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Project Prepper, Part 46: Summer Storm Gear Check

In the last installment of the “Project Prepper” series of posts, I talked about “threat priorities” and how severe weather is a top one for me. I blogged:

From my vantage point, here are the “top 3” I’m mostly concerned about:

1. Severe Weather
2. Financial Crisis
3. Terrorism

Concerning severe weather, here in the Chicagoland area residents have to contend with spring and summer storms that can consist of high winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes. Winter can bring along with it ice storms (not too often), significant snowfall/blizzards, and brutally-cold temperatures. Consequently, structural damage, utility outages, hazardous travel conditions, and other threats to life and property accompany such events.

Case in point, prior to my girlfriend and I moving into our house in 2013, a large part of the Chicago metro area suffered significant damage from a “derecho” (widespread, long-lived wind storm) event that left many area homeowners without electricity for several days. A real nuisance for most of those affected, but potentially deadly to those with serious health issues- like my elderly father. And in case readers think I’m talking about those far-off “suburbs” of Chicago here (I remember one real estate agent referring to Rochelle- approximately 80 miles west of Chicago- as a “western suburb” during the housing boom last decade), these extended outages were taking place in near “North Shore” enclaves. I remember watching one furious Northbrook homeowner being interviewed on the local televised news, saying how he had been without power for a number of days and couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been restored yet considering the high taxes he paid to live in such a nice area. Anyway, severe weather tops the list for me. Not as “sexy”- as some would say- as preparing for the “Zombie apocalypse,” but oh well…

The other night the Chicago metropolitan area was hit by a strong summer storm in which the local news reported 15,000 residents lost power (actually somewhat of a small number compared to other recent severe weather events around these parts). The occasion served as a reminder that I should probably perform a gear check prior to the arrival of more summertime severe weather, which is the focus of today’s post.

Emergency Alerts

I checked the operation and battery backup of my ever-vigilant Midland WR-100 Weather/All Hazards Alert Radio (now discontinued by the manufacturer but replaced with a newer model- the Midland WR-120). Everything is in working order. You should have heard the racket that device was making the other night (early morning actually) prior to/during that storm. Yeah, it’s in working order all right.

Emergency Lighting

I gathered up the various lanterns, flashlights, and headlamps in the house set aside for emergency lighting (and day-to-day tasks as well) and checked the operation of all these devices. This included:

Coleman Twin High Performance 8D LED Lantern (580 lumens)
Rayovac “Virtually Indestructible” 3D LED Lantern (530 lumens)
Rayovac Sportsman 3D LED Lantern (240 lumens)
Maglite Heavy Duty 6D Incandescent Flashlight (136 lumens)
Rayovac “Virtually Indestructible” 2D LED Flashlight (320 lumens)
Rayovac “Virtually Indestructible” 3AAA LED Flashlight (250 lumens)
Coast HL3 3AAA LED Headlamp (60 lumens) x 2
Princeton Tec Fuel 3AAA LED Headlamp (43 lumens)

All but one passed inspection, with fresh batteries taking care of the holdout.

The Coast headlamps and Rayovac “Virtually Indestructible” lantern/flashlights are new additions to my emergency lighting stash, and have been working great when called upon to perform tasks around the house and off-site. Particularly those Rayovac products. These seem to be built really tough (rubber head/tail cap, aluminum titanium alloy body) and are incredibly bright. The free Rayovac batteries included with each device were a nice bonus as well.

Rayovac "Virtually Indestructible" LED lantern/flashlights- functional, tough, and affordable

Rayovac “Virtually Indestructible” LED lantern/flashlights- functional, tough, and affordable

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I should also mention that in late spring, I lubricated threaded regions on the Maglite and Rayovac flashlights with Vaseline to protect threads and minimize “squealing.”

