Getting prepared for a hurricane

Typically when people hear the word “prepper”, they think of crazy rednecks storing ammo and food in underground bunkers bracing for the zombie apocalypse. While there is certainly some truth to the stereotype, most “preppers” are just normal people with forethought. People who acknowledge and accept there is risk and danger in the world, and prepare accordingly so when bad things happen the experience isn’t as painful and the recovery is faster. It’s the reason for wearing seat belts, for having insurance, for having smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. It’s the old adage of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

We Texans are still dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Harvey. Now Hurricane Irma – the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever – is destroying the Caribbean, and on its way to Florida.

The time to prepare is now.

Time is your most important factor. You can use it to your advantage, or to your detriment. The sooner you take positive action towards improving your situation, the more you work to be ahead of the masses, the easier and better things will be for you. If you wait until the last minute, you’ll be competing with the crowds for scarce resources and that won’t be fun.

As a simple example, my wife and I started hearing about Harvey early in the week. We immediately went into action, doing extra grocery shopping, scrubbing the bathtubs to fill with water, fueling up all the vehicles, etc.. All store shelves were stocked, no lines at the gas pumps, no pressure, no nothing. We were even able to order a few things off Amazon Prime and bought a few movies in the iTunes Store. It was a fairly stress-free run up to Harvey’s landfall. But we had many friends that waited until the last minute, dealt with shortages, long lines at the store, and just a general no-fun time. Use time to your advantage.

Things to do

One could write volumes about preparedness – it’s a deep and broad topic. But now is not the time to study deeply, now is the time to take what actions you can.

An colleague of mine, Mark Luell, posted a good list of immediately actionable items to Facebook. I’ve used that list as a starting point, elaborated on a few points, made some edits and additions.

