Sunday, August 31, 2008

Red Cross - Be Informed

"Long ago I added to the true old adage of “What is everybody’s business is nobody’s business,” another clause which, I think, more than any other principle has served to influence my actions in life. That is, What is nobody’s business is my business." - Clara Barton, founder of American Red Cross
The final step of the "Be Red Cross Ready" plan is "Be Informed". The three key parts to being informed are:
  • Get Info - learn ways to get information during an emergency (hand crank radio, HAM radio, NOAA Weather stations, local emergency systems, word of mouth, etc)
  • Know Your Region - learn about the disasters that are common or likely in your area like thunderstorms or flooding.
  • Action Steps - Learn First Aid (and basic survival skills)

This concludes the new three step "Be Red Cross Ready" program which simplifies the prior five step program. The two parts dropped were: "Give Blood" and "Volunteer". These acts are still highly commendable and encouraged but go beyond personal preparedness to the realm of helping others.

Bottom Line
Ensure the safety and preparedness of your family first by following all the steps and recommendations of the Red Cross program. Then once you and yours are secure, please reach out to others and help your community with Blood Drives and Volunteer work.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Red Cross - Make a Plan

"I was only one woman alone, and had no power to move to action full-fed, sleek-
coated, ease-loving, pleasure-seeking, well-paid, and well-placed countrymen in
this war- trampled, dead, old land, each one afraid that he should be called
upon to do something." - Clara Barton, founder of American Red Cross
The second step of the "Be Red Cross Ready" plan is "Make a Plan".
  • Talk with your family (about emergency plans and where supplies are stored)
  • Plan (house drills)
  • Learn how to turn off gas lines and how to use fire extinguishers
  • Plan for alternative escape routes
  • Include pets in your evacuation plans
  • Select two meeting places
  1. Right outside your home in case of house fires. (Pick a neighbor's driveway, the mailbox, etc. but be sure to pick ONE place. Lives have been lost when parents or fire fighters return to a burning house to rescue child that has already escaped.)
  2. Also pick a gathering place outside your town. (Take for example the Indian Point Power point in my neighborhood. If evacuation were ordered one parent might be at home, another at work and the kids at different schools. No one is allowed into the danger zone and the phone lines are overwhelmed. Will your family know where to travel to?)

Bottom Line
The important parts of planning are one - have a plan, and two - communicating the plan to everyone in your family, friends and neighbors. During 9/11 some companies in the World Trade towers had emergency plans to recover corporate computer data but the plan was known ONLY to one Emergency Planner who died when the towers collasped. It is vital to share and communicate the plan as much as possible.

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 29, 2008

Red Cross - Get A Kit

The Red Cross in its nature, it aims and purposes, and consequently, its
methods, is unlike any other organization in the country. It is an organization
of physical action, of instantaneous action, at the spur of the moment; it
cannot await the ordinary deliberation of organized bodies if it would be of use
to suffering humanity, ... [ellipsis in original] it has by its nature a field
of its own. - Clara Barton, founder of American Red Cross
The Red Cross recommends the following in step one of the "Be Red Cross Ready" plan - Get A Kit:
  • Store at least three days of food, water and supplies in a easy-to-carry bag or pack plus extra supplies at home.
  • Store the kit in an accessible location (near the front door or in your car).
  • Update your kit every six months to replace expired items.

The Red Cross sells Preparedness Kits at the Red store. The Ready-to-Go Emergency Preparedness Kit has been honored by Quick & Simple magazine as one of the best “Quick Fixes” of 2007.

The Red Cross also provides detailed instructions for creating your own kit under "Prepare at Home".

Bottom Line
It matters not whether you buy or make your own Preparedness Kit - either way Get a Kit!

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Red Cross Ready

"My business is stanching blood and feeding fainting men; my post the open field
between the bullet and the hospital. I sometimes discuss the application of a
compress or a wisp of hay under a broken limb, but not the bearing and merits of
a political movement. I make gruel—not speeches; I write letters home for
wounded soldiers, not political addresses."
- Clara Barton, founder of American Red Cross
The American Red Cross preparedness plan is called "Be Red Cross Ready" and has three parts:
  1. Get a Kit
  2. Make a Plan
  3. Be Informed

I've touched upon these in earlier posts and will provide more information over the next three days.

"Get a Kit" refers to the 72-hour kit, also called a G0-Kit or Ready-Kit. See "What's in Your Go Kit", "Protecting your Go-Kit Contents", and "Meals Ready to Eat and other Options". Since Hurricane Katrina, FEMA and the Red Cross have recommended a week long supply over just 3-days.

"Make a Plan" includes evacuation plans, drills, and emergency response plans. See "The Value of Drills".

"Be Informed" has three parts: "Get Info", "Know Your Region" and "Action Steps". Knowing your local region was covered in "Not in My Backyard!".

The "Be Red Cross Ready" site is a great resource with video, flash, and instructions.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

FEMA to the rescue?

Who you gonna call? - Ghost Busters
After 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina, a 2007 Red Cross survey found that 93 percent of Americans were still not prepared for a disaster. This is doubly alarming given that the media showed very clearly with Katrina how disasters can overload emergency responders, especially during the first 12 to 72 hours. The US has only one firefighter for every 280 people and one police officer for every 385 people. That means that in an emergency most people "are going to be on their own for possibly 48 to 72 hours," says David Paulison of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It is just not physically possible for every person to be rescued immediately or even within 24 hours.

A different survey conducted last year indicates that most Georgians aren't aware of what supplies they need in order to be prepared for a natural disaster, or — even worse — a terrorist attack, when supply lines, communication and electricity are interrupted. Adults surveyed thought they had enough supplies on hand to deal with a disaster, but, when pressed, they listed only a flashlight, a basic first-aid kit and some nonperishable food. About 80 percent acknowledged they do not have other necessities like extra prescription medications, a face mask, maps and cash. Only 44 percent of Georgians knew that they should be prepared to survive on their own for at least three days.

In a recent NY conference, disaster officials were taught that telling the public "to call FEMA is wrong." FEMA is not a first-responder agency. In the event of a disaster, local agencies are responsible for taking care of village and town citizens, not the federal government. In fact, FEMA does not step in until county and state resources have already been used and exceeded. In NY there is a $4 million threshold of damage that has to be met before a county like Suffolk can reach out to the state for disaster assistance. Only after $23.5 million worth of damage is done, can the sate then reach out to the federal government (FEMA).

