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Friday, October 20, 2017

Bugging In: Fuels and Storage

If you're going to heat your house in the winter, you'll need fuel. And if you have fuel, you'll need to store it.

Here are the different ways I store my different fuels.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

eBook Review: “Water Storage for Survival”

I've been interested in what other prepper sources are publishing, so I decided to check a few of them out. I'm working long hours at the moment, but I do have time to read a bit here and there. The Kindle app on my phone tends to deplete the battery faster than any other app I have, but it's convenient to have a couple dozen books on hand.

I did a simple search for “prepper” and browsed through the results. Since we've written several articles about water, I picked one titled Water Storage for Survival by Ronald Williams. What I found was a mixed bag of common-sense information that is readily available on the internet on a dozen different sites. The chapters were broken down like this (with my commentary):

1) Why You Need to Store Water
He covers the basics of how your body uses water and the importance of avoiding dehydration. I did find it odd that he states, “...traveling back and forth between your home and a natural source of water is simply not practical.” Without a specific scenario, I fail to see how he can make such a blanket statement since people have been traveling to central wells for centuries and it seems to still be working. 

2) How Much Water Do You Need?
The basic “one gallon per person per day” formula. His example of a family of four, for a month, equaling 120 gallons (which he states is “simply not practical” to store) is a normal starting point. Erin covered a simple, cheap way to store 100 gallons of water here, so it's not that difficult to store water. One gallon jugs of drinking water come six to a case, so 20 cases would last a family of four a month and would fit along a wall quite easily. Stack them four wide and five high or fit them under a set of stairs, they don't take up that much room.

He also covers how to store water in this section instead of giving it a section of its own. Good, common-sense storage information.

3) Making a Rain Catchment System
This is how to modify your gutter system to catch rain water. Some of the steps aren't very clear, and he specifies food grade materials for some things but not all. We had a guest post that covered the process in detail with pictures back in 2014.

4) How to Purify Water
Boiling: He gets some things right and some wrong. Boiling water for 15 minutes is not needed, and simply boiling it will not necessarily render it safe to drink since it will concentrate any chemicals that aren't destroyed by the heat.

Bleach: A standard which I have covered in detail in several articles. His instructions are basic but workable.

Distilling: “Guaranteed to eliminate even the most deadly and resistant of chemicals, heavy metals, and microorganisms” according to Mr. Williams. Not always true; just ask anyone who has tried to distill alcohol.

As an afterthought, Williams covers filtration and purification tablets in a somewhat dismissive fashion. There is no mention of reverse osmosis, unless that's what he meant by “pump action water filters”.

5) Collecting Water From the Wilderness
These are simple methods of finding water, like going to the lowest point of the terrain to find the wettest area. Collecting dew on rags tied to your ankles may sound good, but unless you're living in a rain forest you're not going to gather much water.

6) Collecting Water From an Urban Environment
These are mostly sources of trapped water, something I covered in detail in my water purification series.

7) Myths About Storing Water
I'm not a fan of myths, so I'd never heard of most of these. 

Conclusion: Do Not Buy This eBook
Having read through the entire book, I must mention how much work our editrix does behind the scenes. This author needs to find someone to at least proof-read his work before he publishes it, just to point out the spelling and grammar errors. I read a lot and I expect a certain minimum level of competence from someone who want to trade me words for money.

All in all, this is pretty high on my list of the worst waste of $2.99 that I can think of. Since it was a digital book, I guess the best I can do is coin a new term for an e-book that's not worth buying: digital toilet paper.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Protection For When Things Get Hot

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping. aaa   

Fire: Week Two
Depending on the direction of the winds blowing from the Napa and Sonoma County fires, the air quality in the San Francisco area has been anywhere from hazy to unbearable. It has caused every Home Improvement store (both chain and independent) in a 30 mile radius to run out of filter masks.

Why did they all sell out you ask? Here is the reason:

There is a mountain behind the smoke

This a view of Mt. Diablo from Highway 24, approaching Walnut Creek CA. Air quality is about what an average smoky day looks like and believe me, it's been worse.

Same view, different day

This picture is taken half a mile further back, and if you compare the two pictures, there is a gum drop tree in the top picture over the middle white car, which is the same gum drop tree over the white building on the left in this picture. The air quality shown here is a bad winter day, almost to the point the Air Quality Management district would call for a 'Spare The Air Day' and prohibit using your fireplace.

Seriously, you can be fined for having a fire here in CA.

3M Particulate Respirator 8511 N95
All filter masks in the stores I call on have either been sold out or loaded onto a transfer truck and sent to the fire zone stores. Unfortunately, this also includes  masks that are not effective against smoke.

The minimum rating for smoke and particulate filtering is an N95 rated mask, and 3M is one of the most recognized rated brands. There are several different N95 styles, and several more highly-rated masks and actual replaceable cartridge respirators, but those are not necessary for the conditions around me.
3M #8511

This mask has two bands (as opposed to only one band on the not-recommended masks) and a bendable/moldable metal over-the-nose piece to fit it to your face.

Information from the 3M website:
  • NIOSH approved for at least 95 percent filtration efficiency against certain non-oil based particles
  • 3M Cool Flow Exhalation Valve reduces heat build-up inside the respirator
  • Adjustable M-noseclip reduces potential for eyewear fogging
  • Braided headbands two-strap design with dual point attachment helps provide a secure seal
  • 3M Cool Flow Exhalation Valve reduces heat build-up inside the respirator
  • Spacious and durable
  • Designed to increase comfort and wearability
  • Advanced Electret Media is designed for ease of breathing

With the fires approaching 50% containment and the possibility of a very small amount of rain in the fire zone over the weekend, demand for masks has slowed somewhat. This has allowed me to buy a box at my stop today, and I will be buying another box soon and dividing them up into my Buckets of Holding. This will give me some shareable breathing protection to go along with the supplies in them.