  1. For a big storm, it’s good to have enough water to drink for 7 days. The water does not have to be bottled. You can simply buy water containers and fill them with tap water. A general guideline is 1 gallon per person per day, but that’s only a guideline. For example, if you opt to use freeze-dried food, you will need more water to handle the food rehydration (in addition to drinking). When in doubt, opt for more water.
  2. Fill your bathtub with water. If your bathtub leaks or slowly drains, get a large plastic sheet to line the tub. You can use this water to flush the toilet (pour a scoop of water into the toilet bowl), and for basic cleaning.
  3. Have enough food on hand to eat for 7 days. Food bars and other packaged food can be good. Consider how the food would be prepared and how your means of preparation work. If electricity goes out, freezers will melt, refrigerators will warm, food can spoil, microwave ovens won’t work, etc.. Have food that can survive at room temperature (e.g. canned goods), and be eaten without much prep. Gas stoves are useful; don’t forget the matches. It won’t be gourmet, but you’ll live. Oh, and don’t forget a hand-operated manual can-opener.
  4. Don’t forget your pets. Make sure they will have enough food and water. Other things, like litter or how puppy will go to the bathroom. Gather up any vet records that may be necessary in case they have to be kenneled/sheltered.
  5. Buy a large number of Ziploc-like plastic bags, both large and small. You’ll use them to protect papers and other valuables. Also, you can fill them 3/4 full of water, then stuff your freezer full. Do this early to ensure they are frozen by the time the hurricane hits (and power goes out). What keeps our refrigerators and freezers cold is the thermal mass within — an empty fridge will get warmer faster, so having more stuff in there to retain cold is good. And these will eventually provide another source of water too. BTW, do not set your fridge to the lowest setting.
  6. If you have ice makers, do the same thing. Put the ice in freezer bags, fill space in your freezer. Let the ice makers run and keep doing this.
  7. You can also use up your perishables now to make more room for these “fillers”.
  8. Get a portable radio that receives AM and FM. NOAA weather radio is good too, but may not always have information on evacuations and other instructions. Batteries are good. And they do make “survival radios” that have things like hand cranks so the radio can function if the batteries go out. Some of these also have ports that let you plug in your phone so you can sit there and crank away and slowly charge your phone.
  9. Get LED flashlights and batteries. Lanterns are nice too, so you can light a room and set the lighting on a table (instead of always having to hold it). Headlamps are useful too. Oh yeah, did I say you need batteries? Don’t skimp; get quality ones. Make sure all lamps/lights are working, with fresh batteries, and then staged in well-established locations so you can find them in the dark if needed.
  10. We live life on our mobile phones. How will you keep yours running? Again, one of the hand-crank radios can help, but they are slow. There are battery packs and other solutions, like Goal Zero products.
  11. Get large plastic bags. They are invaluable for keeping things dry.
  12. Get large plastic boxes. If you put valuables, photos, papers, inside plastic bags inside plastic boxes, they have a better chance of weathering the storm.
  13. Get plastic sheeting and plenty of duct tape. Gorilla Tape sticks pretty darn well. Don’t get cheap stuff that sticks to nothing, especially when wet.
  14. Do your laundry, now.
  15. Fill up all vehicles with gas. Check tires. Check oil. Check other fluids. Make sure your vehicles are running well.
  16. Get cash. Credit card networks may well be down. ATMs may be empty due to a rush. Cash to buy gas, tolls, food, whatever you might need.
  17. Important documents can be screenshotted (just put them on the table and snap a pic with your phone), then emailed to yourself or saved in a safe could storage (e.g. Dropbox). Originals can be sealed in plastic bags and taken with you.
  18. If you have to evacuate, what is your plan? Where are you going to go? Are you certain you’ll be able to get there? Are you certain you’ll have room/board once you arrive? Be sure these plans are shared with family and friends.
  19. If you have any heirlooms that you can’t part with, do what you can to preserve them. Again, putting in plastic bags and boxes, putting them in a high place (e.g. second story), etc..
  20. If you have firearms, ensure they are properly secured.
  21. Consider putting old rags and towels on windowsills. Water can seep in because of rain and wind pressure.
  22. If you have shutters or need to take care of things outside the house, do so NOW. Bring things in, secure things down. The sooner you do this, the more time you have to handle it if things go wrong and/or if you need to get additional supplies.
  23. Do you have enough of any medications to get you through an extended period? If any medications need refrigeration, what steps can you take to ensure they will be alright?
  24. Ensure you have enough feminine hygiene products to get through.
  25. Don’t be afraid to leave, if that’s the best course of action. Trust your gut. Yes it’s hard to leave home, but it is just “stuff” — your life is more important. And again, the sooner you take this action the better, because if you leave when everyone else opts to leave then the roads will be jammed, gas will be harder to come by, etc..

Look at your life and lifestyle. Yes it will have to be abridged, but with some forethought and creative planning, you can make things work. For example, you may not use dry shampoo or take sponge baths, but that may be how you get through an extended period of no power and water.

Also, you may feel totally overwhelmed, like you can’t do it all and you need to do more. That’s ok, that’s normal. Do what you can. Every bit that you do improves your situation. After it’s over, you’ll see where you can improve and that will be the time to work on those areas so next time you’ll be even better prepared.

Consider as well, if you do all of these things and nothing comes of it? What was the harm? We braced ourselves for Hurricane Harvey because all forecasts were pointing to Austin getting hammered. But then as the storm grew closer, the track changed and Austin narrowly missed serious pain (but just 1 county to the east got hit hard). So we lucked out. Did preparation cause any pain or problem for my family? Not really. In fact, a lot of the additional food and water we just turned around and donated to the relief efforts. As well, some of the preps got us better situated for the next thing that may happen (e.g. I bought a new weather radio because the old one was dying, and this new one has a USB port).

Preparation doesn’t have to take a lot of work. The more you think about it, the more you do it, the more it just becomes part of your lifestyle and general mode of living. It brings a great deal of peace of mind, and that’s something we all appreciate. But the trick is that you can’t put this off — start now.

Thoughts, as Hurricane Harvey descends on Texas

As I type this, Hurricane Harvey has made landfall on the Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane. The impacts to Austin? I’m getting light rain and occasional gusts of wind, but nothing huge yet – that’s still to come as Harvey works its way further inland.

We’ve done our best to prepare for this event. I’ve also been watching those around me and how they have – or haven’t – prepared. This isn’t to chastise anyone, except maybe myself. I just wanted to share a few things learned.

