Survival-Pax Blog: September 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene - First-Hand

Hurricane Irene

Route 2 flooded out in Bolton, VT.
I have a first-hand account by a Survival-Pax Community Member about the devastation brought about by Hurricane Irene. While some areas of the East Coast were not affected by the storm very much, there were some communities were affected very severely. Here is his story:

(Written on September 2nd, 2011)
Vermont has been hit hard by Irene. I think the combination of mountains and valleys with limited travel routes between made our towns extra vulnerable. Most towns are in the valleys. Every valley has a river. The river is often confined to a fairly narrow space between mountains. All major roads run up the valleys with only occasional cross roads that run over mountains through steep mountain passes. These cross roads are often rugged winding steep roads. Most are dirt roads and some are closed in the winter.

Route 4 / Route 100 South of Killington, VT
is completely destroyed.
When you consider this terrain, it is not so surprising that so many towns and small community "villages" have been have been cut off from outside access...for days. Some may still be cut off without power or outside access....I'm not sure. The town of Rochester, Vermont is about 30 miles from me....our towns are part of the same community. They are in the next valley over the ridge west of Randolph. All roads to and from Rochester were completely washed out. I don't mean that the roads were covered in water that can recede later. I mean the roads are gone....the river shifted its course and the road is gone.... The river is now flowing against the mountainside where there used to be a road. I don't know how they will repair that road without carving/blasting a new route in the mountain....

I spent last evening on Google maps and Facebook (I hate Facebook, but it appears to be key in information dispersal in this event). I count 4 or 5 routes in/out of that town. All are completely washed out.....except now I just learned that Camp Town road, which is a very rugged road over a mountain ridge, is now passable by 4 wheel drive alone.... so repair trucks and Hummers started getting into Rochester on Wednesday.

The Rochester Facebook page shows that they received power yesterday.

A few key observations regarding emergency supplies:
  1. The closest Walmart and Kmart are over in West Lebanon, NH. They were both closed due to being flooded out themselves. 
  2. The next closest Walmart is a small one in Montpelier, VT. They completely sold out on batteries, flashlights, and camping gear.
  3. The paper reported that the people in Rochester who were cut off had plenty of generators, but were running out of gas to run them.
  4. The transformer station in Rochester was wiped out by the flood.
  5. Plugs and cables to connect 220V generators to households sold out in all the stores just after the storm according to a friend of ours...she needed a plug and called every store she could think of in a 100+ mile radius. She is on a waiting list to get one when they come in. She regained power Thursday.

Comments I heard: "We have Coleman lanterns, but no mantles to use in them." "We have plenty of food, but no way to cook it." "We have no water."

My point: If you aren't prepared before a disaster, its already too late.

Route 4 between Killington, VT and Mendon, VT.
On the other hand, rural Vermonters are rugged people with a lot of willpower and equipment. They don't expect to be bailed out by the government. They work together as a community. Excavating equipment is common. Individual citizens started getting out bulldozing to repair roads before the state's official road crews could get there. Folks helped each other. Many have rugged 4 wheel drives or 4 wheelers or off-road motorcycles. Cells phones proved handy, though people sometimes had to climb mountains to get service. Army National Guard has been reaching isolated communities by helicopter and Humvee.

Its not over yet.....not by a long shot.... I don't know the extent of it....

Our house only lost power for 13 hours or so....but that was plenty of time for the basement to flood since the sump pumps could not run.....I bailed water with a friend for 4 hours and finally let the water take over. Thankfully its a walk-out basement so it only flooded <1 inch deep.....still that is enough to soak into the walls and boxes and bookcases and cabinets....

I was glad that I put up 30 gallons of water just before the hurricane hit and we lost power.... (we are on a well....lose power, lose water)

The Irving gas station in West Bridgewater, VT is consumed
by flood waters.
Having gone through this particular tropical storm (albeit somewhat on the periphery) I have new thoughts regarding specifics of preparedness that I hadn't fully grasped before. The importance of communication is very high. I had friends who were eager to help, but we only had minor problems in our immediate vicinity. Who needs help and what do they need? Do they need supplies (which ones)? Transportation? Medical aid? Specific medications? Where are these people who need help and how do we get to them? Even though I'm a long time techie I was slow to realize the importance of the internet and the benefits of Google maps and social media. Both of these were amazingly helpful once I finally remembered to look there after it became obvious that word of mouth would NOT WORK.

This completely changed my former viewpoint that electricity was a frivolous desire rather than a need in a disaster. Of course I wanted to be able to power all my electronic gadgets, but I didn't see a true need beyond the obvious flashlights and a few short range 2-way radios. I now see that powering my laptop or Ipod Touch and Hughesnet satellite internet connection modem are very valuable in a disaster that hasn't fully taken down the internet.

There are many levels or types of potential disaster and the specifics of the preparedness to counter those necessarily vary. If your house is still in tact as a safe shelter and you have a source of power, your bushcraft skills won't come into full play. If the cell phone towers and internet are intact then you don't need your short wave radio yet. If you focused only on the short wave radio and didn't keep a plan to power your cell phone then you missed your chance for optimal preparedness.

Nathan - Survival-Pax Community Member

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Preparation for Flooding

Not all disasters are quick. Some take hours to come and can be just as catastrophic. One such disaster is flooding.

In my area of the country (Northern Illinois) this past summer has been very wet. We have had two occasions of heavy rains, combined with power outages, that wreaked havoc on my neighborhood.

The worst was one where it rained all afternoon and into the night. Almost every house in my immediate area had flooded basements. My home escaped the damage, because we had planned ahead.

What did I do?

As Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." That statement can be the motto of the person who wants to be prepared. A small amount of preparation can save you a huge headache.

This was a photo taken of a street in my neighborhood.
I wonder who's basement flooded during the storm?
Most basements have a sump pump, right? The pump is used to pump water that accumulates in the sump pit and helps waterproof the basement. Normally, the pump removes the water out of the pit and the basement stays dry. It's what people depend on in heavy rain

What happens when the power goes out? Does your sump pump have a battery backup? If not, it stops working and your basements flood. We have a battery backup to our sump pump, and this simple preparation allowed us to have a dry basement while almost everyone else's flooded.

Are you prepared?

If you have a sump pump, it is very prudent to have a battery backup for it. In fact, I'd say it's near mandatory, since flooding is very commonly accompanied by a severe storm which can cut off power.

Here are some more questions that you can ask yourself. Are there leaks in your basement? Are there low-lying areas around your home that will fill up with water, leaking into your basement?

If there are, it would be good to look up ways to fix or prepare for these problems now and not later.

Take care!

Simon - Survival-Pax Team Member

Next week I will post a first-hand account of a Survival-Pax Community Member who experienced the devastation of Hurricane Irene as it impacted Vermont. Stay tuned!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Labor Day - Importance of Firearms Training

Fishing is one of my favorite things to do while camping.
I hope that all of you had a great Labor Day. I know that my friends, my family and I sure did.

I spent my weekend camping. The weather was uncooperative, with rain showers that blew past every few hours. Overall, it was pretty cold for this time of year, but we still made use of the time to the best of our ability.

I went fishing, sat by the campfire, but also did something that I don't normally get to do very often: Firearms Training.

Firearms for Defense?

Before I go any further, I wanted to give you some foundation for the rest of the article.

I know that to someone not familiar with firearms, as I once was only a few short years ago, seeing such training images with all those "scary guns" may be a little unnerving. I fully understand that.

I do plan on making future Survival-Pax Blog posts and even videos on the subject, but for now, if I'm about to write about firearms, I feel that I first need to explain myself.

Why should you use a gun for self defense?

That's a question that I hear very often. Let me answer that with a few questions of my own.

How important is your life? Is your life kinda important, somewhat important or very important? Your life arguably is the most important thing that you have. Living gives you the ability to do anything. It is the foundation of all that you are and have. Without life, you do not exist.

I guess that makes your life pretty important then, doesn't it?

Having a firearm, and the ability to use one,
makes for a very effective self defensive option.
Understanding that your life is arguably your most important possession, shouldn't you take very strong measures to defend it? The fact that your life is very important dictates the scale in which you should defend it.

Also understanding that there is nothing better than a gun for effectively defending your life while minimizing innocent casualties, a firearm is the perfect tool for self-defense or for the defense of others.

If you don't believe that life is worth defending, then I guess you can save yourself the time and stop reading this post right now because you probably won't appreciate the rest of it.

Just call 911 and the police will come and save you.

That's another one that I hear very often. I'll make this response short in saying that, in life or death situations, time always runs out far too quickly. You may only have seconds to react to an immediate threat. In those few seconds, only you can react quickly enough to defend your life. It is physically impossible to have a police officer on call to protect you and your family at all times. That is, unless you are a politician, movie star or other person of influence with body guards on duty 24/7.

For the rest of us, we need to be able to defend our lives. That means having the mindset to do so, the skills necessary and the tools required to do the job. It is all part of being prepared.

Alright, back to my weekend.

While I do try and make a trip to the local indoor shooting range every month or so, there is nothing like being outdoors in an unsupervised setting, where there is no range officer to tell you not to rapid fire or not to move while shooting. I fully understand that these safety considerations need to be taken at a public range, but these rules do hinder the type of training that can be done.

This steel plate from Action Target is an excellent training aid. 
A couple of times a year, I drive to a location off in the middle of nowhere, where I can train myself, along with others, the valuable skills that are necessary to effectively use a firearm for self defense.

Let's face it, an attacker doesn't look like a paper bullseye and you won't exactly be standing in perfect shooting position when using a firearm for self defense. Knowing this, your training also needs to be appropriate in order to more closely approximate a defensive encounter; one in which your life or the life of your family/friends/neighbors will be in jeopardy.

Not going into any real specifics, we made use of cardboard silhouette targets, along with shooting steel plates. For those who haven't shot steel before, I highly recommend trying it out. There is literally nothing better that I have found for improving your shooting skills. While they might be a bit pricey, I recommend checking out the Evil Roy Line of portable steel targets from Action Target.

A shooting barricade forces you to assume unconventional
shooting positions not normally trained with otherwise.
We also made use of a home-made shooting barricade. What I learned from shooting from behind a barricade is that it is a lot harder (and more fun) than it looks. It forces you to assume shooting postures that you otherwise would not go into, in order to shoot through the barricade. A shooting barricade is an excellent training aid.

Apart from camping, my goal for this last weekend was to help teach my friends firearm manipulation and shooting skills, along with furthering my own skills. I'd say that we more or less accomplished that goal and had a very fun time doing it.

Check out the Survival-Pax Facebook Page to see the photo album from the weekend's adventures.

Take care!

Simon - Survival-Pax Team Member

Labels: , , , ,