Survival-Pax Blog: May 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Oklahoma 2013 Tornadoes - Would you be prepared?

A man carrying a child away from a damaged school in Moore, OK. 
source: Associated Press
Today, I write this blog post in sorrow and grief. The news reports, pictures, stories and body counts of Oklahoma and Midwestern U.S. have been steadily updated since the deadly tornado outbreak began on Sunday, May 19th. The most devastated of these areas is Moore, Oklahoma, which was hit by a F5 tornado on Monday, May 20th.

We stand in solidarity with the victims of this disaster. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost their lives and for the families who grieve them. We pray for those who are still missing and for those who have lost everything.

The path of a tornado in Moore, OK.
source: Associated Press

Beware. This event, and others like it, must not move into the “Out of sight, out of mind” realm once the media discontinues their reports. The towns and people affected by these tornadoes will be rebuilding for months and years to come. Their lives have now been changed. Teddy bears, pots and pans, shoes, pillows, cars, homes, schools, jobs, hospitals, neighborhoods. Gone. These people are without the “everyday” that they had just a few days before. They are now dependent upon others who reach out to help them. The amount of volunteers and aid that has arrived is staggering and honorable. If you can contribute aid in any way, please do. The people that you see here are not actors. This is not a movie. This is life, and we are all in this together.

Heather - Survival-Pax Team Member

How to Prepare

Events like this are very tragic, but they are also learning opportunities. A few years ago, our local community was hit by a rather small tornado. Only a few homes were damaged, and power was out for a day or two, so it wasn’t anywhere near the devastation of the Oklahoma tornadoes.

We put together a blog post back about Severe Weather Preparedness that you can find here

I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a moment and think about how to prepare for next time, because a tornado may hit a community near you.

Tornadoes can hit almost anywhere, in all 50 states, so no matter where you live, it is a good idea to at least think about preparing for such a disaster. However, tornadoes are most commonly formed in the Midwestern United States in a geographical area known as Tornado Alley.

Tornado activity in the United States.
Tornado Alley is the Midwestern Area in orange and red.
source: Wikipedia

Tornado Alley spans portions of Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. Tornadoes in this geographical area normally form during the springtime, such as what happened recently in Oklahoma. A simple way to prepare for tornadoes would be to move to a geographical area where tornadoes are less common. Alaska, for example, has only had 2 recorded tornadoes since its existence as a U.S. state: once in 1959 and once in 2006, both being weak F0 Tornadoes.

But that might not be so simple. For those who do live in an area prone to devastating twisters, here are some preps that you would want to have:

Safe Room

The #1 prep that I would recommend having would be a safe room. Almost any above-ground structure can be blown down, given enough wind-speed. The main cause of death from tornadoes is from structures falling down and crushing people. Since a tornado is above ground, having a reinforced room that can with stand the weight of your house falling down on top of it could save your life in the event of such a storm hitting your home. 

For everyday use, you can use the safe room as a storage room for emergency supplies. With a secure door, it can even serve as a vault for your valuables.

Food & Water

Since a Tornado is a localized disaster, having a large supply of food to prepare for one isn’t particularly necessary. (Although having a large supply of food is a good idea to prepare for other emergencies!) Local stores may be swamped with people purchasing supplies in preparation for or in response to a storm, so it would be a good idea to have at least 2 weeks worth of food on hand, along with 2 weeks worth of water.

Generator & Fuel

One of the most common utilities to disappear after a storm is electricity. This is due to the delicate nature of power lines and the rest of the power grid. If you live in a temperate region where rainstorms are common, you can expect the power to go out at least once every year, often leaving you int the dark for a short while. It doesn't have to be because of a tornado. For this reason, having a backup generator with fuel to power it for several days is a very good idea.

A generator will keep food from spoiling, keep the lights on, and allow you to use any other household appliances that you depend on for survival.


A flashlight is a staple emergency preparedness item. In an emergency, a good flashlight is critical because being able to see when it is dark out is essential. I would recommend a high-quality LED flashlight with at least 100 lumen output, along with an ample supply of batteries. Have enough batteries on hand to replace the current set 3 times over, at least.

For a great introduction to flashlights, check out our blog post on the topic, found here.

Chain Saw

Part of what makes tornadoes so dangerous isn’t so much the high winds, but the objects that the winds can blow over, pick up and throw. One of the dangers that tornadoes present are trees and branches falling down. While little can be done to prevent a tree from falling, have a chainsaw for tree cleanup will be very useful. Do not forget to have enough fuel for it, as well!

Bug Out Bag

Sometimes, it may be necessary to leave your home. Whether it be before a storm or after, having a Bug Out Bag or Emergency Kit ready to go can be a great thing to have. It's foolish to think that, in an emergency, you will have the presence of mind to grab all necessary supplies to be able to comfortably leave your home and still be survive comfortably.

