Urine is NOT Sterile

March 26, 2010

Okay, here’s another of those things that ignorant people keep repeating without bothering to check. If they even just gave it a little thought, they’d realize how ridiculous it is to think that someone’s pee is sterile.

First off, why would people care if urine is sterile? In case you hadn’t seen it in any of the preparedness literature, many people advocate drinking urine as a last resort when you’re dehydrated. I know, Ewwwwww. However, it could be like getting old- it beats the alternative.

So, why do people keep claiming that urine is sterile? I’ve read it in several different places in the last few days. Well, it’s because urine can be sterile, but ONLY if it meets ALL of the following criteria:

  1. The person from which the urine is derived has no diseases that can be passed via urine. Among a host of others, this includes Hepatitis-B.
  2. The urinator hasn’t been exposed to any of those diseases such that it’s in their system and they just don’t realize it yet. Disease incubation periods being what they are you could be passing a disease long before you know you have it yourself.
  3. This is the big one… the urine has to still be in the bladder.

Since the odds of you getting urine from anyone (yourself included) straight from the bladder are really really slim, you’re going to have to accept the fact that ANY urine that uses the body’s normal delivery method is NOT sterile. It can pick up all kinds of nasties en route from the bladder to the outside world, even in an otherwise healthy person. You have heard of urinary tract infections, right? Once it hits the plumbing outside the bladder, it is no longer sterile- even if it was before that point.

I’m going to get on my high horse for a minute here. If people would just use their brains when they hear someone spout off something like “urine is sterile” and think about it for a few seconds, they would realize that at the very least it might not be true. You wash your hands after you go pee, don’t you? If it’s sterile, why bother? Oh, because it’s a great growth medium for bacteria and virii? Well, then just rinse your hands off and you’d be good as new. No need to use soap or antibacterial cleanser or anything, right?

When there’s a Hepatitis outbreak, it is often traced back to overworked and underpaid farm workers tinkling out in the fields since they don’t get paid bathroom breaks, or to food service workers not washing their hands after they go to the bathroom. If urine was sterile, this wouldn’t be such a problem.

So, please, if you see anyone trying to tell you that urine is sterile let them know that they’re putting out false information. Ten seconds with Google or Wikipedia will verify it. If they can’t be bothered to spend that kind of time verifying something before they go repeating it, I wouldn’t put much stock in anything they say anyway.


Gerber Gator Machete Recall

March 18, 2010

For anyone that has read my earlier post that had a bit of a review of the Gerber Gator Machete, be advised that Gerber has issued a recall for many of their Gator and Gator, jr machetes.

Go here to read about it.

Posted in: Reviews,Safety


Whose Fault Is It?

March 17, 2010

As you probably already know, I’m not so much into preparedness as a means of getting ready for massive societal collapse or running off to my Retreat where I’ll be better able to fight off the roving biker gangs or anything along those lines. Frankly, there is a big list of things that are much more likely to cause any of us to wish we had prepared more than a true end of the world type situation.

What kind of things, you ask? That varies drastically, mostly depending on where you live. Where I grew up, we were told that it was impossible for us to have a tornado there, due to the shape of the land and where the ocean was and such. They had to revise that “fact” after a couple of instances of cattle and other large items suddenly finding themselves miles away from where they started out before the storm. However, for many people a tornado is a very real possibility. In some areas, hurricanes can be a threat. Snow storms and/or ice storms can cause problems in many places. Flooding has been a major problem for a lot of folks. Odds are that you don’t have to worry too much about volcanoes (other than the possibility of volcanic ash that can go for thousands of miles and has the potential to impact the entire world), but almost everyone is subject to industrial accidents or chemical spills from train derailments. Anyone can be hurt by a trucker’s strike or a pandemic. Even something as common these days as losing your job can make having a supply of food and basic supplies into a life saver, as I know from personal experience.

And then there are earthquakes.

What’s that? You say earthquakes don’t happen where you live and you don’t even live near a fault line? How near is too near when it comes to fault lines? You might be surprised.

