Friday, May 31, 2019


Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
As I've mentioned before, I am prone to headaches. This year I've had a particularly large crop of them, sometimes every other day or so. At first I thought this was just due to the weather; Hurricane Season in Florida begins in May, which means it's also thunderstorm season and that means storm fronts pushing pressure fronts ahead of them. If the barometric pressure drops quickly, I develop sinus headaches because my allergies cause sinus congestion which prevents the pressure within my sinuses from equalizing quickly.

However, I soon noticed a few things:
  1. The headaches didn't always correspond with weather changes, nor were they always sinus in nature. Many of them felt vascular (dealing with blood vessels) and it often felt like the veins in my head were throbbing and constricting as blood pounded through them. 
  2. They frequently happened after I performed an activity involving strain (carrying in heavy bags of corn) or after family members deciding it was a good time to have a screaming fight with each other. 
One day, after a particularly bad headache that ate most of the afternoon, I decided on a lark to check my blood pressure to see if that was causing my headaches. My mother has an Omron blood pressure monitor and I asked her to show me how it worked. I don't recall what the reading was, but it was high enough that she expressed concern. I thought it was high because of the headache, and resolved to take more readings at the same time each day. 

However, I became distracted by work and forgot to do that for a week, possibly more. It wasn't until yesterday -- a very crappy, stressful day -- that I decided I'd check because I could feel my blood pressure rising. 

It was high. Amazingly high. "Get thee to the doctor" high. I figured it couldn't be right, so I waited until everyone in the house was in bed, I was sitting comfortably, and after an hour of "me time" to settle my nerves. Here's what it read:

That's definitely not good. I'm not a doctor, but I know that if that isn't a fluke then I have Stage 2 Hypertension.

I took this after I woke up today. I had a good nights sleep, felt completely rested, and hadn't yet had any coffee (or, in fact, anything):

All right, this is definitely a pattern, I thought. So now the question becomes "What do I do about it?"  I don't have a job that provides me with health insurance, and I don't make enough money that paying out of pocket for a series of doctor's visits is feasible long-term. (I also don't think that the world owes me anything, so I refuse to steal from other people by enrolling in the ACA.)

I've been told that blood pressure medications are very affordable even without insurance, but first I need that pesky prescription to get one. I've decided to visit the local free clinic, which is an option a lot of low-preppers may not realize exists. Because it's a charity and not government funded, I won't feel like I'm stealing from people. They don't accept new patients until Monday, however, so I can't do anything about this until then except continue to monitor myself and hope that this spike in BP was an anomaly. 

I measured myself right before supper and the systolic is slowly going down. 

So what prepping lessons can we learn from this?
  1. It's a good idea to have a blood pressure monitor in the house. If mom hadn't had one I wouldn't have thought to check mine, and months from now I could have a heart attack or stroke. 
  2. Check your vitals at a regular interval once you're in middle age.  If I had been checking my BP sooner (like I intended) I could have gotten ahead of this sooner. 
  3. Don't immediately assume the worst. I admit that I'm greatly concerned that I'm not healthy like I thought, but instead have hypertension. But I'm going to measure myself 3 or more times a day this weekend, and hopefully my resting blood pressure will continue to drop. I have no illusions that it will be "normal", but if I'm lucky I 'll simply have an elevated BP. I'm more likely to have stage 1 hypertension, but I'll take that over stage 2!
  4. Have options for treatment.  There are ways to get medical attention in this world even if you don't have health insurance. For example, if you have the cash then the Minute Clinic at a local CVS can see you without an appointment. If you don't have a lot of money, then see if you qualify for treatment at a local free clinic. 

The only thing you truly have in this world is your body. Keep it healthy, because the only thing the world owes you is death. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Cheap Car FAK

Since school is out for the year around here, a couple of my younger friends decided to go camping for a week. They're 17 and 18 years old, and asked for my help getting things together for a week in the woods. I found them a place to stay that has shelter available in case their tent wasn't enough for the rain we've been getting (the hail storm on the first night made them move to the shelter), and got them settled in.

