Posts belonging to Category Preparedness

Ike at T+24Hours

I was watching a report this morning given by a reporter from the Dallas Fox station currently in Houston.  I couldn’t help but be somewhat annoyed by the tone of the people he interviewed about the availability of supplies.  There seemed to be a lot of frustration along the lines of, “Where is FEMA?” 

Instead of wondering where FEMA was, my first question to these people would have been, “Where is your 72-hour kit?” 

If you look at the page on preparing a disaster kit, you will notice several references to three days (or 72 hours):  (highlights added by me)

They didn’t just pull this number out of their asses.  It takes time for local government to organize a response to a disaster, which is why it is each and every person’s responsibility to take care of themselves for the first three days after a disaster.

Further, FEMA’s mission is not to provide direct service to disaster victims, but instead to provide assistance to local government in obtaining supplies and funding to make it through the disaster.  Or at least that was the case until the wailing and moaning of those who were woefully unprepared for Katrina.  So those who are asking, “Where is FEMA?” might ought to instead be asking “Where will the City of Houston be on Wednesday morning?”

Are You Lit?

Do you consistently carry a flashlight on or about your person?  If not, why not?

Like most people, I hadn’t given much thought to being prepared for unexpected situations until 9/11.  At the time I was still working in an office building (albeit only a 5-story one), but I started giving some thought to what I’d do if I had to evacuate from a damaged building. One of the first things to occur to me was that it’d probably be dark, since the power would probably be out and most stairwells are on the inside of the building.  So I made it a priority to keep a flashlight on my person.

Since late 2001, I haven’t gone anywhere without my trusty old SureFire E2E Executive in my pocket:

Back when I bought it the HA E2E cost around $85.00 (current price is $96.00), and people looked at me like I was nuts for buying such an expensive light.  Some even thought I was nuts for just having a flashlight at all.  But regardless of a little wear-and-tear (which you can see in the picture), this thing is still going strong after six years despite having been dropped on concrete, dunked in water, soaked in (acid) rain storms, banged into doorways, and stepped on a few times.

And aside from being prepared for something big, you don’t realize how many times on a day-to-day basis you can use a flashlight until you’ve got one.  I’ve used it to open locks in the dark, when walking the dog, and when crawling around under desks fiddling with computer wires.  Also, a light as bright as the SureFire can be used for defensive purposes.  If someone approaches you unexpectedly at night, the light can momentarily disorient the other person.  I suspect that in at least one case, flashing the light at someone skulking near my truck in a dark parking lot discouraged him from staying and hassling me.

LED technology has advanced enough in recent years that there are some stunningly bright LED lights available at very decent prices.  I’ve got a $22 CREE-based LED light that is twice as bright as the SureFire.  Although to be perfectly fair, I wouldn’t expect the cheaper LED light to survive half of what my SureFire has been through (there’s more to a light than its brightness).  The other advantage to LEDs is that they give more light, run longer, and generate less heat (I’ve burned myself with the E2E because it gets mega hot after 10-15 minutes).  This has all got me contemplating an upgrade.  If I retire the E2E, it’ll probably be for another SureFire, perhaps the L4 LumaMax.  It is similar in size to the E2E, is available in Hard Anodized finish, has a pocket clip, and uses the same batteries (123A’s).  But the LED lamp gives 100 lumens for 2.5 hours compared to 60 lumens for 1.25 hours with the E2E.

But regardless of my choice of light, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to be prepared.  Just having a light on your key chain or in your pocket is half the battle.  I even keep a few of these little key chain lights around to hand out to the “unenlightened.”  cool smirk  I get them in packs of 10 for $4.68 (shipped) and they’re surprisingly bright (enough to light up a small room or to navigate down stairs).  I also keep some hooked to the zipper pulls of backpacks and bags to make it easier to find things in them in the dark (and just generally to have them around).

Anyhow, I’m putting all this out there for your consideration.  If you already carry a light, you’re probably nodding violently in agreement to this post.  If you don’t, then what are you waiting for?

Surprised It Hasn’t Already Happened

While these “new” terrorism warnings might be the usual chatter, it’s probably prudent to take them seriously.

The FBI is warning that al Qaeda may be preparing a series of holiday attacks on U.S. shopping malls in Los Angeles and Chicago, according to an intelligence report distributed to law enforcement authorities across the country this morning. (Click here for full text.)

