Thursday, April 28, 2011

Natural Disasters - Hurricanes

There are many names for tropical costal storms. In the US they are known as Hurricanes, in other places as Typhoons, Tropical Depressions and Cyclones. These are all the same name for the same event, but the name varies between different regions. A Hurricane is a powerful storm that starts in the Tropics and may the travel from where they gain there in energy in form of heat. Hurricanes contain an incredible amount of energy. A hurricane can generate 100-400 times more energy than the worldwide production of electricity. This energy is comparable to the energy released from small nuclear weapons. This gives Hurricanes a capacity to inflict an enormous amount of damage.

A Hurricane gathers energy from the warmth of the ocean water and can continue to gather energy until it reaches a coastline. When a Hurricane reaches a coastline it can no longer draw energy from the warm water of the ocean and will lose its momentum and energy. Its however possible to travel over land and then travel over an area of sea and start to regain its force once again. Hurricanes are most frequent from July to October in the North Atlantic but have occurred from May to December as well, this is from the need of warm water in the ocean from witch a Hurricane can draw its energy.

A Hurricane rotates around the center of storm which is normally referred to as the Eye. When the strong Hurricane winds rotate the build up a mass of water in the center of the storm that can reach a height of several meters, when the hurricane hits a coastal area it’s not a normal wave but a enormous mountain of water in addition to high waves that can flood large areas. The wind and water from the Hurricane can cause massive damage to housing, infrastructure and communications; it can take a region several years to rebuild the damaged infrastructure. A hurricane can destroy businesses, workplaces and lead to severe economical consequences in addition to direct loses for individuals in form of housing and other belongings. The Strength of Hurricanes is often measured in the Saffir-Simpson Scale ranging from 1-5 where 1 is a relatively weak hurricane and 5 represents and catastrophic hurricane.

1780 The Hurricane San Calixto killed around 20.000-24.000 people in the Caribbean.

1900 the low lying community Galveston in Texas was hit by a Category 4 Hurricane that destroyed most of the wood and brick buildings in the community. Many escaped but for those how where 6000 among those how where unable leave died in the disaster. After the disaster the community was isolated when the bridges to the main land were destroyed and there was little access to water, food and medical supplies.

1969 over 70cm of rainfall during less than eight hours from Hurricane Camille caused mudflows that killed 150 people and destroyed over a hundred homes, farmland and infrastructure in Virginia.

1970 The Bhola Cyclone hit Bangladesh, flooding much of the country killing somewhere between 300.000-700.000 people. This is one the deadliest natural disasters in modern time. The Cyclone also caused massive damage to infrastructure destroying almost half a million homes.

1982 The Hurricane Iwa hits the Hawaiian Island Kauai causing widespread damage and killing one person.

1989 April 12th the Hurricane Hugo killed somewhere between 50-60 people and destroyed around 100.000 homes and resulting in billions of dollars worth of damage.

1991 A massive Cyclone hit Bangladesh killing 130.000-150.000 people and leaving up to 10 million people homeless.

1992 The Category 4 Hurricane Andrew destroyed 30.000 homes and damaged a 100.000 more. In Dade County the hurricane destroyed almost all of the 10.000 mobile homes in area and caused around 25-30 billion dollar worth of damage in total.

1992 Hurricane Iniki hit the Hawaiian Island of Kauai devastating the local economy and killing two.

1997 Hurricane Pauline released an massive amount of rain over Acapulco resulting in debris flows and flood that killed 230 People.

1998 Hurricane Mitch brings massive damage to Central America, The Caribbean and Southern Florida killing 11.000 people, causing massive damage to housing, infrastructure and communications.

1999 The Category 5 Cyclone Orissa hit India killing around 10.000 and leaving several millions homeless.

2005 Hurricane Katrina killed over 1800 people and leaving several hundred still missing. A large area was affected but the most devastation took place in New Orleans where the barriers protecting the city failed resulting a severe flooding of the city. Many towns at the coastline in Missisippi also suffered massive damage to housing and infrastructure. Around 2 million people were displaced and many have been unable to return to their homes even today.

Early Warning
With modern satellites it’s possible to see how hurricanes form and how they progress. This means that it’s possible to issue early warning when hurricanes form so that people may get out of the destructive path of the storm. This is however a complicated process for several reasons. One reason is that it is hard to predict exactly how much energy a hurricane will gather when travels over the sea and how much energy it will have when it hits a coastal line. The other major problem is that it is hard to predict exactly where a hurricane will hit and predict its exact path. These two factors mean that there will always be some uncertainty both when it comes to the exact strength a hurricane will have and when or where it will hit. It may be weaker or stronger than anticipated and may change direction and hit an area that was not predicted.