Time is your friend (or enemy).

The earlier you prepare, the easier things are. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to prepare.

Case in point. We knew Harvey was coming and headed to the grocery store earlier in the week. Supplies were plentiful, lines were no different than normal. Even picking up a few last minute items Friday morning wasn’t too bad. But as Friday wore on, even by mid-morning, I was seeing reports and pictures from all around Austin of empty shelves and long checkout lines.

Generator

This is my biggest hole: lack of a generator. It’s been on my list for quite some time, but it’s so rare to need it it just fell off my radar.

Now I’m kicking myself.

What makes Harvey so painful is it’s predicted to just sit – and dump rain and wind for days. It’s likely we’ll lose electricity, and then for how long?

Time is not on my side here. I didn’t use it to my advantage. And a strong consideration is not just the duration of the event itself, but the aftermath and time it will take to recover.

So while I have power, I’m going to be spending time researching what to buy. I have received a lot of good input from folks I trust, and I won’t let this happen.

Learning from mistakes

So with my big mistake of the lack of generator, what else did I fail at and can learn from?

Managing stress. Not just my own stress, but the stress of my family. We’ve bitten each other’s heads off during this, as we’ve tried to determine our best course of action. We understand, we’re over it now, but it still didn’t add to the fun.

I’m also trying to not monitor the weather reports so much. Obsessively checking reports really has driven our stress levels up. Major updates will only come every few hours, and things will be what they will be. Anything truly critical we should receive alerts about. Meantime, find other ways to stay happy and occupied.

Thankfulness

One big thing I’m thankful for are friends like Paul Martin. He’s not only one of the kindest and most generous people I know, but he’s a serious and level-headed prepper. I’ve learned much from him over the years (and I still fall very short of the things I should be doing). I find his leadership invaluable. I see so many people turning to him for advice and knowledge, and he generously provides it. Thank you, Paul.

 

Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol – Addressing Assumptions

I’d like to revisit my Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol series. And just like my “Revisited Again” was inspired by Claude Werner, so too is this revisiting – Addressing Assumptions. As well, it comes from some recent work we’ve been doing at KR Training with curriculum revision.

The original article series was primarily focused around gun and shooting portion of the equation. That was a reasonable focus, but if you look a little deeper into the conclusion you can see there are precursors/prerequisites that are assumed or taken for granted.

This would be things like basic gun manipulations: how to load a gun, how to unload a gun, how to load and unload a magazine (and that it’s a “magazine”, not a “clip”), basic range etiquette, how to practice effectively, how to seek out good training and instruction.

One thing I admire about Claude is how he often focuses and finds ways to work with people in less than ideal circumstances. For example, many gun ranges do not allow people to draw from a holster, or it may be impossible to use a shot timer due to noise levels. Claude often works and formulates curriculum and drills to work within these constraints.

In a recent discussion on minimum competency, Claude structured a drill with a loose structure like:

  • Load 7 rounds into the magazine
  • Load the gun
  • Shoot 6
  • Unload the gun

While at first glance it seems odd to enumerate the steps of loading the magazine, loading the gun, and unloading the gun – and some may desire to gloss over those steps – they’re actually quite an important part of the drill. They are giving the student practice at loading and unloading, they give the instructor a chance to observe the student performing these operations to ensure they are doing it correctly and safely.

When discussing a topic like “minimum competency”, it’s important we mind our assumptions so we do not overlook the complete set of skills necessary for competency.

Finally found a solution for carrying a tourniquet!

It’s difficult to argue against carrying a tourniquet with you every day. But for sure, to carry one isn’t the easiest thing as good tourniquets (read: SOFTT-W or C-A-T) are bulky; the windlass is inescapable and forces particular constraints and realities.

Over the years I’ve tried numerous solutions and they just have not worked FOR ME. I want to stress the FOR ME part. There are solutions out there that work for TQ EDC, like my buddy Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics uses an ankle wrap. But in the summer I like shorts and sandals, and in the winter I like boots – none of these are conducive to an ankle wrap. So solutions here are very much a “for me” situation.