One of them has camped before, the other has never slept outside of a city. We went over the basics like food, water, clothes, and bug spray but neither one of them brought a first aid kit (FAK). Since they're stationary and don't have to carry everything around, I grabbed a spare FAK out of my truck bag, it's slightly smaller than the FAK that stays in the truck and stays in the get home bag (GHB) that rides behind the seat. I can fall back on the truck FAK until I get the smaller one back in a week, and I don't want them playing in the woods without at least a basic FAK.

The FAK I keep in my GHB is a military surplus vehicle FAK. I got mine from a supply sergeant that was cleaning out his supply room; the hard plastic case had gotten cracked and it was no longer fit for duty. These are expendable items, so replacing it was simple for him and it would have gone into the trash if I hadn't taken it.

Amazon doesn't sell this particular kit, but I have found them at a few surplus stores and online at Duluth Trading for between $30 and $40.

The hard plastic case is roughly 3” tall making it easy to slide under a car seat, and 5.5” x 7.5” wide and long. It has a hinged lid and a waterproof rubber seal to keep the contents safe (mine had a crack in the bottom that I sealed up with epoxy) and some versions have a carrying handle with mounting holes on the back. Inside you'll find:

  • 1 small roll of 1” surgical tape
  • 1 small bottle of iodine solution (disinfectant) or 10 iodine swabs in the newer kits
  • 1 small pair of bandage scissors, the type with a rounded tip on one jaw to slide under bandages
  • 1 surgical blade, basically a sterile X-acto blade for making incisions
  • 1 eye dressing, basically a sterile eye patch for covering a wound to the eye
  • 1 2” x 12' elastic bandage
  • 1 field compress, a compression bandage with ties attached
  • 1 triangular bandage, probably the most versatile part of the kit
  • 3 field dressings, compressed gauze pads for stopping bleeding
  • 2 3” x 18' gauze wraps
  • 18 3/4” band-aids for minor injuries
  • 3 3” x 36” petrolatum-soaked gauze bandages for burns. *
  • 4 latex gloves
* The petrolatum-soaked gauze is a questionable burn treatment. If advanced care is close, most places teach covering burns with a clean, dry cloth to keep debris and infection out. The military uses petrolatum (Vaseline) coated gauze to create a more waterproof seal around a burn, which makes sense if your hospital is quite a distance away. The Vaseline will add a step or two to the treatment once a doctor is available and will keep the burnt skin more pliable until you get to the hospital.

I've modified the contents of my kit a bit, adding more band-aids, changing the latex gloves out for vinyl to prevent latex allergic reactions, and stuffing a few other things into the corners. I don't have the kit with me right now or I'd have a better list. Everything fits, but the case is packed quite full and I usually have to take most of the contents out to get to what I want.

For a general purpose FAK, it lives up to its name and serves its purpose quite well. You should find one like it in every military vehicle (they're supposed to be issued to everything that moves) and they're common at surplus shops and gun shows. I like my regular vehicle kits that I have assembled over the years, but it's nice to have something like this that I can hand off if I need to.

I've checked in on my young friends a few times. I don't want to bother them, but I do need to make sure they're all right. Other than having to go up and show them how to start a campfire after the first night (they're city kids), they seem to be enjoying the fresh air and lack of distractions. They have plenty of food and water, and have learned that it gets cold at night out in the woods. They also weren't ready for the birds waking them up before sunrise. I'm hoping the rain lets up enough for at least one cloudless night so they can experience a true night sky, as it will be the first for one of them.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Spring, Maybe

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

I'm somewhat embarrassed to be talking about planning a fishing trip in the coming weeks, what with many of my friends dealing with terrible weather.

The weather here has been odd too, just not as odd as the rest of the country. Ski resorts at Tahoe are still operating with new snow last weekend, with one area to the south thinking they will be operating as late as the 4th of July! I'm not heading anyplace at altitude, so snow is off the planning chart, but rain is still a possibility. 

