Skip to main content

Assess, plan, and prepare -- but don't think it ends there

In a great many ways, we live safer lives today than our parents and grandparents ever did.  Western civilization's empasis on science and engineering has driven incredible progress in our understanding of the world.  Because our understanding of the world is imperfect, and our social systems fractious and chaotic, we still make mistakes.  

The result of this progress, unfortunately, is that much of Western civilization teeters precariously at the top of a technological pyramid.  Remove the non-stop infusions of energy and goods, add a little natural or man-made disaster, and that balancing act rapidly devolves into chaos.

In this, the fourth installment of this series, we will discuss the material preparations required to support your emergency plans.  

Yes, people, that means it's time to talk about MREs, radios, and guns.  (Actually, guns will be covered in part 5, but you get the idea.)

This is the fourth installment out of five in a multi-part series on personal disaster preparedness.  Your humble correspondent is a Silicon Valley technical executive with both professional and personal experience in risk assessment and disaster-readiness planning.  Links to reference materials, including planning guides and reference information, will be posted at the end of the final Diary in this series.

Series Index: Are YOU ready for disaster?

  1. Assess your risks!
  2. Plan to survive! (part A)
  3. Plan to survive! (part B)
  4. Emergency gear and supplies
  5. Material preparations continued; Conclusion

When disaster strikes, will you be prepared?

Despite what you may have gathered from reading guides to readiness from the government, the Red Cross, or other organizations, you should not begin with a spending spree at the local hardware store.  When you strip away all of the bureaucrat-speak, there are three basic steps you must follow to be ready for disaster:

  1. Assess
  2. Plan
  3. Prepare

In this installment, we will discuss emergency gear, supplies, and other preparations for disaster including training and community organization.

Material Preparations

Even the most ruggedly self-reliant wilderness survival types will tell you that material preparations are critical to putting your plan into action. In this section, we will review categories of material preparations you may need to support your plan.

Batteries, chargers, and adapters: stop the insanity

As you plan your various preparedness kits, take note of everything you want to include which uses batteries or an external power source.  Now, look at all the chargers, connectors, adapters, and battery types required to support your gear.


Wherever possible, reduce and consolidate the number of dependencies you have on different types of cord, adapter, and battery.  See Active Communications below for suggestions on how to standardize on USB power for charging phones, PDAs, and other pocket electronics.  Minimize single points of failure wherever possible.

Your communications plan

In previous installments, we have discussed the requirement that each plan include a rendezvous point at one or more safe locations.  After all, communication doesn't get much more direct and reliable than talking to someone face-to-face.

Before everyone in your group has made it safely to the rendezvous point, though, there's no substitute for a solid communications plan.  Here's where you get to benefit from some of your correspondent's hard-won arcane knowledge of telecommunication systems in North America.

Quick, name the public voice communications service that will be brought online first after a major disaster.  Home phones?  Nope.  Business lines?  Negative.  Cellphones?  Not likely.

Give up?  The answer: pay phones.  Yes, that dying breed, those dinosaur relics of the pre-cellphone age will be a shining beacon of civilization in the aftermath of a disaster.

notebookRecommendation: All emergency kits should include a $10 roll of quarters and prepaid phone cards from two major long-distance providers.

Why two major long-distance providers?  In the chaos following a natural disaster, especially an earthquake, it's hard to predict which portions of the phone network will be reliable and which will fail.  Having two different long-distance providers gives you a much better shot at getting a call to go through.

notebookRecommendation: Take one of your city/region maps and go on a payphone hunt.  Find at least two payphones within walking/biking distance of home and work and mark the locations of each on the map.  When you're done copy those locations to the map in each of your emergency kits.

Next quiz question: are you more likely to be able to complete a call to a local number, a number in a different part of your state, or a number in a different state altogether?

The answer, surprisingly, is that interstate long-distance calls are the most likely to go through in an emergency.  This is because these calls are handed off from your local phone company to the long-distance networks at special "tandem" switching locations in every city.

notebookRecommendation: Each family member and each emergency kit MUST have a durable card (i.e. laminated) with comprehensive contact information, including multiple out-of-state emergency contacts.  Enlist the help of distant friends or relatives to act as a message switchboard in a crisis.  This is a proven, reliable technique for reuniting separated family members when local communications are degraded or offline.  If you take away nothing else from the recommendations in this series, for the love of Bob take this one and run with it.  Take care of it today.  Now.  Go!  DailyKos will still be here when you get back.

Finally, let us speak for a moment of the oft-overlooked capabilities of our mobile phones.  As mentioned above, making or receiving voice calls will be bloody near impossible in many disaster situations.  However, I'll let you in on a little secret:

If your mobile phone can register with the network, it is very likely that you will be able to send and receive text messages even if you can't make a voice call.

notebookRecommendation: Everyone named in your emergency plan should have a mobile phone capable of text messaging, and should know how to send and receive text messages.  Using a single network provider for the whole family will further increase your chances of getting text messages through quickly during a crisis.

Here's another one:

Treo-650Wireless data services offered by the mobile network operators will frequently be available even when voice calling is severely degraded or offline altogether.  Exhibit A: the bloggers roaming flooded New Orleans this week, filing reports and pictures using laptops with access to the Verizon wireless data network.

At the time of this writing (Sep 2005) this is still a relatively expensive proposition for most people, at $40-$80/month.  However, most mobile phones available in the US offer browser-based access to online services via those same wireless data networks.  In addition, network operators are beginning to offer mobile email services at very low cost, with email programs that run on your phone and integrate with major service providers such as Yahoo!.

[Disclosure: your correspondent is co-founder of a company which makes email products for many mobile network operators.]

notebookRecommendation: Familiarize yourself with the wireless-data capabilities of your phone.  If you have an free email account with a major service provider, look into whether access to your email account is available via the browser on your phone.  Consider signing up for a service which will give you direct access to email on your phone.

Let us say a few things about a few things you might need

To a certain extent, training and planning can compensate quite a bit for failure to plan for your physical needs in an emergency situation.  However, it would be foolhardy to expect that you can get through a week of widespread municipal service outages and civil disturbance with nothing more than a solid plan and pure thoughts.

We have now come to the point in this series that everyone was eager to get to when Part 1 was posted -- what emergency planners call "logistics", and you, dear reader, might call "gear, goods, and guns".

The Part 3 section entitled 'Key planning considerations for your preparedness plan' breaks down material needs into a list of categories.  Your correspondent is a firm believer in breaking down intimidating problems into manageable, logically organized chunks.  The hope is that by considering each separately, it will be for the reader easier to understand the requirements and trade-offs for each category, and then fit that into the reader's larger understanding of preparedness planning.

Each requirement category includes solutions in three categories:

  • Best-of-breed options are, generally speaking, commercially available but you'll pay for the convenience
  • Cheap-and-cheerful options are alternative solutions for emergency needs which may not be as polished or neatly packaged as commercial products, but are generally much cheaper than best-of-breed choices
  • Improvised solutions are what you can fall back on if, for example, the best-of-breed gear you bought is destroyed or taken from you

We will begin by discussing the individual categories, and then proceed to assembly of these items into preparedness kits.  In [Part 3], your correspondent shared his pragmatic view of the correct way to approach disaster preparedness.  In particular, plans which rely on rotation of supplies on a frequent basis are vulnerable to failure.  It's just human nature.  This must be balanced against the need to exercise due care in maintaining your preparedness plan and supplies, hence my clear policy on this issue:

"Material preparations MUST NOT require inspection more than once per year, and MUST still be capable of meeting minimum safety/usability requirements if left unattended for FOUR YEARS."

Without further ado, let's get down and dirty.  I fully expect some of my suggestions to spark debate, and likewise, I expect to learn more about effective preparedness solutions from the comments.  Please keep in mind that budgets and urgency levels do vary, and try to respect the limitations some of your fellow Kossacks may have in preparing for disaster.

Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink

notebookWater is heavy, bulky, and absolutely vital to human survival.  The so-called "standard human" can survive for up to 30 days without food, but even under the most favorable conditions will die after 5-7 days without water.  That number decreases precipitously in adverse circumstances such as high heat and/or high levels of exertion.  In a crisis, safe drinking water is a precious commodity, more valuable than you can imagine.

Quantity: One gallon per day per person, half that for portable water rations.  While waste should be carefully avoided (see Sanitation, below) each person should drink as much as they need to stay hydrated.  As soon as you tap into your stored water supply, you MUST begin working to identify additional sources of drinkable water.  In some circumstances, this could mean preparing to evacuate.

IMPORTANT TIP: all-in-one powdered drink mixes such as Gatorade, lemonade, etc. are wonderful for breaking up the monotony of drinking plain water from your emergency supply.  They're also good for covering any taste left in the water after filtration and/or purification. Be sure to store some in each of your long-term preparedness kits.

We will discuss three subcategories of water supply: bulk stored water, portable stored water, and clean-water production from available supply.

= Bulk stored water =

preparednesscenter_1860_815739There are many ways of ensuring that you will have water available when your life depends on it, but only a few will meet your author's demanding standards for longevity and safety.


Best-of-breed: Brand-new, food-grade FDA-certified water storage barrels; water treated with 5-year preserver concentrate.

Required accessories:

  • 5-year preserver concentrate
  • new siphon pump
  • new water-grade siphon tube as backup to pump (store separately from pump, in household emergency kit)
  • bung wrench for installing/removing plugs
  • waterproof tape & permanent marker for labeling barrel with date filled/refilled
  • 5-7 gallon container with on/off tap to hold water pumped from barrel

Recommended: tamper-evident seals.

Store barrels away from direct sunlight, in a cool location if possible.  If you live in earthquake country, your correspondent strongly recommends storing your supply in two separate barrels, with one barrel located away from your home or residence.  If you do not have a shed or other shelter, consider storing your outdoor water barrel in a large UV-resistant garbage can, which should be hidden and/or locked.

Water stored in barrels should be replaced every 3 years, at a cost of approximately $15 for water preserver concentrate and barrel seals.

Cheap-and-cheerful: Water in plastic bottles will generally 'keep' for up to a year.  Because this is a commodity that is consumed under normal  circumstances, care must be taken to maintain adequate stock on hand.  Define your minimum level of safe inventory and DO NOT GO BELOW THAT LEVEL.

While any good preparedness plan should include some bottled water, as it is highly portable and the bottles are reusable, your correspondent is NOT a fan of this as your main water-storage measure.  You need to rotate it too often, you're likely to drink your reserves by accident, and it's MUCH more expensive than barrel storage.

10-year cost comparison:
55-gallon barrel, all accessories including preserver:  $150
55 gallons of Trader Joe's bottled water in 1L bottles: $1100

Improvised, part 1: If time is more available than money, you can maintain an emergency water supply by dumping/refilling clean and sterilized 2-liter bottles with tap water every 3 months.  

Wash the bottles with a weak soap solution, rinse thoroughly.  Rinse bottles with a solution of diluted unscented bleach (pure 5% sodium hypochlorite), rinse until no chlorine smell remains.  Cap tightly, apply tape label indicating date filled, store in a dark, safe location at/near floor level.  Empty and refill (no wash/sterilization required) every 3 months.

Improvised, part 2a for house-dwellers: This should be your absolute last-resort backup plan.  As soon as water pressure drops off, which generally indicates an integrity failure in the water supply, shut off the master water valve to your house.  Your emergency water supply now consists of the 1-2 gallons of water in the flush tank of each of your toilets (NOT the water in the bowl!!!) and the contents of your hot-water heater.  Make sure nobody flushes a toilet before you recover that fresh water from the flush tank!

Because contamination may have entered your water supply before pressure failed, this water should be considered suspect.  At a minimum, either purify it (see below) or boil it for 10 minutes before drinking.

Improvised, part 2b for apartment-dwellers: Same basic idea as the previous measures.  If you can, fill the tub and any available containers with water before pressure fails.  If pressure fails, turn off the water supply to your toilet and recover the water from the flush tank as outlined above.  Water stored in the tub or other open containers should be considered potentially contaminated and must be purified or 10-minute-boiled before use.

= Portable stored water =

preparednesscenter_1860_802586While bottled water isn't recommended for long-term storage, a portable water supply is a must-have for vehicle and work preparedness kits.  At home, you will want to be able to take a supply of water with you if you need to evacuate, and a full 55-gallon barrel weighs around 465 pounds.


Best-of-breed: Aqua Blox or equivalent 5-year-stable "juice box" style water.  Ignore the outrageous claims and treat each 3-pack as a minimal one-day supply for one person.  Supplement with an additional 750mL of bottled water per person per day, rotated at least yearly.

Cheap-and-cheerful: Just buy the damn Aqua Blox.  Seriously.  They're around $1.09 for a 3-pack.  If you insist, you can go exclusively with bottled water in rotated yearly, but this is cheap peace of mind.

Improvised: Any clean, watertight container can be used to hold or transport drinking water for a few days.  If your only means of storing a temporary supply of water is a (very clean) bucket, cover the bucket as well as possible and subject it to purification, filtration, and/or 10-minute-boiling before use.  If you have a sufficient supply of unscented bleach drops or other means of chemical purification, consider  adding it to the container at fill time as a preventive measure.

= Clean-water production from available supply =

preparednesscenter_1860_809341The lightest water of all is the water you don't have to carry.  There may be situations where you are unable to transport sufficient water, but will have access to some form of fresh water.  In a disaster, the only water you can trust is water that you've stored yourself, and water in a factory-sealed bottle or jug.  Any other water must be considered suspect.

There are three main methods for making water safe to drink:

Purification through chemical treatment or 10 minutes of boiling.  The downside is that chemical treatment may make the water taste anywhere from barely tolerable to horrible, and may not be effective against some microorganisms.   Boiling uses up valuable energy resources.  The upside is that either one can generate enough clean water to keep you alive if you have the resources to purify suspect water.

Filtration can be extremely effective, especially with today's incredibly advanced filtering technology.  However, filtration may not remove viruses (depends on filter in question) or chemical contamination (requires an activated-charcoal filter).  Your correspondent considers filtration the minimum safeguard for drinking water from any source (even barrel-stored water) in a disaster.

Distillation is energy-intensive, but yields clean, safe water that generally tastes better than purified water.  Chemically contaminated water should be run through an activated-charcoal filter before distillation.  (If the water has any sort of smell, assume that it requires filtration and proceed accordingly.)  This is not generally a viable method in a disaster.


Best-of-breed, personal: Exstream Orinoco or Exstream Mackenzie water bottle purification system, hands down.  There may be others out there, but these beasties are amazing.  Works with any freshwater source, regardless of organic contamination or virus load.  Deploy minimum one per preparedness kit, especially vehicle and work kits.  Spare filter and cleaning materials recommended.

Best-of-breed, group: First Need Deluxe Portable Water Purifier/Filter, recommend one unit with spare filter catridge and cleaning materials for each group preparedness kit.

Cheap-and-cheerful: One Exstream bottle purifier as a backup to stored and bottled water supply.  Alternatively, Aqua Mira water treatment solution will kill viruses and microorganisms but will do nothing for solid contaminants.

Improvised: In your correspondent's preparedness kit, you will find a zip-lock bag containing an empty water bottle, a dozen 6" paper laboratory filters, a funnel, an eyedropper, and a relabeled medicine bottle containing pure 5% sodium hypochlorite bleach.  If you take the bottle out of the bag, the whole thing fits into a cargo pocket.  This is my last resort for clean drinking water, and you shouldn't consider it if there are ANY other options.  One drop of bleach per 16oz filtered water, let stand for 30 minutes before drinking.  See above for much better alternatives.

OK, we're not going to die of thirst - got anything to eat?

Food-NP2-100x100As the machines said to Neo in The Matrix: Revolutions, "There are levels of survival we are willing to accept."  You need to decide what your priorities are when it comes to emergency nutrition.  In a nutshell: long shelf life, tastes good, cheap... pick any two.  Dehydrated food generally tastes much better than long-shelf-life MRE-type food.

As with water supplies, there are different trade-offs for stored food vs. portable rations.  The storage space required, increased weight, and decreased packaging efficiency of stored food can be a good trade-off for lower per-meal costs and better-tasting meals.  On the other hand, portable food needs to be light, resource-efficient (no dehydrated stuff!) and extremely convenient.

Rough order of priority for consuming food stores

  1. Fresh foods on hand
  2. Frozen foods on hand
  3. Canned food with low water content
  4. Canned food with high water content
  5. Shelf-stable prepared foods (MREs)
  6. Shelf-stable rations (ER food bars)
  7. Dehydrated/dry foods (backpacking meals, pancake mix, etc.)

If dehydrated foods are part of your nutrition plan, and water is not an issue (all water supplies intact/known-good and water for rehydration included in planning) then move "dehydrated/dry foods" up to #3.

= Stored food =

Best-of-breed: Mountain House Easy Meal Security-Pak, will feed a family of 5 for 9+ days.  NOTE: Requires water for preparation, budget 25% additional water supply for food prep.  Hot water not required for preparation, but highly desirable.

Cheap-and-cheerful: Once your stock of fresh & frozen food is exhausted: canned foods (rotate regularly) supplemented with instant noodles, etc. as water supplies permit.  Keep in mind that all of the water used to prepare a cup of instant noodles ends up in you, albeit with some salt.  Not very calorie-dense, however.

Improvised: There's not much substitute for being prepared when it comes to food.  If your issue is money and/or storage space, consider supplementing your normal stock of food with some Emergency Ration food bars, which are shelf-stable for 5 years and very affordable.

= Portable food =

Best-of-breed: MREs or canned food.  MREs have the advantage that you can get cheap just-add-water chemical meal warmers to heat them up, whereas canned food needs a backpacker stove if you don't want to eat it cold.

Cheap-and-cheerful: Emergency Ration food bars.  You don't have to like them, you just have to survive.  Packaging says you can live on 1200 calories/day, but I don't call that living.  Figure 1800 calories/day minimum per person, 2400 calories/day for a male engaged in heavy activity as the worst case.  Remember, everything tastes better when you're hungry and there's nothing else to eat.

Improvised: Candy bars and cookies will keep you going for a few days, though you'll feel like crap a lot of the time.  Sealed packages of trail mix keep pretty well, but rotate them every 6 months.  Avoid caffeinated soft drinks if water is in short supply, as they have a dehydrating effect.  Beyond that... does your neighbor have a dog?

Food preservation

6263-721_200While we will be discussing ways to power your refrigerator and/or standalone freezer in an emergency later on, you need to plan for the possibility that you may not have that option.  The recommendations are the same regardless of circumstance:

  • Buy one or more of the new "5-day" super-insulated coolers, sized appropriately for your household.  If you have an older cooler, replace it with a new 5-day model.  Tip: get one with wheels.  If you need to relocate on foot, this will make it much easier to take your cooler.
  • If you have room in the freezer, freeze a number of water bottles and keep them frozen.  Be sure to freeze bottles capable of expanding; Trader Joe's 750mL and 1L bottles are perfect for this, and cheap.
  • If the power goes out and stays out, unload all of your ice and frozen food into the bottom of your new 5-day cooler(s).
  • Transfer only those refrigerated items that will actually be consumed to the coolers.  Anything that goes unused wastes ice.
  • Keep the cooler(s) closed as much as possible
  • Keep the cooler(s) in a cool location.  If you are sheltering in your back yard or similar location, consider digging a hole for each cooler; line the hole with a tarp and shade the cooler if possible

One final note, for households who depend on refrigeration to keep medication from going bad: your priorities for any capacity to keep things chilled will be quite different.  In addition to prioritizing medication over food in the cooler, you might also consider getting one of the small car-sized mini-refrigerators which runs off 12VDC.

Food preparation

424-700_x200You can certainly survive indefinitely eating cold prepared foods, but that doesn't mean you're going to like it.  For many people, the lack of a hot bitter caffeinated beverage in the morning represents the true end of civilization.  With a little planning, this can be avoided.  Note that all of the options here are dual-use equipment, and are useful in an emergency and at a campsite.

Best-of-breed: In this writer's opinion, it's difficult to beat the versatility of the Coleman Roadtrip Grill with dual burners and interchangeable griddle, grill, and stove inserts.  It will run off of 16oz propane cylinders (expensive, but easy to store) or, with an accessory hose, the more economical refillable propane cylinders.  At the risk of sounding like a Coleman shill, your correspondent also heartily recommends the Coleman Hot Water On Demand.  If you happen to have some non-potable water in addition to an ample supply of drinking water, you can even use it to take a hot shower.  Note, however, that the Coleman HWOD does use a rechargeable battery, so plan on having access to an AC power point to recharge it every 40 gallons or so.

Recommended fuel for the above: one 20lb propane cylinder with adapter hose, plus 12 1lb disposables as a backup.  Double the number of 1lb disposables if you get a Hot Water On Demand.

Cheap-and-cheerful: It's hard to beat the good old basic propane stove -- but a dual-fuel stove that will run on unleaded gasoline is a better choice for emergencies.  Another popular option is the good old outdoor grill -- if you're creative, you can warm or cook just about anything on the grill.  Some grills even have an accessory burner which works great for making soup or hot beverages.

