So I went to the grocery store (Central Market) yesterday around lunch time simply because I wanted to grab a few things that my wife prefers and which I could only get there locally, such as some specific toothpaste and fermented pickles.
Yeah, I know… nothing that I really needed for the “snowmageddon” coming today and this weekend, such as actual food or pop tarts, lol.
The thing is that when I tried to find a parking spot, I couldn’t. And I mean there was NOTHING anywhere nearby! I was thinking to myself, “Man, lunchtime sure is busy here.” And, so, I eventually gave up and took my kid to Dairy Queen for lunch.
It was only later that I realized the madhouse at the grocery store was because everyone was doing their last minute shopping for a snowstorm that we’re just not accustomed to having around here. And it has been the ONLY thing on everyone’s mind for days now; I’d suspect it will be THE news for the entire weekend.
The funny thing is that I think we’re only due to get around 4-6″ of snow, which would have been a nuisance where I used to live in the Midwest but nothing to freak out over. And I’d image for those who live in the northern states (e.g., Michigan and Wisconsin) that a half of a foot of snow is barely anything to mention on the nightly news.
But, my complaint is always the same when it comes to things like this: there was absolutely no reason for people to have acted any differently had they already been prepared!
It never even crossed my mind to have to go to the store because of the snowstorm. I already have everything I need, including food, water, batteries, firewood, and so on… and I didn’t need to panic shop because I failed to have these items already on hand.
Because, after all, disasters don’t always give us days warning like a looming snowstorm might. Sure, there are some items it would be beneficial to stock up on–such as prescription medications–but even then it’s possible to ensure you don’t have to run out to the store at the last moment.
And for those of you who refuse to listen and just “have to” stock up at the last moment, can you at least NOT merely buy milk and bread? And maybe include food that doesn’t need refrigerated?
My kid likes to watch YouTube videos about new gadgets and occasionally I watch them with him. One video caught my eye recently where it showed a few different door security ideas. This one on the Barricade Box was particularly interesting:
Even though it’s meant for schools I can see how the barricade box may be of use for some exterior doors at home.
Another interesting device I watched was about The Barracuda Defense System which also seem more applicable to office buildings or schools, but may find some applications at home too:
The final video I watched was about the Nightlock Door Barricade which is definitely more applicable to home security situations even though the video focuses on schools:
Anyway, I thought these door security devices were neat and figured you might find them interesting as well… and maybe you’ll find them useful for your home or to recommend to your school or place of business.
To be honest, I had no idea these even existed until the folks at Weboost.com sent me one. I’d always assumed you got whatever cell phone signal you got and that was it! Well, that’s not true at all. In fact, you can do a lot better than you realize with a signal booster such as this. I’ll explain in a moment.
Anyway, I was pretty excited when it arrived, but that excitement waned quickly because I realized there was some effort involved with installation:
As you can see from the above photo there are a few things to install, including running wiring and mounting things. Really, I thought it was something I just plugged into my auxiliary plug and it was ready to go. As such, I put everything back in the box and sat on it for a few weeks.
That was a mistake because, after I finally made the time to do this, it took me about ten minutes of my time (maybe less) to get it all installed. Really, the install was no big deal whatsoever.
Here’s what to do…
First, mount the antenna to the roof of your vehicle:
That’s really easy to do because it’s secured with a magnetic mount and then you just run a single wire into the cabin of the vehicle. Because I have an SUV it was easy enough to run the wire through the backdoor and along the weatherstripping. The only stipulation, they say, is to keep the antenna at least six inches away from glass. Again, no problem.
If you have a passenger car then you run it through any door you like and do the same thing I did. Just be careful to not pinch the weatherstripping such that it might allow water into the passenger compartment.
The next step was to plug in the antenna and get power to the booster:
This was all easily accomplished in the rear of my vehicle because I had an auxiliary plug in the back, but it’s just about as easy to run some wiring (they give you plenty) to the front of the car, if need be, to plug into the auxiliary plug on the dash.
FYI, the booster came with some heavy-duty Velcro to adhere it to a panel like I did in the photo above, but you probably don’t even need to do that so long as the wires aren’t getting pinched and connections aren’t getting bumped.
Once you have the antenna and power connected to the booster, the final step is to run wiring to the phone cradle itself:
Now, this could be a bit of an ordeal if you’re worried about running the wire behind trim panels and under carpeting, but it’s really not. And, as you might tell from the photo above, I have the cradle secured to the air vent with a handy mounting accessory they included for this very purpose.