While I do have readers from other countries, most of the people coming here are from the mainland United States, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.
Generally speaking, people and structures that suffer major damage from an earthquake that takes place far away are usually due to a tsunami. Earthquakes can cause massive tsunamis. A significant enough wave can disable many of our ports for a long time, causing all kinds of shortages throughout the country.

So, you say that you live far enough inland that you aren’t all that concerned about tsunamis? Take a look at this map. If you live in the yellow or red areas you are at an increased risk from earthquakes.

Do You Live in a Risky Area?

Don’t be fooled by the relatively small size of that red blotch in the middle of the Mississippi River.  That’s there because of the New Madrid Fault, and it’s a doozy! Due to the geologic nature of that part of the continent, an earthquake on that fault line can cause plenty of damage at great distances. In fact, from December 1811 to March 1812 there were three quakes that were estimated to be at least 8.1 on the Richter Scale. There was major damage over an area of over 5000 square miles, with significant damage in an area the size of Texas.

Having grown up where we had earthquake drills in school, I’m pretty familiar with standard earthquake preparedness. Get more information about what you should before, during, and after an earthquake on the FEMA site.


This is Only a Test

March 1, 2010

Have you ever done any test runs of using your preparedness supplies? Unless you’ve actually tried to use what you’ve got you’ll never know if what you have is both appropriate and in sufficient quantities.

Practice emergencies are great for rotating what you’ve got in your bags and kits. You need to replace supplies as they age anyway, why not go ahead and use them as if you really had to?

It might be a good idea to phase in your practice sessions. Pick a day and throw the main circuit breaker during the night so that when everyone gets up there’s no electricity. You might want to do this on a weekend day. This will give you a better idea of what’s really involved in heating, cooking, and seeing in the dark using your alternative methods. When people get accustomed to using the microwave, cooking food can seem like it’s taking forever.

Another option is to turn off the water main coming into your house and see how well you can get by without your usual water supply. If nothing else, you’ll learn to really appreciate indoor plumbing.

Once you’ve done both of those, try doing both at the same time. There are are plenty of reasons why you would lose both in the real world. Earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes, etc.  Even just doing a pandemic drill where you pretend that you’ve been quarantined inside the house for a weekend, but still have all the other comforts of home can be very informative.

If you want to make sure that you aren’t subconsciously being better prepared prior to your test (by doing things like buying some extra things at the store or making sure all you’re portable electronics are fully charged) have a friend pick the day. They will call you up and let you know the emergency test starts right then. It may be a few days after they’ve been asked to start the drill or maybe months after. Real emergencies are quite often rather unexpected. That’s a big part of why they’re emergencies in the first place.

The real key in doing any kind of tests like these is to make sure to take good notes during and after. Make a note of where you came up short (as well as where you’re pretty confident in what you have) and what supplies and training/practice you might need. Then work on improving your preparedness situation based on your notes.


There’s More Than One Way to Start a Fire

February 26, 2010

The importance of fire during an emergency or survival situation cannot be overstated. It can be used for cooking, providing warmth, purifying water, signaling your location, sterilizing cooking or medical utensils, providing light to read by, drying wet clothing, or just serving as a source of comfort.

We all know how important fire is, and much has written about many ways to make fire using primitive methods, including using chocolate and a soda can. Personally, I’m not nearly as concerned about TEOTWAWKI as I am about more mundane emergency situations. You know, things like earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, chemical spills, or even snow and ice storms. Maybe even getting stuck in your car in a remote location. Odds are you will suffer from one of these rather than being caught up in a massive governmental collapse type of event.

As anyone that has tried to light a fire outdoors can tell you, it can be tricky. Even if the best of tinder and wood it can take multiple matches and a lot of time to really get a fire going. Add in some wind or less than ideal materials and it can be downright frustrating.

Even if you’re using a lighter or matches, as opposed to more difficult methods, there are a lot of things you can do to make it easier. If you are relying on sparks or focused sunlight or friction to start a fire, these tips can make all the difference.