The Recap
  • Keep your plans flexible, and be prepared to toss them out or modify parts as needed.
The Takeaway
  • One box of 3M 8511 Filter Masks: $16.98 if purchased from Amazon with Prime; mine were from Home Depot and I paid $20.97 for them. 

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Prepper Vehicles From the Ground Up

We've gone over ultimate bug out rigs, and some things you can do to make your current rig more prepper-friendly, but buying a new (or new-to-you) car presents some unique opportunities and considerations for a prepper.

The time came a couple weeks ago to replace my wife's trusty little SUV. It was becoming a bit of a money and time sink, and we were outgrowing it. Being preppers is part of our nature, so that just naturally flows into how we shop for big-ticket items like cars.

Let's look at some of the considerations that apply to preppers looking for a daily driver, and I'll tell you why we picked what we did.

Cargo and Towing
Prepping involves a fair bit of gear and supplies, even at a minimalist level, so the ability to easily haul those supplies is a huge consideration. Those little subcompact cars are affordable and efficient, but they can't haul much more than a gallon of milk, and the ability to tow light loads is a bonus for our lifestyle and for some prepping tasks.

We've talked about financial prepping before, and the cost of big-ticket items can put a serious dent in your budget. As much as it's nice to have something shiny and fancy and new, it can put you into a major hole in a hurry.

I live in a place where deep, wet snow is a regular thing, and we live a lifestyle that frequently leaves the pavement, so 4 Wheel Drive is a necessity for us. (All-Wheel Drive works, but not nearly as well.) In warm, urban and suburban areas 2 Wheel Drive vehicles work just fine, while being simpler, more efficient, and far less expensive.

We spend a fair bit of time on the road, and stretching each gallon of gas is important to us. Better fuel economy is also handy if you do have to evacuate an area, allowing you to travel further from the chaos before you have to stop to refuel.

The "White Bread" Factor 
I'm a car guy. I have a childlike fascination with rides that are loud and flashy. However, there is a lot to be said for hiding in the noise: while something like a Pinzgauer can go anywhere and haul anything, it will catch eyeballs wherever it goes, while a popular model of minivan or midsize SUV will disappear on any city block.

When we laid out our requirements they pointed pretty heavily at a midsize SUV, and my wife picked out a Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid. Fuel efficiency is excellent, it has plenty of cargo room, and it can tow a decent amount. It cost more than I've ever spent on a vehicle before, but if past history is any indicator, we'll be driving it for a decade and we'll get our money out of it. It is also about as white bread as it gets, at least on the outside.

Embrace your prepper nature when you shop for the big stuff. It will help you seamlessly advance your life and your preps.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Preparing for Plumbing Disasters

The last few weeks have been fairly busy for me. Among other things, and as a reminder that not all disasters are major, my basement flooded.

This was no small small thing, involving over three inches of water in my basement and a fair amount of property damage, but thankfully it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

1) Scout the Territory
You don’t have to be a master plumber to find the water cutoff. It's typically located in the basement or lower floor, and it may be in a crawl space, but it controls the water inflow to the house or apartment. Locate this first, so that if all else fails, you can turn the water off from there to prevent flooding and damage.

Next, find out if you have access to the city water shutoff. In most apartments you will not, and only sometimes in houses, but if you do have access it works as an emergency backup cutoff if your cutoff valve is stuck.

I keep this one handy.
These cutoffs are usually valves like you find on a spigot for a hose, either a small wheel or brass bar. They turn just like a screw -- right to close the valve, left to open it up -- but in some cases, you may need to use a special tool to shut off the water flow.

Then look at every faucet and toilet in the house. There should be a small valve that will let you cut off the water to that specific outlet. (Depending on the building codes in your area, you may only have a hot water cut off.)

One you have located these items, take pictures of them with your phone, and email them to yourself, with a note on location. This will guarantee that you can find them again later and make it easier for others. If you can, also take a note of the brand and model of your plumbing fixtures. This will let you get spare parts easily.

2) Prepare Your Tools
Suggested tools for your Emergency Plumbing Kit:
(I don't recommend using the silicone tape or Fiberfix for the long term, but they can save a lot of grief until you can get a plumber over.)
  • Paper with location of the water shut off and any notes you feel that you may need
  • Pencil
  • Tool bag or box (to hold all this)
  • For advanced users: can of PB Blaster (for stuck valves)

3) Familiarize Yourself with What is Likely to Go Wrong
In my experience, the most likely problems to arise are:
  • Leaky faucet. Usually fixable by tightening something. 
  • Burst or leaky pipe.  You may not be able to fix this yourself, but it you should be able to band-aid it until a plumber gets there, which will prevent a lot of damage. 
  • Running toilet.  This is an entire sub-set of issues. Knowing how to shut off the water until you can get it fixed can save some nasty flooding.
  • Water heater issues. Once again, you may not be up to fixing this yourself, but knowing the basics can save some hassle.

I don’t have the space to go into how to fix all of these problems, but if you prepare yourself even this much, it can give you a way to prevent damage as well as time to look up how to fix many of these problems yourself, saving a mint in plumbing bills.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast #165 - The Mega Anti-Gun Nuttery Show

Erin's hurt and everyone else is on vacation or assignment, so Sean and Weer'd talk about the Las Vegas shooting and how Hillary Clinton and Diane Feinstein rushed to the nearest camera to call for more gun control.

Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bugging In and Staying Warm

If you're bugging in up north, your first consideration is staying warm in the winter. In this video, I demonstrate my various options for efficient and low-cost home heating.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bargain Hunting aka If You Don't Ask, the Answer is Always “No”

I had to stop by the local hardware store the other day, and I noticed that they had left-over garden seeds on sale for 10 cents a pack. You've seen those cardboard displays full of seed packets" This one was still about half full of vegetable seeds, and there was another one with flower seeds that had a bit less.

