Double Disaster:  A Home Fire During a Broader Emergency Situation Reply

homeonfireConsider these scenarios:  What if a fire develops and the phones are not working, so you are unable to summon the fire department?  Or, what if you telephone for help, only to discover that the fire department is too busy with other disaster-related emergencies and is unable to respond?  What if your fire is at a rural location, far from emergency services and they can’t get there in time? 

A fire in your home, storage building, shop, or business can be heartbreaking under normal circumstances, but what if fire strikes in the aftermath of a disaster when the world is topsy-turvy?    At times such as this, even a small fire can grow and become a life threatening tragedy for you and your family.  Fortunately, you can minimize this risk by being proactive with fire prevention steps and assembling some basic firefighting supplies and skills.  If you are prepared, you may be able to solve the problem yourself.  This article will help you get started.

The first step is prevention.  Since there is an abundance of information on fire prevention, we will sidestep this issue except as it relates to preparing for a fire during a natural disaster, social unrest, or widespread emergency situation.  It’s a simple task to obtain general information on fire prevention from your local fire department or the Internet, so we won’t address that important topic here.  Rather, here we will address those steps you can take to aggressively fight a fire yourself when help isn’t coming, or won’t come in time. 

The key to do-it-yourself firefighting is immediate action.  You can often put out a fire if you are prepared and you engage in effective action immediately.

The “Q” Steps for DIY Firefighting Success:

  • Quickly assess the situation
  • Quickly implement your plan of action
  • Quickly overwhelm the fire with decisive firefighting action. 


stopwatch-act-quicklyFirst-Steps in Any Fire Situation

1.     Quickly evaluate the situation and formulate your response. 

If there is a fire alarm, activate it, and then give warning to others who may be in the area.  Assign someone to call the fire department to inform them of the details of the fire (if it is possible to contact them), and then get others to help you with what is needed to fight the fire.  If you are the most knowledgeable on firefighting, take charge.  If someone else is better suited to the task, make it clear that they are in charge. 

Act quickly.  Seconds count.

If the fire is beyond the incipient stage (early, manageable size), get everyone to safety.  The safety of people is more important than saving a structure, so deal with this concern first.  Prioritize your response.  After people, what is most important to protect? 

2.      Quickly implement your plan of action.

Hopefully you aren’t in this alone.  After you have sounded the alarm, recruit those who are capable of helping.  Give assignments; even older children can help.  Don’t assume that children will act prudently; make sure someone is keeping track of them. 

Remove flammable items from the fire zone:  If the fire has the potential to expand to other flammable materials, or jump to something that is highly flammable like cardboard boxes or gasoline stored nearby, remove these items—if you can do so quickly. 

If you can remove fuel from the fire, you can often keep the fire small and manageable, thereby buying yourself more time to fight it.  If others are available to help, send them to fetch the fire extinguishers while you remove the fuel and valuable items from the fire’s expansion path. 

If it is an electrical fire, turn off the power.  If it is a natural gas or propane fire, turn off the gas.

In advance, make sure everyone knows the location of the electrical box and gas shut-off valve, and how to turn them off.  If a key or tool is required, keep these close to where they will be needed.

3.     Quickly overwhelm the fire.  Don’t just fight it, overwhelm it. 

Hit the fire hard with everything you’ve got.  If you can knock it down quickly, you may be able to put out the fire yourself. 

If you are reluctant to use a fire extinguisher because you are untrained, or because you’re concerned that you might be overreacting, or you are hesitant because you know the fire extinguisher will create a mess, or you decide you’d rather wait until someone arrives to help, then you will likely lose the battle.  

Your window of opportunity to start fighting the fire is fleeting.  It may only last for a few seconds. 

Fire is your enemy, treat it as such.  Fight back with rapid, forceful, determined action.  Don’t delay.

Don’t fail to plan your attack, either.  The answer isn’t just rapid action.  You need to engage in effective and decisive rapid action.  Don’t be timid.  Don’t be hesitant.  Switch-on your mind and body; explode into action and overwhelm the fire. 

smokealarmsEarly Warning:  The Importance of Using Multiple Smoke Detectors and Alarms

To successfully fight a fire, you must have early warning of the problem.  Smoke detectors and other electronic smoke, fire, heat, gas, and threat warning devices can provide you with this critical edge of early warning.

If you have a large house, or you need to protect garages or out buildings, be sure to add detectors that send a signal to a central receiving station in your home.  This receiver needs to be in a high-traffic area of your house to make sure an alarm is noticed.  Without this feature, you may not hear the alarm emanating from an unoccupied area.

Even if your home, garage, shop and storage buildings are already equipped with smoke alarms, it is often a good idea to add additional smoke detectors and fire sensors.  Local and national building codes now require smoke detectors, but many contractors only install the minimum number of detectors. 

In an emergency situation, these electronic devices are force multipliers.  They are not only needed, you need them in abundance.  Like burglar alarms, these tools can give you the crucial extra minutes needed for safety and advance warning.  With their help, you may be able to extinguish the fire before it grows into a blaze that is too big for you to fight.

Firefighting Equipment:  Fire Extinguishers

Amerex-Fire-Exinguishers-L-GOnce the fire extinguishers are at the location of the fire, before using, confirm that they are the correct type of extinguisher for the fire you will be fighting.  Using the wrong type of fire extinguisher can make matters worse, so check to be sure that you have the right type for the task.  This is critically important. 

For example, an extinguisher which contains water may spread a kitchen fire that is fueled by grease or cooking oil.  Similarly, you may receive a deadly electrical shock if you use a water or wet chemical extinguisher on a fire that started in a computer or electrical appliance.  The bottom line:  Know what you are buying and using.

Use the below chart to understand what types of extinguishers can be used safely and effectively, and what types of extinguishers are needed for the locations you are preparing to protect.  Know what you need before you shop.  Then purchase what you need, and place these items in higher-risk areas.

Know Your Fire Extinguisher ABCs

If you will be purchasing fire extinguishers, use the below list to help you select the best fire extinguisher for each area to be protected. 

  • A fire extinguisher rated with more than one letter designation indicates that the extinguisher is appropriate for multiple classes of fires.  For example, a fire extinguisher labeled “ABC” can be used on Class-A, Class-B, and Class-C fires.  (An explanation follows, under “Fire Extinguisher Types.”)
  • Acquaint yourself with proper use of each extinguisher you may need to use.  Read the usage instructions printed on the body of the unit.  Seek knowledgeable guidance if needed. 
  • Be sure you know how to use the fire extinguisher before you need to use it. 
  • Check each extinguisher at least quarterly, to confirm that it is fully charged and undamaged. 
  • Unless you are knowledgeable, don’t use a fire extinguisher on a class of fire not indicated on the label of that extinguisher. 

Though the “Class” ratings are similar around the world, the below information relates specifically to the United States.  If you live in a different part of the world, the letter designations may be slightly different.   

116239-photo-page1Fire Extinguisher Types

Class A:  Ordinary combustible materials, such as wood, paper, cardboard, rubber, fabric, and some plastics (mainly, those which leave a residual ash after burning).

Class B:  Flammable and combustible liquids such as gasoline, diesel, alcohol, automotive oils, oil-based paints and lacquers.

Warning: Before fighting a fire involving a flammable gas, turn off the source of fuel feeding the fire.  Often the best method for fighting a fuel fire, including propane gas, is to shut off the fuel supply valve. Moreover, even if you are successful in extinguishing a fuel fire, if the gas supply has not been turned off, this may result in an explosive accumulation of gas vapors which can lead to an explosion. 

Class C:  Electronic and electrical equipment still connected to power.

Class D:  Generally these fires are confined to manufacturing sites, and involve fires fueled by combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, sodium, etc.

Warning:  ABC and other fire fighting agents may cause a combustible metal fire to spread or increase in severity.  When in doubt, use dry sand to extinguish the blaze.  If feasible, stay back and work to prevent the burning metal from spreading fire into other nearby combustible materials.  Waiting out a combustible metal fire may be the more prudent than fighting the main fire.  If the fire isn’t measurably growing, simply protect the surrounding area rather than try to put out the burning metal fire which is very likely also emitting noxious or poisonous gasses. 

Class K:  Kitchen fires, involving cooking oils, animal oils and fats, which are typically ignited by stove burners, ovens or cooking vats, grills, and other cooking appliances.  Commercial kitchens are required to have automatic Class-K fire suppression equipment, but Class-K extinguishers are also available for home use.

Warning & Recommendation:  The powerful spray of a pressurized fire extinguisher can spread oil,  grease, and burning-liquid fires.  So, if you use a standard “red steel-bottle” fire extinguisher, start fighting the fire from a distance of 20-feet (6 m) and work your way closer to the fire.  Watch the effect closely, to make sure you aren’t inadvertently spreading the fire. 

Kidde-2packFire Extinguishers: Additional Selection Criteria

Size, placement, and the number of fire extinguishers you have on hand, is a topic rarely addressed,  However, this is an important topic. 

A good example of this is the standard 2-1/2 pound fire extinguisher.  These simply are not adequate.  Nevertheless, it’s these small extinguishers that are found in most homes, workshops, cars, recreational vehicles and boats.  But since they only work for about 10-seconds, these are not even sufficient for many small fires.  If this is what you have, don’t replace it, just add to it. 

Store Your Fire Extinguishers by the Twos:  By the time you react and decide you need a fire extinguisher, grab it from where it is stored, and start fighting the fire, there is a good chance that you’ll need more than one extinguisher to put out the fire.  Thankfully, if you grabbed two 5-pound rated (10-pound physical weight) extinguishers at the same time, you may have what you need to put out the fire.  If you only have one it may not be enough.  So the first task is to double up, and store two fire extinguishers near each location where a fire is likely to erupt.

If the fire is small and you are highly competent in the use of a fire extinguisher, a unit containing 5 – 10 pounds of fire extinguishing agent may be enough.  However, when it comes to preparing for a disaster or emergency situation, or rural firefighting, redundancy is important.  Have at least twice the number of fire extinguishers that you think you will need.  The old military adage is a good reminder:  “One is none, two is one.”  Establish redundancy into your preparedness plan. 

Firefighting Equipment:  Other Firefighting Methods and Tools

Traditional fire extinguishers are not your only options.  Here are some additional tools which are worth including in your firefighting plan.

Chimfex_box-and-stickChimney Fire Extinguisher:  Chimney fires are always a risk, but additionally so when fireplaces or wood burning stoves are the sole source of heat, as is often the case during an emergency situation.  During periods of high use, even those who are meticulous about keeping their chimney clean can be hit with a no-warning chimney fire.  And, since these fires can reach 2,000 degrees (1,093 C) in less than a minute, it’s not unusual for a chimney fire to quickly spread into the attic and roof, and then throughout the entire house.  So if you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, you need a plan for fighting a chimney fire. 

Many fire departments routinely use Chimfex Fire Extinguisher sticks to fight chimney fires.  These consumable fire extinguishers can be purchased online and at some fireplace and wood-stove shops.  This is arguably the easiest solution for fighting this type of fire.  It’s also the least expensive.  With a MSRP of $20, these are easy to use and post-fire clean up is a breeze.  We recommend a minimum of two (2) Chimfex Fire Extinguisher sticks for each fireplace and each wood burning stove in your home.

Made by Orion—the company which makes highway safety flares, the Chimfex Fire Extinguisher stick looks a lot like a 14-inch flare.  It’s even activated in a similar fashion.  After activation, the fire extinguisher stick is simply placed inside the firebox, next to the fire.  If there is a door or vents on the fireplace or stove, close them to force the fire extinguishing gases up the chimney.  As the chemical smoke of the Chimfex is emitted, the fire’s heat is cut in half and the oxygen is displaced, extinguishing the fire.  If the chimney fire isn’t completely extinguished within half a minute, add another Chimfex stick.  Be sure to avoid breathing the device’s chemical smoke as it is toxic. 

This simple method has been used by professional firefighters to put out chimney fires for more than 40 years with great success, so there is rarely a need to retreat to other methods—unless you didn’t have the foresight to buy a couple Chimfex fire extinguisher sticks.  Water and dry chemical fire extinguishers can also do the trick, but expect these alternative methods to do far more damage than a Chimfex stick.

Baking_Soda-Large_BagsBaking Soda:  Keep a large bag of baking soda in a handy location in your kitchen.  In the event of fire, you can use it to extinguish a burning pan of grease, a fire created by a pot that boiled over onto a stove burner, as well as many other types of cooking fires.  If used quickly, it can be very effective.

After purchase, open the baking soda container, and then reseal it with a binder clip or a large paperclip, so that it is quick and easy to open using only your hands.  Store the container in a cabinet near the stove or oven, but not above these appliances.  As soon as a fire flares up, open the bag and liberally sprinkle the baking soda onto the burning liquid, blanketing the burning surface to block air from getting to the fire.  With this method, you may even be able to eat your food after rinsing off the baking soda!

shovel-fireFirefighting with Sand and Dirt: 
Historically, buckets of sand were stored in garages in case of fire.  This sand was used to extinguish small gasoline, diesel and oil fires.  Just blanket the burning liquid with it to starve the fire by eliminating exposure to the air.  Though this is far less effective than using a fire extinguisher made for this purpose, it is an inexpensive, simple and handy alternative.  A bag of sand stored in the garage, off the floor and away from damp, is a worthy addition to your firefighting supplies even if you have a fire extinguisher nearby. 

Similarly, a small outdoor grass fire or fuel fire can sometimes be extinguished by shoveling dirt onto the burning material.  A shovel is a great firefighting tool for fighting small outdoor fires.

bucket_brigade_travisFirefighting with Water:  Ordinary water is a great way to extinguish fires fueled by burning wood, cardboard, brush, leaves and yard clippings, paper garbage and some plastics.  The problem with using water is that most people are not equipped to deliver the volume of water needed to fight a fire.  With water, a high volume of water is critically important. 

If you don’t have a firefighting hose and related equipment, you can often extinguish a small fire simply by throwing multiple buckets of water on it.  This is generally more effective than using a garden hose, especially if there are enough people around to form a bucket brigade. 

Though many homeowners have attempted to put out a house fire using a garden house, it is rarely effective, even when the fire is small.  This is because the volume of water delivered is simply insufficient to stifle the fire.  That explained, it may still be better than nothing, but before you grab your garden hose, try to think of another solution. 

If you find yourself without anything other than a garden house, use the shortest length of hose needed to reach the fire, and keep the hose as straight as possible.  (Not kinked, and also not in a circle, nor wrapped around a hose cart.  This will increase the water flow and give you added pressure at the nozzle.)

Promising New Firefighting Technologies

In addition to new fire retardant building materials, there are a number of innovative products designed to automatically put out fires.  The below items are harder to find than traditional fire extinguishers, but nevertheless worth considering.  These may be used as a first-defense against fire, but we recommend that traditional fire extinguishers also be available for firefighting.

AFO-Fire_Extinguisher_Ball-GrenadeFire-Extinguisher Grenade (aka/ Firefighting Ball, or Fire Extinguishing Ball):  Though specifications vary by brand, most fire extinguishing grenades are only about 6-inches (147 mm) in diameter and weigh a modest 3 pounds (1.3 kg), yet they purportedly have the firefighting capability equivalent to several 5-pound ABC fire extinguishers.  Plus, they will work on ABC and E fires.  Since these four types of fires include 98% of all structure fires, these truly are a multi-purpose firefighting device.  [We have not yet had the opportunity to test this product]

Invented by the Israelis and in use by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), we have not yet had the opportunity to test this new product.  Several different brands are currently available online at prices ranging from $50-$230 per unit.  (It is the “Elide Fire” Self-Activating Multi-Purpose Fire Extinguishing Ball that is in use by the IDF.)  Expensive, certainly, but the cost is insignificant if it saves a life, or your house, shop or storage building. 

These “grenades” are a pyrotechnic device, designed to instantly blow an environmentally-safe fire retardant into the air, temporarily displacing the oxygen and thereby extinguishing the fire.  If activated in the middle of a fire, one ball apparently has the capacity to extinguish all fire within a 400 sq. ft. (37 m2) area.  Multiple grenades can be used in a larger room, but it is confided space which will maximize the effectiveness of the fire extinguishing ball.

Only minimally effective outdoors, in a confined area like a storage room, these may be extremely effective.  These dual-use balls can be used two ways.  For proactive defense, a fire extinguishing ball can be stored unattended in a room, ideally placed in its wire bracket, high on a wall or on the ceiling above the most likely source of fire.  Or, the ball can be used to fight an active fire, by tossing or rolling it into a fire by hand.  Either way, after 3-10 seconds exposure to flame, the unit “pops” and fills the air with its fire extinguishing chemical.  

While not safe to hold when it discharges, these balls are supposedly safe for use in occupied rooms if the inhabitants have been rendered unconscious due to smoke inhalation.  However if possible, the ball should obviously be discharged in a part of the room away from people.  Yet, a minor injury from the ball discharging its contents would seem to be more desirable than death from fire.  But again, we have not personally tested these promising new devices.

Extinguish_Stick-50secFire Stick:  Developed for use inside the space station, this compact non-pressurized fire extinguisher is easy to use.  At only 1.7 x 10.5 inches in size (30-second model), it will fit into a cabinet, drawer, or the console of most cars.  However, we recommend that you store it in a visible location to insure quick access.  Since this pipe-shaped device weighs less than 1-pound (.4 kg), several can be easily and compactly transported. 

Available in 50-second and 100-second models, the manufacturer claims that the Fire Stick is equivalent to a much larger and more expensive, 30/60-pound ABC Dry Chemical fire extinguisher.  MSRP is $100 for the 50-second model and $130 for the 100-second version, but discounts are available online.  (Be sure to compare apples-to-apples.  The 50-second and 100-second models of Fire Stick look essentially the same in photos.) 

Since the Fire Stick is lightweight and only requires the use of two hands to activate, and one-hand to use, it is not only ideal for astronauts but also us ordinary people.  Even a wheelchair or walker-bound person, as long as they have use of their arms and hands, can use one of these extinguishers. 

The downside of the Fire Stick is that once it is activated, it will immediately discharge its entire contents.  Unlike a traditional fire extinguisher which can be turned off, enabling the user to move to a new place to attack the fire on a new front, the Fire Stick operates continuously until it is empty. 

Rated for ABC and E fires, a Fire Stick is suitable for use with almost all types of fires we are likely to encounter.  The tube is simply opened, and the yellow activating ribbon removed, to initiate a chemical interaction which sprays retardant from the other end of the tube.  Since it is noncorrosive, it can also be safely used to fight fires involving electronics such as computers, as well as electrical box fires, burning liquid fires such as kitchen grease fires and automotive fuel fires, in addition to wood, cardboard, small debris piles, and small grass fires.

In use in Europe for several years, the Fire Stick is not in common use in the United States, so we have not yet tested this product.  Nevertheless, it looks to be a promising new fire fighting technology.    

Kitchen Stovetop Fire Retardant Dispensers and Automatic Fire Extinguishers:   According to the National Fire Protection Association, kitchen fires are the #1 cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries.  Since distractions which take the cook out of the kitchen are the leading contributing factor, it makes sense to install an automatic fire extinguisher over the stovetop.  These range in price from highly effective units similar to those used in commercial kitchens, which start at about $200, to relatively inexpensive units which are simple to install that cost a more modest $40-75. 

Whichever model you select, be sure that your unit is designed to operate in the space you have available.  For example, units designed for use inside cooking hoods will not work effectively in the limited space under a microwave that is located above a stove.  Understand too, that the relatively low-cost units are often just automatic dispensers which pour baking soda onto the stovetop.  This can work very effectively, but it is a much different level of protection than that which is provided by pressurized automatic fire extinguisher designed for kitchen fires.


The bottom line is that we need to equip ourselves with firefight tools and basic skills now, in advance of the need.  Even under normal circumstances we need to be proactive with our preparation.  This is important if we want to maximize safety and minimize our loss in the event of a fire.  We are conditioned by advertising to be meticulous about maintaining adequate fire insurance, but few take the additional steps necessary for prudent, personal preparation. 

When we take into account the increased risk of suffering a structure fire during a natural disaster, or a time of civil unrest, when the fire department may not be available to respond, we should feel a sense of urgency about these personal preparations.  An insurance settlement sometime in the future is irrelevant if you and your family are at risk today.

We appreciate and are thankful for our professional firefighters, but we have a personal responsibility to do our part in preventing and preparing to personally fight a fire.  If a fire strikes when no one is available to help, and we are adequately equipped and prepared, we may be able to handle the emergency ourselves.  Failure is not an option. 

During an emergency situation, if we are unable to deal with the problem ourselves, then the loss may be more than just our home or business.  We may risk the loss of life, or the supplies and facilities we desperately need, to survive during a difficult time. 

Hope for the best.  Prepare for the worst.


Personal Hygiene and Family/Community Health Reply


Medical Team 01A message from one of our 36READY team doctors:

During an emergency situation a few very simple precautions may keep you and your family healthy. This is critically important.  Remaining in good health will not only help you cope, it is essential for peak performance during high-stress or dangerous situations.  It’s a simple truth that healthy people can respond more effectively to a disaster situation.  Moreover, when health risks are greater and medical care more difficult to obtain, hygiene and sanitation mistakes can produce disastrous consequences.


