Thursday, August 22, 2013

Always Know Your Nearest Emergency Shelter

During an emergency is the last time you want to be figuring out where to evacuate to. Ideally, you will have a non-government-issued place to evacuate to, but that is a different lesson for a different day. Today, I want you to spend 5 minutes locating the emergency shelters near your home, workplace, children's schools, and anywhere else you spend a significant amount of time.

Finding shelters is so easy that you have no excuse not to do it. You should find both public (government) and private (usually religious) options.

The quickest way is to simple ask Dr. Google. I used the simple phrases "Emergency shelter in TOWN STATE." If a situation is building, you could run searches specific to tornado shelters, hurricane shelters, earthquake shelters, etc.

If the shelter closest to you is privately-run, contact them to learn about their policies. Does it only serve certain ages or only people will certain medical issues? Are complicated medical issues not allowed? Are pets allowed; if so, what supplies should you bring? Is the center open only during certain emergencies or only after other shelters have filled to capacity? When do they normally open when an emergency approaches?

In short, can you stay there? What should you bring and what can't you bring?

If Gd forbid you should ever need this information, you will be so thankful for this 5-10 minutes of research.

Once you choose potential shelters and backups, place copies of their information and maps on the fridge, in all cars, briefcases, and backpacks. It should always be accessible when you need it, and the map will be helpful in case GPS systems aren't functioning for whatever reason. As a backup, store a picture or PDF of this information inside your phone or other cloud device.

Remember that it's hurricane season! Watch the news every so often.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why "Prepping" Gets a Bad Name, and Why It Deserves It

I'm a big believer in survival knowledge (aka self-sufficiency) and disaster preparedness. Because of that, I call myself a "prepper."

But sometimes I am ashamed of those words and ideas. Not because of the ideas, but because of the people who profess to share those ideals.

There are a lot of people who use preparation and survivalism as an outlet for their racism, conspiracy theories, and/or angry politics. I don't understand what white supremacy, anti-Semitism, or whether Obama is a secret Muslim has anything to do with prepping. Ok, maybe if you believe Obama is out to destroy American and impose Sharia law, crazy as that is, I suppose I can understand the connection even if I think you need a mental examination.

Today, I was upset by what I consider taking it too far even in this already-angry genre. By the Survivalist Blog, of all people. One of the most respected sources in the prepping community; a resource that is repeatedly and unnecessarily polluted by extremist politics that have nothing to do with survivalism or prepping. Of course, the author would disagree with me about their relevance.

But this? Really now?

I originally tried to be somewhat diplomatic (as much as I can be while dealing with a stressful family emergency), asking what this article has to do with prepping or survivalism, but my comment was deleted by the page's moderator within a few minutes. I think that's a fair question when you post off-topic things to a specialized Facebook page. Then I remembered that this IS on-topic according to his page and many of his supporters. I put up this new comment to directly address the post since an indirect method was rejected, and it's still there as of an hour later.

Do you know why this story is related to survivalism and prepping? Because poor people and black people (those are the same thing, right?) will never be prepared for TEOTWAWKI, and thus, they will be our #1 enemy who will hunt us down to steal food and water from our families. From the very hands of our children! And probably kill them just because! You will often hear the code words "looters," "the mob," or "rioters" used to describe racial minorities and other poor people. Except white poor people. There's dignity in being poor and white. (Just ask my dad! He grew up poor and white in Appalachia; he says it was great and builds character!) White people just don't loot or riot, folks.

Here is the post's link, if you'd like to see the original coverage: No Jail Time For Florida Students Who Beat Younger White Kid. Note the source, named the Reagan Coalition. My guess is that this is a conservative news source (conservative even for the "Republican" label it espouses), but even it doesn't allege any grounds for a hate crime, other than the unnecessary emphasis on the race of the kids involved. Yet the Survivalist Blog Facebook page takes it to the extreme, calling it a hate crime.

Even coming from a very conservative, racist-looking article, the only reasonable interpretation of the case is that one child tattled and the other two boys retaliated. That happens in every classroom in America every day, and race is irrelevant. Heck, this happened to me a couple of times in school, though not quite as violently. This "commentary" on the story smacks of white supremacy in a really un-subtle way. Black kids harm a white kid; obviously it's a hate crime. But Zimmerman? He's a hero - that's the subject of a follow-up post on the Facebook page. (For the record, I have no opinion on Zimmerman other than his stupid refusal to follow the instructions of police that were intended for his own safety. I don't think any of us will ever know what really happened during that altercation, like any bar fight or marital dispute - only the people involved can know.)