This wouldn't be a kit that you would necessarily be surviving off of, but rather a kit with things to help you live comfortably for the next few days while you rebuild. Spare clothing, hygiene essentials, some food/water and basic tools (knife, multi-tool, flashlight) would be the types of items in this kit. It would mainly be focused on leaving your home, but being able to stay at somebody else's house or at a local shelter until things are safe to come back home.

Strong Local Community

There is no better prep for any emergency than building a strong local community. No matter how much food, water, fuel and supplies you might have, you do not have the manpower to overcome every possible difficulty. That is why, ultimately, you could succeed or fail based on whether your local community succeeds or fails. You should not underestimate the importance of a strong local community.

We will look into ways of building up a strong community in future posts.

Will you be ready if you see a storm like this outside of your home?

So, how prepared are you if a tornado or severe storm were to hit your area? Do you have any other preps that you think are necessary that we haven't mentioned in this post? If so, let us know in the comments below.

Take care guys!

Simon - Survival-Pax Team Member

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Solar Flares Are Still Around

An interesting thing happened to me this morning. I overslept. I set my alarm last night on my cell phone to wake me up this morning, but it never went off. I woke up, realizing that I slept about half an hour longer than I wanted to. Still sleepy and confused, I didn't remember the alarm going off.

I took a look at the time on my phone and saw that it was set about 2 hours ahead of the current time and the date was 5/1/1982. It's funny because the first thing that popped into my mind was that a Solar Flare hit the cell networks and messed with the signals, I kid you not. I quickly dismissed this as unlikely until I found out what had actually happened.

My wife's phone, however, had the correct time. I think the clock on my cell phone got changed because I have it set to change automatically.
A view of the solar flare released on May 12, 2013.

When I turned on the computer this morning to check the news, I came across this article and I knew why my cell phone time was off. For those unaware, a solar flare was emitted last night, from the side of the sun not facing the Earth. Even though the flare did not directly impact the earth, it created an hour-long high-frequency radio blackout, which could have been the cause of my cell phone problems.

I was actually quite shocked, because the time that this happened, 10:17 pm EDT, accounts for why my clock was off by about 2 hours. The time signal from the cell tower must have scrambled because of the flare and it had reset to 12:00 am, May 1, 1982.

Solar Flares

I wrote a previous blog post in June 2011 about solar flares called "Solar Flare Misses Earth". I would recommend taking a moment to read it.

In 1859, the largest recorded solar flare hit the earth. This was called the Carrington Event. In 1859, the world wasn't very developed in terms of electrical power grids and communication networks, but the telegraph networks that were up and running were pretty much fried. Telegraph systems across the world failed, and in a few instances, shocked telegraph operators. Some telegraphs even sent and received messages despite being disconnected from a power supply!

On a positive note, beautiful Aurorae (plural for Aurora) were visible all over the world, even as far south as the Caribbean. It was said that the light emitted was brighter than a full moon. So bright, that miners in the Rocky Mountains began making breakfast because they thought the sun was about to come up.

A view of the Aurora Borealis from space. Now imagine seeing this across the whole globe.
Thankfully, events of this magnitude only hit the earth about once every 500 years. Still, the flare that was emitted last night was an X1.7-class sun eruption, which is the strongest type of solar flare. Had it been directed towards the earth, waking up late may have been the least of my worries. I am not sure if it would have been as massive as the Carrington Event, but it's very possible that many communication networks and even power grids may have been damaged.

How to prepare?

As in my last blog post about solar flares, an absolute worst-case flare-induced event would be a wipe-out of most of the power grid and communication networks in the world. It would be an instant return to the 19th Century, and it's something that the majority of us are not prepared for.

To try to prepare for a situation like this, I would recommend taking a moment and imagining that from this point forward, for the near future (possibly several years), you will have no access to running water, fuel, electricity, or basic supplies. You can also be assured that any law enforcement or government help would be tied up or non-existent, so the majority of you would be on your own as far as security.

To start, it would be a good idea to have a water storage plan, 6 months to a year's worth of food, extra fuel for your vehicles, a backup generator, flashlights and batteries, defensive firearms (rifle, shotgun, handgun) & ammunition, hygiene essentials (soap, detergent, first-aid kits, etc.) and essential tools for fixing broken items. There is also a possibility that if things become really bad, you may need to leave your home, so having a well-stocked Bug Out Bag is also a very good idea.

It's really hard to imagine what would happen, since these events are fairly rare. However, they are common enough that within the next few hundred years, we are pretty much guaranteed to have an event like this.

I really hope that I never have to face a situation like this, but it is always looming in the back of my mind. This morning's occurrence is just a reminder that the effects of solar flares are real and can potentially be very devastating.

Have any of you had anything strange happen to you today because of the Solar Flare? Have any of you HAM Radio users found it difficult to communicate today? Let us know in the comments below.

