Tag Archive for preparedness

Product Review – Briotech HOCL Topical Skin Solution

Hours spent on rifle and pistol ranges leads to occasional cuts, scrapes, and other accidents.  Most of us handle these issues with small bandages and move on, sometimes that’s not enough.  Enter Briotech, a small business with a big impact based in Washington.  In short, Briotech makes a product that is similar to a bottled  immune system.  Specifically, they produce hypochlorous acid (HOCL) based products for personal and commercial uses.  The beauty of HOCL is that our bodies use it to fight off harmful bacteria, spores, and viruses.  Why does this matter to us?  If you are reading this then you are likely not a dandy and probably get out and work with your hands in one way or another.  Hands on work leads to minor injuries where the application of some Briotech HOCL can lead to a well healed laceration instead of a nasty infection. Read more

Food Poisoning FAQs for tough times learned abroad

One thing no one wants to deal with during a survival situation is illness.  In many parts of the world today, food poisoning is one of the most common ailments afflicting countless millions annually.  Typically, the onset of symptoms occurs rapidly after ingesting spoiled or contaminated food and includes violent abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea.  The symptoms usually pass within a few days, but in severe cases of being sickened by bacteria such as e-coli and salmonella, death can occur.  Further, studies now have linked even mild cases to long-term health problems such as immune system disorders, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney failure.

The CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.  The 2011 estimates provide the most accurate picture yet of which foodborne bacteria, viruses, microbes (“pathogens”) are causing the most illnesses in the United States .  According to the 2011 estimates, the most common foodborne illnesses are caused by norovirus and by the bacteria Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter. http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/facts.html

When traveling in less developed parts of the world, food poisoning is even more common.  Conditions in many of these countries mimic conditions one may experience in the event of a major collapse to include long-term power outage.  Compounding the problem in both the underdeveloped world and in a disaster situation, advanced medical help is not likely available.  As such, knowing how to prepare for, prevent, and treat it, as well as what not to do will be critical to a quick recovery and potentially survival.

The first thing is to dispel some common myths.  Drawing from my experiences over the last decade in impoverished and war-torn countries around the world, food borne illness will eventually afflict everyone given enough time.  No matter “how tough” you think your stomach is, I guarantee, there is a stomach bug out there meaner with your number.  Further, you never really seem to be able to become “immune” to getting sick.  The bottom line is if you eat bad food, you will get deathly ill for most likely at least 24 hours and during that time wish you were dead.  Anyone that has experienced true food poisoning knows this first hand.  Thus, the first rule is better safe than sorry.  When in doubt about food, just ask yourself; is it really worth violently throwing up while simultaneously having uncontrollable diarrhea for 24+ hours?

Next, although foods like seafood and mayonnaise can go horribly bad very fast and certainly are infamous for making people very sick, they are not the only culprits.  In fact, anything you put in your mouth that is contaminated can cause severe illness.  This includes not just meats and poultry, but vegetables and even the water you drink.  Further, if you are one of those people that like to put your fingers in your mouth, pick your teeth, or some other nasty habit, don’t.  Your hands will pick up some of the worst of the worst stomach bugs and if you put them in your mouth you are likely to get sick.

Another myth is that people often think that as long as they don’t swallow “bad” food they will be okay.  False.  Again, going back to the, “if you think it is bad it isn’t worth it,” motto.  Once the bacteria or parasite is introduced to your mouth and digestive track, it can make its way via your saliva into your digestive track and make you very ill as it grows and multiplies.

Another myth is that in cases of food poisoning you immediately get ill.  That is indeed the case in some circumstances, but in many others, it can take on average 24-48 hours as the pathogen embeds in your digestive track, multiplies, and releases toxins into your blood stream.

All bottled water is good.  Be very aware that not all bottled water is the same.  In fact, the U.S. State Department tested all of the major brands of bottled water in Pakistan, which includes U.S. name brands, and found only TWO in the entire country met minimal safe drinking standards.  In fact, water table in some countries is so contaminated that the only water that is suitable for drinking is water that has been distilled or purified through a mix of processes that include adding chemicals, exposing it to UV light, filtering it, and reverse osmosis treatments.

I especially like the myth that if you drink hard liquor it will kill any potential stomach bugs.  Although, anecdotally, I have seen some cases where there may be some truth to parasites such as worms that are adversely affected by alcohol and spicy foods, it doesn’t protect you.  In fact, heavy drinking probably means you are more likely to eat some nasty stuff from a street vendor at a late hour and then not only be deathly ill, but also add a hangover and dehydration to the mix.  Poor choice.