Personal Hygiene.  Personal hygiene and cleanliness is a serious challenge during many disaster situations.  Unless you have adequate clean water, hand washing and bathing and other activities of hygiene may be difficult or impossible.  Unfortunately, dirty bodies are breeding grounds for microbes.  As a result, emergency situations where there are limited bathing opportunities can be expected to bring additional health challenges.

Even small cuts, blisters, thorns, insect stings and minor burns can become infected and lead to serious complications, additionally so if they are not cleansed and treated quickly.  Be aware of even minor injuries.  Anytime the skin is penetrated, take steps to clean and protect the skin in that area.


Hand Sanitization.  Numerous medical studies have proven that the most effective way to prevent the spread of contagious diseases is very simple—wash your hands.  Avoid touching your mouth and rubbing your eyes with your hands.  Scrub your hands for at least 30-seconds (sing the “Happy birthday” song twice) with antibacterial soap and hot potable water after every trip to the latrine, after contact with someone who is ill, before food preparation, before touching clean cooking utensils and water purification equipment, and of course, before eating.  This is vitally important.

If you can’t scrub with soap and hot water, at least cleanse your hands with a hand sanitizer or wipes.  Since pure water may be in short supply and reserved for drinking, stockpile a quantity of alcohol-based hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes.  For your GO-Bag, include a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


Dental and Oral Health.  Oral hygiene remains important, even in a disaster situation.  If regular tooth brushing and flossing is not possible, and a toothpick and mouthwash aren’t available, after eating use a clean handkerchief to rub your teeth and tongue.

Now, in advance of a disaster, keep up to date with your 6-month dental checkups and teeth cleaning.  If your dentist finds a problem such as a cavity, cracked tooth or a loose filling, get it fixed right away.  Problems which are simple to fix today might become debilitating in the future.  If a problem develops during an emergency situation it will diminish your ability to cope with the problems you need to face.

Keep a dental-emergency kit in your GO-Bag, and a more complete kit with your other emergency supplies.  You can build your own kit with the help of your dentist.  Or, at the very least, purchase an inexpensive basic kit such as the one produced by Adventure Medical Kits.


Sneezing and Cough Hygiene.  Many communicable diseases are transmitted by airborne (aerosolized) pathogens.  A simple way to prevent the spread of these diseases is to insist that everyone always cover their mouth and nose any time they sneeze or cough.  Turn your head and cough or sneeze into your shoulder, rather than covering your mouth with your hand.

Those who have a contagious illness, like the flu, must wear a mask.  Their caregivers must also wear a mask, as well as eye protection (wrap around inexpensive plastic safety glasses are effective).  Caregivers must always sanitize their hands after contact with the patient, as well as bedding and other items that their patients have touched.

Medical masks are best, but inexpensive masks like those available from hardware stores, can be very effective.


Family and Community Health:  Safe disposal of human waste is one of the top needs during any disaster situation.  Moreover, after some disasters, a previously safe water supply may have become compromised.  Don’t assume tap water is safe to drink.


Toilet:  If plumbing doesn’t work, create a latrine outdoors.  Fecal material should be buried, ideally after sprinkling a spade-full of lime over the excrement.  The deeper the hole the better, as the same hole can be used repeatedly.  Remove a toilet seat from the house and use it to build a makeshift seat over the hole.  Dig the hole at least 100-feet away from creeks, rivers, lakes, water-well heads and food-growing gardens.  (Do not use human excrement as fertilizer for growing food as it can contain harmful pathogens that can be transferred to growing food.)  Locate your makeshift latrine in a place which affords privacy, and where prevailing winds will not send odors into living space. Covering it with a canvas tarp or old sheet can diminish the inevitable annoyance of flies and other flying insects.  If toilet paper is unavailable, use paper napkins, book pages, and other sources of non-glossy paper.  (Newspapers are less than ideal as the ink is often water-soluble and can become messy.)  Pioneers used fresh grass and tree bark.  


Sanitization of Counters, Toilet Fixtures, Furniture, Toys.  A 10% solution of plain (no additives like scents) household bleach (Chlorox) is an excellent disinfectant for bathroom surfaces, kitchen counters where food is prepared, children’s toys (as possible), as well as objects in the “sick room” where a patient is recuperating.

* This solution is not recommended for disinfecting skin or open wounds.


Quarantine and Isolation.  Even if no one in your group is currently ill, make plans for a place where you can effectively quarantine individuals who become ill.  In the no-so-distant past, epidemics of influenza (“flu”) killed many people—especially children, the elderly and the infirm.

These higher-risk groups will generally be more susceptible to secondary serious complications.  This is because their immune systems are not as effective as that of healthy, young adults.

If an outbreak of a contagious disease occurs in your group, the individual and their immediate caregivers must be immediately isolated from the group.  In advance, consider now how you will accomplish this task.  To reduce resistance, make sure that each member of your group understands this policy prior to the need for implementation.

If multiple individuals are sick, if possible, isolate them in separate rooms.  If this isn’t possible and you have to place two or more individuals in a single room, erect a barrier between their beds (folding screen, hang a tarp or blanket, etc.).  This will help prevent the patients from passing infectious agents back and forth when they sneeze or cough.

During   pandemics, such as the “Spanish flu” outbreak in the early 1900’s, patient beds were organized so that the position of each patient’s cot was alternated; the head of each patient was at the feet of the patients on either side of him/her.  This helped as a coughing patient projected their infected aerosol toward the adjacent patient’s feet rather than their eyes, nose or mouth.


Medical Readiness: Proactive Personal Responsibility Reply

Prevention is KeyA message from one of our 36READY team doctors:  Whether your focus is preparing for a major natural disaster or one that is human caused, too many of us focus on two or three areas of preparedness while ignoring or putting off other important issues.  As a friend recently reminded me, “We tend to prepare most vigorously in the areas of our interest.”  Very true.  When we concentrate on one, or just a few facets of preparedness we are often neglecting others which are also critically important.  These deserve our attention, too.  We cannot afford to be myopic when it comes to preparedness.

Medical readiness is such a topic.  Unless your career or vocation is in some aspect of medicine or public health, your medical preparations are probably inadequate.  Having a well-stocked first aid kit is not enough.

Be proactive.  Be thorough.  Make preparedness a lifestyle of readiness.


Prevention is the first step in medical preparedness.

Safety Precautions.  During an emergency situation you will likely engage in activities, and use tools, that are not part of your typical life.  Simple precautions such as properly handling a knife, hammer, chain saw, ladder and other tools which can inflict injury, are a must.  During an emergency situation, medical care may not be readily available, so even simple injuries can become serious as a result of inadequate treatment or infection.

Relatively minor injuries like a twisted ankle can disable you, or reduce your effectiveness at a time when you need every ounce of your physical abilities.  Be safe.  Wear safety glasses, gloves, toe and ankle-protecting boots, as well as and other activity-specific safety gear.  Safety is your #1 priority during an emergency situation.

Expect fatigue.  Stress and physical exertion will increase fatigue, and the onset of fatigue.  Fatigue mixed with hazardous activities, tools and equipment is a situation ripe for disaster.  When possible, frequently rotate heavy physical work among several individuals.  This will delay the onset of fatigue and help heighten attentiveness.


Stay Hydrated.  As the tagline of the most popular water bottle/bladder manufacturer reminds us, “Hydrate or Die.”  This isn’t an empty slogan.  After air, your next priority for survival is to drink water.  Generally, at least 100-oz of water per day for an adult, much more as the temperature or exertion increases.

Adequate hydration is critical for your health, additionally so if you are engaged in manual labor, hiking, or operating in a hot climate.  Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very dangerous but entirely preventable conditions.  The likelihood of either condition can be significantly decreased with frequent rest breaks and adequate water (and mineral) intake

Naturally, the water you use must be potable (i.e. safe for drinking, cooking and brushing your teeth).  Unsafe water can kill you.  If it doesn’t kill you, it can make you extremely ill with diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

During periods of exertion or high temperature, add to your water a Gatorade-like sports-drink powder product that is high in electrolytes.  Recipes for homemade electrolyte-replacement powders can be found on the Internet.  They typically include Kool Aid for flavoring to make it palatable to children, sugar, electrolytes and salt.


Get Physically Fit.  Strength and stamina may be life-saving attributes in an emergency situation.  With almost any disaster your physical abilities will be taxed.  Moreover, those who are physically fit and suffer an acute illness or injury almost invariably recover more quickly, more completely and with less medical intervention than those who are physically unfit.

Fitness requires consistency, time, perseverance during fatigue, and a mindshare commitment.  With your physician’s approval and guidance, setup a slowly graduated program to improve your overall fitness.  If you have not been getting exercise, start with a daily walking program or other aerobic exercise, alternating days with resistance (weights) training.

Many of us know how and what to do, yet we fail to consistently apply our knowledge. If you don’t know what to do, get your physician‘s help or find a certified trainer with a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) degree.  Private gyms are oftentimes better than big chains.

The time is now.  Add exercise to your daily schedule as if it is an important appointment.  It is.  Recruit a friend to join you; together you can help each other remain consistent.  You are more likely to faithfully exercise if you are doing it with someone.


Lose Excess Weight. Morbid obesity is a common and serious medical disorder involving excessive body fat, but simply being overweight by 15-20 pounds can also create health risks.  Excess body weight increases the risk of other health problems.

Stress and new levels of exertion during an emergency situation can be deadly for an overweight person.  Excess weight also interferes with basic physical activities such as breathing, sleeping and walking.  It will be a serious handicap in a scenario where everything is being accomplished by strenuous physical activity.

Those who are significantly overweight are at much greater risk for developing other serious disorders, too.  This can include health problems such as:  diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, chronic heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux disease), gallstones, degenerative arthritis, and even stroke and many types of cancer.  Medical conditions such as these can reduce your survivability during even a minor disaster, so do what you can now to improve your health.

Ask your physician for help in maintaining a 2-3 month supply of the medicines you need.  This may be a life saver during a disaster.  Notwithstanding, if your medicine is left behind or damaged as a result of a disaster, or the situation is protracted and you don’t have access to a pharmacy, your health problems may proliferate explosively.  Weight loss is a simple way to mitigate these potential problems.

Excess weight isn’t just a health risk; it may also reduce your ability to respond to the disaster.  Moreover, as your family and friends try to help you, it may increase their risk, too.

If you are overweight, schedule a doctor visit and start dealing with this problem today.  Lose the weight.  It can save your life and maybe the life of your loved ones, as well.


Eat Right.  Our bodies require high quality nutritional sources to run all of our bodily systems.  Even if you are typically health conscious about diet and nutrition, you may not have access to the foods you normally eat.  A change in diet can cause stomach upset, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea.  Keep medicines for these ailments with your food supply.

It is difficult, but nevertheless important to be nutrition-aware during an emergency situation.  Read food product labels, be aware of calorie intake (a minimum of 1,200 calories for most adults), and do what you can to maintain a balanced diet that includes fiber (and plenty of water).  You may ordinarily avoid fats and sugar, but these may be advantageous if your situation involves stress or exertion.  Alertness and good decision making are aided by a balanced diet.

An extended period of dietary deficiency can also produce serious illnesses.  The classic example is scurvy, a disorder that was literally killing British sailors who were at sea for extended periods.  Scurvy, caused by a lack of vitamin C, was easily prevented once sailors were given citrus fruits and other foods high in this vitamin. (For British sailors, a daily ration of limes was added to their diets.  As a result, the “Limeys” no longer suffered from scurvy.)


Take a Multivitamin.  Consider taking a daily multivitamin, now, and rotate a supply through your Emergency Supplies Kit and GO-Bag.  Since vitamin products degrade quickly when exposed to heat, light and moisture, keep this in mind when you select your storage method and location.

It’s not just advertising “hype” that multivitamins can enhance health, particularly for those who don’t eat nutritionally well-balanced meals.  Keep in mind, too, that people have different nutritional needs.  For example, growing children have different nutritional needs than adults, as do pregnant women and women in their reproductive years.  Seniors need age-specific multivitamins or supplements.

Though some physicians and dieticians dismiss the need for vitamins and supplements, most people find them helpful.  Today, most of our foods are over processed or prepared in a way which significantly decreases their nutritional value, so taking vitamins and selected supplements seems to provide some added “nutrition insurance”.

With the help of your physician or a competent advisor, decide what multivitamin is best for you; your health needs and your environment.  Since many major brands are useless because they fail to dissolve fast enough to be absorbed by your body, test each vitamin and supplement you are considering.  To test absorption, put the vitamin or supplement in a glass of room temperature water and wait 30-minutes.  If the pill has not dissolved in the glass, it may not dissolve in your stomach.

* As with medicine, protect children from unauthorized access to vitamins.

Selection of Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements.  If you and your physician think that it is safe to take these products, do your own research.  The websites for manufacturers of effective vitamins and nutritional supplements will contain more than marketing hype.  For example, the website for “Life Extension” ( includes information on clinical research conducted using their products, blood testing services, articles on specific health concerns, a helpful online magazine which includes erudite articles, and evidence that their products are routinely referenced in independent medical and health journals.

Vitamin and Supplement Details:  Multivitamins can be a cost effective way to cover all the basics, but you may also want to include nutritional supplements for specific health goals.  The following information is for an adult, and is provided only as an example.  We include it here to help you formulate your own plan.  What you take, and the dosage, should be determined as a result of your own research, and validated in consultation with your physician.

Vitamin C, 1,000 mg/day.  Vitamin C boosts the immune system and promotes rapid healing of connective tissue injuries (cuts, sprains).  Some nutritionists advocate much higher doses, especially during a disaster scenario.  However, with a normal diet that contains vitamin C (citrus fruits especially), 1,000 mg/day is generally considered adequate.

Zinc, 50 mg/day.  Reported to be a significant immune system booster.  Do not exceed a dose of 50 mg per day as a higher dose can produce adverse effects.

Magnesium, 500 mg twice or three times per day.  Magnesium helps to keep blood pressure normalized.  It also helps decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack and helps prevent muscle cramps.

Fish Oil, 2000-8000 mg/day.  Fish oil is an effective anti-inflammatory, and also has effects similar to mild blood thinners.  These two beneficial effects may help decrease the risk of heart attack and brain attack (stroke).

Other Popular Supplements:  Green Tea Extract, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine).

Top-10 Medical Preparedness Questions to Ask Your Doctor Reply

Medical-QuestionsAt 36READY we are thankful to have a team of volunteers that are medical doctors and emergency medical care specialists.  We are using this opportunity to highlight the top-10 medical preparedness questions that we receive from those who are preparing for, “When there is no doctor” and “When there is no medical care” situations.  

This article is not medical advice, it is solely to help you prepare your own questions for your personal physician.


Question #1:  

What can the responsible individual do to minimize the adverse impact of no modern medical care for himself and his family?

Doctor:  In my research I came to realize that there are numerous medical conditions and events that we can avoid or mitigate with the proper preparation NOW.  Even those without any medical training can learn enough first aid and rudimentary health and sanitation principles to make a life or death difference for their loved ones.  This preparation will require the same diligence that we use in any other area of preparedness.


Question #2:

I have no medical knowledge or background, so what can I do to prepare medically for me and my loved ones?

Doctor:  Let’s be clear.  It will take diligence and a serious commitment of time and effort to be an effective caregiver for your nuclear group.  Set realistic goals for yourself.  Unless you decide to go to medical or nursing school you won’t get that level of knowledge and experience.  However, basic and advanced first aid can be learned by almost anyone and can be a lifesaver.  But to be proficient you will have to read, study, take courses and gather materials.


Question #3:

In addition to gaining knowledge, what practical things can me and my loved ones do now to begin to prepare for a medical emergency?

Doctor:  Start today, and begin the process of assembling three (or four) medical kits.  Though we often own many first-aid products, very often we can’t quickly find what is needed.  Change that today.

First, develop a small first aid kit that can be carried on your belt (or in your GO-Bag).  After you’re satisfied with the contents of this first small kit, make a duplicate for each family member’s GO-Bag.  Second, pull together a more complete medical bag to keep at home.  You can use this at home if needed, but it is designed as a self-contained multipurpose kit to grab if you ever need to evacuate (bug-out).  Design your third kit to be routinely carried in your vehicle.  The contents of this shoulder-bag size kit should be oriented toward traffic accidents and other serious injuries.

Fourth, if you are preparing a ‘safe haven’ retreat as a destination for evacuation, you will want to have heavy-duty plastic bins filled with all sorts of first aid and medical supplies.  In addition to quantities of first aid bandages and related gear, these bins of supplies should also include prescription drugs needed for you and your family, and nonprescription medicines for routine ailments.  In addition, these bins should have sanitation gear and other health care goods that might be needed for your family / community.

For the first three types of kits, use soft-sided bags.  This makes them easier to carry, transport, and easier to cram into limited space.  If you don’t currently have something suitable, don’t let that stall your implementation.  A cardboard box works fine as a container to start the process. 

Inventory what you already have, and make a list of what you need.  To save money, basic bandages can be obtained at a Dollar Store or Wal-Mart, while other items can be purchased online or at a medical supply store.  If you are planning for a protracted emergency situation, you will want a lot more in the way of medical supplies. 

At the very least, you and each adult and teen in your family should obtain formal first aid training.  The American Red Cross and other organizations offer courses such as, ‘Wilderness and Remote First Aid.’ This particular class was developed cooperatively between the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts, so you will probably find this type of medical training more helpful than just a basic first aid course.  Though not as practical as the hands-on classroom version of this course, this class is also offered as an online 16-hour course. 

The “Emergency Reference Guide” for this Wilderness and Remote First Aid class can be downloaded for free from the Red Cross website.  Print or buy a copy of this 121-page handbook and keep it in your larger medical kits.  Inside this Guide you will also find a list of items to include in your first aid kits.  In my view these lists are far from complete, but it is a good place to start.  Also, if you have a smart phone or tablet device, purchase a first-aid app or an e-book on wilderness medicine and emergency first aid.  That way you’ll have these reference materials handy.

In addition to these medical kits, review my responses to the below questions.  This should spark other thoughts regarding what you can do to prepare for a medical emergency. 


Question #4:

My doctor recently talked to me about having elective surgery.  I’m not sure I want to do it, but I realize that this could become a problem, especially during a protracted emergency situation when there is limited (or no) access to competent medical care.  

Doctor:  If you or your physician know that an “elective” procedure will need to be done at some point—do it now!

Doctors use the word ”elective” in two entirely different ways.  A truly elective procedure is one which is not essential to good health but is desired by the patient.  Examples of truly elective procedures might be plastic surgery for breast implants or a face lift.  These are certainly worthwhile procedures if they are important to the patient but they will have little or no impact on enhancing survival.

Doctors also use the term “elective” to describe medical abnormalities that do not have to be fixed right now but should be taken care sometime in the future.  These medical abnormalities will likely cause a problem at some point.  I strongly urge you to get these procedures done now!  Right now modern medical treatment is available. Safe, effective anesthesia can be administered by experts.  This ideal situation will not be available in a meltdown scenario.


Question #5:

What are the medical procedures that are important to deal with right away?

Doctor:  Repair of hernia (herniorraphy), removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) if it has ever been symptomatic, removal of hemorrhoids (hemorrhoidectomy), sinus surgery for serious recurrent sinus infections, knee or hip replacement, herniated disk surgery, carpal tunnel release and removal of tonsils (tonsillectomy) for recurrent serious throat infections.  If you have decided that you don’t want children then you might consider a vasectomy (males) or women might consider having their fallopian tubes tied now.

One additional comment is needed regarding gallbladder removal.  At the present time just the presence of gallstones is not considered justification for removal.  At the present time and with the medical resources currently available I concur with that guideline.  However, the question is will your gallstones at some future time (when modern medicine may not be available) cause a blockage of the duct?  I can’t answer that and neither can anyone else.  Gallbladder “attacks” are painful, accompanied by nausea with or without vomiting and may produce a serious condition called pancreatitis (inflammation and damage of the pancreas).  The pancreas secretes the enzymes we need to normally digest food. It is also the organ that manufactures insulin for control of our blood sugar levels.  Another consideration– if you have gallstones and have never had symptoms from them it is likely that your medical insurance will not want to pay for the surgery.  It’s an issue that you will have to decide for yourself with the input of a trusted personal physician.


Question #6:

My best friend visits her demonologist twice a year.  Is this really necessary?  What is the likelihood that a skin problem would develop so quickly, that it would become a problem during an emergency situation?

Doctor:  I think it would be prudent to have a competent dermatologist perform a careful examination of your skin to identify any premalignant or cancerous skin lesions.  The vast majority of these skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).  If caught early they are easily treated and completely curable.  These two skin cancers almost never spread to other areas of the body but if left untreated they can become very destructive leading to open wounds that are disfiguring and subject to secondary infection.


Question #7:

I’m a father of adult children, and am wondering if there are any special medical tests I should undergo as part of being prepared for an emergency situation?

Doctor:  Is it time for your colonoscopy?  I urge you to get it done so that any benign polyps, precancerous lesions or other abnormalities can be dealt with now.

Chronic Conditions:  If you or your loved ones have any chronic diseases you will need to prepare for their long term care.  This will require careful thought and planning.