Improvised: Well, not truly improvised, but the most frugal option for cooking heat is military-surplus trioxane bars  burned in an Esbit mini-stove.  While trioxane is supposedly non-toxic, you should plan on using it with at least a little ventilation.

One final note: if you wander the aisles of camping gear at your local outdoors or sporting-goods store, you will see many zero-power alternatives to familiar kitchen gear.  Camping equipment is a particularly good source of food-preparation gear for your preparedness kit.

Sanitation -- what's that smell?  Ew!

You should assume that, in an emergency, there will be no water available to wash dishes or flush toilets, and minimal (if any) water available for personal hygiene.  This will be a challenge for most Americans, who are accustomed to taking a nice, hot shower or bath at least once per day.

= Kitchen sanitation =

Assuming that water is in short supply, kitchen sanitation can be a challenge.  You may need to improvise.  If you are being careful to prepare only as much food as people can eat, the task is simplified somewhat.  Paper towels and sanitizing wipes can be an effective means of cleaning up pots and pans.  Dry sand makes an excellent improvised pot-scrubber.  Be sure that any cooking vessels, dishes, or utensils are clean and dry before storing them for the next meal.

= Personal hygiene =

For personal cleanliness in emergency situations, the author relies on a few common items: moist baby wipes, waterless hand cleaner/degreaser, and hand sanitizer.  You can, in fact, get reasonably clean all over using only baby wipes.  Your correspondent's preparedness kits include quite a few sealed "bricks" of unscented baby wipes stored in individual ziplock "freezer" bags.  (As a side note, ziplock bags are one of the greatest inventions of all time.  If I had to be stranded on a desert island with only three things, I'd take ziplock bags, a pack of cable ties, and my Leatherman.)  Note also that baby wipes make a superior toilet paper substitute.

Likewise, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is quite useful.  Keeping your hands and face clean can be difficult but is very important in avoiding infections and disease during a disaster.  (See Medical below for discussion of various disposable gloves.)

Finally, all emergency kits should have a supply of feminine hygiene products.  Many of these materials are dual-use for medical response in an emergency.

= Potty breaks =

And then there's the call of nature, i.e. the human need to eliminate bodily wastes.  You MUST have a plan for dealing with this.  Fortunately, this need can be met simply and inexpensively.

In my opinion, the best solution is the Reliance Luggable Loo.  This is about as simple as it gets -- it's a toilet seat affixed to a 5-gallon bucket.  Be sure to acquire a supply of Bio-Blue or similar product, and store it in your Loo along with toilet paper, baby wipes (see above) and a roll of thick, strong trash bags.  You do NOT want these bags to break or leak, as they will be serving as the liner in your Loo, and then tied off for removal and disposal.

Electricity -- sweet, sweet AC current

WIPR-300G003Face it, you live an electricity-centric lifestyle.  You're reading this very Diary on a computer powered by the stuff, connected to the Internet which depends on ultra-reliable electric power.  If you've ever been in your house during a power outage, you probably noticed how much quieter it was without the humming and whirring of your electric lifestyle.

When most people think about electricity in a disaster, they immediately think "I gotta get me a generator!"  Well, generators are nice, but for many people they're overkill.  Let's look at some of the alternatives.

= Power generation =

Portable generator: Noisy, which can draw the attention of folks who, shall we say, didn't consider preparedness before the big quake hit.  They can, however, be tremendously useful, and are relatively fuel-efficient if you keep the running load in the 50-60% range of the generator's rated capacity.  Not normally designed to run 24x7, and a couple weeks of continuous operation will seriously shorten the time to rebuild.

Permanently installed generator: Convenient, can be set up to kick in automatically if the power goes out.  Generally quieter than portables, but still noisy. Diesel units are available, which is nice because the authorities are much more amenable to you storing significant quantities of diesel fuel than, say, gasoline.  (It's that whole explosion thing, y'know.)  If you live in the country, LP-fueled generators may also be an option worth considering.

Solar array with battery bank: Dual-use, doesn't directly pollute, amount of energy available depends on size of solar array, size and number of batteries, etc.  Expensive up-front costs, pays for itself especially if your state subsidizes residential solar.

= The inverter alternative =

As we discussed, though, for many people these options are either overkill or represent a serious financial burden.  If you think about it, a generator is basically an internal-combustion engine attached to a device that converts the mechanical energy into electricity.  Can you think of anywhere you might find a convenient, quiet, well-maintained internal combustion engine?

xpower_1750Yes, grasshopper, I'm talking about your car.  With a DC-to-AC inverter, you can run your refrigerator, enough CFL lights to illuminate your main room nicely, a AA/C/D-cell battery charger, your laptop, and so forth -- all at the same time.  In fact, you can get an inverter big enough to do this for under $200.

One word about running that fridge, though: modern refrigerators are fairly frugal in their steady-state energy usage, with two exceptions: when it first starts up (up to 2500W for 1-2 sec!) and when you open the door and all of those nice lights come on (700W).  Consider disconnecting all the light bulbs and use a flashlight.

If you go this route, keep in mind that your vehicle will probably be idling at least half of the time you're using the inverter so you can avoid killing your battery.  You will need to figure out how much fuel your car or truck uses per hour at idle to plan effectively.  This isn't too hard:

  • Fill up your gas tank and a plastic fuel can with graduated markings on the side.
  • Drive directly home, turn off your car, and top off the tank.
  • Note the level on the fuel can.  Write it down.
  • Turn the AC to full blast, and your headlights on high beam.  Leave the door open so the interior lights will be on.  This is to simulate the worst-case load of the inverter.
  • Start your car and let it idle for 15 minutes exactly, then turn it off.
  • Top off your gas tank from the fuel can.
  • Note the new fuel level in the fuel can.  Write it down.
  • Subtract level reading 1 from level reading 2, and multiply by 4.  This is the number of gallons per hour.

Keep in mind that once you eat all of the food in your fridge and freezer, or transfer it into a cooler (hint) you can greatly extend your fuel supply by only running this setup part of the day.

It's also a very good idea to keep one of those self-contained jumpstart packs handy in case you run your battery down too much to start your car.  (Let's be honest -- those jumpstart power packs are a great thing to have in your trunk no matter what!)

The advanced electric-systems hacker might consider acquiring one or more large sealed lead-acid batteries and a DC-DC charger.  Depending on sizing, this could enable round-the-clock power for your inverter when coupled with a couple of hours of charging off the car's power (or any AC power source) each day.

One final tip on this subject: consider acquiring a length of appropriately-sized flexible metal ducting to enable you to safely run your vehicle in a closed garage.  (Obviously, if your exhaust system leaks this is a bad idea regardless of any ducting between the tailpipe and the outdoors.)  Be sure to get a roll of high-temperature metallic tape (auto-parts store) to get a reasonably good seal between the ducting and the tailpipe(s).  If you don't know how to do this safely, don't even try it.  Run your vehicle with the garage door open, but post a guard the entire time it's running.

Transportation - the burden and blessing of America

doublecab1For this section, we're going to assume you own at least one vehicle.  (Sorry, city-dwellers, you already know what your options are.  Consider getting a bike and helmet if you're worried about evacuating under your own power.)  We shall also presume that your vehicle is reasonably functional and runs on gasoline.  The type of fuel factors into fuel storage limitations.

Chest-thumping about "I never let my tank get below half-empty" aside, assume for a moment that the crisis hits and your gas gauge is near E.  Even if you want to evacuate from the region in your vehicle, this is not an auspicious way to start your adventure.  At a minimum, you should keep a 5-gallon reserve supply of fuel in an accessible location.

The Authorities, for good reason, frown on private citizens storing more than about 25 gallons of gas at home.  Even that should be in securely sealed, high-strength 5-gallon containers.  Your humble correspondent has found that surplus NATO 5-gallon fuel cans, suitably cleaned and painted with Rustoleum primer and red gloss, are excellent for storing fuel safely.  These cans are quite possibly strong enough that I could use one hold up my truck for a tire change.  Don't bother asking questions about how much fuel is stored at the author's home -- it's enough for my plans, and it's stored safely, and that's all I'm saying.

A couple of notes about storing fuel:

  • Gasoline requires a stabilizing additive to last more than 60-90 days.  The most popular product on the market is Sta-Bil.  Be sure to check out the 'Lawn Mower Racing link at the Sta-Bil site.  :)
  • TIP: A double dose of Sta-Bil (4oz per 5-gallon can) will keep gas fresh for 24 months.  
  • Every year, use half of your stored fuel to fill up your vehicle and refill the cans with fresh fuel and more Sta-Bil.  Put a piece of tape on each can with the fill-up date.
  • TIP: Pick a holiday (e.g. Memorial Day) and rotate your stored fuel on that holiday every year.  It's much easier to remember.
  • IMPORTANT: Any significant quantity of stored gasoline should be NOT be in your house, or in a building attached to your house.  If you don't have a shed, Rubbermaid makes inexpensive, durable outdoor storage in a variety of sizes and shapes.  Plan on adding a hasp and outdoor-rated combination lock to whatever outdoor storage you use.  (Don't use a keyed lock unless you put a key into a combination-access lockbox nearby, and even then it's not a great idea.)

A few more notes about surplus NATO fuel cans:
  • Gasoline storage containers are legally required to be bright red in color in the US and (I think) Canada.
  • Surplus 5-gallon NATO fuel cans MUST be cleaned and rust-inhibiting primer applied before the bright-red paint goes on.
  • Plan on replacing the rubber gasket as soon you buy your NATO can(s), even if it's a "like-new" can.  Rubber decays over time, and gaskets are cheap insurance.
  • Used NATO cans may have fuel residue from fuels other than gas.  Plan on rinsing each one out 2-3 times with a few ounces of clean gas.  Capture the contaminated runoff in a sealed container.  Your local fire department can assist you in safely disposing of it.
  • Don't forget a NATO-spec fuel spout!  Without it, you'll be struggling with funnels, and that's just lame.
  • NATO cans are not C.A.R.B. compliant, and if you use a NATO can for gasoline in California you are a Very Bad Person who clearly Does Not Care About The Environment.

Finally, consider that you may need to, er, liberate fuel from an abandoned vehicle or storage tank at some point.  Traditional tube siphons are extremely hazardous to your health when used for fuels.  Consider investing in a self-priming siphon to avoid a mouthful of gas or diesel.

Environment -- keeping warm, keeping cool

ice%20storm%203Human beings have a remarkably narrow range of "comfortable" temperatures, compared to many other organisms.  Get us outside that comfort zone for too long, and things start to get ugly, not to mention smelly and/or hypothermic.  We'll focus on keeping warm, since Part 3 included quite a bit of information on how to survive a heat wave.

Keeping warm and healthy in weather which is cold, wet, or both is a life-threatening challenge.  The two easiest ways to make the best of an available heat source are (1) contain the heat in a smaller space, and (2) keep more of the heat in that space by blocking absorption or escape.

For (1), your correspondent recommends having a roll of plastic sheeting and duct tape handy.  (Yes, I know, plastic and duct tape, ha ha.)  These materials can be used to increase heat retention (additional layer of air barrier over windows & unused doors) and block off areas of the dwelling which are not absolutely required.

For (2), covering hard flooring and exterior walls with rugs or blankets  is highly desirable in a cold-weather crisis.  The reason European royalty were so into tapestries, in reality, was that they helped cut down on drafts.

5053-751_200Finally, heating.  Keep in mind that your central heating will not work without power to the control electronics and main unit.  If your plan for staying alive in a week-long winter storm involves your central heating unit, you'd better find a way to supply it with electric power.

We will assume that if you live in a cold-weather climate, you are aware of the various options for grid-independent heating, such as wood, coal or pellet stoves, kerosene heaters, and so forth.  If you own a home in such a climate and do not have any such resources, you need to do something about it ASAP.

For emergencies in general and apartment dwellers in particular, the author urges caution in choosing an emergency indoor heat source.  While there may be other alternatives, the only indoor-safe portable heat source worth mentioning is the Coleman Catalytic Heater product line.  The downside is that if you're going to count on this type of heater to get you through 3-5 days of freezing temperatures, you'd better stock up on the 1lb propane canisters.  You will need at least 3 canisters per day to keep it running.

Active communications -- direct vs. short-range vs. long-range

radio-tower-3Being able to communicate with the world outside the disaster zone can, and frequently has, made the difference between life and death for survivors of the initial event.  Most people are already 90% prepared for this situation, but in an emergency extending over the course of a week or more, that extra 10% is a killer.

= Direct signaling =

There's a helicopter flying over your neighborhood and you're stranded at your house with a disabled relative and no means of transportation and no working means of communications.  What do you do?

First, you need to get the attention of the aircrew.  Do not shoot flares at the helicopter, as this tends to make pilots nervous.  However, stick-type road flares arranged in a geometric pattern (triangle, square, whatever you can manage) will attract attention.  Likewise, in the daytime a signaling mirror used to flash light from the sun at the aircrew is a good attention-getter.  At night, an LED strobe (e.g. the kind used by runners and bicyclists at dusk) brought to a high point at your location is also extremely visible.

Next, you need to get your message seen.  Your correspondent likes to think big, as is noticeable-in-aerial-photography big.  Contrasting paint on  a light or dark background (roof, street) in letters 1m (3ft) tall will catch anyone's attention.  Failing that, make a sign using a sheet and stake down the corners.  And for Bob's sake, try to get the spelling right.

Recommended supplies: 3 large cans blaze-orange spray paint, replaced every 3-4 years or when used (however little); signaling mirror; LED flasher with spare batteries (lithium batteries last a very long time in the box; replace every 5 years)

Finally, be ready for rescue.  Enough said.

= Short-range comms =

bee3c183-8094-4812-abbd-3d2316710d9aA popular notion among many halfway-prepared individuals is that FRS radios will be useful in an emergency.  I've got news for you: not bloody likely.

First, if you live in the author's city or many like it, FRS (and its more powerful cousin, GMRS) will be used in a disaster to coordinate search-and-rescue teams.  This is the case in most cities with CERT teams.  If you, or more likely, your 9-year-old daughter, starts yammering on the radio when my team is conducting a search-and-recovery operation, you will be told in no uncertain terms to cease transmitting on my channel.  Take a look at Fremont's CERT Communication Plan for an example of how we use FRS radio.

82082Low-tech is a good way to go for short-range communications: buy everyone a whistle, and agree on a few basic signals.  You can get incredibly loud emergency whistles for only a few dollars.  I'm a particular fan of the Coghlan's Six Function Whistle which incorporates an LED light, a compass, a magnifier, a thermometer, and a signal mirror.  Between the LED light, the whistle and the signal mirror, you should be able to get someone's attention.

Finally, if you are a neighborhood or group leader, seriously consider picking up an electronic bullhorn with spare batteries.  The author knows from experience that he's not a terribly effective organizer if he loses his voice from shouting too much.  Get one on eBay and seal it into a waterproof bag.  Note that this is also a very useful item for search and rescue operations.

= Long range comms =

fastfindplusFor the prepared individual, having a range of options in the plan for communicating outside the disaster zone is a must.  (See Communications Plan above.)  Let's discuss a few of the ways one can prepare.

Personal Locator Beacon: also known as an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, and if you need to shout for help really loud, this is the way to go.  These devices include a GPS receiver to transmit your exact location to a satellite.  They're expensive, but boy howdy are they a nice safety net.

Ham radio: In a disaster, ham radio operators are frequently the only link between the disaster zone and the outside world.  While some people might recommend the purchase of a hand-held ham radio, use of that radio by an unlicensed operator might interfere with mission-critical communications in progress.  A better plan is to get in touch with your local ARRL chapter and find out how you can tap into their emergency communications plan, or even get licensed for basic ham radio operation yourself.

Mobile phones: See the communications plan section above.  Note that battery power will be a scarce commodity after the first 72 hours.  Your correspondent strongly recommends storing a manual phone charger such as the Sidewinder in your emergency kit.  

It is also strongly recommended that, if possible, your household standardize on a single brand of mobile phone i.e. Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, etc.  This will simplify the power situation considerably, and in some cases, enable you to turn off one phone and reuse its battery in another.

For routine charging, in the author's experience nothing beats the versatility of a USB charger cable with AC and DC USB power adapters.  A good source for this is Expansys -- here's a link to a Treo 650 kit as an example.

Passive communications - keep informed!

philco_tv-123Radio and TV broadcasts are an excellent way to keep informed before, during, and after a disaster.  You should have multiple means of receiving broadcast information.

Best-of-breed: As stated above, having multiple options is key.  Your correspondent is a big believer in this, and recommends the following:

The XM radio isn't just for news and entertainment -- XM channel 247 (get it, 24/7?) is a round-the-clock emergency information channel.

Cheap-and-cheerful: A no-name imported hand-crank radio is a good basic addition to your preparedness kit.

Improvised: Many households have at least one personal radio or radio/CD player with headphones gathering dust somewhere.  Pack it up in a ziplock bag with spare batteries and put it in your preparedness kit.

A note about TV: a small TV with multiple power options can be a great comfort in a disaster, assuming the local TV stations are online and transmitting.  For stuck-at-home emergencies an inexpensive (~$130) portable DVD player is a power-efficient means of entertainment, especially if you have kids.

Let there be light!

searchlight_400_xOne point of commonality you'll find among preparedness and first-responder types is a predilection for flashlights.  You have your traditionalists who favor the MagLite, which doubles handily as a blunt weapon.  You have your law-enforcement types who are fans of the ultra-bright SureFire lights.  You get the idea.

In a disaster or emergency situation, light is a critical need.  Let's face it -- if you have to spend a week cooped up with three other people in a dark room during a blizzard, you are likely to go a little nuts.

= Area light =

Candles are OK for temporary lighting, but for any situation lasting more than an hour or three they're not a great choice.  That said, it is a very good idea to have a couple of long-burning emergency candles on hand for backup lighting and cooking heat.

Likewise, battery-powered incandescent area lamps are convenient when a thunderstorm knocks out power for an evening, but are a relatively poor idea for disaster preparedness due to battery requirements.  See below for alternatives.

Zero-power lighting

A good oil or kerosene lamp, if used safely, will provide hours of light from fuel which can sit on the shelf for a very long time and still remain usable.  Safe storage for both lamp and fuel are critical; be sure to get or make a padded hard-case for the lamp to ensure that it is available when you need it.

Another excellent choice for zero-power lighting is a dual-fuel lantern capable of burning unleaded gasoline or 'Coleman fuel'.  Because these have been around for a long time, they are readily availble used complete with cushioned hard case for under $40.  These lanterns can be relatively fuel-efficient, capable of making a gallon of fuel last a week or more at 8 hrs/day.

One potential exception to the no-battery-powered-area-lamps rule of thumb is the new class of LED lanterns coming out.   The eGear LED lantern, for example, will run at full brightness for 40 hours (5 8-hour evenings) on a single set of D-cell batteries, and much longer at reduced brightness.  Your correspondent considers this within the acceptable range, and at $40, it's an affordable solution.

If some electric power is available (generator, inverter, etc.) then you might consider using some of your power budget for lighting.  Generally speaking, incandescent lights are not an efficient use of your power budget, but fortunately, there are alternatives.

Compact fluorescent

In warm-weather situations, it's important to minimize the amount of heat your lighting introduces into your environment -- especially since the air conditioner won't be running.  Compact fluorescent bulbs are a direct replacement for incandescent bulbs and require much less power to run, typically 15-20% of an equivalently bright regular bulb.  They also put out much less heat.  100W of power budget from your inverter or generator is enough to brightly light a medium-sized room with four 150W-equivalent CFL bulbs.

One thing to keep in mind is that inexpensive generators frequently output, shall we say, less-than-perfect electric power.  This can be very, very hard on CFL bulbs.  One way around this is to use your generator intermittently to charge one or more large batteries, and run your lights off the batteries via an inverter with cleaner power output.


In cold-weather situations, you want your lighting solution to put out heat.  The author's home preparedness plan for colder weather includes a selection of inexpensive halogen work lights to illuminate and warm the main living area.  These are dual-use equipment, as they also come in handy working both indoors and outside.  Spare bulbs are a must-have.

Update [2005-9-16 16:8:10 by AlphaGeek]: Sorry for the formatting issues, folks. The complete section on Portable Lighting may be found in the Comments below. -AG

Originally posted to AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:47 PM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Whoops, here's the rest of it! (4.00)
    Not only am I a couple of days late getting this finished and posted, it looks like I exceeded the invisible limit for length in the extended section.

    Here's what got chopped off:

    Clothing: plan for the extremes

    coldNothing beats having clean, dry clothing to change into when you're cold, wet, dirty, and tired.  For temperature-sensitive humans, clothing is our first and sometimes only line of defense against illness or death due to exposure.

    As the section title says, plan for the extremes.  If disaster struck your area and you needed to hike home from work or school, do you have the appropriate clothing and footwear to survive the journey?