Lots of stuff will burn, and burn better than just paper or sticks. Things that you’ve already got with you. Here’s a list of things that you can add to your tinder to get it to light easier and burn longer:

  1. Chapstick. Rub it on the material you’re trying to light.
  2. Vaseline. It’s like chapstick only softer. Smear it on.
  3. Bug spray or other sprays. Many sprays contain flammable solvents. Don’t just assume that what you have will burn well, test it. You don’t want to ruin your tinder with something that won’t burn.
  4. The same holds for many lotions and medications. My anti-itch cream is mostly alcohol and petroleum products.
  5. Oily foods, such as corn chips.
  6. The powder from a 22 cartridge. Use just your bare hands to remove the bullet from a 22 round. Wiggle it back and forth and you’ll be able to remove it. DON’T USE TOOLS to do this! The risk of it going off is too great.
  7. Hand sanitizer. It’s just alcohol gel and burns well.

If you’re stuck in your car, or have access to a car, there are several things you can use to get a fire going quickly. Obviously, gasoline comes to mind. However, it can be difficult to get gas out of the tank or even gas lines. If you can, though, it’s a classic and works very well. Other vehicular fluids will also burn very well. Transmission fluid, brake fluid, and engine oil are excellent for this. A real easy way to get some of these is to use the dipsticks. Just pull it out and wipe the fluid onto a cloth or piece of paper. Do it more than once if necessary.

Many of the things I’ve listed are dangerously flammable. Never add them to a fire that’s already going. You can easily burn yourself and spread a fire to places where you don’t want it.

If you want to use sunlight to light a fire (via a magnifying glass, water balloon, ice ball, or the polished bottom of a soda can) you will really want to use one of the listed items to encourage the fire to start and also do it in the middle of the day. The lower the angle of the sun in the sky, the more difficult it is to start a fire using the sun. Since many of the reasons you want to have a fire are more important at night, this means you will have to maintain and constantly watch the fire for a long time before you really need it. This may be time when you should be doing other things, like building shelter or gathering water or food. One of those little credit card sized magnifying lenses make a good addition to your kits, but realize they have their limitations. Just having a cloudy day can make them worthless.

If you need to light a fire, give yourself all the help you can. There is no such thing as cheating in an emergency.


Rancho Costa Nada

February 23, 2010

This is a review of a book that’s rather unusual. It’s Phil Garlington’s own account of how he built a shack on 10 acres of desolate desert land and how he lives in it. Even the author says that it’s not a good idea for most people, but there is some information in it that could prove helpful if you ever have to build some sort of short or medium term shelter.

If you’ve ever thought about buying some of that cheap Nevada or Wyoming land on eBay and living on it, you will definitely want to read this book all the way through first. Read the whole thing, including the chapter entitled “Don’t Do It”.

The book is Rancho Costa Nada, The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead. He means it when he says dirt cheap, too. Without ruining the story, I’ll tell you that he bought his 10 acres of land and built his home on it for less than a grand.

The book is out of print, but at one point it was listed as one of the top 10 survival books on Amazon. It’s only 122 pages, so that’s saying something.

The real values I found in it are that it paints a good picture of what an isolated extremely minimalistic life can be like, and provides useful information from someone that’s actually done it. What works and, perhaps even more importantly, what doesn’t work is spelled out for you. I see it more as an “if it ever comes to that” guidebook than a “here’s how I’m going to do it” manual. There’s a lot of good info for if/when you find yourself having to make a place to stay for an indeterminate period of time. This could be due to a major climatic or environmental disaster. Perhaps an earthquake, flood or chemical spill makes it so you can’t go in your house. In that kind of situation I can see myself being able to use what I picked up from this book to take scrap materials and make a livable shelter that will provide a comfortable place to stay while withstanding high winds, high heat, and rain.

If you’ve ever thought about building a good-enough hunting cabin that won’t break the bank and will hold up for a long time while holding little interest to people that might happen upon it, this would be a good book for you.

The author was a reporter before heading for the desert, and his writing skills are apparent in this book. He writes well and teaches well. He could have left out the sidebar conversations with another desert dweller and I wouldn’t have missed them, but in the end they do provide a good insight into the people that have chosen such a lifestyle. If nothing else, they can serve as a warning.

It’s a good book that doesn’t take forever to read.


A Sticky Subject

February 22, 2010

In a disaster or an emergency, there’s a good chance that a lot of things will break. If there are supply problems (bad weather, fuel distribution issues, truck/rail strike, etc) it may be difficult to get repair parts even in otherwise good times, let alone when you’re going through an emergency situation.

So, what do you do? Get glue!

Not just any glue, though. You’ll want different glues for different repairs. There are a few basic ones that would be a good addition to your emergency preparedness supplies.

First off, there’s Super Glue. You can get this pretty much anywhere for almost nothing. It works best when it has a very close fit on non-porous surfaces, although if you’re going to use it on glass you might want to get one of the varieties that are formulated for use on glass. If there’s a gap, fill the gap with baking soda before applying the glue, but be careful- mixing it with baking soda will generate heat and noxious fumes. This is also a real concern when it comes in contact with cotton or wool. In fact, it can generate enough heat to ignite cotton or wool, so it’s best to not wear clothes (especially gloves) made of cotton or wool when using super glue. It works really well to bond skin. Sometimes too well. Read a good first book before using it for medical purposes, but in general it can be used to close cuts when you don’t have access to normal medical resources. There are special formulations designed for medical use that aren’t as irritating to skin and other tissues. It gets weaker as it gets colder, so it’s not so good for use in a cold environment. In fact, if you need to separate something that’s been super glued, put it in the freezer for a few hours first. Acetone applied to glued items can also weaken the bond enough to pull them apart.

JB Weld. This is a classic product that has been bonding items for decades. It has even has been used to manufacture replacement parts when a part has broken. Make sure to allow enough time for it to completely cure and then it can be cut, filed, sanded, etc to whatever shape you need. Helpful hint: the surfaces should be completely clean and free of any oils or dirt and they should be at least lightly roughed up for the best bond. There are some different varieties available:

Standard JB Weld Cold Weld is the classic version in an inexpensive small package. I used this fix the door latch on our clothes dryer. I just put a thin layer all around it and let it cure for a day. It’s been working great for months now. Drop a package of this in your emergency kits for some extra peace of mind.

The larger size JB Weld Industro Weld is perfect for someone that might find themselves having to make multiple repairs.

JB also makes a product called Waterweld that can patch all kinds of holes, even in wet environments. It will patch fuel tanks, oil pans, boats, batteries, etc. It is even certified for repairing potable water containers. Basically you just knead some of it then stuff it in the hole and let it cure. This would be great to put in your car emergency kit.

Another product that I’ve heard some really great things about from construction people is Loctite Universal Adhesive. This comes in a tube for use in a caulking gun. It will bond or seal just about anything, even under water.

If you’ve got a couple of things you need to bond, but you’re not sure what to use you can go to This To That and choose the two surfaces to see what would work best for bonding them.

When they going gets tough, the tough get gluing!


Car Kits

February 17, 2010

Okay, so everyone knows you should have a “car kit” that has emergency supplies in it that is kept in your car. Nothing new there. However, I’ve got some thoughts on it that may be a bit different than things you’ve heard elsewhere.

I’m not going to put out a list here. There are plenty of them available from all kinds of sources. Instead, I’m just going to make some comments that will probably apply to whatever list you have chosen.

That said, here goes…

1. First and foremost, you don’t want a car kit. You should have at least two car kits in each car. One contains all the things that are specific to the car. This would have such items as a toolkit, a hand operated ratcheting winch (for extricating the car or moving downed trees or debris from the road), vehicle repair items, car fluids, etc that are primarily used for the car itself. This kit can be in whatever kind of container that will hold up and fit well in your car. The other kit(s) should be easily carried and should contain everything you would need if you had to leave your car and travel on foot.