As I was checking out, I asked the cashier if they'd take an offer on the whole batch -- all of their left-over vegetable seeds for one price. She took down my phone number and name so she could pass it on to the owner. Two days later I got a call: they'd accept my offer so long as I took the flower seeds, too.

Here's what I picked up, with a dollar bill for scale . The larger bag is vegetable seeds and the smaller one is flower seeds. I'll have to sort out any herbs that may have gotten mixed in, and there are a few flowers that are useful for more than just ornamentation.

Some of you may be wondering why I'm buying garden seeds after the growing season is over (our first frost warning was announced tonight). Besides the huge drop in price, the “interesting” mix of vegetables, and the quantity edging towards trade goods, the best reason is that there's nothing wrong with the seeds. Planting seeds a year after their “crop year” date will drop the germination rate (percentage of seeds that will actually produce a plant) from 80-100% down to 60-70% at worst. This just means I'll just have to over-plant the seeds to make up for the losses, which is easier to do when the prices are low. Waiting two or three years drops the rate even lower (it varies by seed type), but there's a chance some of them will grow.

With slightly lower germination rates, these seeds would also be a good candidate for “guerilla gardening”, which is the act of planting a random selection of food plants on property that isn't yours. Think river banks along a bug-out route, or maybe a southern exposure on state/federal land. You may not get to harvest it, but it's there if you need it, and if nothing else, it'll provide food for the critters and may even make them easier to hunt.

I've opened the sack of vegetable seeds and here's a rough inventory:
  • Lettuce, leaf and head: 26
  • Cabbage: 5
  • Broccoli: 10
  • Cauliflower: 3
  • Spinach: 14
  • Beans: 16
  • Peas: 7
  • Bell peppers: 37
  • Jalapeno peppers: 5
  • Tomatoes: 37
  • Cucumbers: 20
  • Eggplant: 7
  • Squash (3 kinds): 27
  • Watermelon: 3
  • Pumpkin: 7
  • Carrots: 17
  • Radishes: 15
  • Onions: 13
  • Turnips: 14
  • Beets: 5
  • Sweet Basil: 21
That's a total of 309 packets, pre-priced at $0.99 each. That's $305.91 (plus tax) at retail price. Since the seed count varies by plant type, I'm not even going to guess at how many seeds are there; “a whole bunch” is about as close as I care right now. 

If you look at the variety, you'll notice that most of the seeds are for vegetables that are easy to store. Lots of root crops (onions, turnips, etc.), squash, and plenty of easily dried or canned options. The lettuce and a few of the others are for immediate use, but I got a good mix of pre-food. There are some things in there that I don't care to eat, but if times get tough I'm sure I'll be able to choke them down.

The owner of this local store wanted to free up some floor space and get ready for the winter displays, so he was happy to get rid of the two big cardboard racks of seeds. I haven't opened the flower seeds bag yet, but I think I got a fair deal for my $30.00 -- that's less than 10 cents per packet for just the vegetable seeds. He took less than his “clearance” price (probably close to half) just to get rid of them all at once.

If you don't ask, the answer is always “No”, so don't be afraid to talk to the folks behind the counter. They may not be authorized to accept your offer, but they should be able to pass you on to someone who is.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Prudent Prepping: No One Is Safe

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping. 

I've made fun of my friends and others who live in tornado alley or hurricane-threatened areas, saying "Yeah, here in California, we can't sit on our porch and see an earthquake coming! We can't run for the basement or pack the car and leave the state!"

Since Sunday night, I've been reminded of exactly how much things can come back to bite oneself, repeatedly.

The Latest California Disaster: Fire
Coffey Park before the fire.

Everyone knows about California's habit of having large portions of our forests burn, but a fire hasn't destroyed portions of a major city since 1992; now in Napa and Sonoma Counties there have been several severely damaged. What's more, several people may have died due to not having a cell phone to receive Emergency Alert messages after telephone land lines were destroyed by fire.

Based on the news tonight, all of the fires are virtually out of control and will continue to burn portions of Santa Rosa proper and the surrounding hills, wineries and smaller towns.

Coffey Park, late Monday.

What Next?
Since every area of the world has the potential of being hit by some sort of emergency, the only option is to be prepared, always. Even though my weekly commute has been reduced by half, I've added extra water and food to my car, because I may have to be away from home longer than planned or help others who might be trapped away from home.

Everyone has posted tips on Bugging Out packs like Erin has done recently. The Discerning Shootist has a series talking about Bugging In, which he started right here. In fact, since all of us have written at least one post on Getting Out Of Dodge, there are too many to list here! This means the topic can be searched in the blog quite easily.

If you've been paying attention to the news and your regular gear is already set, then you may have time to grab originals of your important papers, some heirlooms and whatever else you think you can't live without, since you may only have what you are taking with you if your house burns. If you do get evacuation orders, follow them! Don't be a hero and try to beat Mother Nature.

The Recap
  • Plan ahead. Don't get caught short like a man I heard interviewed on the radio this afternoon. He got out with only his slippers, pajamas and bathrobe!
  • Don't be smug and think major disasters can't hit you, no matter where you may live.

The Takeaway
  • Nothing was added to my preps this week, other than copies of some new personal papers. 

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Alternative Flotation Devices

Back when Hurricane Harvey was flooding Texas, I promised Erin an article on "alternative flotation devices," or in my native redneck vernacular, "Stuff what floats." While traditional boats are the best option for getting out of a flooded area, plenty of other common items float well enough to provide aid.

