How to Prep for a Flood in 7 Easy Steps

Flooding is a natural part of our planet’s ecosystem, but for inhabitants of flood-risk areas, high water is the harbinger of destruction and even death. In America’s most flood-prone states, like California, Florida and Arizona, up to 25 percent of housing units sit within a 100- or 500-year floodplain. Flooding can occur nearly anywhere rainfall touches, and as climate change shifts toward more dramatic weather, the damage caused during the wet season is becoming exponentially worse for residents of these areas.

Water damage from flooding can destroy your home and vehicle. Six inches of moving water is enough to sweep you off your feet, and two feet of moving water can make a full-sized car float. In places like New Orleans, Puerto Rico and New York City, the harsh realities of flood damage have seen people lose everything after getting overrun by high water from hurricanes and tropical storms.

In addition to the risk of long-term damage to your possessions, the short-term realities of surviving a flood can be daunting. Navigating flooded streets can be extremely dangerous and is not always a viable solution. Staying put has a different set of risks, and might require you to get by without power for several days.

1. Understand Your Flood Risk

If you live in a floodplain, you probably know it. Maps like those available through FEMA and the NYU Furman Center can provide information about the risk of flooding in different regions of the country. However, for many people, flooding is just a fact of life. It’s a risk that comes with living in the area they can afford or that they wish to call home. With all indicators pointing to our weather only becoming more extreme, you should have a plan to prepare for the next flood.

Floodplains fall into 100- and 500-year categories based on how frequently you can expect severe flooding in the defined area. The first step in actively preparing to face a flood is understanding how at-risk you are. We recommend visiting resources like the Furman Center Flood Zone Hazard Map, which can give you an accurate depiction of your risk of flooding at a high level, with the ability to zoom in on detailed areas down to the street level.

2. Know How to Stay Informed

If you pay attention to weather forecasts like most adults, you probably have some idea of when to expect wet weather. While it can be easy to rely on television and the internet, simpler forms of communication specifically, radio tend to be favorable in a flood scenario. Your county or city weather service will issue a flood watch when weather conditions show signs of potential flooding. If the flood watch changes to a flood warning, you should be prepared to move quickly or get your home ready to withstand flooding.

Make sure your entire family is familiar with emergency phone numbers to call for your area to check for evacuations and flooding updates. If internet access is available throughout the flood, you will be able to receive updates via social media and using online resources from NOAA, FEMA and others. These agencies offer phone services you can sign up for beforehand as a redundancy. You should also have a battery-powered or hand-crank radio on hand to receive updates if you lose power and internet connectivity dies.

3. Be Prepared to Evacuate

Severe flooding is challenging for most people to ride out comfortably. Know the quickest path to high ground from your home, and have a vehicle fueled up and ready in an area where it won’t be off-limits if you need to get out quickly. Know where to find all medication your family needs, as well as all essential documents. Store these items ahead of time in waterproof containers so they won’t get damaged if things get wet before you leave home.

Consider keeping a bug-out kit stashed in your evacuation vehicle to make your exit more efficient, as well as a survival kit in place in your home if you can’t evacuate. Talk to your family ahead of time, so everyone knows where to gather and what route to use in the event of an evacuation. During an evacuation, keep your radio on and listen for updates. If you get separated from loved ones, consider having them coordinate with friends or relatives to ensure everyone leaves in time.

4. Make Your Home Flood-Ready

Consider you may need to stay with your house through the flood, but that even if you don’t, you’ll want to have a safe, dry place to come back to after it subsides. That means you need to plan to protect the home itself, as well as provision it for the people who will stay there. Making your home flood-ready can be a long process, so you might want to get a head start on some of these things before the wet part of the year. For example, homes elevated on stilts are naturally safer than those closer to the ground. Move appliances like your water heater, furnace and electrical breaker to the house’s upper floors to limit the chance of their exposure to floodwaters.

