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Storing Water: For Free (No really, some people pay to do it)

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We all need water to both live, and to function in a polite society that possesses the sense of smell.  So it be-hooves us to have at least  little stored water on hand just in case.  The just in case doesn’t have to be the end of the world.  Water mains used to break fairly regularly in Pittsburgh when we lived there.  Also, my wife and I lived in a trailer for two years, and one of those two, the heat tape was broken and we didn’t realize it.  So the water froze.  A lot.  Let me tell you, melting snow on the stove in order to flush your toilet is not fun.  So whether you live in the desert or not, have at least a small stash on hand, just in case.

water1

How much you decide to store is really up to you.  According to the Mayo clinic, the average man needs to drink 3 liters of water a day, and the average woman needs 2.2 a day in order to stay healthy.  Thats just to drink.  Do you need water to cook?  How are you going to wash?  How are you going to flush the toilet?  What about laundry or dishes?  I don’t have any hard and fast rules on these, but that’s what you want to think about.

I do have to put this in here though, because some people will think about it too much.  Water doesn’t go bad.  No really, it doesn’t, no matter what the state of New Jersey tells you, old water is fine.  Don’t put bleach in it .  Don’t worry about it.  If stored in a clean container in a normal place, your water will be fine, so quit worrying about it.  Once you start storing some, just rotate it out every once in awhile and you won’t even have the stale taste.

So how do you store it?

Well, you could go the dumb ass route and get a water brick.  Its only $532 to store 112 gallons of water.  It will be conveniently stored in a big ass immovable object that’s so heavy you probably have to reinforce your house to hold it up, not to mention rotating it will be difficult since its not convenient to get to.  I have a better way.

Do you know any guys in your life?

water2

Even if you don’t drink pop, you know someone that does.  Pop drinkers don’t drink pop occasionally.  They drink pop a LOT.  I bet if you ask nicely, they will hook you up with more pop bottles than you can handle in short order, for free.  Just wash em out real good and you got a strong storage bottle.  The plastic in pop bottles has to stand up to the acid inside, so they tend to be tougher than say a milk just.  Also, the lids screw on very tight to hold in the pressure, so dropping one won’t make it explode.  Ta da, instant free storage.

What’s that?  You want the water brick because its modular and stacks so you can store it better?

water3

You never worked at Wal Mart.

If you want the flats, just drive behind a Safeway, they usually just have em laying out back there, or just lay the bottles on their side.  They will be fine.

So that’s you free and easy water storage option.  Free to get, easy to fill, and easy to rotate.  Just take one down every once in awhile and cook with it, or water the plants, then refill it.  That way you have it when you need it.

 

After the crash, some items to have

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If you didn’t read my posting yesterday, my wife and I were witness to a fairly horrific car wreck on Saturday night.  If you didn’t read it yet, scroll down a bit to catch up, then come back.

Obviously after witnessing something terrible happen, it is only natural to reflect on what you could have done differently, and if you have some extra things, how you could have effected the outcome better.  My primary conclusion after yesterday of course is that everyone should get at least a very basic first aid training class.  In a crisis, you revert to your lowest level of training, so you should make sure that your lowest level isn’t “sit in a ball and cry”.

That being said, in the course of the event, I saw several items that make handling this type of situation much less horrific.  I will be adding these to our car kit in the near future.  I wold recommend having them in your car, as they will assist in a number of situations from the mundane and annoying, to the horrific.

First Aid kit:

firstaidkit

This dovetails in specifically with the need for training.  However, when selecting a first aid kit, there are two things to keep in mind.  First, make sure you know what each thing in the kit does.  A first aid kit is not like a tool closet, you are not going to be supplying the EMT’s with the life saving tools they need.  They have their own.  So there is no need to purchase a 10,000 piece first aid kit, if you don’t know what they do.  Select a kit that you can understand.  In a crisis, you don’t want to be sifting through 9900 pieces you don’t know how to use.

