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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Another Side of the First Aid Kit

This is not a strictly flood-related post, but the idea was sparked by recent events caused in part by the flooding and reconstruction in my state I'm working a lot of overtime trying to take care of customers that have been left without their normal provider due to the flooding.

Like most preppers, I carry a first aid kit in my car. I generally transfer it to my work truck when I'm going to be away from my normal location, and it has been used a time or two, most recently when I saw a rental truck (straight truck, the type Penske and Ryder offer) flip over after the driver failed to slow down for a road construction site. He slammed into the car behind me, punting it into the ditch, before flipping the truck onto its side about four feet from my work truck. I stopped to render aid, called 911 as I was approaching the truck, and with the help of a few others made sure everyone was safe enough to wait for the EMTs and police to show up. Seatbelts and airbags did their job well with no one suffering any major injuries, and the EMTs were there within a very few minutes.

Revising my FAK
Adrenaline and Monday mornings don't mix well, so I sat and thought about things for a while before continuing with my day: I have my kit, and know how to use everything in it. Some of that knowledge is from training, but most of it is from experience. I've also recently down-sized the kit I keep in my vehicle. The old one was the size of a kid's book bag or small backpack and it just aged out after bouncing around for 20 years in various vehicles. I still have the basics, but I left out things that are better suited for a static kit.
  • I've never needed the blood pressure cuff in 20 years, so it got moved to the house kit.
  • Another item to go were the medium-sized gauze pads. Every wound I've run across has been either too little or too big for them, so I only carry the small 2”x2” and the large 6”x6” pads now.
  • Surgical tape replaced the cohesive bandage wrap. It takes up less space and fulfills the same role, especially in an emergency use. The CoBan is better suited for recovery or other long-term uses.
  • I removed a lot of things that I carried for palliative care, like instant ice packs and burn gels, since I don't have the same job that I did when I first assembled my kit. I stripped it down to emergency items, and sprains/small burns aren't really an emergency.
A Forgotten Necessity
Sitting there going through my kit, I noticed one glaring omission: I didn't have any biohazard bags. Vinyl gloves and other expendable items that come into contact with bodily fluids need to be properly disposed for the safety of everyone that may handle them. Blood-borne pathogen is a class all by itself, as are universal precautions (face masks, gloves, and eye protection when dealing with sick or injured people), but we need to make sure we're not spreading anything nasty after using our kits.

Biohazard bags are the red plastic bags you'll see in hospital rooms. They will have the word “Biohazard” on them and usually the international symbol for infectious waste. They are there for holding the waste generated by treating disease or injury until it can be collected and safely destroyed.

Why biohazard bags? If you're responding to an injury of a stranger, you have no way of knowing what special bugs they may be harboring. AIDs, herpes (it used to be more worrisome), MERS, hepatitis, and a long list of other easily transmitted diseases are becoming more common in the US and they can all mess up your future plans.

Everything in your kit has to be considered expendable. Don't get attached to a favorite pair of scissors, because it will probably have to be discarded after one use. Once used it all goes into the bag, which gets sealed and properly disposed of.

Disposal of the bags is another problem. When I have helped at accident scenes, I've given my sealed biohazard bags to the EMTs or ambulance crew before they leave. They're going to the nearest hospital anyway, and hospitals have procedures in place for dealing with that. I don't want to carry it around any longer than I have to, but most emergency rooms will take it off your hands if you get stuck with the bag.

Long-term treatment of injuries and disease creates a lot of waste. As an example, one of the hospitals within an hour of where I live has a specialized ward for treating Ebola patients. A few years ago they had three patients shipped in from Africa (American aid workers who got infected) and they generated 3700 pounds of contaminated waste that cost over a million dollars to dispose of. (I don't want to know who got stuck with the bills for their actual treatment; I'm trying to keep my blood pressure down.)

Disposal usually consists of incineration. If you're on your own and have a few bags full of contaminated waste, build a good pyre and make sure everything organic gets burnt to ashes. Any metal pieces will be sterilized by the heat of a prolonged fire, so make sure your pyre is hot and large enough to ensure everything gets burnt. Don't just toss the bag onto a campfire! You want to use a concentrated, hot fire to make sure everything burns without being carried away in the smoke.