Survival and Preparedness
Insurance and Emergency Budget
A Hurricane can easily destroy house, infrastructure, vehicles, businesses, farmland and many more economical and personal values. I suggest that you try to reduce your vulnerability by reviewing the setting of your home and the strength of structure – what can be done to minimize the impact if the worst would happen and how what are the likely consequences for you? If you have comprehensive food storage and other preparations for disasters they may prove to be of little use if your house will be flooded during a worst case scenario – your setting is very important.

The other step is to make sure that you have the proper Insurance so in order to minimize the economical consequences if your home would be affected. Some personal belongings and values may never be replaced but this can help to minimize the impact of such an event. During large scale hurricanes it’s common that insurance companies can go bankrupt so getting coverage may still be a hard and long process. Having an Emergency Budget may also prove to be crucial in this types of events; a hurricane can destroy businesses and livelihoods leaving individuals with no or little income. Even if property is insured it may take a long time before you see any compensation and you may have to make until then so having savings may become very important.

If you live in an area that may be affected by hurricanes your setting is one of the most critical aspects of preparedness. Having a house close to the shoreline is a setting with a beautiful view but can be devastating if a hurricane hits. Remember that a hurricane can bring a mountain of water several meters high that can flood large areas, having a house on the low lands can be devastating if a hurricane hits. Some areas may be located under sea level and protected by barriers, these areas are especially vulnerable if a hurricane breaches these barriers. The indirect effect of enormous rainfall can also cause landslides in regions located a quite long distance from the coast. Areas like canyons and hills with loose soils are especially vulnerable.

The other important aspect of your setting is the building that you live in. Hurricane winds can cause massive damage to structures. Light structures and especially mobile homes are very vulnerable and a hurricane can cause almost total damage if areas with these types of housing are affected. Roofs is one of the most crucial parts of a structure, if hurricane winds can tear a roof from a building the rest of structures will be severely weekend and vulnerable to winds. You may find some advice for guidelines in your local building codes.

Evacuating a large city or region is a complicated process. To evacuate an entire community normally takes from 30-72 hours. Normally the most vulnerable are those that are old, disabled or those how lack the access to vehicles or resources to get out of the area on their own. During large scale evacuations its common the highways get stuck with heavy traffic and that the progress of the traffic can be very slow. In 1999 a massive gridlock occurred when a hurricane warning was given in North Carolina, the hurricane did not however hit the area, but changed direction and hit North Carolina instead. Had the Hurricane hit North Carolina many could have been killed trying to escape.

Your Vehicles is one of the most critical aspects during an evacuation. Regularly check your tiers, check your breaks and maintain your vehicle in order to make sure that it will work properly if you would need it. Also try to
• Keep your tank as full as possible
• Store some extra Gasoline in cans
• Keep Bug Out Bags and the most Important belonging easy accessible
• Stay Updated
• Find the plan for Hurricane Evacuation from your local agencies.
• Make a Plan for Your Family
• Make a review of your situation before the beginning of every Hurricane Season

Gas Stations can easily be overwhelmed during evacuations if everyone tries to get access to gas at the same time, try to keep your vehicles tank as full as possible at all times and store some extra gasoline in metal containers in your home if possible. Gas can’t be stored for an unlimited period of time so make sure that you rotate it regularly. For advice concerning equipping vehicles for emergencies see the article Travelling With Vehicles During Crisis and Survival Situations.

Home Preparedness
A hurricane can also cause indirect consequences for people how are not directly affected by damaging infrastructure and communication. You find yourself without electricity and running water for and its common that supermarkets sells out their stock of supplies, water and generator quickly if a hurricane is about to hit. A hurricane can also result in other dangers like the spread of disease.

Having a basic food storage, the ability to prepare food, water, the means of sterilizing or filter water, light, medical supplies, emergency sanitation and a generator can spare you much trouble in such a scenario. For more suggestions on Home Preparedness see the articles Get The Ability To Cope With A Crisis and Equipment For Your Home – Checklist.