Now, setup is complete. Really, it took me all of ten minutes at most to do this. But, I ran into a problem…
You see, a normal phone fits just fine and is quite secure in the cradle (this was my kid’s phone):
But my phone has an extended (bigger) battery which makes it deeper and, therefore, NOT fit securely at all:
…and this was a problem for me because the slightest bump would make the phone fall out of the cradle. But, I rigged a solution with an old plastic ruler and some zip ties like so:
Yeah, it’s not pretty but it’s been working just fine. And my phone fits well now:
As you can see from the photo above, the cradle isn’t attached to an air vent but, rather, to the dashboard using a different mounting solution which I prefer.
But, if you like the air vent option, it works fine too; however, it just doesn’t feel quite as sturdy in my vehicle… mostly because my air vents are old and don’t like to stay in position anymore:
Before you can use the signal booster, the manual–yes, I read one for a change–said I needed to register the signal booster with my cell phone carrier which was surprising to me, yet easy to do since they gave me instructions on how to do it. (Note: We have Verizon but they included the appropriate URL for AT&T and others.) Again, that took me only a few minutes to finish.
Once registered, the booster is ready to be used.
So, I did. And after months of use I can say three things…
Here’s What I Know:
The signal booster does boost a weak signal to make it stronger;
The signal booster doesn’t actually boost a strong signal to make it stronger;
The signal booster can’t boost a nonexistent signal.
Let me explain…
Since we live in the Pacific Northwest, we went with Verizon because they tended to get the best service here. And, for the most part, we have no complaints about our phone signals unless, of course, we venture deep into the woods or the Olympic peninsula where we don’t expect much of a signal. Around town where we live, everything is great.
That said, we don’t always get four or five bars of signal strength. Often two or three is what we get for whatever reason. I’d assumed, wrongly, that the signal booster would take that two or three bars I often get and magically turn it into five bars. It doesn’t. And I don’t quite understand why. No big deal, a few bars of 4G is fine.
What I have noticed is that the signal booster does make is so that those times where I’d normally get maybe a single bar of service or, worse 3G service, that this never happens anymore.
For example, my wife and I went to a spot where we knew we didn’t get a decent signal and after about an hour of driving around and testing, it was clear that the signal booster helped a lot. Whereas my wife’s phone would often have only a single bar of service, switched to 3G regularly, and even had the dreaded “1X” signal indication, my phone (in the cradle) never lost 4G service or dropped below two or three bars of service.
What the signal booster can’t do is boost a nonexistent signal. And though I’ve yet to put myself into a situation where I can test the limits, I plan on going deep into the Olympics this spring to places where I know our phones get no signal at all and see what the signal booster can do. I just haven’t made the time to do so yet.
Why A Signal Booster Is Useful
Anyway, why is this important? After all, if you’re getting at least some signal, isn’t that good enough? Well, sure, if things are normal… but not if your survival depends on it!
For instance, it could be that the nearest cell tower has been damaged, or that you’re in a spot where the signal is spotty anyway, or it could be that everyone else is trying to use their phones too which means your call or text may not go through… all of which is bad for you.
But, if you have a signal booster, that crucial call or text you’re trying to send when disaster strikes could very well get through!
Maybe the closest cell tower is down but the booster can reach out to the next nearest tower when your phone wouldn’t have been able to do so without it.
Or maybe signal is spotty because of a disaster and the signal booster ensures you never lose your connection. (And who’s to say if you’ll ever get through again.)
Or, because the signal booster makes your signal stronger, you’re then more likely to connect your call than other people which means your crucial call gets through when their’s wouldn’t.
The Urban Prepper really went overboard on this one because he’s compiled all of the survival PDF files he’s created over the years and is giving them away for free!
He’s included files covering a wide range of topics, including several versions of an Altoid’s tin survival kit, bug out bag kits, EDC, vehicle preparedness, the survival cheat sheet I linked to a few weeks back, and plenty more. It’s really a wonderful resource he’s offering us today.
In order to get it for yourself, you need to go directly to the YouTube video and click on the link in the description that says: “ALL PDF’s, 1 ZIP…” which is followed by the actual ZIP file link. (FYI, I would link directly to the ZIP file, but it’s not mine to directly give away.)
After the file downloads you’re going to need to extract the contents (here’s how if you need guidance) or you can use something like 7-Zip which is free and a program I’ve used in the past, though, there are certainly other options and it’s probably not necessary if you have a relatively recent version of Windows or Mac.
Note: This extraction process is best done on your computer and not on a tablet or smartphone. Regardless, the extraction process really isn’t that complicated, but it can be frustrating if you’re not very familiar with computers.
My family and I have been visiting my in-laws over the Christmas holidays. The time has been nice and mostly without incident, but the day after Christmas we had an unpleasant surprise await us when we returned from the movies… the house was full of smoke!
You see, my brother-in-law had been trying to keep the house warm with my in-laws wood stove as it’s been rather cold of late here in Missouri.
Unfortunately, he had been using paper to get the wood burning fireplace going rather than firestarter bricks which they normally use.
That, coupled with the fact that they (my in-laws) haven’t had their stove flue cleaned in probably a few years AND, equally important, the flue has two 90-degree bends in it, well… the inevitable happened and the flue clogged up just enough to continue a very slow burn yet not exhaust the smoke up the chimney. And since the smoke had nowhere to go it filled the house.
Normally, we would have quickly noticed something was wrong but, since we all went to the movies, there was nobody home to realize it!
Who knows why my brother-in-law decided to try and start a fire even though we were all leaving. I assumed he wasn’t successful and had given up when I walked out the door, but I was wrong… which brings up another great point: NEVER leave your home unattended if you have a fire going because you never know what might happen.
You see, my in-laws have a few dogs, one cat, and even our dog was trapped in the house as well. Here’s my father-in-law with all the dogs standing outside in the cold:
Fortunately, my sister-in-law (who chose not to go to the movies with us) had decided to stop by and, to her surprise, found a house full of smoke along with a handful of terrified animals. If she had been 15 or 20 minutes later, who knows if we would have had a few dead animals on our hands as well.
When she realized what was going on my sister-in-law quickly called 9-1-1, ushered out the dogs, and managed to corral the cat too. Within minutes the fire department showed up, along with an ambulance and two police cars; I’m sure it was a scene for the neighbors, to say the least.
Within an hour or so the fire department had removed the obvious smoke so we could go inside again. Regrettably, ever since then the entire house has smelled like a campfire but worse because there’s no fresh air to replace the smoky smell. The first night or two most of us had a bit of a headache and I actually slept with the window open even though it was quite cold that night.
It was so bad that we (really my wife and sister-in-law) decided to wash the walls with a vinegar/water solution and vacuumed the carpets with baking soda. Eventually, they’ll get the carpets cleaned professionally too. The cleaning has helped, though, it will probably be months before the smell complete dissipates.
Anyway, I figured I would share a personal example of a failure to be safe to get the New Year off to a running start, lol. Yes, it was a “perfect storm” of mistakes that caused the problem, but all of the mistakes could have easily been avoided had we considered our safety–and that of our pets–and bit more.
Looking for an all-in-one “cheat sheet” that you could laminate and include in your bug out bag? Well, the Urban Prepper recently put together a handy guide that he’s giving away to anyone! Topics covered include food, water, shelter, first aid, fire, comms / navigation, and more. I would encourage you to go directly to the video description to download the PDF guide. You’ll need to print the cheat sheet on legal paper, though, to get it all to fit front and back…
My kid has been watching YouTube videos lately on neat, new gadgets and one that caught my eye was this Splitz-All Log Splitter. And, while I’m not quite sure it’s worth the price tag, the Splitz-All sure is an interesting way to split wood besides with an axe or hydraulic log splitter. Enjoy…
Winter is here, and the temperatures are falling fast. One thing no one wants to think about is the possibility of getting stranded in the snow. How will you survive if you get stranded in the woods during a blizzard, or your car gets stuck in a snowdrift on the side of the road? What about getting snowed-in when the power goes out? Here’s a comprehensive guide that will help keep you alive if you get stranded in the snow.
Stranded in Your Car
You’re heading over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house when the unthinkable happens — you hit a patch of ice and drift into a snowbank, getting your tires stuck. You can call AAA, but you’re stuck with the task of surviving until they reach you. How can you survive getting stranded in your car in the snow?
Car survival starts with proper preparation. You should keep a survival kit in your car at all times, which should include supplies like:
Food: Keep some high-protein,non-perishable snacks in your survival kit, like nuts and protein bars. You’ll need more calories to keep moving if it’s cold.
Water: Store plenty of drinking water in your kit. If you can, store them upside-down so that the tops don’t freeze. You can still get dehydrated even if it’s snowing outside, so make sure you drink plenty of water.
Extra clothing and blankets: You need to stay as warm as possible. Keep an extra set of clothes and some blankets in your car so that you can layer up or change clothes if you get wet.
Flares and flashlights: Emergency flares can help rescue crews see you even if it’s snowing heavily. Flashlights will keep you from draining your phone battery trying to see in the dark.
A spare phone battery and charger: Keep your phone charged so that you can contact emergency services.
A shovel: A military e-tool (folding shovel) is ideal because it takes up very little space when folded. You’ll need to keep your tailpipe clear of snow and other obstructions if you’re planning on running the car to stay warm. If the exhaust pipe gets blocked, it can cause carbon monoxide to back up into the car.
The key is to stay warm until the tow truck or other rescue services can arrive. You can run the car to keep warm, but make sure that the tailpipe is clear. Car interiors aren’t very good at conserving heat, so if you’re worried about running out of gas, just run the car until it’s warm, then shut it off. Turning the car on for short periods will conserve fuel while helping to keep you warm.
Try to remove the snow around and underneath your tires, as well as the snow in front of your car, as much as you can. Then, try to move the vehicle forward and back slowly, a few feet at a time, to see if you can get enough traction to get yourself out of the snow and back onto the road. If you’ve got a few people in the car, you may be able to get yourself un-stuck with some old-fashioned elbow grease.
You can give yourself more traction with sand or kitty litter too. Just make sure you’re using something natural — you’re not going to be picking it up afterward.
[Editor’s note: A come-a-long could be a useful tool for this very purpose.]
Keep snow chains or other traction tools in your survival kit as well. It might be cold outside, but adding chains to your tires is a lot better than staying out in the cold for hours or days on end.
Stranded in the Woods
Camping or hiking in the winter can be fantastic, but getting stranded in a blizzard can be dangerous. The key to survival here is to have the right equipment. You’ll need four primary things to survive if you’re stranded in the wilderness— food, water, shelter and warmth. If you’re camping or hiking, chances are you have at least two of those things. If you don’t have water, melting snow over a campfire is a useful alternative.
You should know that shelter is essential if you’re hiking or stranded without a tent. A proper shelter will help protect you from the wind and keep you a little bit warmer while you ride out the storm. If you find yourself stranded in the wilderness, building a shelter should be your first priority. Look for downed branches, especially those from coniferous trees that still have a lot of foliage on them. You can use them to build a lean-to in a sheltered area to protect you.
If the snow is deep enough, don’t hesitate to start digging. Snow insulates and can help keep you warm and out of the wind. Just make sure the roof of your snow structure is strong enough that it won’t collapse and trap you inside. You can even dig a trench in the snow just large enough for you and top it with the branches you found.
Your second priority is to build a fire, which serves two purposes: to keep you warm–which is vital in these situations–and the smoke from your fire can help rescuers or passers-by narrow in on your location.
Doing so can be difficult in the wintertime because most of the dead wood is wet from the snow, but if you can get a good fire started, you should be able to dry out most anything. You’ll need a firestarter (the Swedish Light My Fire firesteel is good). If you smoke and have a Bic lighter in your pocket, you should be covered. If you don’t usually carry a lighter, starting a fire with wet wood can be nearly impossible. It might be a good skill to practice when you’re not in a survival situation.
Significant Health Hazards in the Winter Woods
Be aware of the two most significant health hazards that come from wintertime survival situations — hypothermia and frostbite.
Hypothermia is the condition that occurs when your body temperature drops too low. You’ll start to shiver uncontrollably — it’s your body’s natural way of trying to warm you up — and you may begin to get confused or have trouble thinking. You’ll know it’s progressed to severe hypothermia if you stop shivering. At this point, your body has used up your energy reserves and can’t keep you warm any longer. At this stage, medical intervention is needed.
Frostbite occurs when the tissue in your extremities or any exposed areas freezes. The water in your cells turns to ice crystals, causing the cells to burst. Severe frostbite can even require amputation. Stay as covered as possible, and take the time to warm up your fingers and toes, especially if they start to tingle or the flesh starts to feel hard.
If you know you’re going to be out in the woods, investing in some self-heating clothing which can help keep you warm no matter how cold it gets. If you’re going to be out in the snow fora while, or you find yourself stranded, this gear ends up being worth every penny.
Once you have a shelter and a fire, it’s time to start thinking about food and water. There are plenty of foods you can forage for in the winter time. Just be sure you double and triple check anything you harvest to be sure that it’s not poisonous.
Stranded at Home
Weathering a winter storm at home might not seem like the hardest thing in the world to do, but if the power goes out and with it your heat, it can quickly become a survival situation.
Keep a storm preparation kit in your home at all times. It will be similar to the one that we listed above in the section about getting stranded in your car, with a few notable differences:
Water: You might be able to get by with a few water bottles in your car, but at home, you’ll need more. Plan on one gallon of water per person per day for the duration of the storm. Half of that is for drinking, and the other half is for hygiene needs.
Battery or crank-powered weather radio: Keep track of the storm and changes in the weather with a radio that’s tuned in to your local NOAA station.
Diapers, formula and other infant supplies: If you have a baby in the home, keep everything they’ll need in your emergency kit.
Pet supplies: The same rule goes for pets. Make sure you have everything they could need for the duration of the storm.
Prescription medications: If anyone in your household relies on prescription medications, make sure you have a sufficient supply on hand before the storm hits.
Flashlights and lanterns: If the power goes out and it’s storming outside, these tools can make it easier to see.
The most important thing to do during a winter storm–especially if the power goes out–is to stay warm, fed and well-hydrated. In most cases, all you can do is wait it out.
If the power is likely to go out, consider investing in a generator to keep your lights, heat and other appliances running until power is restored. Always place the generator outside, and make sure it’s clear of snow and other obstructions before starting it up. Don’t plug your generator into your home’s main power though as doing so can create dangerous feedback for linemen who are trying to restore power after the storm.
Further Steps to Take While Waiting at Home
Unless you have a fireplace, don’t start a fire in the house. If you do have a fireplace, make sure the chimney isn’t blocked by snow for some odd reason. Otherwise, the smoke and CO2 can start building up to dangerous levels inside your home since it will have nowhere else to go.
[Editor’s note: ALWAYS have a quality battery-powered CO2 alarm if you have a fireplace or any gas appliances… it could save your life!]
Keep each room closed, primarily if you’re relying on a fireplace or portable space heaters to keep warm, and try to avoid going outside if at all possible. Homes are designed to maintain their internal temperature, but opening doors let in more cold air which then must be needlessly heated. Besides, it’s usually safer to stay inside during a winter storm anyway.
Remember to be aware of the signs of frostbite and hypothermia even at home. Make sure to stay dry. You might sweat or get wet from moving snow away from the door or generator. If you do, change your clothes immediately upon coming inside! Wet clothing pulls more heat away from the body, increasing your risk of hypothermia.
When you’re sheltering at home, the best thing you can do is stay warm, stay hydrated and wait for the storm to pass. Electric companies sometimes can’t work to restore power until the storm is over, so be prepared to remain in place even after the sun comes out and the storm dies down.
Take the time to check on your neighbors once it’s safe to do so as well. Young children and the elderly are more at risk during a winter storm, so if you can safely walk to the neighbors’ house then it might be worth it to check on them and make sure they’re warm and have plenty of food and water.
Staying Safe in the Worst Circumstances
No one wants to think about getting stranded in the snow, but it does happen. The best thing you can do, in any of these situations, is to be prepared for it. Set up an emergency kit in your car and home. Keep a small survival kit — with supplies like matches, a knife, a saw and some high-protein snacks — on your person or in a vehicle at all times. If you’re heading out into the wilderness, be prepared. Have proper clothing, and remember the four most important things that you need — food, water, shelter and warmth.
Winter is here–ready or not–and the snow has already started to fall. Being prepared for such a situation can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. Take the time to prepare now, before you need any of these supplies or survival skills. Wintertime is beautiful, but without the proper preparation, it can also be deadly. Stay safe out there.
I’m really starting to like this guy a lot because he offers good, solid advice and clearly knows what he’s talking about with respect to wilderness survival. Today he’s discussing whether or not those trusty ferro rods every prepper–including me–tends to include in their packs is worth having… and stick around to the 12:00 mark to see his “trick” for fire starting.