    First, a word about mosquitos and biting insects.  Your preparedness kits must include some form of insect repellent.  It will, literally, help keep you alive in a disaster, when biting insects begin to spread infectious disease.  Get the strongest DEET-based repellent you can find; a malaria outbreak is NOT the time to be trying out weak-ass alternatives like Skin-so-soft.

    Next, a word about sunscreen.  Keep a supply of high-SPF sunscreen in your vehicle and replace it yearly.  Simple enough.

    On to the clothing...

    Headwear: hats are cheap but crucial.  Keep a sun hat or cap and a winter hat for each person in all of your preparedness kits.  Remember, you don't have to look good, you just have to stay alive, so feel free to scrounge cheap but serviceable headwear for this.

    Footwear: your work and vehicle preparedness kits must include footwear.  Your correspondent's work kit has an old but serviceable pair of athletic shoes, while his vehicle kit has a well-broken-in pair of insulated 8" combat boots.  The key here is that storing a brand-new pair of shoes is a Very Bad Idea.  You will injure your feet and thereby endanger your ability to function in an emergency if you try hiking 10 miles in a brand-new pair of shoes.

    Socks/underwear: While a change of underwear is nice to have, socks are crucial to your well-being, and they're cheap.  Keep a sealed pack of generic white athletic socks in each of your preparedness kits.  Add at least one pair of underwear for each member of your household in a ziplock bag.  (Aren't ziplock bags great?)

    Clothing: Layers, people, layers. Recommended per person: several t-shirts, 1 pair utility shorts with lots-o-pockets, poly fleece sweatpants, poly fleece pullover, oversized Army-type long-sleeve shirt and pants sprayed with waterproofing, wind/waterproof outer jacket.  Adjust plan for kids, but make sure they have a similar range of clothing.  Seal clothes into labeled waterproof bag(s).

    Protective gear: Heavy leather gloves, light leather gloves, kneepads,
    wide strong belt capable of supporting your full weight.  Draeger Piccola dust masks with breathing valve very strongly recommended -- research post-9/11 respiratory ailments in NYC if you want to know why.


    galva3Be prepared to protect your shelter in advance of a storm and make emergency repairs afterwards.

    Consider your options for overnight shelter if you are:

    • Stranded at work
    • Stranded in your vehicle
    • Unable to occupy your home

    Suggested items for preparedness kits include plastic tarps with tie-down grommets and 100' of nylon cord (all kits), blankets (all kits), and a tent big enough for your family (home kit).

    To be covered in Part 5:  Medical, Assembling Preparedness Kits, Security and Firearms, Preparedness Training, and a hyperlink roundup.

    Copyright note: All images are copyright of their original owners.  For image attribution, click through on any image and follow the link in the image description on the Flickr page.


    You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

    by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:43:29 PM PDT

    •  Fantastic work, AG! (none)
      This is just awesome. Thank you!
    •  p.s. (none)
      Looking forward to part 5, of course.  You'll see our fellow gun nerds come out of the woodwork.
      •  Thanks, PPage (4.00)
        This is one of those projects that started out small and rapidly got out of hand.  :)


        You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

        by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:54:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You should add all of these diaries to... (4.00)
          ...the DKospedia. Everyone tells me it's easy. But these are the best complete reference I've read online pertaining to emergency preparedness and, as such, should be kept someplace safe and easily accessible.

          I also think this is the longest diary I've ever read every single word of! Well done.

          Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it. -Tom Paine

          by Alumbrados on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:46:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Portable lighting section (4.00)
      Frickin' Scoop.  <sigh>

      = Portable lighting =

      The topic of portable lighting, like the Water category above, is probably worthy of an entire Diary article of its own.  We shall briefly touch on the various technologies available today and some of their trade-offs.  As always, feel free to post questions in the Comments below.

      Incandescent: Commonly available, dirt cheap, and a VERY poor value compared to LED-based lights.  Batteries are a crucial resource in a crisis, and these lights are terribly wasteful in comparision to LEDs.

      LEDs: All hail the mighty LED.  From lanterns to headlamps to hand-held flashlights, the power-sipping LED is revolutionizing portable lighting.  What's not to love?  OK, so the color of the light output can be a bit annoying, and light makers haven't quite figured out how to build good reflectors to spread the light aroud evenly, but these are minor nitpicks.

      SureFire and clones: Positives: blindingly bright, well-constructed, compact, and use lithium batteries which last 10 years on the shelf.  Negatives: A set of batteries lasts as little as 60 minutes, and costs at least $2.50 to replace -- and that's when you buy in bulk.

      Fluorescent lanterns: Relatively power-efficient, though nowhere near as good as LEDs.  Bright.  Attract bugs like you wouldn't believe.  Bulky compared to head lamps and hand-held lights, smaller than propane or dual-fuel lanterns.

      Combustion-type lanterns: Bright, run off of commonly available, shelf-stable fuels (propane, gasoline, etc.).  Somewhat portable, but get extremely hot and will cause second-degree burns, as your author can say from personal experience.  VERY dangerous in situations where LP or natural gas leaks may be present, e.g. in the first 48 hours after a major earthquake, so use only in known-safe areas.

      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:53:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As a ham radio operator (4.00)
        I've been on top of this stuff for well over a decade. I used to try to get others involved in ensuring their own safety and welfare. Got little response or interest from folks. Now, after the fact, there is a whole lot of interest. Give it a couple of years and everyone will be back to watching the tube.

        An aside:(Can you imagine how different things would have been at the Superdome if everyone had brought a couple of gallons of water instead of suitcases full of clothes?)

        However, if folks are really interested in ensuring their own welfare, diaries like these are well worth reading. And, personally, I've found that ham radio puts me right in the middle of things when it comes to this sort of stuff, and that's a good place to be. For instance, I'm a Skywarn certified weather spotter and contribute to emergency radio nets on a regular basis. It keeps me in touch with local police and FEMA folks (ones who actually have a clue, not Bush apointees.)

        Get into ham radio and stop pretending with cell phones. It's not that difficult these days.

        •  BTW (none)
          If you review the entire NO tragedy, you'll soon come to the realization that an enormous number of the problems that occurred could have been solved before they even started if there had been effective communications (and no, I don't mean cell phones.)
        •  CQCQCQCQ (none)
          Got my novice class in the 8th grade. Been hooked since.

          No shirt. No shoes. No dice.

          by demdragon on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:50:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  10-4, good buddy! :) (none)
            Sorry, I just had to do that.

            What's really frustrating about the whole Katrina communications nightmare is that I have 200 high power Motorola FM rigs just sitting in storage here in MI. If folks in NO had been using them, FEMA screwups or not, things would have been very different. But I imagine that when the next such tragedy comes along they'll still be sitting in storage.

        •  Ham radio operators are critical in a crisis (none)
          I've read this and other comments you've posted on this thread.  It's clear to me that folks like you, John, do make a huge difference in a crisis.

          That said, I do want to take you to task for the throwaway line at the end of your comment:

          Get into ham radio and stop pretending with cell phones. It's not that difficult these days.

          Bloody near everyone has a cellphone.  Relatively few of the readers of this series have the time, money, or inclination to get a basic ham license and equipment.  I think I took a pretty fair position on ham radio in this installment, considering that.

          It's all about doing the most good for the most people -- and most people will, in fact, be depending on their cellphones in an emergency.  It would have been unrealistic to assume otherwise, and I have tried throughout to help people make more effective use of the resources they already have available.


          You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

          by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 11:36:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I am in awe of your information (none)
        This is terrific - I am sharing this with everyone that I can think of.

        We know now without a doubt that it is up to us - and up to us only to safeguard our families.

        Thank you so much for this information.

        Proud to be a Bleeding Heart Liberal

        by sara seattle on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:51:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hand crank flashlight (4.00)
        LL Bean has just started offering a no-battery LED flashlight.  Crank it up for an hour of light.

        An interesting concept.

        On showers-marine stores carry an item called a sun shower, which is essentially a black bag with a hose, a clamp, and a shower head.  You leave the bag in the sun, and in several hours it is warm enough to give you a quick sluice-off.  And they really work.

        Dishes can be washed in salt water, and salt water soap is also sold in marine stores.  Likewise salt water shampoo, although I never liked the result.

        Books on long distance ocean crusing are very helpful for articles on cooking and eating without grocery stores or refrigeration.  One interesting suggestion is growing your own bean sprouts from dry beans.

        The portable refrigerator/freezer that works off your car or boat engine works, but consumes a fair amount of fuel.

        The Origo catalytic alcohol stove is a daisy.  The fuel can be stored in your house, and the stove is not pressurized so you are not risking your house when you use it.  With 2 Origo's you are really cooking.

      •  Carbide is worth a look (none)

        Carbide lanterns are worth a look: carbide pellets last forever, they are not flammable unless immersed in water (so if you seal them in your favorite and mine (ziplock bags) they're not a problem) and they're very reliable. The latest ones have safety features that weren't available 100 years ago, but the basic design is age-old and well tested.

        However, it's highly unwise to use them in tightly confined spaces, in much the same way that it is highly unwise to use any combustion-based products in tightly confined spaces. (Or even not-so-tightly-confined spaces, for any extended period of time.)

        •  Got a link? (none)
          The technology sounds familiar -- it's the Galvanick Lucipher from Neal Stephenson's fantastic book 'Cryptonomicon'.  Didn't realize that they still made lights like that.

          Please post a link to a product page if you have one.


          You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

          by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 12:22:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, I got mine from a friend. (none)

            I originally got my lantern from a friend. I believe it was a Premier. It's also lying deep in a vertical crack in a cave somewhere in Oregon. (Always have three light sources while spelunking.)

            In any case, here's the info on carbide lamps (scroll down a bit, it's below the Davy Lamps) and here is where you can buy carbide pellets. (They also list the Minex light, which appears to be currently out of stock, but which is apparently still being manufactured somewhere in India.) I have not yet bought from them. They sell the carbide in large quantities, admittedly: the problem is that since calcium carbide is classified as a hazardous material, it can't be shipped by normal methods.

            Here is a good guide to buying an old-style carbide lamp. Also check out IMO which has quite a lot of cap-lights with separate belt generators. (Which I'd never heard of before I started looking into this... interesting stuff. Maybe I'll get a generator and a cap-light.)

            More useful information: the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for calcium carbide is here though if you know anything about MSDSes you know to take some of it with a grain of salt. (I wouldn't go licking calcium carbide pellets but I've never heard of anyone being seriously burned by one. Still, better safe than sorry.)

            It's less dangerous all around than storing gasoline, lamp oil, lamp alcohol, or any other volatile liquid, let alone storing CNG or other flammable gas in (say) earthquake country, but it's also differently dangerous: if your entire house burns down, the pellets will probably still be sitting there, inert, when the ashes have cooled. If you have a house fire (that the carbide tablets are in) and attempt to extinguish it with water, you suddenly end up with a bunch of acetylene gas, which can make a small fire into a big one, in much the same way that a can of paint thinner or a canister of CNG could. In fact, it's probably best to handle a container of carbide pellets like you would a container of flammable gas... for obvious reasons.

            And keep a chemical fire extinguisher, don't try to rely on your garden hose or something. Which is, come to think of it, a good idea in any case.


        •  carbide/multifuel lanterns (none)

          carbide is very cheap (if you don't have to pay for hazmat shipping), has a high energy density, they are bright compared to candles, and the lamps can take a beating. Be warned that carbide lamps are contankerous. Gas production can vary and the flame can go from 1/4" to 4 inches long, so keep flamables away. If you plan to use a carbide lamp, read caving books. Carbide lamps require small quantities of water to operate. In an emergency, you can use urine; it works but you won't like the smell. You can also use contaminated water. Before I could become a member of the local (at the time) caving club, I had to demonstrated that I could dismantle, reassemble, clean the nozzle, fill, and light the lamp while blindfolded. To obtain carbide, try to find a local caving club and see if they are still using it; the club I was a member of bought it in bulk. Store (particularly in bulk) away from the house as it produces flamable acytelene gas when you attempt to extinguish a fire with water. Spent carbide continues to generate gas and many a caver has singed their eyebrows by looking in their dump bottle (with a lit lamp on their head). Baby bottles are good for storing carbide and waste if you are traveling. Don't seal the dump bottle tightly (remove the rubber gasket/nipple). A survival trick used by cavers is to keep a trash bag in the helmet. Make a hole and wear the bag while sitting (knees inside bag) with the carbide lamp inside the bag between your knees for heat - but be carefull not to set yourself on fire. An 8 oz (volume) bottle of carbide will fuel a lamp for 18-24 hours. Fuel is harder to come by now and isn't likely to be resupplied in an emergency. You can buy 12 oz for $13.80, delivered. Carbide is corrossive.

          If you don't already have a lamp, though, I am not sure I would recommend running out and buying one.

          In a disaster situation, it is difficult to get resupplied with any fuel at all let alone the particular type of fuel you need for a particular device. And with Peak Oil and other petroleum supply problems and global warming, investing in petroleum based products is not a great idea. Its a bit pricy ($190 with accessories for the high end version), but I just discovered that britelyt makes multi-fuel lanterns that convert to a stove (light and heat simultaneously) and will apparently burn almost any liquid fuel including bio-diesel, ethanol, methanol, vegetable oil (third party claim), kerosene, diesel, gasoline, mineral spirits, charcoal lighter fluid, lamp oils, Citronella oil, coleman fuel, charcoal lighter fluid, used motor oil, and waste fuel (>6mo old). In stove mode, it is rather tall. Provides light, heat, and cooking. Safe for use indoors with methanol (which doesn't produce carbon monoxide), not sure about other fuels. This lantern is a multi-fuel descendent of the petromax. They say it produces 400W of light; is that the equivalent of a 400W incandescent bulb or 400W of actual visable light energy. The web site is very disorganized, incoherent and inconsistent in places, and makes some suspicious claims such as the safety of methanol (methanol is toxic when absorbed through skin), and does not list all the fuels in one place. For what they are charging, I would like to see lab reports where they burn every type of fuel claimed (and maybe crude oil, too, considering that in some situations, such as after Katrina, using crude might make sense), for one week continuously with carbon monoxide measurements, fuel tank temperature measurements, report of the number of times clogs must be cleared, report of any fires, fuel usage, heat output, light output, etc. Some fuels, such as vegetable oil, contain constituents that polymerize when heated and create clogs. I also find it suspicious that the organization that provided the intended to appear independent safety report is in the same town as the manufacturer. I also think the lantern should have extra leg attachements (or maybe modify the reflector attachment to double as a base) to reduce the risk of tipping when used as a stove. From the forums, it appears that straight vegetable oil or homemade biodiesel might cause clogs. And methanol might be a separate lantern. I also think they are abusing the patent system by patenting their design changes that are pretty trivial looking and sufficiently obvious to anyone sufficiently knowledgable in the art. Fuel tank gets hot? Make minor modifications bottom plate between the fuel tank and the burner. Replacing the seal on the pump with an o-ring? (Optionally) replacing the pump with an intertube nozzle so you can use an external pump to pressurize tank (as if that fitting wasn't used on lots of pumps). I didn't look at the changes made to the nozzle in detail but there was nothing that appeared innovative about the result. I realize they may have problems with cheap knockoffs but their abuse of the patent system could have serious negative consequences for the alternative fuel device industry and society as a whole. If these patented things are actually new to the lamp industry, it is because no one with any talent has been doing anything significant with lamp designs (at least not anyone who has the resources to bring a product to market); the same techniques are used in other closely related market segments all the time. Not that they haven't spent some time developing things but their patented "innovations" appear to be nothing more than someone finally updating a 100 year old lamp design with 50 year old technology but the patents could interfere with anyone doing truly innovative work from using 50 year old technology in other areas of the design. As many tech folks are now aware, the patent system has become more of a hindrance than an incentive for innovation. While I would like to see a true multifuel design, I am not sure if this is the company that will bring it to us (and make it widely availible) or the company that will interfere with people who really can.

    •  Good point about the breathing ... (4.00)
      ...masks. The same kind I use when running the power saw, router or sander.

      Thirty-one million new blogs are created each year. Try ours at The Next Hurrah.

      by Meteor Blades on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:54:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hoorah! More wisdom, practical steps (4.00)
      For those of us in hurricane country, thanks for giving us the Cadillac of thought, planning, scope, and lists.  Everyone in Tornado Alley and on fault lines should be just as engaged as those of us on the storm coasts.

      If anyone else thinks they're not at risk, they should take a gander at Paul in Berkeley's diary.  He transcribes the NPR report as to how the FEMA career staffers watched the inactivity in their office after the daily staff briefings sent to Chertoff and Brown prior to and at landfall of Katrina.  Yes, it was along the lines of "Katrina determined to hit U.S. mainland," as has been noted before on this site.

      Thanks, A.G., for such a carefully and thoroughly crafted community service.  In times that would paralyze, flummox, and stymie, you have given us a practical approach for us to care for our own.  To work, everyone!

      "Never think you've seen the last of anything." --Eudora Welty

      by gazingoffsouthward on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:57:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Don't forget medications! (4.00)
      I have lupus and megaloblastic anemia, and this advice was given to me by my doctor in case I ever have to evaculate.

      At least a month's worth of OTC and prescription medicines should be stored in waterproof containers in a safe, accessible place.  You should also have at least one additional script for any of the medications if you run out and need to have stuff refilled in a strange place. If you need to use syringes be sure you have a safety container to dispose of them in.  If any medications (insulin, certain other drugs) that need to be kept cool, there are small portable containers that can keep them fairly cool.

      If you have a chronic medical condition, you might want to have your doctor do a one page summary of your condition/s and medication/s.  Seal it it a watertight baggie and keep it with you.  Get a Medic Alert bracelet and alert rescue workers to your medical conditions.

      Vive Nouvelle-Orléans!

      by Rogneid on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:43:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Great advice, thanks (none)
        I'll be sure to include that in the Medical Preparedness section of Part 5.  Good, workable real-world techniques!


        You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

        by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:48:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Extra Medications (none)
          Great idea but I am not clear abut how that would work as far as (a) getting them and (b)expiration dates.
          •  You should consider (4.00)
            keeping a copy of your medical records (updated every 3 months for chronic conditions, 12 months for healthy people) with your other important documents, i.e; mortgage, marriage license, birth certificates, automobile titles, children's immunization records (updated whenever they get a shot), childrens' education records (updated every school semester) in a fireproof box in your house, saferoom, etc.
            I scan all of these documents and keep copies in PDF format on a USB drive, and on CD at my sister's and dad's houses.

            Wounded Warrior Project Give till it hurts. They already did.

            by soonergrunt on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 04:01:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  When in Utah (none)
            I had a doctor who would write me a separate two week prescription for the drugs I was on, and give me script as well to put in my kit.

            The pharmacist wrote the expiration date of the drugs on the bottle for me when I told her it was for an emergency kit.

            Vive Nouvelle-Orléans!

            by Rogneid on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 10:49:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Here's another problem re: storing meds in advance (none)
        Beyond shelf life, need to refrigerate, or cost of certain prescription medications, there are restrictions imposed by medical insurance that prevents a person from buying too much in advance.

        For example, one medication that I have taken is a highly controlled drug. Insurance companies prevent pharmacies in my state (NJ) from filling more than X-amount of drug Y within time period Z (usually 30 days).

        That means if I wanted to go on a sailing trip to Tahiti, I'd have to get some extra special okay from the insurance company (and the Pope) to load up on this stuff. Thus to buy 3 months of this prescription to pack away "just in case" would be difficult, not to mention expensive.

        Then, what does a person do once the crisis is in motion if you can't get your medication? [Remember all those "looters" in NOLA? Under certain circumstances that could be me.]

        It won't be pretty.

        "We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers..." -- Bayard Rustin

        by BK here on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 06:49:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If you're feeling lucky... (none)

          Well, if you're feeling lucky, you can go to Mexico and pick up as much of it as you like. How far can you trust it? That's a different question, though if it's in the original packaging and hasn't been tampered with...

          If it's a codeine-derivative, for pain, they are OTC legal in Canada, although in most provinces they must be sold in a form that combines codeine with caffeine, so that people don't take it and nod off at the wheel. If I recall correctly, in Quebec you can get pure codeine.


          •  Geeze guys ! (none)
            You make it seem like I've got tracks down my arms. I was talking about something far LESS intense than codeine. And what's with the all the talk about pain killers? Wow, what a great imagination, guys!

            There are many drugs that have a lot of controls, such as ADD medications, like Ritalin.  

            Personally, beyond a few of these weirdo unnamed perscriptions, I rarely take a aspirin.

            "We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers..." -- Bayard Rustin

            by BK here on Mon Sep 19, 2005 at 08:13:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  some dentists.... (none)
          ...are relatively liberal about handing out pain pills if they know you're not a dope-fiend type.  For example Tylenol #3 (codiene), Darvon, and so on.  

