Be Ready for What ever Happens
Current issues and topics that are relevant to the classes we teach
I was out running early in the morning last week. It had snowed the day before, and as the sun came up, I was struck by how beautiful the morning light looked on the snow covered trees and ground. I thought about how it rises in the east and sets in the west, and how we are able to use that fact to get a rough idea of north/south, using several methods.
Then I remembered a puzzle that I accidentally had hit me in the face (figuratively) about two years ago.
A lot of us use and teach a method of direction finding that involves using a watch and the sun. I used to think it was pretty accurate, but one day I tried it in June, and it was off by about 15 degrees to the west.
I had successfully used it in past years, and could not figure out why it was suddenly wrong. As I thought more, I realized that the only times I remembered using it was in the colder months of the year. Who is to say it was not a few degrees off, but not 15!
So then I decided to check it at the same time and day each month here in Missouri.Similar results, but this was all summer and fall. I tested it in Florida (summer), Honduras (fall) and Texas (spring) and Michigan (summer). All gave similar results.
I decided it mus have something to do with the tilt of the earth during certain months. I looked on line for an explanation, and almost every site just parroted how to do it, and acted like it was accurate anytime, anywhere. I knew this was not true.
Then I stumbled on this explanation:
There it is. An eloquent explanation with a lot o facts that are obvious when I saw them, but which did not occur to me before.
So there it is folks. The method can be used to find a general direction of north, but expect to be off us to 15 degrees west by my experiments.
It is after all, one of the last ditch save yourself methods if you are lost, and need to find a close direction in order to fine something big like a town, or maybe a catchment feature
But don't expect to use this method for precision.
Until next time.
By now you are wondering if I will ever post again. It's been a busy couple of months for me. AWLS, a personal protection job, a week SCUBA diving in Honduras, teaching some medical students survival and probably some more stuff I don't even remember.
Oh, and my day job too! Gotta pay the bills.
Its winter. I don't mind so much if there is enough snow on the ground for cross country skiing, but other than that, I find winter difficult. Sure, I can go outside, but I don't really like cold weather, I'm more of a warm weather guy. Really a water guy.
So what can you do in winter? Since the entire reason Triple Ops exists is to help you and your family survive, then look at your self, your family and your home and ask yourself " what would we do if the power was out in an ice storm?" or "what if the water supply quits for some reason?"
Not sure? Ask me a question!
So we covered the 6 points of survival. Now what? We all go back to our comfortable lives, secure in the notion that as long as we stay out of the woods, this stuff is just theory?
Lets look at them again. Security. Do you lock your doors? Do you own and know how to properly use a gun? Do you have police that help keep you safe? Does you have a government that has immigration and customs agents to screen who gets into your country? Do you have a military force to keep bad guys from invading your country?
So what happens if you don't have any or all of these?
Our Advanced Wilderness Life Support class last weekend was a great success. I want to thank our instructors, students and volunteer victims who made it that way.
I will try to get back into posting on a regular basis now. If you have topics of interest, let us know, otherwise I may just start looking at world events and tying those to future possibilities and why you need to prepare.
Why do you want to talk to someone?
Seriously, that is the first question you have to answer. It will dictate if or how much money you want to spend on communication gear. There are a few possible answers:
1) You want to call for help
2) You want to stay in touch with friends and family and post cool pictures on Facebook while trekking in the wild.
3) You want to be able to communicate with someone in the event of a major natural disaster.
4) You want to see if there are any other survivors of the zombie apocalypse.
I think those (or some variation of those) basically cover it.
For the first, calling for help, could be something as simple as a signal mirror or as high tech as an emergency satellite transponder, like Spot. I will stick with the lower tech and free ideas here. A signal mirror is the classic pocket emergency communications system. It is easy to use, small, light weight and you can use it for a few other things around the campsite if needed. The down side is it only works in daytime and someone has to be looking for you and be in some type of line of sight of your position.
For hikers who generally stay in cell service range, a free app I like is called “Send Help”. It is an easy to use push button app, that sends a text message to whomever you pre-program it for. A great feature is that it sends a map and coordinates for your position. If you are injured or lost, you may not know how to tell someone where you are. The down side is you have to have at least one bar of cell service where you are. Still, it is far better than nothing.
For the second, some of the personal satellite transponders also allow internet link ups so that you can send messages to family telling them you are ok, and post those selfies to everyone will know how cool you are. A web search will give you several brands and theirs costs. They work anywhere on the planet.
For numbers three and four, the equipment is the same. You first need to decide how far away you want to communicate. If you are thinking more locally, then an FMRS radio or a CB walkie-talkie may be right for you. These generally have a range of ½ to 5 miles depending on their power output and local terrain. They are inexpensive, do not always require an FCC license and you can have one for each family member. You could choose to power them with rechargeable batteries and but a small solar battery charger to ensure you could always stay in touch with friends or family.
For longer range communication, you may want to look into amateur (Ham) radio. There are more expensive, require a large antenna for distance (and that antenna signals people that you have something they may want in your house) and require an FCC license. But remember that in a major national or world disaster, randomly broadcasting your location may bring in types of people you do not want around your neighborhood and family.
This is a very brief overview of a large topic. I hope it starts you thinking and planning for your safety and survival.
Until next time.
In the survival hierarchy, medical is one of the last things you need (hopefully never need).
I have been many places and done many things. But I always plan carefully so as to minimize the chances of illness or injury. I have been largely successful and to a great degree, lucky. There have been a few times I should have been hurt really badly.
My interest in wilderness medicine (now often called austere medicine) started while backpacking in my early 20’s. I began to realize that beyond band aids I really had little clue about what to do if I got sick or injured. I remember having pepto bismol (Imodium was still a prescription drug in those days) and aspirin (ibuprofen was also still a prescription drug in those days) and that was about all.
In the military, we always had a medical person or persons attached, so I really never thought much about it other than the ritual of boiling plates and mess kits after eating. After all the war was cold (and so were the c-rations).
It turns out that around the same time, a group of mountaineering physicians were noticing they really did not know what to do either. They started figuring it out using science where available and expert opinion where there were gaps in science.
That was the birth of wilderness medicine, and of the Advanced Wilderness Life Support course.
Interested? Then click on the AWLS link at the top of this page and sign up today. Registration ends in two weeks, and there is no short cut to learning medicine. Somebody has to teach you.
Next time, communications.
I love going grocery shopping. I have gone every week for years, and I am still always amazed at all of the food choices we have 365 days per year. I can buy fresh veggies, fruits, meat, milk and a lot more almost anytime I want to. Where do they get oranges and bananas in the dead of winter?? Say what you want, but I believe it is a miracle of modern farming and the capitalist system of trade.
But how does the farmer get those goods to me? Trucks. Just drive on any interstate highway and it is awash with big rigs moving goods from there to here. Every wonder what happens if they quit rolling? The days of your local store having a huge supply room are over, replaced instead by “just in time” resupply. Meaning if they do not get those trucks in, they have empty shelves in just a few days. And unless YOU have a huge stock room, you will run out of food at some point.
But let’s just say the stores don’t shut down, but maybe there will be rolling shortages- common in the old Soviet Union, and now in Venezuela and other workers paradises. What can we do to supply our selves?
Grow your own food.
I am not a master gardener. I am still learning every day, but I have tried many techniques over the years: the traditional in ground garden, raised beds, pots and bins, indoor and outdoor and most recently, aquaponics.
Most of us don’t have time to be in the garden all day, and we take vacations so consider your lifestyle and what YOU have room for, need and can really tend to. Think about the fruit and vegetables you REALLY like to eat, and learn how to grow those.
Think about how they will get watered when you are gone or on busy days. My personal experiments prove to me that I cannot be trusted to remember a watering schedule, so I have designed and built systems that water themselves and all I have to do is remember to refill the reservoirs every week or two. I even have some systems that refill themselves from rain barrels.
Start small with a few seed types and one or two gardening techniques. See how those work, and what YOU can really accomplish. Learn from your mistakes, adapt various techniques to your lifestyle and capabilities and start now. Try some indoors, some out doors. Artificial light, natural light, and in all 4 seasons.
The point is start now. When you really need to do this to live, it is too late. There is a lot more to this than buying a pack of seeds and digging a hole. You have to find ways to combat drought, plant diseases, insects, animals and bad soil.
Remember the first tenet of survival is safety and security (see my first few blog posts). You may have to keep hungry people out of your garden too. The easiest way to do that is do it in a way that is invisible to most casual lookers. I will leave that to you and your situation.
This is the one thing everybody focuses on, and one of the least important. We can survive a couple of weeks without food.
Most of us are so used to having the first points of the survival chain taken care of us we immediately gravitate to “What will I eat?” (We are generally safe because of laws and police, we have plenty of good air, we have houses with heating and cooling and we turn on a tap and get clean water)
Truthfully, food is also the easiest thing to box and sell to you.
The type of food you store will depend on what kind of emergency you expect. A 3 day supply will probably be enough for most of us. For instance, a blizzard that shuts down roads and prevents stores from re-supplying is a likely scenario in many places. This is likely the worst most of us will face.
Lets start with regular food you can buy at a store. Many ordinary foods from a grocery store can be kept a reasonably log time, and if you choose this way to prepare, you should be sure and stock only foods that you routinely use, and can rotate out from storage to your kitchen periodically and replace. this simple trick will keep you from wasting money by throwing out expired foods. There are charts available on-line that can help you decide how long rice, sugar, and other common foods can be stored. Canned goods have expiration dates printed on them.
Many people think they can get by with what is in their pantry. Perhaps so. Test this by eating only what you have on hand for a week. See what really happens after a few days, and write down the deficiencies you find. When you have enough information, make a plan to fill in the gaps and rotate the food out periodically. Having a written plan with food rotation dates and resupply lists will keep you organized and efficient, as well as ready for tough times.
Next time we will discuss pre-packaged long term storage foods.
When preparing water to drink, there are two distinct processes: disinfection and purification.
Purification means removing all non-water particles including chemicals and non-harmful microorganisms. Most of the time, purification is not necessary.
We generally only have to disinfect the water. This means killing all harmful microorganisms in it. It does not mean all microorganisms must be dead, just those that can harm us. The simplest way is by boiling the water.
Sometimes boiling is not possible, or not convenient. When backpacking, for example, it’s not very efficient to build a fire every time you need to fill your water bottles, and if you are cooking on a propane jet stove, using fuel to get drinking water may mean you don’t get a hot meal after a few days.
One of the best methods for water disinfection is a filter. There are many brands, sizes and styles on the market. How do you choose one? First, decide what level of disinfection you are comfortable with. There are 3 broad categories of infectious agents and from largest to smallest they are parasites, bacteria and viruses. These are measured in microns, one micron being 0.001 millimeters which is very small. Bacteria range in size from 10 to 0.2 microns in size. Parasites are bigger than this, so any filter you find that works for bacteria should work for parasites as well. Viruses range from 0.1 to .005 microns in length, which is much smaller than the smallest bacteria!
Filter manufacturers list the smallest particle size they can filter in microns, so look for that. They tend to fixate their advertisements on being able to filter out Giardia and bacteria, which is good, but they generally do not filter viruses, or at least all of them. Remember some recent cruise ships on which the passengers got sick? It was from viruses, not Giardia.
Some filter manufacturers claim to filter viruses and chemicals. If you are interested in this level of filtration, don’t just read their advertisement, find out who tested those filters, and check out that testing agency. I know of one filter brand that can live up to the claim of filtering viruses and chemicals, because I checked out their test results and the lab that did it. There is another filter company out there that makes a lot of claims, but when I try to compare their claims with the lab results, they do not match up, and when I contacted the lab that supposedly did the testing they could not confirm that they tested that filter.
In short, your life and your family’s lives depend on clean water. Be sure you know how to disinfect your water, and how disinfected it really is.
Want to know more about waterborne infections and water disinfection then be sure to sign up for Advanced Wilderness Life Support in September.
Next time we will discuss food.
As we celebrate our nations beginning by shooting off rockets and firecrackers I am reminded of something I want to mention.
This is a celebration of a war. We have forgotten as a nation, thankfully, the realities of war on our own soil, but we have had 3 major wars on American soil- the American revolution, the war of 1812 (we really should call that the second war of independence, though) and the civil war.
There have been many other open conflicts on our soil that were far less reaching and fought for varying reasons, but none for around a century.
I notice that civilian fireworks have grown bigger and louder. Many set off near our neighborhood sounded more like a mortar barrage than fireworks.
As I pondered this, I thought with sorrow about those ordinary people in places where warfare, danger and fear are a daily part of life, and I am glad to live in the United States.
But looking around me, I see a divide in our country that started in the early 2000’s and worsened greatly from 2008 to 2016 when the battle lines were drawn and have continued to worsen. This time not north vs. south, but coastal regions and large urban areas vs. what they call “fly over America”. Us.
It is my hope that all Americans will take a deep breath and return to civil discussion of differences and ideas.
I plan to post more on water very soon. Thanks for reading.