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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.

The Fine Print

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