Class Gone Awry

I attended a class the other night at a local survival supply store. The advertised topic was having a family rendezvous point for when home wasn’t an option. The instructor did not talk about the advertised topic. Mostly he spent the time showing off his vehicle survival kit. While I enjoy seeing what people deem necessary enough to include in a survival kit, that’s not why I was there. I have kits built for both vehicles. Now, granted, it was a free class, and the instructor was volunteering his time, which I appreciate, but it was time that I chose to not spend with my family in the hopes of learning something new.

In showing off things he had in his kit, the instructor occasionally threw in things like, “I designed these, and now the Special Forces are using them.” Or, “I’m developing this for market. It will sell for $400.” And, in showing off gear, he did not even help the store owners, but instead kept saying, “Well, they may have something like this here, but I got mine at REI.”

During the presentation, a question was asked by another attendee. He noted that the instructor didn’t have any bottled water in his emergency kit. The instructor responded, almost appearing perplexed by the question, that that was what his stainless steel bottle and his bottle filter were for. I’m not sure where he thinks he will be using his kit, but Boise is basically a desert. If you are only counting on finding water on the trail, it could be a very short trip.

The most frustrating aspect of the experience, though, was the instructor’s apparent unwillingness to address the stated topic. Even after prompting (at least twice) by the store’s owners, and questions by other attendees, he wouldn’t commit. “It’s your plan,” he said, more than once. An example was a question by a woman who was attending with her husband. She said she was home all day with the baby, but in an emergency that would require a bug out, should she just go the the BO location with the baby, should she pick up the other child from school, or should the husband pick up the other child from school? “You have to make a plan, I can’t make it for you,” was his response. While this is a valid statement, we were there for some guidelines on making a plan, or a starting point at the very least. A starting point for this family would be: Is the child’s school on the way to the BO location for either parent? Which parent is closer to the child’s school? Is it prudent for the couple to leave for the BO location separately? Presenting the attendees with these types of questions they would need to answer to make a plan would have been all that was required. This did not happen.

A final issue with the instructor was an apparent mixed message he provided. He recommended from the start to use camouflage gear, in case you have to hide from government forces (in a martial law situation) or from would-be predators. While there is a difference in opinion in the preparedness community regarding military-looking vs. civilian-looking gear, this is certainly a valid outlook. The problem arose when, later in the class, he was telling a story of when he was living in the San Francisco Bay area when the Loma Prieta Earthquke occurred in 1989 (during the World Series). He and a couple others moved through their neighborhood to see if anyone needed anything. He remarked that the people who were best prepared were those with RV’s. They “were sitting in their RV’s with the lights on, drinking wine.” In the context of his philosophy of keeping a low profile that he had preached for the last hour, these statements were very incongruous. While sitting in your RV with the lights on drinking wine might be fine the first couple hours after a moderate earthquake, what happens if the power doesn’t return for several days, and predators begin scoping the neighborhoods for easy pickings. This could be a source of confusion among those who may be new to preparedness.

Again, I appreciate that this gentleman volunteered his time to present what he thought was the correct information. I also appreciate the store for holding the class and trying to get their instructor on subject. However, it would behoove the store owners to be a little more careful about who they allow to teach their classes.

During the presentation, a question was asked by another attendee. He noted that the instructor didn’t have any bottled water in his emergency kit. The instructor responded, almost appearing perplexed by the question, that that was what his stainless steel bottle and his bottle filter were for. I’m not sure where he thinks he will be using his kit, but Boise is basically a desert. If you are only counting on finding water on the trail, it could be a very short trip.

 

The most frustrating aspect of the experience, though, was the instructor’s apparent unwillingness to address the stated topic. Even after prompting (at least twice) by the store’s owners, and questions by other attendees, he wouldn’t commit. “It’s your plan,” he said, more than once. An example was a question by a woman who was attending with her husband. She said she was home all day with the baby, but in an emergency that would require a bug out, should she just go the the BO location with the baby, should she pick up the other child from school, or should the husband pick up the other child from school? “You have to make a plan, I can’t make it for you,” was his response. While this is a valid statement, we were there for some guidelines on making a plan, or a starting point at the very least. A starting point for this family would be: Is the child’s school on the way to the BO location for either parent? Which parent is closer to the child’s school? Is it prudent for the couple to leave for the BO location separately? Presenting the attendees with these types of questions they would need to answer to make a plan would have been all that was required. This did not happen.