What's my plan? Have fun and relax!
Camping Is Low-Stress Bugging Out
I came to this conclusion after going over a gear list with my potential fishing buddy. I'm still getting organized from the move (still too many totes for my share of the storage space), and some of the non-necessities are hard to find. Still. I can just grab the High Sierra backpack my co-bloggers gifted me several years ago for the basic items in it already, but there are more things I would like to take:
  • I want to take better pans and my bigger stove, that is if I can find them. I don't need them, but having them will make things easier. 
  • Food is not a problem, as we are camping in a semi-improved campground close to a general store-type place. We are driving right to the spot and only need to buy ice to keep things fresh. 
  • We both have tents, but per the rules we can only set up one. We might not need one if the weather gets back to the normal spring conditions of no rain and temperatures getting up close to 80. 
  • Most of my fishing gear is at my folks' place, and I need to put new line on all my poles and see what sort of shape the lures are in. Conditions are changing here almost daily, and how we fish is going to depend on the recommendation of the locals. Personally, I'm happy to just go and drown worms for two days instead of beating the water to a froth, since going fishing is my goal and catching anything is a bonus!

And Now The Maybe Part
I heard from a friend in Arkansas about the expected flooding on the Arkansas River. From the reports I see, it's a major disaster, but from his report, not so much. Flooding is expected, but not the level seen in Iowa, Nebraska and parts north from there. Tornadoes have come close to many, many Facebook friends and those don't seem to be slowing down at all. Since tornadoes are what some consider normal spring weather, I have to assume those in affected areas have plans in place.

Here, the late rains may mean a delayed fire season or, worse case, a very bad year again. The forecasters can't seem to make up their minds. I guess that makes me lucky to not have my house washed away or blown into the next county. Fire is possible but not likely, but my bug out plans are almost in place.

  • Having gear is good. Having gear and practicing with it is even better. I need the practice to be sharp, since some things I haven't used in actual camping conditions.
  • Plans need to be reviewed and modified as necessary, whether from changing conditions or people involved.
  • Check in with your friends often. Even if they aren't in trouble, just knowing someone is thinking of them is a comfort.
  • Nothing was purchased this week but some non-perishable camping gear will be ordered soon.


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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Brake Check

When it comes to cars, "go" is cool but "stop" is critical. With the summer travel season upon us, knowing that your car will be able to stop is a vital piece of information.

A lot of tire shops will check your brakes for free or a nominal fee, but knowing how to check them yourself is always a warranted skill, and seeing as I just did a brake upgrade on my race car, this is a great chance to show you what good brakes look like in contrast to badly worn ones.

Checking your brakes is a fairly quick and simple process, but you have to know what you're looking for. For a complete check, you're going to want to look at all four corners of your car. Your front brakes wear far more quickly than rear brakes though, so you're more likely to find wear there. If your vehicle makes a nasty squeal or pulls or vibrates during braking, that's an indicator of severe wear that needs immediate attention.

This basic check should catch wear before it becomes that kind of emergency, but it only works on disc brakes, however. Older drum-type brakes require a more involved inspection, but they are becoming very uncommon outside of older cars commonly owned by enthusiasts.

First, you need to remove each tire of your car to get in and see your brakes. The process for removal and installation of tires is exactly the same as changing a flat. Because I cannot stress the safety precautions enough, be sure the car cannot roll or fall.

  • Do not trust your jack to hold the car; use jack stands to keep it in the air. 
  • Chock your wheels, set your parking brake, and make sure the car is in park or first gear. 
I've had vehicles fall off jacks, and had a friend experience a jack failure that ended up with the car settling on his legs. He was lucky and was uninjured, but he was trapped and ended up sore for a few days. Safety first, safety always!

With the tire removed, the brake rotor and pads can be seen. Inspect the rotors for excessive wear. They are usually stamped with a minimum safe thickness, but if they aren't stamped, this can be found in your owner's manual or a service manual. (On my Miata, the minimum thickness is marked as 18mm, which can be seen in this picture.)

Looking at my old rotor beside the new one, the difference in thickness can very easily be seen.

The grooves and deep lip on the inside of the rotor show the extent of the wear and damage these brakes have suffered.

These new pads show the thickness of new, quality brakes. Look just above the bolt to see how thick a new pad is.

Notice how thin these worn pads are, as well as the uneven thickness from one side to the other. Even on my lightweight track car, these pads struggle to properly stop.

After you check your rotors for wear and your pads for proper thickness, check your brake fluid level. The reservoir is usually located on the driver's side of the engine compartment, between the front tire and the passenger cabin. (Check your owner's manual or service manual for specifics.) It will be marked with "Max" and "Min" fill marks; your fluid level should be easily seen and should be between these marks. Low fluid can be topped up with DOT3 brake fluid, available at your parts house. DOT4 is also available, but is usually only used in performance vehicles or high stress applications.

If any of your braking components are excessively worn, immediate attention is needed. Take your car to a qualified mechanic, or if you feel comfortable, do the repair yourself. Be very sure that your comfort comes from skill and not ego for this repair, as a faulty brake job can cause tragic accidents.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Guest Post: First Aid and Embarrassing Situations

by Wolfman

When I was in middle school, we had an outside teacher brought in to teach Health class because
the teacher was embarrassed. It was just as well, because that gym teacher had to put up with us for 5
more years, and he knew he would never live down the embarrassing things he tried to teach 13 year-old kids.

And so I find myself embarrassed about doing a guest post about things that nobody ever really wants to talk about. We’ve all got them, of course; one or another, we all have a thing that we have to deal with which we hope nobody else needs to know about. My wife and I have been married for a decade, she’s borne two children, and so I've had a chance to learn a lot more about female anatomy than the practical bits that I had studied earlier. She, on the other hand, has gotten surprisingly sharp on the subject of hereditary gastrointestinal disorders.

In the best of times, of course, these are things that we just don't talk about in polite society. They are subjects that don’t often come up, because nobody wants to admit that they are problems. So we do our own things, and hope for the best, and nobody is the wiser (if we’re lucky). However, this community is not for The Lucky; this community is for The Prepared, and in the worst of times, the things that we don’t want to talk about can absolutely kill us.

Sometimes, it's the thing we don’t want to admit is our fault. Recently, Lokidude was at an event with some other people and myself where circumstances -- partially of his own making, partially of some very entertaining friends -- caused him to require burn cream. Bear in mind that this wasn't a life-threatening injury, but rest assured that he did need burn cream. He could’ve shrugged it off, taken the injury stoically… and it could’ve gotten infected over the next few days, and caused a much larger problem when he got home. He didn’t do that. Instead, he looked at his injury, discussed it with a few others, and sought out a reasonable treatment. Don’t let relatively small problems become larger ones because you don’t want to admit the root causes! 

Sometimes, we think the thing is a sign of weakness. For example, I have terrible knees. Some of it is probably genetic and some of it is wear and tear from being a carpenter and taking terrible care of myself. I’m not proud of it, and it hurts. It’s not fun to deal with, nor to live with. At that same event with Lokidude there was a person who suffered an acute knee injury and who needed a medical brace, but the event was remote enough to require driving several hours round trip to obtain one. I, however, travel with multiple knee braces. I could have kept that to myself; nobody wants to admit weakness. But that would have been my selfishness being a direct cause of someone else’s extreme discomfort and considerable expense. I was happy to help out by donating my brace, and the other person was happy to not have to drive several hours. As it turns out, I didn’t need that brace anyhow, and even if I did, I had a spare. Keep in mind that it might not be you that you hurt with your hubris.

Sometimes, the thing that you are avoiding talking about is extremely personal. Remember that discussion of female anatomy? Trust me when I say that I have had plenty of conversations that went above and beyond the level of information that I once thought sufficient. Guys, ever bought tampons at the store? I guarantee the gals have had to ask a stranger for one. These are things that take up very little space but are extremely critical in certain situations, and when they are most critical is when the subject is most delicate. Under normal circumstances, their lack can be an inconvenience; in extreme, or even nominally difficult circumstances, failure to properly address the situation can lead to Toxic
Shock Syndrome and death. Men probably don’t want to think about or deal with this. Too bad! This is a subject that women have to deal with on a very regular basis. Be candid, be honest, and be attentive. There is no time for embarrassment.

What about things that aren't so common but are still personal? I’ll throw this one out there to the world: I have hemorrhoids. Yes, before you ask, they are a pain in the rear. They're extremely common in my family, and I’m given to understand they aren't unknown to others. In the best of times, of course, they are briskly unpleasant, and even then they require some very specific preparations. Chief among these are medicated wipes, which are kept 100% of the time in my vehicle and refit points. Is it embarrassing? Yes, but since I’m talking about it on the internet, I can’t say that I’m too terribly embarrassed. 
(A word to the wise: Spend the extra money on the good ones. Cheap store-brand wipes are honestly a bit lackluster, and when you need them most, you don’t want something that will let you down.) 
Secondary to those, but far more useful across the board, are the various anti-irritation creams and treatments. It may interest people to know that hemorrhoid creams use the same active ingredients as many insect bite creams: hydrocortisone, the H in Preparation H). This helps alleviate shame a couple different ways. First off, it is perfectly reasonable to have hydrocortisone cream for insect bites and rashes. Nobody will ever bat an eye at this, and if anyone ever finds themselves in a very specific need, it may be easier to ask for that in particular rather than ask for hemorrhoid treatments. Conversely, the properly prepared will be able to easily treat insect bites with hemorrhoid preps, and one can reasonably play that as the original goal, if needed. 
Another note: I strongly recommend the application of creams and similar to be executed by applying the cream to a square of clean toilet paper. This obviously prevents any unseemly cross-contamination.
Since we’ve come this far together, I may as well finish with one of the most common and easily treatable acute conditions: gastrointestinal distress. This also happens to be common in my family, but there are many acute conditions that contribute to it as well. Again, it's not a fun subject to broach with friends and acquaintances, but the consequences of avoiding it can be incredibly serious. Untreated, diarrhea can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and death. In normal times, not to mention survival or prep-consumption situations, gastrointestinal disorders can be rapidly life-threatening. Is it uncomfortable to admit to your friends that you are in gastric distress? Oh yes, it certainly can be, but not quite as uncomfortable as failing to properly address that distress. Towards that end, there are some easily maintained solutions, and some slightly more esoteric ones.
  • The most easily stowed, for those that only need to treat this as a mild likelihood, is in the form of loperamide tablets under brand names such as Imodium or Maalox AD. 
  • The most rapidly effective solutions are suspensions, usually of bismuth subsalicylate, which take up more space but work very quickly. You can find them under brand names like Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate. 
  • Incidentally, bismuth subsalicylate suspensions are also safe for dogs with the same problems. They don’t care much for the taste, though. 
  • In a pinch (and there's an unfortunate idiom), dietary additions such as pumpkin or similar starchy fiber sources can help to regulate these issues. 
  • When dealing with diarrhea, the immediate concern is generally dehydration, which can lead very quickly to serious illness and death. In such situations, treatment with a rehydrating solution such as Gatorade or Pedialyte is critical to maintain hydration and electrolyte balance.
Now you know a considerable amount more about me than you ever needed to know. 

In an emergent or prep-consumption environment such as we prepare for, there will be many threats. Some of them are obvious, some are not. Some of them are extremely uncomfortable to deal with, and those ones can be just as deadly as the others. When it comes to survival, modesty and embarrassment must take a back seat to honesty and openness. Don’t let embarrassment, which is inherently survivable, make a bad situation worse.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Preventable Diseases

I'm not sure how many of you are keeping up with the news. I like to check at least a half-dozen US-based news sources every day, then cross reference their reports with a few foreign news sources like the BBC, Deutche Welle (DW), and Russian Times (RT). This habit comes from my years of working nights with a short-wave radio for entertainment (there was no internet back then and TVs weren't allowed). There's a lot of messed up things going on right now, but the one that is troubling me the most is the rapid spread of preventable diseases.

In the Congo, an African nation hard hit by Ebola in 2014, doctors and aid workers are being killed while they try to stem a new outbreak of that nasty virus which has already killed 1,100 people. Due to the prevailing cultural norm of keeping the dead in the family home until burial, the outbreak in 2014 wiped out entire families and villages. That has changed some, but there are “radical” groups who are claiming that the aid workers who are trying to stop the spread are actually the cause of the outbreak. This has led to the harassment and assault of the people trained to fight outbreaks and infected people avoiding the care-givers until it's too late. The fact that the outbreak is occurring in the middle of a civil war isn't helping things; people are being displaced and fighters are moving around, which is increasing the rate of spread while also making tracking cases much harder. The good news is that a vaccine has been developed that may help if it can be successfully deployed.

Malaria is a problem in a wide swath of the world. Thankfully, the breeds of mosquitoes that carry it don't survive the winters I get to enjoy, but some of you may be living in areas that are breeding grounds for the little biting terrors. There are two new vaccines in the works right now for malaria, which is encouraging. Because of the way the disease works a vaccine for it has been difficult to develop, and I'm hoping that at least one of them works. You can thank the tree-huggers of the 1960s for getting the best way to kill mosquitoes (DDT) pulled off the market and thereby leading to millions of human deaths.

Measles has come back to the US. We had this one beat, with the CDC declaring it extinct in the US in 2000. With the increase in international travel and the influx of illegal immigrants, measles has been reintroduced to a nation with an entire generation that has no history of dealing with it. Major outbreaks in Israel, the Ukraine, and the Philippines seem to be the sources, with pockets of unvaccinated people here being hit hard.

Polio is another one of the “dead” diseases that may be making a come-back. The last naturally-caused case of polio in the US was in 1979. It still exists in certain research labs and is still active in parts of Asia and the Middle East, but a world-wide campaign spanning 25 years almost wiped it out. Now we're seeing reports of a “polio-like” disease popping up in areas of the US. Polio is a nasty virus that attacks the nervous system, I've known survivors of it, and it can mess up your life if it doesn't kill you.

With the degradation of societal norms I'm seeing reports of, I expect to see a return or rise in the number of cases of the diseases we wiped out through proper waste management. Having people defecating in the streets and leaving contaminated needles laying around is just asking for the return of cholera, typhus, and hepatitis. The various sexually transmitted diseases are trending up in certain areas as well. These are all easily prevented diseases, but it takes everyone playing by the same rules to keep them at bay.

In my opinion, if you don't get vaccinated for the easily preventable diseases absent a valid health problem, you're not prepared for life on this planet. I know there are immune-depressed people who can't get some vaccines, but the rabid anti-vaccination crowd is putting everyone at risk. Viruses mutate; that's how they cross species. Having a pool of live viruses around increases the risk that they can mutate into a form that our current vaccines won't stop. Those who are too young or too ill to get the vaccines are put at risk, and even if the diseases stay within the unvaccinated group, it creates a drain on the resources of the community around them.

I also know that not all vaccines are safe for everyone, which is why I put in the caveat about a valid health reason. Some of the newer ones haven't been tested to the extent that they should be, and I'm old enough to remember some of medicine's failures like the Thalidomide debacle of the 1960's. The tried and true Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine is a basic first step. Tetanus, polio, and diphtheria/pertussis are other common vaccines that are old enough to be trusted.

Having visited some foreign countries and being exposed to various other potential disease sources, I've had more needles stuck in me than I can remember. If your preps include living in conditions that are less than modern or in proximity to potential disease carriers, I strongly recommend getting the vaccines that you feel are safe. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Even More Disaster Planning

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

On our Facebook group (join us, we're even nicer in person!), our esteemed Founder and Editrix posted a Bloomberg article which stated that my local utility is planning to cut power to sections of California if and when there is an increased fire danger.  I was asked what my immediate plans would be and I gave a quick answer, but that's not the only thing I'm doing. 

What To Do When The Lights Go Out
The California utility doing the planning is Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), and as of last week it was found to be responsible for two of the recent and largest wildfires in CA recorded history.  They have published a plan detailing exactly what is in store for areas most likely to be hit with a wildfire. The rather long PDF doesn't show where the power might be cut in a wildfire, instead listing all the things that may occur in the event of a wildfire.

Think about that for a minute: with the location of several recent fires being in or near populated areas, this plan is good for any area served by PG&E. This makes sense when thinking where certain fires have started, such as the Camp fire (Paradise CA) and the Tubbs fire (Calistoga and Santa Rosa CA). I posted about another fire several years ago that might have been prevented if a plan like this was in place, but nothing is a sure thing when dealing with natural disasters.  As long as I'm not in the direct path of a fire, losing power for one to possibly several days is not a problem. If there's the chance I'm going to be in a fire, all bets are off and a full Bug Out is in order. 

First Things First
If I get the power outage warning, which PG&E said will be as much as two days before but possibly less, I'm heading to my parents' house to see how they are doing. They're both in reasonably good health for their age, but I want to be there to make sure everything is in good shape. My family traveled and camped when we were kids so there's still a lot of useful gear around, including a generator that's used to power my parents' travel trailer parked on a time-share campground. That generator is big enough to keep their freezer and refrigerator going, and by keeping the freezer closed and not opening the fridge, the generator should need to run for only four to six hours to maintain good temperatures. Based upon what my Dad tells me about the generator's gas usage, that's about a gallon of fuel for each 4-6 hour cycle.

My parents have food stored and ready to load into their truck to take to their trailer when it's camping season, so I'm not worried about their food supply. 

This, however, is going to be a problem if power is out for longer that a few days, especially if it's in the middle of summer. I have enough water to keep everyone going, but not enough for comfort (such as bathing), so I need to convince my folks to buy some water jugs as a supplement to mine. I'll be giving them a Sawyer SP181 filter and showing them how to use it next month. I really like Sawyer filters (see my review of it here) because of how much water they'll filter and their ease of use. 

Fortunately this isn't likely to be a problem, since we are well away from the expected fire zones. If worst comes to worst, though, bugging out to their trailer could be a big problem as it is near the Redding-Red Bluff CA area that burned last year!

The Recap
  • This is another example where proper planning will pay off in fewer headaches and much less excitement.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but a Sawyer SP181 $49.99 from Amazon with Prime is going in my Shopping Cart.
* * *

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 21, 2019

Urgencies and Emergencies

I made a reference to updating my first aid kit last week, with the idea to make it more functional for "urgencies" instead of just emergencies. Learning the difference between the two will help you tune your preps better.

Emergencies seem pretty obvious, but actual definitions help. An emergency is a situation that has a high likelihood of ending in death or severe, permanent injuries. Things like severe bleeding, broken limbs, and stopped breathing are all definitely emergencies, but so are arcing power lines, chemical leaks, many traffic accidents, and countless other things. Emergencies require immediate, decisive action, and usually professional help to properly resolve.

In medical emergencies, the best an average individual can do is stabilize the patient and keep them going until professional help arrives to transport them to a hospital. This intervention can mean the difference between life and death or serious and permanent harm. These kinds of situations are why first aid kits should have tourniquets, CPR masks, and other lifesaving equipment, and why first responder training is critical. In addition, know your local emergency response phone numbers, and the addresses of places you frequent. If you don't know the actual address, learn to give the best possible description of your location, using cross streets and proper business names if possible.

Urgencies, on the other hand, are things that can generally be handled on scene. They tend to require little, if any, follow up care. Left untreated they can definitely become emergencies, but if they are addressed immediately there is little lasting harm. My burn from a few weeks back was definitely an urgent situation, and so are the plethora of moderate cuts people get every day. Left untreated, small cuts and burns can lead to infection in addition to being painful and generally ruining your day. With better living through chemistry, there's no reason to needlessly deal with that.

With that in mind, the two immediate upgrades to my first aid kit are burn cream and more adhesive bandages. I know my first aid kit is going to look like my mom's purse in some ways, but that's not a bad thing; she had two rambunctious boys and she got pretty good at patching us up. In fact, a mom's purse makes a pretty decent starting point for the urgent bits of a first aid kit, since mothers deal with urgent medical situations at a more frequent rate than the rest of the population. When I got burned, the first person I sought out was a friend of mine with her kids in attendance. I figured if anybody had something to help, a mom with teens and tweens would, and I was right. Don't look to dads for inspiration here; if the ones you encounter are anything like my dad, they're great with major issues, but minor stuff was patched up MacGyver style, usually involving a shop rag and tape. It got the job done, but it wasn't the cleanest patch job, both aesthetically and from a standpoint of proper treatment.

Learn to deal with the little things as well as the big things, and it will make situations pass more smoothly.


Monday, May 20, 2019

$45 Monthly Prepper Budget: the Final Installment

I conclude the Crate Club Budget Prep with a final $24.73 purchase, all from one store.

Guess what I bought?

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Chronic Headache Pain

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
As I write this, I am in pain.

It's not big, bold pain, the kind that gets me in the hospital on the good drugs. It's about a 4 on the pain scale listed below -- I'm constantly aware of it, and I can't ignore it, but I can function with it so long as you don't ask me to do something super-physical or mentally intensive, and I can probably fall asleep tonight even with it hurting. After a lifetime of chronic sinus and migraine headaches, I've found that the best anesthetic is unconsciousness, and so I've learned to sleep through pain up to a level 7 or 8.

I remember what a shock it was when I realized in high school that people didn't carry painkillers with them because -- surprise! -- they didn't get headaches on a weekly basis. I marveled at what it must be like to go weeks, maybe even months, without their head hurting.

I have never had level 10 pain. I've had level 9 pain, but that was from kidney stones. The worst migraine I've ever had was an 8, and many of my sinus headaches are in the 5-6 range.

What a lot of people don't realize, however, is that a low but constant pain can wear you down over time. Sure, it may only be a 3 or a 4 when it starts, but after 8-12 hours of it, my pain tolerance recedes and takes with it my patience, good humor and willpower. Eventually that 3-4 feels like a 5-6, and not only do I hurt but I also feel like a wimp because something that shouldn't be able to take me down has done so.

Here's how I cope with chronic headache pain. I make no guarantees that these will work for you.

Anesthesia works by putting the body into a sleep so deep that the body can't feel pain, and so as far as I'm concerned sleep is the best way to get rid of pain.

When possible, a nap in a quiet, dark room (possibly with a cold compress over my eyes or forehead) will work wonders. However, it's often not possible to take a 4+ hour nap because of where I am or what I must get done.

Good old NSAIDs, Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs. They usually work, but I've taken so many of them over my lifetime (I was getting migraines before I was 10) that I've built up a tolerance to them. In a very real way, I suffer from the Ramp Effect, whereby I've developed a resistance to painkillers and therefore require and increasingly larger dose to achieve the same effect.

To prevent this, I frequently switch between types of painkillers (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, etc) in the hopes that my tolerance to a particular type will decline as I take the others.

Let me be very clear on this:  I am not suggesting that someone drink alcohol until they are unconscious.

I am simply stating that, based on my observations, a drink of liquor (in my case, a shot of rum) helps take the edge off a lot of vascular headaches. It also helps increase the efficacy of painkillers. Yes, I know, medicine says not to mix painkillers and alcohol; I don't do this if I plan to drive or use machinery (mainly because if I'm hurting this much it's not safe for me to drive anyway) and I never consume so much that I become inebriated.

It works for me. It might work for you. Use caution and common sense.

Scalp Stimulation
Despite how weird this sounds,  having the top of my head scratched for 20-30 minutes is practically guaranteed to make me feel better. While it won't completely cure a headache, it will grant me enough relief that it knocks the pain down by 1-2 levels and makes other treatments more effective.

I don't know why it works. Maybe because there are nerve clusters on the top of my head and being scratched stimulates them to produce endorphins (pain-killing hormones). Maybe it just feels good and the pleasure creates dopamine within my body, overwriting some of the pain. All I know is that it works, and if I ever get married that person has to be willing to scratch my head whenever my head hurts.

These are what work for me. What works for you?

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. 

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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