This blog has grown out of a weekly newspaper column I write. Enjoy.
A prudent person forsees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. Proverbs 22:3 (NLT)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Winter’s a’comin’

Morning temperatures are sliding toward the freezing mark here on the Southern Oregon Coast. Many folks in our area still heat with wood thus creating a hazard all its own.  Injuries occur when neophyte chain saw users take to the woods to cut their own firewood.  Felling trees, cutting (bucking) firewood chunks, loading and stacking are all hazardous.  More injuries occur when even experienced woodcutters try to split their wood. Some years ago, a friend of mine managed to cut himself seriously with a chainsaw while getting firewood.  Problem number one, he was about 20 miles from town and bleeding badly.  Problem number two, he was accompanied by his eleven year old son.  Fortunately his son was more capable than most eleven year olds and managed to drive the pickup back to town.  No permanent damage.  Both father and son have a story to tell their grandkids.   
A residential fire is the most common disaster in the United States.  Over 3500 adults die in home fires every year.  
Now’s the time to do a safety check around your home.  You don’t have to be an expert in locating and fixing fire hazards.  For those of you who burn wood, have your chimney inspected
by an expert.  Destructive flue fires are the by-product of neglecting chimney maintenance.  Soot and creosote build-up are like fatal cholesterol for your flue.  Easily remedied by a competent chimney sweep.
Cooking equipment should be inspected periodically.  Most cooking utensils cook with electrical heating elements.  Wires can become frayed or loose with time and usage, and a simple visual inspection can discover a loose wire or screw.  Oftentimes a repair can be made with only a piece of electrical tape or replacing a cord.  
Faulty wiring can be another fire-starting culprit.  If your home is 30-40 years old, chances are your wiring can be overloaded.  Shorts, overloads and huge sparks can set off fires inside your walls, delaying discovery of a disaster by precious minutes.  Another case for having an expert inspect your home.  The cost of an inspection is certainly worth the peace of mind and less than trying to rebuild.
Dryer lint.  Nothing ignites a campfire like a big wad of dryer lint.  A good prepper hack is to save your dryer lint, stuff a wad into the compartments of a cardboard egg carton, then dribble some candle wax on it to hold it in place.  The dryer lint catches a spark from your favorite fire starter, the cardboard burns nicely and the candle wax prolongs the blaze, thus igniting your kindling.  The downside against anything that flammable is that if it catches a spark at the wrong time, the results can be disastrous.  The moral of this story:  Clean your lint trap after each dryer load.
Candles.  Our grandparents trimmed their Christmas tree with candles.  I cannot imagine how many Christmas tree fires resulted from that little bit of genius.  Fortunately we no longer use candles on our trees, but candles can still be a hazard.  Personally I like the smell, the atmosphere and coziness candles provide.  But they are still an open flame and if placed in the wrong location, they can still be dangerous.  Try to use candles that are short and wide, not the “easily tipped over” variety.  Also be very careful when you set the thing out.  Keep it away from curtains, or anything easily flammable.  Just a little bit of wisdom can keep you from being a statistic.
As always, send your questions and comments to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.

Financial Readiness

Disaster victims at all levels face the same challenges when it’s time to rebuild after a disaster or emergency.  Having your personal financial, medical, and insurance records organized before disaster strikes will take a load of stress off when you start to put things back together after the big event.
FEMA’s website, www.ready.gov, offers the following tips for dealing with the business end of a disaster:
Gather all your crucial financial, legal, personal and medical information.  This can mean scanning copies of your insurance policies, vehicle titles, divorce or child custody papers and storing the copies electronically to a flash drive or on on the cloud in an environment you can access from a different computer.  Sometimes it’s just important to be able to provide a policy number.
Put aside some cash at home.  Disasters routinely take out ATMs or any means of using a debit or credit card.  Cash in small bills can help make those necessary fuel, food or supply purchases.  How much cash you tuck away depends on your personal situation.  If you can manage more, then tuck away more.  Make sure you save small bills and (I shouldn’t have to mention this, but) keep it confidential.
If you don’t have it, get insurance.  Homeowners, renters, health and life insurance will all help with the process of recovery.  If you already have insurance, be sure to review your policies so you are comfortable with the amount and extent of coverage you have in place.  Also note that most homeowners policies do not cover flood damage, so you may need to purchase additional flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program if you live in a potential flood zone.
Here are a few random items you may want to consider.  Veterans make sure you have a copy (originals are better) of your DD214.  Photos or scanned copies of social security cards, birth certificates, car titles photo IDs for family members and mortgage information.  The list goes on and on.  Just ask anyone who has lost everything in a house fire how many things there are to replace and you’ll understand your life will be so much easier if you have planned ahead and followed this advice.
If you receive retirement checks through the mail, now would be a good time to have those things deposited directly.  If the U.S. Mail isn’t running and you can’t get your check, at least it will be in your bank account on a hassle free basis.  If you are one of those that doesn’t trust direct deposit, get over it.  I have been having my paychecks and now social security checks directly deposited for 35 years and I have never missed a beat.  It makes things really simple when you’re out of town or can’t get to the bank for some reason.  The deposit has already been made for you.  I can remember delaying travel plans for the simple reason I had to wait for the check to come so I could get it in the bank.  No more.  The twenty-first century is upon us folks, might as well get updated.
Planning your financial well-being isn’t as exciting as buying supplies or even a new gun, but having your stuff together will make you a real hero when the time comes to rebuild after a disaster.  
As always email your questions and comments to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Older columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.

