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)

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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?

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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?

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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

Swap Out Your Food and Water Supplies for the Coming Warm Weather

Now that the weather is beginning to change and warm up a bit, I figured I would post a friendly reminder for you to change out any food and water supplies that you’ve had stored away.

Specifically, I’m thinking about the food and water in your bug out bags, vehicle kits, as well as any you may have elsewhere such as at a friends house, in buried caches (if they’re not too much trouble to get at), and so on.

Even if you think they’re still good you should consider replacing them (in my opinion) twice a year if you can to ensure that they’re edible, nutritious, and safe to consume if/when you need them.

Why do this?

Sometimes it may seem like too much trouble to replace your food and water twice a year. After all, it’s both work and an expense that may seem unnecessary but I beg to differ. If there’s any of your preps that you’re guaranteed to use during an emergency it’s going to be your food and water.

No doubt that these will go bad over time, certainly faster in hot weather and vehicle kits are a prime location for being exposed to hot weather. Similarly, freezing weather can cause trouble with your food stores.

Wait a minute. Isn’t it going to be hot soon?

Yes. It may seem counter-intuitive to replace your food and water stores BEFORE it gets hot. Honestly, if there’s anytime that you’d want to change out your water and food it would be AFTER the summer heat has passed for sure.

But, seeing as though an entire six months of being exposed to cold weather (even freezing temps) prior to also being exposed to very warm weather for six months *could* be just the thing that made your emergency food go bad or perhaps be less nutritious.

Longer term food and water stores that aren’t subject to extreme heat (or cold) are probably fine to not worry about it the proper precautions have been taken but the food in vehicle kits, in particular, are a concern.

What to do with the food you’re replacing?

Use them up! If they’re meals then make your life easy once or twice a week for a while and eat them instead. If they’re shelf-stable snacks then eat them before getting into the freshest snacks you probably also eat.

That’s my two cents, anyway.

Distracted Driving Patrols On NOW!

I was driving around my town yesterday and noticed one of those giant lit road signs along the highway that stated: “Distracted Driving Patrols on NOW” which happened to get my attention. I later found out this is a part of the “U Text. U Drive. U Pay.” campaign that’s taking place in 100 precincts here in Washington state.

At the time I read the sign I wondered, “What’s that about?” Then it occurred to me that it must have something to do with texting on cell phones. Personally, I don’t text on my phone while driving but I might do so while stopped at a stop light, for example. Honestly, I’m still not a big fan of texts.

My wife used to be somewhat bad about reading texts–and probably even texting–while driving but I would get on her about it time and again and I believe she’s much better now. My niece who lives with us… probably not so good still.

Anyway, for some reason I decided to look into the Washington state “distracted driving” thing and wound up at the Washington State Traffic Commission’s website which states:

“Distracted driving is a concern for everyone. A distracted driver is one who is paying attention to something other than driving. The distraction can be anything from typing a text message to putting a disk in a CD player or talking on a cell phone.”

I can see that texting is a problem as you really have to concentrate on punching the right letters and can easily distract you but putting a CD into the radio or even talking on the phone isn’t such a big deal, in my opinion. Heck, I do that stuff all the time! By the way, it’s apparently illegal to even talk on the phone here in Washington while driving… ugh.

One of the links I came across from the Washington State Traffic Commission’s site brought me to an injury claims site in New York which points out that the following are also distractions:

  • Eating – I do this on occasion, especially when in a hurry.
  • Grooming – I don’t have any hair but I can see how people do this. Here’s a crazy report on how a woman gets a $200 ticket for applying lip balm at a red light.
  • Talking to passengers in the vehicle – Really???
  • Tending to children or pets in the vehicle – Good luck totally ignoring a screaming 6 month old!
  • Looking at another accident, or “rubber-necking” – Ok, we all occasionally do this a bit too much.
  • Sightseeing – too many distractions, I guess. 😉
  • Changing the radio station – Oh, boy… now we’re ALL in trouble.
  • Daydreaming – I’m not even sure where I am half the time!

