Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Prepare For Cold Weather

The headlines in recent days tell about the unusual cold weather in the Midwest and South.

Drivers were forced to pull over and hunker down in their vehicles, because driving was impossible or just too dangerous. The Georgia State Patrol responded to nearly a thousand traffic accidents, with more than a hundred injuries, and some fatalities.

Babies were delivered in cars that were stranded on the highway.

One person reported that some of his relatives were stranded in their vehicle on I-20 and were in need of blankets, food, water and a cell phone charger. And there were a lot of people in that same condition.

School children were trapped overnight on busses that skidded off the roads. Other children were forced to spend the night in classrooms because it was too dangerous to try to send them home.

All of this proves how dangerous a winter weather system can be to those who are not prepared to handle it.

So I have a few recommendations that can help you be prepared.
  • Every person should have an emergency blanket in a pocket or purse during the winter months. These things are compact and inexpensive, but they can save a life. Those school children trapped on a disabled bus, that before long is going to feel like the inside of a freezer, need to be able to wrap up in an emergency blanket so conserve their own body heat. The same goes for the children trapped overnight in their school classroom. Buy a good one that is durable and can be used over and over again. My favorite survival blanket costs only $7, is large enough to wrap up two people at once, and yet weighs only 3.2 ounces and fits in my pocket. Look for this in the "shop survival" section at
  • Prepare your vehicle with basic winter survival supplies — the emergency blanket I just mentioned for each person who normally rides with you — some bottles of drinking water — some high-energy power bars or trail mix — your cell phone and a charger that can plug into the cigarette lighter — a flashlight and spare batteries — a small folding shovel that can help you dig out of the snow — and some winter clothing, like galoshes, mittens, a hooded coat; so you can go outside if you need to without risking your life.
You never know when the weather is going to take a turn for the worse, so even though you may think your region is safe from winter storms, this recent bout of extreme cold should convince everyone that it’s better to be prepared.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thwarting Thieves

Not all thieves are stupid.

Today's thieves use creative strategies to take what you own. So, if you want to hang onto what's yours, you need to be alert to all the possible methods the criminals are using. Here are a few of their techniques.

Parking Lots: Someone left his car in the airport long-term parking while away, and someone broke into the car. Using the information on the car's registration in the glove compartment, the thieves drove to the people's home and robbed it. So if you're going to leave a car in long-term parking, don't leave the registration/insurance cards in it, nor your garage door opener.

GPS: Another fellow had his car broken into while at a football game. The car was parked adjacent to the football stadium. Things stolen from the car included a garage door remote control, some money and a GPS which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard. When the victims got home, they found that their house had been ransacked and just about everything worth anything had been stolen. The thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the house. They then used the garage remote control to open the garage door and gain entry to the house. The thieves knew the owners were at the football game, they knew what time the game was scheduled to finish and so they knew how much time they had to clean out the house. Something to consider if you have a GPS - don't put your home address in it.

Cell Phones: When a lady had her handbag stolen, it contained her cell phone, credit card, wallet, etc. Twenty minutes later, when she called her husband from a pay phone to tell him what had happened, her husband said, "I received your text asking about our Pin number and I replied a little while ago." When they rushed down to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had used the stolen cell phone to text the "hubby" in the contact list and got hold of the pin number. Within 20 minutes he had withdrawn all the money from their bank account. The lessons: a. Do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list. Avoid using names like Home, Honey, Hubby, Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, etc. b. When sensitive info is being asked through texts, CONFIRM by calling back. c. Also, when you're being texted by friends or family to meet them somewhere, call back to confirm that the message came from them. If you don't reach them, be very careful about going places to meet who you think are "family and friends" who text you.

Purse in the grocery cart scam: A lady went grocery-shopping at a local mall and left her purse sitting in the cart while she reached for something off a shelf. While her back was turned, her wallet was stolen, and she reported it to the store personnel. After returning home, she received a phone call from the Mall Security to say that they had her wallet and that although there was no money in it, it did still hold her personal papers. She immediately went to pick up her wallet, only to be told by Mall Security that they had not called her. By the time she returned home again, her house had been broken into and burglarized. The thieves knew that by calling and saying they were Mall Security, they could lure her out of her house long enough for them to burglarize it. To avoid this kind of scam, before leaving your house to drive to the mall, simply call back and talk to the Mall Security people and verify that they had actually called you.

When Seconds Count…

The saying goes, "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away."