Okay, so besides knowing what doesn’t work, know what does work.  Wash your hands with hot soap and water as if you have an obsessive compulsive disorder.  Use alcohol based hand sanitizer before you eat any meal or touch food.  Always wash anything that was used to prepare raw food with hot soapy water or even boil it.  Before eating “fresh” fruits and vegetables grown in local soil, soak and or scrub them lightly in a weak solution of bleach and water.  Cook everything “well done.”  Yes, raw eggs and bleeding steak may be macho, but you are not going to be tough when you are balled up in the fetal position on the ground.  Drink only purified or water bottled by a reputable dealer from a known source.  Finally, when in doubt, don’t eat it.

Now, as I mentioned before, I don’t care how careful you are, if you spend enough time in underdeveloped places, you are going to get sick.  That is a fact, 100% true, can’t get around it.  It is just a matter of how often, how bad, and what type of illness.  Celebrate if you only are sickened by short duration treatable and or curable diseases and illnesses.  So, if you have access to pharmaceuticals, stocking up on the following drugs will go a long way to take the edge off of a bad case of food poisoning.  The following is a baseline treatment for an average, healthy adult, with no allergies.  Always consult a doctor before taking any medications.

  • Phenergan in 25 mg tablets taken 1 every 6 hours will alleviate nausea and vomiting (*cease taking once symptoms subside)
  • Azithromycin in 500 mg tablets taken 1 a day for 3 days to kill the bacterial infection (*note, it is critical to complete the full cycle of antibiotics once begun)
  • Tramadol in 50 mg tablets taken once or twice every 6 hours for pain (*Tramadol is a controlled pain reliever)
  • Bentyl in 20 mg tablets taken 1 every 6 hours to alleviate serve stomach cramping
  • Oral Rehydration Salts mixed with the proper ratio of water (usually one packet for a liter or quart).  Make sure you stay hydrated. Dehydration is one of the biggest problems in cases of severe food poisoning and only makes your situation worse.  Drink as much fluid as you can keep down (*note, ORS tastes nasty, but IS what you need as it is properly formulated to not cause increased cramping, bowel irritation, and diarrhea)
  • Imodium tablets for diarrhea taken as needed (*note, don’t take anti-diarrhea tablets right away so as to let your system cleanse itself…only take if diarrhea persists after the second day)

At the end of the day though, if you could only have two of the above, get the Azithromycin to kill the bacteria and ORS to keep from dehydrating.  Phenergan may be a tie for second place if you can’t keep anything down and certainly makes you feel much better.

Finally, a few short lines on what not to do.  Don’t immediately run to take anti-diarrheal medicine.  Let your body cleanse itself.  Only use anti-diarrheal medication if symptoms persist for more than a day and dehydration is becoming a factor.  Do not allow yourself to become dehydrated.  With that said, use ORS for rehydration.  If none are available, attempt to find Pedialyte used for infant rehydration.  If that is unavailable, you can mix a very weak mixture of Gatorade and water or add a bit of salt and sugar to water.  If you mix full strength, such as in the case of Gatorade or drink pure water, it is difficult for your bowels to absorb and will cause increased cramping and possibly worsen the situation.  In fact, if you consume a mixture of Gatorade or some other electrolyte replacement that is too concentrated, it can actually pull water from circulation into the bowels and cause greater dehydration.  Nonetheless, if nothing else is available, it would still be better to plain drink water than dehydrate.  On a final note, be cautious about misdiagnosis.  Be very careful not to confuse the symptoms of food poisoning or stomach flu with those of more serious situations such as a ruptured appendix, which will cause death if the patient isn’t able to undergo surgery within a short period of time.  The most common way of assessing this is to locate where the pain is localized and if it is off to one side or in the lower abdomen.  Normally, cramping from food poisoning comes in waves and is centrally located in the abdominal region.  Symptoms of a life threatening appendix rupture are persistent, acute, and the abdomen can become inflamed and very painful to the touch beyond the central region of the abdomen.