Along those lines, make sure that your kit is laid out in a way that makes sense to you.  First aid kits aren’t these static temples to knowledge that can’t possibly be disturbed.  Just because a kit ships in a certain layout or container doesn’t mean that you can’t change it around.  Lay it out in the order that you would use it.  For example, gauze and disinfectant should probably be on the top, whereas forceps can be a bit lower.  So take the time to take your kit apart and learn where everything is, then put it back in a way that works for you.  If you don’t know where to go for quality, check out Doom and Bloom for your kit needs.  Doc Bones and Nurse Amy are natural healers as well as trained medical professionals.  They are also good friends of the prepping community.  I know Nurse Amy not only uses the highest quality gear in her bags, but I know she packs each one of them herself, by hand.  You aren’t going to find that attention just anywhere.

Lights (Flares and a big Flashlight)

flares

These should be a no brainer for any motorist.  Get some road flares for you car, and learn the proper way to crack them open, so you can do it in a crisis.  Make sure you know how far back to start planting them from your car for how fast the road is.  People at 65mph have much less time to react than 25mph.

Also, get a great big flashlight, and make sure you test it frequently to ensure the battery works.  Having one of these will allow you to look into issue sites at night, obviously, but it will also allow you to communicate with drivers and direct traffic.  It will sound foolish, but practice how to direct cars using just a flash light.  No, not in the street, just some time when everything is calm and collected.  Again, in a crisis, lowest level of training.  If you don’t have some form of thought or practice behind this, you will run out into the street and whirl your arms like a helicopter or something equally horrible.  If nothing else, practising the motions will give you a calm place to fall back to, and that is invaluable.

Blankets:blankets

Make sure you always have some blankets in the car, and make sure no matter when you leave, you take a jacket.  99% of the time, when my wife and I leave the house, we take a jacket.  The one time we don’t, we are standing out in the cold night for 45 minutes shivering.  Stupid.

Blankets in the car give you a lot of options if you are hurt.  Obviously, they can keep someone warm.  They can also be used to wrap someone up and help keep them still.  They could be used as bandages in an emergency, although you should have your first aid kit.  At a minimum, bunch it up and use it as a pillow.  If people are forced to be on the hard ground, you should probably have some padding around to keep them comfortable.  So always make sure you have some old, clean blankets in the car, they give you options.

So those are my thoughts for today.  This is by no means meant to be a complete list of items for the car, nor was it meant to be the only things used to solve a situation.  They are merely 3 things you can add to your preps for a minimum cost, and that I know could have made a huge difference if deployed effectively in the accident I witnessed.  You never think you will need them, until you do.  So isn’t it better to plan now?

There was a wreck, and I didn’t know what to do

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Welcome back everyone.  Sorry for missing the day without notice yesterday, but I would rather take the day off than schlock out something horrible.  I have also noticed that our facebook community tends to be a heck of a lot quieter on the weekend, so I may switch to a five day blog format, and see how that goes.  That would allow me to map out my topics a little better, and also leave the weekends free for any book writing exploits.

However, Jenn and I had a fairly horrific night last night, and it has me thinking about a good many things right now.

Jenn did a very nice thing for me last night since I was so stressed out.  Jenn took me out for ice cream, which is absolutely wonderful.  Doubly wonderful since Jenn can’t eat dairy.  For once the dairy queen actually got my order right too, which is amazing.  And no, my order isn’t crazy, they just found some way to mess up a cookie dough blizzard, every damn time.  So I was horking down my ice-cream, and we got to a red light.  I was looking down into my cup for another spoonful (I wasn’t driving) and I hear a loud impact, and look up just in time to see two bodies laying on the ground after a motorcycle had impacted directly into a mustang.

This is actually the fourth horrific accident I have seen here in Tucson.  It is really hard to drive through this city every day and feel safe.  I don’t trust these people at all.  According the Jenn, the mustang was at a complete stop, and she saw the motorcycle coming through the bush.  That means the driver either didn’t look and blew through, or saw them coming and didn’t realize he couldn’t make it.  All in all, its completely the mustang’s fault.  Which is not what his lieing butt was trying to tell the cops, but fortunately two witnesses that saw the whole thing stuck around to give the cops their story.

It’s amazing the order in which your brain takes in details in a crisis.  I saw the two bodies on the ground first.  My eyes drifted to the left and saw the mangled car.  Then I saw that it was a motorcycle and knew it was going to be bad.  Lastly, I could see a huge swath of blood on the mustang’s hood.  All through it, I could hear a woman screaming.

The moment is burned into my mind forever.  Even a night removed, I can still see every detail.  Even worse from my perspective as a wanna be prepper, was that in the moment of crisis, I didn’t know what to do.

Jenn heard the screaming, and immediately ran to comfort the woman.  Another gentlemen grabbed a flashlight from his car, and ran out to direct traffic so no one else got hurt.  A swarm of other people ran out to keep either person from moving, and I saw one guy holding the driver’s head steady so he didn’t move around a lot and hurt himself further.

All I knew how to do was sit in my car and call 911.  Which I did.

In this case, it worked out OK.  There were a bunch of people who were able to contribute, and together they crowd sourced a plan.  We were in a dense suburban environment, which means EMS was on site in no time.  In fact, the border patrol rolled past to help direct traffic within 60 seconds.  The victims were in good hands almost immediately.

Still though.  What if this had been in a rural setting?  What if I was on a mountain road and saw something like this happen?  Would I be able to provide any kind of help or care to someone that was hurt, or would I freeze up?

My prepping mentor has a saying, in a crisis, you revert to your lowest level of training.  Unfortunately, I have no training, in anything.  I have been a pampered suburban slug my entire life, and given what I want to do in my life, it actually shames me.  My lowest level of training is to wait for a grown up to show up and solve my problem.  That’s downright humiliating.

firstaidSo I would suggest, for those of you out there that haven’t, go get at least some basic first aid training.  No one expects you to be a complete paramedic, but in a crisis, getting care immediately can make a huge difference.  In a crisis situation, you will not be thinking rationally.  Just reading about how to do something doesn’t meant that you will be able to execute it.  There is a difference between arm chair knowledge, and actual good instruction from a professional.

Unfortunately, I did not have that.  So in my shame, I got to stand by helplessly while a fellow human being was hurt badly, and I could do nothing for them.  Learn from my shame.  Take the time, and get the training.  You never know when you will need it.  We don’t get to pick our disasters, and you might be the only thing standing between your fellow human being and death.  Be ready to answer the call, because every citizen should be a sentinel.

Lessons from power outage in winter

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Well, I am not sure what I had originally planned on writing about today, but whatever it was is gone. Instead, God handed me the perfect chance to illustrate both the need for redundancy, and how to test your home for resiliency. See, just as before when I lost my internet and didn’t have a backup, this morning we have lost our power. And of course, its not when our area is experiencing the potentially balmy weather that we normally get in a Tucson winter, its somewhere right about freezing today, and my house is barely insulated. So if this was going to go on for a long time, we could be in some real trouble.

So how do you go about testing your resiliency?  The easiest way is to remove something important from your life, and see how you would do without it.  You can either really remove the system from your life, or your can simply run this as a mental exercise.  We will use me as an example.  Today, God and a moron driver in Tucson, decided to test my electricity resiliency at home.

So first, its really cold out.  Well hey, my furnace is gas so that’s good.  Not without the electric blower motor its not.  Our bedrooms get very cold at night, so we do have supplemental heat, which is good.  The fact that they are plug in electric radiators is bad.  No way those are going to help.  I do have a beautiful fireplace in my living room, with some fire-starter logs, so I would always be able to get a blaze going, but I only have enough wood to burn for probably 8 hours or so at a heat the home level.  Better than nothing, but almost useless in a bad situation.  My heat resiliency is about 8 hours in a best case scenario.  Not near good enough.

Fireplace

Jenn is making us a lovely turkey for dinner tonight, because you know, its Monday.  Quick aside, having a stay at home wife greatly increases the quality of your daily meals.  If my power is off though, I have no way to cook.  My stove is electric, so no go there.  I also have a crock pot and a toaster oven, both of which need electricity.  This is actually one huge advantage of having a gas stove.  Next house I guess.  The chest freezer and the fridge both have no backup, although that’s less a concern in the winter, but there are still several hundred dollars worth of food at risk

These are only two of the basic survival elements, and we have already failed miserable.  We failed on food and shelter.  Now, thanks to losing power repeatedly every summer, I am very familiar with these types of issues, and have made the calculation to hold off on some of our preparations until after we move.  At this point, every extra things would have to be paid for twice.  Once to own it, and once to haul it, but it was still a great exercise to run, and as always, I have thought of several things we can do easily to address some of our resiliency.

– A propane or kerosene heater to provide heat without electricity

– A larger supply of firewood, at least 3 days worth.

– A cast iron pan (can cook in the fireplace if we have to)

– A generator (thought of already, but impractical till we move)

– A hot plate with a battery backup

I got five new ideas, just off of a half an hour power outage.

Test some things in your own life.  What would you do without power in the winter?  How about in the summer?  What if you had no water for a week?  What if you couldn’t leave the house for a week?  What if you lost half your income?  What if you lost all of your income?  Sit in your home, and play out this scenario in your mind.  What would you do, how would it work? Its so much better and easier to test these things out while its not an issue than when it is.

The thing to remember is that the preparations you make should improve your life whether things go bad or not.  Having firewood gives you a nice evening ambiance.  A propane heater in the bedroom lets you turn down the thermostat at night, and save on your heating bills.  A cast iron pan is great to cook in anyway, especially bacon.  If you are prepping correctly, it will make your life better no matter what happens.  This is about improving your life, and removing your dependence, not about surviving the zombie hordes.

Cast Iron Cooking

Run these exercises with your family.  Brainstorm it together.  Talk about why its important.  The more you do this, the more prepared you will be both materialistically, and mentally, in case something happens.  Because you may never be in a hurricane or a coronal mass ejection, but I guarantee you, you will lose power.  Isn’t it better to plan ahead now?

A lesson in Preparedness and Redundancy

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As you may have noticed from my earlier post, this was supposed to be an in-depth look at a cool website I have been using, 13skills.com.  Instead, its a brief look at why we prepare for things, and the importance of redundancy in that preparation.

I am a prepper, and a future homesteader.  When most people think of those two words, they envision something like this.

Trailer Stacking Shipping Container Fort Extreme Food Storage

Trust me, no one sane wants to live like that, least of all my wife and I.  If you do, please stop reading my blog and go away.  You will only undermine what I and others are legitimately trying to build.

The basic premise of preparedness is that you are preparing for when systems fail around you.  That doesn’t have to be anything crazy like a conspiracy takeover of the world.  I am sure the people in the path of Hurricane Sandy would have loved to be a little better prepared.  Some of them are still without power.  Living where I do in Arizona, we lose power on a regular basis in the summer.  That could be hazardous to our health if we were older or had young children.

Systems around you will always fail at some point.  In 2011 in the late summer, three states and two countries had major grid down situations because a power employee changed a part.  Correctly.  California has suffered from rolling brownouts for years in the summer.  Blizzards close roads every year in the Northeast.  Preparedness is being able to step in with your own redundant system and be as unaffected as possible when systems do fail, whether its for a day, or for a month.

How is this lesson important, and why did it come to me?  Because my communication system failed this morning.  I got up early so I could work on my blog without always taking that time away from my wife.  I want this to succeed, so I am willing to work the extra hours for it.  Instead of having a nice, effective discussion of 13 skills, I sat for 25 minutes and watched my internet blinking at me.  Comcast decided this would be a great morning to fail.  So my communication system was down.  In my case, it meant my blog wasn’t what I thought it would be.  What if I had a high powered teleconference to attend?  What if I had VOIP or used Skype and had a conference call to be on?  What if I ran a web business from me home?

I had a redundancy in place, so for me it was a minor inconvenience.  I picked up my nice Galaxy 2 smart phone and started banging this out on the WordPress App until my internet came back up.  Slow beats not moving any day.  I was prepared, and that turned a loss of a system, into an inconvenience.  That’s why we prepare.  Look around you at the systems you rely on every day.  When was the last time they were disrupted?  What would it take to disrupt them?  How would you handle it?  The more you ask these questions, the sooner you can start thinking about addressing those needs.