The latest posts from If It Hits The Fan
Thursday morning at about 7:30 a.m. (EDT) I'm scheduled to be interviewed on Richmond's Morning News with Jimmy Barrett to talk about hurricane preparedness as we get ready to enter the season. You can listen in on 1140 AM (it's a 50,000 watt clear channel, so you can pick it up across quite a distance. You can also find it streaming at www.1140WRVA.com or using the I Heart Radio app on your smart phone.
As an intro to the listeners who may want more information, I thought I'd offer some more details, resources and links for what Jimmy and I will be talking about.
Time To Stock Up, Save Money, And Stick It To The Man
It kind of snuck up on me this year, but this week is Virginia's Sales Tax Holiday for Emergency Preparedness. Through May 31, Virginian's can save 5% by skipping the sales tax on tarps, flashlights, bungee cords, coolers, batteries, weather and 2-way radios, and other prep items that cost up to $60 each. The tax holiday also goes for generators and inverters that cost up to $1,000. For a complete list of tax exempt items, you can follow this link. For folks in other states, Alabama and Louisiana have similar programs. Here's a list to all state sales tax holidays.
It's Not All About Hurricane Preparedness
So, how can folks prepare for a hurricane now when we are unlikely to get one until late summer or in to fall? The first thing is to keep in mind all-hazards planning and disaster commonality. What other disasters can befall us in Central Virginia? Tornadoes, Snow and Ice Storms, Derechos, Earthquakes... all of these, like Hurricanes, can result in long term loss of power, loss of other utilities, injury, blocked roads, home and property damage. Preparing for one makes us prepared for all.
Here are some specific things to do on a year-round basis to help stay prepared for whatever Mother Nature sends our way:
- Hurricane Straps - these are thin metal strips that are screwed (or nailed, but screwed is stronger) that attach rafters and roof trusses to the walls. They can also attach a second floor to a first and a first to a foundation. If you are doing new construction, this is a very cheap way to go. With existing homes, depending on your attic situation, you may be able to retro fit straps to your roof at least. These can help keep roofs attached and prevent home collapse in heavy hurricane direct hit. They can also help in a small to moderate tornado.
- Garage Door Braces - these vertical braces can prevent your garage door from imploding in up to 180 mph wind. They can also make your garage door a more difficult target for burglaries.
- Windows - modern, double and triple pane windows are more shatter resistant than old fashioned single panes. With the energy savings, if you haven't put in new windows, you really ought to. They'll cut your electric bill, and make your windows a little more sturdy in a storm. Hurricane or storm shutters are not really common in Central Virginia, but would probably be good to have along the coast. You can buy expensive, custom made shutters, or simply cut 5/8" plywood to fit and figure out how to attach them (wood screws to the window frame, masonry sinkers, etc...). The key is to mark which covers go on which windows, and keep the attaching tools and devices where you can easily find them. Don't wait until the day before a storm hits to try and buy plywood, and once a year or so, go ahead and do a dry run to practice putting them up.
- Generators - at my home, we average 10-14 days a year without power. We've gone as long as 8 days at a stretch after last year's derecho wind storm. Whole house generators are great, but they are expensive. We have two portable generators so we can rotate use. We have a transfer switch hard wired into our electrical system by a licensed electrician. The key with a generator, whether automatic/whole house, or portable, is to know how to safely run it, know how much energy you need at any given time, and maintain it.
- If you just have a small generator to run a fan, a couple lights, and the refrigerator for a couple hours at a time, extension cords are the way to go.
- With larger generators, you'll need a licensed electrician to set up a transfer switch that you plug a main cord into and it feeds into your home's electrical system. You then control which outlets get power through your circuit breaker box.
- Do Not "backfeed" a cord from the generator directly into an outlet... you can kill a lineman working farther down the line
- Be sure you have adequate ventilation - don't run a generator in the garage or with the exhaust right under an open window
- How Big
- Do you know how much power you need?
- A generator sales rep might add up all the electrical devices in your home... washer, dryer, refrigerator, microwave, four TV sets, three computers, two window unit air conditioners, three space heaters, 17 laps and overhead lights, hot water tank... Adding up all of the watts needed to run those items will tell you how big a unit you need, right? Wrong. Have you ever run all of those things together at the same time? Probably not. Add up a couple of lamps (CFL bulbs use a heck of a lot less power than regular bulbs), TV, one appliance, and a TV. Maybe add in one space heater OR one window AC unit. You'll get by on a much smaller generator. Our 7,500 watt generator easily runs what we need, including a window unit when it was 100 degrees outside. We ran the fridge for a while, then shut it off to run the well pump and hot water tank. It's not as convenient as just flipping a switch, but it is a WHOLE lot more economical.
- You can get a device called a "Killawatt" that will accurately measure your various electrical items.
- The automatic whole house generators kick on for a few minutes every week. You still need to do or contract for routine maintenance such as oil changes.
- A portable generator should be run under load (plug in a leaf blower or something) for about 15 minutes every month. The oil needs to be changed every 25-50 hours of running time. Be sure you have extra oil and filters on hand for those long-term outages.
- You can't simply fill a 5 gallon can with gas and leave it in the shed for years. The gas goes bad. I keep 12 gas cans filled with treated gas. Each can is labeled with a month, and each month I use that gas and refill the can with fresh treated gas. That ensures I always have about 60 gallons on hand and can run my generators for over a week. I have the ability to safely store that much gas... check with your local regulations and keep as much on hand as you can legally and safely.
- Food, Water & Other Necessities
- Richmonders are famous for clearing the grocery shelves of bread and milk on the day before a storm - wouldn't it make more sense to have a larder or pantry that you rotate on a regular basis and have enough food and other needs to get your family through most any emergency?
- FEMA suggests 2-weeks worth of food and water - I encourage at least a month, and more if possible. MREs, freeze-dried "survival" foods and the like have their place in long term preparedness plans, but for most folks, regular grocery store foods will work fine.
- Copy-Canning; FIFO; Eat What You Store-Store What You Eat
- You don't need to run to BJs and buy case lots. Simply buy an extra can or box or two of what you normally buy each time you go to the store.
- When you buy these extras, mark the date on them and rotate your stores - First In, First Out
- If you like SPAM, buy SPAM (or tuna or canned peas or whatever). If you hate it, don't buy it. It ain't gonna taste better to you if you HAVE to eat it. Buy foods your family already eats.
- You don't need 50 gallon barrels of water in the basement. Pick up a couple of cases of water on each trip to the store. Fill up cleaned 2 liter soda bottles with tap water. Store about 2 gallons of water per person for 2-3 weeks. You can go less than that if you have alternative ways to get water.
- If you are on a well (and a genny for the pump), have a pond or pool, or water catchment from the gutters, you have extra water. I suggest a Berkey Water Filter system for every home that will make all that "outside" water clean and pure.
- Water gets boring. Pick up tea, coffee, lemonade, and Kool Aid powder mixes.
- Running out of toilet paper sucks. Why does anyone buy a 4-pack? Pick up the giant pack and get another one when that one is halfway done.
- Don't wait to run out of soap, toothpaste, razors, deodorant, etc... Buy multipacks, and get the next pack when the first one is halfway done.
- If you are on any kind of maintenance medications, work with your doctor and insurance company to try and get a month ahead so that you always have at least 30 days worth on standby
- Blackout Kit
- Anytime the lights go out, whether for a week after a hurricane or ice storm, or just for a couple hours when a drunk runs into a power pole, a blackout kit will make your life easier. Use a soft cooler or a small tote bag. I keep one in the bedroom and one in the laundry room.
- Have a couple of flashlights and extra batteries. I've become a convert to using headlamps instead of flashlights. They keep both hands free for hooking up the generator, walking the dog, or pretty much anything else you can imagine. I love my Petzl Graphite that is linked below.
- Keep an index card with the phone numbers for the power company and other emergency contacts
- Candles and a lighter - I like a handful of those battery operated votive candles to just spread around the house. Some prefer regular flame candles. At after Christmas sales or thrift stores, look for jar candles since they are safer than a stick candle
- We already said batteries, but have more! Have different sizes for anything that you might not even think of.
- The MOST Important Piece of Storm Preparedness Gear
- Every home should have at least one NOAA Weather Alert Radio plugged in with fresh batteries year-round, 24/7
- With S.A.M.E. technology of current models, you can set it so it only picks up warnings for your county
- Technology has made the warnings more accurate and longer range to give us a chance to prepare and seek shelter - especially for tornadoes
Where to store all this food, water, and mondo packs of toilet paper? Be creative! Under the beds... the dead space above the cupboards... the coffee table or footstool might be able to be used for storing more than a couple throw pillows... that attic crawl space that is too small to store a bunch of junk, can easily hold a couple packs of TP and paper towels.
If you take these steps, gradually and without building debt (when's the best time to buy a generator? a month after a hurricane hits when half the people who ran out to buy one at Lowe's before the storm end up selling them on Craig's List because they didn't even open the box), you'll be much more prepared for a hurricane, or any number of other personal or widespread disasters.
Check back here over the next few days for more info on preparedness efforts to take as we get farther in to hurricane season and for the last minute things to do in the days before a hurricane hits the area.
For more information on securing your home against high winds, FEMA offers several free download documents here.
We were on vacation this past week down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Taking a break from the beach in the room, my wife was stunned to see live footage of the tornado that devastated Moore. Her best friend from high school lives there. As soon as the news showed the tornado had ended, she got on Facebook and reached out to her friend. Thankfully, they made instant contact, and she and her family were safe. Her work was destroyed, but her home was unscathed. In the aftermath of the tornado, the photos were amazing. Entire square miles are destroyed and there are no recognizable landmarks. Chance Sanders put a comment on his FB page suggesting folks also record grid coordinates, along with addresses, of their family meeting or rendezvous locations. Great idea! But how do you do that without an old school map?
Here's what you do... Go to Google Maps and find whatever location you want to make a meeting location. Right click on it and pick "what's here?" The 16-digit coordinates will show up in the search box. Simply save these to your notes page on your smart phone, then, if you need to find the location after a disaster, just go to Google on your phone's web browser, enter the coordinates, and it will pop up in Google maps. You can then get directions to there from your current location.
For OPSEC, you can simply do a "plus 2" to each pair of numbers when you record it, and you can give them labels such as "gym combination" or "bank account #." Let's give it a try... using "plus 2," my "elementary school locker combination" is: 39.625758,-79.580219. Figure out where I went to 5th grade, and email it to me here. All correct answers received by noon on Saturday, June 1, 2013 will be entered in a drawing to win some cool prep gear from my bunker. It won't be huge, but it will be cool.
A word of caution - I also tried this with Google Earth. I got completely different grid coordinates for the same location. I used the coordinates that I got off Google Earth, and I ended up about 40 miles away on the other side of town.
Five In The Pocket
No, I didn't spend vacation in a pool hall. We were at the beach. How to ensure you have protection, even in the bare minimum of clothing (it's OK, you don't have to gouge your eyes out, I wasn't wearing a Speedo). I carried my NAA mini-revolver with five rounds of .22LR CCI Stinger in the pocket of my swim trunks and my Buck neck knife the whole time. Super lightweight and convenient, and while not much, it would have been a very rude surprise if anyone on the beach had nefarious intentions. NAA Mini-Revolver Review Buck Neck Knife Review
Memorial Day Message
Tomorrow is not for car and sheet sales. It's not for getting drunk at the ball park. It's not for having a hot dog on the grill. You can do all of those, of course, but only because others have given their lives for us to have that freedom. Have fun, but please take a moment to remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Go to the local veterans' cemetery and render a salute. Visit a Gold Star mother and thank her for her son's or daughter's service. Read some Medal of Honor citations to your children. Please visit my last year's Memorial Day message and read about two Marines that I have had the honor of knowing.
The other day, I went again this year to TREXPO in D.C. It used to be the Tactical Response EXPO back in the 90s when I started going, but I think now it is just plain TREXPO and is done in cooperation with the GOVSEC trade show. Tons of cool gear, much of it applicable for preppers. Numerous body armor manufacturers and suppliers were there. Since I bought my last vest about 8-9 years ago, it is amazing how light and flexible II and IIIA armor is. Compared to when I bought my first vest over 20 years ago, it is like comparing it to a knight's shining armor. There was a lot of first aid gear that would be great for a blowout kit or 72 hour bag. I got a samples of a couple of tourniquets I'm going to review here soon. Big brother was prevent, of course. Several different drone manufacturers were there. These things are getting smaller and more maneuverable every day. All-in-all, a good show again this year.
One of the promotional give-aways I picked up at TREXPO was a glow-in-the-dark door wedge. Much more useful than the countless pens and can coozies. We are heading on vacation soon, and this will go with us to help secure the hotel door at night. I don't know who the actual maker is, but it is just as simple to get an old fashioned rubber door stop or a chunk of 2x4 cut on an angle.
Great Customer Service
I've always heard about the great service from Dillon Precision, but never had a need to experience it. Some time ago, my Dillon 550 press started having problems feeding primers. I finally got around the other day to calling them to see what I needed to do. I was on hold for about 45 minutes, but considering the current state of affairs in the firearms and ammo industry I didn't really mind. Once the fellow got on the phone with me, I described the problem, and he asked a few questions to further trouble shoot. He quickly determined what my likely problem is, and said he would send me out some replacement parts. I was shocked to have them in my mailbox less than 48 hours later... at no charge. If you are in the market for a reloading press, strongly consider Dillon.
Friday afternoon I got a call from the local police that a guy had escaped from state police custody and he had 50 years of time hanging over his head for parole violations, and he had vowed never to go back to jail. He was in the vicinity of three elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school. We put the schools in a modified lockdown with the exteriors secured. As dismissal time rolled around, the five lower schools let the students go, with one bus getting loaded up at a time and a police officer standing by. The high school just got all the students to their cars or on the buses quickly, with plenty of adult supervision and a couple of police officers on site.
The police were using bloodhounds, helicopters, and about a hundred officers to try and find this guy, but never was it like Boston with people ordered inside and warrantless searches of private homes and businesses. He was found about 12 hours later, holed up in an apartment, less than a half a mile from two schools. This situation worked out pretty well with minimal disruptions, but what if it were a worse or larger problem?
So how can a person prepare for an event like this?
Really just like any other event that might make it difficult to get home. A communications plan and alternate travel routes, along with a 72-hour kit that fits your particular needs.
If your kids are at school and dismissal is delayed, can you get to them, or do you have a nearby trusted friend or family member that is on the "pickup" list and can get them if you can't? Do they have age-appropriate kits with them at school in case no one can get to them?
If your main road is shut down, do you have alternative routes? Perhaps cutting through residential areas, or maybe skirting outside of town and coming back in the back way.
How about communications? Make sure your cell phone is always charged up. Have phone numbers for school, neighbors, and family members. If you have a smart phone, be sure you know the webpages for you local media outlets. You can also download an app that allows you to listen to your local police, fire/rescue, state police, and other emergency radio broadcasts. There are a bunch of them out there, many free, so check them all out to see which ones carry your local frequencies.
Using an "all-hazards" approach, prepare for any eventuality that could reasonably happen in your community. Disaster commonality will ensure that you are pretty well prepared for even those things that you may not have thought of.
Disclaimer: Chance sent me a free demo copy of this video for me to review.
First, a little background... I met Chance Sanders, and his wife, Laura, when they were assistant instructors when I went through Pathfinder Basic class in Ohio a couple years back (you can read my 5-part review of the school here). They were both very knowledgeable and all-around good folks. We've kept in touch since then, and I've followed his growing presence in the survival and preparedness field through articles that he has written for several magazines. About a year ago I was excited to find out that he was working on this training video and have been eagerly awaiting its release. As many readers know, I work in a major city, but commute over 50 miles to and from my rural homestead each day. I frequently take alternate routes home and refine my get home bag (GHB) for different times of the year. I dread the situation that might force me to hoof it home, but it is a possibility that something could happen.
Recent news has given us examples of where the skills to escape and evade from an urban environment could be of great, and even lifesaving, value. The Boston Marathon bombings come to mind. Thousands of participants, race supporters, and even bystanders suddenly had their plans disrupted and many were separated from their belongings, and/or injured. Just last night, the Va. Beach oceanfront erupted in civil unrest with shootings, stabbings and mob violence. Imagine being a family on vacation and either out to dinner away from the hotel when things got bad, or simply at the beach for the day and trying to get out to get home in one piece.
As I watched Surviving Civil Unrest this afternoon, I learned quite a few techniques that I can put into my get home plans. I also got some ideas that will make me think differently or alternatively about my particular situation.
Chance teaches throughout the video by simulating an on-foot evacuation from an urban environment to his rural destination. He demonstrates and explains what he is doing, and has interspersed guest commentary from some subject matter experts. Aside from just "how-to" information, he also teaches a system of planning, using the Marine Corps 5-paragraph order.
I'm not going to give away the great information that he covers, but here are some highlights that I gleaned and particularly liked:
- For his every day carry (EDC) bag, he uses a simple messenger case or musette bag, not some "tactical" kit that may draw unwanted attention during normal times
- He notes repeatedly that gear alone is not the answer - you need to develop skills
- He highlights the importance of advance planning - communications, maps, caches, redundancy, etc...
- He shows a few ideas of scavenging urban materials
- He has two great ideas for cache locations that might work out perfectly for my situation
- I had a hard time getting the video to play on my laptop - it wouldn't work at all with my RealPlayer, and it froze at several points using Windows Media Player - it could very well have been my computer, though and not an issue with the video. Playing it on my bluray on the TV, I had to try a few different buttons to get it started (this could also have been me, though, I'm not real used to watching discs on the player), but once I got it going it ran flawlessly.
- edit - I just heard from Chance - he had sent me a burned copy of the disc, and the production ones ought to run fine on anything that can play a DVD
- Chance used some really cool gear in the video. I'd love to see a supplier or resource list, perhaps on a related website, or linked on his YouTube channel.
You can order the video here.
Check out Chance's YouTube channel here.
Alex wrote his first post-SHTF novel, Going Home, under the nom de plume of Angery American. It recieved rave reviews on Amazon.
He let me know that his latest book is on sale for .99 cents in e-version through Friday. It is not a novel, but a how-to guide aimed at the beginner or intermediate prepper. I haven't read it yet, but I'm sure it will be great. And you sure can't beat the price.
I went to this fair last year and really thought they did a great job. The LDS church in Newport News is doing it again this Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
As long-time readers know, I was a police officer for 15 years and have been the chief of security for a large, urban public school system for the past 7. As a cop, I attended hundreds of hours of training each year, far exceeding the mandated in-service requirements. Since I left police-work, I've still managed to attend way more training than is typically expected of someone in my position.
This week I had the opportunity to attend what was one of the best training programs I have ever been too. ALERRT is Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, and is a program designed in Texas to teach active killer response. I went through with college and municipal police from across southeast Virginia, with experience ranging from two years to nearly 40.
Yesterday was classroom in the morning, followed by "blue gun" training in the afternoon to get the basics of team movements down. This morning we had a little more classroom, and moved to Simunitions for the afternoon. When I left police work, "Sims" were typically only used by the SWAT types. The use is much wider spread now, and it is truly an effective force-on-force training tool.
My skills were a little rusty, but quickly came back, and by the end of the day, I felt very comfortable and competent and the cobwebs were getting knocked off.
For the lawdogs out there, if you ever get the chance to attend this training, you really should. For other folks, contact your local PD or Sheriff's Office and ask them to get their officers trained in it. The training is offered free-of-charge through grant programs organized by Texas State University-San Marcos. Information is at www.ALERRT.org.
Folks, it's been quite a while, so I really appreciate everyone who continues to check in here. I can't get out content as much as I would like, but if you are one of our 955 Facebook fans, I usually get something up there almost every day. Contests from other sites for great prizes (body armor, suppressors, flashlights, even guns), links to free Amazon downloads of interest to preppers and homesteaders, and funny or poignant photos or memes (what the heck is a "meme" I never heard that word before a few months ago). If you are not following us on FB, please hit the like button.
I was working in the yard yesterday afternoon, to the sound of someone down the road shooting a heavy caliber rifle. No problem, I shoot in my backyard sometimes and we are out in the country. It became a problem when I heard BANG.... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzTHUNK. A daggone ricochet came over and impacted somewhere in my woods. A few more shots, then again, BANG.... zzzzzzzzzzzz - that time no thunk, it kept going. Getting a little concerned, I stopped what I was doing and it came again... then a fourth time. I duckwalked to the house and made sure the Mrs. was OK, then hopped in the Jeep and went down the road to see if I could figure out who was shooting. I went a good 1/2 mile or so and pulled in a couple driveways, but couldn't find them. I came back, went and checked on the neighbors, and went back to work. There were more gunshots, but no more zzzzzzzzzzzz.
We got our membership approved at the gun club about 20 miles away. Last Sunday, we headed over so my wife could take the new member orientation and I was scheduled for a skeet lesson. I've shot durn near every type of recreational shooting there is, but never skeet or trap. I was hoping to use my Grandpa's old Winchester Model 12 Featherweight, but when I dug it out of the safe, I found it was a full choke... no good for clays. I ended up using my SxS coach gun that I use in Cowboy Action Shooting. I could have used the instructor's Perrazi (probably a $10-15,000 gun if you are not familiar with it), but I wanted to "run what I brung." After 30+ years of rifle and pistol shooting, I had a lot to learn - or perhaps unlearn. I used muscles I didn't know I had. I probably got about 20% of the birds, and had a lot of fun. I think I'll save up and buy another 28" full choke barrel for the 12, and get it cut down a few inches and removable chokes installed. That gun has a super smooth action, it's lightweight, and will do me just fine for as much as I anticipate shooting.
For the rifle and pistol ranges at the club, you need to have your own target holders that fit into sunk PVC pipe. The manager sells them for $10 or you can make your own. I decided to make my own.
We just passed 900 fans on Facebook! Thank you so much! When dealing with advertisers, suppliers, and other organizations, FB fans is an important number. I haven't been getting much out here on the blog lately, but I try to share a news story or a cool picture or something everyday on FB. If you are not already a fan there, please consider doing so. I also post on FB whenever I have a new post up here on the blog.
About three months ago, I sold my Honda Element. It was very cool, and did everything I could need, but it just didn't fit my body for my 2+ hours a day I spend commuting. I had gone back to my 11 year old Dodge pickup. Stick shift, manual windows, 2 wheel drive,V6, A/C had been broken for two years... nothing fancy at all, just very reliable and pretty comfortable to drive. Thursday morning last week, the engine blew with 175,000 miles on it. I just can't see dropping several thousand dollars to get a $1,500 dollar truck back on the road. Starting Friday after work, my wife and I went car shopping. The objective was a late model, low mileage, AWD or 4WD, car/SUV/Crossover/PU, under $20K - and it had to be automatic with cruise control and comfortable for me to drive - no compromise on those last two.
Saturday morning, it was snowy and sleety here, and I had to be at my new gun club for new member orientation and safety briefing. My wife had another obligation in town. I fired up the EMP-BOV 72 Jeep Commando and went on out. No heater and a soft top, but it did great... just not suitable for commuting to work (maybe in the summer...) Over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we went to five or six dealerships, sat in over a dozen vehicles and test drove about six of them. Sunday afternoon found us at a Kia dealer looking at a used Soul. It had pretty high mileage for the year, and had a very funky smell to it. The dealer worked with us and got us into a 2013 Soul+, that met all of my criteria, except it wasn't used and it is front wheel drive. As small as the Soul is, I'm a pretty good sized dude, and it fits me just fine. Very comfortable seating, no odd angles or protuberances into my knee or shoulder, and pretty peppy. I had a Kia Spectra several years ago and was very impressed with how it held up. 5yr/60k mile bumper to bumper and 100k mile powertrain warranty shows they stand behind their products. It has all kinds of cubbies and storage, so my GHB and emergency kits are already in place. It is also getting almost twice the gas mileage of my truck. It's not AWD, but really, around here, front wheel drive will get me through 99% of what I need to be driving in. If you are in the market for something to commute in, check out the Soul.
As mentioned above, we just joined a gun club. It's very nice, catering mostly to skeet and trap shooters, but they have several nice rifle and pistol ranges too. I was a member years ago when it was an Issac Walton League facility, but it is privately owned now. They require all new members to take a four hour safety class. Three hours is the NRA home firearms safety course, and the last hour is range rules and regulations. In Va. the NRA course will count for a concealed weapon permit, so that is a nice feature for new members who don't have a permit.
Once it warms up, I want to shoot some shooting videos for the YouTube channel, and take some non-shooting friends and family just to show them how much fun and "unscary" guns can be.
Our friends at Liberty Suppressors have just released this video that goes over the pros and cons of "can" ownership. Very informative. Link to YouTube video
We've got a guest post from a reader that I'll get out later this week. If you have a particular interest or skill that you want to share, please email me a guest post. I'd love to get it out to our readers.
When I went down to weekly posts in January, I mentioned some new ventures that I am working on that will take a lot of time. One of those is pretty big, and I hope to be able to share it with you by the end of the week. Stay tuned!
I set up the growhouse tonight. I was going to put it against a chainlink fence, but I think having it against the shop will give it more sunlight over the course of the day. I can't put my black cinderblocks in the bottom because it is actually in my strawberry patch. It will be an interesting comparisson to see the strawberry plants that spend the next few months under the shelter vs those exposed to the elements. I put eyebolts in the rear of it and in the wall of the shop, then used zip ties to secure it.
New Promotional Partners
I'm excited to announce two new places to get If It Hits The Fan out to folks. A new survival/preparedness aggregator site, Survival Pulse, will start showing our links. It's a very useful site to see what is going on a huge variety of sites. Also, the site, Before It's News is going to start carrying our RSS feed for their millions of readers. Pretty cool if I do say so myself.
Our friends at Meal Kit Supply have a new batch of MREs for sale. These were packed just last month, so they are super fresh and a great way to get as long a shelf life as possible. A new menu item is Chicken Fajita. I'm looking forward to giving them a try. $129.99 for a case of 12 meals.
Crucial Survival Tip for Men
Fellas, if you don't take my advice on this, your life will be much worse off... Valentines Day is right around the corner. This coming Thursday is it! Maybe your gal wants flowers or candy. Maybe she wants a case of MREs or a new holster or knife. Whatever it is, get it ahead of time. Don't be the guy searching the CVS on the way home from work Thursday evening!
Last year I tried a greenhouse for the first time, to get my seeds started early. My dad and I built it out of pvc pipe, rolls of plastic, and Gorilla Tape. It was 6'x6' with a peaked roof, and I ran a space heater and grow lights into it. I built a shelf unit with the shelves lipped and lined with plastic so that the hundred or so seed pots (10 oz red Solo cups with a hole drilled in the bottom) could self water from the trough. It worked ok, but it was really bigger than I need for my garden, and by the time spring was going good, it was starting to collapse from the tape losing adhesive.
This year, my wife bought me the Grow It Wooden Growhouse from Amazon.
It's 3'7" high, 2'6" wide, and 1'10" deep with two slatted wood shelves, and polycarbonate sides, back, doors and top. The top is hinged and has braces to keep it open, and the two doors swing open. It was VERY easy to put together, taking me just under an hour (it would have been even quicker if I followed the directions from the get go). My only tool was a phillips head screw driver in my drill. It seems pretty sturdy, but is lightweight enough for one person to easily move around. It is plenty big for my needs, and if my garden gets bigger next year, I can always get a second one for more capacity. It's pretty attractive, and would be fine in a hoity-toity subdivision, or out here on the homestead.
The wood is stained to look like redwood, but I'm sure is a light pine or poplar or something. That is probably about the only negative I see. I don't think it will hold up to the elements for year after year. I plan to hit it with a weather-repellent coating of Minwax or something like that, and it will come in the shed after seed starting season. With those two small efforts, it ought to last for years.
I also am making a couple of adjustments to it to fit my particular needs. I'm going to have it against a chain link fence, so I'm screwing in a couple of hooks on the top rear corners so I can secure it to the fence and it won't blow over. The doors have swiveled pieces at the top and middle to keep them closed. I'm adding one to the bottom to keep it from gaping there. Finally, I'm going to take a piece of canvas the size of the lid. I'll staple one edge to the rear of the lid frame, and the other edge to a dowel rod so it can be easily rolled up and out. It will be used to cover the top when it is a cold, clear night. Listening to Paul Wheaten one time on The Survival Podcast, he spoke about the need to cover a greenhouse under those conditions. You figure that the upper atmosphere is bitterly cold, and if there is no cloud cover to insulate the ground, then any head built up in the grow house during the day will rapidly escape. I'm also going to paint a couple of cinder blocks black and put them in the bottom to serve as a heat sink.
Next weekend, it will be time to get my seeds started for the season.
This book was sent to me at no charge, by the author, for my review.
The Prepper Next Door is chock full of useful information, presented in an easy to read, conversational writing style. Charlie breaks it down into 15 logical chapters on topics ranging from "The Prepper Porta Potty" to "Of Fireblocking And Basements" to "Not Everybody's Cut Out To Raise Chickens."
Looking through my copy, I have probably 25 pages with the corners turned down for some great tidbits of information, or especially humerous side comments. In the chapter on flashlights, Charlie discusses the pros, cons, and specs for a variety of different models, all of which is good, useful information. Then, to lighten the detailed read, he drops, "nothing else says, 'What the Hell are you doing here?' as well as 1,000 lumens." He includes numerous web resources and downloadable documents such such as the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, among others. The information in this book makes it valuable to the novice or experienced prepper. The writing style makes it enjoyable to read for anyone. Because the author presents so much of the information in a non-threatening, good for everyday emergencies as well as major disasters and even WROL situations.
I whole-heartedly recommend, The Prepper Next Door, by Charlie Palmer as a gift for that novice or non-preppin friend, and for yourself. Everyone will learn something from it. It is also available on Kindle for $9.95.
Here's the info release on the blog:
Of course, I take today's title from a classic episode of The Brady Bunch. I think it is time for If It Hits The Fan to change. Over the past 2 and a half years, you have taken time to come here and see what I have to say, over a quarter million times. Unfortunately, that has taken a lot of time, about 2-3 hours a day. With my long commute, I'm away from home almost 12 hours a day, and I just can't keep it up. I need to devote more time to my own preps. I want to spend more time with my wife. I want to shoot my guns more, and shoot more video for the YouTube channel.
I've also got some other things in the works. I have the opportunity to write some articles for one of the survivalism magazines out there, as well as a publisher that wants me to submit a draft of a book. There just aren't enough hours in the day. On top of all of that, since the Sandy Hook attack, my professional life has taken off and responsibilities have increased at work. Soon, I'll have some big news in that area.
If It Hits The Fan isn't going anywhere. I'll still get some content out to you once a week or so. It's just that I've got to change my focus and priorities.
I'm really grateful to all of you who have made If It Hits The Fan such a success, and my sponsors are truly amazing.
Times are going to tough in 2013. Our economy is collapsing... our rights are being stolen away... the flu season looks like it is going to be nasty... natural disasters are striking in new and severe ways. Preparedness is a valuable life skill and life style. There are some fantastic web resources out there to help us all learn how to improve our skills and build community. I'm hoping that you'll continue to include If It Hits The Fan as one of your resources, but check out the others as well.
Thanks for an amazing ride for these past 2 and a half years, and I look forward to more with you.
I got some good non-prepping gifts, Get Smart - The Complete Series Gift Set, a Bali-Song-style Silver Flash Butterfly Can Bottle Opener, and some nice cigars.
I've been using a Griffin case for my iPhone 4 for about a year and a half. It's a great case, but really more than I need. It is thick rubber and very water resistant. I am very happy with the Otterbox. It is almost as protective as the Griffin, but a little thinner, and not as "sticky." It also makes it easier to use the camera because the Griffin has a rubber flap that must be moved and held out the way. The Otterbox doesn't.
Col. Littleton cell phone pouch
Col. Littleton makes some fantastic leather gear, much of it available through Orvis. I carry my iPhone and a Blackberry for work, and I've been toting them in a Lowe Alpine belt pouch. It was functional, but ugly. My new Col. Littleton pouch is very well made leather, and it holds both phones easily and securely. I love the look of it which is very reminiscent of a WWII-era GI flap holster for the 1911.
Desantis Ankle Holster
I got this rig for my new Kahr CM9. It is very comfortable, and I've been wearing it almost constantly since Christmas Eve. It is easy to conceal, and fairly quick to draw from. This is going to become a part of my EDC gear.
I've long had the pocket chainsaws made from braided wire with split ring loops on the end. They work pretty well, but have limited durability. I've been wanting to try this type, and have heard good things about them. After I give it a good workout, I'll do a video product review soon.
I never thought that I would need a hammer like this, but I'm really looking forward to using it. It is really designed as a wrecking bar tool with prying spots, nail pullers, a chisel, and even a bottle opener... but seems like a great improvised impact weapon as well. Makes me feel a little like Thor. I'll shoot a product review video of this as well.
I also got a Maxpedition S-Type Jumbo Versipack (Od Green), but it is worthy of a whole post on its own.
I gave some prepping items to a few friends and family, but some haven't been delivered yet, so those are still secret.
How was your Christmas?
The NRA is going to have a news conference this morning that was announced earlier in the week with this tidbit: "The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
What does that mean? Will they announce a free training program for school staff? Will they announce a partnership with Ruger to provide free pistols to principals? Or will they say that the conversation must start toward some rational gun control laws to keep assault weapons out of the wrong hands? I am a life member of the NRA... have been for quite a few years. But the NRA has a terrible history of truly caving and dropping the ball when the chips are down.
They supported the Gun Control Act of '68. That made dealing and buying firearms inconvenient at best and did nothing to prevent crime. They did not fight the illegally passed Hughes amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act in 1986 which effectively ended civilian ownership of full automatic weapons except those already in the registry. Overnight, the price of a Tommy Gun went from a couple thousand to $20,000. In 1989, they did nothing when Bush 41 used executive order to ban the importation of many of the finest foreign weapons available. They caved and allowed the Clinton so-called Assault Weapons Ban to happen in 1994. The NRA talks gun rights, but they haven't done a great job of living it.
There are a couple things we can do...
- Look at joining and supporting the no-compromise gun rights organizations: Gun Owners of America and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership are two that I know of.
- Deluge your elected servants in the local city hall, the state house, and that den of vipers, Washington, with polite, yet firm letters, emails and phone calls letting them know how you feel about infringements upon our rights
- Educate your friends. There are a lot of solid, pro 2A folks out there. There are also some rabid, irrational antis. The rest fall in the middle. Maybe they hunt once or twice a year. They might own an old .357 for home defense. They might shoot skeet. But they don't have much exposure or understanding of weapons that look like military or are scary and black. When they say that maybe an assault weapon ban is good because nobody needs that type of gun, rather than getting mad and calling them a commie rat bastard, reach out. Explain the fact that the AR15 and AK47 were designed 50-60 years ago and that their technology dates to the 1890s. Talk about the sporting uses such as 3-gun matches and the Camp Perry National Matches. Show them that other than cosmetics, these guns are no different than many hunting weapons. Bring up something they like but that no one needs... nobody needs a Corvette that can go 100 mph over the speed limit. Nobody needs a riding mower for a residential yard that could run over and kill a small child. Nobody needs a dangerous nail gun - haven't they seen Lethal Weapon II?
- Invite a non-shooter to the range. I just had an encounter on FB with a guy I went to high school with. He was speaking from fear and misunderstanding, lashing out at "high capacity clips," "military style weapons," and nobody needs something that can "spray all those bullets." I invited him to go to the range with me to shoot such guns and learn what they truly are and can do. He works weekends, but we are heading out during my spring break to do it. I think that just the invitation has eased his fears of the unknown a little.
Edited while I'm watching the NRA press conference...
Thank you, NRA! The National School Shield Safety Program is an amazing step in the right direction! I am PROUD to be a life member of the NRA and a school safety professional!
When I was in school in the 70s and 80s, there was no such thing as a lockdown. I really don't know when the lockdown came to widespread use in schools, but I imagine it was after Columbine. The general idea is that if there is a threat inside the school, then someone gets on the PA and announces a lockdown (I really hope no schools are still using "Code Purple" or "Mr. Hoover Please Report to Room 911" or any other codes). Teachers lock their doors, cover the windows and gather the students in the corner out of the line of sight of the door.
This is easy to drill and practice, and makes people think they are doing something, but in reality, it simply provides a large mass of easy targets for a killer.
I have some suggestions that we, as a society, need to move toward as a response to school mass killings.
1. All teachers and staff must be empowered to secure their rooms, call 911, and sound the alarm to the rest of the school. There is a school safety training video called "The First Twenty Minutes" that for ten years has been considered the way to handle a school killer. I don't use it anymore and think that it needs to go away. In it, a teacher looks out her window and sees a boy with a rifle walking across the parking lot toward the school. If I remember the details right, she draws the blinds, locks her door, then calls the office. The person in the office hears what she has to say, then gives the phone to the principal. After listening to the teacher, he tells one secretary to get the SRO, then he calls 911, tells them what is going on, then hands the phone to the SRO BEFORE putting the school on lockdown. During that time, the killer gets in the school and starts shooting. Had the teacher done an all call from the getgo, he may have been locked out.
Unfortunately, that is still the way in many schools. When I spoke at the Self Reliance Expo in NC a few months back, I met a teacher from down there. She said that teachers in her school would be fired if they called 911 - that was for the principal. She was also told that she would be fired if she said anything to her elementary students about fleeing out of a side door during a lockdown. Which gets to...
2. The standard must be that staff are trusted to use good judgment and trained that breaking a window and sending children out or running out of a nearby door are acceptable and demanded if there is a threat of death by staying in the building. Yes, it is harder to drill and practice, but it can certainly be talked through with students. In the video, students and a teacher huddle in fear on the classroom floor as they hear gunshots in the hall and the killer jiggles the door handle. I want to yell at the screen, "Get out of the window!"
3. Don't make the school a fortress, but make the classrooms securable. People who don't know any better want metal detectors and cameras everywhere. While they can have a role in school safety, they are worthless in defense against a determined killer. Make classroom doors of heavy, solid wood construction. Make the window small, at eye level, bulletproof, and on the edge of the door away from the door knob. Use locks that stay locked... you can use a key to open the door, but not to keep it unlocked. Don't have windows in the interior walls. Teachers should have their big, heavy desks at the door end of the room. In an intruder situation, flip it on its end and push it against the door. Pile student desks against and in the way of the door. If the intruder breaches the door, he'll at least get caught up in the mess of desks and slowed. Rooms on the ground floor should have at least one "emergency escape" window that can be unlatched and used for egress... like on a bus or an airplane. Second story or higher classrooms should be even more secure. Spectra or Kevlar linings for the door and hallway walls... high security deadbolts... things that will deny entry to the killer and stop bullets.
These are all doable, and the first two won't cost anything. But there will be resistance. School staff don't like to think about these things, and lockdown is what they are used to.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school killings, it is natural that some people blame the gun. Others call for metal detectors, visitor screening, and more lockdown drills. Some lash out looking for any excuse or reason on which to blame these deaths. The unfortunate reality is that we cannot prevent a lone, determined gunman from killing children.
We could install metal detectors at schools. For them to truly be effective, they would need to be located at every school building door, and staffed from 5 a.m. to midnight (at least that is how long many high schools have "something" going on in the buildings. There would need to be skeleton security crews on duty 24/7. Of course, metal detectors are not foolproof, so we would need x-ray machines at those locations as well, and the associated staff to operate them. Then we would need to seal all of the windows in the buildings so that something could not be passed through. Yep, that would keep guns out of the schools. But what happened at the Red Lake, Minnesota school killing? The 16-year-old killer immediately shot the school security officer operating the metal detector.
But let's say we can completely secure the building... that moves the threat to the parking lots, playgrounds and bus loading areas. Maybe we need to have tall walls completely surrounding school property with a vehicle sally port. We already have facilities like this... they are called, prisons.
Do we want our children to be "safe" if the result is that they spend their days in the physical equivalent of a prison? Even if the American people want to make that sacrifice, it just drives the threat elsewhere... the bus stop in the neighborhood, the field trip to museum, the prom at the hotel ballroom/lounge...
In Israel, school teachers, staff and parents carry guns. In Utah, the law allows school personnel with concealed carry permits to carry at school. In some West Texas counties, they have established a program where school staff apply for the armed staff program that is similar to the armed flight deck officer program for commercial pilots. Those who are selected for the program go through extensive range time with the sheriff's office each summer and carry at work. Nobody knows who these staff members are except the district superintendent, the principal, and the sheriff's office.
What do Israel, Utah and West Texas have in common? THEY DON'T HAVE SCHOOL KILLINGS!
Random locker searches, counselors, anonymous tip lines, school threat assessment teams, anti-bullying programs, open lines of communications, involved parents, school security... all of these are important. They contribute to an overall safe environment. Nearly every week, we hear of a school killing that was thwarted by another student speaking up and letting someone know what was being planned. In my school district, a couple of times a year a student is found with a gun. It is always found because another student knew and told. None of these will have any effect on the lone, deranged killer that has no obvious connection to the school.
In the 1997 Pearl, Mississippi school killing, the assistant principal retrieved his .45 pistol from his car and stopped the killer. In 1998 Parker Middle School had their 8th grade dance at a local Edinboro, PA restaurant. A student pulled out a pistol, killed a teacher, wounded another teacher and two students, and the got held at bay for 11 minutes until police arrived by the restaurant owner who used his own shotgun. At the 2002 Appalachian School of Law shooting here in Virginia, two legally armed students stopped the killer before more were killed. In Wyoming, the law allows concealed carry on college campuses, but the community college system requires permission of the campus police chief. None of those chiefs will grant permission. Recently a professor was killed by his son with a crossbow in front of his class. At the University of Wyoming, concealed carry is allowed anywhere on campus except the dorms. Students living in the dorms can secure their weapons in the campus police station and be escorted to their dorms if they wish. They haven't had any killings at UW.
The answer is easy, but the fortitude to implement it is missing from our elected servants.
Most of you know that my profession is in school safety. Today's attack in Connecticut has hit me harder than other school shootings. I imagine it is because of the age of the victims.
Many parents, grandparents, and even teachers will feel impotent and powerless. They won't know how to talk to their kids or if their schools' plans are any good. Preppers especially may have problems as all the preps in the basement and your 72 hour kit in the car won't do any good to protect your small child at school.
I encourage you to listen to my interview on The Survival Podcast from back in September: Episode 983 - Preparing Your Children for School Emergencies. Pass the link on to friends and family who may be having the same feelings of helplessness about today's attack.
Please pray for the victims, their families, the witnesses and first responders if you are so inclined. If not, please send warm and safe thoughts their ways. If you have kids, hold them a little tighter and a little longer tonight.
I recently came across an interesting blog by Eric Smith, entitled Business Karate. Eric and I share the CPP certification and in addition to books for the security management professional, he writes this blog that has some great information on crime prevention and personal safety. He doesn't post very often, but he's got some good stuff there. It is worth adding to your bookmarks.
On a couple of the past evenings, I've seen a giant cottontail in the back yard. Louis the wonder dog is just starting to heal from his torn ACL, so he is not going out unattended yet. I don't want him tearing off after the rabbit, and that thing is so big, (and Louis is only about 18 lbs) I don't want them fighting and it tearing him up with its claws. I swear I have never seen a wild rabbit this big in these parts. I need to hurry up and get the .22 Savage finished and the scope zeroed.
Totally Off Topic
I am becoming more and more a fan of Steampunk. Not everything can be about prepping, and stupid, pointless hobbies are good for giving the brain a rest. I dig the styles and the stories, as well as the variety. I think a Steampunk Darth Vader outfit might be just the ticket for a side project. Yes, I do have a bit of the nerd in me.
A couple of weeks ago I made a post with an old article about the importance of having a variety of skills and mentioned that Jack at The Survival Podcast was starting a program called 13 in 13 to encourage people to learn 13 new skills in 2013. He has that website up and running now and it is a really cool execution of the idea. I'll be signing up soon and listing the 13 skills I want to learn next year. Consider joining me on the ride.
I heard that Bob Munden passed away yesterday, peacefully and with his bride, Becky, by his side. Bob was truly the fastest gun in the world. He could do things with a six gun, a 1911, or even a .38 snubbie that no human should be able to. From the early days of practical pistol shooting, to the heyday of fast draw competitions (did you know that Sammy Davis, Jr. was one of the fastest draws in Hollywood and newsman Hugh Downs was a competitor?) and the premier exhibition shooter from the 70s until now.
Bob was also an amazing gunsmith. He performed "six gun magic" on Rugers, Colts and clones. A number of years ago, when I was early in my SASS Cowboy Action Shooting career, a friend from work, Bobby, loaned me his Mundenized Great Western IIs and his custom rig for them for a match, just so I would know what great guns they were. Bob had the trigger pulls smooth, crisp and light. The cylinders spun easy and locked up tight. They were fantastic. Bob also fixed up quickdraw only pistols and offered quick draw classes. Bobby had one of those pistols as well, but I only got to fondle it, not shoot it.
Bob was a frequent guest on such shows as That's Incredible, Real People, and Ripley's Believe It Or Not, as well as all of the shooting shows on cable. His fast drawing and shooting had to be seen to be believed. I got to see it in person at the SASS convention in Las Vegas in 2005. It was truly incredible. But in addition to being an amazing pistolero, a talented gunsmith, and quite the showman... he was also a heck of a nice guy. At the convention, he took time to hang out and talk to folks, show them tips, and take photos. He would also take emails and calls from folks wanting to ask about guns or get suggestions on equipment.
Some complained he was a bragger and had a huge ego. No doubt about it, but I think there is nothing wrong with that IF you can back it up, and Bob Munden certainly could.
It's That Time of Year
The seed catalogs are starting to come in the mail! Yippee!!!!
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