Thursday, September 30, 2010

How It All Started

I thought it might be time for an explanation — a personal glimpse, as it were. 

Something happened to me when I was going through Special Forces training, and it changed the rest of my life. Not only my life, but the life of my wife Becky and our entire family. What happened was that I became a cave dweller at heart.

They didn’t teach cave dwelling in Special Forces, but they did teach survival techniques that sort of morphed in my brain and became an intense interest in living off the land. It may have been the concept of parachuting into hostile territory and knowing how to survive without outside assistance that spawned this interest of mine. Whatever it was, it moved into my head and stuck.

After returning to civilian life, I took to the libraries, reading everything I could get my hands on about non-military survival subjects such as how to identify and use wild edible and medicinal plants, the ethnobotany (the study of how botanical resources are used by indigenous people) of various regions of the world. I went into the field with a botanist friend who showed me how to read the plants’ identifying marks. Weeds started showing up in the refrigerator, and guests were sometimes surprised at what they saw being served for dinner. Added to all this was an in-depth study of primitive techniques involving shelter, tools, clothing, fire making, trapping, and food preparation methods. Such is the life of a budding cave dweller.

The trouble was that I was still working for a living, and being a weekend cave dweller just wasn’t totally satisfying. I needed (or at least wanted) more time, lots of time, uninterrupted time to practice my primitive arts and develop into a full-blown cave dweller. And I came up with a plan. I sat down with Becky one day and proposed an idea. “Honey, I think we should sell the house, get rid of everything we own, take the kids and move into a cave.”

I’m not kidding. Those were my exact words. Her exact words (once she regained her ability to speak) were lost in the distance as she ran down the hall to the bedroom and slammed the door. I’m not entirely sure what she said, but I thought I detected a hint of resistance to my great plan. My next thought was, “Hmmm, that didn’t go too well.” So I decided to drop the whole subject.

A few weeks later, a miracle happened. Married men everywhere fall down with envy when I tell them that Becky walked up to me, planted a kiss and told me that she would support me in whatever decision I made about moving into a cave. “You’re the breadwinner in this family,” she said, “and any way you want to earn the bread is okay with me.” In my opinion, those were the most heroic words I've ever heard. She has always been the brightest star in my universe, and at that moment she went supernova.

After I hugged and kissed her and thanked her from the bottom of my heart, I went outside and planted a For Sale sign on the front lawn. Must have been the right thing to do, because the house was sold in less than a month. We sold almost everything we owned, and put the few things we wanted to hand onto in storage. We moved into a 4-plex while we made final preparations, among which was finding a suitable cave.

Lest anyone misunderstand, the purpose of the whole project was to give me time and opportunity to hone my skills to the point that I could be a good teacher of outdoor survival and primitive living techniques. That was the plan. We never intended to shuck society and live for the rest of our lives in a hole in a rock. The strategy was to spend an entire year living in the wilderness, during which time I would be practicing survival skills until I became proficient enough to be a confident instructor. Kind of like O.J.T.

But I already had years of Special Forces survival training, and a wealth of non-military survival education under my belt. So it wasn’t like we were going out there to see IF we could survive. We had a very high level of confidence that we would survive. I would never intentionally place my wife and children in a risky situation if I thought it might turn out badly. Of course, things happen. We could have all perished. But we might all perish in a freeway accident, too. In fact, there’s a much higher probability of dying on the freeway than in the wilderness, if you know something about outdoor survival.

In our search for a suitable cave in an appropriate location (ie: not in the city park), I consulted an old friend, Larry Dean Olsen, who taught the outdoor survival course at BYU and authored the best selling book Outdoor Survival Skills. He pulled out a couple of maps and laid his finger on two spots in southern Utah. Both of those locations had been hot spots for Anasazi dwellings a thousand years ago. After much discussion, I decided on our new home.

In the middle of winter, Becky and I drove into the exotic slickrock country that flanks Capitol Reef National Park. Before actually moving into the cave, we wanted to recon the area. Caves are generally not indicated on topographic maps, unless they are important caves like Carlsbad Caverns. Our cave was not one of those, so we needed to put our boots on the ground and go search for what Larry had described.

On a frosty morning, we parked our ’64 T-bird among a stand of cottonwood trees where the Burr Trail road through Rattlesnake Canyon intersected The Gulch. Figuring that we would be back at the car by mid-afternoon, we left all of our camping gear in the trunk and headed south into The Gulch wearing only our regular outdoor clothes — mid-weight jackets, blue jeans, and lightweight hiking boots.

I’ll pause here just long enough to say that this is exactly how many real survival incidents begin. People think they’re just going for a short day hike, so they take no survival equipment with them, intending to be back in camp before nightfall. Then something happens and they don’t make it back. That’s what happened to us.

We knew that the cave we wanted to recon was about five miles down the canyon. Unfortunately, Becky was wearing new boots, and by about mile 4.5 her feet were starting to blister. By the time we reached the cave, she felt like she was walking on hot coals. Our hike had been slow and methodical, giving us a chance to explore side canyons and take in the atmosphere of the place, and that pretty well ate up the day. Winter at that latitude means short days and long nights, and as Becky took her last painful steps toward the cave, we had about an hour of sunlight left. We pulled off her boots and talked about the condition of her feet. It was clear that she was not going to be able to hike back to the car that day.

The good news was that the cave was high enough up the slope from the stream bed that it was out of the cold zone at the bottom of the canyon. The bad news was that no matter how far up the slope the cave was, the night was going to be sub-freezing and we had nothing but our clothes to keep us warm. No tent, no sleeping bag, nothing. As the last daylight left the canyon floor, ice was already starting to form along the edges of the stream. Before morning, the entire stream would be frozen over.

I could almost imagine the headlines; “Would-be survival instructor and his wife found dead of hypothermia.” This was not the way I wanted to start my career. There was only one thing to do — I had to use the last minutes of sunlight to get a fire going and turn the cave into a suitable survival shelter. 

Well back from the mouth of the cavern, we picked a spot for a hot rock bed. While Becky scooped sand out of an area of the floor measuring about 6 feet long by 4 feet wide, I collected firewood. Then I gathered up a bunch of stones and placed them in the hollowed out depression that Becky had finished. The firewood went in next, and soon we had a blaze going. 

We let it burn for about an hour, then made sure all the coals were dead before scraping the sand back over the bed of hot rocks. We slept on that warm spot of ground, and it kept us comfortable all night. Well, maybe comfortable is too nice a word, but even though we had to roll over constantly all night long, at least we were warm, which beats the heck out of making the headlines.

That was our introduction to the cave in The Gulch. We’ve come to think of it as our cave, although I’m sure many other people have taken shelter there over the centuries. We found no evidence of Anasazi presence there, but who knows.

After that trip, we returned home to make final preparations for our year in the wilderness. It was a year of immense adventure for us. Not an adventure the size of Mt. Everest, or the depth of the Amazon jungle. But for our small family, living totally alone in the wilderness with a one-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter, chasing lizards for lunch, it was the greatest adventure possible. It changed our lives forever. 

If you really want to know what the wilderness can do to your heart and your spirit and your mind, you must go yourself.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's The Details That Will Get You

We have become a society that depends on various forms of the power grid to give us light and heat, the ability to cook and bathe and live above the level of a caveman (apologies to the big hairy guy on the Geico commercials). To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter how far out of town you live, as long as you rely on someone else to deliver power to your dwelling.

Case in point: Friends of ours live at the end of a dirt road that has been carved through the dense Pacific Northwest rainforest. This is a wild and beautiful part of the country but when winter storms blow through, it’s not uncommon for the power to get knocked out, leaving folks fumbling around in the dark. 

Being a preparedness-minded individual, our friends bought a power generator capable of keeping the refrigerator and freezer cold and the lights glowing in the house. Proud as a new mama, Denise showed me her acquisition, tucked securely in the corner of the garage just waiting for the next power outage. 

Time went by, and the following winter a big storm came along and knocked trees down. Unfortunately, the trees fell across power lines, tearing them to the ground. The next thing I knew, there was a knock at the door. It was Denise with a gas can in her hands. “Can I borrow some gas for the generator? The gas stations in town are without power and can’t pump.”

It was a good learning experience — which means everybody lived through it and came away smarter than before. So it served its purpose. And the lesson learned was that no matter how much you do toward preparation, if you forget the little details, you might still be without the benefit of that preparation. This applies to all aspects of emergency preparedness — success or failure is in the details.

The words “advanced” and “preparation” are nearly identical, because if you don’t do it in advance, it isn’t preparation. It’s panic, it’s scrambling, it’s confusion, it’s a lot of things but it is not preparation. Being prepared means you’re ready, you’re stocked up with what you need, you have the equipment and you know it runs, you have learned what you need to know, you have practiced, and so now you are confident and competent. That’s what it means to be prepared. Preparation is the act of becoming prepared. And doing it in advance of the catastrophe is absolutely required.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

On The Lighter Side

The legendary power of zucchini has been proven in Frenchtown, Montana. Apparently, zucchini is a powerful weapon in that part of the country, as the following AP news clip indicates. (I am not making this up!)

FRENCHTOWN, MONTANA – Police say a Montana woman fended off a bear attack with an unlikely weapon -- a zucchini. Missoula County Sheriff's Lt. Rich Maricelli says a 200-pound (90-kilogram) black bear attacked one of the woman's dogs just after midnight Wednesday on the back porch of her home about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Missoula. When the woman, whom police did not name, tried to separate the animals, the bear bit her in the leg. Maricelli says the woman reached for the nearest object at hand on the porch's railing -- a large zucchini that she had harvested from her garden. The woman flung the vegetable at the bear, striking it and forcing it to flee. Maricelli says the woman did not need medical attention. Wildlife officials were trying to locate the bear on Thursday.

Just for the record, I don't recommend getting between your pet and a bear. Nor do I suggest using garden vegetables as a weapon of choice when confronted by a bear. Just wanted to make that clear. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Are You Ready?

One small mistake, and your life is over. One decision made the wrong way — turning left when you should have turned right — going when you should have stayed — passing up the gas station — ignoring the oncoming signs of a storm can lead to disaster. Life is fragile, and it's easy to die.

Sixty-seven-year-old Louis Rogers decided to drive a remote road from the Flathead Lake area in Montana to Calder, Idaho. When the road became too snowy for his Cadillac to safely negotiate, he decided to turn around and return home. That's when his car got stuck.

Rogers had a history of heart problems, so he decided to wait in the car for someone to come along and rescue him, rather than straining his heart trying to hike out of the mountains. But rescue was slow in coming. For the next 4 days, Rogers melted snow to drink, and turned on his car engine so he could use the heater from time to time. By the 4th day, feeling sure he was going to die, Rogers wrote a "good-bye" letter. Then, as luck would have it, Scott and Penny Kalis of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho happened to drive by in their four-wheel-drive vehicle and rescued Rogers.

Nice ending to a survival story, don't you think? But the interesting thing is that during the time Rogers was stuck in the snow, more than 200 friends, relatives, and several law enforcement agencies had been searching for him. So why didn't all those rescuers find Rogers? And what would have happened if Scott and Penny Kalis had decided to take another route, or not to travel at all that day? I’d say Rogers was one lucky guy, and maybe he ought to buy a lottery ticket.

But surely there is a better way to ensure our survival than depending on blind chance. Actually, if we pay attention to what’s happening around us, and make proper preparations, we can shove dumb luck to the back burner and take greater control over whether we live or die.

Let’s explore some aspects of this incident, plugging you into the driver’s seat to evaluate your state of survival readiness. Use these questions as a checklist to find areas you might be able to improve.
  • Do you check the weather before taking a trip? 
  • Do you understand the limitations of your car on snow-covered roads? 
  • Do you enhance the capability of your vehicle by carrying chains that you have practiced installing beforehand? 
  • Do you let people know where you’re going, which route you’re taking, when you expected to arrive, and what to do if you don’t show up on time? 
  • Are you equipped to call for help — cell phone (with a power cord to plug into the 12-volt outlet in the car), SPOT Satellite Messenger, or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)? 
  • Do you dress to survive whatever kind of weather might happen? 
  • Do you carry emergency survival supplies and equipment in your car that will allow you to live for an extended period without outside help? 
  • Are you physically capable of self-rescue? 
If you find yourself answering any of these questions in the negative, it's time to reevaluate your level of preparation and take steps to improve your chances.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bear Attack

The following is a direct quote from a statement published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding a recent bear attack. There's good advice here for those who travel in bear country. 

The wife of a man seriously injured Friday evening in a black bear attack near Lake Wenatchee probably saved her husband from worse injury by shouting and keeping the animal at bay, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) experts.

"Black bear attacks on humans are rare, and this bear appears to have been exceptionally aggressive" said Donny Martorello, WDFW’s carnivore specialist. "The victim’s wife appears to have done everything right-she shouted, stood her ground and attempted to drive off the bear. Those actions likely prevented even worse injury."

The victim, John Chelminiak of Bellevue, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle following the attack.

A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologist and three enforcement officers killed a bear-a 148-pound, mature, adult female without cubs-a few hours later about 100 yards from the attack site. One of WDFW’s specially trained Karelian bear dogs was used to locate the bear. WDFW policy is to kill dangerous wildlife that attacks a human.

WDFW officials offer the following advice to minimize the risk of injury if a bear is encountered in the wild:

- Don't run. Pick up small children, stand tall, wave your arms above your head and shout.

- Do not approach the animal and be sure to leave it an escape route. Try to get upwind of the bear so that it can identify you as a human and leave the area.

- Don’t look the bear directly in the eye, as the animal may interpret this as a sign of aggression.

- If the animal does attack, fight back aggressively.

This year black bears may be more visible or show up in unusual settings because late-summer wild berries-part of bears’ natural diet-are in short supply, Martorello said. The bear involved in Friday’s attack was thin for this time of year, but did not appear to be starving, he said.

Typically, black bears avoid people but can pose a safety risk if they become habituated to human food sources. Bears become overly familiar with humans if they are fed or find unsecured garbage, bird seed, pet food, windfall fruit or compost piles.

"People should never feed bears or allow them access to garbage or pet food," said Martorello.

Black bear attacks on humans are rare. There have been four other bear attacks on humans and one reported fatality in Washington, according to historical records.

Fire-Making Trick

Getting a fire going is a critical skill when you're in any kind of survival situation. Even if the weather is perfect, you'll eventually need a fire to stay warm, get dry, purify water, cook food, signal rescuers, or just for the psychological companionship offered by the friendly flickering flames on a dark and lonely night.

Somebody sent me a joke recently that went something like this: "Why is that that one spark can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box of matches to get a campfire going?" Good question. There are times when getting a fire started is truly difficult. Everything is damp and nothing will catch and hold a flame, much less a spark.

I was recently camping under those very conditions on a beach in the Pacific Northwest, where the air was full of mist and there wasn't a shred of dry tinder to be found. Oh, there were old dead grasses hiding beneath the live foliage, and we gathered bundles of that. And we scraped the inner bark of dead trees to create shavings that were as nearly dry as could be. But it was definitely going to be a challenge to get a spark from my favorite Swedish firesteel to make flames leap from this tinder.

Then I got lucky. On the driftwood-strewn beach at the edge of the forest was an old log that had once been part of somebody's fire. Or, who knows, maybe it was an ancient lightning strike victim that charred and died, eventually tumbling to the beach. It didn't matter how it got there, the important part was that it was charred.  Anything that has once been charred will be a good candidate to catch and hold a spark, so I smiled as I knelt beside the old log and dug out some bits of charcoal.

I arranged the charred wood so I could strike a spark into it from my firesteel. On the third attempt, I saw a bright spark catch the edge of a bit of charcoal dust and hold for a couple seconds. Then it went out. At least it appeared to go out. I bent close and blew on the spot, and a glow appeared. I blew some more, and the glow began to grow and eat its way deeper into the charcoal. Now I knew we had something.

My son, Ryan, grabbed some of the dead grasses and bundled them tightly. We worked together, Ryan poking the bundle down against the growing coal, and me blowing. It wasn't long before we had smoke and the smell of burning wet grass. Not pleasant, and not fire, but it was promising. The tinder was still too damp to catch, but the coal was alive and well and doing it job of drying the tinder that was held tightly against the heat of the coal.

More smoke. Lots of smoke. Still no flames. I assured Ryan that it was only a matter of time, and that we needed to be patient and work this coal and that tinder bundle until we had fire.

And then, suddenly a flame appeared and then died almost as quickly. Then it reappeared, and this time it stayed.  Ryan looked every bit like an Olympic Torch bearer as he carried the flaming tinder bundle to our fire pit.

Under difficult conditions, we got a fire going by using nothing but the natural materials at hand, and a small firesteel to produce sparks. Under excellent conditions, you could spark directly into the tinder bundle and have a good chance of creating a fire, but under more challenging conditions you need to use every trick in the book. Knowing that charred wood or cloth will greatly enhance your ability to get a spark to catch and hold is a big advantage. Experienced mountainmen used to carry a bit of charred cloth as part of their fire-making kit, and this is the reason why.

Of course there are easier ways (Vaseline-laden cotton balls, etc.), but it's nice to have the confidence born of experience that you can get the job done when the going gets tough.  Get out there and test yourself now and then. The time may come when the experience will stand you in good stead and keep you alive.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Check Your Batteries

Last weekend, I went for a hike along the highest alpine trail in the Olympic National Park. My buddy and I were dropped off by a mutual friend on one end of the trail and picked up by my wife on the other end about 5 hours later, because it was not a loop (out and back) kind of trail.

We hit the trail just after sunrise and watched as the natural world woke up. As the sun began to heat the ground, the air started to rise, pulling cool, moist air up out of the canyons. As that moisture cooled in the rising air, a veil of clouds formed and swirled below us, adding a visual magic show to our hike.

We trekked along bare ridges above the timber line, dodged around rocky crags, and followed the trail to a lower elevation where pine and fir trees clothed the landscape. It was a marvelous hike — one that I would like to repeat.

But, something happened at the end of the trek that taught me a lesson. Before leaving the house, I removed our set of FRS radios from the battery charger and placed one unit in my wife's Jeep and the other one in my pack. Figuring that my hiking partner and I would be approaching the end of the trail sometime near noon, I told Becky to turn on her radio at about that time, and I would try to make contact and let her know how far out we were so she would know when to expect us. Good plan.

About 11:30, I switched on my radio and stuck it in my pocket. At noon, I figured we still had another 20 minutes to hike, so I pressed the "talk" key and spoke into the mic. Becky responded. Now my turn again, I pressed the key and the radio went dead. The battery pack was drained. That left Becky wondering why she heard my check-in call and then nothing after that.

Frustrated by the dead battery pack, we kept hiking until we reached the parking area and found our Jeep and explained to Becky what had happened.

It was the end of a near-perfect hike.  But it taught me that I need to pay closer attention to the condition of batteries in my electronic equipment. I carry spare batteries for gear that allows changing batteries, but this set of radios has a built-in battery pack that doesn't allow the simple exchange of AA cells to restore power. Apparently, over the years that we've had these radios, the battery pack in the unit I was carrying has lost its ability to hold a charge. I conducted a momentary test of both radios that morning before leaving the house, and they both appeared to be fine. But obviously my radio was not holding a charge.

So I bring this little episode up to remind us all that we need to be aware of what's going on with our equipment. Instead of checking battery condition by just flicking on the power switch momentarily and then turning it off again, it's a good idea to occasionally put the battery condition to the test for several hours and then recharge. That's the only way you'll know whether or not you'll have power when you need it. Perhaps an even better idea is to carry radios that allow you to install easily available AA batteries — and then carry spare batteries as a backup.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's In Your Neighborhood?

The recent explosion and fire in San Bruno, California draws attention to the risks that we live with day in and day out in our neighborhoods. This event was sparked by a section of natural gas pipeline that ruptured and exploded. The pipeline was categorized as "high risk" because it was routed beneath the streets of a residential neighborhood.

So the question I ask is, "What's in your neighborhood?"