Note that I said "getting out of a flooded area." Do not go back into flood zones without proper equipment and training! Do not cross flood waters if any safe alternative exists! Water is powerful and deceptive, and will sweep you away before you can react to it.

If you've decided that you need to get out, but lack a proper boat, take a look around; you're bound to find something that will keep your head above water. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Air Mattresses
If it's inflatable and designed to support the human body, it'll work. Floating pool loungers are designed for water, but in a pinch even a camping air bed will do. The larger the mattress, the more stable it is in the water and the more people it will support.

The common cooler made by Igloo, Coleman, and a dozen other companies is cheap, universally common, and will float like a cork. (Some might require duct tape to keep the lid closed. You do have duct tape handy, don't you?) Look for the ones with a plastic shell and foam fill. As a side benefit, they're fairly water tight, and therefore can keep important items dry and safe.

Wood Furniture
If you've got a large wooden table or solid (not hollow core) door, turn it flat against the water and it will float nicely with the added benefit of being fairly stable. Taller furniture like dressers and armories will also float, but will be far less stable. Tables and doors can also carry some cargo, but don't expect it to stay dry.

Yes, I mean Levi Strauss-style denim leg covers. Pants legs in good repair will hold enough air to keep a person afloat while they escape a flood. It's a trick I learned as a young Boy Scout, and we were crazy enough to test it fairly extensively. This video is a great demonstration of the process.

Plenty of things in this world float. If you have to get yourself out of a bad spot, look around and see what will bouy you up.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Useful Potted Plants

(Sorry, but this post isn't about that kind of pot plant.)

In the event of a longer term disaster, food storage is essential. One of the most effective ways for people to have that stored food is to grow the stuff themselves. Unfortunately for apartment dwellers, growing a large garden plot is usually impossible.

However, I have grown all of the following plants in an apartment setting. I've selected plants that are easy to grow, are tolerant of poor conditions, and are dense in vitamin C (something likely to be lacking in an emergency). All of these can be transplanted if the conditions are correct, and you can grow a much larger crop of these the next year if things go badly.

Salad Greens 
These are fairly easy to grow in a coffee can, and when kept in a sunny window can produce an insane amount of food. I am partial to chard and spinach since they do well in cold climates, but for people who live in warmer areas (and have warm houses in the winter) I recommend lettuce.

If you grow these in a windowsill planter box, don’t plant them too close together; you will actually get a larger harvest if you give them a little more room to grow.

Salad greens also tend to work well for a “continual harvest” model, allowing you to have fresh greens year round as long as they have light.

These work really well with a hanging planter or on a balcony, and are a little hungrier for light than a lot of other plants. Fortunately, they respond well to artificial lighting and to moderate-to-poor soil with a good fertilizer, such as the water from a freshwater fish tank.

If you are careful in your selection of plants and provide artificial light, you can get a year-round harvest of some fairly tasty fruit regardless of outdoor climate.

Bunching Onions
A small clay pot with bunching onions or chives makes an excellent source for seasonings. They will spread quickly if planted in ready ground so long as they are watered regularly (no more than once a week, no less than once a month - it's a big window).

If kept indoors, you can have onion greens year-round that you can harvest with scissors; if kept outdoors, just don't put them in heavy shade.

Small Citrus Trees
Yes, really. I like kumquats since they are small, single servings of fruit that mature quickly, but I have had dwarf limes and similar. I recommend getting  citrus fertilizer and a good clay pot with a tray.

I consider this a non-food plant because even though it is non-toxic and edible, it tastes disgusting. There are cultures that use it as the basis for some fairly tasty foods, but only after processing it. There are however advantages to cultivating aloe:
  1. It has legitimate medical uses. There are mixed results on a couple of the studies on it, but there are some very clear uses for it, including pain relief for burns. There is even some evidence that aloe is useful for treating digestive conditions and mouth ulcers.
  2. Aloe is a succulent, which means that it stores water in its leaves. If you forget to water it for a month, it will still be around! This makes it an excellent “learner” plant -- if you want to learn how to take care of plants, and want something easy to learn on, this is it.
  3. If you keep it alive for long enough, you may be able to train your roommate's cat out of eating your houseplants -- the cat will be unhappy, but unharmed. The same thing goes for small children; barring an allergic reaction or choking on it, the child will be unhappy about the bitter taste, and otherwise unharmed. 
  4. It grows relatively slowly, so you don’t have to transplant it every three months, and is fairly popular as a house plant, so if you have to get rid of it, it is easy to find a home for.
  5. Aloe also makes pretty decent lube. Don't be dirty! You never know when you might need to grease some machinery or use a catheter. 
Honorable Mention: Spider Plants
Spider plants are awesome little air scrubbers that provide non-toxic greenery. They actually scrub industrial pollutants from the air and are generally not offensive to roommates. I recommend these as another potential “learning” plant, but your cat/small child will not find the taste offensive.

For both of these and aloe, I recommend a clay pot and a hanging planter.

Growing at least a little bit of food is totally possible, even for an apartment dweller. There are oodles of “How to” guides on how to grow all of these, and I leave it to the reader to find those. As always, don’t lick the wires, and don’t forget to practice.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast #164 - Will the Junk in Sean's Trunk Crush a Crowd in a Hurricane?