So, basically, I can see this as turning into a situation where ANYTHING a police officer deems as being “distracting” can be grounds for writing you a ticket and that’s where this becomes a problem… hello Nanny State.

On the one hand I want to applaud the educational efforts as I’m sure there are occasions where distracted driving does cause accidents (sources estimate 25% of accidents are caused by distracted driving) but policing my behaviors to such an extent is a bit much, don’t you think? How about you just work to educate us and NOT fine me?

Anyway, what I really wanted to do here today was to point out that if you do text and drive… it can wait! Please do yourself the safety service and ONLY text when stopped and you have the time… and probably NOT at a stoplight, lest you receive a hefty fine. 😉

4 Misconceptions About Fire Shutters (Guest Post)

Commercial building fires are more prevalent than house fires.

True or false?

False.

Based on the survey conducted by the Society of Fire Protection Engineers in the US, most reported fire incidents have started from homes, kitchens mostly.

Residential fires caused the majority of deaths and injuries.

Most buildings have impenetrable industrial roller doors and advanced warning systems. Hence, most non-residential fires have more survivors than house fires.

So far, no house, shop or office (no matter how hi-tech) can withstand fire. But delaying the spread of blazing flames is possible.

Materials with high fire resistance ratings are effective at containing fire and smoke. Using fire-resistant rolling shutters will also decrease the rate of fire spread.

But since there are many misconceptions surrounding fire shutters, homeowners can’t help but worry.

These are just four of the most common misconceptions a lot of people may have about fire shutters.

1. Fire shutters are ugly

Some rolling doors and shutters come in various colors and models to blend in with the homeowners’ exterior design.

There are many attractive alternatives to shutters, but it is quite impossible to match its many benefits.

Well-built fire shutters reduce noise, control light, and protect the property from the elements.

These factors are more important when selecting windows or doors suitable to your home or shop. Ideally, fire-rated rolling shutters are preferred because of their simplicity and reliability.

[Editor’s note: On some buildings they look great but I’m not sure how attractive they would be on a typical suburban home.]

2. Fire shutters are not secure.

It’s more important to think of security than appearance during home renovations.

Most homeowners choose to get a rolling shutter mainly for the protection they offer. They are made of thick steel as well as robust brackets and fixings.

Roll shutters have been popular in Europe during wartime due to the supreme shield they provide homes.

Though it was invented as an energy efficient window treatment, many homes back then used rolling shutters to protect their homes from surprise attacks such as bombings.

Until now, it continues to be a valuable instrument of defense.

[Editor’s note: I don’t see steel shutters stopping a 7.62 round but I guess they’re better than drywall. 😉 ]

3. Fire shutters are inconvenient.

Fire-resistant rolling shutters are easy to roll up and down contrary to the misconception that it is difficult to operate.

Roll shutters are even more convenient than any other types of window treatments.

When you need to block out strong sunbeams or outside noise, you simply have to roll it down or you can pick sides.

If you want some privacy, with a push of a button, you can conceal an area in your home from prying strangers or passersby.

With this versatility, it seems strange to think of fire-rated shutters as a huge hassle.

[Editor’s note: Push button operation is convenient but understand how they work if the power goes out too.]

4. Fire shutters are expensive.

We can determine the cost of property and productivity lost from the blaze but it’s not possible to assign value to fatalities and injuries inflicted by fires.

If rolling shutters can protect homes or business establishments from the imminent hazards of fire, then there is no reason why they won’t make a wise investment.

The cost of fire damages far outweighs the price of all fire-rated door or window shutters combined.

For a trade-off, that seems more than fair.

[Editor’s note: Obviously, no price can be put on a life and if fire shutters can help reduce damage due to a wildfire, for example, they may be a wise investment.]

What do you think of fire-rated rolling doors or shutters? Please let us know in the comment section.

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