Start by making a list of every disease or condition currently affecting each individual. If a medical person is available in a societal collapse environment, just having this information could be lifesaving.  By having a detailed list of medical problems, the medic can do a brief survey physical exam and probably be able to quickly determine the cause of the current acute problem and deal with it.

You also need to have a complete list of all vitamins, supplements and medications being taken by each individual to provide to the medic.  Be sure to include the dose (amount), the frequency with which the medicine is taken and how it is taken (by mouth, by suppository, etc.).  Drug interactions can mimic medical conditions and complicate diagnosis.


Question #8:

Obviously we may not have access to medical clinics, medical tests, and hospitals during a serious disaster.  Should I somehow get some antibiotics or other prescription medicines in case they are needed?

Doctor:  If possible, start to accumulate “extra” medications that are needed for each individual.  This is going to be hard to do because most medications are now fully or partially paid for by insurance companies.  Understandably, these companies are unwilling to pay for more than is needed for a given period of time (usually a 30 or 90 day supply).  So try to always get a 90 day prescription from your physician, so that if the “balloon goes up” tomorrow you will have that three month supply instead of just one month. 

If you want more of a medication than your medical insurance allows, then you will have to pay for it.  There are ways to get around medical insurers’ limitations but to do so is dishonest.  Don’t go there; honesty is important.  Cheating a medical service provider or an insurance company is not just illegal, it’s dishonest and unethical.  If you want more than your insurance company will provide, pay for it yourself out of your own pocket.

There are other, honest and legal, ways to accumulate prescription medications.  For example,  Do not discard old medications that weren’t completely used.  Pain pills that were prescribed for treatment of pain after a dental or surgical procedure, can be used by that individual in the future.  But be sure you know what you are doing.  Improper treatment can create more problems than they solve, and even be life threatening.  A doctor spends years in school to make sure he prescribes the appropriate treatment, don’t assume that you can do this with no training. 

In any case, if you were given a five day supply of pain killers but you only used it for two days, you have the option to save the extra.  Many preppers are doing this to make sure they have it available during an extended emergency situation. 

* If this is what you choose to do, be sure these medications are stored in a safe place, where children and unauthorized people can’t access them. 


Question #9:

What about the expiration date on medications?  Can they be used safely after that date has passed?

Doctor:  Although every medication has an expiration date, it has been scientifically proven that most medications (if stored correctly) are still effective for years (in some cases even decades) after that date.  Besides, even if an expired medication isn’t at full strength, in a situation where no medical care is available and you won’t have access to care for a long time, past-date medicines may be far better than nothing. 


Question #10:

I’ve heard that it’s possible to order medications online, from other countries, without a prescription.  Is this true?  Is it legal?

Doctor:  In some locales, another way to legitimately accumulate your prescription medications is to ask your care provider to write an identical, additional 90 day prescription for you. These patients don’t turn this second prescription in to their local pharmacy.  They use the first prescription to legitimately obtain their medications locally, using their medical insurance pharmacy plan.  The second prescription is used to order additional medication online, at their own expense. 

If this is what you would like to do, you will need to see if this is legal in your location.  If it is legal, be sure to ask friends for reliable vendors, and undertake your own online research.  Many people have successfully used Canadian mail-order pharmacies as well as those based in other countries.  However, there are multitudes of scammers and unethical vendors who are taking advantage of those who seek offshore medical supplies.  So, use caution.



This is only a conversation; we are not providing medical advice in this article.  We are only sharing general information to help you develop questions to ask your own doctor, so that you can better prepare for a situation when you cannot get medical care.  It is essential that you seek advice on these issues from your personal health care provider.  DO NOT act on this information without the corroboration of that licensed medical professional.

Doctor:  Although I am a physician, I am (obviously) not your personal or family physician.  So please understand, the purpose of this article is to respond to general questions, and share my thoughts and personal opinions.

As I consider the needs of my family and friends who are preparing for a “When there is no hospital or clinic” situation, I feel compelled to offer my opinions.  None of this should be considered a treatment plan, or medically directed advice.  It is solely for a “When there is no medical care for months” circumstance.

To be clear:  These responses are provided solely for those individuals who do not have access to medical care, and circumstances in which you have no choice but to handle medical care situations on your own.  Since I don’t want to leave you stranded, I have responded to these questions with the specific understanding that your circumstance is that no medical care will be available to you for many months.

Post Script:  I must confess that initially I was discouraged thinking about all the medications and technology I won’t have available to me in a societal meltdown situation.  But as I continue to study what can be done in such a situation, I became excited about the very real difference that we can make in the lives of others during a time such as this.  What an incredible opportunity to show the love of Jesus to those who will be desperate for help.




Evacuation: Pre-planning is Essential Reply

1-evacuation-crowds-of-people1. Get out early. Don’t delay.
2. Pre-plan your evacuation. Do it now, before it’s too late.

Routing, navigation, timing of departure, and predetermined locations to meet-up with family and/or friends, are all critically important elements of every personal emergency plan.

Unfortunately, evacuation routes are often thought to be obvious, and yet the obvious routes are usually a poor choice when disaster strikes.

In large urban areas, as well as rural locations where major storms are a part of life, evacuation routes have often been established, and these are generally marked with special signage. Maps of these ‘official’ evacuation routes are typically available online at the website for your local government’s Emergency Management Planning office.

Notwithstanding, it may be more prudent to review these ‘official’ routes and then formulate your own evacuation route. Actually, you need several routes. Routes to the rendezvous location where you intend to meet your family or friends, and a route from that location to a more distant safe haven. Plus, direct routes and ‘Plan-B’ routes to use when your first-choice route is compromised.

In a danger-is-imminent situation you need to skip the rendezvous location and immediately flee to a nearby safe (or safer) location. Then, once the initial danger is past, the maps and other items in your GO-Bag will make it possible for you to escape to a place where you can reconnect with family and friends.

Flexibility is essential, so an understanding of evacuation route options, and a good map, are important components of your GO-Bag.

1-Bug-Out_Team-Walking‘GO-Bag’ is an acronym for a “Get Out” bag of essential items. This emergency supplies kit is sometimes also referred to as a ‘GOOD Bag’ (Get-Out-of-Dodge Bag), or ‘Bug-Out Bag’ (old military term). Whichever term you use, this is a knapsack containing 12-20 pounds of essential items, things that you may desperately need for safe evacuation.

You always need to plan for more than one evacuation route. Though part of the route may be the same, you need alternate routes not only to your final destination, but also from your home, work, and the other areas you frequent.

If disaster strikes when you are on vacation or traveling, you have hopefully planned for that eventuality, as well. Most people will not take the time to make a detailed plan for every eventuality, but we nevertheless need to keep this possibility in mind while away from our hometown. Remember, disasters and emergency situations can be even more catastrophic for those who are far from home.

Since you might be someplace else when disaster strikes, you also need general maps, and ideally topographic maps which show terrain and land features in great detail. Beyond this, you also need to develop an understanding of choke points, local dangers and high-crime areas to be avoided.

1-Family-Bug-OutMoreover, for most of us, it’s not just about getting out of the area, it’s about getting out and being able to quickly rendezvous with our loved ones. That acknowledged, your plan needs to articulate when, and under what conditions, you abandon the local rendezvous plan in favor of meeting-up at your ‘Plan-B’ location. Safety and the reality of current conditions may make it necessary for you to head out alone, and meet your family and friends at your ‘safe haven’ final destination.

How do you know when to switch to ‘Plan-B’? How do you know how long you should wait before abandoning the local rendezvous location and heading out to your more distant safe haven? And, how do you decide when to go looking for a missing family member vs. getting the rest of the family to safety?

The answers are in your plan. Or at least they should be. That is why it’s so important to develop your own, personalized, evacuation plan. And why it is so important for each family member and friend involved, to understand the plan so that they know what to do, and when to do it.

Developing route options and establishing a distant safe haven isn’t enough. You need to also answer “if, then…” questions because adaptability and resiliency are essential for a safe evacuation.

How to respond to disaster and emergency situations does not fit neatly into a one-size-fits-all task list.  However, there are common needs which can be addressed.


evacuation_ukEscape “From” vs. Escape “To”

It’s not enough to evacuate ‘from’ a danger area. You need to flee ‘to’ a safe place where you can ride out the danger. Oftentimes more people are harmed or killed in the aftermath of an emergency incident than by the actual event. We need to keep this in mind as we consider evacuation to a safe haven.

As important as timely evacuation is, it’s only one component of the equation. The formula for safety includes not only pre-planned evacuation routes, but also quick departure, readily accessible emergency supplies, and advance selection and preparation of a safe haven.

Unlike the masses who travel the evacuation routes prescribed by a government plan, your pre-planning gives you the opportunity to choose your destination. Don’t just plan a family rendezvous point and an evacuation route; be sure to pre-plan a suitable destination, too.

Where do you want your evacuation route to take you? Ideally to a pre-planned ‘safe haven’ retreat location which is safe and pre-stocked with emergency supplies.

Either way, it may be smart to go somewhere that is 20+ miles away from the displaced crowds who are fleeing the danger area. Preferably, a location that is not on a main road; a retreat area that is not easily accessed by those who become frustrated and leave the pack of escaping people. Increased violence, erratic behavior, and a shortage of supplies are attributes of displaced people. By preplanning, you have the opportunity to avoid this fate.

Remember too, though you may need to evacuate alone, or just with your immediate family, you cannot expect to sustain an extended emergency situation alone. Develop a team; create your own ‘community’ to deal with an extended emergency.

On the other hand, to depend on community ‘camps’ or refugee areas established by government agencies or relief organizations isn’t generally a good idea. Too often these simply trade one dangerous situation for another.

Those who pre-plan, prepare, and retreat to a well-selected safe haven, can often avoid internment in refugee or FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) camps. If you have the option, avoid these camps.

It’s far better to maintain your independence by retreating with a group of trusted friends and family to a private location: A retreat location prepared by you in advance, where your group can be self-sufficient and self-reliant; where you depend on each other for safety and security.

Notwithstanding, after taking time now to plan and prepare, when the emergency situation is actually upon you, the best evacuation advice is:

Get out early. Don’t delay.

Even if you act on this foresight and establish a group retreat and a plan to evacuate together, it’s not unusual for an individual, or part of the group, to not arrive at the rendezvous point in a timely manner. Consider this possibility now. Plan for it.

How long will you wait? Your plan needs to include this detail. If not, the delayed person may waste valuable time trying to get to you when they should be opting for ‘Plan-B’ and a different rendezvous location.

bridge-accident-bMoreover when you wait for them, your window of opportunity for a safe escape may close. You may become trapped by circumstances.

In advance, build into your plan the amount of time you will wait at your first rendezvous location. Then, when disaster strikes, stick to the plan; that way everyone knows what to expect, and what is expected of them.

For those who are elderly or with physical limitations, there is an even greater tendency to wait. Yet, this understandable inclination can make escape even more difficult. There is a fine line between waiting for family and friends who can help, and waiting too long and losing the opportunity to get to safety. This is yet another reason why it is advantageous to have pre-arranged routes, and secondary rendezvous locations, along the route to a ‘safe haven’ retreat location.

If you delay your departure as a result of waiting for someone, or to assemble more supplies, etc., you are asking for trouble. At the very least, you will likely get bogged down with the thousands of other people who waited. This doesn’t just represent a time delay; it translates into increased danger. Every minute you delay represents increased danger.

1-survival-family-child-disasters-sc4Identifying sound evacuation route options and rendezvous locations is foundational to every personal emergency plan. Regrettably, in surveys taken among both adults and children regarding disaster preparedness, most were unable to recall the details of their family’s plan, even when they remembered that a plan had been established. This is a solemn reminder that an outstanding emergency plan is only vapor if the participants can’t remember the details.

Adaptability is another attribute that must be considered. Unfortunately, this aspect is also often neglected, rendering the plan irrelevant at the time when it is desperately needed.

Complexity hampers memory and the retention of plan details. Whereas an emergency plan with insufficient depth and adaptability, can make the plan ineffective. So what do we do?


Develop a brief, written “Plan Summary”

The solution is to develop an adaptable, flexible and resilient plan that is straightforward and easy to remember; a plan that is supported by a printed ‘Plan Summary’ which includes brief but specific reminders of the key details (and maps). A copy of this summary document should be kept in each person’s GO-Bag.

Maps, routing details, addresses, notes and reference materials are all useless if not readily available when disaster strikes. Your brief Plan Summary, along with maps marked with routes and related reference materials, needs to be included in each GO-Bag.

If you have a smart phone, store a PDF copy of the plan, and maps, etc. in your phone. The screen may be small and hard to read, but this back-up copy may prove to be invaluable.

Vigilance without adequate preparation is like a baseball player stepping up to the plate without a bat. Don’t leave important details to chance, or assume that the information will be remembered during a high-stress situation.

Just as a baseball player can’t expect to score a run without coaching and practice, you and your team need to get ready, too. Pre-planning, recollection of the plan’s details by everyone involved, and adaptability (contingency plans), are all essential components of every emergency plan.

Plan now; save lives later.

If you don’t have a plan, start today by making a basic bullet-point plan or numbered list that can be expanded over time. If you do have a plan, use this reminder as an opportunity to refresh your plan, and to remind each participant of the details.

When disaster strikes, most people will not stop to read a lengthy plan. This is a trait of human nature. Don’t expect to change it. You can mitigate this problem by making sure they are familiar with the plan in advance. If they understand the plan, then they are far more likely to use the Plan Summary to find the details they need but can’t remember.


1-remote-secure-cabinDestination, home? Or, another location?

The best answer is both. But each member of your family (or group) needs to know where they should be heading, and the conditions or timing which will redirect them from the primary to a secondary destination. And, what route to take.

Invariably, when someone fails to arrive at the predetermined location, it is tempting to organize a search party to look for the missing person. Unfortunately, if you aren’t confident of the route which would have been taken, this may not just be a futile exercise, it may also be extremely dangerous.

Make decisions such as this in advance. In your Plan Summary document, be specific regarding timing, and under what conditions you will move to Plan-B.



Bugging-out from home or work to a safer, less-populated rural location

If you live or work in an urban or suburban area and disaster strikes, the best plan may be to get to a less populated area where self-sufficiency is possible. If the situation affects thousands of people, and it looks to be an emergency situation which will last for more than a few days, then you need to get out early, while you still can. You need to evacuate to a safe rural location.

If you wait until the masses of people arrive at the same conclusion, it may be too late. You may be trapped by traffic congestion, blocked roads or frustrated crowds; conditions which are often followed by violence.

Where will you go? How will you get there? What will you take with you?

Ideally, the selection of a retreat location is a decision to be made in advance, as part of your emergency plan. With advance planning, you have the opportunity to select a suitable location, make arrangements with the property owners, develop a team, stockpile supplies at that location, and to identify routing and transportation options for safe and expeditious travel.

Last minute decisions of this magnitude can often be disastrous if poorly conceived. Advance planning is imperative.

If your primary retreat location is many miles away, be sure to select a “Plan-B” location that is on the way, but within 1-2 days (or 1-2 nights) walking distance. For those who live in a major city, this Plan-B retreat may not be in a rural location, but rather a better place within the city; a location where you can congregate with other family and friends for mutual aid and improved safety.

Irrespective of whether your retreat location is rural or urban, community is essential for surviving an emergency situation that lasts more than a few days. If you can avoid it, don’t try to go it alone.

Invariably those who bug-out early, before the rest of the population realizes their plight, are far more likely to reach safety. Delay can be deadly. But to leave for an non-specific location may also be deadly. Make your plans now, before you need them.

Recommended Reading: “Strategic Relocation” by Joel Skousen.


Route Selection

In an emergency situation, the shortest distance between two points may not be the best route to travel.

Environmental factors such as the effects of a storm and storm damage, traffic congestion, traffic signals not working, accidents and choke points created by bridges and tunnels, new dangers such as social unrest, or the expansion of high-crime areas, may make a circuitous and longer route far more prudent.

Remember, a multitude of factors may make car travel, subway, and commuter bus travel impossible. You need a back-up plan to these modes of transportation.

What is your best route if you find yourself walking instead of riding? Freeway routes may be too dangerous for foot travel. Major thoroughfares may offer the shortest travel time by vehicle, but they may not be the safest or fastest choice in an emergency situation.

Importantly, your usual routes which utilize major roadways are often miles longer than a more direct route which can be utilized by those who are walking or riding a bike.

Keep in mind that railroad tracks and above ground subway tracks may be more direct but not included on maps. Tracks and power line right-of-ways may be fine for walking, but these routes may actually be more tiring as your walking stride may be affected.

Factors such as these must be taken into account. It may seem like a bother, but when legal and possible, it is better to walk these routes in advance so that you know what to expect.

It is to your advantage to walk, or at least drive each alternative route, as maps never provide all the details you need. An emergency situation is not the time to find that your selected route has become inaccessible due to road changes, construction, new security fences, or the emergence of unsafe neighborhoods.

Use an indelible-ink pen (Sharpie) to mark your maps with routing and relevant route details. After you have traveled each route, produce an updated set for the GO-Bag belonging to each member of your group. Treat each map with AquaSeal Map Seal to protect it and make it more durable.


Not just evacuation routes, but an Emergency Plan

Anyone who has been in combat is acquainted with the adage, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” And the saying, “The plan is nothing, but planning is everything.” These military truisms, which emphasize the importance of adaptability, are valid for our personal emergency plans, as well. Awareness, and an orientation to problem solving based in prior planning, is necessary for timely decision making, prudent action, and resiliency.

Developing an emergency plan has huge benefits. It provides advantages such as the ability to make strategic decisions unhampered by stress, it gives you time to do research, the opportunity to obtain expert advice, and to select participants and get buy-in from them.

Importantly, it gives you the opportunity to work on the plan together, and to obtain agreement on the details. By taking the time to actually develop a plan, all of this can be accomplished in advance.

Anticipate potential problems. Identify solutions. Build-in resiliency.

Your Emergency Plan doesn’t need to be an elaborate document. Bullet-point details that are discussed can be enough – especially if the concept of writing a plan is so daunting that you won’t do it. It’s far better to have a detailed outline that is written and discussed, then to wait until someone writes it all down.

Every thinking person knows that an emergency plan is important. Unfortunately, the tyranny of the urgent often keeps us from getting to the things which are truly important.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Start now; don’t wait until you have the time to make a plan exhaustive or professional looking. When you are done reading this, take a few minutes to outline a personal plan. Then, get a collection of maps to evaluate, and select which ones are best for this purpose.

A personal or family-and-friends plan needs to be simple yet specific, and at the same time resilient. Adaptability needs to be built into your plan. Decision making, and appropriate action, must be clear to each participant.

For example, if your spouse plans to take a certain route from work-to-home in the event of an emergency situation, then it is possible to search for them if they don’t arrive home within a reasonable timeframe. Conversely, without this most basic detail, a timely and effective search is next to impossible, and may compound the problem rather than solve it.

When ‘Plan-A’ isn’t possible, everyone needs to know when to switch to ‘Plan-B.’


What to include in a personal Emergency Plan / Evacuation Plan

Don’t delay. Take the time now to…

1. Investigate route options for getting to your gathering place, with departure points from the locations you and your family/friends frequent often. Identify at least four very different routes which will get you home or to your gathering spot, with departure locations emanating from work sites, school, church, shopping, and other places you frequent.

Google Maps and similar online map resources can be helpful for this process, but don’t limit your efforts to the high-traffic main-road type routes that computer software usually identifies. Back roads provide important alternatives. If you live in a flood-prone area, you will need to use a flood map or topographic (land features) map to help with your route planning.

2. Next, repeat the same exercise but for traveling on foot, and/or by bicycle.

3. Using a highly detailed paper map, identify your potential routes.

4. Drive or walk each route to verify viability of each. Measure time and distance for each route, and between obvious milestones, and note this information on your maps.  During an emergency situation these times will likely be very different, but these details are still helpful.

5. Use this opportunity to make additional notations on your map using a fine-tip waterproof pen (Sharpie). Mark directly on your map the location of gas stations, convenience stores, nearby hospitals and emergency clinics, and police and fire stations. Add notations relating to sources of water, places to hide or sleep, possible rendezvous locations where you can comfortably wait for others, etc.

6. Mark your map with landmarks and other land features which will be helpful if street signs are missing. Since disasters can destroy signage and buildings, be sure to include structures and landmarks which will likely remain.

7. Now, transfer your route and notes to a fresh map, and make a similar map for each member of your family-and-friends evacuation group. Coat each map with a clear, waterproof sealer/durability-enhancer such as ‘Map Seal’ made by AquaSeal. After waiting several days to make sure each map is dry, fold and store each map-set in a large waterproof plastic bag which is large enough so that the map can be used without removing it from the bag. This will help protect your maps from damage during storage, and during use.  Or better yet, use a waterproof map case such as the clear vinyl ‘Dry Doc’ Map Case made by Seattle Sports. Each vehicle, and each ‘GO-Bag,’ should have a set of these route maps.


Practice Your Plan

Walk or drive each route and alternative route.  Or, you can make it fun for family and friends by making it into a Geocaching– type game.  Most geocaching clubs utilize electronic devices, but you can create your own, similar games using just a map, compass, and ‘clues’ based on permanent land features.  It’s like a treasure hunt, but a game that provides serious benefits.