The alert said al Qaeda “hoped to disrupt the U.S. economy and has been planning the attack for the past two years.”

Law enforcement officials tell that the FBI received the information in late September and declassified it yesterday for wide distribution. 

While the moonbat contingent is out in force in the comments claiming this is the usual spin, I’m a bit surprised it hasn’t happened yet.  It doesn’t require a great deal of sophistication, nor does it require lots of resources or planning.  Heck, Tom Clancy even wrote a novel (not exactly his best work) that included mall attacks as part of the plot.  And while Mr. Clancy isn’t a national security asset, he’s oddly prescient when it comes to ways to attack America (viz. Debt of Honor, with its 747-attack on the U.S. Capitol, written in 1994).

Anyhow, malls are soft targets, and malls in places like Chicago and Los Angeles are especially soft, given their silly but draconian (and likely unconstitutional) gun laws.  It’s been nearly four years now, but my opinion has not changed (see Sterilization vs Immunization).  The best defense is one that is distributed among the people.  Relying on a centralized “authority” to respond and keep you safe is a recipe for heartbreak, disappointment, and likely death. 

So maintain Condition Yellow, and if you’ve got ‘em, carry ‘em.

Katrina Symbology

It’s kind of strange, but some people have adopted the big search-and-rescue X as some sort of symbol for Katrina.

When Freddy Yoder returned to his flooded Lakeview home after Hurricane Katrina, he was taken aback by the big orange “X” spray-painted on the plywood covering his front door. There was a notation in each quadrant, indicating the date searched, by which agency, whether the house was entered, and whether any corpses were found.

It was the first thing to go into the debris pile.

“I want to get rid of everything that reminds me of the storm,” he said recently as he stood in front of his restored Victorian-style home. “I’ve seen enough of that to last me a lifetime. … It’s permanently embedded in my mind, and I’ll take it to the grave with me.”

To most, the crude, neon-colored X’s are too-vivid symbols of death and destruction. The sooner they’re erased, painted over or discarded, the better.

But to some, like Bywater glass artist Mitchell Gaudet, the disaster graffiti is part of the city’s historical landscape. And preserving it has become an act of defiance.

“It was like a stigmata,” says the third-generation New Orleanian, whose girlfriend has re-created the fading yellow glyphs beside the front door of his antebellum home in raised, black, torch-cut plate steel. “Like a little badge of your survival.”

I think maybe people are thinking too much, but there’s no accounting for the strange things people do.

For those that are curious, here’s the definition of what goes in each quadrant:

Early Storm Warning

For those in the Keller area who might be interested, I’d like to let you know that the Keller Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will be hosting a SKYWARN class on Saturday, September 15, 2007.  The class will feature Mr. Gary Woodall of the National Weather Service Forecast Office – Fort Worth

It will be held from 9:00am to noon at the Keller Police community room (located at 330 Rufe Snow Drive). 

So just what is SKYWARN and why would you be interested? 

SKYWARN is a volunteer program established by NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) in partnership with other organizations.  According to NOAA, “SKYWARN has nearly 280,000 trained severe weather spotters,” and “these volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.”

While that might sound kind of intimidating, SKYWARN training is valuable for anyone who lives in North Texas whether they wish to participate in storm spotting activities or not.  The basic SKYWARN class covers:

  • Basics of thunderstorm development
  • Fundamentals of storm structure
  • Identifying potential severe weather features
  • Information to report
  • How to report information
  • Basic severe weather safety

I’ve been to both the basic and advanced SKYWARN training, and while I don’t go chase storms, it’s helped me quite a bit in understanding when I should worry about a particular storm and which areas are most dangerous in such a storm. 

Proper Paranoia

I guess I do have more to say about the subject of mass shootings that I realized when I wrote my last entry.

When I wrote the original item that I referenced I still worked in a traditional office environment.  These days I work for the same company, but I work from home.  Given that my company is run by GFW’s, I’d actually given the scenario of a mass shooter some thought.