This confusion over the "chain of command" caused problems during Katrina. The Mayor of New Orleans was loudly yelling for President Bush and the National Guard to assist. However the federal government is only allowed to act when legally requested by the state Governor. During Katrina the Governor was reluctant ask for help and delayed giving the National Guard permission because ultimately the State of Louisiana would have to reimburse the federal governments for the cost of the assistance. Until the full scope of the emergency became clear, it was not obvious to the state which would cost more - local damage or the cost of outside help.

Bottom Line
Governments are SLOW to act in emergencies and limited by red tape and budgets. Ditto for the American Red Cross. Don't count on outside help. Be sure you can take care of yourself and your family.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


"Simply pushing harder within the old boundaries will not do"
- Karl Weick

One chapter in the book, The Unthinkable, that was new to me was the physics and logic behind crowds. Many years ago at an outdoor Papal mass in St. Peter's square in Rome, my little sister was nearly trampled beneath nuns eager to reach the communion that was being distributed. Dangerous crowds can occur anywhere that people gather: outdoor festivals, in a ticket line, the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, football stadiums, swimming in sacred rivers.

The physical force of a crowd can be terrifying. The author states that with less than one square yard each, persons lose control of their own movement and are at the mercy of the jostling and pushing of a crowd. Although we fear falling and being trampled, the leading cause of death in crowds is asphyxiation. The pressure from all sides makes it impossible to breath and people die while standing. It takes as little as five people to supply a killing pressure resulting in loss of consciousness in 30 seconds and brain death within six minutes.

What makes a crowd dangerous is lack of communication and pushing. If a door becomes blocked or jammed, those near the door are crushed as those further away keep pushing towards perceived freedom. To save lives, persons with loud and authoritative voices need to take charge and turn the crowd around to an unblocked exit. Calm the crowd and insist on no pushing.

Bottom Line Avoid the middle and leading edge of a crowd. To escape gently move sideways to the outer edge of a crowd. Never push and insist on no pushing.

If you fall down, pull yourself up into a ball and protect your face, ears and internal organs. You will be a smaller object that can be avoided and you will receive less damage if you are stepped on.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Hurricane Ready

"HURRICANE, n. An atmospheric demonstration once very common but now generally abandoned for the tornado and cyclone. The hurricane is still in popular use in the West Indies and is preferred by certain old-fashioned sea-captains."
Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914), The Devil's Dictionary
As I write this Florida is anticipating Hurricane Fay and the media is filled with advice for residents. Here is what Florida officials in Pinellas County are saying...
  • Residents were advised to find their evacuation zone and make preparations in the case an evacuation is called.

  • Residents with special needs can call their local fire departments to arrange for transportation to a special needs shelter.

  • Pet owners should pre-register for a pet shelter.

  • Initiate your family disaster plan. Refill prescriptions, fill gas tanks, stock up on supplies.

  • Get survival kits and important papers ready. Remember to include supplies for infants, children, seniors and pets as part of the planning process.
  • Prepare homes and yards, gathering materials and tools necessary to shutter windows.

  • Begin preparations now.


Don't wait until a Hurricane is a day away to begin preparations. By that point the stores shelves will be empty and the roads out of town become a traffic jam.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Don't forget to follow-up

National Health Insurance:
The compassion of the IRS
The efficiency of the Postal Service
All at Pentagon prices!!!!
-Seen on a bumper sticker
Congratulations if you have assembled or purchased a Go-Kit or Food Storage! Now ask yourself, how old is it? Could the emergency food have gone stale? The water bottles leak? (mine did) The batteries became corroded? Part of emergency preparation requires periodic follow-through to update supplies.

Hopefully you have smoke detectors in your home or apartment. Fire departments promote a simple idea for keeping the batteries fresh: replace them on Daylight Savings Days when you turn your clock forward or back. Likewise find special days in the year for other survival follow-up. You could check your go-kit on your birthday and think of it as a present to yourself. Ask friends to buy new items for your kit as your gift.

Today's theme was inspired by an article found on called "7 reasons to review term life coverage." The author lists change in family, change in income, retirement, and other reasons to increase or decrease the amount of your insurance. Be sure to designate a financial review day each year to look at insurance, investments, accounts, etc and decide what might need changing.

Bottom Line
A very old (pre-1225) proverb says "Time and tide wait for no man". As time passes things and circumstances change and we would be foolish to pretend otherwise. But it is so easy for time to slip by. You keep saying, "I'll do an inventory soon", and years go by. Don't let this happen! Pick special calendar dates and make preparation follow-through an annual tradition.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

When should you spend to save?

"Are warehouse store memberships a good deal? How about extended warranties? It all depends on the products -- and on you, the shopper." - Liz Pulliam Weston

Sometimes you need to spend money to save money when accidents happen. A classic instance of this is insurance, be it life, home, medical, travel, or extended warranties. Often the benefits of insurance are obvious: you might pay a thousand to replace your home worth hundreds of thousands; or perhaps ten thousand yearly to protect your family from millions with serious medical injury.

With extended warranties the payback is less certain. Is it worth $20 to cover a $200 appliance for only one year? For me the answer is usually no. However an excellent article at MSN MoneyCentral suggest some cases where an extended warranty can be a good investment: laptops and equipment rental.

The MSN MoneyCentral article also looks at the cost of joining warehouse clubs, roadside assistance (like AAA), theme parks, coupon books and money saving appliances.

Bottom Line
Deciding whether to buy a money savings plan is really quite simple with a little mathematics. To calculate the break even point, divide the cost of club or discount membership by the percentage savings. Example: you are offered a $40 membership that will save you 10% on future purchases for one year at store X. The break even value is 40/.10 = $400*. If you plan to buy more than $400 during the year at store X the discount will save you money. If you spend less than $400, you won't make back the $40 membership cost.

*Math Note: 10% means 10/100 so you divide the cost by .10 instead of 10

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, August 22, 2008

Recent Advances in Water Filtration

"Society, my dear, is like salt water, good to swim in but hard to swallow."
- Arthur Stringer, "The Silver Poppy"

Several years ago my wife read an article about the LifeStraw, "designed for those unfortunate people in the third world who do not have access to clean drinking water. The pipe is composed of two textile filters, followed by a chamber with beads impregnated with iodine." The pictures showed people drinking directly from dirty water through the fat straw. This is pretty cool we thought but at the time the LifeStraw was not approved for sale in the US. On reason might be that the LifeStraw did not protect against Giardia which is common in the US. Giardia has 5 micron spores which pass through the 15 micron filter and Giardia is resistant to the level of iodine within the straw.

This morning I read about a new water bottle called the "LifeSaver" with built-in filter for easy fill and sip in about 20 seconds. The bottle weighs about 1.5 pounds and can filter one and a half pints of clean drinking water each go. The LifeSaver 4000 can filter up to 4000 liters of dirty water before it has to be replaced and sells for $229. The filter is supposedly 15 nanometers; 1000 times smaller than the original lifestraw and "removes all waterborne pathogens".

Curious, I did some Googling to find out whatever happened to the LifeStraw idea. What I found are several filter straws sold in US camping stores.
The SuckUp Survival Water Filter Straw, weighs 1 oz and sells for $9.97. It claims to filter Giardia. As the article suggests, this could be a great backup when hiking and your primary filter breaks.
The Frontier Filter Straw, has a 2 micron filter (blocks Giardia) and is good for 20 gallons of water. It sells for $9 to $15.
The Aquastraw is good for 50 liters of water, uses Iodine to purify water up to "96%" and sells for $15.

Bottom Line
These straw filters are very affordable and lightweight. There is little excuse now for drinking untreated water and getting sick while outdoors.
I have not tested any of these products and can not verify the claims made by their web sites. This is provided solely to let you know about new products that are now availble.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not in My Backyard!

"There's no place like home" - Dorothy, Wizard of Oz
In an article published Aug 12 by Dot Earth, the author discusses studies "On Elephants’ Memories, Human Forgetfulness and Disaster". Historically when a coastal village is wiped out by a tsunami, it is rebuilt on higher ground and the village elders tell the story of the flood to the next generation. This lasts for about 100 years at which point the stories are forgotten, or no longer believed, and a village is rebuilt in the flood prone area. Today the time of forgetfulness is even shorter as a young generation disregards the lessons of their parents and peers.
"In 1992, a devastating tsunami hit the coastal resort of El Transito on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. More than 100 died; [...] The government relocated the population up coast and inland. [...] in 1995, I was astounded to see the town rebuilt, with new bars and canteens where we counted bodies 3 years earlier. [...] the town was now inhabited with newcomers from Managua, who grabbed the opportunity of cheap coastal real estate — none of the new locals or the tourists remembered or knew that their resort had been severely hit." - "On Elephants’ Memories, ..."
Bottom Line
It is important to know the disaster history for your town and region. How frequent is drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquake, flooding, blizzards, ice storms, lightning, etc. Be aware also of potential man-made disasters. Do you live near a nuclear power plant? Near a highway or train where hazardous materials might be transported? Near a chemical plant? In a fire prone building? Knowing the local risks is the first step in preparation.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Watch or Warning?

One who walks in another's
tracks leaves no footprints.
- Proverb

When looking at a satellite map I'm frequently awed by just how large a hurricane can be. It's impossible to miss in a photo. However while it's obvious where a hurricane is now, the ability of the weather service to predict where a hurricane is going is not 100%.

The image to right shows the predicted path of hurricane Fay on Aug 17. You can see that the cone of uncertainty grows each day. By three days out, Wednesday, the path is nearly 400 miles across putting many Florida counties on stand-by waiting to learn if they will be hit or not.

[Update: Aug 28 - Fay turned out to be very unpredictable. As a tropical storm it made landfall four times in Florida with much flooding]

Because of this uncertainty it is important to know the difference between a Hurricane Watch and a Warning.

  • WATCH: Hurricane conditions are possible in the specified area of the WATCH, usually within 36 hours. [The white region of the map above]
  • WARNING: Hurricane conditions are expected in the specified area of the WARNING, usually within 24 hours. [Regions very close to the predicted track]
The difference is two key words - Watch=possible and Warning=expected. The difference is more obvious when applied to tornadoes. A Tornado Watch says conditions are ripe for a tornado to occur (stay on your toes). A Tornado Warning says a tornado was spotted (go to shelter immediately).

Bottom Line
Pay serious attention to both Watches and Warnings. With a Watch - check/prepare your supplies, listen to radio/TV to see if conditions worsen, and be ready to act. With a Warning, it's time to implement your emergency plans.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008


"When it comes to old-fashioned risks like weather, we often overestimate ourselves" - The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley
In a new book called The Unthinkable, the author looks at human response to disasters and emergencies. She points out that people often make the same mistake that FEMA did, we focus on preparing for the "big" but rare events like terrorism or nuclear attack and overlook the common but deadly surprises that mother nature is prepared to send our way.

Consider lightning. The National Weather Service estimates that 100,000 thunderstorms occur in the United States each year. One hundred bolts hit the earth every second and in many years these bolts kill more people world wide than any other kind of weather including hurricanes and tornadoes. In the U.S. 1318 deaths were attributed to lightning from 1980 through 1995, an average of 82 per year. Lightning can occur anywhere and sometimes with little warning; lightning has struck 10 miles away from the rain of a thunderstorm.

Consider hurricanes. Unlike lightning, no one living near a coast should be surprised or unprepared when a hurricane hits your neighborhood. However did you know that the common cause of hurricane death is drowning; some trapped in the attic of their house but many drowned in their own cars trapped by flood waters. As a child growing up in San Antonio, Texas, I recall each rain season, seeing TV news of flood water pouring across roads like a mini river. And every year one or more cars would try to cross this shallow river and be carried off by the flood.

A few weeks ago in Ossining, NY, a torrential rain came down while my wife and I were shopping. We watched as a river of rain water began pouring down the street. The rain was too much for the storm drains and water gushed out instead of going in. Manhole covers in busy intersections were popped off by geysers. To our surprise cars tried to speed through as if everything was normal. They had no clue of the hidden gaping manholes waiting to grab a tire. We saw one manhole cover hit by a car and the cover went flying - luckily no one was hit by it.

Bottom Line
Take storms seriously - both the lightning and heavy rain. Do not drive through any water that you can not see the ground through. There could be hidden potholes or erosion that will swallow your car. Water that reaches the bottom of your car door could flood your engine or make the car buoyant enough to float away in heavy current.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, August 18, 2008

Offsite Storage

"the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs, Fidelity Fiduciary Bank!"
- song from Mary Poppins

This post wraps up the theme of the past two days - laying the foundation for financial recovery should you lose all contents of your house. Yesterday I discussed storing important documents and information on a flash card with password protected files. Here are some additional ideas...

  1. Keep important documents at home in a fire safe box. These are sold at Walmart, etc. The boxes also must be waterproof. Much of the damage during a fire comes from the water used to put it out.
  2. For a fee you can store important items in a bank deposit vault. Where will you keep the key?
  3. If you have a locked desk at your workplace, store photocopies of important items there. If permitted, store images of documents on your work PC.
  4. There are Internet services that will back up your PC or provide memory storage for a fee. Use this to save vital records. Be sure you can recover the information to a different PC if yours is destroyed.
  5. E-mail vital documents to yourself and leave this mail on the server - don't download it locally. You might have to repeat this if mail is automatically deleted after some months.
  6. If you have trusted family or friends, send them a copy of information you want saved - either hardcopy (printed) or flash card or email. You might pick someone local so you have easy access and also someone in a different state far away. In large scale emergencies like hurricanes and mega-blackouts, your nearby friend won't be able to help.
  7. If you have an estate lawyer who is holding your will, perhaps they will store the flash card or photocopies also.

Bottom Line
The ideas above for safekeeping and backing up financial information are easy and many of them are free. But you have to do it now. The day after a disaster is too late.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Protecting your Go-Kit Contents

"Money, money, money. Always sunny, in the rich mans world" - ABBA
In yesterday's post I discussed adding financial items and contact information to your Go-Kit. This could be extremely helpful in putting your life back to together after a catastrophic emergency. However it can also result in total ruin if your Go-Kit were lost and a thief stole your identity.

Let's start with cash. It's good to have some cash in the Go-Kit, say $20-$100. After a hurricane or during a blackout the ATM's will be out of service and the banks not functioning. There is no way to prevent the theft of cash so pack only what you can afford lose. As an alternative to cash, consider barter. A friend, who lived in Saudi Arabia, says prepared persons wear gold jewelry to use in emergencies when you need to buy or bribe your way to safety. Consider packing extra items that you can share or trade such as sewing needles, candy bars, lighters, matches, etc.

When the electricity comes back, a useful item to have is a debit card in your Go-Kit. When protected by a PIN this is equivalent to safe cash that can not be stolen from you. Make sure your spouse and older children know the PIN. Teach your children never to share the PIN with anyone.

The contact info is probably safe to store on paper so long as you stick to just phone numbers for friends and family. Keep the paper inside a zip-lock bag so it is not destroyed by water. If you're like most people your only record of many phone numbers is on your cell phone. If the phone is lost or the battery dies, can you access the numbers you need?

For personal information like account numbers for banks, medical, insurance, etc. I store the information electronically. Important documents like the car title are scanned into my home PC, copied to MS Word, and then the Word document is protected with a password. Detailed contact information is typed to a Word doc and password protected. These documents were then copied to a flash drive ($10-$25) that is the size of your thumb and easily fits in a Go-Kit and my wife's purse. This give us the best of all possible worlds. Most any PC will be able to open our vital documents but only for someone knowing the passwords.

Bottom Line
Be financially prepared in a safe way. Look for ways to make the information and cash accessible only to yourself and not a thief.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What's in Your Go-Kit?

"What's in Your Wallet?" -Capital One® Credit Card

I'll cover Go-Kit contents in more detail in a later post. For now I'd like to focus on the less obvious contents based on yesterday's post about fire drills.

Most people overlook financial preparedness when packing a Go-Kit. As a Red Cross disaster team volunteer, the most common event I respond to is house and apartment fires late at night. In the worst case the clients I help have just lost their home and in their pajamas. No wallet, no debit card, no check book, nothing to help them get through the night. If your house burns down, do you know how to contact your insurance agent?

A well packed Go-Kit will include:
  • some emergency cash
  • some old checks
  • photocopies of important cards you carry - driver license, credit cards, medical card - front and back. The back sides include contact information.
  • photocopies of important documents - house deed, car titles, etc.
  • phone numbers of family, friends and others you need to reach


In this age of identity theft, if you pack the above in a Go-Kit and the kit is stolen, you could be in a heap of trouble. The thief will have your account numbers, deeds, everything. You need to balance the risks and take what precautions you can. Tomorrow I'll share some ideas for protecting your Go-Kit contents.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Value of Drills

Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical - Yogi Berra

If you're like most people, you don't take the fire drills at the office seriously. You stay at the desk and ignore it as a waste of time. Big mistake! According to a new book, "The Unthinkable", there are three common mental states that most people encounter when an emergency occurs:

  1. Denial
  2. Deliberation
  3. Decisive Action (Evacuate)

By ignoring drills you reinforce the "Denial" stage. You'll sit at your desk and think, "Oh, it's just a drill" or "This can't really be happening".

Drills also train you to get through the "Deliberation" stage faster. Studies show that people delay evacuating because the are caught in a mental fog of decision making.

  • "Should I save the file I'm working on?"
  • "Turn off the PC?"
  • "What should I take with me from my desk?"
  • "Should I change my shoes?"
  • "Perhaps I'll call my spouse"
  • "Let me check the news on the Internet to see how serious this is"
  • etc

Drills help cut through this confusion. They develop the instincts and muscle memory to carry you forward when your brain is overwhelmed if you drill properly. Don't just saunter to the fire exit. Pretend the fire is real and grab your purse, your briefcase, etc. Go through all the motions you think necessary before evacuating the building.

My wife and I are square dancers. Some of the moves are quite complex and move quickly. If each time you hear a call, you have to picture it in your head and mentally go through each step, you won't keep up. Good dancers acquire a kinetic memory so the motions become automatic through practice and your brain is free to enjoy the dance and other dancers.

Bottom Line
Drills are valuable, especially when realistic. Practice awaking your family from sleep and evacuating the house in the dark. Pretend that the fire is blocking the front door; now how will you get out? Did you grab your go-kit on the way out, your wallet? You don't want to risk your life deciding what family valuables save before the house burns down. Decide now and practice - assign each family member something to take with them on the way out.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

MacGyver Ready

"Chance favors the prepared mind." - Louis Pasteur
I have seen some versions of the Rule of Threes, that include an extra line: you can only live for 3 months without hope. Hope and preparedness work well together. If you are prepared, you'll have reason to be hopeful. If you're of the right frame of mind and have the right skills, you will be better prepared.

Frequently books and web sites focus on the material side of preparedness with check off lists for the right supplies to have on hand. But what if you're away from your supplies?
Example: while photographing a beautiful nature scene you step back too far and fall down a ravine breaking your leg. Are you carrying a first aid kit in your pocket?

Example: you are driving over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for Thanksgiving. Your car slides on black ice and is stuck in a ditch with no cell phone signal. Did you pack blankets and emergency food & water in the car?

The survival instructor who taught the broken leg example does indeed ALWAYS carry a survival kit in a fanny pack on his belt. (Who says you can't take it with you?) Lacking the fanny pack you might think back to your scouting days and make a splint with branches and the sleeves torn off your shirt. When you lack supplies, be creative!

You may remember the TV show MacGyver (the actor has appeared in character in a few commercials lately for Master Card). MacGyver was a hero who saved the day by combining everyday objects in clever ways. In one show he combined metal candle sticks and a power cord to shock a heart attack victim back to life (don't try this at home!). In a commercial he slides down a cable to freedom using his socks.

(For MacGyver fans there is an interview with the star, Richard Dean Anderson, comparing his life to MacGyver in Popular Mechanics, Sept. 2008)

Bottom Line
When supplies fail - use your mind. Be as resourceful and clever as MacGyver and be creative with the supplies you have.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Much Food is Enough?

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing" - Alka-Seltzer 1970's commercial

There are several web sites that provide food supply calculators - plug in the number of people in different age brackets and the web page figures out how much wheat, flour, sugar, salt, etc. to buy for a one year supply. These sites assume you can cook. (See yesterday's post about storage using prepared meals.) If you don't want a year supply, just divide the amounts suggested or use a site that allows you to enter weeks or months.
This detailed food calculator is based upon quantities suggested by the LDS Church's Home Production and Storage for a one year supply. (LDS = the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint, i.e. the Mormons). Since the LDS church encourages its 13 million members to store 1 year of supplies you'll find that many of the food storage sites are targeted to the LDS community. This particular food calculator requires just two numbers: the number of family members 6 and younger, the number of family members 7 and older. It provides a very detailed breakdown of food items to buy.,11666,7498-1-4070-1,00.html
A very simple calculator that works in US or Metric units. Enter the family size and the number of months you want and the calculator tells you how much grain and beans to buy. Provident Living is an LDS site with recommendations for food/water storage and financial planning
This site is provided by the state of Colorado as part if its "What If? Colorado" public education. The calculator and check list is for 72-hour kits only but I like it because one of the entries asks for the number of pets in your household. Don't forget the pet food!
This site is new to me but appears to be run by two individuals with a passion for preparedness and a talent for making educational videos. Their calculator supplies 8 categories: fats, sugar, grain, bean, dairy, water, leavening and salt. All you need enter is the number of weeks, adults (ages 12+) and children.

Bottom Line
While helpful keep in mind that these calculators are tools. You must customize the results for your family. Will you need infant formula and diapers? Pet food? Do you have food allergies? The Simply Living Smart and Provident Living web sites use generic categories like "grain" so you must decide how much of the grain will be wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley, pasta, etc. Don't like barley, no problem, just buy some other grain instead. Example: suppose the calculator recommends 100 lbs of grain. You could satisfy that as follows:

40 lbs wheat
20 lbs rice
10 lbs corn
20 lbs pasta
10 lbs oats
100 lbs total

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Survival Kitchen

"Keeping your pantry stocked is the first step to survival food" -
Food storage should not be buckets of grain gathering dust in the basement. Begin food storage in your kitchen and with your normal grocery shopping. When items you normally eat go on sale, buy a few extra to keep in storage. Write the month and year of purchase on the cans and food you store with a waterproof maker. This will help you identify the oldest items and hopefully use them before they expire. When storing food, put the new items in the BACK. This will encourage you to use the older items before the new.

Here are some recommendations for a survival kitchen pantry from
  • canned Vegetables (not vacuum packed). Use the liquid in the can in place of fresh water in your recipes.
  • herbs and spices.
  • Olive oil and other cooking oils
  • Small jars of mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is shelf-stable when sealed but will separate after opening if not refrigerated or kept on ice.
  • Sugar, salt, flour, baking mix, and honey will last forever in sealed packages. [Note - white flour has a long shelf life, wheat flour does not]
  • Pastas, rice, and dried legumes have long shelf lives but you'll need water to cook them.
  • Dry breakfast cereals
  • Pasteurized milk in boxes can be stored for six months
  • Powdered and evaporated canned milk
  • Dehydrated onions and mushrooms
  • Dry soup bases and gravy mixes
  • Canned meats and seafood
  • Processed cheese food and dry grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses
  • Disposable aluminum baking trays, paper plates, plastic utensils and paper towels
Bottom Line
It's easy to build and maintain a food storage of 1 to 3 months for a family with the recommendations above using normal everyday food. My wife and I did this shortly after we were married by buying lots of pasta, sauces, canned fruit/ vegetables/meat, etc. This worked very well for many years until we unknowingly bought a bag of rice which was contaminated with insects. They spread and got into all our boxes of pasta.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Value of Cooking

"Food, glorious food! Hot sausage and mustard!" - Oliver the musical
As the modern world becomes ever more urban, most of us have little experience in the skills our ancestors once knew: cutting firewood, building a fire, hunting, farming, etc. Today another basic skill is disappearing - cooking. Walk through a grocery store and you'll see precooked bacon, pre-sliced vegetables, instant meals and microwave meals.

During an emergency the no-cook food items will be quite useful; the microwave meals less helpful without power. Stocking up on precooked foods is a good idea BUT are you aware of the price premium you are paying for having someone else make your meals for you? Here are some prices for one year food supplies taken from the catalog Emergency Essentials:
  • $ 800 "Traditional" Dehydrated Food Basics (12 cases of grains, veg, beans, dairy, fruit)
  • $1,500 "Premium" with basics plus freeze dried meals, dessert mixes, flavored pancake mixes, etc,
  • $2,400 "Ultimate" with 25 cases of "just-add-water" cooking meals including Western Omelets and Hash Browns.
  • $3,400 MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) Year Supply
Bottom Line
There is a four times price difference between the Traditional combine-the-ingredients-on-your-own and the 100% MRE food supplies. Knowing how to cook meals from basic food stock will save you money when building your food storage.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Meals Ready to Eat and other Options