That's not an indictment on the ability of law enforcement "to protect and serve." It's merely fact. The police are not everywhere at once. They're not your personal body guards. They aren't your private security force. And when something goes down, you can't always count on them to be there to protect you.

A recent case in point: After hearing a back window of his home shatter, a homeowner in Memphis, Tenn. called 911 and armed himself with a gun. While the homeowner waited for police to arrive, a pair of burglars attempted to enter the home through the broken window. The homeowner responded by firing at the criminals, striking one and causing the other to flee.

Here's another one: A man was heading to his Dekalb County, Ga. home for lunch when a phone call alerted him to a break-in at his property. When the man arrived home, he went to a back door where he spotted three burglars; prompting him to call 911. While making the call, the three criminals started running towards the homeowner. The homeowner responded by drawing a gun and firing at the burglars, striking one and causing the other two to flee. When police arrived they detained the wounded criminal…

Home invasions are becoming more and more common. And the intruders most often come armed and ready to kill the homeowners.

Consider the next case: 63-year-old Elzie Pipkins was at home in Shreveport, La. when an intruder armed with a shotgun forced his way inside the house. Once inside, the intruder ordered Pipkins’ granddaughter to fill a bag with valuables, while Pipkins begged the criminal to leave with the money in her purse. Pipkins eventually led the intruder to a safe where she keeps some change and a handgun. Pipkins opened the safe and offered the change to the intruder, at which point the criminal took a hand off his shotgun, giving Pipkins an opportunity to retrieve the pistol from the safe and fire it at the robber. The home invader was struck once in the chest and fled before collapsing a block away from Pipkins’ home. Following the shooting, Pipkins made clear she did not relish shooting the criminal, stating to a local news outlet, “Just $55 in coins, and he lost his life, Lord Jesus I wish the young people today would just think, go to school, get an education and a good job and buy what you want... Don’t try to take from someone who has worked all their life and still doesn’t have nothing to give.”

The point I'm trying to make here is that you have a choice — you can either be a victim, or you can decide to protect and defend yourself. How you choose to do that is up to you, but the world is not trending toward more peace and safety. Gone are the days when you can leave the doors to your house unlocked, or the keys in the ignition of your vehicle. In fact, gone are the days when even locked doors can keep the bad guys out.

The police, bless their hearts, too often come along after the incident has already played out, and the most they can do is file a report.

It would be better if that report included your name as a survivor and the bad guys as the losers.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Heat Your Body, Not Your House

The recent brutally cold weather event across much of the U.S. has been a wake up call for lots of people.
The first is to conserve your own body heat. Keep yourself covered up, especially your head, because you lose so much heat through your scalp. And don’t wait until you feel cold before adding clothing. Conserve the warmth you already have — don’t wait until you lose that warmth and they try to recapture it. 
The second important key is to add warmth to the inside of your body. Eat hot meals as often as possible. Drink warm liquids as often as possible. Avoid alcohol because it actually speeds the cooling of the body core. But make sure to drink plenty of water because dehydration comes easily in cold weather when you don’t naturally feel thirsty, and dehydration speeds hypothermia.

I’m seeing all kinds of suggestions about how to heat your house when the power goes down during cold weather. Some of them are okay, some are downright dangerous.
One thing I want to mention is that you should never try to heat your house with any device that has an unvented fuel combustion system. The very worst scenario is using a barbecue grill or hibachi with briquettes to try to heat your house. It’s nothing less than a recipe for death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

So here’s what I want you to think about. In order for you to survive, it isn’t necessary to heat your whole house. All that’s necessary is that you personally stay warm enough.

Here are two important keys to survival in a cold environment:
  • The first is to conserve your own body heat. Keep yourself covered up, especially your head, because you lose so much heat through your scalp. And don’t wait until you feel cold before adding clothing. Conserve the warmth you already have — don’t wait until you lose that warmth and they try to recapture it. 

You can lose body warmth by four methods.

1) Radiation. Your body radiates warmth, so if you can capture that warmth and keep it from drifting away into the atmosphere, it helps keep you warm. This is where the reflective side of an emergency blanket comes into play. That material reflects back toward you the very heat that your body is radiating away. Wrapping up in an emergency blanket does wonders for conserving your body warmth.

2) Convection. This is the movement of air around your body — basically it's wind, or even a slight breeze. To avoid losing body warmth by convection, keep yourself protected from exposure to the wind. That means staying inside a shelter, or a vehicle — anywhere that shields you from the wind.