          Personally I find that Darvon doesn't work as well as Tylenol #3 as far as pain relief goes, plus the Darvon makes me feel truly weird (rather than just mildly sleepy, which I can deal with).  Individual results vary.  

          Over the years I've always managed to keep a small supply of Tylenol #3 around because I never need more than one or two after a dentist visit (so the other ten or twelve in the prescription go into the emergency med kit, labeled with date of course).

          Aspirin, plain Tylenol, and Ibuprofin are always recommended for the med kit as well.  

          Note, beware of prematurely taking anti-nauseants and anti-diarrhea meds.  If you get something nasty in your guts (e.g. a bacterial infection or whatnot from bad food or water), the runs & pukes are your body trying to get rid of it.  If you stop up either end prematurely, the un-expelled nasty in your guts could make you a whole lot sicker or even kill you.  

          If you get serious stomach trouble and start to get dehydrated or run a fever, stay hydrated by taking very small sips of Gatorade at frequent intervals.  

          Disclaimer:  I am neither a doctor nor a lawyer, the above is neither medical nor legal advice, consult your doctor or lawyer or dentist as may be appropriate.  

    •  One nit on LD phone cards (4.00)
      Many prepaid long-distance phone cards "expire" in 12-24 months.  They ARE NOT cash.

      Check the small print.

      Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk. - Thoreau

      by harrier on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 03:56:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'd like to remind everyone of the most important (4.00)
      bit of survival information there is: Know your neighbors. Talk to them. Find out how prepared they are. It is not possible to care for yourself when those around you are in desperate need. This is the most difficult part of emergency preparedness, and the most important.
    •  Clothes: WOOL, WOOL, WOOL (4.00)

      I'd like to add... now what was it? Oh yes: wool! Wool! Wool!

      If you are in any danger of getting wet during any of the disasters you're planning for, having a change of clothes is nice, but wearing the right clothes is vital. Specifically, we live in a cotton society, but cotton is only a fair insulator when it is dry, and it is worse than nothing (well, not quite, but close) when it is wet. It is quite possible to get hypothermia when it's not even freezing outside, if it's chilly and you're covered in layers of wet cotton clothing, nylon shells and waterproof whatever-you-like notwithstanding. It is nearly impossible to go hypothermic in non-freezing weather if you're covered in layers of wool.

      I'm afraid I'm not competent to discuss the expensive alternatives here, though I'm sure there are some High Performance Ultra-Kool Wool Camping Outfits that qualify. I went to a Salvation Army and picked up two pairs of brown wool pants, a little scratchy but not bad, and a couple of wool shirts. Wool sweaters I have plenty of. In these, I hiked four days through the driving rain in temperatures between 42 and 58 degrees Fahrenheit, without any problems other than my toes getting all wrinkly. Meanwhile, a less prepared fellow ended up having to borrow someone else's pants. Don't let this happen to you. (Seriously. Don't neglect the pants. If you read this warning, and there's any chance you'll get soaked, and your survival kit contains jeans, I will laugh at your funeral.)

      That's not enough, though: consider getting the good wool socks, since the lousy ones can raise welts. (The really good wool hiking socks are designed to be worn without sock liners, and they're in fact more comfortable than sock liners.) They cost me more than the shirts and pants combined, but they were worth it. Finally, underwear: polypro or other synthetic longjohns are fine, if you're in a cold enough area to need them.


      •  Polypropolene underwear (none)
        must be worn against bare skin for maximum effectiveness.  There are lightweight polypro shirts and drawers that are comfortable from the 40s to 60s, F.
        Gore-tex will keep you dry but not very warm.
        I agree on the wool.  Different thicknesses of wool can be worn in different seasons, and lightweight wool over lightweight polypro can be very comfortable.  For socks, the army issues a 50% wool/50% nylon blend that are very comfortable.  There are civilian analogues available that are relatively inexpensive.

        Men and women should keep a pair of broken-in sneakers (better yet, light hiking boots) in the trunk of the car.  You don't want to be wandering around a post-earthquake/tornado mess in heels or loafers, do you?

        Wounded Warrior Project Give till it hurts. They already did.

        by soonergrunt on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 08:08:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Mea culpa (none)
        I'll freely admit that I didn't spend as much time on clothing as I should have.  Good call on the wool.


        You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

        by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 12:19:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  This is SO helpful, AGeek. THANK YOU! (none)

      Former soldier. Fighting every day for my country.

      by SilverWings on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 12:40:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Cost of this project? (none)
      Is there a cost sheet here to see waht is the LOW amount to stock up on, and the optional over-kill, but be very safe amount to stock up on?
  •  I'll give you a tip jar! (4.00)
    Excellent diary. I'm printing it out and sending it to friends, family.

    by nyceve on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:48:34 PM PDT

    •  Not printing out ... (4.00)
      but sending to many friends ...

      Now that you have done this magnificent work, you should 'package' it together at one web site for easier reference.  And, if you are so willing, there is always the updating potential.  Plus, seems to me that you are about 90% there to have a book / handbook.  You could either pdf (free to world) or consider publisher.

      This is amazing work ... even if a bit overwhelming.  Thank you for doing it.

      •  Thanks (4.00)
        Considering the book route, we'll have to see.  I know fuck-all about nonfiction book publishing, but I'm not lacking in people I could ask for help.

        My muse definitely got the upper hand on this one, as I hadn't intended to spend half as much time or effort on this series.


        You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

        by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:53:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  AG - check email - acc.t listed in kos profile (none)

          Former soldier. Fighting every day for my country.

          by SilverWings on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 10:11:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Suggestion from outside ... (none)
          When you do get to 'publishing' in hard copy, consider whether you want to maintain a webpage with updates / expansion material.  

          This is an added benefit to your 'readers' and, eventually, provides a path toward doing the second (third ... fourth ... ) editions.

          Good luck on this ...

          I am already overwhelmed with your material ... and trying to figure out how much of it I can afford and how much of my living space can be dedicated to 'just in case'.  Probable path, in part, is that my (young) children are coming toward age where I will want to try camping with them.  Camping supplies to cover next several trips provides a pretty good basis for much of the 'through the first few days', it seems to me.

  •  AlphaGeek (4.00)
    Thanks again, so much! I'm at work, so will read it tonight and join the conversation later.

    I love the presentation, too!

    "He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm." Kate Hale re FEMA Dir. Mike Brown.

    by OLinda on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:53:11 PM PDT

  •  Bwhahahahahahahahaha ... (4.00)
    I knew you'd never be able to keep this at 3 ...4 parts.

    Another great job, obviously.

    Two comments:

    • Pay phones are rapidly disappearing from my neck of the woods. They just don't get much use anymore. Some suggestions for finding ones that ARE still available - a transportation hub like a bus or train station, near a junior or senior high school.

    • Water. We store our water - 80 gallons - outdoors in two buried barrels accessed with a siphon pump.

    Thirty-one million new blogs are created each year. Try ours at The Next Hurrah.

    by Meteor Blades on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:53:13 PM PDT

    •  Blades, in NYC (4.00)
      the only phones that worked during the black out were pay phones. It never occurred to me to put quarters in my Go Bag.

      Also phone cards, a brilliant idea.

      A life saving diary

      by nyceve on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:56:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Too bad all our pay phones don't ... (none) with phone cards like zey do in a zertain country zat will go unmentioned.

        Thirty-one million new blogs are created each year. Try ours at The Next Hurrah.

        by Meteor Blades on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:37:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Weeelll (none)
          If the country you're referring to is France, that's almost right. I had a frustrating time of it in Colmar this January. I bought a France Telecom phone card when I was in Nantes and needed to make a batch of phone calls to rejuggle my hotel reservations when I discovered there wasn't much of anything for me to work with in Nantes.

          It worked just fine and dandy for that purpose. But when I got to Colmar, I couldn't make it work for love or money. Turns out, I'm pretty sure, that it was because the city prefix for Colmar in the French numbering system is 03--which also happened to be the first two digits of the France Telecom number I was supposed to call.

          That made it very frustrating when my stepfather had to go in for cardiac surgery while I was in Colmar, and I couldn't use the damn phone card to call home for an update. Fortunately, I was able to keep in touch via e-mail. The card worked just fine again once I got back to Paris, whereupon I drained it calling home for the first time in a week.

          •  What I love about this place ... (none)
   that you'll always find somebody who has firsthand experience that knocks your theory into a big pit.

            Thanks for this. Good to know for the next time I'm in the French boonies.

            Thirty-one million new blogs are created each year. Try ours at The Next Hurrah.

            by Meteor Blades on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 03:37:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  To be fair (none)
              They sell two kinds of phone cards in France. One works, as I understand it, rather like a debit card--and only works in the pay phones. That's not the kind I got. I got the kind where you dial an access number, then dial the number you want to talk to, and they deduct the charges from the balance on the card, since I knew I was going to be using it in hotel phones as well as phone boxes on the street.
      •  Text messaging worked in blackout (4.00)
        It is how my wife and I kept in contact until we were both home, and also got a stranded (at Grand Central) cousin over to the apartment.

        I think AG mentioned that text messaging was also a good potential mode for communication, as it sometimes works even when the voice network is down.

        •  ditto here (none)
          in the 2003 6.5 earthquake in taipei. cell phone service was overloaded, but the text messages got through without much trouble.

          crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

          by wu ming on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 06:33:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  DANGER: "no incoming calls." (none)
        Many payphones nowadays do not accept incoming calls.  Many payphones nowadays are subject to a built-in electronic curfew so they only work during certain hours.  

        This is all due to telecom redlining, otherwise known as "If you're black, they can't call back", based on the excuse of suppressing dope dealers and gangs in "dangerous" (read: non-white) neighborhoods.  

        When you look for payphones, look for those that are owned by your local incumbent telco, for example SBC in California.  The "private" payphones typically installed by vending machine companies on leased lines, very often don't work, and have odd failure modes such as "you can't dial any more digits" (i.e. can't call someone at an office that uses an auto-attendant system, which is to say, most offices today), and should be dismantled or destroyed for the sake of pubilc safety.   Then read the dialing instructions card to look out for "no incoming calls" provisions.  

        And then get a bunch of people together and raise a big f---ing lawsuit to have the f---ing things turned on in both f---ing directions all the f---ing time.   (Pardon my language, but this particular issue makes me red-hot angry.)

        •  third party pay phones (none)

          The problem of not being able to call a third party pay phone has been around a while in the US. Frequently, in the days before equal access they were actually computerized devices rather than the simple phones with a coin box they appeared to be. And the reason you can't call them is that the company that owns thems calls them to establish a data connection and do things like check whether the coin box needs to be emptied or to update routing information. IIRC, some used ringback (let ring once, hang up call again) to access the modem and there were some you could bypass the modem and reach a person by doing ringback. And the dialtone you get isn't from the phone company, it is from the phone. The phone waits until you have dialed what it thinks is the appropriate number of digits and then re-routes the call as it sees fit over whatever network the owner chose. I am not sure of the status of payphones now. Also, some payphones may prevent incoming calls just to interfere with you avoiding surcharges by having someone call you. But a smart pay phone could be very confusing in an emergency. Picking up the phone and hearing the dialtone is not an indication that there is an unbroken wire between the phone and the central office. So you may think that if you retry the call you have a chance of getting through eventually.

          For a group, if someone has the tech knowledge, a linemans handset or a small cheap phone with alligator clips as well as a standard modular plug in the emergency kit could be useful. Reach a neighborhood where there might be phone service but no one is home (evacuated)? Rather than breaking and entering, walk around to the Network Interface Device (NID) where the phone line goes into the house and connect there to hijack the phone line. The alligator clips come in handy if there is no NID or you have to climb a pole. There are (poorly kept) secret codes (vary by area) that you can dial that will ask the phone line to identify itself if you want to be called back. Normally used by telephone linemen but handy to anyone who has more than one phone line.

    •  Damn you, Meteor Blades! (shakes fist) (4.00)
      Yeah, you were right.  And since I have part 5 mostly written at this point, it's definitely stopping there.

      Regarding payphones: I think that California should mandate a certain distribution of payphones per community and subsidize if necessary.  You're right about them disappearing -- that's why I suggested that people map the locations of several of them in advance.

      80 gallons for 3 people, eh?  Sounds like you're in good shape.  Still, you should seriously consider picking up a purifier bottle for each of your portable kits.


      PS: Checked your hotmail account lately?

      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:59:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  80 gallons? (4.00)
      We keep drinking water inside, but we store 15,000 gallons in an above ground tank outside for fire (along with a high pressure pump and 300 feet of firehose), bathing, sanitation, etc. My wife thinks it's a swimming pool.

      In winter we store water in large piles all over the property.

      We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

      by badger on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:06:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You bathe using a firehose? (4.00)
        Wow, you're hard-core.  I don't even like cold showers.


        You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

        by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:07:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  15,000 gallons!!!! Putting out a forest ... (none) isn't high on our list of possible emergencies, thank gawd.

        Thirty-one million new blogs are created each year. Try ours at The Next Hurrah.

        by Meteor Blades on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:34:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually (none)
          it's a swimming pool, although my neighbor has a 10,000 gal fire tank.

          A couple of neighbors also have homemade brush fire rigs - a 150 gal spray tank and pump on a trailer or old pickup. One of them also bought foam equipment last year. One of my neighbors is also a fire commisioner and former Forest Service rappeller (like out of helicopters).

          We take fire seriously here - we have annual meetings and plans - the main one being get out as fast as possible.

          We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

          by badger on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:53:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My brother-in-law lives in a house ... (none)
   Mica, eastern Washington, a teensy place surrounded by forest, and a cabin on Diamond Lake near Spokane. They've been having a worrisome summer. But he's not the kind of guy who likes to be prepared. When I was there a few weeks ago, I could find even a fire extinguisher in either place.

            Thirty-one million new blogs are created each year. Try ours at The Next Hurrah.

            by Meteor Blades on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:57:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I fought a couple of the foothills fires (none)
              outside of Boulder CO. All the yuppies would stand out in their yards watering down their cedar shake roofs with their garden hoses, then the power went off, the water stopped, and their houses burned down. People can be so amusing sometimes.
              •  Emergency preparedness (none)
                The first thing that I'd do in that case is get rid of the shake roof - fires a few miles away can burn your house down. Fires can launch hot flaming chunks a few miles under the right conditions. Everyone in my neighborhood has a steel roof. They shed snow better too.

                My pump is gasoline powered, but its main purpose is to attack a local brush fire or if I have enough time (and around here you usually do) to soak the house and porch (foam would be even better - lasts longer). Also, we only have one road out, so there is a possibility of getting trapped.

                We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

                by badger on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 03:26:27 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yep. My parents substituted ... (none)
                  ...a wooden roof for a steel one about 10 years in a house they built in the forest outside of Idaho Springs, Colorado, 30 years ago.

                  Thirty-one million new blogs are created each year. Try ours at The Next Hurrah.

                  by Meteor Blades on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 03:35:49 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  That's the way to do it, metal roof (none)
                  and also, unfortunately, removing any trees close enough to fall against the house. And add a 6 to 8 foot wide "collar" of gravel around the perimeter of the house to keep grassfire flames away from the walls.

                  There's a lot to know in order to properly take car of ones self.

    •  Absolutely, look for pay phones at schools (4.00)
      They are working (at least in central NY), even as more students don't use them because they have cell phones. But I am thinking that if one has to do an evacuation, middle/high schools on the way would be a possible phone connection. And you could find them with google earth.

      As well, I THINK that rest stops on the highways have payphones.

      It would be very good if the people of NO could give us their positive ways of making connections. I have read that some payphones were working. Even at the Convention Center.

      We have a seasonal cottage in Canada. It has a well, electricity (too bad if it is friggin cold or the lines are down), a woodstove and wood, and a neighbor with an outhouse. I am considering making a stocking trip for there (would require burying food). These diaries are very thought-provoking.

    •  Pay phones for jail (none)
      Always carry that roll of quarters anytime you're undertaking an activity that may lead to your being locked up.

      No-one who voted against the USAPATRIOT Act has lost an election. I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State. Or Yours.

      by ben masel on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 11:39:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  typo? (4.00)
    "Water is heavy, bulky, and absolutely vital to human survival.  The so-called "standard human" can survive for up to 30 days without water, but even under the most favorable conditions will die after 5-7 days without water."

    Don't you mean: The so-called "standard human" can survive for up to 30 days without FOOD.

  •  What a great post (4.00)
    I hope that everyone prints this out and actually follows your suggestions. Having lived in LA and SF and dealt with earthquakes, I had three tubs of emergency supplies on the back porch. It is important to think about where you are storing things as you will have to be able to get at them in the event the building collapses.
    I hope you will cover tools and things like rope in the next section. A substitute loo can also be a heavy duty plastic garbage bag placed in the toilet; sealed well when removed. Put a roll of duck tape into the supplies.
    Gathering the supplies can run into a bit of money, so try to purchase what you might need over a period of weeks or months, but please do it. It may mean your life.

    The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. -Coco Chanel

    by Overseas on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 12:58:46 PM PDT

  •  wow, your disaster supplies list (4.00)
    actually includes useful items and alternatives without the fearmongering plastic and duct tape.

    You should turn these into your own emergency survival website and/or dkoskopedia entry.

    Give me Liberty or give me death!

    by guyermo on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:00:18 PM PDT

    •  True, but! (4.00)
      It does, in fact, include plastic sheeting and duct tape!

      I do stop short of suggesting that we should be prepared to seal up a room and shelter-in-place against radioactive fallout or clouds of poison gas.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:06:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  comments--confirm the porta toilet--believe it! (4.00)
      That's our option--also consider that a handicapped/hospital toilet seat may be required for disabled and elderly.

      Ditto:  ziploc plastic bags for everything--to keep dry from wet, wet from dry, disgusting from clean, all papers and books and lists, foods, on and on. Get several boxes of all sizes. Look for the huge 2-gallon variety size also. Low-tech.  If you have too many, you can barter for something you don't have!

      In my emergencies, I have used rubber and nylon-coated bungee cords for everything--they tie down patio furniture and potential projectiles before the storm, and then can be used afterwards for tidying up or for an evacuation, to affix things to car roofs, or to keep ice chests closed even after the closures break.  Plenty of nylon rope in different widths is key, but the bungees are golden.

      Also--simple things like shed and bike locks--not for security, but so you don't have to keep using up those cable ties on various items.  

      I'm still reading--did you put in foam ear plugs--in quantity, with small plastic bags for all family members to keep theirs? Easily available in bulk at chain drug stores. You do not know a truly irritating noise until you have listened to your neighbor's generator all night on a hot, dusty, endless night.

      "Never think you've seen the last of anything." --Eudora Welty

      by gazingoffsouthward on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 02:27:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No foam earplugs in the list (none)
        Interesting thought, though.  I might be tempted to put a rifle round through a noisy generator running during 'quiet hours', i.e. 0000-0700.  That doesn't make for good relations with the neighbors, though.


        You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

        by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 04:50:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Excellent thought (none)
          Among the questions having to do with a generator is the philosophical, are we a generator family, or are we not?  If you don't get one, you don't have to lug it, store it, fuel it, and set it up.  You also maintain neighborhood silence, which after a day of gas powered, smelly chain saws, is a significant question.  It won't power the air conditioner, just fans.  After you've had your "last supper" from the freezer, eaten the ice cream to celebrate the inevitable loss of power, there are so many irritants--heat, dust, debris and all its allergans, etc.  The ability to hear all the dogs in the neighborhood, and to send a "halloo" to someone up or down the street, respresent those things that are positive and restorative about the aftermath.  Neighbors visit, the meat comes out to the communal grill, etc.  

          Thus, had I had something that would have penetrated and disabled the generator (they were so proud of it, they ran it a night after they got their power back.  Need I say that WE did NOT have our power back) I would have abandoned my lifelong pacifism in a well-planned and reconn'ed instant!

          "Never think you've seen the last of anything." --Eudora Welty

          by gazingoffsouthward on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 01:58:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  For a variety of reasons... (none)
            ...I'm a big fan of silent power.  It's radically efficient to run a generator at 100% load for 4hrs/day to charge a battery bank than it is to run that same generator at 16% load for 24 hours.

            I should explain what I mean by radically more efficient.  Here's an example using the fuel-consumption metrics of $500 gasoline generator:

            Around-the-clock generator operation:
            24h * 0.3 gal/h = 7.2 gal/day
            Refueling required 10-12 times/day with std. tank

            Battery recharge generator operation:
            4h * 0.6 gal/h = 2.4 gal/day
            Refueling required 4 times/day with std. tank

            Same generator, same amount of net power used per day, very different resource requirements.  Note that depending on climate, you can accomplish a the same result using solar-electric panels, a wind generator, or other sustainable means of generating electricity.

            You also raise a good point, as did another commenter, that simply owning a generator is a burden.  Not simply for the reasons you mention, but in a very real "how do you want to spend your time" way -- running it for 15 minutes every month to keep it in good shape can get onerous.

            Just to recap, here are my strategy recommendations regarding electric power in emergency situations:

            • Minimize your general dependency on electricity in a crisis
            • Eliminate your dependency on continuous power generation
            • Consider using an inverter connected to your vehicle (operating for a few hours per day) instead of a generator


            You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

            by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 03:14:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Forgive me if (4.00)
    you have already done this but I don't see it.  Can you put this series in a PDF so we can print and use as a checklist?
    •  At some point, maybe (4.00)
      But for now, I'm just trying to finish this monstrosity.

      As my wife said: "Let me get this straight: you're not getting paid for this?"



      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:04:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'll happily help (4.00)
        I have the full-featured Acrobat, and I think this definitely qualifies under "bona-fide educational uses."
        •  Thanks for the offer, Michael (none)
          I'm loaded up with all of the Adobe tools, since I write and/or approve a lot of material at work, but I definitely appreciate the offer.


          You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

          by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:50:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  AG, suggest to your wife (none)
        that you are getting stars in your crown in heaven!  We are saying huzzahs and thank you's all around the world.  

        Generations from now, children will ask, "How is this storm different from all other storms?" (really, really, NO offense intended!!!!).  An elder will bring out the 1" (maybe) three-ring red notebook full of pages in their heavy-duty, diamond clear Avery sheet protectors (Item PV119, and will begin:

        "Listen, my children, if help you seek,
        For it is all here, by Alpha Geek."

        "Never think you've seen the last of anything." --Eudora Welty

        by gazingoffsouthward on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 02:03:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I second that request! I'm sure there are (none)
      many of us who will be happy to show our gratitude in a tangible way: you've written a survival manual I would gladly pay for.

      Navajo, what do you think?

  •  Typo (none)
    I think you mean 30 days without food, not "30 days witout water" in the intro to the "water" section.

    We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

    by badger on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:02:11 PM PDT

  •  Something for the soul too (4.00)
    As I read these diaries the the past week, I added a few other things to my list....

    A CD with photos that are important to me
    A few real photos of family
    A book I really love
    The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran - for my husband's reading
    A journal and pens to log what is going on for me

    ....may we never need any of this...and may we have it in case we do need it...

    Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you..... Ralph Waldo Emerson

    by SallyCat on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:14:12 PM PDT

    •  Great point, Sally (4.00)
      In the section on having your critical papers and documents in one place ready to go, I'll be sure to mention inclusion of personal items such as the ones you mention.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:16:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Truly Excellent. (4.00)
    Just two things though:

    1. Every time you post a section the number of planned sections also increases. So when will it end?


    2. You said "bung wrench" ... HAAAAAAAAAAAA

    A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man. The C&J Cafe.

    by Baldwiny on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:27:53 PM PDT

  •  AlphaGeek (4.00)
    Thank you so much for this.  I've been printing up each installment and have sent links to our neighborhood president (we're an organized 'hood with CERT training, newsletters, the works).  This would make a dynamite digital publication -- all pulled together into one pdf in the dkosopedia.  You might also consider publishing a pamphlet for sale.  Superb work!

    "Force always attracts those of low morality." -- Albert Einstein

    by eyeswideopen on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:31:08 PM PDT

    •  Could be a book project (4.00)
      Don't know yet, too soon to tell.  Even I am surprised at how much I've ended up writing on this topic.

      Hope it's helpful to your local folks.  I think it's at least a notch above the usual one-page checklist you get from your local emergency planners.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:41:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think it is so smart (none)
      to provide this for your neighbors.  I am going to do the same, very smart!
      •  Navajo (none)
        As soon as AlphaGeek puts up the last installment, I'm going to send the links to this to everyone I know.  I've been poring over this series studying it and it is truly superb, very helpful indeed.

        I hope you are doing splendidly!  Hugs to you.

        "Force always attracts those of low morality." -- Albert Einstein

        by eyeswideopen on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 07:23:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  thank you (4.00)
    Your diaries have helped me so much to organize and & prepare in case of impending disaster.  During the 50's we practiced Duck & Cover, air raid drills, and generally walked around with a bunker mentality.  So sorry that those days are back.  
  •  Odds and ends (4.00)
    Clothing should be appropriate to the disaster in some cases. If you're going to be outside in damp/wet conditions, wool pants and sweaters will keep you warmer even when wet - cotton (blue jeans) won't. There are more expensive alternatives that backpackers use. A cheap rainsuit is a good idea (jacket and pants). Also, hats are important - you lose a huge amount of heat from your head, even with thick hair.

    In fire situations (grass, forest), if there's any chance you'll be near the fire, synthetics are very dangerous (they melt). Cotton and wool are better. Fire crews wear Nomex - very expensive. Leather gloves are a good idea too (not synthetic). Generally, fighting a fire instead of evacuating is a bad idea - better to collect on fire insurance than life insurance.

    Blitz makes steel gas cans, incl California legal models. $40 and up for 5 gal cans, but sturdier than plastic. A big plastic funnel made for refueling (most hardware stores or auto stores have them) is also a good idea.

    It's very dangerous to connect a generator to your breaker box - you have to know how to do it,  you don't know when the power will come back on, and it's hazardous to crews working on the lines. Either power appliances individually, or have an electrician install a transfer switch, which gives you a place to connect the generator and disconnects you from the grid when using the generator (expensive). If you have a well, the pump probably needs 220 volts - most other stuff (and most cheap generators) are 110 volts.

    We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

    by badger on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:40:55 PM PDT

    •  Good advice (none)
      Not that I would ever use a non-California-legal fuel container, but a "friend" picked up a number of NATO-surplus cans for $10 each from Cheaper Than Dirt.  Add $15 worth of Rustoleum and replacement gaskets and they're good as new.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 01:46:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  guerilla generator connection (none)

      The low cost, portable, quick way to connect a generator to your inside wiring is to make up a cable (of adequate wire gauge) that connects from the 220V outlet on your generator on one end and the 220V dryer plug on the other. This doesn't meet code (but can cost hundreds less than having an electrician install a transfer switch) and is therefore not legal and there is significant risk but for some the lack of electricty can also be life threatening. This is not nearly as safe or convenient as installing a transfer switch but it is safer than many other ways of attempting to connect a generator if you follow the safety precautions listed here and can be used in many situations where it is not possible to do things the idiot proof way. It is preferable to pay to have a transfer switch installed or not try to apply generator power to your inside wiring at all. But this is a reasonably cheap ($50) or so cable to make up ahead of time and generally preferable to trying to kludge something in an emergency if you absolutely must have power or at least suggests a less dangerous way of kludging in an emergency. These instructions fill the gap for someone who knows enough to wire up a cable and do basic home wiring but doesn't understand the special risks involved in connecting a generator. The primary dangers are that you have a cord with male (exposed) contacts on both ends so depending on whether you have generator or utility power, either end can be dangerous. If you do not follow the sequence correctly, you can accidently connect the generator into the live utility which will cause a huge current surge (fortunately, there will be three circuit breakers in the path), you will apply power to the "dead" utility line outside the path (risk to utility workers or anyone else who may come into contact), you will accidently apply power to your neighbors houses, or have a dangerous plug with exposed electrical power. This requires basic knowledge of electricity, home wiring, and common sense. Sequence is critical - do not change order of steps. This method is also somewhat portable - if you relocate to someone elses house and they have the same type of dryer plug. You do not have to turn off the generator before switching power in either direction but it is a good idea if you don't have other (110 or 12V) loads on the generator and aren't worried about starting problems. This method does provide power to both 110V (on both phases of line) and 220V circuits. Follow these instructions at your own risk; I accept no liability for injury to life or property.

      This is best for use where the only people present are intelligent adults who are electricians, engineers, ham radio operators, or other people with adequate electrical knowledge and/or the need for electrical power is vital (as in life or death) not merely convenient but having a transfer switch is not an option. I.E. you need to keep life support equipment running or are operating a ham radio station for emergency life saving communications and also need lights, computers, satellite internet, television, etc. Also, if you don't own your residence you may be prevented from istalling a transfer switch. If there isn't time to install a transfer switch or you are going to relocate to another residence (for example out of a flood plain). A generator and cables with both common kinds of dryer connections (here, old houses use 3 prong, new ones use 4 prong) can be deployed to someones house where on site life support is necessary (it isn't easy to evacuate someone in a heart lung machine, for example). If there are only a few vital pieces of equipment, it is safer to just connect it directly to the generator.

      Clearly mark both ends of the cable: "DANGER HAZARDOUS VOLTAGE. Generator Cable with male connectors on both ends. Exposed hazardous voltages". Store where it will not be used by accident. Use a luggage padlock, string, or wire tie to tie the contacts on each end together.

      To switch to generator power:

      • Check to make sure it is safe to restore power. Warn people that power is being resoted.
      • Preferably, generater is off and/or generater breaker is off here but this is not essential if you are careful.
      • Disconnect any solar, wind, or hydro power systems - as these instructions do not take those into account.
      • Turn main breaker off. Duct tape in the off position. Put warning sign over it. Turn dryer breaker off.
      • Plug in dryer end of cable. Secure with rope or duct tape and warning signs. Secure cable against tripping.
      • Plug in generator end of cable. Secure with rope and warning signs. Keep cord away from hot parts of generator. DO NOT do this step before preceeding step.
      • Disconnect any unwanted loads by unplugging, turning breakers off, and/or turning thermostats off (electric heating and cooling) if you have not already done so. Do not connect more load than the weakest link of the generator, cable wire gauge/connectors, or dryer circuit can handle. Add up wattages of all devices or measure current using a clamp on ammeter (requires the individual conductors to be separated somewhere). Tape over light switches (or remove some of the bulbs) and thermostats that are outside power budget. Many electronic devices will consume some power even when off - unplug them.
      • Turn dryer breaker on.
      • Start generator and close generator breaker here if it wasn't already running.

      Secure both ends (connectors) of the cable with rope if possible to prevent accidental unplugging. Do not wrap cable around metal objects (it will induce an electric current in the object generating heat, wasting power, and possibly creating hazards); instead wrap rope around object and secure cable with multiple turns of rope around cable (so cable may not slide; use something similar to a helical knot prussic) and knots. Maintain enough slack on the connector end of the knot for knot to shift. Put warning signs on each end. Further secure the cable so that the force of tripping over cord is absorbed away from the plugs. Run cord in such a way as to make it hard to trip over. Restrict access to dryer room and circuit breaker room if possible. Make sure that everyone understands that unplugging either end of this cable, without following proper sequence, is very dangerous. The dryer itself may help keep people away and give you something to tie cord to. Consider mounting a bracket or cover to the wall so you can secure the plug.

      Switching to utility power.

      • Stopping generator and/or turning off generator breaker first is a good idea but not essential.
      • Turn dryer breaker off. Verify that main breaker is still off. DO NOT unplug dryer end of cable - it is hazardous now.
      • Unplug generator end of cable. If you omitted the previous step, you might now have dangerous exposed live power. Carefully feed end through window into the dryer room (avoid touching contacts to humans or metal objects in case you made a mistake).
      • Unplug dryer end of cable. If you omitted he previous step, you now have dangerous exposed live power.
      • Bring both ends of the cable together in one place and, if possible, use a small luggage padlock to lock the prongs of each cord together. If you can't see both ends of the cable, do not touch the prongs or allow them to touch anything.
      • Remove duct tape and turn main breaker on.
      • You can reconnect dryer and turn dryer breaker on now if you wish.

      Dangerous conditions:

      • Dryer breaker and main breaker simultaneously on. while generator is plugged in.
      • Generator end of cable unplugged (including tripping over cord) except when following proper sequence. If main breaker and dryer breaker get turned on, end will be live.
      • Dryer end of cord unpluged while generator is connected. If generator is running or subsequently started, end will be live. This is generally the most dangerous point in the system as accidental or intentional unplugging without following sequence or tripping over cord creates serious hazard. Secure the cable and the area.
      • Children and judgement impaired people increase risk considerably. So does flooding. Not having enough light while making connections or otherwise occupying dryer, circuit breaker, or generator areas. Allowing anyone who does not understand electricity and the specific hazards of the generator setup increases risk considerably.
      • Even if you have followed the correct sequences, keep body parts away from prongs of cable connectors and keep prongs away from metal objects in case you made a mistake. Work so there are always two mistakes between you and an electrocution.
      • Cable must be wired so the appropriate connectors are connected together.
      • If you don't follow all steps you may be in a situation that is temporarily safe but becomes unsafe when something else changes (such as turning on generator, flipping breakers, etc.).
      • Care must be taken not to fray the cable where it runs through window or doorway.
      • All the precautions needed for standalone generator operation and using household electricity (including ones that are unique to emergency situations) still apply.

      You can also use an outlet for a 220V window air conditioner if it is located nearer the generator.

      If you have central air, look into the possibility of connecting the generator to the air conditioner unit outside. It may be more conveniently located near generator. You will need to manually disconnect the power leads for the compressor/fan (or at least make sure the relay is never engaged by the thermostat) and connect the generator there or install an outlet (protected from weather, can also be used to run things like welders when AC is off). Air conditioner circuit breaker must never be turned on as long as the generator cable is connected unless main breaker is off and cable is actually plugged into generator. MAIN circuit breaker must be off whenever generator is connected. Plug from air conditioner circuit to generator is dangerous.

      A short (2ft) male to male cord can be used with a longer male to female 220V generator extension cord or an inside outlet permanently wired to the generator. Advantages include always being able to see both ends at the same time, less tripping hazard, less possibilty of confusing special cord with an ordinary cord, being easy to lock up dangerous short cable, and being able to do all steps from one location.

      Although this is safer than many other ways to attempt generator connection to internal AC wiring (such as connecting inside circuit breaker panel or feeding power into an outlet somewhere without turning main breaker off) it still has significant risks. This is why they make transfer switches (wiring a transfer switch requires disconnecting power at the power meter and a licensed electrician) in the first place. You can also skip the step of wiring into existing wiring and run extension cords from each load to generator.

      A transfer switch is a DPDT switch (or two circuit breakers with an interlock so they can't both be turned on at the same time) installed between the electric meter and the circuit breaker. The utility company will only allow a licensed electrician to do this and you have to contact the utility company to disconnect power at the meter first. It is also possible to install transfer switches on every circuit that needs generator power. Attempting to install a transfer switch somewhere else can create hazards.

      It is possible to wire a generator into the panel below/behind the electric meter after removing fuses contained therein but you will have to answer to the utility company for removing the anti-tamper tag and there are live electrical connections there if utility power is restored unexpectedly or when you go to switch back to utility power after it has been restored. And if you make a mistake, you can short power on the upstream side of the fuses which is more dangerous than shorting power inside your house. Insulated fuse pullers, insulating gloves, and other precautions for working on live circuits (such as one hand in pocket, not shorting anything, not touching anything) must be used to remove (or replace) the fuses and touching or shorting anything on the utility side of the fuses (including, but not limited to, the end of the fuse or fuse holder) is very dangerous. There is a lot more too this than I will explain here. You can create hazards that extend beyond your property even if you manage not to electrocute yourself, create an explosive short circuit, or cause a fire.

      It is possible to install a male generator connector next to the circuit breaker panel to a new 220V circuit breaker (use with a male to female generator extension cord). However, this prevents a safety hazard even when the generator is not in use. Someone can accidently turn that breaker on applying power to the exposed prongs. This has almost the same hazards as the male to male cable aproach BUT the hazards exist all year wrong. If you are going to do this, use a generator inlet box (about $60) with an additional breaker and a locking lid or build a locking cover. You still must make sure main breaker is off.

      It is possible to plug a generator into a 110V outlet using a male to male cord. This is less safe than the dryer method and it will not provide power to half the circuits in the house or as much total power in most cases. You can also overload the wiring in the house this way - other loads on the same circuit will be supplied with power limited by the generator breaker with no protection from the house breaker so you could put 30 amps through a wire rated for 15. And, of course, if you don't switch the main breaker off you create many hazards including ones that extend beyond your property. Outdoor outlets are prone to water damage and are risky to apply power through.

      If design permits, try putting water containers up against the (interior) refrigerator coils to freeze and water in freezer section to freeze. The generated ice will help keep the compartment cool between generator runs. There are special refridgerators/freezers for alternate energy use that use phase change (freezing water or other liquid) to store cooling energy more effectively than batteries.

      Specialty appliances designed for use with solar, wind, hydro, or other alternative energy systems will work better during a power outage.

  •  Some other suggestions... (4.00)
    Frickin' awesome diaries AG.  Here are some ideas to throw out there:

    1. When you mention freezing some water bottles, I use old half-gallon plastic milk cartons - can be any plastic jug, like OJ, milk, soda.  Recycle.
    2. Consider investing in a CamelBak or similar.  The 20 oz versions are not expensive, and if you need to travel with water, this THE best way.  The bladders can be removed, and inserted into a backpack or even hung from a belt-loop.  Why care a bulky water bottle?

    Just some ideas I had reading your current diary.
    •  plastic milk jugs self-degrade (none)

      Yo, I've used platic milk jugs also, as a quick expedient (after suitably washing & rinsing them).  But don't use 'em over lengthy periods of time because they will break down over time, and develop cracks and leaks and so on.  

      I never let mine go for long enough to find out first-hand:-).

  •  Wow - a lot of thought and work went into this (4.00)
    and it is appreciated.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

  •  Lighten the Load (4.00)
    Here's my end-all survival package:

    1. My bike
    2. A bottle of water
    3. A knife
    4. A lighter
    5. This book

    I'll go up the mountain and listen for a stream before I buy any FDA 55 gallon drums. Jesus christ... as if everyone has a garage to stick it in?

    To survive you need to be light. In order to have the things in this diary you'd need to have a house just to store the crap. Generators? Waste of time.

    If you need AC to survive, you're dependent on society. I reccomend fixing that first before you invest in gas masks and roadside grills.

    But, maybe that's just me... I don't buy duct tape to save my ass from terrorists. I don't live in the desert either.

    •  nice and dandy if you are a single young person (4.00)
      but what if you are two people who've got two children under 4, two 80 year old in-laws, a parrot and a handicapped brother to look after.

      7 bikes, 7 bottles of water, 7 knifes, 7 lighters and 7 copies of the book...

      well, they just don't do it.

      "If you and I think exactly alike, one of us is unnecessary" "at least bleeding heart liberals have one"

      by wclathe on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 02:18:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm with you.... (4.00)
        two preteen children, dog, elderly mom, and husband on dialysis.  Camping in the woods is not an option.
        •  The more dependencies you have (none)
          the less your likelihood for survival. I'm sure there's a linear relationship there.
          •  Nope (4.00)
            We have this marvelous invention called "society".  It's where people work together to ensure survival of the group.

            BTW, have fun with your Giardia-induced explosive diarrhea.  I note that your rugged-survivalist plan does not include any form of water treatment.  10,000 out of 10,000 samples of stream/lake/river water from across the US contained Giardia in a recent study.

            Did you actually read anything that I wrote, or did you skim just enough to decide it didn't fit with your worldview?


            You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

            by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 03:50:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  yeah... well.. (none)
            it's not a linear relationship.

            You also seem to be thinking along the lines of a world-wide catastrophe in a Mad-max kind of way.

            that is kind of over-planning/worrying/thinking don't you think?

            99.99% chance that most disasters/emergencies any one of us will face in our lifetimes will be such that we will need to be able to survive for a few days, perhaps a week or two before we get back to society.

            Going to the mountains... well.. ok.. so if there is a world-wide destruction, like some astraroid hitting the earth... you'll be the one to survive.

            Otherwise, you'll be just sitting up there in the mountains getting sick from Giardia and wishing you could shave.

            "If you and I think exactly alike, one of us is unnecessary" "at least bleeding heart liberals have one"

            by wclathe on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 03:55:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  That's one of the most sociopathic things (none)
            that I've read on DKos.

            Wounded Warrior Project Give till it hurts. They already did.

            by soonergrunt on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 06:27:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  True, however... (none)
        Then you all die.

        When a nuke hits, I don't call up my mom and stroll alongside her walker.

        I get the fuck out of dodge.

        "Survival of the fittest" isn't that the point?

        Or is it to invest hundreds and thousands of dollars and several cubic yards of supplies to sit around with the unfit and hope you don't all die together?

        Maybe a balance - strap the babies on, let the parrot go, and wish everyone else luck.

        If you don't die, then you can mourn.

        •  like movie scenarios much? (none)
          Seems like one of those end-of-the-world destruction fantasies.

          and amazingly heartless.

          I REALLY doubt that any emergency/disaster we will face will have me needing to leave behind 3-5 of my family members to die. That is the stuff of movies.

          I have pretty much put together an (on-the-go) emergency kit for our entire family along these lines above that fits into three backpacks and costs less than 500 dollars.

          and the rest of our preparedness is pretty much duel-use (daily use and 'just-in-case')

          I think we'll do just fine in about any emergency we'll face...

          unless of course its something like this and then your hosed as much as I am.. or we are both in the same theater.

          "If you and I think exactly alike, one of us is unnecessary" "at least bleeding heart liberals have one"

          by wclathe on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 04:02:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Idyllic but not at all practical (none)
      Your mountain scenario doesn't work for 99% of the population.

      Right now, lots of people down on the coast are camping next to their homes to try to clean up and salvage what they can. Some are still going to work every day as medical personnel, police, etc. If everybody took off on their bike for the mountains, who would rebuild, rescue, and help injured people?

      Plus it'd be a hell of a ride for someone in New Orleans or Memphis or Kansas to go the mountains.

    •  Thanks for illustrating a point for me! (none)
      Folks, if you've read the first Diaries in this series, you might recall my discussion of the "Armageddon Fallacy".  

      nanobubble has thoughtfully provided an illustration of how the Armageddon Fallacy can interfere with your ability to rationally assess risk and plan your response.  Granted, it was a village-idiot sort of example, but I couldn't ask for a more clear-cut display of misguided thinking when it comes to preparedness planning.



      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 04:46:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Armageddon - AKA OLinda freaks out (4.00)
        This person made me recall old movies where people had built underground shelters in case of nuclear attack. In the movies, there are always people who did not prepare and they try to get into your shelter which you've only got enough air, provisions, room etc., for your beloved family. You beat them off, and close the door and feel terrible, but at least your family is safe.  Now it's occurring to me, I think it was The Twilight Zone. hahaha.  

        But, the point is, this is an example of someone who will be trying to steal your water, or knifing you for your gasoline and food because they did not prepare.  Or, maybe they are just someone you will kindly take in and help and share with to the risk of your own family running out of provisions because you are a loving, good person and can't turn them away.

        Umm, did you say guns were in the next installment. ;)

        "He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm." Kate Hale re FEMA Dir. Mike Brown.

        by OLinda on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 06:37:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  *nice work* (none)
          dental floss can be used to stich a wound in an emergency.
  •  Running the furnace (4.00)
    Speaking from experience: If you have a generator, and are at all electrically inclined, it's pretty easy to get power to a gas furnace. If the control box has a schematic taped to the inside of its cover, you're golden.

    In my situation (ice storm in Jan 2000, power out for 5-1/2 days), I took a long extension cord that wasn't being used, cut off the female end, and connected the cord to the appropriate wire nuts (shown on the schematic). I plugged it into the closest breaker strip connected to the generator, and voila! Heat! A gas furnace draws only a tiny bit of power when not actually heating, and then needs enough power to run the blower (around 1000 watts, depending on the size of your furnace).

    'Course, Mrs. Road was kind of cheesed because it took me four days to think about it. I pointed out that the mouse who had been scratching at the floor joists under our bedroom needed that much time to either decide to leave or freeze to death.

    Hatred is murder (1 John 3:15)
    You can take a break from politics, but life just keeps a-comin’.

    by dirtroad on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 02:13:49 PM PDT

  •  Just have to say... impressive. Thank you! /nt (4.00)

    "If you and I think exactly alike, one of us is unnecessary" "at least bleeding heart liberals have one"

    by wclathe on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 02:15:26 PM PDT

  •  Thanks (4.00)
    I've done some research into this topic including learning about wild foods. Yours is by far the most comprehensive and in depth article on the subject that I've found.
    My awakening came during the massive ice storm that wreaked havoc on our infrastructure in NC a few years back. While my household fared better than most ( we had heat and the frozen over pool made for cold food storage) many people went for up to two weeks without heat and electricity.
    Thank you so much.

    If you push something hard enough, it will fall over. Fudds first law of opposition.

    by UhClem on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 02:19:48 PM PDT

    •  Denial isn't just a river in Egypt (none)
      It's amazing how easy people find it to think that stuff like this could never happen to them.  The fortunate ones, such as yourself, get a wake-up call like that ice storm.

      I've been through a few of those east-coast ice storms, both while visiting (recently) and living there (through 1995).  States from Virginia southward, in particular, seem perenially ill-equipped to handle anything more challenging than a light dusting of snow.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 11:57:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's like a holiday (none)
        Being raised in the winters of Pa and now living in NC, I look on Southern snowdays with a sence of bemusement. In general, The Winters ain't so bad round here. The South doesn't invest in the infrastructure for Winter they way the North does. So when that occasional storm blows in, most folks just make an extra run to the grocery store fer milk, bread and eggs. Once the roads become. "impassable", everyone settles down for an "unexpected" day off. I suspect that most people are sitting around at home making French Toast and catching up on the Soaps...

        If you push something hard enough, it will fall over. Fudds first law of opposition.

        by UhClem on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 08:02:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Toilet paper (none)
          You forgot the massive runs on toilet paper (pun intended) that happen in those situations.  I recall seeing store shelves literally picked clean of toilet paper, even the sandpaper-grade generic stuff.

          Of course, I made the drive between Charlotte and Pinehurst (across the mountains) more than a few times in icy/wet conditions to get to/from work.  In a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports car.  Good thing I learned how to drive in places where people understood winter driving.

          Good times.


          You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

          by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 10:03:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I horde toilet paper... (none)
            ....just in case.

            It's funny to get to work on one of those "dusting" days only to find yanks sayin," Whereda fook is evrybuddy?".

            If you push something hard enough, it will fall over. Fudds first law of opposition.

            by UhClem on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 11:25:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Here's some timely light reading (none)
        on Slate.
        "Where to Hide from Mother Nature."  It's accurate, and the tiny stamp-sized portion of continental U.S. terra firma recommended as the least malignant place is where I propose to have the Alpha Geek Survivalists' quarterly meeting, or at least where we all agree to meet up after The Big One.

        "Never think you've seen the last of anything." --Eudora Welty

        by gazingoffsouthward on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 01:00:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What an interesting example... (none)
          ...of Slate's penchant for mental masturbation.

          After much debate, then, we settled on Slate's "America's Best Place to Avoid Death Due to Natural Disaster": the area in and around Storrs, Conn., home to the University of Connecticut. It lies in Tolland County, which was not part of the 1999 federal disaster declaration for Tropical Storm Floyd. It's a safe 50 miles from the sound and not close to any rivers. It also has relatively easy access to a major city (Hartford) in the event an evacuation or hospitalization becomes necessary.

          And here we get to the crux of the issue with safe locations: safe places tend to be really, really boring.  Human beings aren't wired to seek risk-free lives, for the most part -- we're restless, curious primates with an appetite for changing, dynamic environments.

          Oh, and the term 'survivalist' is Right Out.  :)


          You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

          by AlphaGeek on Sun Sep 18, 2005 at 02:51:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Geek (4.00)
    All of this would make a cool, little book.

    Pardon me in advance. I have no tolerance for jackasses at present.

    by Bob Johnson on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 02:25:49 PM PDT

    •  Or, at the rate I've been going... (4.00)
      ...a big, thick one, with a new edition released every week.  Heh.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 03:53:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ham radio (4.00)
    Like I said in part 1, getting a ham radio license is easier than getting your drivers license. Basically you just have to know enough of the FCC rules and regulations pertaining to ham radio to pass the Technician Class test, which doesn't even require a Morse code test. (The FCC is currently considering eliminating the Morse code requirement across the board, but that's another subject.) I believe it helps to know the code, though; repeaters often identify by Morse even if they don't identify by voice synthesizer, and I remember reading a book when I was a young ham about a kid who got himself rescued when the bad guys kidnapped him to force him to fix their evil commie radio set, or whatever, and he rigged up a piece of test equipment to send an SOS on a frequency his buddies were using.

    Aside: Morse code is useful in other situations too. Remember the situation of POW Cmdr. Jeremiah Denton, who blinked out the word TORTURE with his eyelids when he was paraded in front of a camera by the North Vietnamese. And closer to home, a woman who was carjacked once summoned rescue by tapping out SOS on her brake light. Morse gets through when other forms of communication can't. But I digress.

    Anyway, in order to get a Tech license you have to pass a 35-question exam given by a Volunteer Examiner. Your local ham radio club can give you the details (odds are good they either have VEs or know someone nearby who does). You can also contact the two largest groups of volunteer examiner coordinators in the country the American Radio Relay League and the W5YI Group.

    But you can't stop there if you want to take emergency preparedness with regard to ham radio seriously. The largest group of trained emergency operators is the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, an arm of the ARRL. Once you get your ham ticket and the equipment to get on the air, the ARRL will help you get in touch with your local Section Emergency Coordinator, who can tell you how to join up with the local ARES group.

    The equipment isn't free, although often if you're strapped the local radio club will have a station they will let you operate once you're checked out on the equipment. You can buy used gear on eBay or through "swap meets" for relatively cheap. Just do yourself a favor and get the opinion of someone you trust before you buy, just like you would before you bought a used car. And of course there are commercial dealers that will be glad to sell you whatever you think you need. Again, ask around so you don't do the equivalent of buying $3000 worth of camera gear just to shoot pictures of your kindergartener on the playground. My favorite 2-meter handheld would cost about $230 to replace today, as it's being phased out in favor of a newer model; my second favorite is about 12 years old, built like a brick, and doubles as a base station. I bought it for $75 on eBay.

    And finally, here's a link to a page maintained by a San Diego ham that lists a number of resources for the beginning operator, including study guides and practice tests. When I took my Extra Class test about three years ago I basically just drilled on the practice tests to find out where I was weak, studied up on those areas, and aced the test when I took it for real. (Passing is something like 74%; I got 100%.) A different method might be better for you; most clubs offer classes for newcomers to the hobby.

    I will be glad to answer questions if I can. My address is in my profile. 73!

  •  Thanks so much for this excellent primer (4.00)
    After watching what's happened in the Katrina disaster zone, I've gotten the fire under my butt to make sure my household is prepared for whatever.

    So after reading your Part 1&II initial diary, I went to some sites to try to fill in my emergency preparedness supplies.  There is so much available, it was dizzying to make decisions.  So I much appreciate the recommends in this installment.

    May I ask about the value of having a short-wave radio available?  Sorry if this sounds stupid, but this is one of the purchasing dilemmas I had at the "emergency supply" sites.  I do have XM satellite available in the car.

    One thing that I found after being direly trapped in Loma Prieta, 1989 on the Embarcadero in San Fran was that the nearest pay phone kept going dead.  Took numerous calls to get through to the East Bay, and then the call only lasted for about a minute.  But my office realized that our fax machine was hooked up to a data line, so we were able to call out of state using that (just the phone part, no electric power).  (East Coast relatives were able to convey messages to the East Bay for me, for all the good it did to ease the long, harrowing night...)

    It's only been since the Katrina disaster that I've noted the value of using text messaging via cell phone.  Great tip, underscoring that one.  Even though I can use it, spouse can't, nor can receiving relatives in outer areas.  Must do training.

    Another item I have never been without in public since Loma Prieta, and that's a personal flashlight.  (I noted you remarked on this, too.)  No matter how tiny it is, never again without one.  Pitch dark is pitch dark.  Hazardous and dangerous to negotiate.  

    Thanks so much for the excellent public service you have done with this series.  I'm printing it out and putting it in a binder, for easy reference and ACTION.  No kiddin'.

    Blessings upon your house.

    •  Shortwave (none)
      If I had to choose between shortwave capability and the ability to receive NOAA weather radio, I would take the weather band every time.

      Really, shortwave is relatively unimportant in a disaster.  You're more likely to use AM to pick up stations within or immediately outside the region of greatest destruction, which will have information directly relevant to your situation.

      AM/FM/Weather and multiple power options including hand-crank are my minimum requirements for a home preparedness kit.  Shortwave is a don't-care unless it makes it harder for people to understand how to use the radio.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 11:06:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Communications (4.00)
    Howard Rheingold's and David Stpehenson's are two resources for those who are interested in using cellular technology for emergency preparedness.

    I had two solar/dynamo flashlight/radios modified so that they can charge AA batteries in the battery bay besides the hard-wired nicad battery inside the case.  Now I have the flashlight, radio, and extra set of batteries all in one package plus the capability of producing low voltage DC electricity day or night as long as the sun shines, I can turn the crank on the dynamo, and the rechargeable batteries can hold a charge.

    Talked with some product developers about designing a commercial product like this but am told that the idea is "obvious" and thus not patentable or protectable and so not  worth investing in.  Oh well.

    Solar is Civil Defense

    by gmoke on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 03:25:39 PM PDT

  •  Excellent AG (4.00)
    For cooking I would also recommend using, in sunny areas naturally, a solar cooker.

    In winter or cloud conditions, a haybox cooker can save a lot of your energy resources.

    Good details at Solar Cookers International

    They cover a lot of low-tech solutions for water sterilization etc. It is aimed at developing countries with lots of sun, but retained heat cooking "hayboxes" was around in Europe and the USA as well in times gone by.

    The vodka's good, but the meat's gone off. People and fish can peacefully co-exist.

    by NeutralObserver on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 03:34:28 PM PDT

    •  Great suggestions, thanks (none)
      I agree that these would be excellent options for many situations.  Despite the now-epic length of this Diary series, one of my regrets is that I've had to give relatively short shrift to many individual topics to cover everything effectively.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 11:11:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Slightly off topic (4.00)
    Anyone see the ABC "worst case scenario" thing last night? Earthquake, Nuke, Bird Flu. The bird flu thing was REALLY scary.

    I spoke with a nurse practitioner at my Dr's office about getting the ONLY hope there is if bird flu hits: TamiFlu. Instead, she suggested I read Psalm 91 and pray that God will protect us. I pointed out He didn't do too good a job of protecting those floating in the water in New Orleans, now did He?

    Clearly, God helps those who help themselves.

  •  Another Good Installment AG (4.00)
    Here are a few additional comments:
    1. I prefer to use the Coleman (or whatever) stoves and lanterns that use white gas (naptha, camp fuel whatever it is called where you live) rather then the propane version especially in mobile situations.  Yes the liquid fuel is a pain but one gallon of it will provide far more energy than the equivalent weight of propane canisters.  It also works much better in cold conditions such as we have here in central Canada.  Of course, multi fuel is even better.

    2. I use all sizes of batteries around the house but for travelling I have standardized on the AA size.  Headlights, flashlights, GPS, radio all running on the same thing.

    3. Candle lanterns are ok for general low level lighting especially if you have the kind that use the 9 hour candles.  Brunton also makes an LED equivalent called the "Glorb" with high/low settings.  They claim it will get 250 hrs from 4 AAs on the low setting.  I have shifted over to LED lights quite extensively because of the battery life.  Mountain Equipment Co-op (which I think is only in Canada) sells a replacement 3 LED head for the AA mini Maglite for $8 that increases battery life by 3-4x.

    4. When I was guiding I put together a kit that still goes everywhere with me when I'm in the bush.  It contains a signal mirror, cable saw, roll of brass snare wire, space blanket, sharpening steel, pen type flare gun with 4 flares, adjustable butane lighter, waterproof container of matches, magnesium fire starter block and a small compass.  That all fits in a 6"x6" x1 1/2" pouch. I also carried a swiss army knife a skachit (a combination knife/hatchet with a threaded hole for a stick handle) and a Silva Ranger compass on that belt.
    •  Candles in earthquakes (4.00)
      All of this information was really good to have, and AG has done an amazing job on this series, but I must take issue with those suggesting candles for temporary lighting.  This ONLY applies to those of us in earthquake country, but one should never, ever, ever use candles or any open flame system for lighting after an earthquake.  You have to expect aftershocks, and open flame + earthquake often = fire.  
      •  safe use of candles (none)

        What I do about candles:  Use just one, keep it in front of me at all times, keep it in areas that are clear of any combustible materials (get those papers off my desk!) and put it out when I'm not within arm's length of it (i.e. if I have to step outside, even for a moment, for example to take out the trash).  To go a little further, use a short, squat candle, in a bowl that's filled with enough water that when the candle burns down to the water level (or if an aftershock causes the water to slosh) it will self-extinguish.  

        And of course never ever leave candles burning while sleeping, and never ever if there's any risk from natural gas or other fuels that could cause explosions.  

        This plus a crank-up flashlight (and crank-up radio, and oldfashioned analog phones) has proven sufficient for routine overnight blackouts.  It might be inconvenient to do for days at a time, but hardly as bad as running out of batteries and being just plain stuck.  

        (What would be really cool, is a stationary bicycle with a generator that can put out 40 - 75 watts, enough for a laptop and one or two compact fluorescent lights; and a small desk-like surface on which one can use the laptop whilst pedaling for power.)

  •  A couple of suggestions (4.00)
    if you haven't already gotten them.
    1-- Add a long-neck funnel for gassing up your car.  NATO std. fuel can spouts are too large to fit into US-made gas tank necks.  Also, NATO std fuel cans have come in plastic for many years.  You can find them in the issued green, and they are paintable.  Should you come across any military fuel cans at your local DRMO or surplus store, or in an emergency in the field, cans that are used for gasoline are marked with 'MOGAS'.
    Consider solar powered and wind-up powered equipment for things like radios and flashlights.  A good place to look for these is  The fewer batteries you have to carry, the better.
    For water, I prefer this.
    I could go on and on and on, but it's your diary.
    Keep up the great work.

    Wounded Warrior Project Give till it hurts. They already did.

    by soonergrunt on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 03:49:55 PM PDT

    •  Thanks, soonergrunt (none)
      How was school?

      Regarding the NATO cans: my "friend" who isn't a Good Environmental Citizen ended up with steel German cans very much like the ones at the "CARB Compliant" link in the Diary.  

      The Taiwanese NATO-compatible spout that Cheaper Than Dirt sells does, in fact, fit standard gas tank filler tubes.

      Regarding the Katadyn: it doesn't kill viruses, unlike the products I listed.  I probably should have included a specific note to that effect, but that's why Exstream gets the nod.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:31:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  School got cancelled (none)
        The base where I was supposed to go to school has been turned into a logistics base/refugee center for Katrina.  I'm back in the mix for another slot somewhere else but that could take a while.  Of course, we weren't informed about the cancellation until after the unit finalized the rosters and started deploying.

        As for the filter system, I use it, but in addition to iodine tablets.  I use it primarily to remove the flavor of the iodine.

        Wounded Warrior Project Give till it hurts. They already did.

        by soonergrunt on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 06:10:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  question about biodiesel and emergency preparednes (none)
    Do you Alphageek or anyone know about the storage capabilities of biodiesel... or barring that the storage capabilities of the things required to make it?

    Our next car is going to be a diesel (and if we are lucky a diesel hybrid) and we plan to use biodiesel.

    How well does biodiesel fuel store? Does it go 'bad'? when? I know it's relatively safe (no explosions), but how safe?

    How about the things to make it? Lye? methanol?

    "If you and I think exactly alike, one of us is unnecessary" "at least bleeding heart liberals have one"

    by wclathe on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 04:05:57 PM PDT

    •  Haven't used it, but see pages about storage (none)
      Notably this one:
      Biodiesel fuels also require special storage and handling requirements. Biodiesel fuels have shown poor oxidation stability, which can result in long-term storage problems. When Biodiesel fuels are used at low ambient temperatures, filters may plug, and the fuel in the tank may thicken to the point where it will not flow sufficiently for proper engine operation.
      Improving the storage lifetime of biodiesel is apparently a current research topic:
      The relatively poor oxidative and hydrolytic stabilities of biodiesel are a serious concern with respect to fuel quality during storage. Factors reducing stability of biodiesel during short and long-term storage need to be identified. Rapid, sophisticated methods for testing fuel quality under accelerated conditions will ensure fuel quality. Approaches for improving oxidative stability during storage are needed.
      Sounds like biodiesel might not be the best stuff for your emergency kit.
      •  yeah, doesn't sound good... wonder... (none)
        If we have a diesel car using biodiesel...

        we'll have to store diesel maybe... I'll have to do more research on this.

        also, I'm learning how to make it, but I'm not sure how good lye and methanol store either...(it'd be nice in a long-term emergency to be able to grab some veggie oil and run my car if I had to :).

        "If you and I think exactly alike, one of us is unnecessary" "at least bleeding heart liberals have one"

        by wclathe on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 04:25:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Biodiesel doesn't store well (none)
      On the other hand, petrodiesel stores better than just about anything as long as you use a good treatment additive.

      I think your karma can weather the damage you'll incur by storing petrodiesel instead of biodiesel.  Look at it this way:

      Emergency: 20 gallons of petrodiesel stored for 5 years, treated yearly, then used and replaced

      General usage: 300 gallons of biodiesel (12K mi @ 40mpg) * 5 years == 1500 gallons biodiesel

      Google Calculator says:
      20 / 1520 = 1.31578947 percent

      I could live with being 98.68% pure of heart.  :)


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:08:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yeah, I think I can live with 98.68% purity too (none)
        thanks, nice to know petrodiesel stores well :)

        "If you and I think exactly alike, one of us is unnecessary" "at least bleeding heart liberals have one"

        by wclathe on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 06:05:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Questions (none)
    Food tablets that last for ten years? I saw them on a website. Any opinion?

    Extra supply of condoms including in case you meet a rapist?