Check Your Pulse

If just watching the news the past few days doesn’t motivate you to begin to prepare for a disaster then you might want to check your pulse.  Locally we have wildland fires that are burning unchecked across a large portion of the Northwest.  Offshore breezes have improved our air quality, but the landscape is still being scorched.  
Reports of a major earthquake offshore from Mexico City remind those of us in the Pacific Northwest of the Cascadia Subduction Zone parked off the coast about 60 miles that could break loose at any moment and unleash a 9.0 earthquake, the likes of which none of us have ever seen.  
Then there is the mop-up still underway in Houston and vicinity.  Thousands of volunteers, electrical linemen, EMS and even the Cajun Navy is still busy rescuing folks out of their flooded homes.  One video I saw even showed a couple of guys on their jet skis picking up flood victims and taking them to dry ground via jet ski.  
At this writing, Hurricane Irma is churning her way up the West Coast of Florida, leaving a path of destruction in her wake.  I believe this is the first time I have ever witnessed the encouraged evacuation of an entire state.  Most are heeding the urgings of authorities while some are staying behind to “ride it out”.
For those still affected by the disaster in your area, there’s not much you can do now to pre-pare.  If you haven’t pre-positioned your supplies or your plan, now is too late.  You are either at the mercy of the weather, the shelter managers or the incident commanders in your area.  Either way, because you have failed to make decisions ahead of time, someone else is making choices for you.  Personally I prefer to make my own choices.  It is just possible that someone else’s judgement is flawed and to subject my safety and the well-being of my family to their choices is simply not acceptable.
Make a commitment right now to start putting things together when this is over.  Never again do you want to be in this situation.  Never again do you want to be “not in control” of your safety when disaster strikes.  If you’re telling yourself that this will never happen again, then you’re listening to a fool!  Get over yourself and start doing the responsible thing.  There is simply no excuse for not laying in extra canned goods.  Shop the sales and the BOGO deals.  Watch for the cases of bottled water to come on sale.  Check the garage sales for a good camp stove.  Pick up a few extra soup mixes the next time you get groceries.  There is no need to buy one of those expensive kits online.  You can make your own for usually much less than the guy online is asking for the pre-assembled kit.  Often they contain items you will never use, or take the time to learn about.  Buy your own kit components, that way you are invested and you know what you’ve got in that bag.  Plan on starting with a 72 hour kit.  If you live along the California, Oregon or Washington coast, keep going until you have at least a two or three week supply.  There are great lists on my blog, ready.gov, or www.redcross.org.  (You could buy my book and it’s all spelled out there.)  Point is, there is no time like right now to get started.  Your children and loved ones are counting on you.
As always, send your questions and comments to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Previous columns are on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.