Take care!

Simon - Survival-Pax Team Member

By the way, Happy Mother's Day to all mothers out there!

Sources Used:
Yahoo News. Major Solar Flare Erupts from the Sun, Strongest of 2013

Wikipedia. Solar storm of 1859

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Everyday Carry Utensils?

The idea of everyday carry (EDC) is to be prepared for things that you may come across during the day. Carrying a folding knife for the time that you may need to cut open a box, a flashlight for when you drop something under your dark desk and need to find it, a cell phone to call a friend, a wallet to carry your cash, and even a handgun in case your life is threatened. However, there is one thing that is often overlooked and is still something that everybody does every day: we eat.

What tools do you carry with you to help you eat?

Many of you travel to work and bring lunches along with you. Normally, a standard metal fork, spoon and knife would work quite well. However, if you are looking to really limit the amount of utensils that you carry, desire something really small and light, or just want a cool new gadget to make eating your meals a bit more fun, then this post is for you. The information found here would also be useful to backpackers and campers, people who don't have the luxury of taking every possible tool with them, and need to save space/weight.

CRKT and Light My Fire

Two companies that are popular for things other than utensils are Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) and Light My Fire. However, in recent years, these two companies have ventured into the portable utensil market with great success. Let's look at some of the tools that they designed to help you eat on the go.

CRKT Eat'N Tool & Eat'N Tool XL

The CRKT Eat'N Tool comes in a wide variety of colors.
As the name implies the Eat'N Tool by CRKT is a tool designed for eating. The original Eat'N Tool has been very successful. I have personally carried one for over a year and have used it on several occasions. It performs many more functions that just an eating utensil. I like to think of it as a multi-tool. However, as with all multi-tools, it is a compromise.

The form factor of the Eat'N Tool is very small, only 4" long and 1.3 oz weight. It is fairly flat too, considering that it is a spoon/fork combination utensil. As part of its multi-tool functionality, it also has a bottle opener, two flat-bladed screwdrivers and three sized hex nut slots (10 mm, 8 mm, 6 mm).  I should also mention that it is made out of stainless steel, which makes it very durable.

Like I said, it is a compromise, since it has to be functional and portable. In a pinch, it will work well, but the spoon may be a bit shallower and the fork not as pointy as you are used to. However, for it's size, it really is a great tool.

The CRKT Eat'N Tool XL gives you a larger,
more functional utensil.
Going along with the Eat'N Tool, CRKT recently came out with a larger version, the Eat'N Tool XL. The Eat'N Tool XL gives you a more usable, albeit larger, handled utensil, with even more functionality. With the increased size, you get a deeper spoon with a more functional fork. You also get a can opener and 4 sized hex nut slots (1/2 in, 7/16 in, 3/8 in, 5/16 in, 1/4 in). Weighing a bit more (2.8 oz) and being a bit longer (6.1"), the added functionality of the Eat'N Tool XL may be a better choice if you can spare the extra size/weight.

Light My Fire Spork

The Spork by Light My Fire is a lightweight and functional
multi-purpose utensil.
Light My Fire, a company known for its ferro rods, tinder materials and other tools having to do with fire, has also ventured into the world of utensils and outdoor food supplies. One of their most popular items is a spin on the Spork, something that we all remember using during grammar school lunches.

What Light My Fire does differently with their Spork is actually quite innovative. On one side of the Spork, you have a functional spoon. The spoon works very well and is similar in dimensions to a normal spoon that you would use at home. On the other side of the utensil, there is a very functional fork with one of the prongs having small serrations on it, to be used as a knife. While I can't really comment on the usefulness of the knife, the idea of having a multi-function utensil that doesn't have a spoon with little fork prongs sticking out of it is very appealing.

The Spork by Light My Fire also comes in a Titanium version.

With the design of the Spork, there really are no drawbacks to having a spoon and a fork in one utensil, since they are both on opposite ends and don't interfere with each other. The Tritan polymer that Light My Fire uses to make their Sporks is also very durable and lightweight; the Spork weighs in at only 0.4 oz and is 6.6 in long.

To those who look down on a plastic utensil as not being durable enough, Light My Fire also makes a Titanium Spork for a reasonable price. The Spork Titanium is the same size, but weighs in at 0.68 oz, which is a bit heavier than the original polymer version.

Light My Fire also makes a SporkCase to carry your Spork in.
But how do you carry your Spork? Light My Fire has also answered that question with the SporkCase. Conveniently enough, the SporkCase comes with a polymer Spork, but will also fit the Spork Titanium.

These are just a few of the portable utensils on the market. They are all a compromise in one way or another, but they allow you to have some basic eating tools with you wherever you go.

What are your experiences with these utensils, if you have any? Have you found any other useful tools on the market that may work better? Chime in below in the comments section.

Simon - Survival-Pax Team Member

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