Alternate methods of disposal include deep burial, high-pressure steam (autoclave) cleaning, or lots of strong bleach. If there is anything nasty running around, like plague or one of the various “foreign” diseases, I'd opt for the fire.

Carry your first aid kit, know how to use what you carry, and know how to dispose of the waste after you've used it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Prudent Prepping: EDC IFAK Update

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

Back in February and then again in March, I mentioned starting to seriously carry first aid gear all the time. (It's important to look at the source posts linked in both blogs for the background and reasons for what I now have.) Now that it's the middle of May,  I need to report on how carrying it feels.

Maxpedition PLP EDC Case

Maxpedition PLP case being worn by the author

I have worn this case every day at work since February. I have tried moving the case around, and the best place seems to be right here, on my right hip. (I'm left-handed but use tools easily in both hands, so putting the pouch in different places didn't bother me). My work pouch is on my left hip and extends far enough back that it isn't comfortable putting the PHP behind it. 

Another good reason for putting it on the right is that despite how light the full PHP case is, I find it to be just enough added weight to pull my pants down even more on my left side.  

One minor irritation is how extra bulky the pouch feels when driving. The bucket seats in my Accord push the bag right into my hip bone, which leads me to think I wouldn't be able to wear it if I were driving longer distances.

Since I started wearing the Maxpedition PLP, I've considered not carrying the Adventure Medical Kit (mentioned here) from last year. I've kept it in my lunch box (which is close to me all day), moving it into my sling bag for the weekends. It's still is in my box, and I can't quite convince myself to take it out, since it has a wider selection of sterile pads. I still have a tiny box of band-aids and tube of triple antibiotic cream in my lunch box, along with some acetaminophen and allergy pills. 

Surprisingly, no one on my team has asked what the pouch is or what's inside! These are people who are around me more than anyone else, and who are working closely enough to tell who ate what for lunch. One random store guy asked about the pouch, thinking it might have been another cell phone of something similar. He was quite keen to see what was packed into the case and why I carry it, but after an explanation and a look at the contents he seemed to lose interest. so I don't know whether to try and spark further conversations or not. I don't see this guy every week, but the next time I do, I'll try to see where the conversation goes.

Recap and Takeaway
  • For me, carrying more first aid gear is better. 
  • Being able to carry it effectively is important, too.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but the Maxpedition PHP can be found on Amazon for $17.10 with Prime  
  • The Adventure Medical Kit is on Amazon for $18.99 with Prime

* * *

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, May 14, 2019

Burn Treatment Basics

Fire is what separates us from the animals. It lets us cook food, stay warm without fur (no matter what my beard may lead you to believe), light the darkness, and perform countless other tasks. But with the ability to heat things comes the risk of burns, and that risk brings the need to be able to treat those burns to prevent serious, lasting harm.

I got a pretty decent first degree burn on a recent outing; a BSA Scoutmaster who was with us saw me treating it, and commented that it looked like good Boy Scout medicine. I acknowledged that yes, that was exactly where I had learned the skill. It dawned on me since then that a significant number of our readers didn't have that same experience growing up, and could benefit from a quick review.

(Nota bene: This is for minor burns only, first and very light second degree. Burns over large portions of the body, or significant second degree or any third degree burns require immediate, specialized medical treatment. If you have that kind of injury, make haste to the nearest emergency department.)

  1. Remove whatever is causing the burning. Get anything hot off the skin and away from the body. Usually this is an instinctive act, a reaction to get the hurting thing away, but it needs to be said in the rare case that the heat source lingers.
  2. Remove the heat that was imparted to the body during the burning. Cool (not cold) running water is the very best way to do this. 
    • Be sure not to use cold water! While it may seem logical to apply as much cold as possible to counteract the heat, this can actually shock the body and cause more harm. Tepid water is a much gentler way to cool the area, and works almost as quickly.
    • If running water isn't available, cool wet cloths will work. For my burn, we used a couple clean rags that we wetted with a water bottle. It took 20-30 minutes to completely cool the area, but I felt relief from the burning sensation immediately.
  3. Apply a burn relief cream or ointment. Aloe vera is by far the most popular of these in my part of the world, but a wide variety of alternatives exist. They feature various combinations of curatives, including antiseptic, analgesic, and moisturizing elements, intended to soothe pain and speed healing. Find the combination that works for you and run with it.
    • Do not apply ointments or creams before the burn has been cooled! They can trap heat, prolonging and worsening the burn. Just use water until the skin is cool to the touch.