    Waterproof wrapping for everything in case of radiation exposure because those in charge will hose everything down. Maybe even a disposable outer bag, inner waterproof bag surrounding the bag you intend to keep after being hosed down.

    •  Answers (none)
      I don't think we can say anything about a long-shelf-life food tablet without knowing exactly what you're talking about. I'd be suspicious of anything which didn't deliver at least 2000 calories per day.

      Do you really think a rapist is going to agree to use a condom?

      While I don't worry about radiation exposure, waterproofing is a good idea in a disaster kit simply because you may find yourself outdoors in wet weather for an extended period. I use trash compactor bags to line the inside a backpack both for camping and for my disaster kit. They're durable and cheap, and if you roll the top of the trash compactor bag closed, they're quite waterpoof.

    •  Man, I'd only need three of those. (none)
      •  Three? (none)

        A comment upblog just reminded me.  In a crisis, a large can of vegetable oil is a handy thing to have.  Can be burned in a wick lamp or for cooking, adds lots of calories to food, just add to rice or beans for a good boost, and in a pinch you can even drink it down for energy in place of food.  Not pleasant, but survivable.  

        I know a couple of guys who are serious ultralight backpackers.  On long tracks they will not stop for food during the day, just drink olive oil instead.

        BTW, condoms actually are handy to have around, emergency water storage, etc.

        Almighty Father, we beseech thee to strike down our foes, the blasphemers; for they have said Thy beard is gray, when we know it to be white...

        by EeDan on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:38:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  3 of these. (none)
        Food tablets that last for ten years....
    •  Y'know that line in this Diary... (none)
      ...the one where I quote from The Matrix: Revolutions?

      I'm not willing to accept that level of survival.

      Subsisting on those would be better than dying, of course. However, I'd rather plan to have 3 days worth of food and an unstoppable evacuation plan than contemplate feeding my family on that stuff for 10 days.  I can't even imagine what that would do to your lower GI tract.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:12:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Where do we re-unite? (4.00)
    Where will get news of Kos?
    Where will the Kos community reunite?
    •  We'll forward you stories via text message (4.00)
      160 characters at a time.

      Threaded comments and replies could be a bit tricky, though.


      I guess you could say that we'll reunite at the YearlyKos convention in 2006.  :)


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:14:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You know, this is an interesting point (none)
      I take it we're all aware just how vulnerable this means of communication is?

      Almighty Father, we beseech thee to strike down our foes, the blasphemers; for they have said Thy beard is gray, when we know it to be white...

      by EeDan on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:15:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  High power digital radio communications network (none)
        Ham radio's "packet radio" has been used for years for roughly this sort of thing. It was the forerunner to the internet.

        Direct personal communications via radio can bypass all the intermediary techno junk that may or may not be functional in an emergency, like cell phone towers and phone networks. It's the bottom line in emergency communications. And communications is the bottom line in most emergencies, as it was with Katrina.

        •  I've posted about this before. (none)
          Check into the new 802.15 wireless network devices - they have a range of about a mile, and an ad hoc network can be set up with nodes that relay over much larger distances.

          Hit for continuing updates...


          •  I'm talking about systems with a range of (none)
            30 to 100 miles between stations in the network and 100 times the power of the wireless network stuff. All this stuff may be new to computer geeks but hams have been doing it for years, 20 or more if I'm not mistaken.
            •  Yup - but... (none)
     expensive are these systems, and how portable - that is, what are the power requirements?

              A 50-node network of 802.15 devices could provide coverage to the entire downtown New Orleans area - and any internet access that any node had - via satellite, for example - could be shared.

              A notebook computer with an 802.15 device can be kept charged by a PV solar panel that's easily transportable.  And the learning curve is low:  it's just another network card.

              Packet radio is great, if you've got the infrastucture to support it, the dough to install it, and the knowledge to make it work - but in a disaster, I'd want to be thinking more along the lines of self-sufficiency.


              •  Packet radio use is basically self sufficient. (none)
                Radios are under $100 used and are already in use for emergency work. We just need more of them in a given area.

                We built a ham radio emergency service network for about 2 grand that you could blanket my whole county with using just HT's (walkie talkies.) My gear will run on my solar panels, no problem.

                I don't understand what the problem was in NO. I guess it came down to the possibility that all the hams got out of town when they could. Heck, even a lot of cops ran off.

                But anyone who is serious about real communications needs to get a ham license.

        •  comms: and/both, not either/or (none)

          Each technology serves a different purpose.  802.15 for local, packet wireless for long distance.

          In fact, citizens could duplicate an entire telecom network this way, with local & long distance, voice & data.

          Long distance voice would be limited, and "internet" would be back to text-only (just think: no more annoying popups or animated ads blinking on the page).  But it could work.  

          Some friends of mine are building a parallel network using a combination of IP-telephony and oldfashioned electromechanical phone switches.  This could be extended to serve neighborhoods and to use packet radio for, at minimum, long distance "telegrams."  

    •  Oh, yeah... (none)
      and Dude!  This is a kick-ass diary.  Great job.

      Almighty Father, we beseech thee to strike down our foes, the blasphemers; for they have said Thy beard is gray, when we know it to be white...

      by EeDan on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:26:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (4.00)
        You've contributed some very insightful comments yourself lately.


        You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

        by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:39:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, well. You know (none)
          decided to stop lurking and start writing.

          Almighty Father, we beseech thee to strike down our foes, the blasphemers; for they have said Thy beard is gray, when we know it to be white...

          by EeDan on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 06:00:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  For some reason (none)
    For some reason, I see this diary's title and think of Hank Williams Junior:


  •  Good job, Alpha-G (4.00)
    I know this morphed into a formidable effort.  Good on ya for seeing it through.

    Thank you.

    "Whatever they want the answer is no. Now is not the time to fold, now is the time to up the ante." -- Charles Pierce

    by baba durag on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:02:04 PM PDT

  •  My Local Emergency Provisions Store (4.00)
    Image hosted by

    The most un-American thing you can say is, "You can't say that." -G. Keillor

    by Eddie Haskell on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:23:02 PM PDT

    •  Every survival kit needs (4.00)
      Everclear (95% pure grain alcohol). You can burn it for heat or light, it will de-water gasoline (like "Heet"), it has a low freezing point and can be used for anti-freeze, it can be used as an antiseptic or to sterilize things, it's good for sore muscles (even if you just rub it in), and administered orally can be a mood enhancer, anesthetic, emetic, or, in sufficient volume, an end to all of your survival problems.

      And no, I'm not really serious.

      We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

      by badger on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 11:38:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Locate natural spring (none)
    I live accross the street from a natrual spring, that was once the city water supply for our neighborhood.  A good solution for emergency water, including "emergencies" such a plumbing project that takes too long leaves us with no water for a dinner party....

    Many places have natrual springs, and they are a great source of water in a pinch.

    •  True, but use caution (4.00)
      Giardia (a disease-causing microorganism) is a huge health threat in US fresh water sources these days.  As I mentioned above, a recent study found Giardia in 10,000 out of 10,000 samples taken across the US.

      A quick pass through any reasonably good filter will take care Giardia.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:37:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One more thing to add to the kit - Alcohol (4.00)
    I created an emergency kit after the Aug '89 earthquake in Alamo, CA, I thought I was ready for the Loma Prieta earthquake 2 month later.  But being up all night waiting for my husband, and trying to keep a toddling 10 month old from running into furniture in the dark, and hearing horrible radio reports for hours really makes one need a stiff drink.  I suggest stashing a bottle of your favorite liquor.  It can always be used as an anesthetic.

    "There is no absolute point of view." Einstein, Nietzsche, and T.S. Eliot

    by MyPOV on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 05:46:55 PM PDT

    •  Miami Hurricane Preparedness. (4.00)
      First I put up the shutters. Then I make a run on the liquor store. It's always especially busy when a big storm is rolling in.
    •  safer alternatives... (none)

      The problem with using alcohol as a tranquilizer is that it does impair coordination and performance and judgement in doses too small for the effects to be obvious.  

      You don't want to be drunk or even tipsy if you get an evacuation order and have to get behind the wheel when road conditions are already hazardous.  

      Safer alternatives:  Valerian root, as a tincture (little bottle of liquid) or in capsules.  This is "nature's valium," a mild tranqulizer. Test yourself ahead of time by taking a single dose to see how it affects you.  An hour after taking it, test yourself on tasks that require fine motor coordination.  Adjust the dose as needed.  

      Cannabis isn't recommended as an emergency tranquilizer since it can cause feelings of paranoia, which is all the more likely in an emergency.  Though, overall it has less of an impact on coordination and judgement than alcohol.  

      Generally, what you want to accomplish with a tranquilizer under emergency conditions, is not to sedate yourself or get high, but to just take enough of the anxiety or frustration away that you have room to think and use your own natural coping mechanisms.  

  •  Perfect timing! (4.00)
    We're scheduled to discuss "security & safety" for an hour at our cohousing neighborhood meeting this Sunday, and the City office with emergency-preparedness brochures seems to be understaffed and therefore closed when I'm by, so your guide will become the basic material for presentation! We already store water under the Common House, and have a common out-of-area contact with our info, but half the struggle, as you know, is in the education and maintenance of the people systems that keep us prepared.

    Berkeley Cohousing

  •  ~WHAP!~ ...2 of 3? 3 of 4? ...sheesh... (4.00)

    ...still, very well done.  Recommending...

  •  Gettin' ready (4.00)
    Wow, thank you for all the work on this. I agree with those wanting the pdf. I've always wanted all of the dKos pages to have a "print this page" feature. Wouldn't that be great.

    It's times like reading your diary that I wish I wasn't single.  Doesn't happen or even occur to me very often. For me, single is good. I guess in a disaster/horrible emergency it would be nice to have some help and a second brain. Also, someone who knows about electricity and such.

    Thank you for your timing too! :) Yesterday was payday so I can pick up a few items.

    I know your series is something I will be referring back to for weeks until I think I've got it and am as ready as I can be.

    Sorry to be so late joining the discussion. AlphaGeek, you rock!

    "He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm." Kate Hale re FEMA Dir. Mike Brown.

    by OLinda on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 06:25:33 PM PDT

  •  Water - milk jugs in the freezer (4.00)
    Forgive me if I missed this above, but one of the easiest, low maintenance ways to store bulk water is in the freezer. We use well cleaned 4 gallon plastic milk jugs. Be sure to leave the cap off initially, and some space for it to expand when freezing.

    Added bonus - in a power outage a few can be moved into the fringe to extend the lifespan of the fridge food.

    The opposite of war is not peace, it's creation --Jonathan Larson

    by MaggieEh on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 07:06:07 PM PDT

    •  Reasoning for bottles vs. refilled jugs (none)

      Your suggestions are great, and in fact are a viable alternative to my suggestion of freezing bottled water.  I thought perhaps it might be useful if I shared the reasoning I used when deciding what to recommend.

      Cost: there's little relative cost advantage for either solution over the long term.  750mL bottles of water from Trader Joe's are less than US$0.50 each, so if you keep a dozen of them in the freezer you've invested a whopping US$6.00.  You could further argue that this cost is spread over 5+ years, so call that US$1.20/year.  I misplace more spare change than that in a month.

      Recyle/reuse: My household recycles approximately 100 1-gallon plastic milk containers per year, or 500 containers over the course of 5 years.  If I fill two of them with water and freeze them, I have reduced my recycling output by 0.4% in that timeframe.  Furthermore, I would likely recycle those containers post-crisis, wiping out that 0.4% reductiong in recycling output.  (Same situation for bottled water, for that matter.)

      Safety: Factory-sterile sealed water bottles are a safer source of water than stored tap water.  Freezing the tap water only stops the clock temporarily.

      Utility: Large single masses of water will stay frozen longer than multiple smaller units with the same total mass.  This is because the larger mass (milk jug) will absorb heat more slowly than the smaller masses (water bottles).  If the total amount of frozen water is the same, though, both offer the same amount of cooling capacity.

      However, the water bottles are more easily portable, can be grouped into a single cooler or split up for multiple uses, and in fact have an inherent utility as a personal water source even after they've expended their cooling capacity.

      Therefore, while it might feel like it's more environmentally responsible to wash and refill milk containers, this should not factor into your decision.  

      Instead, the best solution is probably a mix of milk jugs for longer-lasting cooling effect, and water bottles as a source of safe and utilitarian drinking water.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 11:48:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Do I Need a Gun? (4.00)
    I think I have everything else covered. I don't live in an urban area. My community has it's own water system. We have several large tanks to get us through the dry months. We have propane to cook. The only thing I don't have is a means of killing my fellow man if he/she gets desperate to survive off of my good fortune.

    Wait a minute. I'm thinking like a repuglican. Never mind.

    Fox News is a propaganda outlet of the Republican Party - DNC Chair Howard Dean

    by easong on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 08:21:52 PM PDT

    •  Guns... (none)
      A gun is a tool - unfortunately it is a tool (like a car) that is deadly (and not in the intended sense) in the hands of someone who is not well trained and does not have extremely good self control.  (That's why a lot of people are killed by accident by both cars and guns.)

      Like cars, more people think they are qualified to use them (guns) than actually are.

      My father was quite good with guns, he taught me to shoot AND taught me that I didn't need a gun for most situations.  In fact, having a visible gun out in the open can be a very bad thing.  (It draws attention.)

      A pressurised can of a really caustic oven cleaner is a very good short range weapon that also doesn't create undue alarm in potential predators (until too late).  A really righteous slingshot with a good supply of ball bearings (river or ocean rock) is also good.  Think alternative.

    •  What DButch said... (none)
      I'll cover personal security in depth in Part 5, and I anticipate that it will be a popular discussion topic in the Comments.

      DButch made some good (and very insightful) remarks in reply to your Comment.  I'd like to add that you should not consider personal security something that only Republicans give serious thought.  

      You don't have to be a paranoid wingnut to care about your own safety in situations where normal societal conventions don't apply, such as when your city's emergency services are totally overwhelmed.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 12:09:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Flammables and safety (none)
    And thank you VERY much for the comment about keeping flammable substances outside the house (or apartment) structure.  Also the gas stabilizer.

    I was really annoyed that my local paper ran an article on emergency preparations that recommended an emergency generator but did not include that caution.  Or the warning about gas stablizer.

    I may have missed it, but did someone mention that if you HAVE a generator you had better fire it up for 15-20 minutes once a month, and make sure it gets a regular maintenance checkup.

  •  How about the other environment (none)
    95% or more of the peepul reading this will never use any of this advice in practice but they just might go out and buy "chemically heated MREs" and other abominations that will just be discarded in the trash unused.

    When I read about those new self-cooking disposable soup cans I nearly blanched. What is the ecological impact of these products? When the shit has hit the fan enough for you to actually use emergency rations, do you really care whether 1 out of 25 of the meals you're going to have to eat is "chemically heated"? No, but the environment gives a helluva shitload when you're generating 400% as much waste and dumping who knows what into your nearby ocean or aquifer or incinerator stack with no need whatsoever.

    Look, nearly all emergencies in this country are going to be local and there's no reason other than crass POLITICS why people can't be lifted out of whatever situation they are in in 24-48 hours if the "authorities" actually cared.

    So if you're white and middle class or better, grab a couple jugs of Evian and relax. If you're born wearing the wrong uniform, forget about it, you're on your own. And regardless, everyone, don't waste a quarter of a shitload of money and time protecting yourself against the unlikely when all you're doing is fouling the environment at a 2-4x rate than you would if you just used the clicker to change the fucking channel.

    The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

    by peeder on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 09:29:05 PM PDT

    •  Food heaters (none)

      MREs, heaters, and other rations and fuels do not need to be disposed of unused. If you can budget to replace the rations before they expire, you can donate them to the food bank or eat them yourself (if your budget is more limited). Calculate the expiration based on average temperature of storage or better yet the number of months at each temperature.

      Used for emergency rations, chemical food heaters aren't necessarily an environmental disaster though using them for daily use would be wasteful.

      One seller describes MRE heaters as "Environmentally friendly iron, magnesium, & sodium composition ... Food Grade ... Non-toxic". There are risks associated with MRE heaters; they can cause trouble in a fire (when you try to extinguish in water) and storing large amounts together is risky (same is true for latex gloves) because you can have a chain reaction. I don't completely understand the composition and chemical reactions but the environmental cost appears to be largely one of efficiency (more energy may be consumed to heat using one of these heaters than if you cooked something on a stove) and careless disposal.

      The quicklime used in the self heating cans (at least one variety) does produce a caustic residue when spent but after it reacts with CO2 from the atmosphere, it turns into harmless chalk . Someone suggested it could be used to make mortar (though I suggeted it might be better at that if you haven't added water to make heat). It appears the lifecycle looks something like this:

        - Energy is consumed extracting a fairly harmless substance (limestone, chalk). CO2 released into atmosphere operating equipment. - It is heated (more CO2 from burning fuel) to very high temperatures and chemically converts to a different form (drives off chemically CO2). CaO. This is basically the same process used to make cement. - You add water to the CaO, releasing heat as it converts from CaO to CaOH (caustic). - Exposed to air, CaOH reacts with CO2 producing calcium carbonate (CaCO3 - chalk/limestone). - You can save energy from the first step (mining) by recycling this to make more heaters.
      So, the CO2 that was originally driven off in producing the heater is reclaimed. The CO2 used as fuel for the extraction/heating process is not reclaimed unless you use renewable fuels. Limestone is deliberately added to soil to conteract acidity (such as acid rain) and provide calcium needed by plants. They may add some other ingredients to slow the reaction (better to use smaller quantities or use something inert like sand) or neutralize the PH that complicate things. Sending it to the landfill is a bad idea, better to investigate reusing by recycling into another heater, using as mortar, giving to a farmer to reduce amount of limestone otherwise used, or even spreading it on your back yard. It might be possibly be used for safe disposal of spent ferric chloride (used to etch printed circuit boards and to remove copper (from pipes) from sewage). Spent ferric chloride (or even unspent) can be more safely disposed of by adding enough iron to insure it is completely spent and then adding sodium carbonate; results: copper (from original use), iron, and table salt. At this point it is no longer hazardous waste but it would be good to see if it could further be treated to recycle the iron and copper (salt is more soluable in water than iron or copper). If you used calcium carbonate instead of sodium carbonate, you would probably end up with calcium chloride which is better environmentally than table salt. I like the idea of using two post consumer wastes to nutralize each other.

      Boiling water is probably a better way to heat your emergency rations where possible. A solar cooker can also be used. But sometimes (on the go) a chemical heater is handy. A chemical heater can also be used (with caution) to provide heat for humans (hypothermia, hot compress, etc). They also make chemical heaters that can be reused by throwing them in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes.

      Also many fuels may expire and be unusable for their intended purpose but can still be used to produce heat in an appropriate system. Concrete/Cement production consumes a lot of energy but a lot more waste fuel and hazardous materials are being used now. They very high temperatures make it safe to burn hazardous materials. For example, used tires are burned to make cement.

      I disagree with the statement that only politics prevents you from being rescued within 24-48 hours. Consider new orleans. Yep, the people in the shelters weren't rescued in time because of politics. But the politics didn't prevent the coast gaurd (they didn't wait for permission from washington - they are always in rescue mode) from rescuing people off rooftops and I think it still took them a long time to rescue people. Also, while Katrina (the hurricane, not counting the government (lack of) response) was a huge disaster, bigger disasters are possible and becoming more likely. Politics definitely played a bad role but you can't depend on politicians to clean up their act, either.

  •  My take on stored consumables... (4.00)
    ...might appear odd at first glance - but is actually quite pratical.

    AlphaGeek's food requirement section omits a very important (to me, anyway) category of comsumable:  TRADE GOODS.

    There are any number of things - not all of which qualify as foodstuffs - that should be considered.  Most have indefinite shelflife, but all should be added to any long-term preparedness plan.

    Salt, sugar, spices, tooth powder (not paste), mouthwash, condoms (polyurethane condoms have a much longer shelf life), liquor (airplane bottles and half-pints), pot, dental floss, deodorant, soaps, socks, aspirin, Bactine, and...

    Use your imagination.

    Almost all of these things a quite cheap, and - as AlphaGeek's Diary will attest to - are the sort of things that nobody gives much thought to, but become very desireable luxuries once a long-term disaster has set in.  The trade value of a half-pint of bourbon - to someone who hasn't seen any for six months - is virtually incalculable.

    A goodly supply of these types of items - over and above what one might want for onesself - can be put away quite cheaply.

    If things get really bad, the difference between the poverty of stark survival, and real wealth, could cost a week's pay today...


    •  chocolate, coffee, tobacco... (none)

      ...are excellent trade items.  

      Buy a deliberate over-supply of the types you or your friends regularly consume, so the stock is self-rotating.  (Even if you're an antismoking zealot, remember, it's for barter!)

      Note, careless storage in the fridge or freezer can cause these items to dry out and lose quality.  Do your research into the best ways to keep them stable over a period of time.  