If possible, do not install electrical outlets lower than 12 inches off the ground. You should know where your home’s breaker box is and how to disable all power if needed. A gasoline generator can be an invaluable resource during a flood, and is something homeowners who live in flood-prone areas should think of as a must. Make sure to keep a supply of usable fuel on hand if you do have one. It is possible to rig your car up to function as a generator in a desperate scenario. However, not everyone will have the equipment or know-how to do this, so if you don’t have a permanent one installed, consider a visit to your local hardware store ahead of time to purchase a stand-alone unit and some gas cans.

In your home’s plumbing, install pressure-sensitive check valves that will stop floodwaters from entering all drains, showers, faucets and toilets. You can use plugs as a last resort however, thinking ahead and using valves is much safer. Use sealing compound to seal any cracks in the basement or first-level concrete walls.

5. Protect Your House From Rising Waters

Next, move to preparing the house to be safe from floodwaters approaching outside. You can construct a levee or berm using packed earth with enough lead time. More high-tech solutions include inflatable barriers like the AquaDam perimeter flood barrier, which provided a temporary water-filled floor barrier. Seal off all windows and any vents into the house that are close to ground level.

You should augment your barricade with sandbags, which can be an arduous task, so plan your time accordingly. A good rule to keep in mind is that it takes about an hour for a team of two to build a 20-foot wall of 100 sandbags. Use this basic math to work out the time it will take to complete a barrier for your entire home when making the difficult decision to stay or evacuate. If you keep animals or livestock, consider moving any fencing or enclosures so they have access to high ground to get away from floodwaters if needed.

Since finding burlap bags, shovels and sand can be a challenge in a flood, it’s a best practice to have these items ready to go ahead of time and stored in an easy-to-access place. Sandbags not only help hold back water, but can absorb some of what hits the ground, making them invaluable in a home-protection situation. In some communities, their local government makes sandbags available to residents, so check online to see if there’s a way to have some delivered for you before things get bad.

If you have extra time, consider moving furniture in the home to a higher floor to make your stay more comfortable and reduce the chance of water damage. Remove any floor coverings like rugs and welcome mats from the ground floor of your home and move them to higher ground. Leaving them will almost certainly result in their destruction.

Flood insurance, while it can be expensive, can make the difference between losing everything and a swift recovery for those who live in problem areas. If you know your home is at risk of severe flood damage, consider speaking to your insurance company about coverage. Ultimately, not even the best-prepared house will be 100 percent safe from a serious flood. Insurance can help you and your family rebuild or relocate and avoid a painful reality if things get severely damaged.

6. Stock Food and Water

Clean water and food are essential if you’re going to remain in your home, and you should have plenty of both. Fill bottles with fresh water and store them somewhere that is not at risk of flooding, so you won’t need to risk getting wet to retrieve your supplies. Make a stockpile of canned and nonperishable food items you can prepare without power. As a backup plan, have at least one method of purifying water that doesn’t rely on electricity, such as a gravity filter or iodine tablets, so you and your family won’t have to go without drinking water. Floodwater is never safe to drink.

Don’t integrate the food you’ll rely on during a flood with your regular pantry. Instead, store it separately, so you don’t use it all, and set a reminder to check the dates on items, so you don’t find they’ve expired right when you need them. You can consider storing your emergency rations in a watertight container such as a large cooler or chest, which might make it easier to transport if you need to relocate the food to a higher area in preparation for a coming flood.

As you’ve probably already concluded, pre-packaged sealed items that don’t go bad quickly such as soups, canned meats and vegetables are the safest items to eat during a flood. You can use military rations such as MREs if you have them, as well as meal-ration bars packaged in a way that seals them from contact with floodwater. Avoid items with snap closures or twist-off caps, which can become contaminated more easily. If at all possible, do not consume any food that touches floodwater, as there can be waterborne bacteria and other contaminants such as gasoline and industrial chemicals and human waste swept up in the debris.

If you have power and want to attempt to cook during a flood, make sure to clean and disinfect all kitchen equipment. This tip is crucial if you need to boil water to purify it. If your home draws water from a well, it is not safe to use following a flood. Continue to drink and cook with your emergency water supply until you can verify the well water is safe to drink. Disinfect and test any well water before using it.

7. Know How to Ride out the Flood

All the preparatory work in the world can’t stop those floodwaters from coming, so being safe in a flood also means understanding how to safely endure the hours or days when you have to remain in your home. If you are in a secure location to stay indoors, turn off the power and make sure you have your emergency rations near you. Have your radio, phone and any other communications devices ready, and pay attention for updates from authorities. If you need to venture out, wear waterproof clothes and use a car with ground clearance unless it’s not an option. If you get caught on a flooded road, leave the car and move to high ground.

Avoid beaches and riverbanks, as well as any low spots where floodwater may pool. Notify your friends and relatives of your location as soon as possible, and if you did evacuate, only return to your home after authorities declare the area safe. The aftermath of flooding can be disastrous. However, if you take these precautions, you stand the best chance of getting through it safely and preserving your home in the best condition possible.

Note: This was a guest post.

Can You Spot What’s Wrong Here?

This is a photo of my front door, maybe you can spot what’s wrong quickly:

If not, maybe this photo helps:

You see the door security latch there? It’s missing an important part:

I’d say it’s kind of useless without that piece, wouldn’t you?

The sad thing is that nothing major happened to make it break off. In fact, all I did was fling the door open a little harder than normal (because I was hauling in some firewood) and the piece literally just fell off.

The door (and thereby the security latch) didn’t even hit the wall but, instead, a shoe rack that we have to contain all of my kids shoes that they can’t figure out how to put in their room.

Perhaps this security bar latch was just a dud but, to be honest, that doesn’t give me any “warm and fuzzies” that these devices will do their job if/when the time ever comes that they’re truly needed.

Beware! Now I get to go test the other latches I have… and maybe you should too.

Why You Should NEVER Use Paper to Start a Wood Stove

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.

Be safe out there.

How to Survive Getting Stranded in the Snow

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.

[Editor’s note: This was a guest post.]

7 Things You Should Never Burn in Your Fireplace (and why)

Image Credit

I have a bunch of old papers that I need to get rid of and it occurred to me that I could just burn them in my fireplace one day, but I got to wondering if that was really a good idea as I’d never done so before (I’d always done this outdoors).

Well, it turns out that “it depends” on precisely what I’m burning, but I did find this article on several items I should never burn in the fireplace and wanted to share it with you, too, so you’re aware as well…

“The fireplace looks like a handy place to dispose of unwanted combustibles, but it’s safest to burn only dry, seasoned firewood.  Many items you might innocently pop into the fireplace create serious hazards.

  1.  Don’t burn colored paper.  The inks used in wrapping paper, newspaper inserts, and magazines contain metals that can give off toxic fumes when burned.  Paper burns very quickly, so there is also a danger that flames may enter the chimney and ignite the creosote deposits in the flue.  Balls of paper can ‘float’ up the chimney on the hot air that is rising through the chimney and ignite flammable materials outside the home.

  2. Never burn painted, stained, or treated wood or manufactured wood such as plywood and particle board.  Chemicals in ‘salt treated’ wood, paint, or stains can produce toxic fumes when burned.  Likewise, burning manufactured wood products produces toxins and carcinogens…”

Read the full article here

What If We Regulated Driving Like We Do Guns?

Image Credit

Yesterday I shared a brief video about Washington’s I-1639 passing that seriously restricts gun ownership, and I clearly wasn’t happy about it. I’m still not happy about it passing and, like the guy said in the video, most of the law won’t directly impact me whatsoever. Regardless, it’s still the wrong way to go but first…

Today I woke up at about 3 am still thinking about it… and still upset. Then, this morning I turn on the news to hear about another shooting, this time in a California bar.

What a shame. I simply don’t understand what these shooters hope to gain by doing this; it must be the infamy of going out in a blaze of glory. Odds are this guy had mental problems that weren’t properly dealt with, but only time will tell.

The thing is that we always seem to blame the gun for such deaths, but that’s just not the case. Now, I’m hesitant to use the saying, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” but it’s true.

Saying that guns kill people because they exist would be like saying that cars kill people because they exist. Literally. But we both know that’s not true. Cars don’t actually kill people… it’s the driver’s behind the wheel who do. There may be extenuating circumstances (such as poor road conditions) but it’s still up to the driver to drive safely.

The statistics are staggering

According to these CDC stats, America averages between 30-40 thousand deaths by firearm (homicides and suicides combined) each year, give or take a few thousand, and it appears to be rising. I’ll certainly agree that’s a lot and the trend is moving in the wrong direction.

And if firearms didn’t actually exist then, yes, these deaths in this manner would not have occurred. Would they have occurred in another way, say, with suicides? Well, Japan has very strict gun laws and a relatively high suicide rate… you do the math.

What about deaths on the road? Although motor vehicle fatalities were trending lower over the past decade, the trend seems to be on the rise again, totaling as many or more deaths per year as firearms at about 37,000 per year, according to Wikipedia.

Clearly, firearm deaths and motor vehicle deaths are not equal. People certainly use a vehicle in their daily lives far more than a firearm. I get that. But the fact still remains that as many or more people die from vehicle-related deaths as they do with guns.

And if we’re truly interested in reducing preventable fatalities then we should consider all major causes of preventable death, including firearms, vehicles, drug overdoes (many of which are prescriptions and cause more deaths than either firearms or vehicles), and so on… but only firearms get vilified day in and day out.

Initiative 1639 highlights

So, what would it be like if we treated your car just like Washington state want’s to treat guns?

Let’s find out…

Washington Initiative 1639 includes quite a bit. Once enacted, the law would:

  • Raise age limits for purchasing certain firearms
  • Require waiting periods after purchasing a firearm
  • Impose additional fees when purchasing a firearm
  • Require proof of firearms safety training
  • Increase background checks before purchasing a firearm
  • Require firearms to be securely stored or disabled by use of trigger-locks
  • Require approval from local police or sheriff to own a firearm

I’m sure there’s more in there that I missed, but these are the biggest problems I see. Now, on the surface, they sound reasonable enough. But, let’s substitute the word “firearm” for the word “vehicle” and see how reasonable it would be if this were your car and your lifestyle that we’re legislating…

Raise age limits for purchasing certain vehicles

One thing the initiative does is to raise the age limit on purchasing certain firearms from age 18 to 21: “This initiative would make it illegal for a person under 21 years of age to buy a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle. It would make it illegal for any person to sell or transfer a semiautomatic assault rifle to a person under age 21.”

What if we applied this same logic to a car? What if we said that a legal adult at age 18 couldn’t buy a sports car, such as Ford Mustang, until they were age 21 because of the perceived risk a sports car brings? Would that be acceptable?

Or, better yet, why not say they can’t buy a sports car until age 25 when insurance rates tend to drop even more? After all, young male drivers are known to be most at risk for making poor decisions behind the wheel, especially when speed is involved. A sports car surely makes it easier to speed, I can attest to that.

Why not apply the same logic to motorcycle purchases? After all, most motorcyclists I’ve seen on the road tend to speed or weave in and out of traffic, and they’re certainly more at risk of dying from an accident than the driver of a vehicle.

Let’s target SUV’s while we’re at it… most of “those people” drive poorly too, particularly in bad weather.

And if I kept trying I’m sure I could figure out how to target almost every car or group of drivers out there. Eventually nobody will be driving!

What about upper age limits?

Here’s another take that’s just going to upset quite a few people: what if we had an upper age limit on who can purchase–or even drive–certain vehicles?

What if, for instance, we said anyone who was retirement age couldn’t purchase specific vehicles or, worse, once you hit age 70 (an arbitrary number I just made up) that you couldn’t drive anymore?

Would you be fine with that? After all, older drivers may be just as much of a hazard on the road as the younger ones. Don’t get mad at me, though, we’re just trying to do everything we can to stay safe on the road!

Require waiting periods after purchasing a vehicle

Another requirement of I-1639 is to “…require a dealer to wait at least 10 days before delivering a semiautomatic assault rifle to a buyer.” Of course, this could take much longer due to background check backlogs, lost paperwork, or who knows why.

What if we did the same thing with vehicles?

What if, instead of being able to drive off the new car lot with your shiny new sports car (now at age 25) you had to wait? Possibly for weeks? You wouldn’t be very happy at all!

Now, what if we made everyone wait before they could take possession of any new car they buy, even from a private seller?

Dealerships wouldn’t be very pleased, that’s for sure. It kind of ruins their whole sales pitch and there may be a few “buyer’s remorse” returns too. That may hurt the economy a bit.

Insurance companies may not be very happy either, especially if there’s damage to a vehicle during the interim period where the dealer still holds a car due to the waiting period and when the owner takes possession. Though I’m sure they’re figure out a way around that or, more likely, they’ll charge you a “new vehicle holding” fee.

And, of course, new car owners won’t be very happy either.

Impose additional fees when purchasing a vehicle

The initiative would also “…allow the state to impose a fee of up to $25 on each purchaser of a semiautomatic assault rifle. This fee would be used to offset certain costs of implementing the initiative. The fee would be adjusted for inflation.”

Wait, we already impose new car fees, lol.

That’s just more money for the state to grab and do whatever they want with. Granted, the fees probably wouldn’t amount to very much, but it’s still YOUR money that they’re taking.

Require proof of vehicle safety training

The initiative states that: “Buyers would be required to provide proof that they have completed a recognized firearm safety training program within the past five years.”

What if we made anyone who wants to purchase a new car show proof that they completed a vehicle safety course within the past five years? Would you want to take a safety course every five years? How quickly would this become redundant? After a handful of these safety courses you could probably teach the course yourself.

Firearms are no different; once you understand the basics of firearms safety and familiarize yourself with the firearm (assuming it’s new to you) there really isn’t much else you need to reeducate yourself about. Requiring proof of training every five years is just silly.

Increase background checks before purchasing a vehicle

Continuing their intrusive behavior: “Background check and record keeping requirements that currently apply only to the purchase of pistols would also apply to the purchase of semiautomatic assault rifles. The same requirements for collecting and maintaining information on purchases of pistols would apply to purchases of semiautomatic assault rifles.”

What if dealerships were now required to pull your DMV record to determine if you were fit to drive? Would you be fine with that?

Granted, I know we have laws in place to revoke your driver’s license if you’ve had too many violations (or specific ones such as a DUI) but what if we did the same thing before purchasing your next car? Who gets to decide precisely what makes you a bad driver? And how far back to they get to look? I know I’m a very different driver today than I was in my youth; I’d suspect you were too.

Require vehicles to be securely stored or disabled by use of trigger-locks

I-1639 continues: “The initiative would create new criminal offenses for the unsafe storage of a firearm if a person who cannot legally possess a firearm gets it and uses it in specified ways. These crimes would apply to a person who stores or leaves a firearm in a place where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a prohibited person may gain access to the firearm.”

Basically, it’s saying that you, as a legal gun owner, are now responsible for the actions of another should your firearm be stolen (or taken without permission, such as by your child) and then commits a crime with your stolen gun if you failed to “reasonably” secure it.

So, what if we make the same requirement of your car? Should you be required to not only lock up your car each day at home, but to securely store it in some fashion? What about at work or while you’re at the grocery store?

Maybe you’re only required to “lock up” your keys. Would you be willing and able to do that each and every day, every time you use your car? And if you didn’t, you could be charged with a felony in some cases!

In fact, just yesterday I heard about this 11 year old kid who stole his parent’s car and led police on a high-speed chase. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured and, while they’re filing felony charges against the child in juvenile court, according to this law they may also be able to file felony charges against you in some cases when you had nothing to do with it. Is that fair to you?

What if, for instance, you locked up your keys in a gun safe like you’re supposed to, but a thief stole the safe, eventually broke into it, subsequently stole your car, and ended up getting into a fatal accident? Are you responsible then? What’s reasonable in this situation?

That said, the initiative does state that: “Those crimes would not apply if the firearm was in secure gun storage, meaning a locked box, gun safe, or other locked storage space that is designed to prevent unauthorized use or discharge of a firearm.”

We’ll see how long that wording stays in or how much wiggle room a prosecutor wants to apply to the law.

The initiative does attempt to clarify: “The crimes would not apply if the person who gets the firearm is ineligible to possess it because of age… [or] in cases of self-defense… [or] if the person who is ineligible to possess a firearm obtains it through unlawful entry, if the unauthorized access or theft is reported to law enforcement within five days of the time the victim knew or should have known that the firearm had been taken.”

Right. Like I said, we’ll see how judiciously such wording gets used and abused when there’s an overzealous prosecutor or judge involved.

Require approval from local police or sheriff to own a vehicle

“Finally, the initiative would require [law enforcement] to verify that people who have acquired pistols or semiautomatic assault rifles remain eligible to possess a firearm under state and federal law… [and] to take steps to ensure that persons legally ineligible to possess firearms are not illegally in possession of firearms.”

What if we did this with your car? What if authorities went so far as to track what car your’re driving and were able to revoke your driver’s license if they found out you were driving the wrong type of car for whatever reason?

Think this can’t happen? Nearly everything can be tracked these days, especially with the use of smartphones, GPS, and other smart devices. If they wanted to track which car you’re driving, they can figure it out.

Then it’s just a matter of tracking you down physically and revoking your license… or maybe they’ll just send you a text, lol.

Concluding thoughts

I get the purpose behind the law. I do. And on the surface it sounds like a good step towards solving the problem, but we always have to remember that criminals don’t care about the law. Initiatives such as this really only hinder law-abiding citizens.

We also need to recognize that we already have laws in place to prevent or remove access to firearms from those who are most likely to harm themselves or others, specifically the mentally ill.

Of course, there’s also the duty of gun owners to recognize situations where easy access to your firearms may be a bad idea. If, for instance, you have a teenager (especially a male teen) who is showing signs of depression, lock up your guns!

Statistics consistently show that suicides are the primary cause of death by firearms, year over year, and that firearms are the chosen tool here in America. We cannot ignore this fact. But it shouldn’t be up to the government to tell us responsible gun owners how to act.

It’s up to us to take the initiative (no pun intended) and to do the right thing where we can, and if that means locking up your firearms when you never have before because your teenage son is now moody little shit, then do it.

Bad things do happen, but they can happen a lot less if we, as law-abiding and responsible gun owners, take the initiative on our own… pun intended.

49 Expert Tips, Tricks, and Advice for New, Teen Drivers Book

I just realized that I forgot to mention that my latest book, How to Drive Safely: 49 Expert Tips, Tricks, and Advice for New, Teen Drivers, is currently available and FREE for the next two or three days on Amazon Kindle (through Thursday, I believe).

I know it’s not quite a “survival” book that most people expect, but I’d say it’s one of the most important books anyone could read to keep them safe in their daily lives, especially for new drivers… like my oldest son is about to be. Besides, even seasoned drivers could use the refresher; I know I learned a few statistics that started me and it reinforced quite a few safe driving habits I’d been lax about in recent decades, lol.

Here’s What’s Covered Inside…

  • The Most Dangerous Driving Times, Days, and Situations (some of these might surprise you)
  • 5 Actions You Should Always Do Before Driving Off (how spending 15 seconds now can save your life)
  • Why Not Speeding is Much More Than Avoiding Speeding Tickets (and why it doesn’t actually save time)
  • What NOT to Do While Driving (you’d be surprised at how much safer you’ll be)
  • 11 More Common-Sense Safety Tips to Know (these could keep you the safest of all)
  • Why Semi-Trucks and Other Large Vehicles Deserve Special Attention (hint: they always win car accidents)
  • How to Really Get Your Car Ready for the Road (most people ignore these to their detriment)

Why You Must Start Educating Them Now…

Young adults think they know everything, they think they’re invincible, and they think that nothing bad will ever happen to them. You and I both know that’s not true. You simply MUST prepare your new, teen driver to be as safe as possible while you still have the opportunity to do so… here’s how to educate your teen to drive safely on the road right from the start.

(And, like I said, I’m sure you’ll appreciate reading it too.)

Get the Book Now So You Stay Safe

It’s simple to do, just scroll down and click the “Buy Now” button and you’ll get this knowledge instantly delivered to your fingertips only moments from now.

Once on the Amazon.com page, just click the “Buy now with 1-click” option to get the book for free on your Kindle.

Thank you and stay safe out there.

P.S. All I ever ask when I give my books away for free is that, when you’re finished, give it a quick rating or review on Amazon and choose to share it with your friends and family before the free deal expires so they have this valuable knowledge too.

You Know What’s Worse Than Smoke Alarms Going Off For No Reason In The Middle Of The Night?

Image Credit

Last night at about 1:45 am, which is technically today, our interconnected house smoke alarms went off for no reason. You know, the smoke alarms where if one goes off, they all go off. Yeah, those. I make this distinction because we also have a handful of independent, battery-powered smoke alarms throughout the house and none of those went off.

Anyway, I never do well when I’m startled out of bed in the middle of the night and last night was no exception; it took me a few seconds to realize what was going on, but once I did my wife and I bolted out of the room and started looking for the trouble… followed very closely by a now shaking dog who NEVER appreciates it when the smoke alarms sound.

Once I realized that there wasn’t a problem on the main level, I quickly ran downstairs fearing that the kids had maybe left the space heater on and it caught something on fire. But, when I checked, I saw no fire and smelled no smoke. So, I quickly moved to my boy’s room (they share a room)… nothing. Finally, I checked on my niece’s room… nothing again.

My oldest son managed to rouse himself from his slumber enough to ask me what was going on. I didn’t know and told him to go back to bed.

The smoke alarms were still going off at this time and, realizing there wasn’t an immediate threat, I started to attempt to silence the smoke alarms but they stopped blaring at about the same time. I then choose to do one last check around the house just to be sure. Still nothing.

Confused, I tried to lay back down and wouldn’t you know it… the smoke alarms went off again about 20 minute later!

Less concerned that there was an actual fire, I decided to silence the alarms initially because they were driving me nuts, and then I set off to check the house yet again. Nothing. I’m not disappointed, mind you, just confused.

This morning I did a quick search to try and figure out why I was so rudely awoke in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, and I happened upon this article which gave me a few possibilities besides the obvious ones, including:

  • Humidity / steam. Apparently smoke alarms can’t distinguish between smoke particles and high moisture content which I think is odd, though probably not my problem because it’s wintertime and not super humid in the house.
  • Chemical odors. This would be strong odors, such as ammonia or paint fumes. I wasn’t using any strong chemicals or painting in the middle of the night, so this probably isn’t the issue either.
  • Dust. I think I knew that dust could set off a smoke alarm but, again, there’s no reason for heavy amounts of dust to have been in the air.
  • Insects. I had no idea that small bugs could crawl into a smoke alarm and set one off. And, if I had to pick one odd reason, this would be it because we do have an inordinate amount of creepy-crawlies around and inside our house.

Now, let me get to the entire point of this post…

You Know What’s Worse Than Smoke Alarms Going Off For No Reason In The Middle Of The Night?

Besides being started half-to-death, what’s worse is that my youngest son (who’s now twelve years old) didn’t even budge when the alarms went off!

And it’s not like they went off for only a few seconds; the first time they went off they had to be sounding for at least a minute or two. That should clearly be long enough to have woke him up at least to wonder what was going on, but apparently not.

You know, when my kids were much younger, I did worry that they wouldn’t wake up when a smoke alarm went off because I’d seen it happen. After all, young kids can seemingly sleep through anything. I figured, however, that my now much older kids would surely wake up. I was wrong.

In fact, I just asked him this morning if he’d heard the smoke alarm last night and he responded, “No. The smoke alarms went off last night?”

And that’s what I’m now still afraid of.

Boxes and Bungee Cords as Earthquake Proofing?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about earthquakes again, mostly because I’ve run into various YouTube videos and whatnot talking about the “Big One” to hit the west coast, but not the one you’re thinking of to hit California… the Cascadia Event to hit the Pacific Northwest where I live. To be honest, if that one ever hits us, boxes and bungee cords won’t save us.

That said, it is possible that smaller, shorter duration earthquakes could hit us like the ones I grew up with in California. With that in mind, I’ve started to consider what problems we could run into as a result, and one of those problems is our ability egress. Here’s where I’ve started:

Boxes and bungee cords as earthquake proofing

I’ve picked the space above our washer and dryer as the place to start because, although you can’t tell, that area happens to be the main pathway between our bedrooms and the family room and front door. In other words: it’s the bottleneck for traffic in our home.

And, while there are doorways to exit each bedroom so that we wouldn’t have to go through this area (if an earthquake struck at night, for instance) odds are that we may still need to walk through the area for a number of reasons after an earthquake hit.

Now, I really should have taken a photo of what it all looked like before I started this mini project but, honestly, I wasn’t planning on writing about it until I was done. Oh, well… just picture all sorts of cleaners and glass bottles lining both shelves and you get the idea.

For months I’d walk by that area and I kept thinking to myself, “What if an earthquake struck and those glass bottles came crashing down and broke on the floor where we’d have to walk?” To make things worse, “What if the cleaners came down and spilled so that now we had a slick floor and broken glass to walk over?” There are so many homemade cleaners as well as laundry soap up there that something would assuredly spill and be a hazard.

So, the current solution was to group items together into boxes because I figured that it would take more effort for an entire box to come flying off a shelf than a single bottle which, in my opinion, increases the chances that everything will stay put.

Of course, I know that even entire boxes can come sliding off the shelves during an earthquake which is why I plan on adding bungee cords to hold the boxes in place too but, for now, I’ve just used a single bungee cord for holding the loose, large bottles in place, such as the laundry soap and vinegar you see to the left.

I might also take the boxes sitting on the top shelf and move them to the garage because most of that stuff is rarely accessed as an extra precaution.

Anyway, it’s a start. Will boxes and bungee cords do any good during an earthquake? Who knows, but I do know that I feel better about the whole situation and, at the very least, I’m beginning to be proactive again about our family’s disaster safety.

What do you think? Is this worth a darn or not? What can I do better?

Insulin Wallet

I wanted to point out something that a reader mentioned a while back about what you can do to keep insulin cool while on foot, during a bug out, or whatever the case may be. It’s called an FRIO Insulin Cooling Wallet.

The idea is simple: get the wallet wet with cold water and it can keep cool for several days. Here’s a portion of the product description:

“The FRIO Insulin Cooling Wallet Large is a diabetic medication cooling system that utilizes water to keep cool for several days. With no refrigeration required, the Frio Wallet Large is great for use while traveling and can be used in temperatures up to 120°F. To use, immerse the wallet into cold water for 5-15 minutes so the crystals inside the wallet expand into a gel; once completed, the FRIO is ready to use. The FRIO Wallet Large is able to hold either one insulin injector pen and 15 x 1.5ml cartridge, 1 insulin injector pen and 10 x 3ml cartridge, 5x insulin injector disposable pens, 4x 10ml vials, 2x insulin injector pens, and 6x 3ml cartridges (none are included).”

And here’s a video describing it:

Obviously, this doesn’t have to be used for diabetic supplies but really anything that may need to be kept cool/refrigerated and can find properly inside the wallet, such as medicated eye drops.

For those with such a need I hope it helps!

insulin-wallet