Things like this are what make me ashamed of the prepping community and why I think so many people are turned off from prepping. Knowing full well how useful and important this information is, people are (rightfully) disgusted by the behavior they see from their teachers and mentors. So they stop reading. Stop learning. And eventually, forget to continue prepping.

There is a psychological idea that people won't touch "clean" things that they believe are "dirty" even when they know the item isn't dirty yet. (I wish I could figure out how to Google this and get a meaningful source.) The example I always remember is cat litter: People know clean cat litter is just that: clean. But few people are willing to touch it more than they have to because we can't disconnect the idea of urine and feces in it.

In short, that's what I think these extremists do to prepping and survivalism. Rather than welcoming everyone to the community and sharing our knowledge, the community withdraws within itself and builds walls to preemptively keep out "undesirables" for some post-apocalyptic society. I also suspect that it provides a convenient "I'm not racist, I'm just concerned about my family's safety" excuse for behavior that is clearly racist and totally disconnected from fact and reality. If you helped everyone prepare for a disaster, there'd be no one left to kill you for your water jugs! Every extra person who prepares is one less person to fear. But that's not how the prepping community thinks most of the time: never tell people you prep. You'll just make yourself a target. Hoard your knowledge just as closely as you hoard your supplies.

Rather than helping everyone to survive, we push others away from the knowledge, hoping they'll die quickly during the apocalypse. Just as long as they die before they try to steal our Precious. Oh wait, I mean, our supplies. Of course, they never say it that openly. But what else do they want to happen? Is there another way for those people to survive in this worldview? I haven't seen one.

Newsflash, "Patriots," you're not the only people watching those videos, reading your articles, and learning your techniques for survival. If I'm still kicking after the apocalypse, you're going to have one hell of a fight to establish that white Christian America you dream of and idealize. I can't help but cackle when I watch videos like this: 37 Food Items You Can't Get in the Coming Disaster and May Not Survive Without.

It's worth watching every minute of, not just for comedic value, but also because it's a fantastically made video and the voice guy (the author?) should record audiobooks for a living. (FYI: it's a 27 minute long video selling his product, and the sexism inherent in it is a different topic altogether. Misogyny and sexism is rampant in the prepping community as well, much like it is in the homeschooling community - this same worldview is incredibly vocal in both venues.)

He hopes his materials and techniques will "attract like-minded Americans... To rebuild our nation, based on the constitution... Without all the liberal crap..." [sic and sick all over the place] Ellipses are original in the writing in the video; nothing has been removed from this quote.

"Coddled," "clueless freeloader" liberal scum can be and are preppers too. But I don't think they mean Democrats when they say liberals. It would seem that even moderate conservatives would fall into this category of being lazy and complacent until the apocalypse. In short: go Tea Party or go home. Average Americans, you will not alone if you want to join the fight against the "Patriots" when the SHTF.

Of course, I don't think that fight will ever happen except in our voting booths and our public schools.

No one probably will read this anytime soon, since this blog is so young, but it'll be here, and hopefully the people who need to see this will find it. And they'll know that they're not alone. If I stop blogging on prepping, this will be why: I worry that I'll lose the mental and emotional energy to speak against such poor and misguided behavior in the prepping community. It's exhausting to fight crazy loud people (see, for example, my other blog, which has descended into attempts to bring some sanity to the orthodox Jewish community - the similarities to the dark side of prepping are disheartening).

But you know who I do really like in the prepping community? The Survival Mom. A strong female role model providing for her family in a really practical (and fun!) way without being preachy, alienating, or hateful. Maybe I haven't been following her long enough to see worrisome things, I admit, but so far she is the kind of prepper I want to be. Prepping is a positive and meaningful use of your time and resources, not a preemptive strike against your enemies in some unknown future crisis. From that perspective, life is always about "more ammo." That's not how I want to live, and I guess that's probably not how many of you want to live either.

If you let fear rule you and your actions, you'll never truly appreciate the gift of life.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Put Clothes, Socks, and Underwear in Your Emergency Bag

We're going to expand our emergency bag again! First you grabbed the emergency supplies in your house and included a first aid kit. Now we're going to add 72 hours' worth of clothing, including socks and underwear.

This is an easy assignment, except for choosing which clothing you want to permanently set aside for emergency situations. You want to make sure the items fit and are appropriate for the season.

Here are some suggested items:

  • Wool socks
  • Wicking socks
  • Underwear for 3 days
  • T-shirt
  • Long-sleeve shirt
  • Pair of pants or jeans
  • Windbreaker
  • Sweater or hoodie

You'll also want to be able to grab a pair of sneakers or hiking boots.