Whatcha gonna do with all that junk,
All that junk inside that trunk?
I'm a get get get get a TrunkCratePro!
  • Beth is on assignment and will return soon.
  • The Charlotte police and fire departments have no plans to search for a Dilworth, NC carjacking suspect who may have drowned. Given what Sean found out about the suspect that they did capture, it's not surprising that no one seems to care.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Why would anyone live in Florida when it has all those hurricanes? Miguel explains.
  • Erin is back from Gun Rights Policy Conference, and she's ready to tell us all about what she learned, who she met, and how her presentation went.
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon.
  • When you're in a crowd of 20,000 people and someone starts shooting at you, bullets are probably the only thing you're thinking about. Erin teaches us about another less-known killer: Crowd Crush.
  • After the mass murder in Nevada, Jimmy Kimmel leaped onto the stage to give an anti-gun monologue. Weer’d takes it apart in his unique fashion.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the TrunkCratePro Collapsible Trunk Organizer.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Surviving Crowd Crush

By now everyone knows about the mass murder in Las Vegas, and you’re probably expecting me to do a segment on it. 

Sean even asked me to do a segment called “Carry Medical Gear”, but the truth of the matter is that this subject has already been covered quite expertly. In episode 160, Sean talked to paramedic Kelly Grayson on what first aid gear we preppers and gun owners should carry on a regular basis: tourniquet, hemostatic dressing, chest seal, wound care supplies like gauze, gloves and a CPR pocket mask.

If you carry an SFR Responder around your ankle like Sean does, you’re all set. Or you can carry these in a purse, backpack, or cargo pocket.

There. That’s your Every Day Carry Medical Gear. Boom, done, end of segment. Right?

... except that there’s something which has been bothering me about Vegas. The hard numbers haven’t yet crystallized, but here’s what I’ve seen:
  • 59 dead, one of which may have been the shooter. I personally never count the perpetrators in the death count of any murder, because fuck those assholes, only innocent victims count. 
  • 527 injured. This number keeps fluctuating; I’ve seen it as low as 515 and as high as 528, but 527 seems to pop up the most. 
What we don’t know -- what we may never know -- is how many people died as a result of the stampede to escape the gunshots vs. those who were actually shot.

This is of interest to me because there were 22,000 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Past a certain density, crowds stop behaving like groups of people and begin acting like fluids. When this happens, all sorts of tragedies occur, because the mass and motion of the people at the back of the crowd can literally pick up people at the front of the crowd and move them against their will… or, worse, crush them against an obstacle.

Just six or seven adult humans pushing in the same direction can generate up to a thousand pounds of force, enough to break down gates and bend steel guardrails. If that force can bend metal, imagine what it can do to a human body!

Actually, there’s no need to imagine; it’s been documented. The proper name for this is Crowd Crush, and it kills hundreds of people a year. This is most common during the Muslim pilgrimage known as the Hajj, where large numbers of people are forced through a small area on a tight schedule. Hundreds of people die on a regular basis during the Hajj; the worst of which was the 2015 Mina Stampede, which killed over two thousand people.

The critical number for a crowd crush scenario is five people per square yard. 
  • At four people per square yard, you are being touched on all four sides BUT you still have the ability to turn around through a full 360 degrees. At this point, you still have room to make decisions and you move as an individual. 
  • At 5 people per, you are unable to turn around. This is the point where the crowd begins to act like a fluid, with shockwaves that ripple through it as a result of the people pushing and being pushed. You are no longer part of the crowd; you are the crowd, and you go where it goes. 
  • At 6 people per, your life is in danger from two equally horrible fates: crowd collapse and crowd crush. 
Crowd Collapse is when someone in a crowd falls, and the mass and motion of the crowd forces the people behind that person forward. They trip over the fallen person, and fall down themselves, usually atop the first person. This continues as more people from the back are forced forward in a fatal dogpile. This results in broken bones and even death.

Crowd Crush is what happens when you are packed together so tightly that the weight of the person behind you crushes you against the object or person in front of you with such force that you are unable to inhale. This is called compressive asphyxia. In effect, the crowd acts like a gigantic constrictor snake, waiting for you to exhale and then pinning your chest so you cannot breathe in and you suffocate while standing up.

How do you avoid dying from crowd crush or collapse?

Follow these simple rules.
  1. If you find yourself packed so tightly that you cannot turn around, get out of the crowd. You should already know where the emergency exits are, so start moving in that direction. 
    • I shall reiterate for clarity: head for the nearest emergency exit, not the main exit. 
  2. Keep your arms in front of your chest in a classic boxer stance. This will protect your chest so that you have room to breathe. 
  3. Lift your feet high in the air as you move - at least six inches. This will allow you to step over most obstacles that could trip you and cause a crowd collapse. 
  4. Do not push against the crowd. Instead, move in a lateral direction -- to the side, or at a diagonal -- to get to the edges. Not only will this get you to the exits and safety, but pressure will be lighter the further out you go. Do this by waiting for a lull in the pushing of the crowd and move quickly.
    • Again, for clarity: You are moving laterally or diagonally in relation to the crowd. Your body should be moving forward whenever possible, not side-stepping.
  5. However, be aware of where you’re going. You don’t want to be at the edge of the crowd and trapped between it and a wall, because if the crowd is panicked -- such as from gunshots on the other side -- it crowd could decide that where you are is now where it wants to go and crush you against that wall. 
  6. Make sure you’re headed for an exit. If necessary, make one! I recall that one of the concert goers at Route 51 kicked down a segment of fence to escape. 
  7. If you can’t escape, try to find a large, immovable object -- like a car or a pillar -- behind which you can hide. Remember, the crowd is a fluid, and when fluids flow around objects, there’s a space on the side opposite the flow that the fluid avoids. Take shelter there.
  8. If you do fall, get up quickly. If you can’t, curl onto your side in the fetal position, with your arms protecting your face and your knees to your elbows in order to protect your chest. Your only priority at this point is to keep breathing. I’m not going to lie; you’re going to take a beating. But broken bones heal; death, on the other hand, is forever. 
Essentially, surviving crowd crush or collapse boils down to situational awareness: know where the exits are, look for the warning signs, stay near the edges, and get out before trouble finds you.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Free Hygiene Items

I know that I promised you some Bug-In preps, but life happens. So how appropriate is it that this week's video is geared towards that?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Emergency Cell Phone Charging

Today's topic is whether or not you can use a USB car charger with anything other than a car's electrical system to charge a cell phone.

One of my friends posted a video of a simple hack that shows how to connect a regular 9V battery to a car charger, and the video was automatically denounced by an electrical engineer as impossible or even dangerous. The ensuing pissing match led me to doing my own research and trying to find the truth.

Just to make it perfectly clear, nobody is telling you to plug your phone into a 9V battery. The video showed them connecting a standard car charger to a 9V battery and then plugging a phone into the charger.

Some Basic Facts
  • Watts=Volts*Amps.
    • Amperage is the amount of electrical flow.
    • Voltage is a measure of the force behind the electrical flow.
    • Wattage is the amount of work done by the electrical flow.
  • Battery storage is measured by the amount of power they can produce over time, milliamp-hours (mAhr).
    • Milli- is a prefix that means “one-one thousandth” or 0.001.
    • One milliamp is 0.001 Amp. 
    • 2000mA=2A.
  • Standards have changed, but USB chargers are rated at 500mA (slow charge) to 2.0A (fast charge).
    • Cell phones and other devices that charge through their USB port require about 5VDC (4.4to 5.25 VDC).
  • A common smart phone battery is going to be rated for 2000-3000 milli-Amp-hours (mAh) of power. This is why even a fast charger will take a few hours to fully charge your phone.
  • Normal car batteries produce about 12VDC (it varies from 11.5 to 13.0 VDC depending on the state of the battery) and amperages that are measured in the hundreds of Amps.
  • A common 9V battery, like you'll find in a smoke detector, is rated at 400-500mAh (lithium versions are around 1000-1200mAh).

Now For Some Math
(I heard that groan, Erin)
  • A dead cell phone (smart phone) is going to need around 2000mAh at 5VDC. 
    • 2000*5=10,000 mWh.
  • A common 9V battery can provide around 500mAh at 9VDC. 
    • 500*9= 4500 mWh, or about half of a full charge on your phone. That's enough to make a few calls for help. 
  • A lithium 9V battery can provide at least 1000mAh at 9VDC.
    • 1000*9=9000MWh, or almost a full charge.
There is some inefficiency in the charger and wiring, so you're not going to get absolutely everything out of a battery; as a battery discharges, the voltage drops off (less of a problem than you'd expect) and it will reach a point where there isn't enough voltage (pressure or force) to push the electricity into the phone battery.

That Video
This is the video that got and ripped up by a sanctimonious Electrical Engineer (EE) who didn't think it would work.

A lot of people assumed he knew what he was talking about, because, “Hey, he's an engineer!”. Let me tell you a secret: engineers are like doctors; there are so many specialized fields that no one person is going to know everything. Just in the field of electrical engineering alone there are 299 different journals published by the IEEE. An engineer who designs power plants isn't likely to know any more about semiconductors than I am, and the engineer in question is an “adjunct professor” from Boston who specializes in radar and remote sensing technology (I looked him up). How much he knows about batteries and charging is up in the air.

(For what it's worth, Nye is a Mechanical Engineer and his opinions on anything outside that field should be taken with a grain of salt.)

Being an obstinate old man, I dislike people “in authority” stepping out of their narrow fields of research and handing down pronouncements like some petty gods. I do my research before I stick my foot in my mouth. Here's what I've found.

For something that won't work or can damage your phone, there are dozens of hackers posting videos on YouTube showing how to do it. Here's an example, with almost 3.5 million views. This is not a new hack; people have been building battery-powered phone chargers in Altoids cans for years. Links to similar videos are usually on the right-hand side of the page when you view it.

For those who don't use YouTube, I'll describe the basic wiring.
  1. You'll need a car charger (the kind that plugs into a cigarette lighter), a battery, and some way to connect the two electrically. You'll need a USB cable, too, if your charger doesn't have one.
  2. Connect the “+” post of the battery to the center post of the car charger
  3. Connect the “-” post of the battery to the spring clips on the side of the car charger.
  4. Plug your USB cable into the charger and your phone.
  5. You're done.

How It Works
Inside the car charger is a circuit that converts one voltage to another. Here's a diagram for those who like to see how things go together.

Most simple chargers like this use a chip to do the work, with a few other pieces to control the chip output and protect it. This diagram uses an LM317L fixed current voltage regulator that puts out 100mA. The input voltage can be anywhere from 3VDC to 40VDC, and the output voltage is set at 5VDC by the resistors marked R1 and R2. Here's the data sheet for any engineer that doubts me. This is a slow charger, it only puts out 100mA and would take a long time to charge a smart phone.

Other common chips are:
  • 7805 (78xx series voltage regulator, the xx designates the output voltage), which doesn't require external resistors and has an input range of 5VDC to 18VDC.
  • 34063A, which is capable of putting out 5VDC at 1500mA from a supply ranging from 3VDC to 40VDC.
  • LTC1174, another 5V, 100mA converter with an input range from 4VDC to 18VDC.

Here's my experiment. I prefer real-world results over some educated fool's pronouncement, so I grabbed a spare car charger, a 9V battery that's been on a shelf for a few years, and about three inches of scrap 12ga solid copper wire from when I moved an outlet.
  1. I stuck the wire under the spring clip on the side of the charger and the other end on the "-" post of the battery, with the center post of the charger resting on the "+" post. 
  2. I have an old cell phone that isn't worth using any more, so it is the guinea pig. I plugged the phone into a regular charger to make sure it would still take a charge, brought it up to 5%, and then switched it over to the battery/car charger. 
  3. In five minutes got it up to 10%; 10 minutes got it to 15%. I let it run for a while, as I wished for a real electronics bench with the proper tools to measure the voltage and amperage while it's running. 
  4. At 25 minutes and 15%, the phone booted up. The charger LED started to flicker a bit, but it isn't a very good charger (there's a few reasons it's a back-up). 
  5. 40 minutes in, it shows 20%. 
  6. I let it run for an hour and it stopped at 25%. Not bad for an old phone with a weak battery and a 9V that had dust on the package! 25% is more than enough to make a few calls to let people know where you are and that you're still alive.
So, no, setting something like this up is not going to make your phone blow up. Yes, you can use a DC-DC converter with a variety of input voltages and still get the same output voltage; that's what they're designed to do in the first place. Four AAA, AA, C, or D cells would give you 6VDC if wired in series (+ to -), which would be enough to power any of the converter chips I was able to track down. Any battery that produces more than 5V but less than 18V would be safe to use. Look for them in emergency lights, toys, etc.

Personally, I'd use one of the low amperage chargers to slow down the draw from the donor battery. Pulling too much out of a small battery too fast can make them heat up, and that reduces their efficiency.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Additional Prepping Info

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

This is not my semi-monthly roundup post. Really!

New Prepper Info
My contact with the other reps seems to be making a difference! One of the recent transfers out to the West Coast (who I'll call M) is getting serious about prepping their apartment for earthquakes and building a GHB. M is the most serious of the people who have wanted prepping info -- but not all of this is their own initiative! Both parents have been worried about this move (Hi M's Mom!) and have offered to buy any and every item needed to be safe out here in California, but I don't think much will be ordered because M is already getting items now!

Since both M and I are sales reps to various Home Improvement stores and are in them every day, buying supplies from  those stores is an easy way to stock up quickly.

What I am going to do next with M is go over some earthquake info, like this earthquake post by Lokidude, or the post where I listed several really good sources for earthquake prepping info, specifically for North California.

Recent Purchases

Pacific Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup
I've started expecting cooler weather (forecasts say 80-90 deg most of the week) so I went shopping for supplies. Since I personally like soup as an added hot food, I resupplied myself with this.
This soup comes in 8 oz containers that are about half the size of the juice boxes you see kids drinking. At that size, they fit into the corner of my ice chest/lunch box and I can microwave some in my coffee mug quite easily!

From the ad:
  • Roasted red pepper and tomato creamy soup
  • Gluten-free
  • USDA organic
I don't really care about organic or gluten-free, but someone else might.

Nite Ize Rugged Optics Case
I recently ordered new glasses. My old pair has seen better days, having been scratched to the point that the anti-glare coating has started to flake off. This is due to them falling to the ground from my shirt collar.

My new pair of specs needs to be protected, so after asking for recommendations from my friends, I've ordered this case.

From the site:
  • HARD GLASSES CASE - Keep your prescription glasses, drugstore readers, safety glasses or sunglasses safe, protected and easily accessible during day-to-day activity or while traveling, with the Nite Ize Rugged Glasses Case
  • SMART AND DURABLE CONSTRUCTION - With molded foam construction, rugged hard-shell exterior that’s weather-resistant, and zippered top closure, this hard glasses case gives you essential protection from crushing, dropping or scratching fragile eyewear.
  • CONVENIENT CLIP AND LOOP - This Nite Ize glasses hard case comes with a durable clip that attaches securely to belts or straps up to 2” wide. Carabiner loop allows you to clip anywhere to keep your glasses conveniently within reach. 
This is what I was looking for in a glasses case: a hard, rigid shell with a clip that will allow me to move it around easily but be secure when I clip it to my belt, or any other place.

The Takeaway
  • Even more information has been passed on to an interested reader and beginning Prepper!
  • One case of Tomato Soup: $11.98 from Sam's Club. (Sorry folks, this is listed as 'In Store' only.)
  • Ordered a new case for my glasses: $12.20 with Prime shipping from Amazon. 

If you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Emergency Veterinarians

We had a bit of chaos in our house last week when our geriatric cat developed a sudden and severe abscess on Monday. The swelling was severe, and due to his age and the sudden onset (he showed no symptoms 24 hours prior), we were very concerned for his health. Unfortunately, we didn't see it until he came out from wherever he had been hiding to go to bed at 10 pm.

The geriatricat and abscess in question.

10 pm is a really inconvenient time to need a veterinarian. Everybody knows (or should know) where their local human emergency rooms are, but what about animal ERs? As good fortune would have it, I have had to find a late night vet once before in this town, and so I knew where to start to solve our feline emergency. The first time I needed one, though, I was well and truly lost.

I've found two good ways to find after hours vet care. The method I used the first time was a simple Google search for "24 hour vet [my city]." The other, far better way is to ask your regular veterinarian ahead of time. In conversation with our normal vet, after the chaos had settled, I learned that we actually have three after-hours vet clinics in town, and she was able to make recommendations for which ones have specialized treatment facilities. Being forewarned is being very forearmed!

Usually, the after-hours vet is kind of like an emergency room for humans: they address the immediate symptoms, buying you time to get to your normal doctor. In our case, they gave our cat painkillers and a broad spectrum antibiotic, and eased our concerns about his immediate prospects, but we still had to take him to our normal vet for further treatment and a complete diagnosis.

He'll be fine, by the way. He was diagnosed with an abscessed tooth, which my vet assures us presents exactly as quickly as we observed. I'm going to pick him up from getting his teeth pulled after my work shift, and the furry jerk is expected to grumble at us about the state of the world and his lot in life for years to come.

Talk to your vet, and find your local after-hours clinics. You owe it to yourself and your animals to have that information at hand.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Gunsite Lowered Thumb Safety

If that title makes no sense, then you're not familiar with the 1911 pistol made by John Browning (peace be upon him): on the left side of the frame is a manual safety you move to 'off' or 'on' with your thumb.

Full-size 1911A1 with this safety pointed out.
Original picture from IMFDB; arrow added by me. 

It's simple, effective, and - like any other such - has a lot of variations out there, usually involving making the shelf which your thumb presses on longer, or wider, or both. However, there is another version in which the shelf is located lower on the safety, and that's what we're looking at here.

Original (from my gun) on the left, Gunsite low mount on the right.

 As you can see, that's a large of difference in the shelf location.

Why make a lowered safety? Some people have small hands, and a lower position makes the safety easier to manipulate. In my case, it's arthritis; sometimes my thumb doesn't want to go high enough to push the safety to 'off'. On the range, that's a nuisance; in a self-defense situation, it could be bad.

I'd read about these lowered safeties, so I dug around and found two companies that make them, Wilson Combat and Gunsite, in both stainless and blued steel versions. I decided to go with the Gunsite model because the thumb shelf appears to be located lower than the Wilson model. There were warnings in the reviews that the stainless tends to have a somewhat rough finish, so I was prepared for that.

Also, be aware that a new safety may require some fitting to your pistol, and fitting a safety is one of those "If you do not fully understand what you're doing, and how to do it, DON'T DO IT, take it to a gunsmith" things because  there will probably be some polishing needed on the piece that blocks the hammer and sear (shown below) to make it perform as it should.

I'm not going into how to do that; there are some very good instructions on the subject available online if you're interesting in changing the safety on yours.  Some new safeties will actually drop-in and work perfectly, but don't count on it.

I polished the outside with some 220-grit wet-dry paper to clean up the surface. The frame on this pistol has a bead-blasted finish*, and next chance I have I'll blast this to match.  Here it is installed:

I put it through the standard function checks (adding a lot of "slap it, bang it, try to make it fail") and it passed. A couple of days later, I was able to put a box of ammo through the pistol. The safety worked perfectly, and is a lot easier for me to use than the standard issue.

We'll see how it holds up in the long term, but right now I have to say it was worth the price and work, and is something you might consider for your sidearm.

*Literally blasting the surface with glass beads

Sunday, October 1, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast #163 - Magic Carpet Ride

On a cloud of sound we drift in the night
Any place it goes is right
  • What happens when more than 350 gun-toting ladies get together? Beth travels to Utah to attend a conference by The Well-Armed Woman to find out! 
  • Man Shot By Police After Holding Pregnant Woman Hostage. Sean and Erin love a happy ending. 
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon. 
  • Miguel is NOT on assignment this week! He wants everyone to know that he’s “playing Mad Scientist with things nature never intended to be played with.”[Evil Laugh] 
  • We look deeper in the SHARE Act for our Main Topic. 
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon. 
  • Florida is hot. And not "Swedish Bikini Team" hot; it's "Dropped into pan of boiling water inside an oven" hot. So how do you keep cool when the power is out and the AC is off? Erin has some tips. 
  • Weer'd finishes his Audio Fisk sendoff of former Brady Campaign president, Dan Gross. 
  • And our Plug of the Week is for Magic Carpet Cruise Control, AKA Toyota Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. 
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.

Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -

Beating the Heat 
Without Power
As you know, most of Florida was without power for up to a week after Irma. While it does indeed suck to be away from the internet and entertainment, the biggest complaint I’ve seen has been from people who lost their air conditioning.

And this makes sense: Florida is a hot, humid place, and it suuuuuucks to be without AC. As Miguel said some weeks ago, during most of the year we Floridians essentially live in bubbles of air conditioning. But sometimes the power goes out and we’re forced to find unplugged ways to cool off. Here are some tips and tricks that ought to help.

Use water to cool off. If you have water pressure, then cool showers will rinse off the sticky sweat and lower your skin temperature. Wet hair is also the gift that keeps giving, because the longer it stays damp, the longer your head feels.

You can also sleep under a damp sheet. Don’t go overboard with this; just get a spare cotton sheet and run it under the faucet, then wring it out and spread it over you before you sleep. If you end up feeling too cold, or don’t like the feeling of wet cotton on top of you, put a towel between you and the sheet.

If you live in a multi-story building, sleep as close to the ground as possible. This is because hot air rises but cool air sinks. Now’s a great time to break out those air mattresses!

Speaking of sleeping, nap during the hottest parts of the day. If you’re hot you won’t feel like doing anything, and sleep is an excellent way to escape discomfort, so endure the afternoon heat by sleeping through it. The siesta, or post-lunch nap, is popular in Spain and Latin America for this very reason.

If you’re having difficulty sleeping during the day because of the amount of light in your room, invest in some blackout curtains for the house. These are great for a variety of reasons: not only do they block the light so you can sleep, they also prevent the house from warming up through the windows. What’s more, if you have a generator in your house and you don’t want the neighborhood to know that you have power, these curtains prevent light from leaking out at night.

I have found that I can endure higher temperatures and humidity if I can just get some air blowing on my face. Portable fans and a supply of batteries will go a long way towards personal comfort. Turn one on when you feel hot and carry it with you when you change rooms, because you don’t need to cool off the whole room, just a few feet around you. I recommend the O2COOL 5-inch portable fan - it requires two D cell batteries and only costs five dollars with free shipping on Amazon.

Finally, don’t forget about your pets. Cats and dogs get hot, too! My mother bought a pair of pressure-activated cooling gel pads for our dogs, and let me tell you, they work really well. I know this because one of our dogs refused to lie on her cooling pad -- I don’t know WHY, she’s just silly -- and so mom put that pad on her own bed and slept on it, which made her life more comfortable. When I came back home, mom gave that cooling pad to me, because I’m always hot in this house, and it’s on the back of my chair in the living room. Mm-mm, comfy!

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

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