Their policy is that guns, knives, pepper-spray, or anything else that can be used as a weapon is forbidden from the premises, as well as the parking lot (which is a topic of interest these days in the Texas legislature).  After taking a look at our security, I quickly came to the conclusion that we were a soft target.  Security was unarmed and unable to handle an armed intruder.  Further, most people didn’t seem to take the badge-in requirements seriously, so it’d be easy for someone to tailgate their way into the building.

I decided that I would do whatever possible in my power to avoid being just another victim.  Now I wasn’t about to go chasing around the building playing ninja hoping to catch the bad guy.  But if the shooter made it into my area, I was prepared to try to take him by surprise as best as I could, using whatever I happened to have nearby.  This plan was necessarily loose, as you don’t always know where you’ll be, but at least it’s something to start from. 

I’m sure there are some people out there who will think this line of thought unnecessarily paranoid.  But I think it’s only prudent to at least have given it some thought.  I work for a fairly large multi-national corporation.  There has been at least one such event in the company’s history.  So it’s not exactly something that’s completely out of the realm of possibility.  And it’s something that the management was concerned about (especially in today’s environment of the disposable resource/employee), although it’s obvious that they weren’t willing to take the steps to let us defend ourselves.

Anyhow, I don’t have to worry so much about that particular problem these days, since I don’t go into the office very often.  But on those occasions that I do, I keep it in mind.  Sometimes a bit of paranoia is a good thing.


In my spare time I’m a volunteer with our local Community Emergency Response Team (Citizen Corps CERT information; Keller CERT site).  While CERT is sponsored by the local fire department, we formed the Keller CERT Association to organize ourselves as a separate entity.  In the last election I was elected to the post of Training Director.  A couple of years ago I took the CERT “Train the Trainer” class along with one of our other members and participated in teaching our last class, so it seemed like a natural fit.

This past week has been pretty busy, as we had our regular monthly meeting last Thursday, a team-wide disaster exercise on Saturday, and we started a new class last night.  Additionally, I attended a training session yesterday afternoon to learn how to use the fire department’s fancy new fire extinguisher trainer (just in time for our new class, which will be using this device in next week’s session).

Organizing a disaster turns out to be a fair amount of work.  You have to think up a scenario, find a location, recruit victims, make sure the team knows where to be and when to be there, prepare the location, and then prepare the victims (moulage, fake wounds, etc).  Once the exercise begins you have to monitor the progress of the teams and make sure that everyone stays safe.  Afterwards, there’s cleanup and teardown, as well as the debriefing. 

Teaching classes is also fairly involved.  You can’t just read from the instructor manual and expect everyone to come back for the next class.  You have to know the material well enough to move through it smoothly, referring back to the book only for quick guidance.  In the case of last night’s class, I reviewed the material and correlated it to the Powerpoint slides, and came up with a time/sequence chart for the topics, so that we didn’t get too far off course.  I’m coming to the conclusion that proper time management is one of the keys to a good class presentation. 

At last night’s class I wasn’t the only instructor, but I was still up there for about two hours.  It takes a lot of concentration, and after the class I was pretty much wiped (these classes run until 9:30pm).

What’s That In The Sky?

The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Fort Worth is holding SkyWarn Spotter Training sessions throughout the area through March 31st.

This isn’t just for people who want to go chase tornadoes. The basic training provides good information about the mechanics of tornado formation. This information is helpful in understanding when conditions are right for tornadoes and how to tell when one is forming. You’ll learn the meaning of some of the terms that the weather forecasters on TV are always talking about in the spring in North Texas, things like the cap (and why it’s important), RFD and hook echoes, gust fronts and inflow boundaries, rotation, etc.

Some upcoming classes in the immediate D/FW area are listed below. Bold type indicates that advanced spotter training will also be available.

Date County City Location Time
Saturday Feb 24 Denton Denton Senior Citizens Center (tentative) 8:30AM-4:30PM
Saturday Mar 3 Dallas Coppell City Hall 9:00AM
Saturday Mar 10 Tarrant Colleyville Colleyville Center TESSA Storms Conf. 9:00AM-5:00PM
Saturday Mar 24 Dallas Carrollton Carrollton Public Library 10:00AM
Saturday Mar 31 Tarrant Mansfield St. Jude Parish Hall 500 E. Dallas St. 9:00AM-Noon

Advanced spotter training goes well beyond the basic training and includes much more detailed information on the physics of tornado formation as well as other current thoughts in tornado and severe storm research.