      Alcohol as trade item should be subject to some discretion.  You do not want it getting into the hands of yahoos who could make trouble when drunk, otherwise you're just contributing to making the emergency situation worse.  

    •  From New Orleans blogs (none)
      I saw several pointers to Trade Goods used in NO.

      Best Trade Good was Bottled Water, followed by Booze.

  •  Good intentions but suburban-geeky (none)
    I think you're just a wee bit dismissive of people without vehicles and "city-dwellers."  

    And I have no idea what MREs and emergency ration food bars, and instant noodles are loaded with MSG and not very nutritious.

    What the hell is wrong with having a stash of nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter, crackers, chocolate, and kosher salami?   I could live on that stuff for a while and I'm sure I wouldn't have cravings for chemically self-heating, self-basting cans of processed junk.

    In the "Alice B. Toklas Cookbook," Alice says that she and Gertrude Stein got through the brunt of the Occupation in their French village by living for months off of a smoked ham given to them by a neighbor.  Of course, they may have had Alice's "special fudge" too....  

    •  You do what's right for you (none)
      I'm offering suggestions and ideas which are likely to be useful to the largest possible percentage of folks who read this series.  Please keep in mind that not everyone shares your tastes or circumstances.  In response to your question, I would say that there's nothing wrong with that approach, if that's what you're comfortable with.

      Yes, this series is targeted at suburban and exurban residents -- it's been incredibly time-consuming to write as it is.  It would have been very, very difficult to also specifically address the needs of urban residents in the time and space available.

      Regarding the 'people without vehicles' jab -- guilty as charged.  That snark slipped in there, and was most carefully NOT edited out, after some whiny comments attached to a previous installment in this series.  Not one single city-dweller has asked politely if I might consider addressing the challenges of emergency preparedness in their situation.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 12:17:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In NO they didn't consider people w/o cars (none)
        Given what's just happened in NO to all the people who couldn't get out of town because they didn't have their own cars -- and the fact that the city didn't provide buses or trains for them -- I think anyone who doesn't own a car is understandably sensitized to not being given as much attention or consideration as those with cars in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.  And we're also seeing how much more value is placed on people with homes than those who live in apartments (e.g., a special military unit guarding mansions while people in apartments fend for themselves under very difficult circumstances).

        It shouldn't be an afterthought or secondary or "special" consideration to give as much attention to people who live in cities and take pub tran instead of owning cars.

        I took a bus home from downtown today, and as we passed the campus area people crowded onto the bus -- mostly students but people of all ages.  And the bike racks were completely full of bikes and scooters.  Meanwhile the streets were filled with cars and SUVs that mostly had only one person in them, the driver.  

        When you don't have a car you see things a little differently and don't appreciate being marginalized or made to feel less important than someone who has a car.  I could afford a car if I wanted one, but I got into the habit of taking pub tran when I lived in NYC and have done so in various locales since.  I don't really like driving and never have, and I LIKE taking pub tran for the most part (I take cabs too).  I have a freelance business and I'm also writing a book so it's good for me to not pile on expenses like a car now.  

        It seems people here greatly appreciate your work, and your philosophy and general tips on survival are most useful.  But if only those who could afford all the survival gear you recommend -- and who had vehicles -- were "saved" in a disaster or emergency we would see a tragic repeat of the traumatic circumstances we all just witnessed in NO.

        •  What are you looking for from him? (4.00)
          He doesn't live in an urban area.  While he can make some educated guesses or do some research, it's not the same as someone who actually lives there.  What would you do?  You live in a city, and you do not own a vehicle.  Your choices are rather obvious--
          1--Shelter in place, which he's already discussed.  With proper (and not particularly extensive) preparation, a family of four can do this for a couple of weeks if needs be.
          2--walk out.  A reasonably fit person can carry 30% of his/her own weight in a back pack at about two miles per hour for 8 to 10 hours a day.  A very fit person with proper footgear and a decent pack can carry up to 40% of his/her own weight at about 3-4 miles per hour for 12-14 hours per day.
          3--bike out.  A mountain bike can go places that a touring bike or even a motorcycle cannot, and your range is effectively doubled over walking with minimal practice.  Additionally, a bike can be used to portage a weight equal to one's own over rough terrain, but you're walking again.
          3--bum a ride from someone who has one.  Perhaps you could offer to share your goodies with one of your neighbors who has a car.

          Of course, any kind of disaster that effectively closes down civil infrastructure in a city will make the use of an auto problematic at best, anyway.  In NOLA, there are thousands of autos that had to be abandoned.  In the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, parts of San Francisco were not navigable by automobile due to the rubble from collapsed buildings.

          Instead of complaining about how he didn't spoon-feed you your own personal disaster plan, why don't you excercise some personal initiative and see how you can take the extensive information he's given you and modify it to fit your needs and situation?

          Wounded Warrior Project Give till it hurts. They already did.

          by soonergrunt on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 04:33:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  why don't you excercise some personal initiative (none)
            Wo there fellow, one can't be to hard here.

            After all he decided, to not own a car, or plan a way out. So its some one else's responsibility to help him out or he feels marginalized by the car folks.

            But then maby its just the nature of country folks, to take care of oneself.

        •  minus car = another planning item (none)

          Some of us have to deal with earthquakes, some with floods, some with not having cars; all of these are contingencies to plan for.  

          Start now by determining if you know anyone who does have a car who would be willing to commit to help you out.  Then you bring something else to the picture that they don't have, so it's a fair trade.  

          Don't count on public transport to be working in an emergency.  The drivers/conductors/etc. might be dealing with their own family crises or evacuated or dead or whatever.  

          If you have to count on public transport, evacuate early and often, before the shit hits the fan and everything shuts down.  Have a specific plan for a route, destination, and so on.  For example bus X to train Y to town Z, into a taxi, and over to the Motel Q for a few days.  Rehearse and practice the route.  Have backup motels in your plan, or better yet friends/relatives/etc.

          Weather emergencies usually come with advance warning.  When it looks like trouble, call ahead to book the motel room or be sure the friends/relatives are there when you get in.  And then go.  

          In an earthquake, if you're not already dead or injured, you can hike out with a backpack.  A bicycle or kick-scooter, or electric scooter, could be useful.  

          If you're older or disabled or have other special needs, plan accordingly; this may entail a good bit more complication which just means your plans have to be smarter and tighter.  

          Don't count on renting a car.  They're all gone before you get there.  

          Living in California with earthquakes, I envy those whose worst case scenario is a howling blizzard.  Blizzards are fun as long as you're at home, properly stocked-up, and your roof doesn't collapse.

          Bottom line: any emergency where you can safely stay in your home (house, apartment, whatever) is a whole lot easier to deal with than one that forces you to evacuate.  All you need in that case is adequate supplies for a few weeks to a couple months.  

      •  And can't you see... (none)
        how this elitist attitude mirrors what is so terribly wrong in this country now?  People have become conditioned to thinking that some are entitled to survive and prosper and some are not.

        Even your insinuation that city dwellers are "impolite" echoes the racist rhetoric that's coming out of the NO situation.  

        If you do write a book, I hope you will reconsider some of your assumptions about who deserves to survive in a crisis situation and call for the foresight and vision of those in positions of responsibility to make a commitment to SAVE ALL, EQUALLY, to the best of their abilities and using all available resources.

        •  Elitist attitude, eh? And I'm a racist? (none)
          Good bye, troll.  Best of luck with your whine-powered preparedness plan.


          You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

          by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 11:53:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  One thing that made all the difference... (4.00)
    If you ever write a book, I think it would be wonderful to interview folks who have experienced a variety of disasters and ask them which one item they found most helpful.  Does anyone know if something like this already exists?
    •  Good question (none)
      Don't know, but I'm certainly going to start looking at what's already been published.  My comments on disaster psychology and how to approach preparedness draw heavily from discussions with folks who have seen disaster scenes first-hand, as well as my work experience in a related field.

      If this does turn into a book project, interviewing prepared citizens with disaster experience will definitely be a high priority.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 12:02:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Water filtration, village scale (4.00)
    At the Rainbow Gatherings we've long used the Katadyne Expedition filter for village scale purification. Muscle powered, it'll clean 30 to 60 gallons per hour, depending on the level of silt in the intake. With a jug of bleach, and a scrubbie to clean the filter, you can safely hydrate 800 people indefinately on one of these units.

    Removes all bacteria, some virii. A charcoal and sand pre-filter helps with many chemical contaminants, and reduces particles, so you don;'t have to clean the final filter as often.

    Pricey, $850, but lasts more or less forever.

    No-one who voted against the USAPATRIOT Act has lost an election. I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State. Or Yours.

    by ben masel on Fri Sep 16, 2005 at 11:57:19 PM PDT

    •  Katadyn makes good stuff (none)
      As I commented to soonergrunt above, though, their products don't offer significant protection against viruses, hence the endorsement of the Exstream product for personal use.

      Sounds like you're doing ad hoc chlorination.  If I'm not mistaken, I believe that'll take care of any viruses.


      You are so evolved it boggles my fragile little mind. Now give me a 4, fucker. (Bill In Portland Maine, to Meteor Blades)

      by AlphaGeek on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 12:06:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bleach (none)
        We don't add it to the water. Its for sterilizing the recepticles, and cleaning the filter when it gets clogged.

        Don't let anyone fill personal bottles directly from the output hose, as any diseases they've got will make their way into the clean water. run into a sealable "Igloo" type container with a spout, and thence into personal bottles.

        No-one who voted against the USAPATRIOT Act has lost an election. I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State. Or Yours.

        by ben masel on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 12:15:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Practice first (4.00)
      Don't push it full out, tovoid slamming the shaft at the top or bottom of a stroke, as you'll eventually crack a washer. I once replaced one of these with a piece of bicycle inner tube in a pinch.

      A smmooth stroke, with the power coming from your legs will let you pump a lot longer than showing off your arm stregnth.

      The illustration in the link is not best practice. Lash the unit to a small tree for stability.

      No-one who voted against the USAPATRIOT Act has lost an election. I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State. Or Yours.

      by ben masel on Sat Sep 17, 2005 at 12:09:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Condoms and Rapists (none)
    It has been known to happen that rapists agreed to using condoms. What if the woman says she is infected and contagious, for example?

    I was also thinking about not the criminal rapist but the potential rapist of opportunity [frat boy?unscrupulous law officer?], finding a woman alone in unsettling circumstances. . . . that it would be safer for the woman to offer protected sex than to risk getting jumped by surprise.

    Then again, maybe the woman herself would be seeking "solace."

    •  in case anyone mis-interprets that... (none)

      What I think you mean by "seeking solace" is not that a woman who insists on a condom is looking to get raped, but that the rapist could try to claim such if he's arrested.

      "antibiotic resistant urethritis" is a nice one to throw at a potential rapist.  "Dude, you don't want your dick to swell up so you can't pee..."

      I don't know anything about the legal status of cases where women manage to get their attackers to use condoms.  Someone should look into that and post the results here.  

      And someone should start making condoms that have invisible fluorescent dye inside & out, which can be used to identify the attacker later.  

      •  DNA is better (none)
        Except for the OJ case.
        •  DNA may not be available (none)

          If the attacker wears a condom, there won't be semen to get the DNA from.  So then the victim has to find some other way of getting a DNA sample, for example by scratching the attacker "in a passionate manner" (so as not to raise suspicion) and then hoping some of his skin cells stay under her fingernails and the evidence tech can recover them.  

          If the victim gets him to wear one of her very special fluorescent-dye-marked ones, at least there's that.  If they catch the attacker before he has a chance to wash very thoroughly.

  •  Solar, and wells (none)
    You mention solar with a battery bank, and then point out the various incentive programs, but it's worth noting that the incentives mostly apply to on-the-grid applications where you're tied in for net-metering. If you have solar with net-metering and the grid goes down, you go down too, unfortunately. It's probably possible to build a net metering application that also has a battery bank, if you've got the money.

    I live on property with surface water, so if I can do water treatment I think I'm OK. I also have a well with a large water tank. The tank is largely for an ozone treatment system to improve the water quality, but I also consider it to be our emergency backup supply. It's not cheap but it's something to consider if your situation warrants.

    Another thought - solar ovens. You can make one out of a cardboard box, some reflective material, a piece of glass or clear plastic, and a pot (ideally cast iron). You need sun, of course, but if you have sun you have free heating for food and for boiling water.

    Camping stores are full of good stuff. Those mylar space blankets are a personal favorite, cheap and useful for many occasions. RV stores too.

    Check out Real Goods, a place that specializes in off-the-grid type supplies. They're not always the cheapest, but it's a terrific store and they have many unusual items. A fun magazine to read is Mother Earth News. It's about country living in general, but there are many tidbits and ads for off the grid living, including many cheap ideas. Mother's archives are online also.

    •  grid tie (none)

      If a batteryless grid-tie system is designed appropriately, you will have power on sunny days when the grid goes down but not storage. Check how the anti-islanding works, though. Anti-islanding tries to keep power from the solar power system off downed power lines and from harming utility workers. Unfortunately, most of the grid-tie inverters don't seem to be able to work standalone. Some, such as Xantrex SW inverters with an external grid tie interface, can provide solar power to critical loads (on a sub-panel) when utility power is done. If batteries and generator are present in the system, that inverter apparently can charge the batteries from the generator (a seperate charge controller charges battery from solar).

  •  canned food (none)

    I suspect alphageek may have overstated the risks of old canned food a bit. Yes, you want to check for bulging lids and damaged cans including non-superficial rust (which can cause pinholes), leaks, and dents. But my suspicion is that if commercially canned food isn't microbially unsafe after 1 year it probably isn't in 5 years, either, as long as the can does not show signs of deterioration. 100 year old canned food in sunken ships was apparently still microbiologically safe. Ditto for a can of food left over from the civil war (still had 95% of its original consitutents). The food will have deteriorated nutritionally and become somewhat rancid but fast food french fries are rancid when they are first prepared. I would try to arrange things so that the "old" canned food is not 5 years old.

    Now, a lot of people, including me, are lazy about rotating canned food. But by properly incorporating canned food rotaion into your plan, you may not only save considerable money compared to various forms of survival rations but actually spend less money than you do now. And this is important because a lot of people are thinking about disaster rations now but don't have the money to do something about it (and high demand can make bargains hard to find). A plan based in part on rotating canned foods can save money and may improve the diet (by eating canned foods when they are fresher, eating more variety). Incorporate a variety of foods in the canned supply giving consideration to a balanced diet and incorporate a percentage of foods that need minimal cooking and that can be eaten alone. Date cans and rotate old cans to the front when you buy groceries. In some cases, this may mean you carry new cans downstairs and bring the old ones up (how often do you buy canned goods because you don't know how much you have at home). Consciously try to incorporate the older items in food. Try to gradually increase your inventory so you have more than one month worth of food on the shelves but less than you will actually consume in a year. That may work out to 14 days of survival rations (100% canned food) or 60 days at normal rate of consumption (25% canned). In some cases, storage space that might be used for large stocks of survival rations might be used to organize canned foods better. Consider a shelf with front and back access for example. New groceries go in the back, eat out of the front. If you don't rotate the food as part of your normal daily/weekly/monthly routine try to do it at least quarterly. Set aside some dates such as the four solstices and equinoxes. Put older foods in a designated area with a big "eat me" sign. Rotate some other foods like you find in the picnic/entertainment sets: crackers, summer sausages (in small packages, preferably), and shelf stable cheeses. Not the healthiest (high in fat) but don't need refrigeration and can be eaten with nothing more than a knife. Some canned goods are better than others for eating cold: tuna fish, canned chicken, canned ham, green beans, corn, fruit, etc. can probably be eaten right out of the can. When water is scarce, washing dishes is a problem. Whole grains do go rancid pretty quickly, particularly once ground into flour; kept whole they can last for years in airtight containers. Whole flax seeds are good sources of omega-3s, fiber, lignans, mucillage, phytonutrients, etc. (rotate, chew throughly, drink a full 8 ounces of water to prevent choking, don't eat too many (1tbsp per day)). Flax is interesting in that the omega-3s are very perishible once the hull had been broken, but the whole seeds can last a long time (I have even seen claims in the thousands of years under certain conditions).

    If your plans call for some cooking, pasta (and a can/jar of sauce) keeps longer than bread (so do crackers). Some can even be made with nothing more than boiling water. I certainly wouldn't recommend living off of ramen noodles but they are cheap and can be prepared with just boiling water and can be eaten in moderation as part of the diet (add frozen or dehydrated veggies).

    After all that, though, don't make too much of your normal diet consist of canned foods or processed foods. "Eat food that spoils, eat it before it does." One reason that canned food (and many survival foods) last as long as they do is because much of the nutritional value was already gone to begin with. That and pastuerization, excluding oxygen, adding sugar, acid, or chemical presevatives, and avoiding ingredients (such as quality oils) that perish. Supplement with a multivitamin.

    Whatever emergency rations you decide to use, try to eat them ocassionally (including for an extended period such as a week) to see how your body reacts.

    Random notes: Surplus (wool) army blankets are good. EMT clothing has lots of pockets and a teflon coating; don't know how they do in cold andwet environments or hot and humid ones. Real EMT sheers are good.

    Utility trailers: A small unenclosed utility trailer allows you to evacuate more supplies or even people who don't have cars. And it can be used to carry shelter (yurt, large tent, corrugated shack ($400)). Modern yurts are expensive but can provide shelter for a decade. You can convert a utility trailer into a connestoga wagon (don't try to drive assembled at medium/high speed but you can reposition within camp) of sorts with tarps, rope/bungies/webbing , and some PVC pipe, fiberglass rods, aluminum or steel bar stock, or saplings; the advantage over an ordinary tent is that it keeps you about 8 inches above the ground when it rains. I actually did this once when moving just so I could load the trailer when it was raining. If you made some modifications in advance such as drilling holes for U-bolts or welding on small pieces of pipe to hold the poles, you could make it stronger and able to withstand higher winds and maybe even a little driving and faster to assemble, easier to vent, etc. Crossing the poles can add more strength front to back. Cut a tarp to the right size and add eyelets. Pipe and Kee Klamps can be used to make a strong structure, stretchers, bunk bed cot frames or sleeping lofts that fold out of the way, antenna masts, etc. Even on a vehicle with limited towing capacity, you can carry around 100 gallons of fuel or water on such a trailer. Position the heavy liquid over the axle to balance the trailer. I made load stabilizer bars for my trailer using superstrut and the clamps sold to hang superstrut to an I-beam; this is a good idea if you are going to carry fuel/water though tough if it is a lot, you probably want to drill the trailer frame. Ground augers (sold for swingsets, mobile home anchors, and utility pole guy-wires) can be used to anchor against wind.

Meteor Blades, Serephin, skybluewater, emptywheel, arlam, Bob Johnson, Kimberley, No One No Where, RakDaddy, Alumbrados, paradox, trillian, zzyzx, wclathe, David Waldman, northsylvania, usagi, SilverWings, comrade, lightiris, lanshark, roonie, ctkeith, moon in the house of moe, TaraIst, musing85, Pandora, Powered Grace, gandalf, mem from somerville, saraswati, Mr Murder, RunawayRose, Maryscott OConnor, sara seattle, bliss149, Power, pastordan, genethefiend, Imp of the Perverse, histopresto, OLinda, mahigan, tryptamine, LauraC, Page van der Linden, frisco, TampaProgressive, ilona, SallyCat, baggy, bumblebums, JohnT, bookbear, silence, soonergrunt, Thistime, eyeswideopen, monkeybiz, Mooncat, redfloatboat, Mariposa, BlackGriffen, macdust, SamSinister, sarahnity, nyceve, mustang dvs, Welshman, Loquatrix, anonymous coward 8, highacidity, Cool Blue Reason, cosmic debris, Patricia Taylor, cookiebear, Aquarius40, nabwilson, Ignacio Magaloni, oslo, peeder, dqueue, CodeTalker, dcvote, librarianman, fumie, navajo, ginatx, pf498467, sele, Cardinal96, wader, bionicKitty, hopesprings, sockpuppet, lapolitichick, Librarian, susie dow, TXsharon, besieged by bush, wont get fooled again, Persimmon, 42, On The Bus, RenaRF, sommervr, ppluto, barbwires, One bite at a time, Exurban Mom, Noisy Democrat, MyPOV, clb8, eleanora, Forgetting2, WV Democrat, cinnamongirlthree, kfred, Marianne Benz, bablhous, Irish Patti, MichDeb, vcmvo2, jonathan94002, danz, synuclein, 3goldens, pattyp, See you out there, el dorado gal, Alegre, drbjs, Chinton, offred, station wagon, Darth Codis, sidonie, juliesie, Brooke In Seattle, J Rae, zombie, mojo workin, IL dac, GreyHawk, Overseas, foxglove, joy221, gazingoffsouthward, OldCoastie, UhClem, missouri reader, SSMir, zedaker, Bule Betawi, Mentatmark

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site