 

A final issue with the instructor was an apparent mixed message he provided. He recommended from the start to use camouflage gear, in case you have to hide from government forces (in a martial law situation) or from would-be predators. While there is a difference in opinion in the preparedness community regarding military-looking vs. civilian-looking gear, this is certainly a valid outlook. The problem arose when, later in the class, he was telling a story of when he was living in the San Francisco Bay area when the Loma Prieta Earthquke occurred in 1989 (during the World Series). He and a couple others moved through their neighborhood to see if anyone needed anything. He remarked that the people who were best prepared were those with RV’s. They “were sitting in their RV’s with the lights on, drinking wine.” In the context of his philosophy of keeping a low profile that he had preached for the last hour, these statements were very incongruous. While sitting in your RV with the lights on drinking wine might be fine the first couple hours after a moderate earthquake, what happens if the power doesn’t return for several days, and predators begin scoping the neighborhoods for easy pickings. This could be a source of confusion among those who may be new to preparedness.

 

Again, I appreciate that this gentleman volunteered his time to present what he thought was the correct information. I also appreciate the store for holding the class and trying to get their instructor on subject. However, it would behoove the store owners to be a little more careful about who they allow to teach their classes.

I attended a class the other night at a local survival supply store. The advertised topic was having a family rendezvous point for when home wasn’t an option. The instructor did not talk about the advertised topic. Mostly he spent the time showing off his vehicle survival kit. While I enjoy seeing what people deem necessary enough to include in a survival kit, that’s not why I was there. I have kits built for both vehicles. Now, granted, it was a free class, and the instructor was volunteering his time, which I appreciate, but it was time that I chose to not spend with my family in the hopes of learning something new.

 

In showing off things he had in his kit, the instructor occasionally threw in things like, “I designed these, and now the Special Forces are using them.” Or, “I’m developing this for market. It will sell for $400.” And, in showing off gear, he did not even help the store owners, but instead kept saying, “Well, they may have something like this here, but I got mine at REI.”

 

During the presentation, a question was asked by another attendee. He noted that the instructor didn’t have any bottled water in his emergency kit. The instructor responded, almost appearing perplexed by the question, that that was what his stainless steel bottle and his bottle filter were for. I’m not sure where he thinks he will be using his kit, but Boise is basically a desert. If you are only counting on finding water on the trail, it could be a very short trip.

 

The most frustrating aspect of the experience, though, was the instructor’s apparent unwillingness to address the stated topic. Even after prompting (at least twice) by the store’s owners, and questions by other attendees, he wouldn’t commit. “It’s your plan,” he said, more than once. An example was a question by a woman who was attending with her husband. She said she was home all day with the baby, but in an emergency that would require a bug out, should she just go the the BO location with the baby, should she pick up the other child from school, or should the husband pick up the other child from school? “You have to make a plan, I can’t make it for you,” was his response. While this is a valid statement, we were there for some guidelines on making a plan, or a starting point at the very least. A starting point for this family would be: Is the child’s school on the way to the BO location for either parent? Which parent is closer to the child’s school? Is it prudent for the couple to leave for the BO location separately? Presenting the attendees with these types of questions they would need to answer to make a plan would have been all that was required. This did not happen.

 

A final issue with the instructor was an apparent mixed message he provided. He recommended from the start to use camouflage gear, in case you have to hide from government forces (in a martial law situation) or from would-be predators. While there is a difference in opinion in the preparedness community regarding military-looking vs. civilian-looking gear, this is certainly a valid outlook. The problem arose when, later in the class, he was telling a story of when he was living in the San Francisco Bay area when the Loma Prieta Earthquke occurred in 1989 (during the World Series). He and a couple others moved through their neighborhood to see if anyone needed anything. He remarked that the people who were best prepared were those with RV’s. They “were sitting in their RV’s with the lights on, drinking wine.” In the context of his philosophy of keeping a low profile that he had preached for the last hour, these statements were very incongruous. While sitting in your RV with the lights on drinking wine might be fine the first couple hours after a moderate earthquake, what happens if the power doesn’t return for several days, and predators begin scoping the neighborhoods for easy pickings. This could be a source of confusion among those who may be new to preparedness.