Click here: Article – Evacuation: Preplanning is Essential to download a PDF copy of this article for printing.


Additional Resources

Topographic Maps (  U.S. Geological Survey Store

Source for Map Seal, compass, map cases, etc. (  Recreational Equipment online

Tutorial on how to use a topographic map: GeoSTAC

Orienteering: How to Use a Compass

Recommended Compass: 3H Military Compass

Recommended Budget Compass:  SUUNTO A-30

Recommended Book: “Be Expert with Map and Compass: The Complete Orienteering Handbook” by Bjorn Kjellstrom and Carina Elgin

Recommended Book:  “Strategic Relocation” Third Edition, by Joel Skousen.

Note:  We do not derive any benefit from our recommendations.

Emergency Radios: “All-Hazards” Notification and News Updates During an Emergency Reply

Kaito Voyager Pro KA600 Digital Solar-Dynamo AM-FM-LW-SW-NOAA Weather Emergency Radio with Alert n RDFor those who live in the United States, the U.S. Government maintains a nationwide network of 1,000 emergency radio stations (NWR).  These continuously broadcast region-specific weather information, and now other emergency information, too. Therefore, all emergency kits assembled for use in the U.S. should include a radio which is capable of receiving these “All-Hazards” radio broadcasts.

Originally designed to provide the public with emergency storm warnings, NWR radio stations are now equipped to broadcast official warnings for all sorts of public safety emergencies.  These broadcasts are generally in the format of recorded messages which repeat the important details continuously until the next update, or until the hazard is over.

Working with the Federal Communication Commission’s Emergency Alert System , NWR is now an “All Hazards” radio network.  It is the single best source for reliable and up-to-date information on storm alerts, and for receiving “official” government information during any major emergency situation.

The dispatches for these regional NWR broadcasts are assembled from information gleaned from NOAA meteorologists (for weather events), as well as input from other government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.  Since NWR incorporates information from federal, state, and local Emergency Managers and other public officials, it is a consolidated source of important time-sensitive information for local, regional, and national disasters and emergencies.

In it’s new format, regional emergency broadcasts include information on nearby natural disasters such as earthquakes, environmental disasters such as a train derailment which created a dangerous chemical spill, as well as all other major public safety emergencies.

NWR regional stations have the ability to provide rapid notifications for routine local matters such as AMBER Alerts, as well as network-wide national warnings on active terrorist threats.  NWR will be used to broadcast DHS information on nuclear, biologic and chemical attacks; CDC information on the spread of a pandemic and quarantine measures; and by local law enforcement to notify the public of lock-down measures and curfew information during periods of social unrest.  In short, any broad emergency which impacts the lives of the general public regionally or nationally.

Historically known as the “Voice of NOAA’s National Weather Service,” it’s important to understand that NWR now provides a much broader range of warnings.  However, since it is still a service provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it can be expected to maintain its primary focus on weather-related warnings.

NOAA_Weather_Radio-Coverage_Area-MapTo accomplish it’s threefold radio-broadcast mission of early warning, disaster response, and post-disaster information, NWR maintains a network of more than 1,000 transmitters to cover all 50 U.S. states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Territories.

However, as the above maps shows, there are still some rural areas without good reception.  Nonetheless, all population-dense areas are well covered, usually by several broadcast stations, thus the need for multiple radio frequencies.

To receive NWR broadcasts, a special radio receiver dedicated to that purpose is required, or, a radio which is capable of receiving these seven frequencies (MHz):

162.400 162.425 162.450 162.475 162.500 162.525 162.550

!BReTGuQ!Wk~$(KGrHgoH-DUEjlLlypo6BJ-KyEkTNQ~~_3_5101_1Radio Selection

If you are located more than 150 miles from a NWR transmitter, or in a mountainous area, select a radio receiver that is equipped with an external antenna which is capable of boosting a distant radio signal.

Since each region uses a specific frequency(ies), identify the ones you will need in an emergency.  (Click Here for NWR transmitter locations).  If your radio has pre-sets, lock-in your station frequencies in advance, so that you won’t need to search for that information during an emergency situation.

In addition to specialty radios designed to listen to these NWR stations, you can also find AM/FM radios which include the seven NWR frequencies.  These are usually advertised as including “NOAA Weather Alerts”, “NOAA Emergency Broadcasts” or “WB” frequencies.  The term “NWR” is rarely used.

Uniden PC68LTW Bearcat Series 40 Channel CB Radio with NOAAAlso, some 2-way radios, such as certain brands/models of CB radios, SSB, marine, FRS and GMRS radios, have an added feature which allows them to be used to listen to these NWR emergency broadcasts.  Multipurpose 2-way radios such as these can provide an added advantage during an emergency situation, especially if paired with a walkie-talkie.

Emergency radios marketed under recognizable brands such as “Red Cross,” do not necessarily indicate high quality.  Among knowledgeable experts, popular emergency radio brands include:  Grundig, Kaito, Yaesu, and Sangean.  Also popular are emergency radios made by Midland, Cobra, Sony, Uniden, Motorola, Eaton and C. Crane.


La_Crosse-810-106_front_back_LCD_NOAARadio Power Options

With all emergency radios, AC (wall) power and battery-powered operation is essential.  And, automotive 12-volt adapters are a top priority option.

Some emergency radios can also be powered with a built-in hand crank, which is a nice, albeit laborious-to-use helpful feature.  Or, a small solar panel incorporated into the radio, which generally only works marginally well even on bright sunny days.  Yet, these minuscule solar panels still provide a modest benefit if you are in an area where daylight also brings distinct shadows (indicating enough sunshine to energize a small solar panel).

Despite the shortcomings of hand-cranks and radio-mounted solar panels, it is still advantageous to have an emergency radio that is equipped these features.  The Kaito Voyager Pro KA600 digital radio, depicted in the photo at the top of this article, is an example of a compact radio which incorporates all of these power options, plus a telescoping external antenna.

Some hand-crank models not only power the radio, but can also be used to charge your cellular telephone.  But if you intend to use this added feature, be sure to purchase the power-tip adapter needed to connect your model of cellular phone, and don’t forget to buy a new adapter if you get a new phone.

Less-expensive models of hand-crank radios generally use Ni-Cad batteries, and these can fail after long-term storage.  If your radio came with a Ni-Cad battery, check the manual to see if it can be replaced with rechargeable Lithium batteries.  These will provide more hours of listening, and they have a long shelf life.

Either way, if you won’t be using your radio for daily listening, be sure to remove the batteries prior to storage.  If you leave the batteries in the radio, after a few months of no-use, even the best batteries might corrode or leak, causing damage to the radio.  Don’t risk this potential problem; remove the batteries before storage.

During an emergency situation, NWR/NOAA radio messages are constantly transmitted, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  To alleviate the jading effect caused by the repetitiveness of these recorded messages, some radios provide an alert signal when the message changes.  This is a helpful feature.

Batteries-D-C-AA-AAABattery Size:  To increase adaptability, select an emergency radio which uses standard-size batteries such as: AAA, AA, C or D.

A radio which requires a special battery is not as useful during an extended emergency.  It’s not unusual for these proprietary batteries to fail, or no longer accept a full charge.  A replacement or spare specialty-battery may be impossible to find, whereas a standard battery can often be cannibalized from another device.

When possible, standardize the batteries you use in your radio, flashlight and other battery-powered devices.  This will make it possible for you to share batteries between devices.

Also, just as with flashlights, some radios work longer than others, even when they are using the same type battery and the same number of batteries.  So look for information on “operating time per set of fresh batteries” when you compare different radio makes and models.

Long-term power consumption is an important consideration which is often overlooked when purchasing an emergency radio.  This run-time difference can be very significant if you are in a protracted emergency situation.  The battery pack in some radios can be drained after just a few hours of listening, while another brand of radio can continue to operate for multiple days, powered by an identical set of batteries.

Earbuds:  If conserving battery power is a concern, use earbuds (in-ear headphones).  These can substantially extend battery life since the battery isn’t being used to power the radio’s internal speaker.

Extra Batteries:  Each radio must be stored either with sufficient back-up ‘spare’ batteries to keep it powered for two weeks, or utilize an off-grid recharging method such as a hand-crank, efficient solar, or an adapter which makes it possible to connect the radio to a 12-volt battery which has been removed from a vehicle.  Or, an external hand-crank or solar device designed for charging batteries.


Kaito Voyager Pro KA600 Close-Up-circleSelecting Optional Features for Your Emergency Radio

Having a radio that can receive broadcasts from commercial radio stations on the AM and FM bands, in addition to the NWR/NOAA broadcasts, is extremely helpful during an emergency situation.  Local radio stations may be off the air, but a station which is located outside the disaster zone might still be a valuable source of news and information.  Therefore, a multipurpose emergency radio which also includes AM/FM bands, provides a clear advantage.

For emergencies of extended duration, and for non-weather emergencies of all sorts, a radio capable of receiving international broadcasts (shortwave radio) presents yet another advantage.  Unfortunately, most lower-cost hand-crank radios which receive AM/FM/SW/WS (NWR/NOAA), provide minimal access to shortwave (SW) frequencies, but some access is better than none.

Some emergency-style radio brand/models claim to be able to receive the audio of television broadcasts, police and fire department activity, and airline or airport frequencies.  Though this sounds impressive, these claims are generally false.  Though this was possible a decade ago, today most government broadcasts are digital and encrypted, making it impossible for the general public to receive these broadcasts without sophisticated equipment.

Having the ability to re-charge your cellular telephone through your emergency radio may be a life saver.  For some people, this will be an important feature.  However, there are other methods for recharging a cell phone.

Note:  During a terrorist incident or times of social unrest, the government will likely turn-off the cellular network, or block civilian use of the system.  So don’t count on communicating via cellular phone, text messaging or Internet during certain types of disasters.

Also, during extreme weather incidents, cellular towers are often damaged, making cell phone use impossible or coverage spotty.  Moreover, since cellular systems often operate at near capacity routinely, high-demand during an emergency will quickly overwhelm the system.

Don’t count on a cellular phone’s radio app or news app, either.  These will not work if the cellular network is inoperable.  So don’t depend on a mobile phone for communication, or news gathering, during an emergency situation.


Oregon Scientific WR602 Portable Public Alert Weather Radio with SAMERadios for GO-Bags

Our recommendation is that every GO-Bag (aka/ Bug-Out Bag, GOOD Bag, Evacuation Knapsack) be equipped with a small, lightweight AA or AAA-battery powered radio which is capable of receiving AM/FM/SW/WS (NWR/NOAA) broadcasts.

Earbuds (small in-ear headphones) should be stored with the radio, since battery life can be greatly extended by using earbuds.  Plus when using earbuds, a small radio can be quietly used while on the move, and it can also deliver clear audio even in a noisy environment.

Keep a Cyalume Light Stick (aka / Snap-Light, Chem Light, Glow Stick), or an inexpensive flashlight with batteries installed, stored in an outside pocket of your GO-Bag.  During hours of darkness, this light source will help you install batteries into both your radio and better-quality flashlight.  If your emergency situation occurs at night, a Cyalume light (or inexpensive flashlight specifically designed for emergency use and long-term storage), can be used to quickly find items stored in your knapsack.

As to quantity of batteries, a GO-Bag should be equipped with at least two extra sets of batteries for each radio, flashlight and important electronic device.  For radio use at home and work, a sufficient quantity of batteries should be stored to facilitate 2-weeks of radio operation.  Or, an off-grid smart charger and sufficient quantity of rechargeable batteries, to power your radio and essential devices for two weeks.

Selecting flashlights and other electronic devices which use the same type of battery provides a major logistical advantage.  If your radio, flashlights and other electronics use the same type/size of battery, you can share extras if that becomes necessary.

Be sure to store your emergency radio and one set of batteries, inside a plastic container with padding, and then put the container in a Zip-lock bag to help protect it from damage.   When you’re in the midst of a situation but not currently using your radio, return it to the Zip-lock bag and protective container.

For long-term radio and electronics storage, the best solution may be a heavy duty heat-sealed Mylar bag and desiccant packet, in addition to a Zip-lock bag and plastic container.  The sealed Mylar bag and desiccant will protect your electronics from atmospheric moisture, as well as exposure to leaky food and beverage bottles, rain and floods.

Since Mylar bags are generally one-time-use containers, also utilize a Zip-lock bag.  After you have torn open the Mylar to retrieve your radio, the Zip-lock bag can be used to provide some water protection, and a rigid plastic container can be used to further protect the radio from damage caused by accidental drops.

In an emergency situation, between uses of your important electronics, it is still prudent to protect these items from accidental damage.  For more on safe storage, and easy do-it-yourself tips on Mylar packaging,  Click Here.


Sangean-CL-100-2Emergency Radios for Home and Work

In addition to a GO-Bag emergency radio, your vehicles, home and office should all have a more substantial portable emergency  radio.  These larger radios should also be equipped with an external antenna.  (An attached telescoping antenna is the most common, but other types of external antennas can be even more effective in Kaito-external-antennapulling-in distant radio stations).

These radios should also be equipped with a hand crank (or in sunny climates, an external solar panel), in addition to having extra Lithium rechargeable batteries on hand.

Even if your home or workplace has an emergency generator, these usually produce unfiltered electrical power, so they may damage sensitive electronics.   It’s therefore better to operate your emergency radio using battery power.  Use the generator to power a separate smart-charger unit to re-charge your radio’s batteries, not to run your radio.



Warning:  Never store batteries in your radio or electronic devices.  Batteries can leak acid or corrode, causing damage.  Batteries stored in an electronic device for more than a month or two, can render it inoperable.  

Rather than store your equipment with batteries installed, it is much safer to store batteries in their own container.  Yet, it is important to keep at least one set of batteries handy, so that you are able to quickly install batteries and make your radio operational.  So be sure to include a container of fresh batteries in your radio bag.

Consider using duct tape, rubber bands, plastic wrap, or some other method to securely attach a set of batteries to the outside of your radio (and your other battery-powered equipment).  This makes it possible for you to quickly insert the batteries and use the device, while still protecting your equipment from damage caused by in-device battery storage.

Over time, most disposable batteries, including the better-quality Alkaline and Lithium types, will leak if installed in a radio, flashlight, or other battery-powered device.  Short-term storage is fine, no problem.  However, long-term storage of a device with batteries installed, will generally damage the device, often rendering it unusable at a time when it is needed the most.

It may seem odd, but the same batteries stored separately, rarely leak or corrode.  Nevertheless, it is still a good idea to wrap batteries in plastic wrap, a small Zip-lock bag which keeps them tight together, or a small plastic battery box (above photo) made for that size battery.

When packaging batteries, store them in a manner which keeps the poles of the batteries from touching each other, and also keeps the poles of the batteries from coming into contact with anything which might drain them of their energy.

A plastic box designed to store batteries is not essential.  Three layers of plastic wrap, or electrical tape, is usually sufficient to protect standard AA, AAA, C or D-cell batteries.

Alkaline and Lithium batteries are the most stable disposable batteries, and they provide longer operating life than standard batteries.  So unless you have the money to buy exotic batteries, Alkaline and Lithium batteries the best choice for emergency kits.  (Lithium batteries are generally more expensive than Alkaline, but they will last longer.)


Tenergy-Smart-Charger-110v-12-v-SqRechargeable Batteries and Battery Chargers

If you intend to recharge your batteries (a good idea) rather than use disposable batteries, Lithium rechargeable batteries are generally the longest-lasting consumer battery.

Note: You cannot safely recharge disposable batteries.  When in doubt, read the label.  Rechargeable batteries are always labeled as being rechargeable.

When it comes to selecting a charger to re-power your rechargeable batteries, make sure it is designed for use with the various size batteries you intend to recharge, and the type of rechargeable battery you want to use (i.e. Lithium Rechargeable, etc.).  Importantly, though sometimes a bit more expensive, a “smart” charger will do a far better job of recharging your batteries.

A smart charger will condition your batteries during the recharging process, will protect them from overcharging which can be dangerous, and will enable the batteries to power your device as much as 30% longer.  Plus, a smart charger gives your batteries 200-300% longer life (recharge cycles).

GoalZero-Portable_Solar-w-Battery_ChargerA smart charger is well worth the added expense.  Some models can be used using multiple power sources: 110/220-volts and 12-volt power, while others, like the “10 Guide Plus” made by GoalZero, are bundled with compatible solar panels for recharging.

A radio without power is useless, as is a radio which is unusable due to poor storage, so don’t neglect these concerns when preparing your GO-Bag and emergency kit radios.  Further, a radio you don’t know how to use is of minimal value, so learn how to use your radio now, before the emergency situation.  Even if you are familiar with the operation of your radio, pack the instruction manual with your radio, inside its protected long-term storage packaging.

For more information on NWR: Coverage MapsStation ListingsAutomated VoicesReceiver Info, SAME CodingAll HazardsEASReport NWR Outages, Special NeedsFAQs
NOAANational Weather ServiceOffice of Climate, Water, and Weather Services.  National Weather Service, 1325 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Pepper Spray as a Self-Defense Option Reply

Pepper-Spray-PreparedFor those who are prohibited from having a gun, or who can’t countenance using a gun to defend themselves against violence, pepper spray is an alternative that is worth considering.  Unfortunately, most major disasters are followed by a dramatic increase in the number and severity of crimes of violence, so self-defense is an important aspect of all disaster preparation.

If a gun is not an option for you, consider obtaining a pepper spray device to use as a tool for self-defense.  Though pepper spray is not legal for civilian use everywhere, it is legal in many places.  In most regions, you don’t need a license or special training, either.

It’s a simple and inexpensive solution.  A $15 can of pepper spray can literally save your life, or keep you from being seriously injured or violently abused.

PeppersprayWhat is commonly referred to as “pepper spray” is a small hand-held aerosol device which dispenses a liquid or gel formulation of the chemical Oleoresin Capsicum (OC).  OC is derived from hot chili pepper vegetables, thus the nickname, pepper spray.

When used against a normal, reasonably healthy assailant, Oleoresin Capsicum, aka pepper spray, is non-lethal and non-injurious.  It is a chemical agent designed for use in self-defense situations where physical violence is eminent.

When sprayed into the eyes of an attacker, pepper spray can have a debilitating effect for 15-45-minutes.  Yet, it does not cause permanent injury or physical damage to a healthy adult, nor does it require medical attention for them to fully recover.  The effect simply wears off, or the chemical can be washed off to obtain relief.

When used on a human attacker, pepper spray is designed to produce a burning sensation to the skin, coughing, and copious tearing and swelling of the skin around the eyes.  This can limit the aggressor’s ability to see his or her intended victim, making it possible for the victim to escape.  Also, since these effects often take the fight out of a violent attacker, the aggressor is motivated to disengage from the attack and often flees the area.

On the downside, pepper spray works somewhat like an allergic reaction, so effects vary.  Unfortunately, results are inconsistent, but since it is somewhat debilitating 85% of the time, it’s still worth having.  It’s certainly a lot better than being defenseless.

Just as some people can better tolerate spicy foods, the reaction to pepper spray can be very different from one person to the next.  If you opt for pepper spray, keep in mind that results can vary greatly, causing some people to be completely debilitated, whereas others will not be affected at all.

Assailants who are hopped-up on drugs, intoxicated with alcohol, or mentally ill, tend to have little or no reaction to pepper spray.  Nevertheless, pepper spray is still worth having, particularly if a firearm isn’t an option.

Mace-Gel-Pepper-SprayThree things to look for when selecting a pepper-spray product:  

1. Select a model that shoots a stream of the OC chemical at least 10-12 feet in distance.

2. The contents of the device should include 10% Oleoresin Capsicum (aka / “OC”, or “OC spray”), as this is the optimal strength for use against humans.  This is the formula-strength that police officers usually carry, and it is the same  strength usually used for riot control.

A more accurate measurement of effectiveness is Scoville Heat Units (SKU), but this measurement is typically only found on the label of pepper spray dispensers marketed to law enforcement agencies.  If this is the measurement you encounter, then 150,000 SKU should be considered the minimum level of potency.

The most accurate measurement of pepper spray effectiveness is obtained by using the High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) method, but this is rarely encountered.  If you do find this measurement, select a product that has an HPLC Capsaicinoid rating of 0.7% or higher.

3. The dispensing container needs to hold enough of the liquid to make it possible to deliver a minimum of seven 1-second bursts of OC spray per assailant.

A formula of 10% Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) is optimal for people, and it can be useful against aggressive dogs, too, whereas 50% formulation of OC is used against large mammals such as bear.  Any formulation which contains less than 10% Oleoresin Capsicum is not adequate for self-defense use.

Pepper spray is worth owning, but it is important to understand that it is not reliably effective against all human attackers, nor will it stop all vicious dogs.  It is a useful product, but it is not perfect; it doesn’t always work as advertised.  Nevertheless, it is the best non-lethal choice for most civilians.

Mace-pepper-sprayThere is some confusion between “pepper spray” and the terms, “Mace” and “teargas.”  Mace is a brand name for a company that sells self-defense products, and teargas is a different chemical (usually labeled as CN teargas or CS teargas).  To add to the confusion, some pepper-spray dispensers also contain CN or CS teargas. (Of the two types of teargas, CS is more powerful.)  The reason that teargas is sometimes included in a pepper spray formulations is that some people don’t react to pepper spray, but they still might react to teargas.  However, most experts agree that teargas is not necessary since OC is more universally effective.