"You know you need to have some food on-hand for emergencies, right? -- but where do you start? What goes into an emergency kit and what do you obtain for long-term emergencies or serious food shortages?" - An Emergency /Survival Food Primer
Today's topic borrows heavily from a web page called the Survival Food Primer. There are lots of options for food storage: pills, tablets, food bars, freeze dried, dehydrated, canned, etc.
  • FOOD BARS - specially formulated "cookie" bars that are non-thirst provoking, high in protein, and frequently exceeding the normal daily requirements for vitamins and minerals. They typically have a five-year storage life and can withstand extreme temperature ranges (-40 degrees to 300 degrees F). Food Bars are great for keeping in the car or boat where temperatures can range from sub-freezing to 200 degrees F.
  • MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat) are the military's latest type of rations and supposedly better tasting than the older K and C rations. MREs are packaged in a specially designed triple-layer foil/plastic "retort" pouches that are sealed, cooked and not exposed to air until opened. Most MREs do not required water or heating (though the meals will taste better if warmed.) MREs typically have a five to seven year shelf life if stored in a cool environment but the nutritional value and taste deteriorate with time and heat. They are great for Go-Kits kept in the house but not for storage in your car.
  • CAMPING POUCH PRODUCTS are aluminized foil pouches with dehydrated or freeze dried food which is nitrogen flushed to ensure freshness and extended storage life (2 years at room temperature). There is a wide variety of entrees, side dishes, soups, breakfasts, fruits and desserts. Food pouches are very light, easy to transport, and can double as affordable trail and camping food.
  • LONG SHELF LIFE FOOD SUPPLY. This includes food that is dehydrated or freeze dried, packaged in double-enamelled #10 or #2-1/2 cans, nitrogen flushed, and has an expected shelf life of 10 to 15 years (or more). Many suppliers will sell you a year's supply of canned food for a thousand dollars or more shipped direct to your door. If you can afford this, it is the easiest way to build an long term home based food store. Personally, my family buys #10 cans of dried food that we like when they go on sale - dried spinach, carrots, onion, cheese, TVP, etc. We add these to soups and pastas that we make year round.

Bottom Line

  • Purchase a sample food item to see if the taste is agreeable before buying in bulk. You might love the barbecue pork with rice MRE but despise the spaghetti with meat sauce.
  • Look at the ingredient list for packaged meals. Many dried meal & soup mixes are very high in salt.
  • Eat what you buy. Keep the shelf life in mind and rotate emergency food into your normal meals or camping trips. This also has the advantage of acclimating children to the emergency meals. The last thing a kid will want where scared and stressed is to try a new icky food with a funny texture.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Survival Food

"You may be able to survive a few weeks or even a month without food, but why would you want to? Without food, you will become weak, susceptible to illnesses, dizzy and unable to perform survival-related tasks. Sure, water may be more critical to short-term survival, but it's much easier for even the unskilled survivalist to find water in the wild (the safety and purity of the water is another story...)." -
Recall that the fourth Rule of Three says you can survive three weeks without food. But as the quote above aptly states - who would want to be that hungry? Ideally we should know how to catch food in the wild. Personally I have little luck at fishing, no experience at hunting, and no training in what plants might be safe to eat.

Knowing my limits in the wild, I'll have to survive on what I carry in my Go-Kit: Energy bars, dry mixes, MREs, peanut butter, etc. It is a good idea to have at least a mini-Go-Kit every time you travel be it car, boat, train or plane. You never know when an accident may leave you stranded for hours or even days. Even something as simple and common as a flat tire can be made less stressful knowing you have some bottled water in the trunk and some food bars or hard candy for the children.

For your home FEMA and the Red Cross now recommend that you store one week of food and drink for the entire family and pets. The recommendation used to be 3 days (72 hours) but it was raised after Hurricane Katrina. Personally I feel this is not enough. Consider these reasons for a longer food store (1 month+) from the
  • Store shelves are often cleared out right before a blizzard or hurricane is set to hit. One grocery chain reported that when storm warnings went out, they sold more rolls of toilet paper than there were people in the city. Batteries, bottled water, milk, candles and food staples are also going to be in short supply. Do you want to battle the grocery store crowd for a roll of toilet paper?
  • Store shelves may be slowly replenished. A hurricane can destroy bridges and roads making it impossible for supplies to be delivered. 30 inches of snow in the winter storm of 1995-96 shut down Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia for more than a week. Trucks carrying supplies were stranded on the interstate highways.
  • You may be asked to feed friends or neighbors. What if friends were visiting for the weekend and unable to return home because of the inclement weather, earthquake or other emergency?
  • Food rarely goes down in price. What you buy now will be an investment in the future and you'll be protected from any price gouging after the emergency. You can also save money buying goods on sale or at warehouse club prices.
Bottom Line
Create at least two food stores:
  1. 3 days of food in Go-Kits that you keep in your car
  2. 1 month of food that you keep at home

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 8, 2008

Potable Water

"Water, water every where, Nor any drop to drink."
- Samuel Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

While recent evidence indicates that there may be frozen water on Mars and the Moon, it is Earth that is unique as the Blue Planet with 71% of the surface covered in water. Sadly very little of this water is potable (meaning safe to drink).

97% of the Earth's water is salt water. NEVER drink salt water no matter how thirsty or near death. It takes twice as much water for your body to process seawater as you get from it.

Of the 3% fresh water, most of it (80%) is tied up in the polar ice caps. There is a survival lesson here too - DO NOT eat snow. Recall the Rule of Threes and how maintaining body temperature (shelter) trumps thirst. Eating snow lowers your core body temperature which can lead to hypothermia or shock.

Of the fresh, non-frozen water about 99.5 percent is not potable due to pollution or it is inaccessible (too deep, trapped in the soil, etc.). This leaves us .03 * .20 * .005 = .003% of the Earth's water available for drinking. If one liter represents all water the world, the useful-potable amount of water is just a one drop.

Say despite the odds, you have found fresh water. Is it safe? Maybe not. Giardiasis (gee-ar-die-a-sis with a soft "G") is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by a parasite that lives in fresh water. Up to 2.5 million cases of giardiasis occur each year in the US. Up to 20% of the world's population is chronically infected with Giardia lamblia.

How to Avoid Giardiasis, e-Coli and other dangers in fresh water

  • Do not drink from fresh water streams or lakes without boiling or filtering the water with a pore size of less than 1mm.
  • Do not use ice or drink beverages made from water that may be contaminated.
  • Do not brush teeth with water that may be contaminated.
  • Do not eat uncooked or unpeeled fruits or vegetables grown in conditions in which contamination with Giardia might occur.

Bottom Line
Water contamination is not just limited to mountain streams and ponds. You might get sick swallowing the water in a public swimming pool. The public tap water in many countries is unhealthy by American standards. There's a story about a tourist in Mexico was very careful to avoid tap water by drinking only Coca Cola. However he caught Montezuma's Revenge from the ice cubes in the Coke glass.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 7, 2008

How Much Water is Enough?

“It is better to rise from life as from a banquet -- neither thirsty nor drunken.” - Aristotle

It has become accepted wisdom: "Drink at least eight glasses of water a day!" This is equivalent to 2 to 2.5 quarts or 64-80 onces per day. But a study in 2002 suggests that this is an urban legend: Dartmouth Professor Finds No Scientific Evidence for '8 x 8'. Heinz Valtin, MD, believes that the water obsession can be linked to a recommendation in 1945 by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council for "1 milliliter of water for each calorie of food." What most people don't realize is that the next sentence in the same recommendation states, "most of this quantity [of water] is contained in prepared foods."

So how much water is enough?
There is an excellent chart on the site which shows how long you can survive at different max daily temperatures. With rationing and shade, the chart indicates that 2 quarts will allow you to survive 9 days in temperatures up to 90 F / 32.2 C. Water needs vastly increase as the temperature increases; the same 2 quarts will only keep you alive two days at 120 F / 48.9 C.

Many preparedness sites recommend a great deal of water, the Red Cross and FEMA say one gallon of water per day per person in their “Preparing for Disaster” pdf (on page 8). The site says "three gallons per person per day will give you enough to cook and for limited personal hygiene.” The average person in the United States uses about 65 gallons per normal day with toilets, showers, dishwasher, lawn sprinkler, etc. Storing gallons of water is great for home storage but not practical for go kits or backpacks. A gallon of water weighs just over 8 pounds so a three-day supply is about 25 pounds per person.

In emergency situations you should separate water in to three categories:

  1. Water safe enough to drink and put into your mouth (i.e. teeth brushing)
  2. Water safe to cook with after boiling. This includes washing dishes.
  3. Grey water used for body/clothes washing but not safe to consume

Given the weight of water, I personally plan on using found water for items 2 and 3 and applying filters, iodine, boiling, etc. I carry bottled water only for item 1 - drinking. How much? Answers vary on conditions. A minimum is 1 quart per day. Some sites recommend at least 2 quarts (perhaps biased by the 8x8 glasses of water meme). Many, like the National Park Service (NPS), recommend 4 quarts or 1 gallon per day. The NPS offers this warning for hiking in the Grand Canyon, "During the summer months, your fluid/electrolyte loss can exceed two quarts per hour if you hike uphill in direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Because the inner canyon air is so dry and hot, sweat evaporates instantly making its loss almost imperceptible."

Recommended Reading...

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Preparation or Paranoia?

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." - Robert Heinlein
Today's item will be brief as I'd like to recommend the excellent article published yesterday by Helen Smith as she looks at the Psychology of Preparedness - "How much is enough, and how much is too much?"

Bottom Line
"The key here to disaster preparedness is to keep an open mind, maintain a balance in your life, and don’t get too extreme one way or another. You want to be prepared, but you don’t want the preparedness to take over your life." - Helen Smith

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


“Dig your well before you are thirsty.” - Proverb

The third rule in the Rule of Threes is that you can survive only three days without water. Recall that the rule for shelter was just three hours. Ideally a good shelter will also provide water nearby. If you become weak or ill in the wilderness, you don't want a long or difficult hike to water. It may be necessary to build a few temporary shelters before finding the perfect location. Future posts will cover ways to find water and how to make water traps to catch dew and rain water.

The human body is 75% water which is constantly being depleted by breathing, sweating, menstruation, digestion and urination. Dehydration occurs when you consume/drink less fluid then you emit. Mild dehydration begins when you lose about 2% of your body water. For a 200 pound person this is 3 lbs of water or 1.5 quarts. Fluid loss can be quite rapid with vomiting and diarrhea - two possible symptoms if you're eating strange plants when lost. It is far better to remain hungry than to acquire food poisoning wilderness.

Environment and Water Needs

Surprisingly, very cold environments can be as dry as the driest desert. Cold air cannot hold much moisture; it drys your body with every breath you take. Cold dry air also robs your body of moisture from exposed skin - for example: chapped lips. You may become severely dehydrated without even realizing the danger you are in.

Wind also play a role in dehydration. A dry wind on exposed flesh can suck the water right out of a person. The remains of mummified animals and people are often found in desert regions, their bodies totally dried out.

See for a detailed list of symptoms at increasing stages of dehydration. Muscle cramps can occur with 5% loss of body fluids. Dehydration becomes deadly at 10% fluid loss with seizures and loss of consciousness.
If the patient becomes confused or lethargic; if there is persistent, uncontrolled fever, vomiting, or diarrhea; contact a doctor.


  • Drinking fluids is usually sufficient for mild dehydration. It is better to have frequent, small amounts of fluid (using a teaspoon for an infant or child). Drinking too much fluid at once can bring on vomiting.
  • Electrolyte solutions or freezer pops are especially effective. These are available at pharmacies. Consider also clear broths and jello. Sport drinks contain a lot of sugar and can cause or worsen diarrhea. For infants and children, avoid using water as the primary replacement fluid.
  • Intravenous fluids and hospitalization may be necessary for moderate to severe dehydration. The doctor will try to identify and then treat the cause of the dehydration.
The Mayo Clinic has recommendations on preventing dehydration.

Bottom Line
As discussed in the last two posts, dehydration increases the risk of Heat Stroke in hot/humid weather. Heat Stroke will kill you faster than dehydration - hence the importance of establishing shelter before water. Don't kill yourself searching for water.

Additional Sources

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, August 4, 2008

Heat Exhaustion

"It's too darn hot..." - Cole Porter song "Too Darn Hot"

Yesterday's post focused mostly on Heat Stroke, the deadly stage of heat related illnesses. Today I'd like to spend more time on Heat Exhaustion and how to treat it. Hopefully you'll spot Heat Exhaustion when it occurs and prevent it from progressing to Heat Stroke.

Recognizing Heat Exhaustion
Warning signs of heat exhaustion include:
Treatment for Heat Exhaustion
Help the victim to cool off with:
  • Cool, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated, beverages.
  • Cool shower, bath, or sponge bath. Outdoors: Gently spray with a hose.
  • Get to an air-conditioned environment. At the very least find shade.
  • Rest, lie down with feet slightly elevated.

Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 30 minutes. If fever greater than 102 F (38.9 C), fainting, confusion or seizures occur, dial 911 or call for emergency medical assistance.

Having heat exhaustion or heatstroke makes you more sensitive to hot conditions for about a week afterwards.

Bottom Line
If you lead or manage outdoor activities, memorize the symptoms and treatment for Heat Exhaustion so you can spot it and respond quickly. If you're a scout leader, sports coach, work crew chief, hiking guide, tour guide - this means you!


Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke)

"I will have nought to do with a man who can blow hot and cold with the same breath" - Aesop (620 BC - 560 BC), The Man and the Satyr

Hyperthermia (too much internal body heat) is the opposite of Hypothermia. The early stage is more commonly called Heat Exhaustion (up to 104°F), the advanced, life threatening, stage is Heat Stroke (105°F and above). Heat Stroke can permanently damage the brain and internal organs.

Under normal conditions the body can sweat away and radiate away the heat we produce inside. When the air temperature is higher than your body temperature (98.6 degrees) heat radiation is greatly impacted. You can also be affected by lower air temperature if you're exercising or exerting yourself vigorously and generating heat faster than the body can shed it. Both high humidity and dehydration can reduce the ability to sweat effectively. (Hence the importance of drinking fluids.) Antihistamines and certain types of medication for high blood pressure or depression can increase the risk of over heating. Tea, coffee, soda and alcohol can lead to dehydration and should be avoided when heat illness is likely.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • hot, DRY skin that is flushed but NOT sweaty
  • a high body temperature
  • rapid heart beat (flutter)
  • headache or dizziness
  • disorientation, agitation or confusion
  • hallucinations
  • sluggishness or fatigue
  • seizure
  • loss of consciousness or coma
  • death

Note: some individuals can develop symptoms of heat stroke suddenly and rapidly without warning. Symptoms may differ per individual.

The symptoms for Heat Exhaustion are quite similar to Heat Stroke with one vital exception: with Heat Exhaustion the body is sweating profusely. If sweating stops, it's Heat Stroke - seek medical care immediately. If a person with Heat Exhaustion is unable to drink or vomiting back the fluids, call for medical help.

How to treat Heat Stroke
Heat stroke can cause permanent damage or death. Call 911 and apply these first aid measures while waiting for help to arrive:

  • Get the person indoors
  • Have the person lie down in a cool area with their feet slightly elevated (to prevent shock)
  • Remove clothing and gently apply cool water to the skin followed by fanning to stimulate sweating. Do NOT use an alcohol rub.
  • Apply ice packs to the groin and armpits
  • If the person is able to drink without vomiting or choking, give cool fluids such as water or sports drinks (but not anything caffeinated)

Intravenous fluids are often necessary to compensate for fluid or electrolyte loss. Bed rest is generally advised and body temperature may fluctuate abnormally for weeks after heat stroke.

Bottom Line

Take precautions when exposed to prolonged hot and/or humid conditions.

  1. Drink plenty of non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic, fluids
  2. Wear loose, lightly-colored clothing
  3. Wear a hat or use an umbrella
  4. Take frequent breaks to cool down and drink
  5. Mist yourself with a water spray or wear a wet hat or wet shirt
  6. If sweating heavily you'll want to refresh your electrolytes (such as sodium). Eat a cracker or consume a sports drink
  7. Have a shelter you can retreat to for shade

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, August 2, 2008


"Never such a blizzard before"
- from the song Baby it's cold outside
Hypothermia describes the rapid, progressive mental and physical collapse caused by the chilling of the inner core of the human body. It is the number one killer of outdoor recreationalists who simply can't believe that temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees can be dangerous. When dry and covered you might survive 30 degree air. But swimming in 50 degree water can be deadly and when your clothes are wet in fifty degrees air, the cold water running down your neck and legs quickly robs body heat. A blowing wind will go through and under wet clothes, evaporating water on your skin, causing a refrigeration effect.

I'm quite impressed by the site which provided the hypothermia information above. It also charts comparing water temperature to survival times, signs of hypothermia, what to do, and more.

From eMedicineHealth I learned that Hypothermia has been a military problem ever since Hannibal lost nearly half of his troops while crossing the Pyrenees Alps in 218 B.C. It has continued to plague military campaigns through both world wars and the Korean War.

Bottom Line

Uncontrollable or violent shivering is a warning sign of early stage hypothermia. Shivering can double heat generation for a few hours. But eventually fatigue sets in, and the body exhausts its fuel stores. As your core body temperature drops, cold reaches the brain depriving you of good judgement and reasoning power. You will not realize this is happening. You will lose control of your hands, then your body, and eventually die.

Seek help immediately while you still have the energy, the muscle coordination, and the common sense to reach help. However if you're lost don't wander at random hoping to be rescued; seek shelter instead. Once sheltered, take off wet clothes and replace with dry if available. Refuel your body with food and water. Do NOT consume alcohol, caffeine or tobacco. Build a fire. Get inside a sleeping bag if available. If you're not alone, huddle with others to share body heat.

For more details see also the Outdoor Action Guide.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Importance of Shelter

All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space. -Philip Johnson

Unless you're an expert breath holder, most people have no problem accepting the 1st Survival Rule of Three - find air within 3 minutes. However I've seen lots of misunderstanding over the second Rule of Three - find shelter within 3 hours. One commenter on a different blog pointed out that he frequently spends more than 3 hours at the beach with no difficulty.

However, the beach goer did have shelter - if the sun became too hot he could retire to his car or his house. When far from civilization, you should establish a shelter within the first few hours to keep dry or become dry, to stay out of the wind, and to find warmth or shade BEFORE weather conditions turn fatal. For hikers, shelter may be a tent they carry on their backs. It could be your car, a cave, a cabin, etc. Here are some links on creating your own emergency shelter:

Bottom Line

Provide a shelter BEFORE you need it. While a shelter may be a place to keep "your stuff" (George Carlin) its real value is to maintain your body temperature under adverse conditions - too much heat leads to heat stroke, too little heat causes hypothermia.

Tomorrow's topic will cover hypothermia.

Labels: , , , , , ,