About a year ago I picked up a PHLstr Flatpack Tourniquet Carrier as it looked to have potential as a solution. You can click through to read my impressions at the time, but the bottom line was simple: nice solution, but didn’t work FOR ME. The quest continued.

But some months ago it dawned on me: I don’t need a carrier, I already have one in my cargo pants pockets. I had tried it in the past but the bulk factor was a problem. The game changer? Flat-packing.

Here’s a video explaining how to flat-pack a SOFTT-W:

Genius.

I started by NOT using any sort of carrier/restraint at all, just sticking it into my pocket. The cargos I tend to wear have some inner pockets and the TQ fit perfectly. Huzzah! I’ve been able to carry a TQ on my person everywhere I go, without much problem nor notice.

Of course, an unrestrained TQ was a bit a problem because it would come unfolded. I was using a rubber-band, but Caleb cured me of that (good luck trying to apply that one-handed). So how to solve this? The problem has been with me.

The PHLster Flatpack Carrier. 🙂

I removed the belt loops from the carrier. It’s now just the backing and the shock-cord. Since the backing is cut to precisely the same size as the flatpacked TQ, no real footprint issues. It still fits in my cargo pockets like a charm. It’s bound so it doesn’t become a mess, and it’s able to be deployed quickly.

Finally.

The 5th Annual Paul T. Martin Preparedness Conference

Folks: the 5th Annual Paul T. Martin Preparedness Conference has been announced for  Saturday January 7, 2017 at the Cabela’s in Buda, Texas.

Click/Tap here for full details.

It’s only $60, and it covers a LOT of good stuff. Of the speakers list, I’m really looking forward to hearing from Jack Jania again – but that’s just the tech geek in me. 🙂

The thing I love about Paul? He’s a down-to-earth guy. “Prepping” isn’t about hoarding guns and food because zombie apocalypse – I know that’s the popular image (stereotype) that people get when they hear the word “prepping” or “prepper”. It’s about understanding that life brings about the unexpected, and with a little forethought, planning, and work, you can be prepared for “shit happening” and it won’t be so traumatic when it inevitably does.

For example, do you have a will?

Do you have proper insurance? both types and coverage levels?

Are you in good health?

Being a prepper starts with stuff like that, not stockpiling MREs and ammo. Yeah I know, it’s not sexy, but when things like Hurricane Matthew make landfall, having your ducks in a row BEFORE the hurricane hits – instead of how people run to the store for bread and milk the hours before stormy weather hits – can do your health and peace of mind a world of good.

Come to the conference. I’ve presented at 2 of them, and attended what schedule has permitted. I’m going to attend this one. I hope to see you there!

Paranoid or prepared? It’s your perspective.

I’m sure at some point in your life someone called you paranoid for something you considered just being prepared.

To be prepared or paranoid, it’s a matter of your own perspective.

For example, to keep food, water, and other “survival supplies” in your car may seem like an unnecessary and paranoid thing to do, right? I mean, “what are you afraid of?” would be the common refrain. But consider about 1500 motorists, stranded on Interstate 12 in Louisiana due to massive flooding. Louisiana State Police used helicopters to airlift food and water to these people.

But perhaps it’s just a consequence of being in the southern part of the United States. I remember when I lived up north, it was a ritual as wintertime approached to put various supplies in your car, like blankets and some food and water, because getting stuck in a snowstorm was a very real possibility. If you didn’t prepare your car this way, you were considered stupid.

Prepared? Paranoid? All about your perspective.

Some years ago the family had a day planned for SeaWorld. Of course, being SeaWorld you (should) expect to get wet, so we planned and dressed accordingly. As the day drew near, weather forecasts predicted rain. What did I do? I packed raincoats. No reason to cancel the day, because again you expect to get wet. But it’s miserable walking around in the rain, and inconvenient to use umbrellas, so raincoats. Of course, some looked at us as weird because you just don’t go into a vacation event expecting “bad things” – the day should be sunny and happy, right? But Mother Nature didn’t consult me in making her plans, so I had to work with her plans. Of course it started raining. What did we observe? The other park patrons all rushed to the gift shops and bought SeaWorld-branded rain ponchos – we were the only people in the entire park with our own rain gear (of any sort). We were only considered paranoid until we needed it, and then we were considered prepared.