Available in various types of dispensers, ranging from devices which fit onto a key ring, to those which are incorporated into a cell phone case (usually inadequate), to various shapes and sizes of small canisters, there is a multitude of sizes and formulations of pepper spray.  Most devices utilize a water-like liquid or oil as a carrier for the Oleoresin Capsicum, but gel is becoming increasingly popular as it sticks to the face and skin.

Pepper-spray-shot-into-eyesHow to Use  Pepper Spray

Pepper spray is designed to be shot directly into the eyes of your assailant at a distance of at least 3-feet, but not further than what is indicated as the maximum range on the dispenser’s label.  If you are inside this effective range zone, be sure to aim for the eyes.

Don’t stop delivering bursts of the spray until the assailant’s eyes are completely doused, or the attacker has run away.  If an assailant has swollen-shut eyes they will not be able to chase you, and they will not be able to continue with their acts of violent aggression.  This is the objective of pepper spray.

Once a person is hit in the face with pepper spray, it usually takes 2-5 seconds for them to react.  Nevertheless, don’t wait to see if it’s working.  Keep delivering bursts of the spray into their eyes until the threat has totally stopped.  Or, just keep spraying a solid stream of pepper spray into your assailant’s eyes until they stop their aggression and are fully debilitated.

An assailant who is wearing eyeglasses or sun glasses will take longer to react.  Eyeglasses, and the brims of caps, will often reduce the quantity of OC chemical that is reaching the assailant’s eyes.  So, keep spraying until the aggression has completely stopped.

Some pepper-spray formulas include a dye which marks your assailant, making it easier for the police to identify them.  This is a nice touch, but it’s not an essential feature.  More important is to select a device model that is easy to carry, and easy to use.  Unlike a lot of spray bottles which need to be looked at, to determine which direction it sprays, a quality pepper-spray dispenser will be tactile, so you are instantly able to grab the device and point it in the proper direction, just by feel.

Kimber-PepperBlaster-IISide Effects of Use

If you ever use pepper spray or teargas, expect to get some on yourself, especially if the wind is blowing toward you.

When you get hit by even a little mist of OC spray or teargas, it can make you cough uncontrollably.  And, it can make you to feel like you’re having a heart attack, so keep in mind that it’s actually harmless for those who are reasonably healthy.  Remind yourself that you’ll be okay, and you can still run or fight if the circumstance demands it.

OC spray, as well as tear gas, will actually not incapacitate you unless you get enough in your eyes to make them swell shut.  Even then, you can usually see enough to get out of the area.  So even if you are affected, don’t delay, get out of the danger zone as soon as possible.  This is additionally important as you may be further exposed to more OC, as the gas vapors if you linger in the area.

After using pepper spray, don’t touch your face with your hands, and don’t rub your eyes with a finger, as this can introduce OC residue into your eyes or skin.  Any sweaty area of skin, like your neck and underarms, will be particularly susceptible to a burning sensation.

When convenient, remove and wash your clothing as they will likely have become contaminated.  When possible, wash your hands with soap and water shortly after using pepper spray, and again after removing your clothing.

* Be sure to read the cautions and usage directions on the label of the device you purchase.  Absent other instructions, the below remedy is considered to be universal.

pepper-spray-splash-waterTreatment for Exposure to Pepper Spray or Teargas

If you become exposed to OC or teargas, the best treatment is simply to force yourself to breath normally, and flush your skin with cool, fresh water from a drinking fountain or garden hose.  You can use regular soap to remove the pepper spray from skin, but do not use regular soap on your face, at least not initially.   Just use plenty of fresh water, and blink repeatedly as this will produce a squeegee-like effect that will gently push the OC or teargas out of your eyes.

If you have access to baby shampoo, combine it with the water to speed the recovery process for your eyes and face.  You can use this mixture to splash on your face, or put the baby shampoo and water mixture into a clean spray bottle that is capable of gently misting your face.  Use the gentle spray from the bottle to mist your face, making the natural tears and blinking process more effective.

Do not use other types of soaps  around your eyes it can introduce additional burning and irritation to the eyes, whereas baby shampoo does not irritate eyes and its detergent action can help remove the oily OC compound.

Either way, the irritation will pass in 15-45 minutes, so the discomfort is only temporary.  Breathe normally, and force yourself to relax as this will help the discomfort pass more quickly.


Keeping additional devices in the door-pocket of your car, and your pocket or purse, may also be a good idea, but for most people it’s best to use the exact same device so that you don’t become confused in an emergency situation.

Since pepper spray is a weapon, it is important keep these devices out of the hands of children and unauthorized individuals.  If kids do get into it, they’ll probably only make that mistake once as it’s pretty unpleasant, but it is nevertheless your responsibility to keep these weapons out of the hands of children and other unauthorized users.

It’s a good idea to replace your pepper spray dispenser every four years.  With all of the models listed below — except the Kimber Pepper Blaster II, once you get your unit, test it using two quick 1-second bursts shot at a head-high target that is 10-feet distant from you.  (Just so you know how it works.)

Important Legal Considerations

As odd as it may seem, pepper spray is not legal everywhere, so be sure that you understand your local laws before you possess or use pepper spray.

In most jurisdictions where pepper spray is legal, you still must be an adult to possess these self-defense tools.

If you ever use pepper spray—even if your assailant runs away and no harm came to you, be sure to immediately call the police.  You need to immediately report the incident, and express to the 9-1-1 dispatcher that you were in fear of your life or physical safety.  This is important as criminals have been known to report the incident themselves—claiming that they were the victim of an assault!  To minimize the possibility of unnecessary hassle and legal problems, be the first one to call the police.

Caution:  Some people advocate using ‘wasp spray’ as a weapon, claiming that it is more effective than pepper spray.  This is ill-advised as it may cause blindness and life threatening injuries.  It may also result in criminal prosecution and huge civil liabilities for anyone who intentionally uses it as a weapon.  A court may determine that using wasp spray as a weapon is on par with the use of chemical warfare materials.

ASP-Pepper_SprayWhere to Purchase

It’s probably best to purchase pepper-spray devices online, as the selection and price is generally better than what you will find at a sporting goods or running-products store.  Moreover, oftentimes the models found in a local store will contain less than the optimal 10% of the Oleoresin Capsicum chemical, so be sure to carefully read the label.  It is very important to select a pepper spray device that uses 10% OC.

Illustrated by the photos and in the below links, are four distinctively different pepper spray models which meet the above criteria.  Each has its merits, and selection should be made based on personal preference, the number of times it might be needed, and how you plan to carry the device.

Remember, you will need to select a device which contains more of the chemical if you want to be able to protect yourself (or others) from multiple attackers, or for use in more than one altercation.  Needing it more than once may be likely in the aftermath of a disaster, particularly if you are traveling in a post-disaster environment.

The below models are single-use devices.  For protection against multiple assailants, or more than one violent encounter, select a larger model which contains a larger quantity of the chemical.  The below devices are considered the smallest personal-use devices which are still viable for self-defense.


Examples of Popular Pepper Spray Products:

ASP Street Defender OC Pepper Spray



Kimber Pepper Blaster II


Online Vendor:

Mace Pepper Gel


Online Vendor:

Sabre Red


Online Vendor:


Gun Selection for Survival Kits Reply

Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterson with an AR-7 survival rifle in the movie Goldfinger, 1964.

Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterson with an AR-7 survival rifle in the movie Goldfinger, 1964.  The modern version of this rifle, and the Ruger 10/22 Takedown, are the most popular survival kit guns.

There are many opinions as to what gun is best for inclusion in a survival kit, and there is certainly no consensus, even among the experts.  But if you are not planning for a specific type of emergency, and self-defense is NOT your primary concern, then a .22 caliber rifle is generally considered to be the best all-around choice.

No matter which gun or caliber you choose, it is essential to learn how to safely operate and shoot your gun.  (You will find a link to safety rules at the end of this article.)  Further, guns which are stored in a survival kit must be secured so that children and others cannot access the firearm.   

A takedown rifle such as the Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle or the Ruger 10/22 Takedown can be quickly assembled or disassembled into 2-3 pieces.  This feature makes it possible for the rifle to fit inside a GO-Bag, some hydration packs, and most survival kits carried in vehicles and small airplanes.  For most people, this is important because the gun is unobtrusive as well as compact when being transported.  Plus, you can carry a lot of ammunition, because .22LR ammunition is small in size and it is lightweight.

Note:  For specific survival situations and threats, you may want a different type of survival kit gun.

First Step:  Select the Purpose for Your Survival Kit Gun—and Your Limiting Factors.

If size, weight and concealing the gun aren’t important to you, then the best gun for survival in the wild, plus general self-defense, is a shotgun.  Unfortunately, a shotgun is too big and heavy a gun for survival kits that are compact. Yet, for all-around hunting of small and large animals in a survival situation, and protection from wild animals and self-defense, a shotgun is the most versatile choice.  If you are only going to have one gun in your non-portable survival kit, you’ll probably want it to be a shotgun.

Self-Defense Use:  For defense at close-to-medium range (up to 100+-ft / 30 meters), it’s hard to beat a 12-gauge tactical shotgun.  A tactical 12-gauge shotgun is extremely intimidating to criminals, and it delivers potent stopping power.

Multipurpose Use:  Versatility is the primary strength of a shotgun, and this is what makes it our top-choice for a survival kit gun when size and weight isn’t an issue.  Just by changing the type of ammunition you have loaded in the shotgun, you can switch from a shotshell that is great for self defense, to a different shell that is ideal for stopping a pack of rabid dogs or wolves, to another which works for hunting small critters, and then to yet another which can take down big animals, even a brown bear.  Then, you can unload and reload with yet a different shotgun shell to hunt birds.  No other type of gun possesses this kind of extreme flexibility.

The downside of a shotgun for a survival kit is not that the gun is so big, but rather that the ammunition (shells, shotshells) is large, bulky, and heavy.

Remington_870_MarineIf you do opt for a shotgun for your survival kit, our recommended gun is the Remington 870 Marine model.  Unloaded it weighs 7.5 lbs (3.4 kg), and it is 38.5 inches (97.8 cm) in length.  Since it has nickel plating covering the gun, including the inside of the barrel and receiver, it is very durable.  The operating action is very dependable, too.  Perhaps the best testimony to the reliability of the Remington 870 is that it is the shotgun of choice for most law enforcement agencies in the United States.

One of the strengths of this survival gun is also a weakness.  With the Remington 870 Marine model shotgun, the bright electrostatic-applied nickel finish on the gun can easily reflect light and thereby draw attention to its owner.  Thankfully, this problem can be readily solved.  The bright surface can be subdued by painting the gun as described below as a treatment for the Ruger 10/22 stainless steel model, but in this case, DuraCoat Aerosol paint is recommended.  This can be accomplished as a simple do-it-yourself project, or something that a gunsmith or gun store can do for you.

Unfortunately, a shotgun brings with it a number of major problems for those who are looking for a survival kit gun that can be carried in a portable kit.

A tactical shotgun is impossible to conceal, it won’t fit into a GO-Bag knapsack, and it is three pounds heavier than the Ruger 10/22 which won our #1 Choice Award for a survival kit gun (below) that will fit inside a backpack.  Nevertheless, a tactical shotgun is a superb choice as a survival kit gun if size, weight, and ammunition-bulk aren’t a consideration.  For more about shotgun selection, Click Here to download the Remington Guide to Shotguns and Shotshells, or Click Here for an e-book on shotguns for defense and survival.


Ruger Mark III Hunter, a 10-shot .22 pistol with a 7-inch (17.5 cm) barrel, and weight of 41-ounces (1.2 kg).

If portability and concealment of the gun is a primary consideration, then it’s hard to beat a handgun, even a long-barrel handgun which will better meet the hunting purpose of a survival kit gun.  A 9mm or larger-caliber pistol (or revolver) is your best bet to meet the need for self-defense, but it’s overkill for small game.  Moreover, even a very powerful handgun isn’t a great choice if your goal is protection from dangerous predators, such as bear.

If concealment isn’t required, a shotgun, rifle, or tactical rifle is usually a better choice.  But if concealment is essential, or if you need to have a gun in a holster while you labor with your hands or are seated in a vehicle, then you might want to consider a handgun.  Be sure to look at the .410/.45 combination guns made by  Magnum Research, Rossi, and Taurus.  However, if you want to maximize the amount of ammunition that can be carried, a long-barrel .22 LR handgun such as the one pictured on the left, will be a better choice.

Keep in mind that a rifle is easier to shoot accurately, and the bullet fired from a rifle will generally deliver more punch (power).  The exact same cartridge fired from an equal-quality rifle rather than a handgun, will be more accurate, and it will have more wallop when it reaches its target.  This is because the added barrel length makes it easier to accurately aim the rifle, and the added barrel length makes it possible for the gunpowder to more fully burn, thereby providing more power and velocity behind the bullet.  Still, a handgun is easier to carry, especially indoors or in a vehicle, but outdoors a rifle carried using a sling is better for most survival situations.


The Key Factor for Choosing a Survival Kit Gun

L to R: .22 LR, 9mm, .45 ACP, .223 / 5.56 mm, .30-06, 12-gauge shotshell

L to R: .22LR, 9 mm, .45 ACP, .223 / 5.56 mm, .30-06, 12-gauge shotshell

The important key to unlock the answer of, “What is the best gun for a survival kit?” has more to do with the issue of ammunition, than it does the type or brand of the gun.  When making a decision regarding what gun to pack into a survival kit, the detail most often forgotten is the bulk and weight of the ammunition the gun uses.  Obviously, a gun without ammunition is useless, so the ability to carry plenty of ammo is a critically important consideration.  This is even more significant if your survival kit is in a GO-Bag or backpack size.

As a point of reference, here is a ballpark comparison of ammunition weight, by ammunition type:  For every 1-pound of weight, you can carry either:  137 –.22 LR cartridges, 38 – 9mm pistol cartridges, 39 – .223 / 5.56 mm rifle cartridges, 18 – 7.62/.308 rifle cartridges, or 11 – 12 ga. 00-Buck shotshells.  So it’s no surprise that .22 LR is the most popular caliber for survival guns.

For all around use, when defense is not the primary consideration, a takedown .22-caliber rifle is a hard-to-beat choice; additionally so if your goal is to pack a gun and lots of ammunition in an unobtrusive, compact, and lightweight survival kit.

Fortunately, a .22 caliber rifle is usually the least expensive type of firearm to purchase.  Furthermore, it is also the simplest to operate and the easiest for people of all ages and sizes to shoot accurately.  Since a .22 rifle produces almost no recoil when it is fired, it is also a popular choice for those who do not have any previous experience with firearms.

Rifles designed for the .22 LR (twenty-two Long Rifle) bullet are the most common—and there is a good reason for this.  It is typically the least expensive firearm ammunition, it is accurate, it’s fun to shoot for target practice and plinking, it’s useful for controlling populations of small animals which destroy food crops and harm domestic and farm animals, and it is ideal for hunting small game when you want to minimize damage to the meat.  It’s win – win – win – win – win choice.

22LR Ammo in PalmEspecially important in regard to survival kit guns, .22 LR ammunition is lightweight and compact; a hundred cartridges (shots) can easily be carried in the pocket of a pair of jeans (2 boxes of 50).

In a pinch, a .22 rifle or handgun can be used for self-defense.  A .22LR rifle can be used to accurately hit a human-size target at distances up to 500-yards.  However, the .22-cartridge is definitely NOT adequate for self-defense.  Even at short range it has little stopping power.  Nonetheless, there are more people killed each year by .22 bullets than any other caliber gun.  This statistic is a sobering reminder that these guns are not toys.  (This death rate is because the .22 is such a common caliber, not because it is so inherently deadly).

If you are selecting a gun primarily for self-defense, you will want to select a gun in a much larger caliber.  However, if you are looking for a gun that can be used for self-defense in a pinch, but the anticipated use is primarily for hunting small game, then the .22 is a great choice.  (Note:  In most places it is not legal to hunt deer-size animals with a .22, but if you are starving, a well-placed .22 bullet can do the job.)

In the hands of a skilled shooter, a .22LR bullet fired from a rifle still has enough kinetic energy to take down a deer-size animal at a distance of up to 440-yards (402 meters), but this is not achievable for most hunters.  Realistically, even a reasonably accurate shooter should not expect to hunt a  deer-size animal at a range that is greater than 150-feet (46-meters).

Within the world of .22 caliber firearms there are hundreds of gun choices, so we can’t begin to cover every option in this summary.  Nevertheless, there are a number of details which must be understood before we get into our specific recommendations for packable survival kit guns.

.22 Caliber Guns and Ammunition (metric labeling, 5.6×15R)

Target with holes from .22 bullets

The .22LR bullet is so small that 10-shots can fit under a dime.

The designation “.22” (pronounced “twenty-two”) indicates the diameter of the bullet, which is .22-inch.  This is a very tiny bullet.  Depending on brand, it weighs between 20 – 60 grains (0.05-0.14 oz / 1.3 to 3.9 g), and upon firing it exits the barrel at a velocity of between 575 to 1,750 feet per second (ft/s) [175 to 533 m/s].  Both .22 rifles and .22 handguns can use the same .22 ammunition.

When people talk about a gun that is a ‘twenty-two,’ they are referring to the type of ammunition that is used in the gun.  Most twenty-two caliber guns are chambered for ‘.22 LR’ (twenty-two Long Rifle) ammunition, but there are other variations.  In addition to handguns and rifles which are designed to use the .22 LR cartridge, other twenty-two guns are chambered for other similar cartridges such as the ‘.22 Short,’ ‘.22 Long’ and ‘.22 Magnum.’  Technically, these are all twenty-two guns.  Important Note: A .22 Magnum (Mag / WMR / WRF) cartridge may fit into a .22LR gun, but it is unsafe to do so.  Do not attempt to fire a .22 Magnum in any gun that is not specifically made for that caliber.

If you aren’t knowledgeable about these variations, buy a gun chambered for the ‘.22 LR’ cartridge, and only buy ‘.22 LR’ ammunition for that gun.  If you have selected the correct ammunition, the text .22 LR or .22 Long Rifle will be prominently printed on the flap of each box of ammunition.  Make sure you buy the right ammunition for your gun.

Though many people use the term “bullet” to indicate what is loaded into the gun, this is not the proper use of the word.  Strictly speaking, the bullet is the projectile which is shot out of the barrel.  What you load into the gun is a cartridge (or round), and it consists of a bullet, gun powder and the primer which ignites the powder, and the brass case which holds it all together.

L to R: Lead Bullet, Copper-Plated Bullet, and Cooper-Plated Hollowpoint Bullet

L to R: Lead Bullet, Copper-Plated Bullet, and Cooper-Plated Hollowpoint Bullet

Within the same ‘.22 LR’ caliber there are different types of .22 LR bullets (projectiles), too.  Don’t let this confuse you.  You will commonly find .22 LR ammunition with bullets (projectiles) that are made of uncoated lead, and also copper-plated lead.  (The copper coating keeps the barrel cleaner).  In a sporting goods store you will also find .22 LR ammunition with hollow-point bullets that are designed to expand, as this can provide more stopping power and less risk of over-penetration and ricochet.  Another variation is cartridges which are labeled “Match,” and these are made for target-shooting matches and other circumstances where increased accuracy is desired.  Another increasingly common variation is “subsonic” ammunition which is quieter, but generally less powerful.  Shotshell .22 LR ammunition is also available, and it is primarily used for killing snakes at short range.  (Warning:  Plastic-nose shotshell or snake-shot projectiles tend to jam in semiautomatic guns.)

Since we are talking about survival kits which are often stored for many years, it is worth noting that uncoated lead bullets will oxidize when stored for a long period of time.  So, if you have a choice, select a brand of ammunition which uses copper-plated bullets.  Notwithstanding, oxidized lead bullets are often still serviceable.  Before loading them into your gun, first rub the bullets with a coarse cloth to remove the oxidation.

Federal 22 Brick w Ammo CanFor safety and longevity, it is best to store all ammunition in steel containers such as military ammo cans.  Add a packet of desiccant (moisture absorbent) for long-term storage.  Occasionally you can find .22 ammunition already sealed in a tin can, and this is excellent for long term storage.  Even better is packing the ammunition in a 7-mil Mylar bag with a desiccant packet.  And for long-term storage of your survival kit gun, treat it with a rust-inhibiting oil like Boeshield T-9, and then seal it in the same type of packaging material with desiccant.  Click Here for instructions on do-it-yourself Mylar packaging, and sources for Mylar bags and desiccant.

You will find that .22 LR cartridges come in standard power (not usually labeled, as it is standard), high-power, high-velocity or ultra-velocity, and also subsonic (low-power, which are quieter).  For survival kits, any of these will suffice.

Unless your .22 LR gun is finicky, it will shoot various types of .22 LR ammunition.  But before you purchase a quantity of ammunition, shoot a hundred rounds to verify that the brand shoots accurately and reliably in your gun.  A well-lubricated, quality rifle or pistol should be able to shoot 200-rounds (shots) without jamming.