Storm Survival: A Case Study of Mass Power Outages

Hurricane Sandy about to impact Mid-Atlantic

With plenty of warning on the approaching super storm Sandy, one known impact will be massive power outages stretching up and down the East Coast.  Sandy is unprecedented in its size, track, and confluence of fronts, tides, and moon phase.  All of this will combine for what will be a once in a lifetime, 100 year storm.  As such, we may not have a similar event to compare in modern times, but we do have a glimpse of how catastrophic even a short regional collapse of the power grid looks, which should serve as a lesson and warning.  The following two case studies illustrate the widespread effects of what should be considered relatively minor and focused events in comparison to Hurricane Sandy.

The August 2003 Cascade Failure of the North East

On a hot August day in 2003, a string of seemingly innocuous events led to an estimated 55 million people losing power across the Northeast and Canada.  On August 14th of 2003, the nation was experiencing usual high temperatures during the dog days of August, which increased the demand on the power grid.  This increase in demand coupled with some seemingly minor mistakes, software glitches, and oversights by the power company led to a major collapse of the grid.  This cascade of power outages began as power lines heating up from the increased current, sagged, and then came into contact with trees.  These lines went down causing power to be immediately switched to other lines, quickly overloading them, and causing them to also shut down.  This further triggered automatic shutdowns, redirection, and overloads of an ever increasing area of the grid.  Within two hours, multiple grids had separated and shutdown leaving most of New England and Ontario without power.  Immediately, TV and radio stations, cable, and the internet without reliable backup power were knocked offline.  Untold numbers were trapped in elevators, electric trains, and subways.  Temperatures in homes and business began to rise to dangerous levels for the elderly and frail as air conditioners lost power.  Traffic signals and street lights also went dark snarling traffic in cities like New York.  Soon big factories, refineries, and local businesses were shutdown causing immediate backlogs in supplies and fuel prices to spike.  Even Wall Street and the United Nations went dark.  Making the situation worse, gas stations were unable to pump and vehicles became stranded as they ran out of gas.  Looting began to break out in the dark streets of many cities by nightfall, but no one could dial 911 because the 911 service was also offline and both cellular and hard-wired phones were overloaded.  What responders were available were already over tasked dealing with everything from traffic control to freeing people trapped in elevators.  In short, no one was coming to help in the near future.  Soon backup generators began to fail and compound the crisis.  This lead to cellular networks going down, hospitals losing power to critical life support equipment, and municipal water systems failing.  Failing municipal water systems led to contamination of drinking water and massive amounts of raw sewage escaping into local waterways.  Water became non-potable without boiling, if you could even get it from your tap.  Restaurants and other food focused business were then forced to close even if they had backup power because of the health risks of untreated water to the public.  Even if they remained open, electronic registers, ATMs, and credit card services were rendered useless without power causing most other stores to also close.  Emergency services were simply overwhelmed.  A few simple acts…a tree falling, a power company operator not paying attention, and some ignored alarms and suddenly 55 million people are stranded in the dark, all within a couple hours.  This is illustrative of just how fragile our society is and how quickly things can deteriorate.  Communication, sanitation, emergency services, financial markets, and logistics and supply networks all broke down within 120 minutes bringing the world’s sole superpower to a grinding halt, but could it happen again?  Could it have been worse?  The answer is a definite yes.

July 4th Holiday Storm of 2012

Some may disagree that these ripple failures could occur again and think that the grid has improved.  Consider the unexpected severe outbreak of storms that ripped across the mid-Atlantic just before the July 4th holiday of 2012.  This band of storms had wind speeds that reached hurricane force on the leading edge of the front that shredded trees bringing down thousands of power lines from Ohio to D.C.  Immediately, tens of millions were again plunged into darkness during a record heat wave where daytime highs exceeded 100 degrees.  No air conditioning, no refrigeration, no lights.  For those with their own wells, water was also shut off.  Within hours store shelves were stripped bare of essentials like bottled water, ice, batteries, flashlights, and food.  Gas stations also shut down and anyone without cash relying on credit cards or ATMs was out of luck.  Vehicles ran out of fuel, AMTRAC trains were stranded, elevators stopped, and 911 services were disrupted just like in 2003.  Many cell towers and hard line phones were also knocked out by severe lightening.  Soon water services to city areas began to break down and mandatory boiling of drinking water rules were put into effect for those still with water pressure.  In parts of West Virginia, the state hardest hit, nearly every county was without power and the outage persisted for up to two weeks in many areas.  This was just one afternoon storm and proves that even after almost a decade since the massive 2003 blackout and billions of tax dollars being funneled into infrastructure improvements and repairs; the North American Power Grid is as vulnerable as ever.  Some may suggest this is the effects of “global warming,” but a closer examination reveals some much simpler truths.  In fact, graft, corruption, and bureaucracy seem to be the real culprits and have siphoned off most of those funds dedicated to updating the power grid.  Things may have actually gotten worse not better.  To this day, one can easily see this truth as trees grow over, around, and through power line right of ways that haven’t been maintained in years.  Remember, it is hard to have a tree knock down a power line if the tree is not hanging over it.  In both examples, it all happened in a matter of a few hours!  What one should take away from this is that things are trending worse and not better.  You can be sure that massive power outages and brownouts will not only become more frequent, but persist longer even while you pay higher and higher electric bills.

