough air space to handle the expansion. Stock at least six months of water at a minimum two gallons a day per person. That’s nearly 400 gallons of water if you have two people. Even with the best preparations you may find yourself short of water. In this case, one of your best defenses is to have a really good water filter that can remove parasites and bacteria from the water. You can also treat your water in other ways (iodine, distillation, silver solution, bleach, etc.). The best solution for obtaining long-term water is to drill a well. Many cities simply don’t allow the drilling of wells, so you may not be able to get one drilled even if you want to. The deeper your well, the more expensive it becomes.

Now regarding defense. In rural areas most people are going to find ways to cooperate. However, some cities will suffer complete social breakdown and violence will rule. If you happen to be stuck in one of these cities, you’re going to need to use force to defend yourself. Also, do not use your lights at night. Avoid drawing attention to your house. Defending your house is a crucial element on your stay-in-the-city plan. Make your house your fortress, and hold drills to help other family members practice some of the more common activities such as hiding, defending, evacuating, etc. Some useful items for home defense include: a guard dog, pepper spray, firearms, smoke bombs, and trip wires. The guard dog probably eats a lot of food, but the investment is worth it. Dogs also tend to sleep light, so have them sleep near food storage areas, and make sure you sleep within earshot. If the dog barks, don't consider it an annoyance, consider it an INTRUSION. Pepper spray will incapacitate people and certainly give them a painful experience to remember. On the downside (potentially), it might just remind them that next time they come back for food, they better kill you first. Firearms are useful for obvious reasons. When looting is rampant, you may have to shoot someone to protect yourself or your family. If you’re squeamish about pulling the trigger under these circumstances, don't plan to stay in the city. Use the “bug out” plan instead. Smoke bombs can be useful for covering a planned escape from your house. You can purchase high-volume smoke bombs that will quickly fill up any house with an non-breathable cloud of military-grade white smoke. Trip wires are great perimeter defenses and will give early warning.

In addition to these devices, you can make significant fortification-style improvements to your home. While none of these are very affordable, they certainly help defend your home: replace glass windows with non-breakable Plexiglas; add steel bars to the windows; replace all outside door locks with heavy-duty deadbolts; replace all outside doors with steel doors (preferably without windows); remove bushes and other shrubs where people might hide; black out the windows entirely to avoid light escaping at night; build secret hiding places for food, coins, or even people; create escape hatches or passageways; and rig pepper-spray booby traps. Many people living in rough cities already have steel bars covering their windows, and removing extra bushes and shrubs is a well-known tactic for making your home a safer place.

To light your home when there’s no electricity, try the following: use LED flashlights and rechargeable solar-charged batteries; use propane-powered lanterns (be sure to purchase extra mantles and store lots of propane); purchase quality oil lamps and stock up on oil (tou can also purchase cheap kerosene lamps then simply purchase and store extra kerosene); buy extra candles; purchase lots of olive oil. Not only can you cook with it but it also burns as a clean candle fuel. You can float a wick in a jar half-full of olive oil and light the wick for a home-made candle. Olive oil is a great item for your storage anyway because you’ll still need cooking oil. Well-stored olive oil can last for thousands of years.

Your best bet in regards to stocking fuel for your house is to stock up on UNCUT wood logs. The effort is worth it, because this will give you a ready-to-go source of heat and fuel that cannot be easily stolen. You'll need equipment to cut and chop the wood. Wood splits better when it’s frozen, so you might wait until Winter to start splitting. Only split a little at a time so as not to invite theft. Cut about to start drying out, then chop them as you need them.

Getting along with neighbors is important. The best situation to be in, is to have neighbors who are aware of the issue and who are getting ready, stocking their own supplies. If you do live in a bad neighborhood, do what you can to relocate. If you live in a good neighborhood, do the best you can to educate and inform your neighbors.

The gun-control politicians (and the people who supported them) have placed most Americans in a situation where the police cannot protect us in a timely manner, nor can we lawfully defend ourselves. Criminals unlawfully have firearms; citizens lawfully don't. The cities where rioting will likely be the worst is where firearms are most likely to be banned from lawful ownership (and where criminals may wield near-absolute power for a while.). Millions of people are going to have to resort to breaking the law in order to protect their families. And yes, you too will have to resort to breaking the law if you are to acquire a firearm in an area where guns are entirely banned from private citizens. After the disaster hits, if the situation deteriorates badly, local police will be begging law-abiding citizens for help. But if you carry a gun while you smash a window of the Wal-Mart and walk off with a stereo, be prepare to get shot. Police officers don't mind private ownership nearly as much as many believe. When the crisis hits, they'll be more than happy to have your cooperation. If you really feel you need a firearm to protect yourself and your family, your best bet may be to move to a city or state where people are a lot more accepting of firearms. Check the gun laws in any state you're considering moving to.

Suppose you’ve changed your mind about this city thing. You’ve decided to BUG OUT! Well, you will likely need a 4x4 truck in order to go off-road and around stalled vehicles. It should also be able to carry at least 1000 pounds of supplies. Yes, it requires more fuel, but you can carry the fuel as cargo. You will need an armed passenger in case you run into not-so-nice people. Here’s what you should take if you’re preparing to bug out with two people: your 96 hour kits for each person in the vehicle; 20 gallons of water; 40 gallons of extra fuel or more (and a full gas tank). As mentioned earlier, if you have a designated BOL, go for it. If not, you’re basically driving anywhere you can go, so try to head for an area that is forested and near a creek or river where you can get some water.