Crossposted to the Keller CERT Association website.

Compatibility, Standardization, and Cost

I’m about to do something not often done on this website.  I’m about to argue that KISD should spend more money than originally planned on something.  It’s not turf or stadiums, though.

One of the interesting things I learned last night when I took my CPR/AED renewal was that KISD is in the process of purchasing 55 AEDs for use on all of their campuses.  They are evaluating various models and comparing costs before making the purchase, which is of course the right thing to do.  In the absence of other factors, I’d suggest using cost to feature analysis and picking the one with the most features for the lowest cost. 

However, there are other factors to consider.  Specifically, the City of Keller has standardized on the LIFEPAK 500 AED from Medtronic.  While the LIFEPAK 500 isn’t the lowest cost model, it had the advantage of being directly compatible with the LIFEPAK 12 Defibrillator/Monitor that Keller Fire-Rescue carries on its trucks and medic units.  This means that the electrical pads that were applied to the patient for the AED can be plugged directly into the LIFEPAK 12 and the LIFEPAK 12 can use those pads for both defibrillation and pacing.  The 500 is also compatible with the Medtronic LIFEPAK defibrillator/monitors carried by the majority of EMS agencies in the KISD area (i.e. Medstar for Ft. Worth, Watagua DPS, Southlake Fire, etc). 

So why is this compatibility so important?  Can’t any AED save a life?  Certainly having an AED is better than not having one, so should KISD choose another one it’s not like their brand will cause people to die that wouldn’t have otherwise died (hopefully blank stare  ).  Still, though, there are some good reasons for compatibility:

  • As noted above, the electrode pads used by the LIFEPAK 500 are directly compatible with the LIFEPAK 12 and can be used for defibrillation and pacing as well as reading electrical activity (ECG) on the monitor.  Other brands would likely require removing the pads and replacing them with compatible ones.
  • Once a pad is used for defibrillation it will cause a burn (first degree) on the patient’s skin.  This is an acceptable side-effect, given that the alternative is dying.  However, it also means that if you have to change the pads you have to find a different position, which may require putting the new ones in a suboptimal location, as well as causing new burns.  The ideal locations are on the upper right chest and on the left side, towards the bottom of the ribcage, such that you’re making a diagonal through the heart.
  • When a pad is used the first time it breaks down some of the electrical resistance and will be more effective afterwards.  Replacing the pads means having to start over.
  • Changing pads takes additional time over just plugging the pads into the LIFEPAK 12.

While all AEDs are designed to be easy to use (per FDA/US Gov requirements), it should also be noted that Keller Fire-Rescue trains quite a few people in town on CPR and AEDs and the training is done with the 500T (the “inert” trainer for the 500; it simulates AED operation pretty realistically, but can’t actually shock anyone).  It certainly can’t hurt to have the same model of AED available that Keller Fire-Rescue trains with (although I do acknowledge that many KISD schools are outside Keller itself). 

This is one situation where I think spending a bit extra to insure compatibility and continuity of care is worth it. 

Simpler, Yet Harder…

I took a CPR/AED class last night to refresh my training since my certificate expires in February.  The new rules are interesting, in that they’ve made things a little simpler by making the compression/breaths/repeats cycle the same for children and adults.  They also increased the number of compressions that are given so that it’s now 30 compressions followed by two breaths and the whole cycle is repeated 5 times.

However, the new rules result in CPR being more tiring.  I suspect that someone who doesn’t do CPR a lot (i.e. the majority of us) would be pretty tired if he or she had to do CPR for more than two or three minutes.

Also of interest is the change in AED guidelines.  Previously, AED’s would analyze the heart rhythm and then advise whether to shock or not.  After the shock it would reanalyze and advise to give another shock or not.  The rules no longer call for these “stacked shocks.”  Now you’re supposed to give one shock if advised and then evaluate the patient and continue CPR for another cycle (30/2×5) and then analyze with the AED again.  The older AED’s that are out there don’t do this, so you just have to know it.  Newer AED’s have the newer programming and will guide you correctly.

I’m told that all of the ones in Keller city buildings will eventually be reprogrammed with the new rules as soon as Medtronics sends the software and cable for the Lifepak 500 models that we have.