In addition, some time ago my girlfriend received two stained-glass, programmable 3D LED wall sconces as a gift from her family. We mounted one of them in our second floor hallway and it functions really well as a night light- and emergency light that doesn’t require power in the home to be on. To avoid burning through D-size alkaline batteries, I ordered a 6-pack of EBL 10,000mAh Ni-MH D-Cell Rechargeable Batteries from Amazon to partner with my trusty Rayovac PS3 Universal Smart Battery Charger. While one set (3 batteries) powers the wall sconce that’s been installed, the other goes to the charger. I’ve only started this rotation quite recently, but so far the EBL rechargeable batteries have been performing quite well.

Emergency Cooling

Other devices I checked over include two dual-powered (batteries or included AC adapter) O2COOL 10-inch Portable Fans. These worked just fine. The portable fans should make extended power outages on hot summer days a little bit more bearable.

All of this gear is strategically-positioned around the house for fast access in an emergency (and for daily use).

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: Items added to “Gear And Supplies” page)

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Resource Of The Week: SurvivalBlog.com’s Quick-Start Guide For Preparedness Newbies

Even before I started Survival And Prosperity back in November 2010, I’d been dropping by SurvivalBlog.com, “The Daily Web Log for Prepared Individuals Living in Uncertain Times,” on a regular basis. James Wesley, Rawles (“JWR”) is behind that blog, which launched in 2005. The former U.S. Army intelligence officer-turned-survival author, blogger, and retreat consultant has managed to turn the project into the “Internet’s most popular daily blog on survival and preparedness topics.” And his books are pretty good too.

A couple of weeks ago while surfing SurvivalBlog.com I came across a link to a guide for new preppers on the site. From the section entitled “SurvivalBlog’s Quick-Start Guide for Preparedness Newbies”:

I often get e-mails from folks that have just found SurvivalBlog or that have just finished a copy of my novel “Patriots”, that they received as a gift from a relative or a friend. Their response is surprisingly uniform: People feel overwhelmed by the enormity of what it takes to get a family prepared.

First, take a deep breath and relax. Just realizing that you need to get prepared has already put you ahead of 70% of your neighbors, who are sadly little more than clueless sheeple. If you accumulate a one-month food supply then elevates your preparedness into the 80th percentile of preparedness. And by the time you work your way up to a one year supply, you’ll be in the 98th percentile. It’s not very difficult, it’s not very expensive, and it’s not very time-consuming. Just do it one step at a time…

The “Quick-Start Guide” focuses heavily on tackling a “List of Lists,” which includes:

• Water List
• Food Storage List
• Food Preparation List
• First Aid /Minor Surgery List
• Chem/Nuke Defense List
• Biological Warfare Defense List
• Gardening List
• Hygiene/Sanitation List
• Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
• Power/Lighting/Batteries List
• Fuels List
• Firefighting List
• Tactical Living List
• Security-Firearms List
• Communications/Monitoring List
• Tools List
• Book/Reference List
• Barter and Charity List

It’s impressive for a “quick-start” guide, chock-full of useful preparedness/survival information. If I thought TEOTWAWKI was fast approaching and hadn’t done much to prepare for it, I would likely turn to this resource to rapidly get me going in the right direction.

Check out “SurvivalBlog’s Quick-Start Guide for Preparedness Newbies” for yourself here.

(Editor’s note: Link added to “Resources” page)

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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April Is Pet Preparedness Month In Illinois

My girlfriend is lucky enough to have an office dog. Meet “Kodi”:

Kodi

Even though we’re not her owners, we’re still planning to sock away some food and other items for her in case of an emergency or “ruff” times.

Illinois readers- did you know April is Pet Preparedness Month in Illinois?

From the Illinois Government News Network website on April 1:

Don’t Forget Pets When Planning for Disasters

IEMA, local emergency management agencies to focus on pet preparedness throughout April

SPRINGFIELD – Pets are treasured family members in more than half of Illinois households. If your family includes a dog, cat, hamster or other furry, feathered or scaly friends, don’t forget to include their unique needs in your home emergency plans.

That’s the message the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and local emergency management agencies will promote throughout April as part of Pet Preparedness Month in Illinois.