Perspective.

Before you start labeling someone “paranoid”, step back and remember your empathy. Try to see it from their perspective. Nothing says you have to agree with them, but hopefully you can at least understand them.

Review: PHLster Flatpack Tourniquet Carrier

What follows is my (initial impressions) review of the PHLster Flatpack™ Tourniquet Carrier.

Background

So I blame Caleb Causey @ Lone Star Medics for all of this. 🙂 For some years now I’ve been trying to find a way to carry a tourniquet as a part of my every day carry (EDC). Alas, there’s been no good solution.

Caleb’s preferred solution is an ankle-wrap, which is a fantastic solution. But it doesn’t work for me, because I like wearing shorts. Plus, enough heat, sweat, etc. and my skin starts to get irritated. So a solution like that just is not feasible for me.

Caleb helped me look at a lot of solutions, such as various pouches, MOLLE, and various things. Alas, nothing really worked. Some time ago I found some excellent pouches from Eleven10 Gear. I do think they make some great TQ pouches, but I just did not find them workable for EDC. It’s not really the fault of the pouches, but of the TQ itself. Any good tourniquet, like a SOF-TT Wide or a C-A-T is just going to be of particular dimensions and constraints due to the windlass. If the TQ rides vertically, then it’s really tall and that windless is a stick in your back. And no one was really making horizontal solutions. For the record, I do still have my Eleven10 pouches and one rides in my range bag so I can keep one easily on-hand while working at KR Training. Again, fine products, but I just did not find them suitable for my EDC because it was either very uncomfortable, or the sheer dimensions and resulting thickness of the whole schebang was unconcealable.

Oh, and I refuse to use any other sort of TQ because well… they just haven’t demonstrated effective. I defer to the expertise of folks, like Caleb Causey, on this topic. And personally, I prefer the SOF-TT Wide.

The quest continued. I’d have a TQ somewhere, like in a bag, but those bags aren’t always in immediate proximity and that’s really what I’d like.

So when Facebook auto-stalked a comment Caleb made to the BFE Labs page, it was one time I was thankful for Facebook’s auto-stalk “feature”. I immediately expressed interest, and the folks at BFE were kind enough to post some pictures to show dimensions and size. This PHLster Flatpack seemed to be the answer to my problems!

I ordered two.

My Impressions

It’s a simple thing, as you can see in pictures and video. And it should be able to accommodate your favorite big-windlass TQ. But yes, you MUST fold it a certain way to get the TQ to pack as flat as possible.

When you do, it’s quite flat:

PHLstr Flatpack™ TQ Carrier, and a S&W M&P9 magazine.

That was the best part! On my belt, this was no thicker than anything else I already carried. Yes, it takes up more room because it runs horizontal, but it conceals just fine.

I was pretty stoked. 🙂

And once you learn how to fold the TQ that way, you almost don’t want to ever fold it any other way.

I think construction is generally good. Loops are made for 1.5″ belt and generally sturdy construction. I appreciate the use of the shock-cord and that there’s ways to adjust it because different TQ styles and fittings. BUT to me that’s also a potential downside: shock cord will wear out and eventually snap. Easy enough to fix, but having it decide to break while you’re out and about isn’t ideal. Not a knock against the design, just reality of using shock cord. I also worry that the attachments of the shock may come undone and release the TQ. So far not an issue, but I also haven’t subjected it to harsh stuff like rolling around on the ground, etc.. As well, the TQ is totally exposed — the only thing “protecting” it is your shirt. Is that going to be good? I mean, it’s a TQ… dust, dirt, etc. getting into it? other exposure. Or just simply friction wear from things rubbing against it all day? I mean, give a read to Caleb’s recent article about TQ failure. Is that going to be good or bad? vs. say a more covered “pouch” approach? But of course, the lack of pouch is what helps the slim design.

So it’s a trade-off, and a design that I reckon is still to be vetted.

Still, I appreciate these guys are trying to come up with something.

So… wearing it.