Fire and Flood

In my neighborhood, there is no need to turn on the news to find out what’s going on with the weather.  One hundred degree heat, and visibility of ¾ mile due to smoke and airborne particulate matter make for interesting moonrises.  Southwestern Oregon is circled with wildland fires along with a huge portion of the rest of the state.  
And then there’s Hurricane Harvey.  Houston, Texas, is still reeling from 130 mile-per-hour winds bringing destruction, power outages and flooding not seen in anyone’s memory.  This storm has, so far, earned two presidential visits and a host of organizations and thousands of private volunteers.  The “Cajun Navy” has risen to the occasion with a miles-long procession of pickups pulling boats into the region to help evacuate people to safety.  
Every disaster, whether forest fire or hurricane, draws its share of news trucks, TV cameras and (sometimes pesky) news hounds trying for the perfect camera angle or profound sound byte.  While most news organizations manage to cover the story in some fashion, it’s the untold stories that fascinate me.  There are heroes whose pictures and stories are posted all over the newscast, and there are heroes who nobody ever hears about.
One fellow I spoke with has hauled nearly 10,000 pounds of livestock feed to supply animals evacuated from a wildland fire.  Hundreds of animals were sheltered in a nearby county fairgrounds facility.  Others have hauled thousands of bottles of water to keep the firefighters hydrated, while still others have brought in donated travel trailers and fifth wheel trailers for displaced folks to have a place to lay their head.  
Stories of generosity and heroism continue to leak out in spite of no major media on the scene.  It’s those stories that continue to reinforce my faith in humankind.  
I have always advocated that the most effective thing you can do to prepare for a disaster is to inventory your neighborhood.   “Mapping Your Neighborhood” consists of bringing your neighbors together and learning who lives in your immediate area.  Find out if your neighbors have skills that are useful in the event of a major disaster.  Who has medical training, who is experienced in dealing with folks who have been traumatized:  How about a counselor or minister or teacher who can manage children?  Is there someone who can play a guitar or piano?  How about someone who owns a backhoe, or generator or can operate a chainsaw?  How about someone skilled in carpentry or plumbing?  All these things are useful when the phones don’t work and the usual first responders are tied up with someone else’s emergency.  This system makes you a first responder for your neighbor and vice versa.  If this interests you, simply do an internet search for “Mapping Your Neighborhood” and get started.  There is no cost involved, all it takes is one person willing to assume the role of leader/facilitator.  
As always send your questions and comments to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers.

Chicken Delight

I live a short distance from town.  Small acreage, just right for the frustrated gentleman farmer in me to get some satisfaction.  I don’t do horses, cows, pigs or goats.  Well, I tried goats a few times to control the brush, but they also control my wife’s roses and other ornamentals so we have an agreement which includes the phrase:  “No more goats or else!”  What we do have is chickens.  We like farm fresh brown eggs and when we can collect them directly from the “factory” we know they are indeed fresh and haven’t been shot up with a bunch of stuff we’d rather not ingest.
I’ve had some successes and some failures with the chicken venture.  True, we do get a ton of eggs and when the chickens are producing, we have plenty to share.  The biggest problem I have had with chicken farming is they keep getting murdered.  I used to think raccoons were cute when they would sneak up on my deck and eat dog food out of the dog’s dish.  When they got comfortable doing that, they would bring their babies and make sure the little ones got fed as well.  When I discovered my chickens were being picked off by the little suckers, they stopped being quite so cute.
In the past I have allowed my birds to roam “cage free” and then lock them securely in the chicken house at night.  The trouble with that plan is that sometimes raccoons (who are reportedly nocturnal) forget they are supposed to sleep in the daytime.  By the same token, chickens are easy pickin’s for any neighborhood dog who happens to also be at large.
I purchased a whole new batch of chicks in February and have been diligent to keep them secured inside a pen or locked up at night.  They should start producing eggs within the next four weeks.  
If you’re interested in disaster preparedness, then maybe you should consider chickens as a part of your plan.  First of all once they mature, they provide a steady supply, and sometimes an overabundant supply, of fresh eggs.  Be careful because once you’ve had farm fresh eggs, it ruins you for the store-bought variety. Some folks even get a rooster and work at hatching their own chicks, thus perpetuating the flock. No you don’t need a rooster to get eggs, only if you want those eggs to hatch into baby chicks. If that confuses you, then you need to ask your mom to review “the talk”!  
Then some raise chicks especially to butcher.  There are some varieties that gain weight very quickly and can be butchered in six to eight weeks time.  Certain breeds are better for laying eggs, and still some are a good cross between both types.  My most recent chicken purchase was for 24 Cinnamon Queens.  I chose that breed because of their reputation for early production and their ability to produce large, brown eggs.  As always send your comments, questions and chicken stories to me at disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.