Tznius women, you have bigger questions to deal with here. I would suggest a knee-length jean skirt with pockets, but that's my preference. It's sturdy, protective, and has pockets for storage. Leggings or thick tights are also suggested, but not for tznius reasons. They can protect your legs from branches or other small scratches like a pair of jeans would. Of course, if you already wear tights or stockings, make sure it's a thick pair. Bulletproof+, you might say.

Headcoverings are also a hard topic, especially those of you who only wear sheitels. I don't wear a sheitel, so I can't imagine having to hike through a disaster zone or the woods with one in an emergency situation. You know your community and your halachic interpretations better than I do, but if there is leniency allowed for a cloth or beret or other lightweight, small haircovering, I recommend relying on that. Of course, I would hope pikuach nefesh would guide you to make whatever decisions are necessary, should the situation arise, chas v'shalom. Of course, there are those who believe haircovering is not a priority in an actual emergency situation and will make do with what they have. Honestly, I don't think any of us will know our reaction until presented with a specific situation. But you may want to raise this question with your rabbi if that is important to you.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How Long Will You Survive?

Do you realize how fragile life is? The human body can't last long without the necessities of air, water, food, shelter, and heat.

But do you realize how short that time is?

You can go without breathable oxygen for only a few minutes before losing consciousness and eventually, death.

Water is probably the most shocking, but it is the building block of our bodies. Jews fast from water for 25 hours twice a year, but that is enough time to start showing serious symptoms of dehydration. As we know, the rate of dehydration depends on many factors, which is why so many poor fasters avoid the sun and lay in bed in an air conditioned room on fast days. When it's very hot, dehydration can occur within an hour (never leave children or pets locked inside a car in the summer!).

Severe dehydration includes lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea, eventually leading to shock and death. Even if you have food, you eventually can't digest it without sufficient water intake.

You can last a few weeks without food, as proven by Ghandi and the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay. But it isn't pleasant. Thankfully, many things are edible if you're hungry enough.

Shelter and heat are the ones people often forget. In many areas, you can survive outdoors without too much danger for a couple of days. However, there is always some level of danger from weather conditions or animals. But in extreme conditions such as the desert or a snowstorm, shelter and temperature control are a matter of life and death.

Keep in mind the Rule of Three:
The"Rule of 3" 
  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter (in harsh conditions)
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

Your mileage may vary, but I don't suggest trying it.

This is why disaster preparedness guides recommend planning your supplies for 72 hours (3 days). Most people who will die in an emergency situation, Gd forbid, die within the first 24-48 hours. However, most rescue efforts occur within 72 hours. Aim for 3 days of survival, and probability is on your side.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Put Together a Simple First Aid Kit

If you already have an actual first aid kit, you're a superstar. If you're like most people, you have first aid supplies scattered around the bathrooms of your house.

Today, I want you to put together a very simple first aid kit and then place it with the emergency bag we made last week. Make sure that bag is placed somewhere easily accessible in an emergency! I recommend placing it near the door your family uses most often to leave the house.

Should you buy a pre-made first aid kit at the pharmacy, Walmart, or Costco? Honestly, it's better than nothing, but you'll make a better one yourself and can generally do it cheaper with better quality products. But it's not a bad place to start, certainly. If you know you'll never "get around to" making your own first aid kit, please go buy one, but get the best one you can afford.

You can also start with a purchased first aid kit and customize the contents. That's not a bad strategy, especially when you're starting. You know you and your family best. You know what kinds of injuries or situations you may face, and a pre-made first aid kit may not address them. Remove what you believe isn't necessary and add what is. Over time, you can replace poor quality items (like cheap bandaids) with better ones.

But let's assume you're a real go-getter, and you want to make your own starter first aid kit! You are a go-getter, right? It's easy with all that free time you have.

Locate these items in your house or make a trip to the pharmacy:

  • Bandaids of various sizes, and at least some waterproof ones
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic of some kind, most likely alcohol wipes
  • Antihistamine cream
  • Medical tape (aka, adhesive cloth tape)
  • Gauze roll
  • Gauze pads of various sizes
  • Aspirin
  • Aleve, Tylenol, Advil, etc
  • Anti-diarrheal pills
  • Allergy medicine: Another potential source of antihistimine, beside the obvious use
  • ACE bandage
  • Burn cream/spray
  • Safety pins
  • Tampons: I recommend U by Kotex Click because they are unscented and very small. They can also be used as kindling for a fire or as an absorbent pad for an injury.
  • Sanitary pads: (Besides the obvious uses, they're also useful as large, very absorbent gauze pads for larger injuries.
  • Scissors: Small ones, if you can find them. But you want them to ideally be able to cut off clothing if needed.
  • Saline solution: Can also be used to clean out wounds or wash out your eyes.
  • Tweezers
  • Cleal nail polish: See its many uses in my last post!
  • Cotton swabs: You can find a small travel-sized pack that will be perfect.
  • Thermometer
  • Space blankets: They are so cheap, so light, so small, and so useful that you have no excuse to not buy a pack.
  • Lighter for sanitizing through heat
  • Nonlatex gloves: At least 2 pairs in a size that fits. (Remember that some people have allergies to latex.)
  • Flashlight with batteries, if not already in your emergency bag
  • List of emergency phone numbers and addresses (Remember that you may not have a working phone!)

Extras of your medications, if possible
Brace (if you occasionally require one)
Special over the counter medications you use
Anything else that strikes your fancy

And the most important of all...a first aid book! Get a physical book, not an ebook. As observant Jews, we're more aware of the need for a physical first aid book because of Shabbat, but I want to state the obvious just in case. I looked through first aid books on Amazon, checked the reviews, and purchased a used paperback copy of The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook for one cent. Yep, one cent. Plus $3.99 shipping, but four dollars for such an important book was something I found worthwhile even with my limited means. Don't forget the kids or pets; specialized first aid books exist for them too!

If you want to be Teacher's Pet, include at least one N95 face mask for each member of your family. These can prevent both airborne infection and breathing in particulate matter (such as dust or debris). Can you imagine how many people in Midtown Manhattan wished for a face mask on 9/11? It will make breathing in a poor-air situation as good as it can be. If you don't want to be that hardcore (yet), include a bandana (or folded tichel) as the poor man's face mask.

You should be able to put all of this into a medium-sized make-up bag or a shoebox-sized plastic tub. You'll be prepared for the overwhelming majority of situations you will likely face in your life. And you will have peace of mind, which is priceless.

Bonus points: Make a simple first aid kit for your car! It doesn't need to be as large as the main one above, but be sure to include a Space Blanket and some kind of face mask. Put it in the glove compartment, console, or trunk. You can put it in something as simple as a sandwich bag or pencil case, if you only put in the bare basics.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Surprising Supplies: Clear Nail Polish (Ok, Colored Nail Polish Too)

Clear nail polish is a great asset to keep handy, whether you're male or female.

If you're female, you may already know that clear nail polish brushed onto a ripped pantyhose can stop the nylons from ripping further. If you don't already know that, then you're welcome. (But let's all agree to never wear pantyhose and make that professionally acceptable.)

Here are some other uses of clear nail polish that could be useful in an emergency situation:

Bug bites: Clear nail polish might stop a bug bite from itching. According to CSI (yes, the TV show), it works for chigger bites. If you don't know what a chigger is, just be thankful and store this away in your long-term memory in case you ever need it. According to Lifehacker, other people in the interwebz say it can stop itching in any bug bites. If I didn't have any hydrocortisone cream nearby, I'd definitely try this. HT: Lifehacker and Bella Sugar.

Liquid Bandage: Whether you call it a liquid bandaid or new skin, clear nail polish accomplishes the same things for a fraction of the cost. HT: Instructables.

Secure Your Glasses: Have a loose screw? In your glasses, not your head! I assume you have a screw loose upstairs. But maybe you don't wear glasses. However, maybe you wear sunglasses? If the screw tends to be loose (or you're just proactive), dab some clear nail polish on top of the screw to help seal it in. You could use crazy glue, but the risk is too great that it'll end up where it shouldn't, and then you'll have glasses that can't move. HT: Real Simple.

Temporarily Repair Broken Glasses: If you somehow crack your lenses (I've never seen anyone do this in more than 20 years in the visually-challenged community), you can secure the pieces together temporarily with clear nail polish. This should be enough to get you home to your back-up pair (you have one, right? Try Zenni Optical.) or to the optometrist for a new pair. HT: Lifehackery.

Secure Your Buttons: Have a button that's starting to get loose? Get proactive and put some clear nail polish on it! Or you could rip it off and re-sew it. ...Or more likely, you can wait until it actually falls off and creates a regrettable clothing malfunction. Even if you would re-sew it, perhaps you won't have time for a few days. Clear nail polish buys you time. HT: Hackaday and Bella Sugar.

Secure Other Stuff: Like the glasses trick above, you can use nail polish to secure any screw just a little bit more. Paint polish on the screw and screw it in before the polish dries. HT: Instructables. You can also use it to secure things that aren't life-or-death such as model figures and costume jewelry stones. HT: Lifehackery.

Protect Your Labels  Make labels smudge-proof by adding a layer of clear nail polish. HT: Instructables and Bella Sugar. This is an especially good idea for medication labels. HT: TipHero.

Thread a needle: Dip the end of your thread into clear nail polish to make it sturdier, and thus, easier to thread through the eye of a needle. HT: Instructables.

Color Code: Have identical things? Distinguish them with a bit of nail polish (you'll want to use a colored nail polish). While commonly used for keys and kosher kitchen utensils, this can work on everything from golf balls to flashlights to clear toiletry bags. HT: Instructables and Lifehackery.

Mark Levels: Same as color coding, but for a different purpose. Mark a bucket or spray bottle's "fill level" with colored nail polish. With different colors, you can mark different levels, such as one level for cleaner and a second level for the water to add. HT: Instructables. You can also mark your preferred levels on the shower, thermostat, or radio. HT: Homesessive.

Waterproof matches: Brush some clear nail polish on the head of the match to protect it from moisture. HT: Bella Sugar and Lifehackery. Learn how to do this correctly at Outdoor Life or WikiHow. You can watch a comparison of normal matches, waterproof matches, and nail polished matches at YouTube. (Watching the entire video may make you want to claw your eyes out. This should have been done in 3 minutes tops, not 10 minutes.)

Mark Household Poisons: Who needs a jolly roger when you can use colored nail polish to draw a big, fat X on your household poisons? HT: Homesessive.

Prevent Splinters and Snags: Coat splintered wood to keep it from snagging you or your clothes. HT: Bella Sugar and Michelle Phan. Especially useful on pretty wooden hangers. HT: Homesessive.

Smelling Salts: If you run out of smelling salts for your damsels in distress, you can use nail polish as an alternative. Apparently ammonia (and thus, cat urine) is also a good choice. HT: Lifehackery.

Other useful ideas:
Seal envelopes or secure the seal. HTHT, HT.
Prevent costume jewelry from turning you green (aka, tarnishing). HT and HT. Can similarly make your metal belt buckle shine. HT.
Prevent fabric, lace, rope, shoestrings, and ribbon from unraveling. HTHT, HT, HT.
Prevent further fraying of a window screen. HT.
Rust-proofing: from shaving cream to hairspray to furniture screws. HT and HT.
Fill scratches in a wood floor. HT.
Smooth a broken mirror edge. HT.
Shut holes on your salt shaker if it pours out too much salt. HT.
Seal scuffed shoes. HT.
Stop a windshield crack from spreading. HT. Remember that a cracked windshield is probably ticket-worthy in your state, so get that repaired. It's also easier and cheaper to fix a small crack than waiting for it to get large enough to be a nuisance.
Wart remover. HT. Guess that's why wart remover always smells like nail polish...

Want to get really creative? Imagine the things you could do with glow-in-the-dark nail polish! HT: Lifehackery.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where to Start?

The most important thing is that you actually get started.

You read awesome things all the time that you intend to follow up on. But you know what happens? Life. Something steals your attention. You don't have time right now. You're uncertain how to start. You've slept since then and forgot. You simply forget.

Don't forget this. Do something to prepare yourself for an emergency. Right now. DO EET.

Here's quite possibly the easiest place to start: Grab a bag. Any sturdy bag will do, even a gym bag (you're not actually going to the gym, are you?) or a reusable shopping bag. A bag with a zipper is best.

Now walk around your house and throw everything in it that could be useful in an emergency. Hopefully at least some of these things are already grouped in one place, such as flashlights, batteries, and an emergency radio (you have a battery-powered radio, right? Oh well, we can fix that later). Also include things like a few candles, matches, some basic tools (screwdriver, hammer, wrench, pliers, assuming you have any of those), a garbage bag or two. In other words...anything that seems like a good idea.

When you're done, place the bag in an easily-accessible location (especially if you have to find it in the dark). The floor of the front hall closet is a popular choice.

All told, this shouldn't take you more than 15 minutes. It's possible to do it in five. Just do it. Right now. Yes, step away from the computer and don't dare show your face here again until you do it.

Did you do it yet? Yes? Good.

Guess what? Now you've got an emergency bag. You're awesome. Go relax and have a glass of wine to celebrate! You're already more prepared for an emergency than most people you know.