The case studies highlight what many people experienced during rapidly collapsing conditions post power failure.  Hurricane Sandy will dwarf the impacts of the above case studies.  The mandatory safety regulations governing the operation of nuclear reactors in the United States during storms will automatically force the shutdown of at least 12 nuclear reactors in the storm’s path.  This event alone will mean tens of millions will lose power for at least 48 hours even with grid rerouting.  Americans across the entire East Coast WILL experience sustained disruptions and should expect and prepare for the following:

  • No power for one to two weeks
  • Fuel shortages
  • Inability to use ATMs or credit/debit cards
  • Cellular communications to fail within 48-72 hours
  • Hard line phone disruptions
  • Water disruptions, contamination, and shutdowns
  • Civil disturbances in urban areas
  • Overwhelmed emergency services to include failure of 911 services
  • Runs on food, water, batteries, and fuel (store shelves stripped empty)
  • Financial market disruptions
  • Stranded travelers and vehicles running out of fuel
  • Mail and trucking disruptions (no supplies getting to affected areas)
  • Widespread low-lying flooding
  • Down trees, power lines, and roof damage
  • Blizzard conditions with up to three feet of snow in some areas

At minimum, everyone in the possible strike zone should immediately prepare respective of your location and specific circumstances.  Although you are now well within the “Last Minute,” here is what you can still do to prepare.  At minimum ensure you have done the following with the expectation of at least two weeks of self-sufficiency:

  • Have plenty of cash on hand
  • Fill your vehicle(s) and fuel containers
  • Charge and/or buy fresh batteries
  • Operationally check critical equipment (vehicles, generator, chain saw, flashlights, etc.)
  • Procure a generator, extension cords, work lights and bulbs if possible
  • Procure chainsaw, extra blades, fuel oil mix, safety glasses, gloves, and bar lube if possible
  • Stage all gear such as flashlights, candles, and lanterns so you can find them in the dark
  • Charge all cell phone and other portable electronic batteries
  • Contact family members, neighbors, and friends to coordinate a disaster plan
  • Ensure multiple people know your location, situation, and plans for storm
  • Consolidate family and those members least able to take care of themselves
  • Consolidate supplies with others if you are in the most dire circumstances
  • Prepare to evacuate low-lying areas and sand bag against high water
  • Move any important items to upper levels of home in low-lying areas
  • Stage duct tape, nylon rope, and tarps in the event of roof damage from heavy rain
  • Trim any branches or trees immediately threatening buildings or parked cars
  • Secure any loose items outdoors
  • Buy or store at least one gallon of water per person, per day (plan for 14 days)
  • Buy or store high calorie, non-perishable food stuffs to include staples like powdered milk
  • Make sure any issues such as bald tires are fixed and maintenance completed on vehicles
  • Security plan if you plan to evacuate or hold at your residence
  • Assemble, inspect, and stage medical kit(s) at home and in your vehicles
  • Have hard copies of maps in all vehicles (don’t rely on GPS)
  • Have extra supply of any essential medications
  • Do remember your pets and prepare for their welfare
  • Make sure you have a radio with batteries, preferably a weather radio
  • Do stay calm, make a plan, and execute
  • Do monitor local news and emergency reports

The safest place will likely be at your home so stay put if you don’t have to travel.  However, if you live in a coastal or low-lying area and need to evacuate, leave as soon as possible and try to stay with a friend or family before resorting to local shelters where conditions may be less than comfortable.

It is always better to prepare early and often, but it is never too late to improve your situation.  Follow Last Minute Survival for the latest breaking news, tips, and information related to disaster preparedness and survival.  Last Minute Survival will soon be releasing a new book on survival strategies tailored to our readers so be the first to request free advanced copies.  Please plan smart and stay safe!