3) Conduction. You transfer body warmth to cold objects by conduction whenever you touch something cold. It sucks the warmth right out of your body, so don’t sit or lie down on anything that is cold. And don't allow anything colder than 98.6 degrees F to touch your bare skin.

4) Evaporation. If you become wet, it will be almost impossible to stay warm. The moisture evaporating from your skin or clothing will act like an air conditioner, literally drawing the warmth from your body and dissipating it into the air. Staying dry is the most important step in staying warm.

  • The second important key is to add warmth to the inside of your body. Eat hot meals as often as possible. Drink warm liquids as often as possible. Avoid alcohol because it actually speeds the cooling of the body core. But make sure to drink plenty of water because dehydration comes easily in cold weather when you don’t naturally feel thirsty, and dehydration speeds hypothermia.

If you conserve your body warmth, and add warmth to the inside of your body, you can survive the cold weather without having to worry about keeping your entire house warm

Stranded and Snowbound In A Vehicle

What do you do if you end up stranded in a vehicle that is trapped by snow?

First, try the cell phone or CB radio, if you have one. The earlier you can make contact with the outside world, the faster you’re going to get rescued. Do whatever you can to make your vehicle visible to other drivers, and to let them know you’re in trouble. Turn on the emergency flashers. Tie a colorful bit of cloth to the radio antenna. But don’t stand outside waving your arms and screaming into the wind — you’ll only put your own survival at risk.

Stay in the vehicle and take steps to prevent cold weather injuries like hypothermia and frostbite. Stay dry, do everything you can to prevent heat loss from your body. Dress warmly. Crawl in a sleeping bag. Cover your head. Drink plenty of water, and stoke up the inner fires by eating high-energy foods. Do mild exercise to warm your body.

Running the vehicle engine to operate the heater is tempting, but futile, and potentially dangerous. The futility is because it takes a long time for an idling engine to warm up enough to provide heat through the vehicle's heater system, and as soon as you turn off the engine, the interior gets cold almost immediately because of the lack of insulation. The danger part of it is due to the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning from the engine exhaust. If you’re stranded for very long you’re going to run out of gas anyway, so work on other ways to stay warm.

Every once in a while, crack the window open a little, so you don’t breathe down all the oxygen and end up suffering from oxygen depletion.

Here’s a basic list of items you should carry in your vehicle when traveling during winter weather.

  • Cell phone and a phone battery charger that will work through your vehicle’s cigarette lighter, so you don’t end up with a dead phone battery when you’re trying to call for help.
  • GPS — by using the GPS and cell phone, you might be able to contact authorities and tell them exactly where you are stranded.
  • Even better is a SPOT Satellite Messenger ( or a personal locator beacon (PLB). With one press of a button, you summon emergency rescue teams to your GPS coordinates.
  • Sleeping bags or blankets for everyone in the vehicle. Add a reflective emergency blanket for each person, because the reflective mylar will help preserve body heat that otherwise would be lost.
  • Chemical hand warmers. When activated, these provide several hours of warmth. These are one-time-use items, but the good news is that they’re inexpensive to buy.
  • A thermos bottle full of hot water, hot coffee, hot tea, or hot soup for each person in the vehicle. Prepare this just before leaving the house to drive through winter weather conditions.
  • Water to drink. Dehydration contributes to hypothermia, so make sure everyone has water to drink.
  • High energy food bars, to help stoke the inner fire.
  • A windshield ice scraper and brush, so you can remove snow from the hood and emergency flashers of the vehicle and make it more visible to rescuers.
So if you find yourself stranded and snowbound in your vehicle, try to make contact with the outside world. Then do your best to stay dry, stay warm, stay hydrated and fed. Then stay put, the rescue will come.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Water Purification

Drinking contaminated water is a serious threat to survival.

If you get sick from drinking bad water, you can end up with vomiting and diarrhea, which speed dehydration. So it’s good to understand a variety of ways to make water safe to drink.

The traditional methods of water purification include the use of chemicals such as chlorine or iodine, passing the water through a filter system, or boiling. But there’s another way to remove organic pathogens from water without using any of those methods.

It’s pasteurization. We all know that milk is pasteurized to kill off biological contaminants, but very few people have heard of pasteurizing water to purify it.

Pasteurization is simply the raising of the temperature of the liquid until it is hot enough to kill the biological contaminants such as bacteria, virus, worms and cysts like giardia and cryptosporidium.
The natural assumption is that that’s why boiling is used as a purification method. Well, yes. That’s true. But the surprising fact is that you don’t actually have to bring water to a boil in order to defeat all the bad critters in the water. Pasteurization does not require boiling the water. In fact, you can kill off all the biological bad guys by bringing the water temperature up to a mere 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius) and holding it there for 6 minutes. That’s a lot easier than boiling at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius).

Worms and stuff like giardia and cryptosporidium are killed at 131 degrees F (55 Celsius). Bacteria die at 140 degrees F (60 degrees Celsius). And the hepatitis A virus expires at 149 degrees F (65 degrees Celsius). In fact, when milk is pasteurized, the temperature is only 160 degrees F (71 degrees Celsius) and it’s held at that temperature for only 15 seconds.

The benefit of using pasteurization rather than boiling is that it requires less fuel, and a secondary benefit might be that the process is faster so you can process more water in a shorter amount of time.

The obvious benefit of boiling is that you can know when the temperature is high enough, because you see the water bubbling. That’s not the case with pasteurization. In order to know that you have brought the water to a high enough temperature, you need some method of measuring the temperature. A cooking thermometer works well. Or you can use a WAPI, which stands for Water Pasteurization Indicator. This is a transparent high-temperature plastic tube with a blob of wax inside. You place the WAPI in the water and watch for the wax to melt, which it does at 150 degrees F. The WAPI can be reused hundreds of times, by letting the wax cool and solidify so it’s ready for next time. Water Pasteurization Indicators cost less than $10 online from many sources.

One thing to know, however, is that neither boiling nor pasteurization eliminates non-biological contaminants from water. Heavy metals, chemicals and such require filtration to get rid of them. But pasteurization is a faster and more fuel efficient method of water purification to get rid of all the organic contaminants.

So there you go, now you have one more technique you can add to your survival strategies.


It’s cold outside, and that can be dangerous.

Flesh that is exposed to extreme cold will freeze, and the result is what we call frostbite. Depending upon conditions, this can sometimes happen very quickly — like in a matter of minutes. For example, you grasp a frozen bit of metal with a bare hand, or worse yet, you splash some intensely cold gasoline (which won’t freeze until far below zero) on your hands or feet while refueling a vehicle — that can cause instant severe frostbite injury.

Slower frostbite sneaks up on you over a span of time when your skin is exposed to the cold, like if you’re wandering around with no gloves on. But you can also suffer frostbite even when there’s no exposed flesh. This happens when circulation is restricted to your hands and feet due to boots and gloves that are too tight. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

Here’s a question — which do you think is better in extreme cold, gloves or mittens? Here’s another one — in extreme cold weather, is it always better to wear more socks?

For the answer to these two questions, let’s see what leads to frostbite. The body is constantly trying to keep itself alive during cold weather. The highest priority is to maintain the body’s core temperature. From the core, warm blood is pumped to the extremities, like your hands and feet, to keep your fingers and toes safe from the cold. But eventually if the blood returning from those extremities comes back to the core too cold, the body decides that in order to preserve the core temperature, it will have to stop sending warm blood out to the hands and feet. With less warm blood going to the extremities, those parts can freeze even if they are fully covered by boots and gloves.

So, from the standpoint of avoiding frostbite in the fingers and toes, we need to make sure we give those extremities the best chance for survival. Now let’s go back to the question about gloves vs. mittens. Gloves isolate each finger separate from the others. Without the shared warmth of the other fingers, each one gets cold faster. When the warm blood arrives from the core, it becomes chilled and that triggers the body’s response to not send as much warm blood. And that can lead to frostbite. So wearing mittens instead of gloves can give your fingers a better chance of survival.

The same concept applies to boots and socks. If you do something that restricts circulation to your feet and toes, they become cold, and then the body stops sending so much warm blood to those extremities. So, you have to be careful about adding more socks, if that’s going to make the boots too tight and restrict circulation to your feet. Notice that serious cold-weather boots like Sorels are loose on your feet, to keep from restricting circulation. But it’s not just the boots, you don’t want to wear socks that are too tight either. Leave some wiggle room for your toes.

It’s possible to suffer frostbite even if every part of your body is covered so it’s not directly exposed to the cold. But if you wear the right kind of clothing, you can minimize the danger. I admit that mittens and big clunky boots may not be as fashionable as cute gloves and decorator footwear, but then neither is losing fingers and toes very fashionable.

And in my book, being smart trumps being in style any day.