“Every home should have an emergency supply kit and plans for how to stay safe when disaster strikes,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “Make sure your kit and emergency plans address the needs of every family member, including your pets. Your preparedness efforts today can help keep everyone in your family, including your pets, safe when disaster strikes.”

Joseph said home emergency supply kits for people should include a three-day supply of such items as food, water, first aid kit, weather alert radio, flashlights, spare batteries and other items. Pet owners should also have a pet preparedness kit stocked with items such as:

• At least a three-day supply of food and water
• Extra supplies of pet medicines
• Copies of pet registration, vaccinations and other important documents
• Photo of your pet in case you are separated during an emergency
• Collar with ID tag, harness or leash
• Crate or other pet carrier in case of evacuation
• Pet litter and box, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach for sanitation
• Toys, treats or other familiar items to reduce your pet’s stress during the emergency

If it’s necessary for you to evacuate your home during a disaster, take your pets with you. An evacuation could last several days, even weeks, and your pets likely cannot survive without care. Plan now for places you and your pets can stay following an evacuation, as many public shelters do not allow animals inside.

It’s also important to have a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Talk to neighbors, friends and family to make sure someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so.

Additional pet preparedness and general emergency preparedness information is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov, the Ready Illinois Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ReadyIllinois and on Twitter at Twitter.com/ReadyIllinois.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Tensions Grow On East Coast After Hurricane Sandy

Not pleased to hear about the following, but not surprised it’s happening either. From the FOX News website earlier today:

State troopers have been deployed at all gas stations along the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, where dwindling gasoline supplies are causing frayed nerves as the region endures its third full day with massive power outages.

Frustration with gas supplies topped the list of issues causing tensions to boil over in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, the states hardest hit by power outages in the wake of superstorm Sandy. Residents jockeyed for fuel at the few stations still pumping, searched store shelves in vain for batteries, struggled with sporadic cell phone service and found themselves unable to buy necessities at supermarkets.

And I just heard the “vast majority” of ConEd customers who lost electricity from Hurricane Sandy might not have their power turned back on until the weekend of November 10-11.

Oh boy.

You can read the rest of the FOX News article on their website here.

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Storm Recap

Yesterday, I talked about the severe weather that struck the Chicagoland area Tuesday evening. Here’s the latest on that event from WGN-TV’s Andrew Zuick this afternoon:

Commonwealth Edison Co. reported significant progress this morning in restoring power after Tuesday night’s violent storms but said it will be at least into Friday before everyone is back on line.

As of 12:30 p.m., 90,000 homes and businesses still were without electricity, and spokesman Bennie Currie said the utility hoped to have power back to 90 percent of its customers by midnight Friday.

“Seven hundred crews are working around the clock,” he said.

Luckily, we’ve had our power back on since 11 AM yesterday. Funny story though. Around 10:30 AM, I happened to spot a neighbor from the next building over popping the trunk of her car and removing bags of ice. Smart thinking. I decided that I, too, should get some ice at the gas station down the block in an attempt to save the perishables in our refrigerator (freezer was still okay at this point)- and before it became a scare commodity. After showering and throwing on some clothes, I started to head to the door. Just then, the electricity came back on. Perfect timing.

As I indicated yesterday, at this point I want to talk about some things I took care of beforehand that worked out well during and after this event, along with some items that needs to be addressed before another summer storm roars through.

The preparations that worked out well included:

Communications- Thank God for all-hazard public alert radios. While the local television stations warned of the incoming storm- my girlfriend happened to be watching TV right before the event while I was plugging away at the computer- the TV isn’t always on in our pad. The Midland weather radio starting chirping away some time before the storm, and alerts intensified as the nasty stuff beared down on us. Acting on information provided by the radio, I phoned my parents (who were also in the storm’s path- they were unharmed) and took care of some last-minute business on my end (secured balcony items, powered down this computer, went to the bathroom- very important, etcetera) before things got real bad. On the topic of phones, once the power went out, so did our cordless phone system. Thankfully, my girlfriend and I have a corded phone in our kitchen, which we had installed for exactly this type of situation. With it, we were able to use the phone in the hours after the storm and contact the electric company concerning our loss of service/status of repairs. While both of us have mobile phones, there’s always the chance that the batteries in one or in both phones might be low/dead and/or reception unavailable due to damaged cell towers or other causes. I’m a big believer in redundancy.

Once the power died, I busted out a Sharper Image all-in-one flashlight clock radio my girlfriend bought for me some time ago. Instead of using the light, we relied on the integrated AM/FM radio for the latest news on the severe weather.

Lighting- I’ve accumulated a number of emergency preparedness items over the last couple of years, including a variety of light sources. As I mentioned yesterday, due to the strength of the wind gusts (70-80 mph was not uncommon) and the amount and speed of the flying debris, I figured it was only a matter of time before we lost power. And when the lights went out, my Princeton Tec headlamp came on. My girlfriend donned her L.L. Bean headlamp, which I picked up for her some time back. Throughout the night, a number of tactical flashlights also came into play, including an el cheapo 9-LED light I picked up from an auto supply store, a 130-lumen Ruger tactical light, and an 80-lumen Surefire tac light. You can never have enough flashlights, I always say (while growing up, there were always plenty of flashlights around- but none ever seemed to work!). Per my girlfriend’s suggestion, I shined these tactical lights at our white ceilings to illuminate the room better.

Which brings me to those things I need to address before another storm like this decides to pay us a visit:

Alternative Power- Back when I was working in the fire service I helped a member of our fire prevention bureau research portable power systems which might be used by fire investigators inside a structure (gas-powered generators not really a good idea here). Problem is, the ones out on the market at that time seemed to have reliability issues. As a generator won’t really work for me considering my present living arrangements, I’ll be taking another look at portable power systems while hoping they’re more dependable these days.

Batteries- A long time ago I learned that storing alkaline batteries in a refrigerator may extend their shelf life. So I’ve been doing this ever since. However, when the power went out Tuesday night, I wasn’t able to access the refrigerator to bust out some batteries for a few useful items out of fear that I’d be endangering the perishable food (I had an idea the electric company probably wouldn’t have us back online anytime soon). I plan on setting aside some commonly-used alkaline batteries outside the fridge from now on.

Entertainment- Later in the evening, I decided to watch a DVD, first on my laptop computer, and then on my girlfriend’s portable DVD player. The reason for this? My laptop’s battery died. If the DVD player’s battery had gone kaput as well, I could have turned to that Princeton Tec headlamp and used it for reading. However, now that the old analog portable TV’s have been replaced by the digital ones, I’d like to acquire one to expand my entertainment choices (the local news radio got old real quick once it started repeating segments).

Environment- Prior to the violent storm, it was hot and sticky outside. After the storm, it was much cooler- but still sticky. Due to this, I found it extremely hard to fall asleep that night. Good-sized battery-powered fans are now on my wish list.

Lighting- Ironically, this Monday I happened to be reviewing records of my emergency preparedness supplies and put together my latest “want list.” One item that was near the top of the list was a campsite lantern. While the light sources my girlfriend and I had at our disposal proved to be adequate, a couple-hundred lumen lantern or two would have been real nice to have.

One last thing. Next time I hear one of these violent late spring/early summer storms is headed this way, I’ll be sure to plug in my laptop, DVD player, and other items that might be useful in a power outage in an attempt to charge them as much as possible before the weather deteriorates. Let’s just hope I remember to unplug them should lightning start to fly.

Source:

Zuick, Andrew. “Power outlook: At least Friday for full restoration.” Chicago Tribune. 23 June 2011. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-power-outlook-at-least-saturday-for-full-restoration-20110623,0,4773954.story). 23 June 2011.

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Survival And Prosperity
Est. 2010, Chicagoland, USA
Christopher E. Hill, Editor

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