A small, lightweight cleaning kit must be kept with your survival kit gun.

A small, lightweight cleaning kit must be stored with your survival kit gun.

If you are using ammunition with copper-covered-lead bullets, a good .22 rifle should be able to shoot several hundred shots without additional lubrication or maintenance of any kind. Nevertheless, cleaning, re-lubrication and rust-prevention treatment is important after each day of shooting, and also whenever the gun is exposed to dirt, sand, perspiration, high humidly, rain, or sea air.  No survival gun is complete without a small gun cleaning kit such as the small and lightweight Otis Tactical.

The Ruger 10/22 seems to digest all brands of .22 LR ammunition, that’s one reason it’s so popular.  However, the Ruger 10/22 does not do well with ultra-high velocity cartridges such as “Stinger,” a .22 LR cartridge made by CII.  The Henry AR-7 rifle can be a little more finicky, and seems to operate best using high-velocity ammunition.

For a survival-kit gun, reliability with different brands of ammunition is an important consideration as resupply in an emergency situation often means you can’t be picky.  This is one of the reasons we selected the Ruger 10/22 as the best survival kit gun for GO-Bags and knapsack-size survival kits.

Online or in sporting goods stores, you will usually find .22 LR ammunition in boxes of 50 cartridges or a “brick” of 500 – 555 cartridges, but other sizes are also sold.  When feasible, always use the same ammunition, as different brands can produce a different point-of-impact of the bullet.

When you are carrying ammunition, make sure the cartridges are not banging around as this can damage them and adversely affect accuracy.  Never use penetrating oil such as WD-40 on your ammunition as it can seep into the cartridge and damage the gunpowder.

After purchase, and whenever your gun is knocked around or falls on a hard surface, it needs to be “sighted in” to adjust the gun’s sights to match the bullet’s point-of-impact.  Since different brands can produce a different point-of-impact, be sure to use your usual ammunition.  This “sighting in” should be accomplished using the standard distance you expect to shoot the gun.  For most people, this is 50-75 yards (45-70 meters) or less.  For shooting small game, effective range of a .22 LR is about 150 yards (137 meters).  Yet, a .22 LR bullet can travel a mile given the right conditions, so be sure of your backstop before shooting.


Our Recommendations for a Packable Survival Kit Gun


Ruger 10/22 Takedown rifle in stainless steel, model 11100, shown with included bag.

Best Survival Kit Gun for GO-Bags and Backpack-size Survival Kits:  Ruger 10/22 Takedown – Semiautomatic .22LR Rifle

First introduced in 1963, the lightweight and reliable Ruger 10/22 semiautomatic rifle quickly became the most popular .22 rifle in the United States, and it has retained this lofty position for decades.  However, it is the relatively new Ruger 10/22 “Takedown” (TD) model that we specifically recommend.  Since it is made to be a ‘takedown’ style rifle, the barrel and the stock/action are easily and quickly separated, making it possible to unobtrusively carry the two rifle pieces (20-1/4 inch / 51.5 cm) inside a standard survival kit or GO-Pack (GO-Bag, Bug-Out Bag).  MSRP: $399/$419.  Market price, $350-400.

Packable Weight:  Further, since .the ammunition for the rifle is also small and lightweight, it is reasonable to carry the rifle and 200-rounds of ammunition along with your other Go-Bag or survival kit gear, inside a standard knapsack.  Total weight of the rifle is 4.67 lbs (2.12 kg).  When you add 200-round of ammunition to the rifle and case, the total package is a little more than 6-pounds (2.7 kg).  This means you can still carry a lot of other gear without exceeding the desirable 20-25 pound (9-11 kg) weight of a GO-Bag or portable survival kit.  (Weight of 22 LR cartridges:  1-pound = 137 cartridges / 1 kg = 300 cartridges.  A 500-round brick of .22 LR ammunition is 4.8 pounds (1.7 kg) including box and packaging.)

Made by Henry Rifles, the  U.S. Survival AR-7 is only 3.5-lbs and 18.5-inches stowed

Made by Henry Rifles, the U.S. Survival AR-7 is only 3.5-lbs and 18.5-inches stowed. The waterproof stock holds all the pieces, including 3 magazines.

Runner-Up Choice:  Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle (It Floats!)

In addition to the Ruger 10/22, there are other takedown .22 rifles, most notably the Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle.  What is unique about this survival rifle is that it has a storage compartment for the gun’s barrel, action and three magazine inside the rifle’s floating stock.  It is even lighter in weight than the Ruger 10/22 at 3.5 vs. 4.67 lbs (1.6 vs. 2.1 kg), and it boasts a smaller take-down size, 16.5-inches vs. 20-1/4 inches (42 vs. 51.5 cm).

Unfortunately, the AR-7 does not have the reputation of durability and reliability that the Ruger 10/22 enjoys.  This was earned during the days when Charter Arms owned the patent, but since Henry Rifles started making the rife in 1980, the quality is excellent.

The one lingering problem is a design disadvantage:  The feed lip, which transports the ammunition into the chamber of the gun, is on the magazine rather than the gun itself.   The feed lip is therefore susceptible to damage if the magazine is dropped or abused, and this can cause a failure to load.  Therefore, extra magazines are a necessity, and they should be carried in a pouch which provides protection for the feed lip.  (This is a good idea for spare magazines, anyway, no matter what type of gun you have.)

The AR-7 is easy to operate, and though the assembly/disassembly process involves three components rather than the Ruger’s two (making the smaller size possible), it’s quick and easy to accomplish.   Regrettably, the assembled rifle is not as comfortable to shoot as the Ruger 10/22, but it is smaller and $50 cheaper.  And most notably, it floats if you drop the rifle in water.  The old Charter Arms AR-7 had an inferior barrel, but Henry AR-7 comes standard with a sturdy steel barrel covered in tough ABS plastic that is coated with Teflon for improved protection against corrosion.  MSRP & Market Price for AR-7 rifle in Black: $290.

At the end of this section you will find a link to the Ruger and Henry websites, and the specific model number(s) we recommend.



The scope mounted on the top rifle is the proper size, whereas the scope in the inset photo extends far beyond the action, making the rifle less compact.

Optics (Rifle Scope) and Sights

If you opt to add an optical sight to your rifle, it is extremely important to select a scope and scope mount that is compatible with the rifle you select.  For example, once a scope has been mounted onto a Ruger 10/22 Takedown, you don’t want that portion of the rifle to become significantly longer (see photo) in length.  If it is, you lose some of the small-size advantage of the ‘takedown’ style rifle.

It is also important for the scope to retain its zero (accuracy) when the rifle is repeatedly disassembled and reassembled.  If you select a rifle other than a ‘takedown’ (TD) model, this isn’t such a big issue.  However, if you select the Ruger 10/22 Takedown and want to maintain something close to the 20-1/4-inch length of the disassembled rifle, then you will need to carefully select your scope and a quick attach/detach scope mount.

If you select the Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle, you’re stuck.  You will need to remove the scope whenever you put the pieces inside the floating stock.  So, if you want to mount a scope on an AR-7 Survival Rifle and you want to take-down the rifle and store the barrel inside the floating stock, you will be forced to store the scope separate from the rifle. Of course, this is a non-issue if you don’t want an optical scope on your rifle.

A scope mount with a quick-attach mount will help, but the rifle will still need to be re-zeroed.

A scope mount with a quick-attach mount will help, but the rifle will still need to be re-zeroed.

The major downside of mounting a scope on an AR-7 Survival Rifle is that once you remove the scope from the action, so that the pieces will fit inside the floating stock, you will need to re-zero the scope’s point-of-impact when you reassemble it.  This will take time and ammunition.

In an emergency situation with the AR-7 rifle and scope, your first task may be to assemble the rifle, attach the scope, and then test-fire until you have successfully realigned the scope to match the bullet’s point of impact.  After accomplishing this task, you probably won’t want to disassemble your rifle until the emergency situation is over.  The rifle will still float when it is assembled, as long as the scope isn’t too heavy.

As to the Ruger 10/22 Takedown, it shoots great out of the box, and the iron-sights which come mounted on the gun are adequate.  Unfortunately, the standard sights which come on the Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle are not as well liked.

To make these rifles more serviceable at greater shooting distances, many owners do add a 4-6x rifle scope.  You will also want a sling, although in a survival situation you can make a sling out of 550 paracord, and secure it in place using duct tape.  Whichever rifle you choose, you will certainly want to buy extra magazines, especially since a damaged or lost magazine can create a serious survival problem.

Top: Stainless Steel, mdl  Bottom: Black Alloy, mdl

Top: Stainless Steel, mdl 11100; Bottom: Black Alloy, mdl 11112. Both come with Nylon Case.

Two Recommended Models of the Ruger 10/22 Takedown

Even if you don’t want to put the Ruger 10/22 inside your GO-Bag, the included storage bag which comes with the gun is great.  It looks like an ordinary small knapsack or hydration pack.  It won’t float the rifle, but the backpack case is still a nice touch.

If you opt to carry the gun in the included nylon storage case, and you want to make it even more nondescript so that most people won’t know you have a rifle, use a black Sharpie permanent marker to blot out the red Ruger logo that is embroidered on the bag.

Model Numbers:  The two variations of the Ruger 10/22 Takedown model rifle are:  Stainless Steel (model # 11100) and black steel (model #11112).  You may not have the luxury of selecting one over the other as these rifles can be hard to find, but you may still want to understand the merits of each model.

Which 10/22 Takedown Model is Best?

The stainless steel Ruger 10/22 (model 11100) has a reputation for being more durable and less prone to rust, but that isn’t completely accurate as the black model isn’t just made of ordinary gun steel, it’s an alloy.  Nevertheless, the stainless steel model is probably slightly more durable, and this may be an advantage if you anticipate operating in a marine environment or a rainy climate.

The downside of the stainless model is that the shiny surface will reflect light, and this may draw unwanted attention to you and your assembled rifle.  But if you want the advantages of the stainless steel but not the bright finish, the solution is simple.  Paint and wrap the metal parts.  It’s an undemanding process to use a combination of flat-spray paint and a gun wrap to solve the problem.

This is honestly a simple do-it-yourself project:  With the rifle assembled (and scope attached), using a cotton ball as the applicator, rub isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or a hand-applied (not spray) degreaser, to remove oil from the exposed metal surfaces.  After the alcohol has fully evaporated, wearing gloves to keep oil from your hands off the gun’s clean surface, wipe the gun with a coarse cloth.  Then use painter’s tape or masking tape to cover the gun’s sights, the operating / moving parts, ejection port (bolt area), the rifle’s stock, and anything else you don’t want painted.  Use a flat-black or flat-color spray paint to coat the exposed metal parts.  To avoid paint drips, apply several light coats of paint.  Once the first coat dries, paint the surface again with another light coat.  Repeat until the bright finish is completely concealed.

There are paints designed specifically for guns, such as DuraCoat Aerosol, but a quality hardware-store spray-paint is adequate if you plan to wrap the gun after painting.

Us a non-adhesive gun wrap such as Camo Form to protect your survival rifle.

Us a non-adhesive gun wrap such as McNett Camo Form to protect your survival rifle.

Once the paint has dried, use a non-adhesive gun wrap to protect the paint from chipping and wear.  A gun wrap material such as McNett Camo Form is easy to apply, and the McNett website has easy-to-follow written and video instructions.  Non-adhesive dark-color medical wrap can also be used if you want to save a few dollars.

Your other option is the black-color, Ruger 10/22 Takedown (model #11112).  Purchasing this model saves you the bother of customization, but the black alloy is more prone to rust.  Yet, some people prefer the black model because it comes with a slightly shorter, threaded barrel.  This is a feature that makes it possible to screw-on a suppressor to make the gun quieter.  However, since a noise suppressor requires a special federal license issued by ATF (NFA tax stamp), most people don’t want to bother.

The Ruger 10/22 has been around since 1964, so many variations have been produced over the years.  In addition to suppressors made for this rifle, there are many aftermarket add-ons and doodads if you want to customize your rifle.  However, as long as you purchase a Ruger 10/22 with a synthetic stock (which is more weather resistant and durable than wood), the rifle doesn’t really need any customization. If you buy a used 10/22 with a wood stock, consider replacing it with a good-quality synthetic (not plastic) stock as these are more durable than wood.  The most popular aftermarket stocks are made by Archangel.

The ‘Ruger 10/22 Takedown’ and ‘Henry AR-7’ are Easy to Pack in a Knapsack

Many rifles and shotguns can be disassembled for storage, but the unique feature of the Ruger 10/22 Takedown is that it can be assembled or disassembled in under 5-seconds, and similarly, the Henry AR-7 rifle in under 10-seconds.

Click Here for Videos:  Various short videos on the Ruger 10/22 Takedown and other 10/22 models.  Note on Laser Video: For most people, the optional laser sight is not worth the money as the laser is not sufficiently visible in sunlight, and it requires special batteries.


Top Left: Ruger 10-Rnd Magazine.  Right: Ruger BX-25  25-Rnd Magazine

Extra Magazines:

The Ruger 10/22 usually only comes with 1-magazine (which holds 10-rounds of ammunition), and the Henry AR-7 comes with two 8-round magazines.  We recommend a minimum of 5-magazines, so be sure to order extra when you purchase your rifle.

Note:  In addition to the factory-made magazines that come with each gun, there are banana-shape and AR-style magazines which hold 25-30 rounds of .22LR ammunition.  There are even giant 50-round magazines available for the Ruger 10/22.

If they are legal in your area, Ruger 25-round magazines (BX-25 or 2x BX-25) and after-market high capacity magazines for the AR-7 can be obtained from online retailers such as Brownells ( and Midway USA (  If the magazines aren’t made by the manufacturer, be sure to check the online reviews before purchasing as some brands are unreliable.

Some people want to purchase high-capacity magazines either because they don’t want to reload as often, or because they look more menacing in a self-defense situation.  That’s fine, but it’s important to understand that high-capacity magazines may not be as reliable as the standard factory magazine.

The AlanGater 3Mag Coupler makes it possible to clip together three of the factory 10-rnd magazines.

The AlanGater TriMag Coupler makes it possible to clip together three of the Ruger 10/22 10-round magazines.

Moreover, the Ruger 10/22 magazines, including those made by the factory, are plastic.  Therefore they are prone to damage.  Similarly, the AR-7 magazines have a feeding lip that is easy to damage if the magazine is mishandled (or an aftermarket brand that is poorly constructed).

Plastic high-capacity magazines are far easier to damage than the stock magazines due to their size, shape, and propensity to snag on branches and bushes in the field.  For Ruger 10/22 owners, it may be more prudent to purchase the TriMag Coupler made by AlanGator as it makes a more compact package when installed on the gun.  This device clips together three of the factory 10-round magazines, a technique which minimizes snags while facilitating a quick change of magazines.


For Additional Information

Click Here: Link to the manufacturer’s website for the Ruger ‘Takedown’ models.

Click Here:  Link to the manufacturer’s website for Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle.


Click Here:  Brownells, the largest online store for ammunition and magazines, scopes, gun cleaning supplies, etc.

Click Here:  Midway USA, another popular online store for gun supplies.

Click Here:  Gander Mountain, gun and outdoor supplies.


Firearm Safety:

Click Here to download a copy of the TXRFA Firearm Safety Rules


Recommended Reading on Firearms for Self-Defense:  

For an overview of the different options within the category of self-defense firearms, read “Family and Personal Protection: Selecting the Best Gun for Self-Defense at Home” by Sig Swanstrom.


Recommended Reading on Guns for Survival Kits:

Summary of Survival-Kit Firearms:  Click Here for a  2-Page PDF on the positives and negatives of each type of survival kit gun.

Air Guns for Survival Use:  Click Here to jump to our blog post on powerful air guns.

AirSoft Guns for Shooting Practice:  Click Here for Wiki article on AirSoft Guns for Shooting Practice



Preparing for a Dental Emergency Reply

Emergency-Dental-Repair-dental-first-aidDisasters can become an even greater disaster if you are coping with the pain of a broken tooth, particularly if it is severe pain such as is caused by a broken tooth with an exposed root.  Since a trip to the dentist may not be feasible in an emergency situation, it’s a good idea to include a dental repair kit in your at-home emergency supplies.  You may also want to add a small 1-tooth repair kit to your GO-Bag, and your vacation or business travel bags, too.  Dental problems seem to frequently happen at inopportune times, so we need to be prepared for this potential problem.

The basic components of a dental repair kit can be bought online.  A complete (1-tooth) kit can be purchased for under $15, or you can build your own for $7. 

Since dental emergencies take various forms; a broken tooth, a lost filling, or a crown (cap) that has fallen out, it is important for your emergency dental kit to be both universal and reasonably complete.  At a minimum, it should include: pain killer, dental glue, compact cotton balls (pellets) or gauze, round toothpicks, dental floss, dental wax, and tooth-filling material.  Optional but valuable additions include: medical gloves, a small mirror, magnifying glass, and a small, lightweight flashlight.  (In a bind, you can use Super Glue to reattach a crown).

Inexpensive dental repair kits may not have all of these supplies but they can be a great place to start; augment your pre-packaged kit as necessary.  Emergency repairs of dentures and partials requires additional materials made specifically for this purpose.

At a minimum, GO-Bags should include dental wax which can be used to cover a broken tooth that has an exposed root.  Tooth pain is not just inconvenient; it can create a life-threatening distraction.

In addition to the other obvious problems, tooth pain (or any other pain) will drain your body’s energy reserves at a much faster rate.   You may be able to cope with the pain, but it can nevertheless become a serious impediment to safety at a time when you need to be focused and attentive to problem solving. 

Pre-packaged dental repair kits are not all the same, and professional-grade repair materials are a must, but you don’t need to purchase an expensive kit to get what you need.

Emergency_Dental_Repair-Dentemp-CustomThe 1-2 tooth repair kit illustrated in the photo (DenTemp Custom) was purchased online for $4.85.  It is not complete, but it does have two critically important items, so it can form the basis for building your own kit.  The DenTemp package contains Zinc-Oxide and Eugenol putty, a material which can be used to repair or replace a missing filling or cover the void of a broken tooth.  Zinc oxide forms the putty and the Eugenol reduces inflammation and protects the nerve of the tooth. These are the same materials that many dentists use to bring temporary relief to their patients.

Thankfully, application of these tooth repair materials not only doesn’t require a dental degree, it doesn’t even require any experience.  A good kit will include diagrams and all the instructions needed, so being trained by your dentist in how to use the kit is helpful, but not necessary.  If you are building your own kit, make sure you include printed instructions which relate to the materials contained in your kit.  These instructions can often be found on the product manufacturer’s website.

Since it is difficult to accomplish dental repairs when you can’t see what you are doing, in most dental emergencies it’s easier to have someone else do the work on the damaged tooth.  However, it’s certainly possible to do it yourself.  Many people have accomplished the task alone, with excellent results.

Most dental repairs can be accomplished by touch, but a mirror is helpful if you find yourself alone.  If you have the benefit of having the help of another person, you will find that a lightweight, small flashlight and magnifying glass (or a magnifying glass with a built-in light) will be a great help.

How do these detail repair kits work?

Emergency_Dental_Repair-Kit-DentalMedic-byAdventure_Medicine-2Pre-packaged dental repair kits are not all the same in regard to how complete they are, and what materials are used.  The inexpensive dental repair kits found in many drugstores are typically inferior for emergency use, especially when you many not have access to a dentist for many days.  The first aid kits made by “Adventure Medical Kits” are reasonably complete yet relatively inexpensive, so it’s no surprise that their emergency dental kit is similarly useful (DentalMedic Kit by Adventure Medical Kits, $15).  Be sure to check the contents list of the kit before you make your purchase decision.  Just because the package is larger or more expensive does not mean that it contains a larger quantity of useful supplies.

All the better kits utilize a similar process.  Here is how they generally work:  The area of the tooth which needs to be treated is first dried as much as possible using dental cotton pellets or gauze.  If you have electricity and a hairdryer, consider using it on the lowest setting to thoroughly dry the tooth which needs repair.  Be sure to test the hairdryer first to make sure the air isn’t too hot or forceful.  (Keep the hairdryer at least two feet away from the mouth to avoid problems.)

A completely dry tooth will make it possible for you to achieve a better bond between the broken tooth and the tooth repair material, so take the time needed to thoroughly dry the affected area.  Have all your supplies at hand and everything ready to go before starting to work on the tooth.  If possible, wash your hands with disinfecting soap before starting.  Medical gloves are best, but many people end up removing the gloves once they get into the task–dental repair work requires all the dexterity you can muster.

Once the tooth is dry, the tooth putty from the kit is applied.  Gently tamp it into the damaged area of the tooth with a damp cotton pellet.  Or, use a rounded toothpick after removing its sharp point.  Rather than break the toothpick which will splinter the wood, use a knife to carefully cut the sharp tip from one end of the toothpick.  Next, remove any wood debris from the toothpick surface before proceeding.  Now you can use the flat, non-pointed end of the toothpick as a tool to tamp the tooth repair material firmly into place.