The less resources people have the harder they are generally hit by all types of natural disasters. This is a result from multiple factors like the ability to construct strong buildings, that poor people often live in most vulnerable areas, they may lack the resources to evacuate and the resources to cope with the disaster. In rich countries its relatively few people that die in hurricanes compared to the situation in poor countries with a high population density like Bangladesh. The economical loses in rich countries tend to be very high even if the number of dead often is quite low in compared to countries with less resources. Hurricanes also present an increasing challenge from both the urbanization process that concentrate more and more people into cities and the continuing increase in world population. Today around half of the world population lives in coastal areas. Hurricanes present a large threat to the people living in areas that may be affected by hurricanes and it’s important to plan and prepare for this type of scenario if you may be affected.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Building The Right Bug Out Bag for You

In previous articles I have presented some suggestions for how you can build your own Bug Out Bag (BOB) and what kind of items that you can use for bag. I have presented a maximalist approach in the article Bug Out Guide and Checklist and a minimalist approach in the article Light Weight Bug Out Bags. These Guides are intended to provide some inspiration and suggestions for what type of equipment that you can use, but building a Bug Out Bag that will truly work for you is more complicated than just following a checklist. This article will discuss some of the factors that will affect what type of setup that is most appropriate for you and the process of building it.

Factors When Building a Bug Out Bag
Factor 1: You
As I see it the most important aspect of making it through a Survival Situation is You. It’s your effort, your Skills, your Knowledge, your Experience and your Will to Survive that will ultimately make biggest difference if you make it or not. The Bug Out Bag is important, but this is only a tool that will help you get the job done. It’s still you that will have to get the job done. It’s easy to discuss equipment, what items to store and other physical aspect of crisis preparedness and survivalism. But it’s important to not lose track of your prioritize and to continue to work on yourself as much as you work on your gear. Your Physical Fitness and Health are also crucial factors that will determine how much you can carry and how long distances you can carry it.

Factor 2: Going At It Alone Or As A Group?

The next important factor is if you are creating a kit just for you or for a group or family. This will affect your setup in many ways. I suggest that you build your setup so that you can cover your own basic needs if you would be unable to meet up with your group or get separated from them. For more advice on this subject check out the article Bugging Out As a Group.

Factor 3: Climate and Terrain
Your climate and terrain will affect the choice for Shelter, Clothing, how much water you have to carry, what food that is most appropriate and what type of source for light you should bring. Some people may have to travel through different types of terrains so solution for clothing and shelter must work for all this types of terrains.

Factor 4: Season
In many parts of the world the temperature, rain and wind vary over the seasons and the setup must be adjusted depending if it’s spring, summer, autumn or winter. This can affect factors like:
• Clothing and Footwear
• Shelter
• What type of Stove and Food you should bring
• The Access to Water

Factor 5: Your Every Day Carry and Pocket Survival Kit
Most Survivalists will most likely have some form of Every Day Carry or even a Pocket Survival Kit that they carry on an Every Day Basis. You should build your Bug Out Bag so that it complements your EDC and Pocket Survival Kit. Examples can be:
• Trying to find products that use the same type of batteries for Flashlight, Headlamps, Radios, GPS units and other electronics.
• Use different types of Equipment to Build a Fire in your Bug Out Bag, Pocket Survival Kit and in your Every Day Carry.

Factor 6: Do You Use Your Bug Out Bag For Other Activities?
Building a fully equipped Bug Out Bag can be a very costly process especially if high quality equipment is preferred. The equipment in your Bug Out Bag can also be used for a number of other activities like hiking, camping, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. If you engage in this type of activities I suggest that you try to find solutions and equipment that will the same functions both during this type of activities and during an evacuation. Using the same gear for different activities also give you the chance to get familiar with your equipment, learn how to use properly and see what works well and not. But most importantly it gives you the opportunity to enjoy the investment that you have made.

Factor 7: What Kind Of Scenarios Do You Prepare For?
What types of situations that you are trying to prepare for is also a critical aspect for what type of Bug Out Bag that you should put together. There is big difference if you are putting together a kit to assist for hurricane evacuation or to function as tool during a total breakdown of modern society. I suggest that you make a comprehensive Risk Assessment before you make up your mind about what type of situations that you base your BOB upon.

Factor 8: Budget
For most people the economical aspect will also limit what kind of setup that they can build. If one has an almost unlimited budget this is of little concern but for most people this will be a factor when deciding what setup they will build. I recommend that you try to prioritize the items that you will use often and try to build a basic well functioning setup that you can upgrade as you go. For the budget it can also be important that you get the right equipment the first time, it’s even more expensive to have to buy a completely new solution if you get a cheap piece of equipment that does not work.