In my particular case, I was both an excellent and terrible Scout. I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I stayed calm and collected. I didn't have water or rags immediately at hand, but I grabbed a can of soda from my cooler (not iced, but cool from a night in the refrigerator) and rolled it across the burned area while I located a friend with the supplies I needed. I didn't have any burn cream in my bag, but knew where to find a big first aid kit that did. (My first aid kit is constantly evolving, as yours should be. It has historically been tuned for major trauma, but is slowly evolving to handle "urgencies"as well as "emergencies.") The end results were some worthwhile lessons learned, some new action plans put into place, and no evidence of a burn within 4 hours.

Burns hurt. You can make the hurting stop.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Scrubbing Rust and Using Rope

I'm cleaning off the $5 tools I bought last week with a bottle of Gunzilla, my favorite rust remover and metal protector.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Are You Prepared to Share?

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
"Do I share my preps with the unprepared or do I keep them for myself?" is an age-old prepper question with, unfortunately, no good answers.

On the one hand, it makes cold-blooded sense not to share with other people in an emergency or after a disaster; after all, anything you give to them now is a resource you won't have later when you might need it. If you have a family, the stakes become higher: why should you risk their health and well-being by taking away from them to give to a stranger? And what if others hear about it and come begging -- or worse, demanding, that demand backed up by force of arms?

On the other hand, will your conscience allow you to send away the sickly, the starving and the cold empty-handed? What if they have children with them? There's not much point in having a lifetime's worth of food if you can't live with yourself, and if you lose your essential humanity in the name of protecting your family then you risk alienating them as you become emotionally hardened.

Fortunately, there are options between "Give" and "Don't Give".

"Security through Obscurity" is a classic because it works well and requires the least effort. If no one knows you are there, then they won't show up asking for handouts. As a bonus, if you do decide to help someone, a sufficiently hidden location can make it hard for others to follow in their footsteps; moreso if you're able to camouflage the trail or alter the appearance of your base after they leave. 

Direct Them to a Cache
Many preppers keep caches of supplies buried or otherwise hidden within a few miles of their bug-out locations in case their BOL is lost to disaster or enemy action and they need to evacuate quickly. If the cache is large enough or the group small enough (and of course if you feel you can afford to give it up), you can give them directions to a cache along with instructions of "Don't come back." A cache far enough away, combined with a suitable threat ("If you return we'll regard you as invaders and shoot") can be a good compromise. 

Set Them a Task
Bartering services for goods is a time-honored practice. Is there a task that you can't spare the manpower to do, or is highly unpleasant or even dangerous? Give them the opportunity to earn supplies by doing a task for you, and you both come out ahead. What's more, if you like the quality of their work and they pass whatever "sniff tests" you have, you might just decide they'd be an asset to your group and invite them to stay full time. 

These are just three examples, but there are certainly more. As much as it may make practical sense to say "My supplies are for me and mine; the rest of you aren't my problem," many people will have a severe ethical opposition to that position. Think of ways you can help those in need during or after a disaster, so that you can still be a decent person without putting yourself or those who depend on you at risk. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Solar Wireless Charger

After buying a new cell phone, I started looking around for accessories for it. Since my new phone uses a new-style USB C charging port, I had to buy new cables for it, but it also has the ability to charge wirelessly using the Qi format charging stations. Although the Qi system has been around for a decade or so, I've never used anything set up for it so I had to do some research before I started using it. It turns out that Qi has become the standard for wireless charging, and is being offered in new cars and in places that see a lot of transient foot traffic like coffee shops and airports. Even Apple has given in and is making their phones compatible with the system.

A normal Qi charger is a flat pad upon which you lay a suitable phone, and it charges the battery in the phone by use of an induction field. Induction is the property that makes transformers work and is related to the physics behind most electrical generators: If you pass a wire through a magnetic field, a small electric current is created (induced) in the wire. Generators typically spin a coil of wire through a strong magnetic field, although there are some types that spin a magnet inside of a coil to get the same results. Radio transmission uses the same physics, the magnetic properties of a radio wave passing over a conductor known as an antenna creates a weak electrical current that is then amplified to the where it can be turned into sound.The Qi system uses a coil of thin wire inside the phone's casing and a rapidly cycling magnetic field in the charger to create an alternating current (AC) in the phone, which is then rectified to the proper DC power needed to charge the battery.