The conclusion is this: choosing to remain in the city is a rational choice for many people in many situations. However, the further away you can get from population centers the better your chances of surviving. Most people have a difficult time accepting that a major disaster would be as bad as described. However, the very nature of a major disaster means that if only one or two major infrastructure components go down, the ripple effect will quickly create a much worse scenario. The most likely scenario at this point clearly points to massive disruptions, shortages in food and water, loss of power in some areas, and a breakdown of social order in areas where the population density is high. But you can survive anything with good planning, an open mind, and plenty of practice. Now is the best time to start.
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Vac Pac on the cheap, super cool gadget

Like many others, I had traded for a Vacuum Packer machine and it was fairly expensive as are the roll of bags and sometimes very hard to find.

I found a gadget at my local grocery store in the sandwich baggie section. It is a hand pumped vac sealer from Zip Lock brand.

Simple operation, open the bag, place the foods or items you want vac'd (I do my fire starting items like this) as well as a pair of dry socks. Then seal the bag and place the pump over the vac hole on the bag, pump a few times like a tire pump and BAM... the bag and items are sealed. It has enough vac power to crush a soda can with 6 pumps.

The initial 7 bags to include both quart and gallon sized and vac pump was $3.73, additional bags are $2.95 for 12 bags in quart size and $2.95 for 7 gallon sized. Prices where you are at may differ. I often find coupons for the bags and even the starter unit.

There is also a battery operated unit made by Hefty but the dang thing takes 6 AA batteries and they wear down fast, their bags will work with the Ziplock brand though, they are about the same price.

After gathering small game, fish, herbs and greens, I will vac pack them on the spot so they stay fresh during a walk back to camp or ride home. The small pump is light and easy to pack with a few bags.

Stunning Asteroid Video

Staying with the topic of Asteroids, (16 New Asteroids to Fly By Earth), the following visualization and realization that the planet Earth is revolving in the middle of an asteroid shooting gallery is an eye opening experience to see.

Where do most asteroids come from?

Most asteroids come from a region between Mars and Jupiter called the asteroid belt, which is loaded with irregular shaped objects ranging in size from dust particles all the way up to 950 km (590 miles) in size (actually that one is a ‘dwarf planet’ named ‘Ceres’).
Portions of the asteroid belt are very dense with objects, and frequent collisions take place, changing the orbital nature of the objects themselves. Some of these result in eventual collisions with the Earth’s atmosphere as meteors or shooting stars. If they are big enough and don’t completely burn up in the atmosphere making it to the ground, they become meteorites.

Video of Asteroid Discoveries from 1980 – 2010

The following video shows the locations of all the known asteroids starting in 1980. As new asteroids are discovered they are added to the map and briefly highlighted white so you can pick out the new ones. Watch as the asteroids cross Earth’s orbit (the third ring out from the center)
If you have enough internet bandwidth, select HD 720p or 1080p, full screen, in a dark room for its full effect.
After having watched the video in its entirety, you may gain a new understanding of the asteroid collision risk that the Earth faces in the somewhat chaotic environment of the solar system.
As the video moves into the mid 1990′s we see much higher discovery rates as automated sky scanning systems come online.
Currently we have observed over half a million ‘minor planets’ (asteroids – objects), and the discovery rates show no sign that we’re running out of undiscovered objects. Scientific estimates suggest that there are about a billion asteroids larger than 100 meters (about the size of a football field).
Orbital elements were taken from the ‘astorb.dat’ data created by Ted Bowell and associates at lowell.edu.
Red (Earth Orbit Crossers)
Yellow (Earth Approachers)
White (Newly discovered)
Green (all others)
Asteroid Belt Video Created by Scott Manley
1980 – 2010

Click here to view the embedded video.

Asteroid Belt – Edge View
Click here to view the embedded video.

What are the chances of Earth being hit by an Asteroid?

A sobering statement and quotation from the Armagh Observatory, one of the UK and Ireland’s leading scientific research establishments,
Even conservative estimates would suggest that for every asteroid on a dangerous Earth-Approaching orbit there are hundreds more which have yet to be discovered. There are over 300 known objects on Earth-crossing orbits, the majority of which are potentially capable of causing death and destruction on a scale unheard of in human history.
It is estimated that there are perhaps 100,000 to 1,000,000 undiscovered asteroids on similar Earth crossing orbits.

What can I do to prepare for an Asteroid striking the Earth?
Bringing awareness to more people will hopefully lead towards more interest, research, discovery and mapping of more earth-crossing asteroids.
There have been articles written about theoretical ways to nudge an asteroid off a collision course, given enough advanced time to react, and the budget and will to do so.
All other normal preparedness plans apply.
An asteroid the size of a house would wipe out a city region like a 20 kiloton bomb.
An asteroid the size of half a football field wiped out 1,200 square miles of Siberia in 1908.
An asteroid a mile wide would end us all…
…hope you sleep well tonight (wink)

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