Monday, September 3, 2012

Situational Awareness

It's important that you're always aware of your surroundings.  It's called, oddly enough, situational awareness.  Basically, just knowing what's going on around can possibly help you out of a jam.  Sometimes it can be something as simple as knowing where the exits are in a building.  I recently got a job at the airport here in town, and part of getting to my job is taking a tram to the terminal.  I was telling my wife that I noticed myself unconsciously looking around the inside of the tram, looking at where the emergency exits were, which side of the tracks had a platform for walking in case we needed to evacuate the tram, where the fire extinguishers were, things like that.  Not that I'm planning on something going wrong while riding the tram, however in the event of an emergency I'd know how to get out.  Also, the other day there was a fire alarm in the terminal.  It turns out that it was more than likely a malfunction, I got a little more antsy the longer it went on.  While I was looking around for exits, I was surprised at the LACK of reaction from everyone else.  Employees, passengers, everyone kept going about their business as if nothing was wrong.  I understand that the airport doesn't want to create a panic because of a malfunctioning alarm, but I didn't see anybody even scanning the terminal for exits like I was. 

Another recent example of my own personal situational awareness is the visit not too long ago by President Obama.  Probably around 1,000 people were packed into a high school gym to see his speech.  As one of the last people let in, I found a seat at the very top of the bleachers.  While I was sitting there waiting for him to come out, I started thinking that in the event of an emergency I'd be one of the last people to get out, which would probably mean I'd be toast.  I decided to get up from that spot and head down to the floor, where I not only would be closer to the President, but I'd also be closer to the door. 

Not everyone has the mindset to observe their surroundings to the point where they feel confident in their options in the event of an emergency.  Even my wife said that my mind just thinks along different lines than most people.  This isn't something that just happened, I had to consciously make myself go through a kind of checklist if I was somewhere I wanted to observe closely.  It can be done, trust me.  Just like with anything else, practice makes perfect, and you'll find yourself scanning your surroundings and being more observant. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Proper Maintenance

You know all the "preventative maintenance" things that all the experts tell you your car needs every x-number of miles?  If you're like most people, myself included, you probably tend not to follow the mileage estimates super closely.  Well, I'm here to tell you that you should pay attention to when it says you should get things like alignments and tune ups done.  As I just found out the hard way, if you neglect those things and just wait until something actually breaks, it might end up costing you an arm and a leg to fix.  I went to get my car aligned, and it turned out that a lot of other stuff that connects everything needed replacing.  Long story short, I was sick to my stomach when they told me how much it would be.  This was one of those things that you'd think you should know, but I honestly didn't.  Chalk this up to another learning experience.  In a bug out scenario, your car is probably going to be very important to you.  You want to make sure that it's working properly so it doesn't break down on you at a really inopportune time.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lessons Learned Camping

My wife and I went on a little camping trip a couple of days last week, kind of a last getaway before it starts getting really hot.  We only went for a couple of days, so we didn't bring a lot of stuff, but I wanted to test out some stuff from my bug out bag.  We learned a couple of lessons from this trip, which is a good thing to file away.

First thing we learned concerns taking a cooler with you.  If you're going to take a cooler to keep food cold, don't plan on anything in there staying cold past the first day or so, unless the outside temp is cool too.  We put some deli meat, sliced cheese, and some mayo in the cooler for sandwiches, and the only way we could keep them super cool was to stuff them right next to the ice packs we had.  Like I said, if the outside temperature is cool, then you might be able to keep stuff in the cooler cooler longer.  Keeping the cooler in the shade is important too.  Seems like common sense, but I just thought I'd mention it.

Next thing concerns the amount of water you take with you.  Always take more water than you think you'll need.  We went to a campsite with services like running water, so we were able to refill our water bottles as much as we needed, but we've also been to a primitive site where you had to bring all your water with you.

Also, practice with your fire starting equipment.  I tried starting a fire one day with some of my dryer lint and the magnesium firestarter.  Dryer lint does catch relatively easily, but it takes a lot of work to get the sparks to catch.  Make sure you have some twigs or sticks for tinder close by too for after you get a spark to catch, because that spark doesn't last long.

Lastly, have a decent machete tucked in with your camping stuff if you don't already have one.  I took mine for a little spin on this trip, and I have to say it works just as well for chopping small branches as any hatchet I've ever used.

Camping can be a perfect time to try out some equipment or test out a new skill.  After all, what good is having all that nifty gear if you don't have the first clue how to use it?  Testing your stuff out in a controlled environment like a camping trip can give you real world experience before your life depends on it.  Plus, it's kinda fun too :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Personal Defense and SHTF

Think about this for a second:  A major catastrophe has occurred and the entire country is collapsing.  Most basic services have ceased, and police and military forces have fallen apart.  You're basically on your own, with only the things you've stocked up to sustain you.  There have been random groups of people going around your neighborhood looting houses, and you might need to protect yourself. 

Some people might have a problem with guns, and that's OK.  There are other means of protecting yourself besides guns, and I'll go over a couple at the end.  I always think of something a friend said once when talking about people thinking they don't need a gun for protection in a SHTF situation.  She said "If you've got a stockpile of stuff but no gun, and I've got a gun but no stuff, then guess what?  I'm gonna have your stuff too."  That's not to say that she'd forcefully take another person's stuff, but the sad truth is there are people in this world that would take things by force, which is why you need to protect yourself.

The main focus of this post is going to be about guns as protection, and the basics on what to choose and how to choose the right kind for you.  There are literally almost as many models of guns as there are models of cars.  I'm not going to go into huge detail about the different types of guns or ammunition because that would take the "simple" out of the title of the blog.  I will give you the basics on the different types of gun and let you do your own research into the best kind for you.

When you say the word "gun", most people immediately think of a handgun.  I would say that more people own a handgun than a shotgun or rifle, just because they are smaller and easier to handle.  There are two types of handgun: Revolvers and semi-automatics.  There are pros and cons to each one obviously.  One of the upsides to revolvers is the lack of moving parts.  Pretty much all revolver designs are basically the same.  This lack of parts means there is less chance something will break.  Another plus of the basic design is that once you learn how to operate one type of revolver, you shouldn't have much trouble using any type.  One of the main drawbacks of revolvers is the small capacity.  Most revolvers only have a 5 or 6 shot capacity, and they aren't the easiest things in the world to reload.  That can be a problem if you're facing a large group of bad guys.

Semi-automatic handguns are more complicated pieces of machinery, which means there is a greater chance some small internal part could break.  That's a con, but honestly I wouldn't let that one possibility keep you from looking at them.  The main pros of semi-autos is the greater capacity.  Full size semi-autos usually carry at least a 10 round magazine, and most have 15 or 17 round magazines.  The term semi-automatic means that you don't have to worry about cocking the gun each time you pull the trigger, so you can fire a lot faster, which is a good thing if you're facing that same group of bad guys.

There are many different sizes of handguns, from full size down to sub-compact sizes.  Most gun stores with ranges will let you rent guns to try out.  I would encourage anybody that's thinking about getting a gun to go to a gun store and rent a few to try them out.  Find one that fits your hand well, that's relatively easy for you to operate, and that shoots well.

Another good gun for personal defense is a shotgun.  Most people think of a pump action shotgun as the basic style, but there are other types.  I'll just go over pump shotguns here and again let you do your own research for more info on them.  The reason most people like shotguns for defense is that because of the shot in the shells, you don't have to aim as precisely when you shoot.  Important note though:  You still do have to aim when you shoot a shotgun.  Shooting from the hip and blowing away the bad guys only works in the movies.  I'm not going to go into rifles here, since rifles are not ideal just for personal defense.  If that's what you've got then that's better than nothing, but rifles are more of a long range weapon, not a close range weapon. 

If you REALLY don't like guns, like I said that's OK.  There are some other ways to protect yourself.  One is a good old baseball bat.  Another is a machete.  The downside to things like these is that you have to be REALLY close to someone to use them.  That can present a problem, since that means the bad guy is close enough to use whatever he has on you too.  I would suggest having things like these around anyway as a backup, but my personal suggestion is try to get over whatever the reason is you don't like guns and look into getting one.

Like I said at the beginning, I've only scratched the surface of everything that goes into picking a gun for defense.  I didn't even mention the different types of ammunition available.  That could be a whole post in itself.  Maybe that'll be the next thing I talk about.  I'm sure if you know little about guns you'll have questions.  If you're unsure where to start a search, please leave a comment and ask any questions and I'll do my best to answer them.  Until next time!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pets and SHTF

In a SHTF scenario, one thing that's going to be very important is security.  You're not going to be able to sleep very well if you're not relatively sure somebody's not going to show up in the middle of the night and take your stuff.  An article I read a while back mentioned one thing that would be in high demand in a situation like that are dogs.  Now, many of us already have pets, but I'm talking about guard dogs like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and the like.  With that in mind, when it came time for us to think about getting another dog, we decided to look at our local shelter for a larger dog.  No offense to our little schnoodle, she's great at letting us know somebody's there, but she's not very menacing.  We found a German Shepherd/Chow mix that was just an absolute cutie.  We've had her for almost 2 years now, and we've noticed some traits that will make her very useful as a guard dog if the need arises.  She's a very observant dog, always looking around and scanning the area.  She has a habit of just sitting in front of our sliding glass door and staring out into the yard.  Her bark is also pretty scary sounding.  You definitely won't mistake her for a chihuahua!  If you decide to get a dog, don't just pick one based on whether you think they'll be a good guard dog, make sure you get one that's going to be a part of your family, because they will be.  One thing you might not think of in a disaster type of situation is morale.  Having a dog that's going to play with you or snuggle with you can do wonders for your morale.  It's also a good idea to get some kind of training, even if it's just a basic commands class.  Trust me, it's better to get that out of the way sooner rather than later.

If a situation comes up where you have to bug out and you have pets, you'll have to make sure you have some things prepared for them too.  Keep a supply of dog food with the rest of your food stores, maybe just an extra bag.  It's also a good idea to keep a spare collar and leash handy.  Keep a couple of toys with you too, so you can have some games to play with your dog.  If your dog is on any medications, obviously keep a supply of that on hand too, and it might be a good idea to have a mini first aid kit especially for your dog.  Things like band aids aren't going to work that well on fur, but if you have some self adhesive ACE bandages or some gauze, that would work great if they have a cut or something.  Also, if you're taking your pet with you, you're going to need to account for them when figuring out how much water to take with you.  Neither one of you will benefit if you have to ration water. 

My wife and I are definitely dog lovers, and our dogs are like our children. There's no way we would think about leaving our animals behind if we had to leave home for any reason, and I'm sure all of you dog lovers out there feel the same way.  By the way, just so people don't think I'm being prejudiced against other pets, these guidelines work for pretty much any pet you might have at home you want to bring with you.  Make sure they're prepared too.  As always, if anybody has a question about anything you've read in this blog, please feel free to ask.  See you next time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

First Aid Kits

     In the post about my Bug Out Bag I mentioned the first aid kit I keep with it.  I think it's important enough to warrant its own post, so I'll lay out what I have in my kit and give some suggestions for different things.  Like everything else I've talked about, everyone's FAK is going to be a little different.  Of course there are some essential things that most everybody should have, but lots of things are going to depend on your particular area, your expertise with medical equipment, how much room you have, etc. Also, your FAK should be a constantly evolving process just like everything else.
     You can get one of the pre-packaged first aid kits if you want to.  Some of them have really good stuff in them, and are great starters.  I prefer making my own FAK so I know exactly what's in it and I know it's made specifically for my needs.

My first aid kit is currently in a waterproof Pelican box.

As I've attempted to repack it every time I took things out to add something, I've discovered that it's a little too small.  For right now though, it'll do nicely, and it's waterproof, so that's a big plus.  Eventually I'd like to get a messenger bag of some kind to put everything in, ideally something that could be strapped to the outside of my bag.

A list of everything that's currently in my kit:

Roll of waterproof tape
Hand Sanitizer
Gauze Pads
Athletic Tape
Band Aids
Small ACE Bandage
Snake Bite Kit
Alcohol Pads
Safety Pins
Bee Sting Pain Relief Spray
Eyeglass Repair Kit
Silica Gel Packs

     I certainly don't have everything I want in this kit, but I'm working on it.  I would like to get some latex gloves(or latex free if you're allergic).  I have a few shemaghs in my bag that can act as slings if need be, however if you want a couple of cloth bandages to keep in your kit go right ahead.  Eventually I would like to have a suture kit in my FAK, but that would only be for more serious circumstances since I have no experience in suturing.  I'd like to have some hemostats or some other kind of clamps too.  I have a couple of the compact cold packs, the kind you squeeze to activate, but I have no room for those right now.  Another thing you might want to have is some blood clotting stuff.  Quik-Clot is one of the more popular brands, but I was turned onto something called Celox by the lady teaching our CERT class. 
     In regards to things like the suture kit, or any other medical type stuff like IVs, I recommend getting some kind of training to use this stuff correctly.  Check your local community college or the Red Cross to see if they have any kind of basic EMT type classes.
      That might be a little bit much in the way of info, and I even left some stuff out, but like your Bug Out Bag there are an almost infinite number of combinations of items you can put in your first aid kit.  As always, if anybody has any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Be prepared for anything

        When you're putting together your bug out bag, or a bag for your car, you would usually make it specifically for the area in which you live.  While it's absolutely imperative to gear your preps to your unique situation and part of the world, I had a situation this past weekend that made me think about adding some extra stuff to my bag.
         My wife and I took a weekend trip to Phoenix for my birthday, and I assumed that, even though we'd be driving through some mountainous terrain, the temperature would stay mostly the same.  I thought this because Nevada and Arizona are both in the Southwest, where it's already starting to warm up some and it's only February.  Boy was I wrong(that's what I get for assuming).  Just outside of Flagstaff, AZ, it actually started snowing!  For a while there, we were driving in whiteout conditions.  Now I already have snow chains in my car from a trip years ago, but I don't have any cold weather gear in either my car or my bug out bag.  I live in the desert, why would I need it, right?  I started thinking, what if the car broke down and we had to hole up inside until somebody came to help?  Or what if we had to leave the car and walk somewhere?  We wouldn't have lasted long in that case.

        Now I'm definitely not saying you should pack parkas and snowshoes with your bug out gear if you're not reasonably expecting to encounter the kinds of conditions that would necessitate that gear.  It'll only add weight and decrease space, both of which will be at a premium if you ever really do have to bug out.  It wouldn't hurt to pack some kind of gear for cooler weather, even if you live in a hot climate.  If you already have all season gear with your preps, congratulations, you're farther along than I am!  As I said before though, this is a constant learning process.  That's how we get better.