The Process of Building a Bug Out Bag

Step1: Decide what you want the Bug Out Bag to Perform for You
After you have taken these factors into consideration you will face the process of putting the Bug Out Bag together. Taking a look at the different factors presented above can give you a basic idea of what you want the bag to do for you and what functions you want it to have.

Step 2: Research
From this perspective you will first have to make some research in order to find items that can allow you to perform these tasks. Picking the tools that can provide you with shelter, water and water purification, help you to build a fire, light, food and ability to prepare food, hygiene, first aid, navigation, a survival knife and other tools can be quite a long process. Here you also have to take factors like price, weight, quality and function into consideration. You should also consider how the different items that you have complement the other items that you choose and how they can help to reinforce your skills. I suggest that you try to check out equipment like clothing, tents, knives and other gear in a physical store before you purchase them, or check out what equipment, friends, family or professionals that work in your area use.

Step 3: Acquire the Equipment
After you decided what items you want to get you still have process of finding the items and buying them. You might already have some of the equipment needed in your possession or you might have to buy the equipment. Make sure that you check with your family, friends, at E-Bay and the second hand market and multiple sources before you buy a piece of equipment, you can often save allot of money by doing some research.

Step 4: Test the Bug Out Bag
After you have put the kit together you still have to test the kit so that you actually know if it performs as intended. Taking the Bag for a longer hike in your local terrain can give you the chance to practice skills but also to see what items that you really need and what items that you don’t need.

Step 5: Adjust the Setup
After you have tested the Bug Out Bag you normally make adjustments to the setup and question comes back again: What do you want your Bag to perform?

One Size Does Not Fit All
This article is written to give you some ideas of what factors that you have to take into consideration when building a Bug Out Bag. There can of course be more factors that have to be taken into consideration than the ones that have been mentioned above, every person has specific consideration that must govern what a specific setup should contain. The important aspect is that your BOB will reflect what you need and be designed for your particular situation. One Size does not fit all; this is something that applies to all kinds of crisis preparedness and survival situations. Others can often provide good suggestions and feedback but in the end you have to make the decisions for yourself.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Light Weight Bug Out Bag – Examples of Setups

This is two examples of suggestions for Setups based on the articles Light Weight Bug Out Bags. This is simply suggestions what kind of items and kits that you can use build your own kit; there are thousands of different items to choose from on the market. The idea is simply to give the reader some ideas that can be helpful when you put your own kit together.

Setup 1: Minimum Weight Light Weight Bug Out Bag
Total Weight: 9 Pounds

Backpack 1,355kg
[ ] Maxpedition Condor 2 – 1355g

Shelter 0,29kg
[ ] Lifesystems Survival Bag 290g

Survival Knife 0,13kg
[ ] Swiss Army Knife: Victorinox Forester One Hand 130g

Fire 0,064kg
[ ] BIC Lighter 14g
[ ] BCB Survival Matches 23g
[ ] 6 Cubes of WetFire (4,5g per Cube) 27g 1889

Light 0,048kg
[ ] Headlamp: Petzl e+LITE 48g

Pocket Survival Kit 0,12kg
[ ] Izula Gear Wallet E&E / Mini Survival Kit 120g

Water 1,487kg
[ ] Water Bottle: Klean Kanteen 1200ml (199g +1200g )1399g
[ ] Collapsible Water Bottle: Source Liquatainer 2 liter 38g
[ ] Water Purification Tablets – Lifesystems Chlorine Dioxide Tablets 50g

Food 0,31kg
[ ] 2 packs of Trekking Biscuits from Trekn Eat 200g
[ ] 2 Protein Bar 55g+55g 110g

Navigation 0,1kg
[ ] Citymap, Roadmap or Terrain Map 100g

Other Equipment 0,05kg
[ ] 25 feet Paracord 50g

Total Weight 4,004kg = 8,8 pounds

Summary: Setup 1
This represents an example of a minimum weight approach to a Light Weight Bug Out Bag. Emergency blankets can provide some protection against wind, rain and cold but cannot be compared to the combination of a tent, sleeping mattress and sleeping bag that both provide great protection against the elements, provides insulation from the ground and a warm sleeping bag. A survival bag is basically a sturdy bag in similar materials as an emergency blanket. Swiss Army Knives provides a number of different tools that can be useful during emergency situations and are relatively cheap as well. The Swiss Army knife in this setup; The Victorinox Forester is a larger Swiss Army Knife with locking blade, a saw, can opener, bottle opener, screwdriver and some additional tools. This setup only contains one Water Bottle with a capacity of 1,2 liter but contains one extra bottle that can add 2 extra liter of water to the pack if necessary in order to keep the weight down but still the option of increasing the capacity to carry more water. The compact survival kit from ESEE contains two extra cutting tools, some basic medical supplies, cord, a fishing kit, button compass and an extra fire starter. For fire this setup contains one BIC lighter and some storm proof matches from BCB in combination with some WetFire Tinder from UST.

This Setup provides a very light weight setup with many of the tools that can be needed during a survival situation but lacks the ability to prepare warm meals and a comprehensive shelter. The Setup is very Light Weight and can be a useful model for those how don’t have to cope with a cold weather climate and want to keep the weight of the kit to an absolute minimum.

Setup 2: Comprehensive Light Weight Bug Out Bag
Total Weight: 18 Pounds

Backpack 1,655kg
[ ] Lundhag ARX 34 – 1655g

Shelter and Clothing 1,025kg
[ ] Fjellduk Pro 775g
[ ] Short Sleeve Merino Wool Base Layer 200g
[ ] Extra Pair of Socks 50g

Survival Knives 0,359kg
[ ] Fixed Blade Knife: ESEE-3 260g
[ ] Back-Up Knife: Wenger Evogrip S17 Swiss Army Knife 99g

Fire 0,111kg
[ ] BIC Lighter 14g
[ ] BCB Survival Matches 23g
[ ] Fire Steel: ESEE Firekit 40g
[ ] 8 Cubes of WetFire (4,5g per Cube) 34g

Light 0.108kg
[ ] Headlamp: ZebraLight H51Fw AA with Headband and one extra AA Battery (62g+23g+23g) 108g

Pocket Survival Kit 0,17kg
[ ] BCB Combat Survival Kit 170g – Modified: Exclude the cheap Fire Steel and Knife and include some Plasters, Disinfection Wipes, Pain Killers and Anti Diarrheal Tablets.

Water 3,501kg
[ ] Water Bottle: SIGG Wide Mouth 1 liter (145g+1000g) 1145g
[ ] Water Bladder: Camelback Antidote Reservoir 1,5 liter (400g+1500g) 1900g
[ ] Water Purification Filter: MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter 456g

Food 1,011kg
[ ] 3 Mountain House Freeze Dried Rations 330g
[ ] 1 Complete Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) 681g

Stove 0,124kg
[ ] Cooking Vessel: Esbit PT750TI 750ml Titanium Pot 106g
[ ] Optimus Titanium Folding Spork 18g

Navigation 0,1kg
[ ] City or Roadmap 100g

Hygiene 0,065kg
[ ] 50 ml Washing Up-Liquid in Small Bottle 65g

Other Items
[ ] Paracord, 50 feet 100g

Total Weight: 8,329 kg = 18,3 pounds

Summary: Setup 2
This Setup provides a more comprehensive approach to the Light Weight Bug Out Bag with the Fjellduk combination shelter that can be used both as a Poncho and Bivi-Bag and an extra pair of socks plus a short sleeve base layer shirt giving some options to change wet clothing during an emergency. The Fixed Blade Knife from ESEE in combination with the Swiss Army Knife from Wenger gives multiple options for constructing shelter and performing other tasks, the kit also contains multiple fire starts, a titanium cooking vessel, folding titanium spork, 3 freeze dried meals, one MRE, some washing up liquid that can be used both as soap and to clean cooking vessels and a comprehensive solution for hydration containing one water bottle, a small Water Bladder and a Water Purification Filter.

This Light Weight Setup is very close to the Light Weight Comprehensive Setup but without a Tarp, Sleeping bag, Sleeping Mattress, First Aid Kit, less clothing and items for hygiene.

When you put your Bug Out Bag together there are many factors that you have to take into consideration. What Equipment that you should choose for your setup depends on Multiple Factors like your physical fitness and how much you can carry, your terrain, your climate, your skills and experience and how long you may have to travel to reach safety. There is no setup that is perfect for all settings and all situations; there are pros and cons to every piece of equipment and setup and this must be balanced depending on what you want you’re BOB to perform.

Also See:
Introduction to Evacuation and Bug Out Bags
Light Weight Bug Out Bags
Get Home Bag (GHB)
Bug Out Guide and Checklist
Bug Out Bag – Example of Setups