Part of the challenge to avoid disaster is to know what the risks are. It's called Situational Awareness — being aware of the situation. Most folks either don't know what the potential risks are, or they brush them off and think they are of no consequence. Then something like the San Bruno explosion happens and a few people start to think about what might happen in their own area.

Okay, so let’s do a personal risk assessment that pertains to where we live, work and travel each day. That will cover most of the time we spend in this life. You can do this by using the checklist included here. Feel free to add to the menu if you discover risks that are not on this list. The point is to help you become aware of the situation around you.

Do you live or work around any of the following? I call this list Fifty Ways To Meet Your Maker

  • natural gas lines or propane storage facility 
  • fuel refinery 
  • nuclear power plant 
  • downstream of a dam 
  • chemical manufacturing plant
  • fireworks or explosives factory 
  • electrical power plant 
  • hazardous waste site 
  • avalanche zone 
  • floodplain 
  • earthquake fault 
  • railway line (train wreck, hazardous materials) 
  • major highway (transporting hazardous materials) 
  • area prone to wildfire
  •  hurricane zone 
  • tornado zone 
  • bear or cougar country 
  • rattlesnake (or other nasty varmint) habitat 
  • hospital (medical waste) 
  • coastline (storm surge, tsunami) 
  • forest (falling trees) 
  • desert (sandstorm) 
  • severe winter area (blizzard, ice storm, power outage, inability to travel) 
  • major city (loss of services to a large population, riots, terror attack) 
  • hilltop (fire) 
  • canyon (flood) 
  • water treatment plant (contamination) 
  • water storage tanks (rupture flood) 
  • overhead power lines (storm, electrocution, fire) 
  • agricultural area (pesticides) 
  • landslide / mudslide area 
  • area known for sink holes 
  • harbor (contamination, terror attack) 
  • airport (airplane accident) 
  • bad neighborhood (gang activity) 
  • dump (contamination, rats, other vermin) 
  • river, stream, or natural drainage (flooding) 
  • multi-story building (apartment or office fire, inability to escape) 
  • bank or other business with large amounts of money (armed robbery / hostage situation) 
  • volcano (lava flow, eruption, lahar, vog) 
  • hot region (drought, dehydration, heat-related injury, water shortage) 
  • shooting range (accidental stray rounds) 
  • military base (possible terror attack) 
  • community swimming pool (chemical spill) 
  • cell tower, wind generator, radio or TV antenna towers (widowmakers) 
  • farm/ranch, or ag supply, feed store, etc. (pesticide or other chemicals) 
  • paint shop (chemicals) 
  • prison or jail (escapees / home invasion / hostage situation) 
  • area fed by overhead power lines (power outage during storms)
  • city water supply (contamination)
This whole exercise is aimed at increasing awareness that there are potential risks everywhere. If we fail to be alert to them, we leave ourselves vulnerable. It’s much better to face reality so we can make decisions that will improve our chances of survival. I don’t want you to wake up in the middle of the night surrounded by a world in chaos and say, “My gosh, I never thought this could happen!” I want you to think of everything that can possibly happen. Then formulate a survival plan, and then follow through and make the physical preparations to deal with whatever comes up. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lingering Aftermath of Destruction

Let's do the math — from January 12th to September 12 is pretty darn close to 9 months. It was on January 12th that Haiti was knocked to her knees, and here we are 9 months later and she is still on her knees. A fresh report by the Associated Press, complete with photos as evidence, says that "rubble is everywhere in the capital city, and some places look as though they have been flipped upside down or are sinking to the ground."

Needless to say, full recovery hasn't yet happened. And this despite a multitude of nations sending help in the form of manpower and money, equipment and supplies. Nearly 100 million dollars has been spent by USAID and the U.S. Department of Defense just to remove 1.2 million cubic yards of rubble. And from the photographs, it looks like the junk is still in the streets, almost as if nothing has been done. In fact, the estimate is that only 2% of the rubble has been removed. So the place is essential just as it was 9 months ago.

One Haitian presidential candidate says his country is in need of a rubble czar — "everybody is passing the blame on why things haven't happened yet."