 

Again, I appreciate that this gentleman volunteered his time to present what he thought was the correct information. I also appreciate the store for holding the class and trying to get their instructor on subject. However, it would behoove the store owners to be a little more careful about who they allow to teach their classes.

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COMMENTS NOW AVAILABLE

I finally tweaked the WordPress in just the right way, and Comments are now available. I have it set so I have to approve your first comment, but subsequent comments aren’t held up for approval.

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Caught Unprepared, or, There’s no such thing as a short trip.

Okay, it happened. I was recently caught in a situation for which I was not fully prepared. My wife and I drove in her car to pick my daughter up from the first school dance of the year. We arrived (along with every other parent) shortly before 8:00. My wife was driving, and finding a spot on the street (smartly avoiding the rapidly filling parking lot), shut off the car, but not the lights or the radio. We waited about five minutes or so for my daughter to find us, then my wife tried to start the car.

Now, earlier in the year, she had had some issues with starting this vehicle, a 2004 Suzuki, but after cleaning off the corrosion that had formed on the battery posts, I called it fixed. Well, apparently, it was not. She had not had any issues since I “fixed” it, but now the car just clicked on turning the key. We waited several minutes (the traffic around the school was still crazy anyway) and tried again. Again, nothing. We had cell phones and attempted to call a friend for a ride, but no one was available. It fell to me to walk the two miles home to get my truck to jump-start the car.

I’m in decent shape, so the walk was nothing. However, unlike any time in the last couple months, it was raining like hell. My wide-brimmed hat was at home, hanging in its spot (because it was a short trip, an night, and it wasn’t raining when we left the house). A check of the emergency kit produced no poncho (I have one in my daily backpack). So, off I started. Almost immediately, I realized I had to pee. I actually had to go before we left the house, but didn’t, since it was going to be a short trip. About a half hour later I arrived at house, used the restroom, grabbed the truck and headed back. I took my hat, in case the rain returned, an over-shirt, in case it cooled off, and I ended up spending more time out in the weather than I anticipated, and made sure I had jumper cables and a tow strap. A quick jump later, and we were on our way home.

A couple things went my way during this whole thing. We had waited long enough between attempts to start the car that the thunderstorm had mostly passed over, and I only had to walk in the rain about half way. It was in the low 70’s, so I wasn’t worried about getting cold from the wet, and indeed, by the time I reached home, I had a light sweat going. I had recently replaced my previously lost flashlight to my belt. I didn’t need it so much to see where I was going, but to allow vehicles to see me in my (mostly) streetlight-less neighborhood, and because of the storm, the very bright moon of the last few nights was obscured. I’m always a little concerned about loose dogs in my neighborhood, and normally, when I walk to the bus stop, I carry a pepper spray, but that was in my backpack with the poncho. Luckily, maybe because of the rain, I didn’t run into any that evening.

So, a couple lessons learned from this incident:

  • Have ponchos in the vehicles’ emergency kits. Having to walk in the rain in case of a vehicle breakdown is just adding insult to injury (and in a colder time of year, which is when a breakdown is more likely to occur, AND is when we get most of our rainfall, it could be life-threatening).
  • If you feel the slightest need to go, use the restroom before you leave the house…even if it’s just a short trip.
  • Take your normal “leaving the house” gear (hat, shirt, Batman Utility Belt), whenever you leave the house…even if it’s just a short trip.
  • Take vehicle maintenance a step further. After this incident, I ran the car to the local auto parts store for a battery test. The guy tested it, said it had good surface charge, but his meter indicated it as a bad battery. He pointed out, that as a white battery, it was original equipment on the car, and thus seven years old. I didn’t buy a battery that day (they wanted $100), but will check this weekend at another parts chain to compare prices and warranties.
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Eating food past its ‘Best By’ date.

If you’ve been working on your food storage for a while you likely have already encountered food that is older (sometimes considerably) than the ‘Best By’ date stamped on the can. What does that mean?  Why it means throw it out, doesn’t it?  I had a roommate in college that would dump his milk ON the Best By Date, even though it still tasted okay.  Crazy.

The first thing it means is that you apparently bought too much of that particular item for how fast your family is using it. Now this could mean you are buying things that your family doesn’t like or use in the first place. That was a great sale on Spagettios, until you got them home and discovered not even the kids like them, let alone the wife.

Or, you are buying things that your family WAS eating, but now, for whatever reason, it is not. This could be simply that your family got on a kick of eating that particular food, then when you stocked up, they moved on to some other kick. My daughter was really into Cheerios when she was younger, so I ended up with several boxes of old, stale Cheerios.

It could be that you had a larger change in the household. When my now 20-year-old was at home, he was going through peanut butter like it was going out of style. Thus, I bought a bunch of it…then he moved out. Then, before I realized it, all the peanut butter in my storage room was at least a year or two past its ‘Best By’ date.

So…now you have old food. What do you do with it? You have some options. You can throw away all your hard earned cash or you can eat it yourself (or, if you completely lack ethics, you can give it to a food drive). The trick is deciding what you can eat and what you can’t.

First off, Miracle Whip. You know you have a jar or two of two-year-old Miracle Whip stuck down in your storage. Don’t do it! It’s not worth it! In May, I opened a brand new jar of Miracle Whip, that just happened to have been Best By 2008. I smelled it…it smelled okay…tasted it…it tasted okay. They only clue to its not necessarily fresh state was its not so smooth appearance (a little curdled, how sometimes Miracle Whip looks when you get towards the bottom of the jar). There was also a small puff of air when I broke the seal, though in my defense, I thought at the time that it could have been internal vacuum.

As it turned out, it was NOT an internal vacuum. I used it on a sandwich, and spent the next week making emergency runs to the bathroom. Lesson learned…I will no longer be eating any kind of out-of-date dairy (or simulated dairy) product! I have several old bottles of salad dressing that are going into the trash, along with the rest of that jar of Miracle Whip and the other jar still in the cabinet. (Although, I did have the idea that I could save the unopened jar, and after the Fecal Matter Strikes the Oscillating Atmospheric Motivator, I could slip it surreptitiously into some Mutant-Zombie-Biker Gang’s plundered food stores, allowing me to mop them up while they’re all running to the Little MZB’s Room.)

Other food items, on the other hand, do seem safe to eat two or three years after the Best By Date. The color may be slightly off, the taste might be altered somewhat, or they may be a little mushier than normal, but otherwise it is fine. Canned peaches is one example. I have some canned peaches with a 2008 Best By Date. They are completely fine. Just this weekend, I opened five-year-old Raisin Bran Crunch. Unlike the aforementioned Cheerios, the flakes were not stale, and even the raisins were still soft. Older canned beans (legumes and green) seem to keep their quality as well. More acidic food, such as tomatoes or items containing tomato sauce, however, can begin to taste like the can. You’ll notice this especially in items that you eat straight, such as baked beans, over items you use in recipes, such as diced tomatoes used in making chili.

The first key to helping food keep its quality is storage temperature.  Store below 65 or so degrees, the cooler the better.  My storage room hovers around 60 for most of the year.  The second key, though, to canned goods to keeping their quality well past their Best By Date, is purchasing quality canned goods to begin with. Sure, you can find store brands on sale for two to three times cheaper than a name brand, but they are not the quality, and thus they don’t hold the quality that premium brands tend to. Now, of course, there are exceptions to this. For example, black olives and tuna. I have found that Great Value brand (as much as I hate Wal-Mart) of black olives are the best olives, superior even to name brands like Early California. Also, Fred Meyer (Kroger) brand tuna is consistently firmer and better-flavored than national brands like Chicken of the Sea or Starkist.

If you decide to try to use a product past its Best By Date, go slow. Check the smell, color, and consistency, before checking the taste. Listen for air escaping when opening. And, finally, when in doubt, throw it out! There’s no reason to make yourself sick to save a few bucks. And finally, follow the mantra for food storage, “Buy what you use, and use what you buy.” Hopefully, you won’t end up with a pantry full of out-dated food at The End Of The World As We Know It.