Directions By Phone

Global positioning satellite (GPS) technology has wormed its way into our daily lives in ways that only science fiction writers could imagine just a few short years ago.  We first made friends with those little hand-held receivers that hunters, hikers and holiday travellers used to navigate. We learned to find our way back to the truck while hunting and then found our way over the hills and through the woods to grandma’s house.  Not only that but we learned how to get to our favorite restaurants, the hotel  and we figured out where to gas up.  
The drawback was you had to read that little book that came with the device.  I have had more than one person tell me, “I’ve got a GPS, but I have no idea how to use the thing!”  True, unless you spend an evening reading the book and playing with “the thing”, you probably expected it to just operate itself.  That’s where we can get into serious trouble.  There is no shortage of internet stories about people who misused either their GPS receiver or their common sense.  One fellow planned a trip from New York to Pennsylvania.  The GPS directed him to drive north, which he obediently did and wound up in Canada, rather than Pennsylvania.  The lesson here is don’t let your common sense take a vacation when using a GPS.
Two weeks my wife and I flew to the east coast for business.  Because we felt taking our grandkids along would be beneficial to their overall education, we included them.  Most of us carry an iPhone.  Including the grandkids.  Who knew Siri would know the way from Washington, D.C. to Annapolis, Maryland?  We rented a car and the agent asked if we needed a GPS.  I almost said “yes” when my grandson said, “No thanks, we got this.”  Without flaw, Siri led us from Reagan National Airport to Annapolis, Maryland, and got us exactly where we wanted to go.  If you have no idea who Siri is, ask your kids or grandkids.  After an amazing lunch at Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs in Annapolis, she guided us through the maze of interchanges, off ramps and exits right back to Reagan National.  All you have to do is speak into your iPhone, “Hey Siri.”  She confidently, calmly, and without raising her voice I might add, directs you to take the left at the proper exit and to “proceed for eighteen miles.”  Easy as pie.  No booklet required.  
There is however, an app for the older style GPS that gets you back to your hunting rig. It takes a bit of practice, and it’s all in one handy little package that we all carry nowadays. The cell phone.
Combat units use GPS technology to track their soldiers on the battlefield.  Postal managers follow the progress of mail carriers, as well as UPS managers, trucking fleet dispatchers, armored truck companies and almost every company whose employees are on the move.  GPS technology is not only here to stay, but is growing every day.  
As always, send your questions and comments to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.

Prepper or Survivalist

Most everyone has heard this one:  What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle?  The answer:  The person who is playing it.  So what’s the difference between a Prepper and a Survivalist?  
Here’s my humble opinion.  A survivalist makes plans for a widespread apocalypse including societal, governmental and economic collapse.  He stocks up beans, bullets and bandaids.  He has a plan for every contingency.  He owns a bug-out vehicle, fully stocked to take him and his family to his ultra-secret bug-out location where he will hole up and ride out the storm. For him this is nothing short of a sacred calling.  His passion is kept in check only by his concern for “op-sec”, that is operational security, otherwise he will be doing his best to convince everyone in earshot of his amazing skills, plans and inventory of supplies.   His guns, his food,his skills and his supplies are going to carry him through until sanity is once again restored.
The prepper knows that someday the lights may go out and he will be required to get by on what he has on hand.  Power outages, wind storms, tornados, blizzards and earthquakes are more his concern.  He knows if an event disrupts the normal flow of life around him, he will have what it takes to get him, his family and yes, maybe even some of his neighbors through the crisis.  
Ultimately both guys are planning for the same thing.  And that is to come out the other side of whatever happens to interrupt the status quo.  
Both are planning on success, both are being wise with their opportunities at the present, and both are taking precautions on a future event that may or may not happen.  
Now this may not concern you.  But I’m betting that you carry a spare tire in your trunk.  Why?  
Just in case.  That’s why.  Some of us also carry a few tools with us.  Why?  Because you may encounter someone who needs a bolt replaced or a radiator hose tightened.  Just in case.  Most women carry a purse.  That’s where they carry their hairbrush, lipstick and maybe a makeup kit.  (We used to call them a “compact”, who knows what they’re called now.)  Why?  Just in case.  That is ultimately why preppers and survivalists do what they do.  Just in case.  
So the difference between a prepper and a survivalist is, the person doing the prepping.  Their motivation and their mindset distinguishes their behavior and how they interact with their neighbors.  No matter which category you identify with, whether you prefer the toe-tapping music of a fiddle or the melodious strains of a well-played violin, your end result is the same.  And that is to emerge from the other side of an emergency reasonably intact.  
As always send your comments to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Previous columns may be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers.