Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Long Hot Summer

Well it's Las Vegas so summers are always long and hot here, but over all, it's been a wearying summer for many.  Here's a bunch of random things since I don't have anything specific to write about this week:

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A News Round Up

From around the internet...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Are You Prepared For: A Boil Water Order

A couple of days ago a city south of Las Vegas issued a boil water order to its citizens.  Here's how to prepare for such an event:

Who: determine who is issuing the order (could be public works or your local health district) and determine who is impacted by the order.  Depending on the cause of the order, you may be impacted if the order is given for an entire city (ie: you receive city water in your home), if you live in a particular water district (some cities have multiple water districts/water sources), or if you are on a well.  You may need to find out for yourself if your well water is safe to drink (ie: if the cause is flooding, all local water sources may be impacted, if it is a local event that impacts only one water district your well water may be fine).

What: a boil water order means your tap water has been determined unsafe to drink.  This could be caused by a number of factors including flooding, a chemical spill into the water source, certain bacteria counts that are found to be above a safe level, etc.

When: boil water orders usually have a start time (you will often be notified as soon as possible by the local media, a reverse 911 call, or other notification from local authorities).  They also usually have an end time (but be sure to check before using the water as the end time may change).

How: you need to be prepared for the time that the water coming out of the taps in your home becomes unsafe to drink.  You should:

  • have a good quantity of bottled water stockpiled for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, etc.  
  • know how to use various purification methods to ensure safe drinking water
  • know that in some cases water cannot be purified so you shouldn't use it at all.
  • find out if your community will be providing water to those impacted by the boil water order (call 211, check the local news, or call the health district to see if water will be provided and how it will be distributed)
  • scout out possible sources of water in your area (river and creek water, collected rain water, spring water, etc are all possibilities.  Remember all of these should be purified and depending on the cause of the boil water order--chemical spill, flooding, etc--it may not be safe to use at all)
  • keep handi wipes on hand to use for washing up 
  • also have hand sanitizer available for waterless clean up
  • learn how to bathe with only a small bucket of purified water and a scoop 
  • consider what other water may be unsafe to drink in your home and remove it (ie: water used for pets, water that goes into your ice maker, water that goes into hard-plumbed coffee makers, etc)
And a few more things:
  • Toilets can be flushed as this water doesn't impact your drinking water system.
  • At the end of the boil water order you may want to run the taps in your home (hot and cold) to get rid of any unsafe water in your home.
  • If you think anyone in your family has been sickened by the water (gastrointestinal problems, symptoms of poisoning) be sure and seek medical attention immediately.
  • Depending on how toxic the situation is, evacuating to a safe location (with family or friends or to a hotel in an area not impacted by the boil water order) may be your best bet.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Preparing for the (Completely) Unexpected

Occasionally I drive back and forth from Vegas to LA.  With each trip, I am prepared for the usual stuff and go through a checklist in my head just to be sure that the most common situations I am likely to encounter are either completely mitigated or could be handled with a maximum of forethought and a minimum of drama.

Among the situations that I am likely to encounter: broken down car (I always make sure my vehicle is in excellent working order), run out of gas (I make sure the gas tank is full before I leave), traffic back ups (I have food, water, and basic survival supplies in my vehicle in case we get to wait by the side of the freeway for an extended period of time), medical emergency (I have a basic first aid kit, first aid skills, and ensure any passengers are in adequate health to travel), tire blowout (I also ensure my tires are in good condition), and vehicle crash (I drive defensively, have a safe vehicle, and try not to travel at peak times).

Among the situations that never crossed my mind to prepare for until a couple of days ago...being on the freeway and having my vehicle devoured by an out of control wildfire.  That was a new one.

A new one which will be added to my preparedness arsenal in the off chance such a situation ever happens to me.  Here's some new precautions:

  • In addition to checking the weather report before traveling, I will also find out about other newsworthy events in the area I will be traveling through (such as wildfires, manhunts, etc)
  • My emergency supplies will be condensed into a backpack instead of neatly arranged in containers in the trunk in the event that I need to grab all my supplies and abandon my vehicle
  • I will keep my cell phone charged and not rely on charging it in my vehicle in case I end up leaving my vehicle behind
  • I will toss an AM/FM radio in with my emergency supplies, again so I can listen to emergency updates in the event that I am not able to listen to the vehicle's radio
  • I will prepare for sheltering outside of my vehicle (ie: bringing a source of shade/rain cover and a way to set it up instead of planning to use my vehicle for sheltering)
Each new and/or unusual disaster brings the opportunity to add to your preparedness skills.  Think "what if" in these situations and run though what additional things you would need to do in the event that you were to encounter a similar situation.

Friday, July 17, 2015

30 Survival Uses for Your Smart Phone

These days, your smartphone is more like an appendage than a random piece of technology.  You are more likely to have your phone on you than most any other item you own, so I figured I would make a list of the many ways a smartphone can be used in survival situations...

  1. Emergency alerts to warn you of local dangers (these warnings are often automatic through your cell service while other alerts need to be signed up for via Twitter and other social media apps).
  2. To call for help (obviously, by calling 911)
  3. To text for help (sometimes when a phone call won't go through a text will, either to friends and family or directly to your local 911 service if they have text-receiving technology)
  4. To use as a flashlight (there are a number of powerful flashlight apps available)
  5. To get the latest on breaking local news (via local news apps and Twitter accounts)
  6. To listen to breaking news (the scanner radio app lets you listen live to many emergency service radio bands; other radio apps will allow you to listen to news programs)
  7. To find your way with a compass app
  8. To find your way with downloadable maps
  9. To find your way via GPS (when you have cell reception)
  10. To access emergency/survival information (emergency medical treatment info, the SAS Survival Handbook app, download the Army Survival Manual, etc)
  11. To photograph information you can use later (everything from building evacuation diagrams to making videos of the route you are taking, etc)
  12. To take a photo of a medical symptom and email it to your medical provider for appropriate information or assistance
  13. Even a broken smartphone has many survival uses (examples here)
  14. To find food (there are a number of apps that will help you track animals, identify wild edibles, and find local fishing areas, etc)
  15. Set an ICE (in case of emergency) contact (there are a number of apps to alert loved ones that you need help and/or allow law enforcement or medical personnel to contact them through your phone)
  16. To help if you get in a car accident (many insurance companies have apps that remind you what to do, what to photograph, and what information to collect if you get in an accident)
  17. To locate loved ones (there are apps that allow you to track the location of a loved one's cell phone and vice versa)
  18. To use as a panic button (again, there are apps that turn your phone into an audio--and email/phone call--emergency alert device)
  19. To allow others to see what you see (Meerkat and Periscope are two streaming services that allow people to see everything you are seeing)
  20. To receive alerts for natural disasters that are common in your area (there are apps for everything from tsunami warnings to earthquake alerts to hurricane warnings)
  21. To check your medical condition (there are apps for everything from checking your blood pressure, relaying cardiac info to your doctor to determining if you are too drunk to drive)
  22. For saving important documents that you may need in the future (ie: take photos of your passport, DD214, driver's license, etc)
  23. To find loved ones after a disaster (and/or allow them to find you) via Google People Finder or the Red Cross Safe and Well websites
  24. To record messages or reminders for yourself or others (via your phone's voice recorder, video recorder, or note taking app)
  25. To take photos or videos after a disaster (for everything from insurance claims to assisting authorities after an event)
  26. To find help (by calling 211 for social service help, by checking for a place to crash, by catching an Uber ride if you can't afford a taxi)
  27. To survive in other cities (find medical services, download the local transit app, etc)
  28. As a rescue beacon (authorities can 'ping' your phone to find out where it/you are)
  29. To help you prepare in advance for disasters (there are apps for everything from building a first aid kit, to wilderness check off sheets, to "know before you go" information)
  30. To call/text for help if you are having a personal crisis (such as the Suicide Helpline, the Rape Crisis Center, the PTSD Hotline, etc)
Obviously the big caveat with all of the above information is that, in most cases, you smartphone needs to be working and have enough power to be usable.  For this it is always a good idea to keep you phone fully charged and have alternative methods for charging your phone in case you do not have access to electricity (such as having a car charger, a solar cell charger, and/or a power bank on hand)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


This story in the New Yorker about "the really big one", the earthquake that is predicted to hit the Seattle area sometime in the future, lit the Twitterverse on fire as soon as it was published.  It spawned other news stories, a BuzzFeed list, and even a Reddit IAmA thread.

The article was long (might want to get a fresh cup of coffee before you sit down to read it), but extremely well written (this quality of writing is getting more and more rare unfortunately) and very comprehensive (it hit on everything from the history of earthquakes to the scientific aspects of earthquakes to the human impact of earthquakes).  Bottom line, when the big one hits and you are anywhere in the vicinity (the vicinity being anywhere west of I5), you will probably die.  No one had ever put it quite like that before which is why it caused such an uproar.

At minimum 27,000 injured, 13,000 dead, no electricity for three to six months, no drinking water or sewage systems for one to three years, and no hospitals for three years or more.  Well when you put it like that...

So, what to do?  Move to the desert outside of Las Vegas?  That's one option.  Stay and pray?  I'm thinking that is the most common option.  Stay and hope your town/city/county/state has prepared to take care of you in such an event (fat chance), stay and work diligently to prepare yourself and your family for such an event?

If you are going to stay, you should probably choose option 4.  Here's how:

  • The "be prepared for 72 hours on your own" saying is crap.  Being prepared for two to six weeks on your own is more realistic.
  • What do you need to prepare for?  Multiple sources of water (and the ability to purify it), enough easy to prepare food to last a good long time (make sure you can get to it and it isn't buried in the rubble), earthquake-proof your house as much as possible (but be prepared to not live in our house after the earthquake lest it fall down around your ears), can you live without electricity for weeks or months?  Gas?  Cable TV?  Internet?  Cell service?
  • Do you have a method and a place to evacuate to?  And is your local higher ground high enough?
  • You are going to need money either to evacuate, pay for needed items after the event, pay your bills even if you aren't working (you have an emergency fund right?), etc.  And will this money be accessible? 
  • Do you have multiple modes of transportation?  One winter storm in the Pacific Northwest can block off a community for months if a bridge goes down.  It is only with a concerted effort by multiple agencies that the (few) people this happens to can get out of their community to get to work and get groceries (note this often involves a lot of walking and teetering on ladders and temporary bridge-like structures; cars become unusable).  In the case of a large-scale event, people will be on their own.
  • Medical care will be the most problematic.  If you will even have any sort of medical care available is unknown (probably not).
  • Can you protect yourself, your family, and your provisions?  In small communities people often band together after a major disaster, but in any community, large or small, there are always criminals who won't hesitate to take what they want from you and/or take advantage of the situation.
  • You will need to be flexible, creative, and inventive.  By studying other disasters, you will get an idea of the skills needed to survive "the really big one".  Here's some good places to start (here, here, and here).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The (Conspiracy) Plot Thickens

Conspiracy plots have been flying around the internet due to recent events...