I’m wearing it at the 4-5 o’clock position — it’s the only place I have room on my belt. My wife calls it my Batman Utility Belt because yes, I wear stuff all over it. Consequently, that dictated where I wore it because that’s the only place I have left. But in a way it’s good because that position was a “hole” and this balanced things out — especially when I leaned back into a chair.

Generally I have no idea it’s there, and as I said before, it conceals quite well.

But it’s not perfect. The nature of it wobbles; just how it’s built, attached, and the fact it’s cloth just bungied to a board. So sometimes when I sit down I have to reposition myself to get it to drop or shift to a more comfortable position. It’s a little harder if I lay down, and I do have to reposition myself until I get it placed more comfortable. If it was a full kydex (or leather or whatever) covering it, fixed attachments to the belt, etc. I wonder how this might change — tho it could change for the worse too because perhaps the flexibility helps find the right position.

All in all tho I’ve been happy with the construction and approach, and it’s nice to know I’ve got something should I need it.

I did find another snag — literally. I can’t draw. 😦 Because of my body shape, clothing, position on my belt relative to everything else… I can’t draw. I go to lift my shirt and the Flatpack (well, the TQ mounted on the Flatpack) perfectly snags my shirt almost every time and makes it impossible to lift up. I can get around it if I reach REALLY far back when I lift my shirt… or if I do things like lean backwards (towards 4:30 or so) so the shirt lifts at a different angle — but these are totally not feasible workarounds. And if it was a fully covered pouch it MIGHT help because it’d be smooth with rounded corners, but there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t have the same problem. So the solution here is carrying it in a different location, but I really can’t — the things on my left-back have to be there and can’t be relocated, and I can’t wear it up front. However, up front may be my only possible, but I’m not really hot about that for some reasons as to why AIWB isn’t working for me.

So… I don’t know.

This is the closest solution I’ve found, but it’s causing some serious issues for me. I don’t think the product is bad — I think it has a place and people should consider it for sure. I think ankle rig is really good because you can carry more than just a TQ — and to me, I think you really need more than a TQ, but then you need a way to carry it which generally means some sort of bag/kit on or about you. My briefcase is pretty stocked, but I don’t carry my briefcase everywhere.

I think the Flatpack design is a worthwhile attempt. I think it’s going to need some time (read: years) to fully vet the design. People wearing it in daily carry, to more rough-and-tumble classes, and just really giving it a work-out to ensure this design is really going to work. I think there’s a lot of good things here, and frankly it may be the right solution for YOU. Consider what the product offers, what it is, what it is not, what your situation is, what freedoms and limitations you operate within. It may be right for you. If you’re not sure if it’s right, pick one up and give it a try because you really won’t know for certain until you do.

As for me, I’m not willing to give up on it entirely, but I have taken it off my belt until I can think of a way to make it work for me.

New Experiment

Look what I recently picked up:


Been wearing another one (with a SOF-T Wide) for a little bit now.

Full report later.

Gone Preppin’

I’m off to speak at the 2016 Paul T. Martin Preparedness Conference

If you’re not there? Well, you missed out.

 

2016 Paul T. Martin Preparedness Conference

Have you registered yet for the 2016 Paul T. Martin Preparedness Conference?

It’s almost here: Saturday, January 9, 2016 at the Cabela’s in Buda, TX.

There’s a Mega door prize – a weekend getaway to a beach house in Port Aransas!

Alas, while I’ll be at the Conference, I won’t be qualified to win the door prize. Why? Because I’m one of the Conference presenters!

John Daub of Hsoi Enterprises on Preparing for the Aftermath of a Self Defense Incident. Self-defense incidents involve far more than just the moment of the incident itself; there’s an aftermath of legal, social, and emotional issues. John Daub will be discussing these issues and how to prepare yourself to handle the aftermath of a self-defense incident.

There’s a lot of other great topics being discussed, including the fresh Open Carry laws (that will have been in effect in Texas just 9 days as of the Conference) and one I’m especially interested in: Allen Codding, DVM on Pet Preparedness Strategies.

There’s a lot of great topics on the schedule at this 4th annual conference.

Hope to see you there!