To fill the void of a lost filling, or to repair a broken tooth, the putty should be mixed fairly dry, making it possible for you to roll it up into a ball that doesn’t stick to your fingers.  Place the ball of repair material onto the broken (dry) area of the tooth, and then shape it to cover the entire region of the break, being careful to keep it off of the smooth, undamaged area of the tooth.  (Since the tooth repair material will not bind as well to the smooth, undamaged surface of the tooth, extending excess repair material onto this area can result in the repair being less durable, and not lasting as long.)

The filling material can be shaped using rolling action on the little cotton ball or gauze roll, or with a round toothpick or even your finger.  Make sure that the filling material is level or lower than the tooth above or below it, as even after the material is cured, you don’t want chewing to add unnecessary pressure on the temporary filling.  When in doubt, make the filling lower than the surrounding teeth.  The filler material does taste bitter, but it’s not toxic in these small quantities.  The bad taste will go away in less than an hour.

It is important to keep excess pressure off of the repair for the first 20-minutes.  With most of these kits it takes 60-minutes to achieve a complete “cure” of the filler material, after which you can resume drinking and eating.

Emergency_Dental_Repair_Travel_KitSee the manufacturer’s directions on how to use their products.  The instructions incorporated into this article are generic, and are provided simply to illustrate how easy it is to use these do-it-yourself dental repair kits.

The dental repair materials contained in kits such as these are for temporary dental repairs, so the repair material is designed to not fully bond to the tooth, thereby making it easy for a dentist to remove the temporary repair.  So it is easy to understand why these kits do not provide a durable long-lasting, long-term repair.

Emergency dental repair kits were originally designed for people who travel to remote areas of the world, or regions without easy access to competent dental care.  The objective of the manufacturer is to temporarily solve common emergency dental problems, giving you time to return home to your dentist, or at least to an area where you can get professional dental care.

Since these materials do not provide for a permanent bond with the tooth, temporary repair materials can soon fall out if there are no undercuts on the tooth, or if the broken tooth does not have a rough surface to help the materials adhere.  Yet in optimal conditions, these temporary dental repairs can last 3-months or longer.

Longevity of the repair is best achieved by completely drying the tooth before making the repair, by proper mixing of the repair material, and after the repair is made, by careful eating.  Avoid chewing on ice, foods which contain seeds, hard or sticky candy or other hard or sticky foods, and in other abuses of the repaired area.

Emergency_Dental_Repair-Kit-FieldtexIf you are preparing emergency supplies for a family or group, it is a good idea to have a more elaborate emergency dental kit, or at least several of the  smaller kits.  Keep in mind that an inexperienced user can easily need two of the small, basic kits to accomplish the repair if the initial effort was not successful.

For those wanting to prepare for longer-term emergencies, sailing adventures, jungle treks and other activities which may prevent you from visiting a dentist for an extended period of time, more kits or a larger kit will be needed.  If longer-term care is your preparedness goal, it is best to consult with your dentist and get their help in preparing a kit specifically for your purpose and expected duration.

A 2-week GO-Bag and all in-home emergency supply kits need to contain at least one dental repair kit per person.  These kits are small and lightweight, but since space in a GO-Bag is a premium, you may choose to not include a dental emergency repair kit.  If this is your decision, at least include a small piece of dental wax.  Like duct tape, dental wax can be used for many emergency and repair purposes, in addition to providing relief to a painful, broken tooth.

High Demand for Potassium Iodine Reply

Potassium-Iodine-65mgWhen this current flap dies down, consider buying potassium iodine as a just-in-case drug for your emergency medical kit.

The current rush to purchase (by civilians) is likely due to Japanese nuclear debris which is now washing up on the beaches of the west coast of the United States.   This development, combined with the U.S. government’s huge order for an unspecified purpose in the same time frame, demonstrates that existing stockpiles will instantly disappear if this emergency drug is ever needed; thus the need to maintain your own supply.

Liquid potassium iodine which is often sold for this purpose, is generally inadequate to the task.  If you don’t have medical expertise to guide your purchase selection, you may want to follow the U.S. government specs which are included below.

A U.S. government purchase solicitation recently posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website, indicates that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has sought an emergency purchase of  potassium iodide tablets, 65mg each, packaged in unit dose packages of 20 tablets.  This DHS purchase was for 700,000 packages (of 20s), for a total of 14 million tablets.  The supplier must deliver these packages of medicine before February 2, 2014.
Drug Purpose:  Potassium iodide helps block the absorption of radiation by the thyroid gland which is easily damaged by exposure.  These tablets will not stop severe radiation poisoning, but they may reduce the damage to a human body which has been, or may become exposed to lower levels of radiation.  
These tablets have traditionally been used to aid victims of nuclear accidents, and proactively by members of the military and emergency workers who may become exposed to radiation in the near future.  
Under current regulations, U.S. state governments which have populations living within 10 miles of a nuclear plant, are encouraged to maintain a supply of potassium iodide.  However, this is not a federal mandate.  

The current purchase quantity by DHS of these tablets is unprecedented in recent years and reflects a perceived need for this drug domestically.  (

DHS does not stockpile supplies intended for military use.)  Information regarding the size of the U.S. military’s inventory and recent purchase activity which may have been made by the Department of Defense, is not available.

Portable Personal Records for Emergency Situations Reply

Micro_SD-CardOne aspect of disaster preparation which never seems to get any attention is access to important personal records.  These may be urgently needed during a time of disaster or emergency, but without advance planning you may not have what you need.

Basic records which are critically important include basic identification such as copies of your driver’s license and passport, as well as proof of insurance, basic medical records and copies of prescriptions.  You should also have photos of each family member, as well as emergency contact information for family and friends.

Copies of essential records should be kept in three places:

1.  Secure protection in your home or place of business;

2.  Off-site in a safe deposit box of a financial institution; or, encrypted electronic ‘cloud’ storage with a company that has its servers in a different state; and

3.  An ultra small portable data-storage device which is kept in your wallet, pocket or purse.  Since most people are well aware of the needs in the first two categories where there is an abundance of information, this article focuses on the third category which is essential but often overlooked.

Photocopy IDA few pages of photocopied documents such as your driver’s license, medical cards, and passport, can (and should) be kept in a Ziploc bag stored in your emergency essentials knapsack (Go-Bag). This is a good start, but it isn’t nearly enough.  Since we live in a data-dependent world we also need a digital data storage solution which makes it possible to safely carry dozens, or even hundreds of pages, of truly essential records.  To do this, we need an ultra-small and durable mobile device.

For many people, low-cost is also important, so this article provides both our recommendation as to the best option, as well as the best low-cost solution.

Whatever data is essential to your everyday life and well-being needs to be backed-up and securely stored on a portable device which you keep with you.  (Examples of these types of documents are included at the end of this article).  Since size and weight are factors which limit practical implementation, this article explains how to responsibly meet this need with minimal inconvenience.

These same documents, and more, should be kept in a safety deposit box or uploaded to cloud storage in a different city or country, but it is still advisable to keep a copy of essential information with you at all times.  Disaster often strikes unexpectedly, so access to stored data can be terminally interrupted.  For example, if a bank is destroyed in the same storm as your home or place of business, the documents stored at those locations might be gone forever.  Similarly, cloud (Internet) storage of data can be damaged or lost, or it can be inaccessible when you need it.

Thankfully, the miniaturization and low-cost of data storage and advances in data security, now make it possible to carry this essential information with you at all times.  Even if your house or office is burned in a fire, damaged as a result of flood or storm, or otherwise inaccessible because you have fled the area to escape from turmoil, or simply because you are on vacation, important records can still be quickly accessible as long as you have access to a working computer.

This article provides ideas on how you can safely and securely store essential records in a small lightweight package, so that you can keep this important information with you at all times.  Various tools can be used to accomplish this, but this article describes what we consider to be the two most viable solutions.

The process starts by using a scanner to copy your important records, transforming them into PDF documents which can be opened with any computer.  At the end of this article you will find links to free software for making and reading PDF files, and for the products mentioned in this article.

Ultra-Small Data Storage Options

For many, they see their laptop computer or smart phone as the place to store this vital information.  That’s fine, but since these tools are prone to theft and damage, and security of the data is iffy even if you use security apps, this isn’t sufficient.  Keeping this data on an encrypted memory card or USB device is far more secure and even more portable.

Micro SD CardOption #1:  Memory Card (Approx. Cost, $10)

Memory cards such as those used in digital cameras are relatively inexpensive and ideal for data storage as well as photo storage.  Card readers for these memory cards are abundant, but adding an extra-small USB card reader to your GO-Bag is nevertheless a good idea.  In an emergency situation the data contained on your memory card can be accessed using almost any computer—as long as you have a card reader along.

At little more than ½-inch and less than the weight of two aspirin, the ultra small memory cards like the SanDisk ‘micro SD card’ (15 mm x 11 mm x 1.0 mm, 0.5 grams), is a portable data marvel. These tiny cards can store from 8 GB-32 GB of data or more, so they are ideal for this purpose.  Be sure to buy a well-known brand card like SanDisk as quality is important.

Transport and Packaging of Your Memory Card:  After you’ve added data to your memory card you need to protect it.  To protect the card from moisture and damage and still keep the package small, insert the card into a tiny Ziploc bag such as those used for electronic components or jewelry.  For added protection, consider adding a piece of rigid plastic to keep the memory card from flexing, and then wrap the plastic bag with a small piece of tinfoil to shield it from static, etc.  When you are finished, this little package can still be smaller than ¾-inch (20mm) in size and less than one gram in weight.  Using a piece of duct tape, secure the tiny package to the inside of your wallet for safe storage and ready access, or to the underside of your wristwatch or some other item you wear daily.

Total cost of this project (depending on the storage capacity of the memory card you select), can be as little as $10 (USD).  Note: Remember to always encrypt confidential data; see the below section on “Data Security is Essential” for suggestions.

IronKey USB DriveOption #2: ‘IronKey’ Encrypted Flash Drive (Approx. Cost, $37+)

Designed originally for the U.S. government, defense contractors, and to meet the needs of those who transport secret corporate data, an IronKey flash drive (aka/ ‘USB drive,’ or ‘thumb drive’) is the most secure portable data storage method available to the general public.  And, it’s small enough to carry on your key ring.

An ‘IronKey’ data storage device requires a password to open it, and the data stored on the drive is fully encrypted.  Even the least expensive IronKey model, the D80 (4GB $37; 32GB $116), automatically encrypts anything you add to the drive.  Since it uses the high industry standard of 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption, it is very secure.  At only 3 x 3/4 x 3/8-inch (75mm x 19mm x 9 mm) in size, and designed to ‘plug and play’, you can insert it into the USB drive of any computer to quickly access your stored information.

If you want an even higher level of protection, select the IronKey S250 or D250 USB drives (capacities range from 2GB-64GB, $109-599).  These have an even higher level of encryption, 256-bit AES Cipher-Block, chained-mode (government-grade) encryption, plus an impressive tamper-proof design of the drive itself.  For routine daily use of your personal computer, as well as during a disaster situation when you are using someone else’s computer, these models include the IronKey ‘Identity Manager’ which provides a safe and quick method to store and retrieve all of your passwords.  In regard to durability, all of the IronKey USB drives are water resistant, but the S250 and D250 drives are waterproof and extra durable.  Follow the link at the end of this article to compare the different IronKey models.

ironkey-KeyRing2Summary: When kept on your keyring, your IronKey USB device is available for daily tasks such as routine data transfer between computers, as well as for recovery of your personal records after a disaster.  Though not as compact as a Micro SD card, the IronKey USB data drive (models S250 or D250) is the option which provides the most durable and secure, portable data storage.

For Info on the D80, visit:

For Info on the S250 and D250, visit:

*** If convenience, ease of use, and easy-setup are important to you, a ‘IronKey’ flash drive is your best choice.  If cost or small-size are your most important consideration, then use a Micro SD Card to store your important records.

Data Security is Essential

If you are storing your data on a memory card or anything other than an IronKey USB drive, confidential data needs to be encrypted.  This is essential for keeping your data secure even if your storage device has been lost or stolen.  Identity thieves would have a field day if they got their hands on your personal records, so all confidential data needs to be password protected and encrypted before you make it portable.

Some manufacturers of USB drives have models which password protect the data.  In our experience, this is inadequate.

At the very least, use the encryption software which probably came with your computer.  With both Microsoft and Apple computer operating systems there is an encryption option built into the software.  Though far from ideal, this software can be used to encrypt the data on a memory card or portable drive.  This protection is far better than nothing, but there are better alternatives.

To learn more about the software that is built into your computer’s operating system, use the “help” feature of your operating system to learn how to access and use the tool.  On PC’s running the various versions of Microsoft Windows operating system, the file encryption feature is referred to as ‘EFS’ (Encrypting File System).  If you are using a Mac computer, you will find the encryption software by searching for the term ‘FileVault’.  Keep in mind that if you utilize either of these methods to encrypt data on your portable drive, you will only be able to access your data by using the same type of computer (PC or Apple), and in some cases, the same version of the operating system.  This might seriously limit your ability to access your data after a disastrous event.

To achieve a much higher degree of data security, use the free encryption program, ‘TrueCrypt’ on your memory card or portable storage device.  This free software provides true 256-bit encryption, and it will also run on nearly all desktop and laptop computers.  For more information and to download TrueCrypt encryption software, visit:

TrueCrypt encryption software provides a very high level of encryption, plus it makes it possible to hide encrypted files, so even a hacker who has accessed your memory card won’t be able to find the files.  On the TrueCrypt website, be sure to read the ‘Beginner’s Tutorial,’ which is part of the TrueCrypt User’s Guide.  In it you will find instructions on how to set-up the software in ‘portable mode’.  This method loads the TrueCrypt encryption software onto the memory card (or flash drive), and lets you partition the drive.  This makes it possible for you to run the encryption program on nearly any computer, and lets you store both encrypted and unencrypted data on the same drive.  The minimum size for a memory card used for this purpose is 8MB, but a larger memory card will be needed if you plan to store much data.

Whether you use a memory card such as the SD Micro Drive or a flash drive (aka/ ‘USB drive,’ or ‘thumb drive’), remember that you must routinely have it with you, so that your data is available to you when disaster strikes.  An encrypted drive that is left behind may not be a security risk, but the work of preparing it will have been wasted if you don’t have the drive with you when you need it.

What Records to Store and EncryptWhat Records to Store: Encrypted and Unencrypted

Even the most basic personal data such as your driver’s license should be encrypted.  However, you may want to make some information, such as photos and your address book, accessible without entering a password.  At the very least, an unencrypted text file which includes your contact information will make it possible for a lost or stolen drive to be returned to you, and emergency contact information available to authorities, so that they can notify your loved ones if you have been seriously injured.

Remember to add PDF ‘reader’ software to your memory card or USB device, too.  You may need to borrow a computer which does not have this software installed (see links at the end of this article), and the owner of the computer may not want you to download software onto their computer.  Or, the Internet may be down making a download impossible.

It’s up to you to decide what records you store, and what you encrypt, but don’t let a lengthy list delay implementation.  It is much better to have an encrypted drive with just a little information stored on it, than to have nothing at all at a time when it’s needed.

Start with preparing your memory card or USB drive’s encryption.  Then, use a scanner to make copies of your most important ID cards and documents, perhaps starting with what you carry in your wallet.

These scanned records should be stored in PDF format, so that your documents can be read, and even printed if necessary, using any computer.  The below list isn’t your list, it’s simply included to stimulate your thinking, to help you develop your own list of important documents.  If your list is long, don’t let the enormity of the task prevent you from starting right now.  Store your wallet documents now, and get started with the project today.  Continue it as soon as you can.

Consider, too, that you might want to include the same records for your spouse, children, or other close family members or trusted friends.  It’s a simple task to make two identical sets of emergency records, and two identical portable drives.  You might even use the same password on both drives so that you and your spouse can both access either drive.

When you make two identical memory cards or USB drives, your spouse will be able to carry a backup of this same essential information.  If you are separated by circumstances, each of you will have what you need.  And, if one or the other is lost, damaged or stolen, you will both have what you need on the surviving device.

Records to Consider IncludingRecords to Consider Including: 

  1. Driver’s License
  2. Company or Employee ID
  3. Concealed Handgun License (CHL) and Firearm Records
  4. Passport (The two page spread which includes your photo)
  5. Social Security Card
  6. Medical Insurance Cards
  7. Dental Insurance Cards
  8. Organ Donor Card
  9. Pharmaceutical Prescriptions or Prescription Medicine Labels
  10. Medical History & Immunization Records
  11. Copy of your Last Will and Testament
  12. Vehicle Insurance
  13. House/Office Insurance Documents
  14. Titles for Vehicles and Property
  15. Property Descriptions with Serial Numbers
  16. Professional Licenses or Certification Documents
  17. Credit Card Numbers & Contact Info for Card Companies
  18. Banking Information, Including Account Numbers and Passwords
  19. List of Other Access Codes and Passwords
  20. Important Membership or Affiliation Cards (Particularly those which give you permission to occupy facilities and property which you might want to access during an emergency)
  21. Letters of Permission to Occupy Land or Facilities
  22. Address Book (Contact information for family, friends and colleagues)
  23. Photos (Be sure to include close-up, passport-like images of yourself, family members, key friends and colleagues that you might want to find during an emergency situation.)
  24. Physical Description (Yourself, family, friends, and colleagues)
  25. Fingerprints and copies of dental x-rays
  26. Maps and Directions

To download a PDF copy of this article for printing, click here:   Portable_Personal_Records_for_Emergency_Situations.

Links to Products Mentioned in this Article: 

– Free PDF Maker Software:  Girdac

– Free PDF Reader Software:  Adobe

– Free Encryption Software:  TrueCrypt

– Cloud Storage:  Dropbox is one of many options

– SanDisk Micro SD Cards, General Information:   These cards and card readers are readily available online, as well at electronics stores, and many other retailers such as Costco, Target, and Walmart.

– IronKey D80 Datasheet:

– IronKey products are not readily available from retailers, but they can sometimes be found at online stores such as  The below links are to the IronKey official website:

– IronKey Purchase Info for D80:

– IronKey S250 and D250 Datasheet:

– IronKey Purchase Info for S250 and D250:

– IronKey Products by Type:

– IronKey S250 and D250 Comparison Chart:

Solar Stoves – Hot Food and Water for Emergency Situations Reply

Solar-Cooker-Operating-Backyard-v2_edited-1Many canned foods are precooked, so it’s okay to eat them right out of the can.  However, eating hot food is a great way to add some normalcy to your life during an emergency situation.  So having a simple solar stove can become a treasure during an emergency.  Of course if the sky is overcast a solar stove will not work, but if you can see your shadow, you have enough sunshine to use a parabolic solar stove.  And, they are simple to make if you have access to a few basic materials.

An old TV satellite dish makes it easy to build a solar stove.

An old TV satellite dish can be used to build a solar stove. It is an easy do-it-yourself project if you have access to a dish. If you don’t have a dish to use, offer to remove a neighbor’s unused dish, or find one on eBay or in a classified newspaper ad. Or, a higher-quality dish can be purchased for $65-100. (You will find links to retailers at the bottom of this post).

You can purchase a ready-to-use solar stove, but you can also make one from materials you might have on hand during an emergency.

CAUTION:  This is not a project for children as a solar stove can produce blinding light and extremely high temperatures.  These simple-to-build stoves can quickly burn skin, and can ignite fires in less than two seconds.  A solar stove can produce a substantial amount of heat.

Probably the easiest method for building a solar stove is to utilize a television satellite dish.  Even a small one, such as the gray 18-inch dish in the photo (above right), is large enough to boil a small quantity of water or cook a small pot of food.  As you would expect, the bigger the dish and the more reflective the mirror-like surface, the larger the cook pot that can be accommodated. For the sake of simplicity, the directions and photo illustrations used in this article are for a TV dish, but any parabolic dish will work.  Other readily obtainable parabolic dishes can be found in certain types of space heaters, light fixtures, wok cooking pans, etc.


Other products which utilize a parabolic dish are some models of space heaters and light fixtures.

If you would like to purchase a pre-polished parabolic metal dish to keep with your emergency supplies, or purchase an already built stove (or oven), there are several online vendors listed at the end of this article.

What is a parabolic dish?  In the non-technical practical sense, it is like half of a ball.  These are commonly used to gather and concentrate televisions signals from satellites, for concentrating and projecting heat in certain types of portable room heaters, and also in some light fixtures to reflect light in a certain direction.

To make a solar stove, it’s a simple task if you have access to a parabolic dish that is 12-inches (30 cm), but twice this size is much better for cooking a meal.  The larger the dish, the more heat it can generate and therefore the larger the pot of food that can be heated.  But creating a mirror-like surface on the dish is extremely important, too.  Even if the dish is not perfectly curved, it may still work if you apply a mirror-like coating to the dish (described below).

The conversion of a satellite dish into a stove is a simple do-it-yourself project.  You just need to mount your dish on some type of bracket or fixture, so that you can aim it at the sun.  It needs to remain solidly in place while your food cooks, and yet it needs to be sufficiently adjustable so that you can keep it aimed at the sun.

If the surface of your dish isn’t already mirror-like, you will need to polish it, or cover it with a highly-reflective foil.  Then, to make it function as a stove, you will need to add a bracket or design a hanging method, to hold your cook pot in place while the stove heats the food or water.