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Oral Hygiene

Many people hate going to the dentist.  There are various reasons for this, including fear of needles, fear of pain, that drilling sound, and that whole having somebody (else) dig around in your moth.  Proper oral hygiene, however, is very important, because improper care can lead to many health issues.  Among these, of course, are bad breath, cavities, and gum disease.  Gum disease can spread to the bones of the jaw.  Bacteria in the mouth can spread to the lungs.  Links have been made to cardiovascular disease, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes complications, osteoporosis, and complications during pregnancy.

Given all that, it is important to include proper oral hygiene in your preparedness scheme.  Oral hygiene preparation should include a four-fold approach.  First, practice good oral hygiene.  This includes daily brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste and flossing.  Brushing does not consist of a glob of toothpaste like they show in the commercials, just a pea-size portion will do.  Also, 15-30 seconds does not a proper brushing make.  Dentists recommend AT LEAST two minutes (I brush about five).  Doing so allows you to reach all the exposed tooth surfaces.  Also, learn to turn OFF the water.  Water is precious now; in an emergency situation, it will be a significant limiting resource.  An antiseptic or anti-cavity rinse can also be a portion of your regimen, but isn’t necessary and CANNOT be a substitute for brushing and flossing.

Second, pay regular visits to a dental professional.  At least annually, but semi-annually if you can afford it, you should visit a dentist.  Find one you trust, and who isn’t trying to pay off his kids’ college debts on the backs of his patients.  They can find irregularities that allow you to follow up with your medical professional.  They can point out whether you’re doing a proper job taking care of your own teeth and provide pointers.

Third, stock up on dental supplies.  Toothpaste, toothbrushes, and floss are not only good to have on hand, but could be used for trade goods as well.  I also have a set of dental tools on hand and some temporary dental filling material, in case I have to do a little work.  Another good storage item would be antiseptic rinse.  While this could be used routinely, given a likely limited supply, it should be saved for those instances when there is an injury to the mouth or work needs to be done, to reduce the chances of infections.

Last, learn dental care in lieu of professional help.  The book, Where There Is No Dentist, is a must for this.  This book covers every aspect of dental care from diet and proper hygiene (without modern oral health implements) to disinfecting equipment and diagnosing and treating injury and disease.  It even describes how to fill a cavity with a “cement” filling using oil of clove and zinc oxide.  The book was first printed in 1983.  My copy is the tenth printing from 2000 and includes a new inserted chapter, “HIV/AIDS and Care of the Teeth and Gums.”

If you take care of your teeth now, and prepare for the uncertain future, you will hopefully be able to avoid having to remove a rotten and abscessed tooth with a rock and an ice skate.

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Preps worked!

I did manage to get that kerosene heater cleaned up (not that day after work, but eventually), and it was a good thing, too.  Our furnace (last manufactured in 1972) went on the fritz.  In fact, it not only went on the fritz, it caught fire.  If my lovely wife had not been downstairs trying to figure out why it was 90 degrees in the house, we could have lost everything.  She managed to get the (scorching hot) furnace cover off to discover a flame feeding on gas leaking from a fitting had melted the wires to the thermostat and scorched the shut-off valve (which had been plumbed INSIDE the furnace cover).  She was able to put out the fire inside the furnace using the handy-dandy fire extinquisher stored next to the door.  Then she proceeded outside to shut off the gas to the house (although she couldn’t immediatly find the shut-off wrench, so I’ll have to do a better job of locating that).

With the emergency over, we had the gas company look at it, and a HVAC contractor look at it.  We decided on a new furnace, since to fix the old would have been near $1000, but since it was Friday (usually when things happen), they weren’t going to be able to complete the installation until Monday, and a cold-front was forecast for the weekend.  Well, sir, I broke out that newly cleaned-up and tested kerosene heater, and the kerosene I had stored, and fired it up.  It worked great, heating the upper level of the house just fine.

Now, I’m just thinking of a way to store the heater so any mice don’t have their way with it again…

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Hazards in your Community

Part of being prepared is knowing what hazards exist in your community, or, if you’re moving, in your potential community.  For example, what kinds of industries are in your area, and what hazards do they pose.  One way to find out is through the US EPA’s TRI, or Toxic Release Inventory.  Industries are required to report toxic chemicals located at their facilities that have the potential to be released to the environment.  Go to EPA’s website (http://www.epa.gov/triexplorer/facility.htm) and enter your county to generate a local report.

Another site that lists those industries that have possibly harmful air emmissions is http://www.planethazard.com/. By choosing the List Industries by State selection at the bottom of the page, you can see a map of several types of industries that could pose hazards.  You will want to look through the various industry types and try a few to see if any appear. I found the gasoline tank farm that we lived next to when we first moved to Boise under “Wholesale Trade-Nondurable Goods.”

For traveling hazardous materials, check the USDOT’s list of routes at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/hazmat/national-hazmat-route.aspx.

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/ allows you to look at earthquakes in your area.  Of course, as they say in the stock market, past performance is not an indicator of future results.  
 
A site that looked promising turned out not to be.  http://www.maphazards.com/ allows you to enter your address, and shows a map with a half-mile radius circle centered on this address.  I entered my address, and the map showed eight “Medium Risk” sites within the circle.  When I clicked on a marker, a small popup gave me the name and address of the site, and offered to get me “more details on this site:”  I clicked on the “Order a Report>” button. After a security warning, I was taken to a secure site where they tried to sell me a “Detailed Risk Assessment” for just $9.95 (“a $39.00 value”).  Since the markers on the map included a Walmart, a flooring store, and a carwash, I decided against the introductory special.

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Thought Provoking Film

I just finished watching a docu-drama called “The War Game.”  This  47 minute long filmfrom 1965 was billed by Netflix as:

Banned by the BBC for being too disturbing, Peter Wakins’s documentary-style drama imagines the devastating effects of a nuclear attack on a small town in England – collateral damage from an all-out war between the U.S.S.R. and the United States.

I don’t believe a nuclear war that directly affects the U.S. is a probability.  I do believe that those of us in the western states would likely see fall-out effects from a more probable war between Pakistan and India, or on the Korean peninsula.  That being said, this film provided some interesting commentary on the effects of nearby nuclear strikes based on studies of severely bombed cities in Germany during World War II, as well as results of the only two wartime atomic strikes, Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The film talks about British Civil Defense plans to relocate upwards of two million of its citizens from those areas most likely targeted by the Soviets during the cold war.  Pamplets are distributed to citizens regarding building blast shelters in their homes using planks and sandbags.  The film estimated that “many thousands of families in Britian would be unable to meet the cost of even one substantial shelter,” and that if the government payed for everyone to have a shelter, the cost would be “2000 million pounds.”  And that’s in 1965.  Thus, most people would be unprepared, and from the looks of the suggested shelters, those that had them would be unprepared.

One result of the attack discussed in the film that I had not considered was the effects of a firestorm.  A large fire consuming a considerable-sized area would create hurricane force winds as the fire consumed all of the local oxygen and created hot gases that rise.  Also, the fire would create substantial amounts of CO and CO2, both of which can cause illness and death by displacing the oxygen.  One item that this film did not discuss, but would be of concern today, is the large amount of toxic smoke a big fire would produce because of all the plastics in modern homes and offices.

Another effect discussed by the film was the amount of, possible long-term, psychological conditions that would be generated by an attack (or indeed any large scale disaster).  It talked about survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:  “The population three months later was found to be apathetic and profoundly lethargic.  People living often in their own filth, in total dejection and inertia.”  Many people without a survival mindset could move in this direction, while others would turn to drugs and alcohol if such were readily available.  When their own supply ran out, they would go searching for more and could be very dangerous, to themselves and others.

Those with a survival mindset would certainly be able to handle the situation better, but, being human, would still likely have trouble sleeping, or nightmares, or other psychological effects of a severe trauma, especially if close friends or family did not come through the incident with them.  They would also have to be weary of post-traumatic stress, which would not occur until sometime after the incident, when the immediate needs of survival have been satisfied, and the danger levels are reduced.  This would be when the survivor would have “time to think about it.”

One possible solution would be to set up some type of group therapy where people could vent their frustrations and fears without fear of reprisal.  Often just talking about your anger is enough to dissipate it, and potential issues could be resolved early on, before they festered and boiled over.  There is just no any way to tell how any individual will react to stress and trauma until they are subjected to it.

Overall, a worthwhile film to see, despite its age.  I would appreciate the views of anyone else who has seen the film.

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What we can learn from children’s stories

I was reading some stories to a friend’s kids the other day to induce napage, and found some lessons that can apply to preparedness.

Peter and the Wolf:
Friends are good to have, and you can never have too much rope.

The Three Little Pigs:
Put in the work and use the best materials available, and you won’t lose everything you have to a blowhard.

Pinocchio:
Listen to your conscience and don’t follow the crowd, and you won’t end up making an ass of yourself.

Bongo [the Circus Bear]:
Learn about the local resources and customs BEFORE moving to the country.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:
Verify the source of your foodstuffs.

Hansel & Gretel:
Use indelible paint to mark your trail, and don’t trust any “nice, old ladies” living alone in the woods.

The Swiss Family Robinson:
If you have unlimited natural resources, you can survive a ship wreck quite nicely.

and,

The Ants and the Grasshopper
The ultimate preparedness lesson.  “If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter.”

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Motorists trapped in cars on snowy Ind. highway

MSNBC Politics, Monday, December 13, 2010, 12:56am (PST)

SOUTH BEND, Indiana – Authorities were working frantically Monday to reach motorists in snow-covered northwest Indiana who were trapped in their cars in biting temperatures.
LaPorte County sheriff’s Deputy Andy Hynek said officials don’t know how many people were stranded, but that some had been stuck for as long as 12 hours and many were in a 10-mile stretch of U.S. 30.

So begins a news story of unexpectedly heavy snowfall in a wide swath in the middle of the country, where six deaths were blamed on the weather, and numerous people found themselves in a struggle to survive on a busy US highway.  Were these people prepared to travel in these types of conditions?  How do you prepare for something like this?

With a few items carried in your trunk or under a seat at all times, you’ll be ready for this type of emergency.  A vehicle emergency kit should include jumper cables, a small twelve volt compressor, fix-a-flat (make sure you have the correct size for your vehicle), a tire repair kit.  Some basic tools are important, as well, but unless you have a vehicle on which you are comfortable making repairs, you will not need an extensive toolkit.  A vehicle emergency kit should not only include items for the vehicle, but items for the passengers. 

Items for passengers include space blankets and duct tape, regular blankets (fleece is nice and not bulky), battery or crank radio, emergency candle, flashlight, signaling devices (strobe, mirror, whistle, fluorescent flag), stainless steel cups (for melting snow for drinking, or heating water for tea, broth, soup), drinking water, and food.  Any batteries needed for devices in your emergency kit should be stored separately from their intended devices.  This keeps them fresh longer and prevents corrosion from forming in your devices.

If you become stranded like those above, or by sliding off the road, and you can’t reach anyone on your cell phone (you do have a cell phone, don’t you), and it looks like you might spend the night in your car, your immediate priority is warmth.  The space blankets in your kit are used to cover the windowshield and windows and use the duct tape to secure it in place.  This, coupled with the emergency candle can provide a signficant increase in interior temperature, allowing you to not rely on running the car for heat, which should be avoided, if at all possible. The main reason to avoid running the engine for heat is the possibility, especially in a slide off or a heavy snow storm, is that your vehicle’s tailpipe may become blocked with snow causing exhaust to enter the passenger cabin.  This can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and may kill you.  The fleece blankets can then be used to wrap the passengers and will allow you to huddle together for additional warmth.

After you set up your living space, you can focus on sustenance.  Water is, of course, of higher concern, but high energy food (such as nuts, candy bars, or energy bars) is important to keep not only your strength but your spirits.

An important point is to stay with your vehicle.  Unless you are within sight of a residence or business, don’t leave your vehicle.  Too many people have died while trying to hike out of a stranded situation, as illustrated here, here, and here.  Your car is much more visible and easier to find than you are.

Be prepared and stay alive.

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