One of the problems with government intervention in a disaster zone (well intentioned as it might be), is jurisdiction squabbles. Who is in charge of what? Who's money is going to pay for what? A lot of time, effort and money is lost in the battle to organize a bunch of different agencies to get relief delivered to survivors, round up the criminals who are roaming the streets preying on victims, and start the recovery process.

The lingering aftermath of the disaster in Haiti should stand as a monumental lesson about how difficult it is to clean up after a monster catastrophe.  It should serve to wake us up to our own responsibility to prepare to do as much for ourselves as possible.
  • Prepare to survive on site, if possible
  • Prepare to evacuate, if not possible to stay put
  • Prepare to clean up our own mess and rebuild
  • Prepare to help our neighbors do the same
  • Prepare to get to work on the project whether or not any government ever shows up to "help"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Save A Life

There's a new version of the life-saving technique known as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), and the new method is both easier to perform and more effective at saving a life, according to Dr. Gordon A. Ewy, MD and Dr. Karl B. Kern, MD of the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center. 

Called Continuous Chest Compression CPR, the new technique eliminates the need to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, focusing entirely on a rapid and continuous chest compression to pump blood through the circulatory system.

To view a 6-minute video clip that demonstrates and explains how to perform the Continuous Chest Compression technique, click here.

A few things are important to note:
  • You do not need to be certified to perform the procedure.
  • Because of the Good Samaritan laws, you are not at legal risk if you perform this technique.
  • With this method, you don't check for a pulse, clear the airway, or do mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing. All you do is pump on the chest.
  • This technique is NOT recommended for use on infants or small children, nor for drowning victims … the original version of CPR (chest compressions combined with mouth-to-mouth ventilation) is employed for those cases. 
  • Every minute, someone dies from sudden cardiac arrest. It's the number-one killer in the United States. 
  • For every minute you delay CPR, the chance of survival drops by 10%.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Test

Sorry for taking so long since my last post, but I've been gone on a trip that convinced me to write this one. It was no big deal, really — just a backpack trip, but it was a good reminder of what might occur in the even of a disaster that requires our evacuation by means other than vehicle.

What if you had to throw your 72-hour kit on your shoulders and hike several miles to a safe location…could you do that?

And when you got to that safe location, could you set up a camp with all the necessities just by pulling them out of your pack? I mean, is your pack equipped with everything you need, or are there holes in your inventory?

On this particular backpack trip, I found a couple of spots in my own inventory that needed to be filled. It wasn't "life or death" kind of stuff, but it was a few items that would definitely make life better in a remote camp.

We were a group of 5 adults and 5 young children (one only 17 months old), so there were challenges associated with a broad range of ages and a pretty sizeable group. The hike included some extremely steep terrain in places, so we had to deal with getting the little ones up and down a couple hundred feet of very challenging bluffs.

The weather was misty and windy, so we had a chance to utilize the natural terrain features and foliage to shelter our camp. And the dampness created a challenge for finding dry tinder, kindling and fuel wood, as well as testing our ability to get a fire going with just a striker. In a future post, I'll let you know about the innovative way we got fire going under those condition — it was a first for me.

Where we were, there were zero amenities such as toilets and freshwater. There was no cell coverage, so there was no such thing as calling for help on a phone. It was basically what one might experience if all the civilized services were suddenly cut off and you were left to fend for yourself with just what you could carry on your back.

So, I propose a test. What I'm suggesting is that we all take a 3-day backpacking trip that involves hiking a few miles (be fair to yourself in this test and go maybe 5 miles or so), setting up camp and living there without running back home or to your vehicle to snatch something you forgot. This is the only way to discover the holes in your inventory.

And, it will give you a chance to actually eat some of the emergency rations you've stocked away for an emergency, and discover how to prepare the food so it's edible.

I'd like to hear from readers about your experiences as you put yourself through this little test. Tell me what you learned, the kind of things you discovered that you needed in camp but didn't have on hand, and any advice you would share with others.

If you're courageous enough to take this challenge, it will teach you more about your readiness than anything else you could do. So I urge you to lay aside the TV remote for a few days and go find out just how well prepared you are to walk away from civilization for a few miles (that will show you something about your physical conditioning) and live out of your pack.