Materials Needed:  Parabolic dish (such as a satellite TV-dish); space blanket or highly-reflective foil; spray adhesive; metal tubing, wood scraps or other materials to fabricate a stand and pot bracket; and, a suitable cook pot, ideally with a lid.


Old satellite dish covered with inexpensive but highly-reflective silver Space Blanket foil.

1.  First, mount your dish so that it is adjustable, as you will need to point your solar stove directly at the sun to make it work.  This can be an elaborate mount, or this can be accomplished by using sandbags, a stack of tires, or anything else which can prop the parabolic dish in place while it’s operating as a stove.  The focal point of the sunlight is the place on the stove which gets hot, so the rest of the stove does not necessarily need to be fireproof.

2.  Clean, and then coat the surface of the satellite dish with spray adhesive.  Be sure that your hands are clean and glue-free before proceeding, as glue on your hands can tear the foil.  Glue left on the surface of the foil will also attract dirt.  This dirt, and even dust left on the shiny surface between uses, will reduce the reflectivity of the shiny surface.  This will diminish heat production.


Select an inexpensive Space Blanket which has a bright silver finish that is highly reflective, for surfacing your dish.  This is far superior to tin foil for creating a mirror-like surface on your dish.

3.  Cover the surface of the dish with highly reflective material.  An inexpensive silver-surfaced Space Blanket works great for this purpose.  The shinny-side of tin foil will also work, but it is far inferior to the more mirror-like surface of an inexpensive emergency (solar) blanket.

Cut your shinny material oversize, to make it easier to handle, but still large enough so that you can form it, and mold it, to completely cover the entire surface of the dish.

If you want to be more precise, cut the foil material into triangular strips, spray glue onto the back of the foil, and apply it with a pointed corner to the center of the dish.  Repeat with other triangular pieces of foil until the surface of the parabolic dish is completely covered.  To avoid coverage gaps, the triangles of material should overlap, as precise placement is difficult.  Use a soft rag or t-shirt to make the finish smooth, making sure that the foil follows the curvature of the dish.  Patch if necessary with small pieces of foil.  Be sure to keep the cloth from becoming contaminated with glue.  If you cloth gets glue on it, immediately switch to a new piece of cloth.

Apply the reflective foil to the dish carefully to avoid tearing and crinkling.  If the dish is large, start in the middle.  If it is smaller than 2-feet (approx. 60 cm) you may want to start on an edge.  Either way, keep in mind that your objective is to make the surface of the dish mirror-like and smooth.  Ideally, you don’t want any bubble-like gaps between the foil and the surface of the dish.  Use care to keep from crinkling the foil, too.  Some crinkling of the foil is inevitable, but it is important for a majority of the surface to be as smooth and mirror-like as possible.


A piece of wood can be used to easily find the focal point of the dish. Note the bright spot near the end of this piece of wood–and the smoke. This piece of wood started to burn after a few seconds of exposure to the focal point of the sunlight. (Bracket on the top right is to hold the cook pot). The focal point of sunlight should be on the bottom of the cook pot, not on the bracket.

4.  Your next step is to determine the focal point of the dish.  (The focal point is the precise point where the reflected sunlight becomes highly concentrated.  If you are using a piece of wood to find the focal point, it should start to burn after a few seconds of exposure to concentrated sunlight at the focal point).

You can go online and find the mathematical formula for determining the focal point of your dish.  Or, you can simply aim the dish directly at the sun and experiment.  This trial-and-error method can usually be accomplished in a minute or two, by using a scrap piece of wood.

All you need to do is carefully position your dish to directly face the sun, then move a piece of wood from the edge of the dish outward until you see a bright focal point of light develop.  Move it in and out until you have found the location where the spot of light is the smallest (most concentrated).  This is the focal point.  (If you have used a magnifying glass to capture sunlight and start a fire, this is a similar process.  However, the concentrated light beam on a homemade solar stove will be much larger than the focused spot of light produced by a magnifying glass.)


As shown in this photo, the beam of sunlight must be focused on the bottom of the pot. (The tube mounted at the center of this parabolic dish makes it easier to center the dish on the sun. When sunlight travels down the tube as evidenced by a spot of light on the ground, you can be confident that the dish is directly facing the sun.)

6.  Once you have determined the focal point for your dish, take rough measurements to help you design and position a bracket or holder for your cook pot.  Then, make your bracket.  Remember, with your cook pot attached to the bracket, the pot must be held precisely in the right place–and kept stationary.

The concentrated beam of light, when at its smallest size, must be centered on the bottom of the cook pot.   The beam of sunlight needs to be concentrated to the smallest possible circle of light to achieve maximum heat.  If the beam is not focused precisely on the bottom of your cook pot, your solar stove will not work.


This 4-ft diameter solar stove was made from an old satellite TV dish. It rests on top of a truck tire, which makes adjustment easy. After the focal point was identified, steel rods were used to support and keep the cook pot in the optimal location.

7.  Select a cook pot that is heavy-duty and capable of distributing the heat.  Cast iron cookware, such as those made by Lodge Manufacturing Company, are the best commercial option.

Caution: On a sunny day, a well made solar stove will create a tremendous amount of heat.  It is possible to generate more than a thousand degrees of heat, so if you are using a tin can or standard metal pot, it can melt.

Unlike the stove in your kitchen which distributes the heat across the bottom of a pot, a solar stove concentrates the heat on a very small spot.  As a result, it is far more dangerous than your kitchen stove as it is capable of melting metal and quickly catching things on fire.  Therefore, you need to either select a pot which will help distribute the heat, or you will need to design another method to distribute the heat.


Cast iron cook pots work best as they do a better job of distributing the intense heat of the solar oven.

Pot Selection:  Most people find that they prefer to use a cook pot with a lid, rather than a pan.  The lid will help keep heat in the pot, and it will also reduce the chance of spilling your food when you are attaching, and removing, the pot from the stove.  As a result of this heat retention, your food will cook faster and more uniformly.  But be sure to stir your food often, regardless.  Once the pot is heated, food can quickly burn, especially at the bottom of the pot near the spot where the heat-beam is striking.

If your food takes more than a minute or two to cook, you may need to slightly reposition the dish of your solar stove.  Keep your eye on the heat-beam while cooking, to make sure that it hasn’t moved off of the bottom of your pot.  Small adjustments are better than waiting until the beam moves off of the bottom of your cook pot.

The earth’s rotation makes it necessary to keep adjusting the solar stove to keep the beam of sunlight concentrated at the bottom of your pot.  You will be able to maximize the reflected heat of the sun by repositioning the stove, as necessary, to keep the beam in the same spot.  As a result of this diligence, your food will cook much faster.

If you don’t have matches, another advantage of the solar stove is that it can be used to ignite a scrap of wood, thereby making fire-starting quick and easy, too.  However, this same benefit can also create a safety hazard if the solar stove is left outside and unattended.  When not in use, the solar stove must be either brought indoors, the dish upended to face the ground, or the stove’s dish covered with something to prevent the sun from striking its mirrored surface and accidentally starting a fire.

Cooking with a solar stove does take some practice, but once your stove is built, it can provide you with a free, easy and almost microwave-quick heating solution for both food and water.

Links to Vendors and Other Resources:


If you want to build a higher quality solar stove, a pre-polished parabolic dish can be purchased from various science equipment retailers. The dishes in this photo were made by Foremost Mfg, and  are available through Sears Online.

Other Designs for Solar Cooking:

Solar Cookers and Supplies:

Solar Cookers:

Sears Solar Cooker:

Retailers of Solar Cookers by Country:

Sources for Parabolic Dishes:

Edmund Scientifics:

Ward’s Science:

Sears Online:

Mylar Bags: Inexpensive Do-It-Yourself Long-Term Food Storage Solution Reply

Packing-Party-02Do-it-yourself long-term food storage is not only possible; it’s easy when you use Mylar bags and oxygen absorber packets.  It’s inexpensive, too.  In fact it’s downright cheap if you purchase bulk foods at a restaurant supply store.  No special tools are required; you can use a standard clothing iron to seal the Mylar bags.

You don’t need to buy expensive emergency-food buckets of dry goods such as rice, beans, and pasta.  Shop for these foods at a big-box store or restaurant supply, and then repackage the food yourself in Mylar bags for long-term storage.  Just follow the simple 7-step process which is illustrated below.

Unfortunately, plastic bags, including the thick plastic materials used in expensive vacuum sealing machines, are not adequate for long-term food storage.  Surprisingly, for multiple-year storage, even the thick plastic of a 5-gallon food-grade plastic bucket is not enough.  Plastic alone simply doesn’t work for long-term food storage.  Over time, even the best plastics cannot stop the infiltration of oxygen and moisture.

Mylar bags are the answer.  These are essentially a flexible metal can that you can heat-seal at home.  Though Mylar is not as durable as a metal can, and thin Mylar bags are susceptible to damage, they are still far superior to even heavy plastic when it comes to long-term food storage.  Heavy-duty Mylar bags (7 mil) are an even better choice, especially for large packages, though it takes a bit of practice to seal the heavy-duty bags with your household iron.


???????????????????????????????What You Will Need for Do-It-Yourself  Mylar Packaging and Storage

(Retailers for these products are listed at the end of this article)

1.  Mylar bags.  (Bag size and thickness depends on how they will be stored).

2.  Oxygen Absorber Packets.  (Or, a desiccant for the storage of non-food items)

3.  Clothing Iron and a Carpenter’s Level; or Mylar Bag Sealer.

4.  Storage Container.  (Plastic 5-gallon food-grade bucket, or a new galvanized trash can or used food-grade steel drum)


The “How-To” of Packing and Storing Mylar Bags

Mylar-Packing-Label02Step #1:  Label the Mylar Bag in Two Places

Use a permanent marker, such as a Sharpie, to label the bag.  Use clear packing tape to protect the ink from damage.  After the bag has been filled and sealed, add a paper label protected with clear packing tape.  Using these two forms of labeling is a hedge against a potential failure of one of the labels.  You can use ordinary paper to make your second label, but size it to fit the width of the sealed edge of the bag.  Then use packing tape to attach the paper label.  Wrap the tape around the entire bag, so that it seals on itself.  See photo.

???????????????????????????????Step #2:  Fill the Bag

Use a dry-measure scoop to ladle food into the bag.  Use care to keep the surface clean which will be sealed.  Keep track of the quantity of food so that the bag can be properly labeled, not just with what food is contained in the bag, but also the quantity.

Mylar-Packing-Ox-Absorber-01Step #3:  Add Oxygen Absorber Packets

Use the proper size oxygen absorber packet for the air volume of the Mylar bag.  Since your emergency food supply is so important and these packets are so inexpensive, it’s a good idea to add an extra packet to each bag.

Keep you absorbers fresh by storing them in a small jar with a tight lid.  Don’t remove absorbers from the jar until you are ready to use them, and be sure to re-cap the jar immediately.  It is important to remove only the oxygen absorbers you need for the bag you are about to seal.  Oxygen absorbers start working as soon as they are exposed to air, so take care to keep them fresh.  Your food storage efforts will be wasted if you allow your oxygen absorbers to get to work before they are sealed into your food bag.

Mylar-Packing-Seal-Bag-02Step #4:  Seal the Bag

If you don’t have a Mylar bag sealer such as the “Hot Jaws,” a standard household clothing iron can be used to seal your Mylar bags.  (Instructions below).  Whichever sealing method you use, be sure to practice before starting to seal bags filled with food.  A high heat setting will likely work best, but take the time to experiment with different settings on your iron.  Be sure to turn-off the iron’s steam feature, as steam will add damaging moisture to your food.

On the side of the bag opposite the iron, use the metal edge of a clean carpenter’s level.  This metal surface will reflect back the iron’s heat, making it possible for you to deliver sealing heat to both sides of the bag at the same time.  (In the following section you’ll find more detailed instructions on how to seal Mylar bags). 

???????????????????????????????Step #5:  Remove Excess Air from the Bag

It is not necessary to remove all the air from the bag, but your oxygen absorber packet will be more effective if you remove excess air before you finish sealing the bag.  Removing the excess air will also make the bag more stable, and less likely to “pop” if it is exposed to pressure.

The easiest way to remove air from the bag is to seal all but the last couple of inches, and then press the air out of the bag before sealing those last couple of inches.

Several days after the bag has been sealed, the Mylar bag may, or may not, look like it has been vacuum packed.   This is not significant.  This outcome does not indicate that one bag has a better seal than the other, but only that more air (not oxygen) was removed prior to sealing.  These absorbers remove oxygen from the air, they do not remove air.

???????????????????????????????Step #6:  Inspect the Seal

After you have finished sealing the bag, take the time to closely inspect the seal and the bag itself.  If the seal does not look reasonably smooth, run the iron over it again.  If the seal is bunched or deformed, cut the bag open and start over.  Look for pinholes and damage to the bag, too.  If the bag has been damaged, it’s better to waste the bag than to store food which may spoil.

???????????????????????????????Step #7:  Store in a Protective Container

Whether you use the lighter-weight (3.5 mil) Mylar food storage bags or the heavy-duty (7 mil) variety, it’s a good idea to store your food bags in another container.  Ideally a container that will make it easy to move or transport the food, and as well as protect the Mylar bags from puncture and wear.

The most popular storage container is an ordinary 5-gallon food-grade plastic bucket, but there are other options.  New galvanized steel trash cans work great, as do used 30-gallon food-grade steel drums.  These steel containers are far superior if you want to also protect your food against rodents.  If you select a “used” container, check to make sure that it was previously used for food, and that it never contained anything hazardous.

Not only can rodents chew through Mylar bags, they can even chew through plastic buckets and plastic food-grade barrels.  So a metal container is your best bet if this is a concern.


???????????????????????????????The “How-To” of Sealing Mylar Bags:

A regular household iron, such as the one you use to iron your clothes, is adequate to seal a standard 3.5 mil Mylar bag.  But before you start filling bags, experiment with different heat settings, and practice your technique.  As long as you monitor the heat setting and results, you can easily do this without any damage to your iron.  If the iron starts sticking to the Mylar bag, your heat setting is too high.

Whether you opt for a thinner Mylar bag (3.5 mil) or one that is thicker, it is important to experiment with the temperature setting on your iron.  You need to identify the optimal heat setting; one which provides a smooth, secure seal to the bag.  It is more difficult to get a good seal on a heavy-weight Mylar bag using a clothes iron, but it is possible.

Be sure to “turn off” the steam setting.  You want to do what you can to avoid introducing moisture into your bag of stored food, as moisture will cause your food to spoil more quickly.

If you opt for the clothing-iron sealing method, you will also need something like a metal carpenter’s level.  When placed on the other side of the bag (see above photo), opposite from the iron, the edge of the metal carpenter’s level will reflect heat back onto the bag.  This will improve the seal.

Move the hot iron back and forth along the edge to be sealed.  If you hold it in one place too long, you may actually melt the bag and damage your iron, so keep it moving, slowly.  If you don’t have a carpenter’s level, try experimenting with steel bar stock or another metal object which has a ½-1 inch edge.  Repeat this process, to make at least two sealing bands

Another option is to purchase an electric Mylar-bag heat sealer.  For about $100 you can buy a hand-held “Hot Jaw” heat sealer which produces a professional-looking seal.  There are various brands of Mylar heat sealers, but an expensive professional-grade model isn’t necessary.

For Optimal Health

For optimal health during an emergency situation, augment these dry goods with canned foods, freeze-dried vegetables, and dehydrated or freeze-dry meat-flavored soy protein.  Foods with fats, such as meat and butter, have a much shorter shelf life.  (Usually 2-years in cans, 5-years in freeze-dry form).  Vegetables containing acids, such as tomato products, have a shorter shelf-life than vegetables such as corn or green beans.  For long-term food storage, soy protein, pinto beans, black beans, etc. are a better source of protein than meat due to this spoilage problem.

Even coarse-ground spices have a relatively short shelf-life, but adding savor to food in a protracted emergency situation is important.  Some spices, particularly those which are not yet ground and still in their natural form, have a longer shelf life.  For example, salt can be stored almost indefinitely, but should be packed with a desiccant rather than an oxygen absorber because the long-term storage problem is moisture, not oxygen.

Storing basic food supplies isn’t enough.  You also need to store what you need to make your meals nutritious…  and palatable.  Think about menus and what you will need to make your food taste good.

Don’t just pack food for emergencies.  Bulk foods repackaged and stored in Mylar bags can be your main source of dry goods for your everyday diet.  This rotation of food will keep your emergency supply fresh, and it can dramatically reduce your monthly grocery costs, too.

Oxygen-and-Moisture-2Enemies of Long-Term Food Storage

There are four main enemies to defeat when it comes to long-term food storage:  1) oxygen;2) moisture; 3) light; and 4) contamination by bacteria.  Mylar bags are effective against all four of these hazards.  But even zip-lock style Mylar bags are not adequate for long-term food storage, unless they have also been heat sealed.  An airtight seal is the key.

Heat-sealing of the Mylar bag is essential to create a permanent oxygen, moisture, and bacteria barrier.  The downside of Mylar is that improper packing, sealing, or handling can result in tears.  As with any storage container, even a small pin-hole will defeat the protective barrier.

Thicker bags would therefore seem to be an obvious solution, but for do-it-yourself  food packaging, the thicker bags are more difficult to seal with a clothing iron.  So if you use the lighter-weight bags, it’s best to store your Mylar packaged food inside another, more durable container.  This keeps it easy, and inexpensive.  If you use the thicker bags this isn’t as much of a problem, but it is still a consideration.

Food should be removed from the manufacturer’s packaging before being placed in a Mylar bag.  Do not use the manufacturer’s packaging unless it is necessary to protect the Mylar bag from the sharp edges of the food.  In these situations, make sure that the manufacturer’s wrap is thoroughly punctured.  This makes it possible for the oxygen absorber to work on the food contained in the package.

Ideally, store your food inside your home, or in a storage area which will keep your food cool in the summer and above freezing in the winter.  High heat and freezing temperatures, and temperature fluctuation,  will degrade the quality of your food much more quickly.  If you are able to store your food at room temperature it will likely last 3-times or longer than the expiration date indicated on the manufacturer’s packaging.  Some foods, like rice and beans, can last as long as 20-years if stored properly in Mylar bags.

Mylar Storage of Non-Food Supplies

This same Mylar bag storage method can be used for other important emergency supplies, as well.  This technique is also useful for the storage of infrequently used electronics, optical gear, firearms, and expensive metal tools.  Follow the directions above, but for these non-food items substitute a desiccant packet in place of the oxygen absorber.


Where to start…

Retailers for Mylar Bags, Bag Sealers, and Oxygen Absorbers:

Click on this link Mylar-Bag-Storage-BlogPost-130315 to download a PDF of this article for printing.

Preparedness as a Health Benefiting Hobby or New Vocation Reply


Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture, located near Waco, Texas

Preparedness is not just a quantity of supplies and a series of tasks combined with the right mindset; it is also a lifestyle of readiness.  One of the best ways to maintain this crucial readiness is by developing hobbies, or even a new vocation or home-based business that is beneficial for healthy living today — but selected to also provide important benefits for you, and your family and friends, during a time of adversity.

family-gardeningFor example, gardening makes it possible for you and your family to eat healthier foods, gives you exercise, gets kids out from in front of the TV and computer, can help you relieve stress, and it can reduce the expense of food in your budget.  At the same time, it helps you develop skills and critical food reserves you will need during a time of crisis.  When the shelves of your grocery store are bare, your garden can be full of nutritious food.  Canning and other food preservation skills can make this even more significant.

Goat-DSC3978There are similar benefits to developing alternative sources of energy, gaining medical skills, improving your security, creating a home business to augment income, and a host of other preparedness topics.  Remember, disasters can be short-term events, or they can be a protracted situation.  A serious economic downturn is not a disaster in the traditional sense, but the long-term effect can be even more devastating — and life changing.  Hobbies and practical vocations can make a big difference when it comes to sustainability.

Don’t know where to start?

There are many local opportunities to learn, plus there are many vacation opportunities which will not only help you relax, but will also equip you with useful new skills and abilities.  Reading books, articles and searching the Internet is great, but learning can be a lot more fun, faster and effective, if accomplished with the help of others.

Blacksmith-DSC1237Ploughshare Institute which is featured in this article, is one such opportunity.  Located near Waco, Texas, it is an example of a vacation destination where you can benefit from practical hands-on training, delivered in a fun environment by truly knowledgeable instructors.

However, you don’t need to travel far from home to find these opportunities.  If you look, you will find many useful educational and experiential opportunities in your own community.

Barn01Look for classes offered by hobby groups, retail stores, religious organizations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations such as Red Cross and Salvation Army, and universities and colleges.  Community colleges are especially useful for training in practical trades such as alternative energy, welding, and various construction skills and traditional crafts.

Many organizations sponsor weekend  seminars and fairs, too, and these are a fun opportunity to learn and experience the activity before committing to a series of classes.  But whichever opportunity you select, these provide you with an easy and fun way to gain valuable skills.  Skills that can make everyday living better, and your disaster preparations more robust.

IMG_1371bFor more about Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture and the 125 classes they offer, visit:

For information on the Homestead Heritage Traditional Crafts Village, visit:

For dates and additional info on Homestead Craft Fair, visit: