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  • How to Treat a Snake Bite

    |3 COMMENT(S)


    How to Avoid and Treat Snake Bites

    Would you know what to do if you were bitten by a snake?

    According to the CDC, about 8,000 snake bites (venomous and non-venomous) happen in the United States each year. Even a bite from a so-called "harmless" snake can cause infection or allergic reaction in some people. However, with the correct treatment or antivenin (an antitoxin that rids the human body of animal or insect venom), severe illness and/or death can be prevented.

    Here are tips for avoiding, recognizing, and treating both venomous and non-venomous snake bites when professional medical attention is delayed or completely out of reach.

    Avoiding snake bites

    According to the snake experts from Utah’s Reptile Rescue Service, most snake bites happen because a person tries to harass or kill a snake. Occasionally, hikers or joggers are bitten because snakes can hide very well on open trails and are hard to see in dense grass.

    The best way to avoid a snake bite is to be aware of your surroundings. When you’re outdoors, make sure you’re wearing closed-toed shoes and are careful of where you put your feet before you sit down on the ground, rocks, or logs. Always tap rocks with a long stick and listen for a rattle before sitting down. Snakes like to hide in rock retaining walls. If you hear a rattle, try not to panic or jump. Locate the source before you move, and warn others who are with you.

    Try to avoid snakes at all cost—even if they’re dead. According to Utah’s Reptile Rescue Service, most people don’t realize that once you kill a snake it’s still alive and can strike for 24 hours. So if you see a “dead” snake in the road and you bend over to take a look at it, there’s a possibility you could still get bitten — which has happened in many cases.

    Recognizing Venomous Snake Bites

    If you are bitten by a snake, but aren’t sure if the snake is poisonous watch out for these common symptoms of venomous snake bites.

    However, keep in mind that each person may experience symptoms differently, and some people may not even display symptoms for a long period of time. In addition, different snakes have different types of venom, so the symptoms may differ according to the type of venom circulating through the person’s body.

    Symptoms may include:

    • Bloody wound discharge

    • Fang (puncture) marks in the skin and swelling at the site of the bite

    • Severe localized pain

    • Discoloration, such as redness and bruising

    • Enlarged lymph nodes in the area affected

    • Diarrhea

    • Burning

    • Convulsions

    • Fainting

    • Dizziness

    • Weakness

    • Blurred vision

    • Excessive sweating

    • Fever

    • Increased thirst

    • Loss of muscle coordination

    • Nausea and vomiting

    • Numbness and tingling, especially in the mouth

    • Rapid pulse

    • Altered mental state

    • Shock

    • Paralysis

    • Difficulty breathing


    Treating Snake Bites

    For maximum safety, treat all snake bites as venomous. Get to the emergency room as quickly as possible, especially if you’re unsure of the type of snake responsible for the bite.

    Treatment for venomous bites

    If you are bitten by a venomous snake, try to remember as many details about the snake as possible so you can describe it to emergency personnel. Remember these tips for identifying poisonous snakes so you know what to look for. If possible, without putting yourself or someone else in danger, take a picture. Call 9-1-1 immediately or get the person to an emergency room as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence.

    While waiting for medical help:

    • Move the person beyond striking distance of the snake.
    • Have the person lie down with the wound below the heart.
    • Keep the person still to prevent venom from spreading.
    • Remove restrictive clothing, rings, and jewelry; the bite can cause swelling.
    • Cover the wound with a loose, sterile dressing if possible.
    • Get to a hospital as quickly as possible.


    Treatment for non-venomous bites

    If you are 100% sure the snake that bit you is non-venomous, treat it like a puncture wound. If possible get a good look at the snake or take a picture for later verification.

    • Do not try to pick up or trap the snake.
    • If the wound is bleeding, apply firm direct pressure with sterile gauze/clean cloth until it stops.
    • Rinse the wound under clean water for several minutes, and then wash the area with mild soap and water.
    • Remove restrictive clothing, rings, and jewelry; the bite can cause swelling.
    • Apply a triple antibiotic cream and cover with a bandage or other dressing.
    • Keep the wound clean and dry.

    Even if you know the snake bite is non-venomous, you should still seek treatment from medical professionals.


    If you ever have to deal with a snake bite, DO NOT:

    • Try to pick up the snake or try to trap it.
    • Cut a bite wound.
    • Attempt to suck out venom (the only exception would be if you have a kit for removing venom and you’re too far away from medical treatment).
    • Apply tourniquet, ice or water.
    • Give the person alcohol or caffeinated drinks.

    Have you ever encountered a snake? What other tips would you give to avoid snake bites?




    Rick Nielsen became an EMT in 1996, and currently works as an Advanced EMT. He spent several years as an EMT/Firefighter and CERT instructor in Pleasant Grove, UT. He is also a First Aid and BLS (Basic Life Support) instructor. He’s worked at Timpanogos hospital for 16 years, spending several years working in the Emergency Room. He currently works in the ICU as a Telemetry Technician. He loves sharing his experience and knowledge of first aid and emergency preparedness with others. 






    Posted In: First Aid and Sanitation, Insight, Skills

  • The Bouquet You Can Eat: Foraging for Flowers

    The Bouquet You can Eat: Foraging for Edible Flowers

    Have you ever seen a package of flowers in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and wondered why on earth they were mixed in with the food?

    Well, aside from making a meal look more aesthetically appealing, flowers can be yet another way to gather food from your garden. Or for those with an adventurous streak, flowers can be a special prize while foraging for wild food, either for fun or as a necessity during an emergency.

    In this article, we’ll give you some basic tips on foraging for edible flowers. To learn more about foraging in general, visit the Insight article Survival 101: Foraging for Edible Plants.


    6 Dos and Don’ts of Flower Foraging

    Before your first flower foraging expedition, you should obtain reliable resources to be your guide and provide accurate images of edible flowers in your area. Try Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants or a regional field guide specific to your area.

    Having a field guide can go a long way in helping you know which flowers are safe to eat, and which you should leave alone.

    Along with doing your own research, here are some specific dos and don’ts when it comes to foraging and eating the pretty companions to wild greenery:

    1.Do: Only eat flowers you are100% certain are edible; it’s not worth the risk

    2. Do: Perform the Universal Edibility Test if you’re not sure a flower is edible. This test requires you to separate the parts of a plant, test it on your skin, cook if possible, and hold it on your tongue, waiting for adverse reactions. Always look for plants growing in abundance. If a plant is growing in large abundance, it's more likely to not be poisonous.

    3.Do: Avoid flowers that may have been treated with pesticides, or that grow on the side of the road, come from nurseries (unless guaranteed organic) or are near any other contaminated areas.

    4.Do: Watch out for bees, hives, and other animals

    5.Don’t: Eat the flowers before removing the pistils and stamens (the middle portion of the flower, along with any parts sticking out of the center, as pictured below). These are the central ovule and pollen producing parts of the flower that can make the taste bitter or undesirable.

    The Bouquet You can Eat: Foraging for Edible Flowers

    The Stamen and Pistils of a flower


    It’s ok to eat the stems, petals, and leaves of most flowers, but consult a guidebook for how to properly cook and eat each part of the flower.

    6.Don’t: Eat flowers if you have severe allergies.


    6 Edible Flowers you should know when foraging

    Here are some common edible flowers to memorize if you’re ever in an emergency that requires you to eat edible plants:

    1) Dandelions: This one is obvious, but begs to be included because the yellow flowers are easily recognizable. Most people have them in abundance, and treat them like pests when they creep up on the lawn, but the leaves, roots and flowers are edible, and you can use the unopened buds to make Appalachian Style Fried Dandelions, on allrecipes.com

    The Bouquet you can Eat: Foraging for Edible Flowers

    2) Japanese Honeysuckle: Honeysuckles in general can be tricky, since there are many species of honeysuckle, and some are poisonous. Some have edible and poisonous parts on the same plant, so in this case it is very important to know your stuff. The Japanese Honeysuckle stores a sweet nectar in its base that can be accessed after proper identification of the distinct white and yellow flowers. For a tutorial on extracting the nectar, follow this link: www.instructables.com/id/Honeysickle%3A-Harvesting-the-Sweet-Nectar-of-Life/.


    The Bouquet you can Eat: Foraging for Edible Flowers

    3) Fireweed: This plant also has many edible parts, but the flowers, stems, and leaves are best in the spring when they are fresh. They can be found in woods, along hills, and beside fresh water or oceans in cold climates. An interesting fact about fireweed is that it grows in areas that have been burned. The seeds are not destroyed in the fire, but can germinate after the fact.


    The Bouquet You can Eat: Foraging for Edible Flowers


    4) Garlic grass: The alliums have many great, wild varieties, and most carry that lovely garlic smell. For garlic grass specifically the thin stems give way to light, purplish blossoms, resembling the bloom of a chive flower in shape. Much like the grocery store variety, they can be used on many savory items you wish to spice up, such as a salad or meat dish. They are a great wild replacement for chives or scallions.

    5) Red Clover: round, purple, tube-like flower petals can be eaten raw or steeped for tea. Pull the petals off and sprinkle them over a salad, or try this Mixed Berry Pie recipe and serve with a sprinkling of clover to top it off.

     The Bouquet You can Eat: Foraging for Edible Flowers


    6) Trillium: The Trillium is a single-flowered branch plant that has three white petals that turn pink as the plant ages. You can find Trillium around stream banks or also on the forest floor in open or deep woods.

     The Bouquet you can Eat: Foraging for Flowers

    If you want to cultivate your own edible flowers in your garden there are many choices you could plant to explore the culinary possibilities. These options include, but are not limited to

    • Squash and zucchini flowers
    • Pansies
    • Lavender
    • The flowers of many herbs, such as chives
    • Flowering thyme and basil
    • Violets
    • Roses
    • Water Lillies


    Each flower has its own benefits and rules for planting and harvesting, so be sure to be as careful and knowledgeable in your own garden as you would be in the wild.


    Happy hunting!

    - Lesley





















    The Sense of Survival by Alan J. South

    Posted In: Insight, Skills

  • 17 Tips for Successful Foil Dinners

    17 Tips for Successful Foil Dinners

    There’s something fun about opening a piping-hot foil dinner! No matter what way you cook it—in your oven, on a grill, over hot coals, or buried in the ashes of a campfire—foil dinners are quick and delicious way to make your favorite meals.

    If you’re new to foil packet cooking, here are a few basic tips and recipes for foil dinner success.


    Prepping Your Dinner

    • Use heavy duty foil. Stronger foil prevents rips and leaks. It also protects your meals from getting ashes in them. If you only have regular foil, double or triple wrap your meal.
    • Seal foil packets with foil folds. I know our first inclination is to crunch the sides of the packet closed, but doing this sometimes causes the juices to come out. Always fold the excess foil to make sure everything stays put. The Art of Manliness gives a step-by-step tutorial on two different kinds of foil folds to use—the flat pack and the tent pack.  Check out how to fold these packs at the artofmanliness.com.
    • Make sure your foil is large enough for your meal. Most individual dinners need a piece of heavy-duty foil about 12 x 18 inches.
    • Get cooking spray. Always spray the foil to prevent sticking.
    • Put meat on the bottom of the packet. Meats take the longest to cook. If you’re using pre-cooked meat, like many freeze-dried meat, it doesn’t need to be at the bottom of the packet.
    • Use thin meat. Pound or slice meats to make them thinner for easier cooking. Bite-sized pieces work best because they’re easier to eat straight out of the packet (no knife required!).
    • Cut hard vegetables into thin slices. Cut potatoes and carrots into thin slices; they’ll take as long as the meat to cook. Other vegetables can be cut into chunks. If you’re using reconstituted freeze-dried or dehydrated potato or carrot dices, you don’t have to worry—they’re already small and will cook quickly.
    • To season or not to season, that is the question. Some people say to use more seasoning than usual in a foil dinner, especially if you’re cooking on a campfire. But remember, freeze-dried meats can have high sodium content. Keep this in mind as you add seasonings to your packet.


    Cooking Packets on a Grill or Campfire

    • Cook on the fire’s coals. Don’t cook on the fire itself. Always cook packets on a two-inch-thick bed of coals.
    • Always cook on mature coals. When camping, cook on or near the white coals rather than red ones. You can also bury your dinner in the hot ashes at the edge of the fire, or cover the packet with coals if it has a lot of food in it.
    • Start with your packet meat-side down. Turn it at least twice during the cooking process—using tongs, of course! Test the meat and potatoes. Re-wrap and cook longer, if needed. If you’re using freeze-dried meat, it’s already cooked, so you only need to “cook” it long enough to heat it up and blend the flavors.
    • Cooking Rice and Pastas. Rice and pasta should be pre-cooked before adding to foil dinners, with the exception of some dinners that include instant rice with sufficient soup, sauce, or gravy to cook in.
    • Always add moisture to the packet. You can also add a couple tablespoons of sauce—Worcestershire, Soy, barbecue, salsa, etc.—melted butter, milk, salad dressing, or water. If cooking meat, always include high-moisture veggies like tomatoes or onions to make sure it doesn’t dry out.
    • Cooking Potatoes. Toss them in a little oil to reduce sticking. Season well.
    • Adding Cheese. After cooking, add cheese when you open the package. If you add it during cooking, it will stick to the foil and burn.
    • Add Cabbage to prevent burning. If you're worried about your food burning, you can put a leaf of cabbage on the bottom of your meal and another leaf to cover the top of your meal in the foil. If your dinner gets over cooked, the cabbage will burn, but your meal won’t.
    • Open your packet carefully. When you finish cooking or if you’re adding cheese, open your packet slowly and carefully to avoid steam burns.

    Customer Tips: On our Facebook page, John Yohon Lewis and Tambrae K. Leach Adams suggest using cream of mushroom or chicken soup and ice cubes to add moisture to your packet so nothing dries out while cooking.



    Foil cooking is not an exact science, so use the following recipes as jumping-off points, and let your taste buds be your guide! All the recipes below can be cooked with fresh or freeze-dried ingredients. Click on each picture to see the full recipe.


    Meatloaf Foil Special

    Meatloaf Foil Special

    Foil Beef Stew

    Foil Beef Stew

    Santa Fe Chicken Foil Dinner

    Santa Fe Chicken Foil Dinner

    Foil Packet Blueberry Breakfast Bake

    Foil Packet Blueberry Breakfast Bake

    Customer Foil Recipe Tips: Here are some recipes ideas from customers on our Facebook page.

    • Gracie Liblin We like wrap potatoes in foil and cook over the camp fire. They turn out good that way.
    • JR Young Having given this some thought, I think I am going to cut chicken breast into strips, add onion, garlic, bell pepper, cumin, cilantro and lime juice. I have no idea how it will turn out, as I have never tried doing this as a foil bake. I'll let you know.
    • Cherise Isbell  JR--When it's done: top it with shredded cheddar/mozzarella and salsa!!!!!!!
    • Jeannine Duffey Neubecker Use corned beef or ham cut up with potatoes, onion, cabbage and butter and pepper. I've done this substituting carrots for cabbage too.

    What’s your idea of the perfect Foil Dinner?

    -Sharon and Angela













    Posted In: Emergency Cooking, Insight

  • Building a Safe Room at Home or in the Community

    |10 COMMENT(S)

    Building a Safe Room at Home or in the Community

    We often think of safe rooms as shelters we can go to during attacks or home invasions, but they can also protect us from extreme weather.

    According to FEMA, “a safe room is a hardened structure [that meets specific design and safety criteria] and provides ‘near-absolute protection’ in extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes.” Since safe rooms serve a dual purpose, they’re a great investment for those interested in emergency preparedness or home safety in general.

    So, how would you build one? What types of materials would you need? And how much would it cost? Here are some pointers to get you started:


    The first thing you need to determine before designing or building a safe room is what its purpose will be (is it for home invasions, natural disasters, or both?). You’re purpose for building the safe room will influence the materials you use and the way it’s built. The following questions will help you determine your needs:

    1. Is my home in an at-risk area where natural disasters are frequent or probable?

    • This map of the United States can help you to identify your risk factors for tornadoes and hurricanes.
    • This worksheet can help you determine what kind of shelter you need based on your risk from the map above.

    2. What is the crime rate in your area? How frequently do home invasions occur where you live?

    3. Who will be sheltered in the safe room?

    • Do you have any family or community members with special needs? Do they need special medical equipment, beds, or ramps to access the room?
    • How many people do you expect to house here?

    4. What kind of supplies will you store in your safe room?

    • Do you need cabinets and/or specialized compartments (like a gun safe) to house your supplies?

    5. Do you want any “extras”?

    • Extras include: key pad door lock (automatic lock), surveillance equipment, land line phone, ham radio

    Now that you have some basic questions answered, it’s time to look at designing and building your safe room!


    After answering the questions above, you should have a pretty good idea about how many people your safe room will house. If you have a lot of “extras,” special equipment, or supplies, you should make your room larger than the minimum size for a given number of people. There are specific sizes based on the event you are preparing for, but here are some general numbers to give you an idea. FEMA recommends the following (largest minimum requirements):

    • For residential one- and two-family dwellings: seven square feet per person
    • For other residential: ten square feet per person
    • For community safe rooms: 20  square feet per person; 40 square feet per bedridden person


    Once you determine an appropriate size, determine whether you’re going to install your safe room in an existing building, or build a totally separate building. Typically, installing a safe room in an existing home or building is more expensive and challenging than installing one in a new building by about 20 percent (see more about cost below).

    If you decide to build a safe room into an existing building, the most convenient location in many homes is the basement (unless you’re in a flood zone). Another possibility is an in-ground safe room installed beneath a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or a concrete garage floor. These two locations provide the most protection from airborne objects (like missiles) or falling debris, but above-ground designs can also offer more-than-adequate protection. In fact, placing a safe room on the first floor interior of a building will also work as long as it’s supported by interior walls.

    One major benefit of building a safe room within a home or garage is that it allows those inside the home to get to safety without venturing outside into the weather or possibly facing an intruder. But the added safety measure that comes with building a safe room in an existing building must be weighed against the challenges of retrofitting the building.

    For more information about selecting a location for your safe room, FEMA has a free downloadable pdf that goes into extensive detail on the topic.


    According to FEMA, the cost of a 64-square-foot safe room (of their design) ranges from $6,600-$9,000 while a 200-square-foot room can be anywhere from $12,000 to $14,500. Costs will obviously vary depending on a number of factors, including:

    • Size
    • Location
    • Number of existing walls/Number of walls to be built
    • Type of door used
    • Foundation of location
    • Geographic area

    As you can see, building a safe room can be an expensive proposition, but here are six smaller, less-expensive things you can do now to create a makeshift safe room in your home, if $10,000 is more than you can (or want to) spend:

    1. Replace the door to your “safer” room with a solid wood or metal door with at least one good dead bolt lock on it.

    2. Install a home alarm system.

    3. Get a gun safe if you have weapons, and a regular fire and waterproof safe bolted to the ground for valuables and important papers.

    4. Install a hard-wired phone for the room.

    5. Place a 72-hour emergency kit for each person in the safe room.

    6. Reinforce your windows. You can install bullet-proof glass, reinforce your existing glass with shatterproof laminate, or install plexiglass windows.

    For more tips on building a safe room from an existing room check out our article “Stocking a Safe Room: Crucial Supplies to Have on Hand.”

    Once you have these smaller items completed, look into saving money for retrofitting or building a full-blown safe room.


    If you don’t feel confident in your construction and design skills, you can hire a professional contractor. Or you can check out some pre-fabricated safe rooms that require less skill to install. To ensure your future safety, you should obtain documentation from your contractors showing that the safe room is built to specified design and protection criteria (FEMA requirements, for example).

    Important Design Aspects to Consider

    There are a lot of things to consider in your design.

    • Walls: A safe room must have walls that will be sturdy and resist high-velocity projectiles as well as resistant to both positive and negative wind pressures. Walls should be made of concrete or reinforced with steel. Walls should also be anchored, and the room should be windowless if possible (Plexiglass windows are safer than glass).
    • Doors: Typically a weak point for safe rooms. Door construction (particularly the exterior layer) is often a limiting element in the door’s ability to withstand impact. Doors and frames should be made of solid wood or metal and the door frame should be reinforced if possible. For more tips on reinforcing an existing door frame, check out this article from No Nonsense Self Defense.
    • Power: In the event that the electricity is disrupted, you should have a back-up power source like a Goal Zero solar powered generator to provide lighting.
    • Ventilation: There are independent systems that can be installed for ventilation, especially if the room may be used for longer than 24 hours. To prevent air leakage, the safe room should not have lay-in ceilings (suspended ceiling tiles) unless there is a hard ceiling above.
    • Sleeping Area and Storage: If the room may be used for more than 24 hours, you may consider additional floor area to accommodate sleeping. Also, if you determined the need for cabinets or special lockers, you must remember to include that as additional needed area in your design.

    This helpful PDF from FEMA goes more in-depth about safe room design.


    Taking steps to create a safe room, or at least a “safer” room, in your home can be a great investment and asset for you and your family, especially in times of emergency or danger. If building a safe room right away isn’t viable for you, make a plan to get one over the course of a number of years and do little things to make your home safer and better prepared for emergencies.

    For information on stocking a Safe Room with supplies, check out our article, Stocking a Safe Room: Crucial Supplies to Have on Hand.


    Have you built a safe room? Did you have a contractor do it? Any pointers or tips for those wanting to build a safe room? Any other items you consider must-haves in a safe room?








    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Insight, Shelter and Temperature Control

  • 20 Must-Have Supplies for a Hurricane

    |1 COMMENT(S)

    20 Must-have supplies for a Hurricane

    The National Weather Service states, “History teaches that a lack of hurricane preparedness and awareness are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.”

    When preparing for a hurricane, it’s important to not only be aware of warning signs and critical information about the storm itself, but also to know about the types of supplies you should have on-hand during the storm.

    The following list provides some basic preparedness supplies, as well as special items to help you face hurricane-specific challenges.

    Top 20 must-have supplies for a Hurricane

    1. Water: 1 gallon per person per day for 2 weeks. Don't forget water for cooking, cleaning, and your pets, as well as water purification and filtration supplies.

    •  Fact: According to those who experienced Hurricanes Wilma, Katrina, and Sandy the most important item to have during a Hurricane is water, which quickly sold out at grocery stores. If you live in an urban setting or small space, an Aquapod is a great place to store water before the storm hits.

    2. Food Storage: At least enough for 3 to 7 days. In addition to having non-perishable packaged or canned food, you’ll also want to have fuel to cook outdoors in case the power goes out.

    3. Solar Power:  If the power goes out, you can easily run a solar generator in your home without worrying  about propane, gasoline, or other flammable chemicals. Even having a small solar panel like a Nomad 7 to charge your cell phone or small electronics can go a long way in a power outage.

    •  Fact: During Hurricane Sandy, several residents discovered their solar panels didn’t restore their power. In fact, many residential panels are connected to the power grid; if the grid goes down, so do your panels. However, using portable solar panels can help you have a reliable source of electricity, when the power goes out. Check out Goal Zero’s portable and durable solar panels to help you weather a storm.

    4. WaterProof Containers: For storing important documents (copies of wedding license, special family photos, social security card, driver’s license, map of area, etc.)

    5. Cash: Have cash on hand in small denominations, including change. At least $20.

    6. Manual Can Opener: Make sure to have a manual can opener in case of power outages. You’ll definitely want a way to get into your food storage cans. Try the Swing-Away Crank-Turn Handle Can Opener.

    7. WaterProof Matches: If you don’t have waterproof matches, you can also store regular matches in a plastic container to keep them safe and dry.

    8. Essential Kits and Medications: First-Aid Kit, Emergency Kit, prescription medications.

    9. Sanitation Supplies/Personal Hygiene items: It’s important to keep your hands clean during an emergency to prevent the spread of disease. If your hands are caked with dirt or other substances, hand sanitizers become ineffective. If your tap water isn’t safe, wash your hands and bathe with boiled or disinfected water. Only bathe with clean, safe water in a water-related emergency like a hurricane. Wait for officials to tell you the water is clean and safe for bathing.

    •  Fact: Poor hygiene and sanitation can spread disease, especially in a natural disaster. According to a John Hopkins Red Cross study, more people die from unsanitary conditions, rather than the natural disaster itself, in some cases. So make sure you have a way to get clean!

    10. Light and Communication: Make sure to have a battery-operated radio, flashlight, clock, or wind-up clock (include extra batteries); tune in to NOAA weather radio for constant updates on the storm and water conditions.

    11. Extra Clothes, Pillows, Blankets: Stored in your emergency kit or a waterproof container.

    12. Hurricane Shutters or Storm Panels: Consider installing hurricane shutters or storm panels if you live in a hurricane-prone area. Hurricane shutters protect your windows and doors from wind and flying debris. There are commercial shutters you can buy, or you can also install your own using plywood. For a guide on picking and making shutters, check out this weather.com article.

    •  Fact: During Hurricane Andrew, much of the damage “resulted from failure of windows and doors. These failures frequently lead to interior wall failure and sometimes roof failures.” This damage could have been prevented if shutters were installed in most homes.

    13. Entertainment items: Cards, board games, toys, drawing pads

    14. Flood Insurance, Home and Property Insurance: Look into flood insurance, if you don’t already have it, to cover damage in case of a storm. Also, check out your current insurance coverage to determine if hurricanes and other natural disasters are covered under your policy.

    15. Evacuation/Communication plan: Be sure to practice your plan and be familiar with it before a storm hits.

    16. Plastic Sheeting/Tarps: After a hurricane, you can use plastic sheeting or tarps to cover any holes or damage to your roof until it can be fixed. Make sure your tarps are in good condition; heavy winds can easily damage them. Note: Installing a tarp on your roof is dangerous, check out these tips for safely installing a tarp.Plastic sheeting with a bit of duct tape is also great for patching leaks.

    17. Tools/Supplies for securing your home—Make sure to have a drill with a screwdriver bit to secure hurricane shutters. Also, have roof and window repair tools, rope, leather gloves, shovel, head and foot bolts for doors, and hurricane straps or clips to help hold the roof and walls up.

    • Fact: A common myth about hurricane preparedness is that using duct tape to secure your windows will reduce shattering, but recently, experts from the National Hurricane Center have been de-bunking this myth. They suggest that taping your windows “can create larger and deadlier shards of glass when winds blow through a home,” increasing the danger. Instead, look into buying or making your own storm shutters.

    18. Insect Repellent: This is a product that may be overlooked when packing our emergency supplies, but it’s good to have, especially in a hurricane.

    • Fact: Heavy winds and sitting pools of water often attract mosquitos after a hurricane. Mosquitos arrive in the area after being blown off trees and shrubbery—and they’re usually hungry, so make sure you have your insect repellent on hand.

    19. Child care and Pet care items: Make sure to have food, wipes, clothing, and other items to take care of your children and pets, if needed.

    20. Whistle and Flares: Do you know why you should have a whistle in your Hurricane emergency kit?

    •  Fact: During hurricanes, whistles are excellent tools to help you signal for help. Whistles are more effective than yelling or shouting because they can signal for help well beyond the range of your voice and with a lot less effort, allowing you to conserve energy. Whistles are one of the most commonly listed items to include in a hurricane emergency kit by hurricane survivors.

    For more tips on preparing for a hurricane, check out our downloadable/printable “Before a Hurricane Checklist.”


    Have you lived through a Hurricane? What Other Supplies would you add to this list?




    Photo Courtesy of Weather.com

    National Weather Service Quote http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/




    New York Times article (Solar Power in an emergency—ways to tap into it when the grid goes down)









    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Insight

  • How to Grow Herbs and Veggies on your Fire Escape

    Got a green thumb, but no space to build a garden?

    If you live in an urban setting, this just might be the case. With little to no yard space to build a garden plot, you may think your dreams of growing your own fresh herbs and veggies are lost. However, you may have some unconsidered real estate perfect for a garden: your fire escape.

    How to Grow Herbs and Veggies on your Fire Escape

    You can easily grow your own vegetables and herbs on your fire escape. However, you’ll want to research the fire codes and laws in your city to make sure it’s legal to make a fire escape garden before you start. But even if your fire escape is off limits (or you don’t have a fire escape at all), these tips apply to window box gardens as well, so read on!

    Here are 6 easy steps to creating your own fire escape, container, or window box garden.

    1.  Assess your sunlight and select plants accordingly. Most veggies need at least six hours in the sun to grow well, although many herbs can make do with less. As the position of the sun changes over the summer, you may need to move some of the plants around to make sure they are catching the sun.

    2. Select your plants. Pick veggies and herbs that you actually know you’ll eat. But keep in mind that some plants, like peppers and tomatoes, start small but end up really big. If you don’t have a way to stake them up or contain them a bit, consider planting something else. Herbs are great plants for beginners, as are lettuces. You may wish to buy them already started from a nursery to increase your harvest time.  Also, it can be tempting to get a little too much stuff at the nursery where everything looks so perfect and lovely. Keep your space in mind, and know that each plant will need adequate space within a container to grow well. Over-crowded plants don’t grow as well.

    3. Get your gear. Pick a container that will drain well and be big enough for the plants you want to grow. Regular pots will work, or empty two liter bottles. I also love this idea of growing things in a repurposed shoe organizer:

     How to Grow Herbs and Veggies on your Fire Escape

    You will also want to get enough potting soil for your containers. Make sure you get potting soil, not garden soil. Potting soil is specially blended to help retain the correct amount of moisture needed for plant growth in a container. If you use garden soil in a potted plant, the soil may retain more moisture than the plant needs.  You’ll also want a trowel, a water can (though a pitcher will do), and fertilizer (organic or non-organic, according to your preference).

    4. Plant once it’s warm enough in your region. Wait until after the last frost to begin your outdoor container garden. A good source to check is the farmer’s almanac, or the local cooperative extension office. And even though we are at the beginning of the summer, it’s not too late to start planting most veggies and herbs.  In fact, some plants do well later in the summer, like kale and chard, which continue to grow even when cool weather returns.

    5. Water your plants consistently. Potted plants tend to dry out more rapidly, especially on hot fire escapes. Each day, check if your plants need to be watered by putting your finger about an inch into the soil. If it’s not damp, it’s time to water. You also don’t want to overdo it. Water until soil is damp all the way through, but not soaked.

    6. Add fertilizer every few weeks to keep your soil healthy. Watering the plants can flush most of the nutrients out of the soil, especially in small containers. Fertilizing will ensure a better crop.

    So go beautify your fire escape with some edible greens and enjoy!

    To learn more about fire escape and container gardening, check out these articles:

    Veggies on the Fire Escape: Small-Space Gardening

    Thinking Outside the Planter Box


    What are your tips for starting a container or fire escape garden?






    Posted In: Gardening, Insight Tagged With: growing herbs, growing vegetables, fire escape gardening, container gardening, fire escape, gardening, garden

  • How to Desalinate Water

    |6 COMMENT(S)

    How to Desalinate Water

    Water is a dynamic resource. It depends on the season, the location, the temperature, and a host of other factors. But one thing you can always count on is that at any given time about 97% of the world’s water is tied up in the ocean. The other 3% is found in streams, lakes, groundwater, and ice. Looking at the numbers, it’s obvious that tapping into the ocean’s reserves opens a world of possibilities, especially when it comes to an emergency.

    Using ocean water in an emergency is an obvious possibility for people living in coastal or island areas. When one considers the number of vacation destinations in these areas, the application becomes much wider. Natural disasters, especially, have the ability to interrupt or cripple fresh water supplies in these areas.

    However, people cannot safely drink ocean water.  The reason for this lies in the kidneys.  As the kidneys process salt, they are only capable of producing urine that is less salty than ocean water.  This means it requires more water than that which is available in ocean water to rid the body of excess salt. So as a person drinks ocean water they become increasingly dehydrated, rather than rehydrated. This makes desalinating ocean water an appealing option.

    If removing salt from ocean water is part of your emergency preparedness plan, it will generally take a bit more effort and/or equipment than other water purification processes.  Describing the desalination process at some length emphasizes the fact that the key word here is preparedness. For desalination to be useable at home, some foresight will go a long way.


    Desalination: How does it Work?

    Desalination or Desalting is the process of removing salt from ocean water to produce fresh water. Desalinated water can be used for drinking water, or for agriculture, or industrial use.

    Desalination is an inherently energy intensive process. There is a reason why wells are drilled, treatment plants are used, and conservation efforts are exhausted before agencies, governments, and authorities consider using desalination. That reason is money. In many cases ocean water must be treated and/or filtered before the desalination process can take place. This means that aside from consuming a great deal of energy, it also requires equipment, facilities, and manpower. Ultimately, this results in expensive water.

    Despite the cost, removing salt from ocean water is still a useful process that is in use in many areas. Expensive water is much better than no water, and as technology advances, renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power make desalination more viable and affordable.


    Types of Desalination

    There are different ways that this process can take place. The two most common are distillation and reverse osmosis.

    • Distillation is the process of boiling ocean water and collecting the condensate which has left salt and other minerals behind.
    • Reverse osmosis uses pressure and a semi-permeable membrane to accomplish the same thing. Osmosis is a naturally occurring process in which a solvent (water) and a solution (salt water) equalize across a semi-permeable membrane. This occurs as the solvent flows from less concentrated to more concentrated water until equilibrium is achieved. Reverse osmosis, as the name implies, pushes the process the other way. Pressure is applied to the salt water side pushing water molecules to the less concentrated side producing clean, salt-free water.

    Ways to Desalinate Water in an Emergency

    There are several different techniques you can use to desalinate water during an emergency.

    • Home distillation is a possibility. It requires a lot of fuel, however. In an extended emergency this could become a problem. Fuels (propane, etc.) may not last and wood collection could become too labor intensive to be worthwhile.
    • Solar distillation may be used as well, but production from a solar still is generally small. If solar power is going to be used, preparedness will be the key. It would be a great idea to invest in something like a solar oven to make the process more efficient.
    • Reverse osmosis is a viable option in an emergency as well. It will, however, require some investment and planning.
    •  Purchase a Desalinator. For someone who lives in an area where using salt water in an emergency is their best option, there are some good products out there. There are a couple common types.
    1. Powered Desalinators: Battery or generator operated. Powered desalinators are capable of supplying a decent volume of water, but they will require ongoing maintenance of batteries, solar panels, or generators to be sure everything will function in an emergency. They’re also relatively expensive. A common model is the Katadyn PowerSurvivor 40E. It retails for around $4000.00. It runs on 12 volts and puts out 1.5 gallons per hour. There are other models as well, but this one is fairly typical of price and output. They go up or down in price based on options.
    2. Manual Deslinators: The Katadyn Survivor 06 is a good example of a manual desalinator. They are generally operated by pumping to supply pressure to force water through the membrane. These again highlight the large amount of energy needed for desalination. The Katadyn Survivor requires 40 pumps per minute to produce 0.89 liters per hour. That is 2400 pumps for less than one liter of water!  In an emergency you’ll be glad to have the water, but a small manual desalinator will only provide enough water for one or two people and it will take a lot of work to get it.

    There are many scenarios where desalination may be your best option for an emergency water supply. If this is the case, it’s critical that you do some planning. You may need to learn specific techniques and decide how to best accomplish the task. In some cases it requires a significant amount of equipment. More so than with almost any other emergency water supply plan, desalination requires planning and forethought in order to be prepared.


    Is a desalinator not in your price range for emergency supplies? For a step-by-step tutorial on how to distill your own water at home, check back for our upcoming article on home distillation.

    Also, check out some of our other water filters and purifiers, such as the Katadyn® Expedition. These filters and purifiers are a great way to clean water found in fresh water sources.



    Author Bio: Joe Huish has worked for the Central Utah Water Conservancy District’s drinking water treatment sector for 10 years.  He studied Geology at Utah State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He’s an avid outdoorsman and is a bit of a gear nut. He enjoys fishing, hunting, jeeping, and camping.

    Posted In: Insight, Water Storage Tagged With: distillation, desalination, water storage, water

  • 5 Myths about Tornado Safety

    |21 COMMENT(S)

    What you should know about tornado safety

    When it comes to knowing the facts and fiction about tornado safety, some of us may be relying on movies like Twister as our reference—especially if we don’t live in “Tornado Alley.”

    But what if you come face-to-face with a cyclone while traveling or moving to a new area? Would you know how to keep yourself safe?

    As you prepare, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge the myths associated with tornado safety and to re-educate yourself to properly prepare. Here are 5 common myths about Tornado Safety you’ll want to know (and not fall for!) if a twister ever blows through your town.


    Myth #1: Tornadoes only occur in Tornado Alley.

    While it’s true that the central and Midwestern areas of the United States, known as Tornado Alley, do see a greater number of tornadoes, there’s no predicting where they can happen next. In fact, the experts at Weather.com suggest, “tornadoes can occur at any time of the year and in any part of the world.” And a recent accuweather.com article suggests there may be more than one tornado alley in the United States.

    As you can see in the chart below, a majority of tornadoes take place in Tornado Alley, but tornadoes have also occurred in many other parts of the country as well.

    5 Myths about Tornado Safety

    The National Weather Service (NWS) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) routinely collects reports of severe weather and compiles them with a Graphic Information System (GIS). This file contains track information regarding known tornados during the period 1950 to 2006.


    According to an Associated Press report, a handful of tornadoes touched down in Northern California in March 2014. This area of the country, typically known for earthquakes and wildfires, experienced a tornado that damaged 20 homes. Many residents were not prepared for tornadoes, but they learned to prepare for the unexpected.

    This incident is important to keep in mind when preparing your own emergency supplies or when preparing to travel. Collect food, light, water, first aid, and communication supplies now so you can be ready if a storm hits.


    Myth #2: Tornadoes are unpredictable and therefore there is no way to prepare for them.

    Tornadoes do move unpredictably, but that doesn’t mean there’s no way to prepare. Meteorologists and networks like the NOAA or Weather.com use radars and satellites to monitor temperature and wind patterns, and can give frequent updates for your area and early warnings to help you get to safety in time. The Voyager Pro Radio also has a weather alert feature that automatically notifies you when there are severe weather alert warnings in your area.

    You can also become aware of the warning signs of an approaching tornado:

    • green sky
    • hail
    • heavy rain followed by an eerie calm or drastic wind shift
    • churning debris
    • the sound of continuous thundering


    Myth #3: Sturdier buildings will protect me from the tornado.

    It feels better to be behind brick than in an open mobile park, but when outside items such as poles or cars become projectiles, anything is possible. As part of your emergency preparations, remember to choose a shelter or safe destination ahead of time so you can execute your plan without delay.

    If for some reason, something happens to your pre-determined shelter or you’re nowhere near it, the safest places are rooms without windows in the middle of the house, like a bathroom or closet. During a tornado in Joplin, MO, employees and customers at a local 7-11 took shelter in a cooler for safety because it was the only place in the building without windows. Check out the video below that illustrates the power of a tornado and how the cooler kept these people safe.

    If you’re driving when a tornado hits, get out of the car and lie flat in the nearest ditch (away from other cars and trees) or go to the closest building you can find to take shelter.

    Basements are also safe places to shelter in, but make sure there aren’t heavy appliances on the floor above you. Once you’re in the basement, get under a makeshift shelter like a workbench or mattress for added protection.


    Myth #4: I can outrun a tornado in my car.

    This may be true for trained meteorologists, so there is some debate over the issue. Tornadoes can shift quickly, and can move at about 70 miles per hour, so if there is no traffic and a straight road out of town, you may opt to take it instead of abandoning your car.

    If you decide it’s best to abandon your vehicle, be sure to leave it somewhere it won’t block emergency vehicles. Then find low ground—possibly a ditch. If there are flash flood possibilities, avoid overpasses; they can turn into wind funnels.


    Myth #5: If a tornado is heading your way, you should open all your windows.

    People have sometimes thought this equalizes pressure, but it really just causes you to spend your time on something other than getting to safety. Because of flying debris and wind velocity, there is no real way to protect your property, so your physical safety should be the first priority.

    Ultimately, finding the right shelter, having the right tools, and making a plan beforehand will be the best way to prepare for the unpredictable.


    For more information on how to protect yourself during a tornado, check out our article, "Preparing for a Tornado."


    What are your tips for staying safe during a tornado?













    “Tornado Alley chart” courtesy of accuweater.com http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/is-there-more-than-one-tornado/25431665

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Insight

  • Beat the Extreme Heat: Tips for Surviving Hot Weather

     Beat the Extreme Heat: Tips for Surviving Hot Weather

    It’s Summer. And for those of us in the northern hemisphere, that means heat (unless you go too far north, of course). We published an article back in May called Beat the Heat: Staying Safe When Temperatures Rise that gives a great overview of heat-related issues and four basic tips for warmer weather.

    But what about extreme heat? The kind that’s not normal summer weather, but can actually be classified as a natural disaster.

    The Dangers of Extreme Heat

    In extreme heat (especially combined with high humidity), the body struggles to maintain a normal temperature, causing heat-related illnesses. Additionally, the elderly and young children are more susceptible to problems associated with extreme heat (as are those who are sick, pregnant, or overweight).

    Extreme heat is often associated with stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality, which means people living in urban areas may be at greater risk during a prolonged heat wave than those in rural areas.

    An additional problem with heat in urban areas is the amount of asphalt and concrete. Those materials store heat longer and gradually release it at night, which can raise the nighttime temperatures as well, which prevents cooling.

    So, what can you do to stay safe? Plenty.

    Before Extreme Heat

    Like any natural disaster, it’s important to prepare before it happens. Here are some things you can do:

    • Make sure you have an emergency kit and that extreme heat is covered in your family’s emergency plans.
    • Be prepared to administer first aid for heat-related emergencies
    • Know the risks of heat-related illness and be aware of those who are most susceptible in your neighborhood (elderly, young, sick, pregnant, overweight).
    • If living in an urban area, realize that you may be at greater risk from the effects of extreme heat, especially if prolonged.
    • Be aware of upcoming weather events and temperature changes.
      • Prepare your home
        • Install window air conditioners snugly and insulate if necessary
        • Check your air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation
        • Weather-strip doors and sills to prevent cool air leakage
        • Cover windows that receive a lot of sun with drapes, shades, awnings, etc.
        • Keep storm windows up all year.
        • Install temporary window reflectors (such as aluminum foil) to reflect heat back outside. Place between windows and drapes.

    During Extreme Heat

    Once you have done your best to prepare, what can you do while a heat wave is raging?

    • Listen or watch for critical updates from the National Weather Service (radio, internet, or television)
    • Never leave pets or children alone in closed vehicles (this applies year round, of course, not just during extreme heat waves).
    • Stay indoors as much as possible, and limit exposure to the sun.
      • If you must go outside, avoid extreme temperature changes (cold air-conditioned house to extreme heat outside) by acclimating yourself before going outside and by wearing light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, and a wide-brimmed hat.
    • Postpone outdoor games and activities, and consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings where there is more air circulation (which can increase the evaporation rate of perspiration).
    • Drink plenty of water (even if you’re not thirsty) and eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals.
      • If you’re on a fluid-restricted diet, make sure you talk to your physician before increasing your intake.
    • Limit intake of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. These types of drinks can cause you to become dehydrated very easily.
    • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. If you must work outdoors during extreme heat, don’t do it alone, make use of the buddy system, take frequent breaks, and stay hydrated.
    • Check on friends, family, and neighbors who may not have air-conditioning and who spend much of their time alone. Also check on pets frequently to ensure they are not suffering from the heat.
    • If your home loses power during extreme heat, go to a designated public cooling center. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter, or check you city’s website.

    Extreme heat is dangerous and potentially deadly. Take time now to be prepared for any heat wave that may come your way. For more tips check out FEMA's website at  http://www.ready.gov/heat

    Have you experienced extreme heat? What did you do to prepare and what did you do to stay safe during the heat wave?


    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Insight

  • When Should You Move an Injured Person?

    |5 COMMENT(S)

    When Should You Move an Injured Person?

    One of the most dangerous threats to an injured person is unnecessary movement. Moving an injured person can cause additional injury and pain, and may complicate the victim’s recovery. Generally, you shouldn’t move an injured person while treating them. If at all possible, wait for trained first responders so you don’t cause the victim more harm.

    However, there are certain circumstances where it becomes absolutely necessary to move an injured person away from the scene. If you witnessed or were involved in an accident where someone was injured, would you know whether it’s safe to move that person for immediate treatment or if it’s better to leave them where they are until emergency responders arrive?

    In this article, I will help you learn what to do if you find yourself in a situation where you have to move an injured person to safety.


    What should you do first?

    Anytime you see an accident or an injured person, dialing 911 immediately is the key to getting help there as soon as possible. As you wait for help to arrive, there are some things you can do to help the injured person remain calm, while also keeping yourself safe.

    Before you go towards an accident or an injured person, make sure the area is safe to enter. You don’t want to get injured or killed by rushing into an unsafe environment to help someone else.

    If the area is safe, proceed to the injured person and try to keep him or her calm and still:

    • Talk to them and explain what has happened.
    • Let them know that they need to stay still so they don’t cause further harm or injury to themselves.
    • Tell them that you will be with them until help arrives.
    •  Always be on the lookout for safety hazards. If things change and the situation becomes unsafe, you may need to move yourself and the injured person to a safe location and wait for help to arrive.

    When to move someone

    If someone has minor injuries or seems like they’re not hurt at all, they could most likely move themselves to safety.  But if they seem confused, complain of back or neck pain, have severe abdominal pain, or are bleeding, it’s best to wait for first responders.

    However, there are definitely times when the injured person needs to be moved to prevent further harm. These could include:

    • When they are faced with immediate danger, such as an unsafe accident scene or traffic hazards, fire, lack of oxygen, risk of explosion, or a collapsing structure.
    • When you have to get to another person who may have more serious injuries. You may have to move a person with minor injuries to reach someone needing immediate care.
    • When it’s necessary to give proper care. For example, if someone needed CPR, they need to be moved from a bed or couch because CPR needs to be performed on a firm, flat surface.

    How to move them

    If someone needs to be moved, try not to bend or twist them if possible. When they are lying on the ground, grab their shirt at the top of the shoulders, and using your forearms to cradle their head, pull their shirt to drag them in a straight line to a safe location.


    When Should you move an injured person? Photo courtesy of wikihow.com

     You can also drag them by their feet—make sure you drag them in a straight line.  If they have back or neck pain, you need to keep them flat and straight. Make sure their neck and spine are as straight as possible, so you can move them to safety without further injury.

    If there happens to be something hard, like a piece of wood, you can log roll the patient onto the object to carry them to safety. A log roll is a move used to turn an injured patient from back to side without flexing the spinal column. The trick is to keep the person’s spine straight while placing them on the wood. This technique requires 3 to 4 people—one person to hold the head and neck straight, while the other two to three people roll the body onto the wood.


    When Should you move an injured person?

    Photo courtesy of wikihow.com

    The person at the head will count to three, and all individuals will roll the patient on their side towards them at the same time as the person at the head turns the head to maintain the alignment with the body. Once the person is placed on something hard, the person at the head will again count and roll the person onto their back.


    Human Nature

    Most people are equipped with an internal need to give compassion and help others when they are sad, don’t feel good, or are hurt.  Even though these are great emotions to have, there are times when they could cause more harm than good to an injured person.

    A mother’s first instinct when a child is hurt is to run to them and pick them up to offer comfort. But what if that child had been hit by a car, or fell from a tree or window and is seriously hurt? Picking up a child up or moving them could cause severe damage or unfortunate outcomes.  Many of us don’t think about the consequences that moving an injured person could have if an accident happens. In the moment, we just want to offer comfort and make them feel secure.

    I would never fault a mother or any family member for running to an injured child and picking them up after something like this happens. But I hope that after reading this article, it will always be in the back of your mind, and that it might trigger something in you, so that if you are ever put into this type of situation you will remember not to move a person unless it’s absolutely necessary. The best thing you can do is remain composed and try to keep them as still and calm as possible. If you do this until emergency personnel arrive, you won’t risk further injury.

    Unfortunately, good outcomes don’t always happen despite the most professional care and all the advances of medicine. But we don’t want to complicate an injury by doing the wrong thing and moving someone when it isn’t necessary.

    We hope you never have to use this skill, but it’s worth thinking about (and even practicing), just in case.


    Have you ever had to move an injured person? What was your experience?


    Posted In: First Aid and Sanitation, Insight

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