I started looking around at various chargers on the market, but the $50 price on most of those made by reputable companies was too much for my budget (the new phone ate into my discretionary funds budget), and I didn't really want to buy something with only one use. I also typically carry a small backup (external) battery for all of the electronic toys I use, but my new phone came with a 3200 mAhr battery and that's more than most small backup batteries can hold. While looking for a battery with more capacity, I found this Qi charger with built-in solar panels and a few other features I liked, so I spent the $37 and got one delivered.

A short list of the features:
  • waterproof
  • dustproof
  • 10,000 mAhr capacity
  • 2 USB A ports rated at 2.1A each
  • standard micro-USB charging port
  • LED flashlight
  • 800 mA solar panels
  • FAA compliant, so you can have it in your carry-on luggage
  • just slightly larger that my new phone in its case
  • Qi compatible wireless charging

I've been using it while working at remote locations for the last two weeks and have come to a few conclusions:
  • The waterproof/dustproof claim is due to the construction and a rubber plug over the ports. It has survived light rain and a lot of dust in a short period of time, so we'll see how it stands up to the rest of the year's work.
  • 10,000 mAhr of power is enough to recharge both my phone (3200 mAhr) and tablet (4200mAhr) from completely dead to full charge and still have enough left to top off my e-cigarette. Lately I've been working in areas way beyond my normal service area, so I've been relying on digital maps and satellite photos for up to 16 hours a day. This battery is large enough to keep me going.
  • Having 2 USB ports is great when I have to charge the phone and tablet at the same time. The high-speed charge (2.1A) ports are designed for newer electronics and will “throttle” back for older items. Being able to plug the battery pack into my home charger overnight ensures that I start the day with a full backup.
  • The LED flashlight is behind a translucent panel on the back of the battery pack. It puts out a nice glow instead of a bright spot of light, but it's more than enough to see around you at night.
  • The 800mAhr solar panels fold up nicely over the battery pack and are held closed by a strip of Velcro. They are mounted on a vinyl/pleather material and sewn in so they aren't going to get lost. There are no visible wiring or connectors, which adds to the waterproof capabilities and reduces points of failure. 
    • The downside is that at 800 mAhr, it will take at least 12 hours of direct sunlight to fully charge the battery pack. The charging indicator starts to light up under most sources of light, but there is no way to tell how much the panels are putting out. I drained the battery pack and have not had a cloudless day since, and about 20 hours of diffuse light hasn't fully charged it yet.
  • Being only a little bigger than my phone, it fits in my lunchbox nicely and will fit in a coat pocket or small compartment of a backpack easily.
  • The Qi system wireless charging works on my phone, although you have to heed the warnings about the charger: since it produces a moderate magnetic field, you don't want to get credit cards or any other items with a magnetic strip too close while charging your phone or it can erase the data on the card.
  • Since the battery pack has two USB ports on it and it came with a short micro-USB cable for charging, I would have liked to see a place for storing cables. I may have to modify mine a bit and add an external pouch so I don't have cables laying around loose when it's not in use.

For what I paid, this seems like a decent addition to my preps. Having a way to recharge my phone and other various electronics gives me access to more information and tools to make life simpler. Storing 100GB of manuals and books on the tablet only works if I have some way to power it, and the new phone has several new sensors and options that the old phone didn't. I'll come back in a year or so and report on how well it stands the test of time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Reading Pile, pt 2

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

I finished The Book I Can't Recommend from last week. I can't remember the last book I didn't read all the way through; lately I've become more discerning, or possibly less of a risk taker in the books I buy or borrow, which means I don't start bad books. However, since this was a book a friend asked me what I thought, I had to finish it. 

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life 
by Neil Strauss
I have to say the book has grown on me, if just a little bit. There still are all the red flags I mentioned in last weeks post:
  • Odd titles and topics
  • Strange topics strung together in a chapter
  • Weird chronology, like chapters mentioning 1999 in a book published in 2009
  • Where and how to hide money off-shore
  • How to establish a second residency and get another passport.
In all of this, however,  there are still some good topics: 
  • A really nice endorsement of CERT training
  • Discussion of how to make a realistic prepping plan
  • Building a GHB and BOB

Yes, the book actually makes several good points. No, I still won't recommend it as a book to buy new. In my opinion, there is just too much garbage to be worth paying full price for it, but if a copy can be found used for less than $5, I say give it a try.

If I was going to spend full price or recommend a book to a friend, there are many, many choices before this book would come to mind. Les Stroud is a personal favorite, and I'm giving a copy of Survive! to the guy who loaned this book to me. 

Unfortunately, I might have to place this book right at the bottom of my book list, beside another, much more popular book, written by an odd author. 

Takeaway and Recap
  • I have the same points and reservations as last week
  • If this book wasn't from a friend, I probably wouldn't have finished it.
  • Nothing was purchased this week.

* * *

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, May 7, 2019

Guest Post: Electrolyte Replacement Drinks

by Stephanie Osborn

I first started using electrolyte replacement drinks when I was active in equestrian sports, baking my brains out under a riding helmet in an open field without any shade at all. In a humid Alabama summer with heat indices well over 105ยบ F, wearing protective body armor on top of a hot, sweating horse gets hot for the rider fast. When I suffered heat exhaustion verging on heatstroke on the field one day, I realized I needed to start doing something to replenish fluids and electrolytes, so I started grabbing a couple of quart bottles of that old standby, Gatorade, throwing them in a cooler, and heading out to my event. I’d pull out my chilled bottle and down it over the course of the event, often working well into a second quart by the end of the event. Problem solved... or so I thought.

As it turns out, that didn’t work so well. I started having a lot of problems with fluid retention, even developing rather severe vertigo on several occasions, becoming so dizzy I was unable to stand, which was sufficient to send me to a doctor. That’s when I found out I needed to do something different.

According to many doctors to whom I’ve talked, most commercial electrolyte fluids actually do not do that great a job at replacing electrolytes. Sure, they replace sodium and potassium, but at very high levels, which means they contain too much sodium. Most doctors I’ve talked to recommend diluting them with plain water by at least half; some have recommended 1 part “electrolyte replacement” to 3 parts plain water. They also don't provide any of the other minerals the body uses as electrolytes.

According to Medical News Today, and substantiated by several similar sources, the electrolytes needed by the human body include (but I suspect may not be limited to):
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Bicarbonate
  • Magnesium
  • Chloride/chlorine
  • Phosphate
That’s a wee bit longer list than the standard sodium & potassium found in most sports drinks, huh?

In addition to Loki’s recommendation, two I’ve used successfully in the past include Emergen-C  (avoid the varieties with caffeine if you are trying to replace fluids), and Energy-C with Electrolytes, by Swanson. Emergen-C has also come out with a line specific to electrolyte replacement, called Hydration. (I haven’t tried this one yet.)

All of these come in a box of convenient one-serving packets, though not infrequently I only use part of a packet per bottle of water — since one packet can make around 2 quarts, at 30 packs per box, you’ve got a couple months of daily hydration and electrolyte replacement. If you’re working out really heavily in the heat, you might boost usage to one per day, but even so that’s not too rough on the billfold price-wise.

Another option is something called “sole,” pronounced “SOH-lay.” This is a drink consisting of Himalayan salt (designated halite, but containing far more mineral salts than table salt’s sodium chloride.) Sole is made by placing a large chunk of Himalayan salt (like this) in a non-metallic jar/lid (Tupperware or Rubbermaid containers work well) and covering with room-temperature water, then setting it aside and allowing the chunk to dissolve in the water. This process can take as long as a couple of days; the warmer the room, the faster it progresses. Don’t try to heat the water, though, or you’ll end up with a super-saturated solution which makes things complicated.

This dissolution process makes a fully saturated solution — DO NOT DRINK THIS SOLUTION. It will be far too strong and will make you very ill in numerous ways! — so instead, take anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of this saturated solution (the quantity depends on your taste and your electrolyte needs) and mix it in at least 8 oz. of plain/filtered/distilled water (which can be chilled or not to your preference; I use filtered chilled), then drink that.

The resulting dilution will still taste very salty, but I find that the more I need it, the better it tastes, and I know I no longer need it when the saltiness becomes unpleasant. Furthermore, unless I've been doing some serious exertion in the heat, I typically only drink one of the above glasses per day. If I’ve been doing a lot of activity in the heat, I'll drink a glass after the exertion, then a glass morning and evening for the next few days until I start to lose the taste for it. That’s when I know I can stop. Although in the summer in the South, at least half a glass a day is not a bad plan if you’re outdoors a good bit, or without air conditioning.

Unlike plain table salt dissolved in water, I never have a problem with fluid retention when consuming sole, and it minimizes any muscle cramps, which for me usually aren't the result of sodium depletion, but rather that of potassium, magnesium, etc. When I first started using this, I was frankly skeptical, expecting to have problems with the amount of sodium (fluid retention, vertigo, etc.) yet still having problems with muscle cramps and overheating. Much to my surprise, none of that happened. What's more, my natural tendency toward muscle cramps (including the dreaded nighttime leg cramps) diminishes drastically when I am regularly consuming the stuff.

I keep a small jar of the concentrate in my kitchen all the time now. Refrigeration is not only not necessary, but will cause the salts to leave the solution, weakening it. Should I need to take it with me, I simply throw the container into my travel bag, along with a plastic dose cup, and go. I have to admit, however, that grabbing a handful of packets out of the box of Emergen-C or Energy-C is a lot easier for travel.

In conclusion, there are quite a few options other than the prepared sports drinks that are suitable for fluid and electrolyte replacement, and they'll do quite well for your needs. Best of all, they’re portable.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monthly Prepper Budget Part 2

Last week I spent $15 of the monthly $45 that used to go to Crate Club. This week I show you what I spent $5 and why it's a great deal for a prepper.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Concealed Carry Insurance

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Many of you carry pistols for self defense. Nearly all of you have insurance of some form. But do you have concealed carry insurance (CCI)? If you don't, you should get it immediately.

Why Have Concealed Carry Insurance?
Regardless of how you feel about the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman, he serves as a perfect example of why you should have an insurance plan in case you need to shoot someone in self defense. Even if you don't end up in jail and facing charges, you may still need assistance:
  • Your carry gun may be seized as evidence. A good CCI program can expedite the return of your firearm or help you obtain a replacement. 
  • You might be sued in civil court by the family of your assailant, and you will need legal help to win the case. (Fun fact: while criminal charges require "Beyond a reasonable doubt" in order to secure a conviction, civil court only requires a "Preponderance of evidence" for the plaintiff to win a judgement against you. This is a much lower bar, and therefore your odds of success are lower. You'll need a good lawyer.)
  • You will in all likelihood need psychological counseling. Even the most well-adjusted person in the most righteous self-defense shooting will feel some degree of guilt and social anxiety over it (Massad Ayoob calls this the Mark of Cain Syndrome) and suffer a disruption in sleep patterns. CCI can cover this treatment, or just pay the deductible if you already have health insurance. 
Read the story of Paul Lathrop from 2016 for an example of someone who never even drew his pistol and yet was arrested because someone falsely claimed he brandished a firearm and made threats. He certainly could have used CCI insurance at the time! (He has it now.)

What Kind Should I Get?
There are many fine CCI companies out there. I have a United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) membership, but many of my friends use the Armed Citizen's Legal Defense Network (ACLDN) or US Law Shield.

Whichever plan you get, make sure it has the following:
  • Coverage which pays out immediately upon notification that you've been in a shooting. This is why I cannot recommend NRA Carry Guard; it only pays out after criminal charges are filed, and only up to 20% of your coverage; the remaining 80% is a reimbursement that pays out only if charges are dropped, the case is dismissed, or you are found Not Guilty. In case it needs pointing out, lawyers are expensive and you might not be able to afford a good one with only 20% of your payout, which drastically reduces the chances of you being declared Not Guilty. 
  • Coverage which protects you in all circumstances. For example, both NRA Carry Guard and Second Call defense cover you only if you use a firearm in self-defense; if you kill an assailant in self defense with a knife, or a club, or other improvised weapon including your hands, they won't help. CCW Safe won't cover force used against family members, so if you're in a domestic violence situation you're out of luck. 
  • The highest coverage you can afford. I don't make a lot of money, but I still pay $30/month for coverage. It's actually cheaper than my car insurance and far more important  I can do without my car, but not without my freedom. 

In Summation
  • If you carry a pistol for self-defense, concealed carry insurance is as necessary as a good holster, spare magazine, and tourniquet. 
  • Do Not Skimp On Coverage. If you end up using it, the quality of your insurance may mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment, or financial freedom and bankruptcy. 
  • Compare different programs to make sure you're getting what you want, and what you pay for. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Hearing Aids after SHTF

While checking on another social medium, I saw someone ask about what to do about hearing aids in an emergency. He was worried because most hearing aids (the in-the-ear type) use tiny batteries which have a short life (3-7 days of use).  Being basically deaf without his hearing aids, he was looking for options or advice on how to stay alive without being able to hear much.

There were several tongue-in-cheek answers that suggested finding an “ear trumpet,” one of the old metal funnels that gather sound when you stick the small end in your ear. A few other people chimed in to suggest stockpiling batteries since the type used are not rechargeable and have a moderate shelf-life (2-4 years). I sent him a link to a cheap on-body style hearing aid like those used 50 years ago and which uses more common rechargeable AAA batteries, then I started researching hearing aids. I’ve been careful with my hearing, using ear plugs or muffs when around loud noises, but I have friends and family that weren’t as prudent.

Hearing is one of the more important senses for maintaining Situational Awareness, especially after dark. As we’ve mentioned in the past, knowing what is going on around you is a big part of being able to avoid trouble. Being able to hear someone or something approaching will give you an opportunity to avoid unwanted interactions that can vary from wildlife entering your camp, to muggers/thugs following you in the street, to approaching bad weather.
Hearing is also important for Operational Security. You’ve probably been around people who are hard of hearing who have their TV/radio/phone turned up to max volume; they’re mildly annoying under normal circumstances, but will be easy to find in a SHTF situation. When you can’t hear how much noise you’re making, it’s hard to move quietly. And that can spell death in a dangerous situation.

Modern in-ear hearing aids use zinc/air cells as a power supply; a good overview of hearing aid batteries can be found here. Zinc/air cells use the oxygen in air reacting with zinc to produce electricity and are a primary cell. I believe I’ve covered the differences between primary and secondary cells in one of my posts about batteries; to summarize, primary cells consume a material to produce electricity and can’t easily be recharged, while secondary cells use a reversible chemical reaction to produce electricity, and can be charged. Primary cells tend to produce more power per ounce than secondary cells, so they’re a good choice for something as small as a hearing aid, but they are disposable.

The fairly short shelf-life comes from the fact that the batteries are designed to react with air. Unless you have some way of storing them in an oxygen-free container, they’re only going to last about 4 years from the date of manufacture. Typical “alkaline” AA or AAA batteries will sit around for up to 10 years and still provide power.

The largest common zinc/air cell provides 845 milli-Watt-hour (mWh) of power. Compare that to a standard AAA at 1850 mWh or a standard AA at 4200 mWh, both of which can be found in rechargeable forms, and you'll see it's time to start looking for a solution that uses a more common battery.
A quick search on Amazon found this pocket amplifier. At less than $30, it fits in a pocket, uses AAA batteries, and boosts sound by 110dB (enough to be painful). This would be worth looking into if you need a backup for your in-the-ear hearing aids. There are several others like it on Amazon; just search for “pocket hearing aid.” If your hearing is poor in both ears, look for one that has stereo microphones and ear plugs to help with your ability to locate the source of a noise.
An alternative that isn’t as comfortable for long-term use would be a pair of sound-amplifying ear muffs. Commonly found in hunting supply stores, they usually have moderate amplifying ability with an electronic cut-off if the incoming sound is too loud (like a gunshot). I have a couple of pairs of shooting muffs for hearing protection; one of them does have decent amplification, but it uses up batteries pretty fast. I’d guesstimate that the $50 pair I own would suck a pair of AAA batteries dry in about two days of constant use.

Your hearing is an important survival tool. Take care of it, and if it's diminished, make the most of it. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Prudent Prepping: One For The Reading Pile

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

My close friends know that I am a prepper, so I get asked some odd questions and see some funny links and articles. I also get some books that I don’t really know how to classify, or know whether to keep or pass back after reading. This is one of those books.

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life 
by Neil Strauss
This book is really difficult to categorize. Really, really hard. I’m only about halfway through it and the topics veer around like a drunk rollerblader on an ice arena. You have these chapter headings:
  • Orientation
  • Five Steps
  • Escape
  • Survive
  • Rescue
Seems pretty normal, right? Some of those titles could have come right out of a Les Stroud book, no problem. But let me share several sub-chapter headings with you:
  • How To Become Immortal In One Easy Step is discussing cryo-freezing yourself;
  • Why They Hate Us But Like Our Movies, a modern take on Bread and Circuses;
  • The Britney Spears School Of Pregnant Surfing, a segue from celebrity ghost writing to leaving the country.
From the back cover: 
  • Why You Should Think of the Zoo as a Restaurant
  • Proper Care and Handling of Hawaiian Tropic Girls
  • Where to Swim Across the Border
  • Bikes of the Apocalypse
After looking at who the author is, his other books and for whom he writes (the New York Times), this book reads to me like a collection of articles that was pitched to, and rejected by, the NYT editors. I say this after looking at the copyright page (2009), and also after noting that one of the chapters mentions preparations for the Y2K non-disaster. All of this isn’t necessarily a Bad Thing, but it is not what I was expecting to read.

Again I admit that I am only 1/3 to 1/2 through the book, and once I got over the style of writing, I have a better feel for this book. It isn’t a survival guide or a lesson plan, but rather how this particular man went about learning how to start prepping. Right from the first chapter, where he admits to being nauseated thinking about slaughtering and dressing a goat, Neil Strauss obviously doesn't have a practical background. That’s really okay, since many of us didn’t grow up on farms and had limited chances to hunt and dress game. As a writer for the Times, Strauss gets a chance to ‘fail spectacularly’ by interviewing fringe groups and meeting odd characters, with few consequences other than a girlfriend that appears to be less and less willing to go along with some of the wilder stunts.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book as a Must Read today, since many things have changed in the 10 years since it was published, but I would list it as a book to read for the parts that apply to how Blue Collar Prepping works. It’s just going take some work to filter out those parts.

The Takeaway
  • Something that looks like a good book but seems poor at first may have some interesting bits if you stick it out.
The Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week; the book is a loaner from a friend.
  • EMERGENCY by Neil Strauss is available from Amazon for $13.80 with Prime, or Kindle for $10.49.

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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.

Prudent Prepping: April Buffet Post

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

Here is my (almost) End of the Month Post! A wrap-up of the move, organizing and several small topics.

The Neighborhood
Things are pretty good, so far. In the old place, many people were retired, or had younger families with kids. Here, there don’t appear to be many retired folks; it’s mostly younger couples and families with kids. That’s nice except for the noise, which isn’t bad now, but when school is out could/will be worse. If I didn’t turn in at the same time as the average 8-year-old, I wouldn’t mind. Really!

With moving things up 24 steps just to get to the front door and then to the second floor, some serious weeding was done. I did take some canned goods to my local food bank, but I also carried some to work. There is a cabinet in the break room where people can find things for lunch, if they don’t have anything to eat. Occasionally someone brings loaves of day-old bread and packages of cookies. I decided to drop off some of my goods because if my co-workers don’t have food for lunch, what are the odds that dinner might be lacking also? Five cans of pasta sauce, five 1lb. packages of pasta, and five cans of chicken breasts were donated here.

The five 7-gal. water jugs I own were dumped-out before the move and refilled here. There was no way I was bringing 60lb jugs all this way. Yes, I know tap water will not go stale in half a year, but I dump, rinse and refill regularly. I’m still trying to decide where the best place is to store everything. These houses have been here since the 70’s, so the many earthquakes and seasonal heavy rains don’t seem to have bothered them. The obvious storage location seems to be in the garage, which is under the main floor. The problem I have with that is that the garage is built into the hillside — the equivalent of a ‘walk-out’ basement. If anything happens, I’m afraid my preps could be buried. For the time being, everything is being split between the garage and a large closet on the main level.

Personal Safety
We are still working on a first and second set of meet-up spots, given where everyone works, and how many freeway over- and under-passes are between our various jobs and home. Phone numbers were easy: everyone took everyone else’s “Outside the Area” contact, and one local contact, and added those to our phones. I’m trying to make everyone think about how to get out of this place as quickly as possible, and where to meet if there is a disaster when everyone is home. It’s a work in progress, but I’m seeing results.

Recap and Takeaway
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but my shopping list has long-term storeable food at the top of the page.
  •  Plans are closer to the end of the first draft, one of many. 
* * *

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.

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