2. The inside of a car can experience tremendous temperature extremes. Make sure that whatever you store in it can take the kind of temperatures you might have. I’ve got a funny looking blob that used to be three candles that were stored in my car kit. Fortunately, they were in a zip lock bag, so they didn’t get wax all over anything else. Anything stored needs to be able to take the heat and/or freezing. You don’t want foods or liquids bursting from getting too hot or freezing. If you will be in areas where water is generally available, you might want to consider having filtration, purification, and water storage equipment rather than actually storing a lot of water itself in your car. Heat will drastically reduce the shelf life of most foods. A lot of canned foods can rupture if they freeze.

3. Make sure you’ve got sturdy clear plastic sheeting to use as a makeshift window, duct tape to hold it in place, mosquito netting (to tape over open windows if you might have to sleep in the car), and a tow rope/strap. You might need to pull another vehicle, or you might need to have someone pull you.

4. Keep your gas tank full. Think of it as part of your car kit and make sure to top it off frequently. You should also have gas siphoning gear and a universal gas cap key to use in serious emergencies when you have to get gas from another car to use in yours.

5. Your spare tire and everything needed to change it (including the knowledge of how to change the tire on your car) should be present and in good condition. Add them to your car kit checklist, if they aren’t listed on it already.

6. Spares- lights (head, tail, turn signal, etc), fuses, windshield wipers etc. Have a spare ignition key in your kit. If you’re out and get separated from the person with the key, you can always either get the door open without damaging anything or break a window if necessary and with a spare key in your kit, you can still operate the car.

7. Maps! Don’t rely on your GPS or navigation system. If there has been any damage due to earthquake, flood, tornado, hurricane,  or even explosions or chemical spills you will probably be able to find an alternate route easier with a map than by trying to figure out how to tell your GPS which routes to avoid. Not only that, but if you have to head out on foot, the map can prove itself to be very valuable. You’ll want local maps as well as those for any areas where you could be traveling through or to. Many rest areas have state maps at no cost, and local maps are often available for free from local businesses or realtors.

8. Cell phone charger. If you have to leave your car and can spare the time, make sure your phone has a full charge in it. If you’ve got room, bring the charger with you in case you have the opportunity to plug it in and recharge your phone.

I hope that I’ve given you some things to think about and have provided some useful information. Before you spend the time, money, and space in your car for anything on a “car kit” list, make sure that it meets your actual needs.

Be safe and be prepared.


Personal Storage Experience

February 16, 2010

This is a story from my youth that illustrates some of the problems with long term food storage.

In my early teen years (or thereabouts, it’s been a long time since then) my absolutely favorite soft drink was Shasta Draft Orange Soda. Man, that stuff was good. One day when we were at the grocery store, I tried to get a case of the cans but there were none to be found.  When I asked one of the employees if they had any in the back or anything, he said that it had been discontinued. I asked if he knew why it had been taken off the market.

His answer was rather surprising. You see, back in those days soft drinks came in “tin” cans, not aluminum. He said that the drink would eat away at the stuff they used to seal the seams in the cans and if they sat on the store shelves too long (“too long” wasn’t all that long since it was a decent selling product) they would end up splitting their seams and making a real mess.

Of course, my immediate reaction was to wonder what it had been doing to my insides if it would eat through metal.

With modern aluminum cans they wouldn’t have the same problem. The tin can has been around since Napolean’s time, at least, and has served us well. With the special linings that can be put in the cans they last even longer than ever, but everything has a useful life span.

If you’re storing things for extended periods of time, it’s important to know what you’re storing it in and what impact that’s going to have on your stored food. HDPE is great, but it does let quite a bit of oxygen through. Mylar is much better at blocking oxygen, but it’s not nearly as durable or rodent resistant and you can’t stack them without putting the bags in another container. Combining the two works very well, with putting food in mylar bags and putting the bags inside the HDPE buckets.

As has been pointed out here before, the odds are that if you have bucket made of HDPE and it doesn’t say it’s food grade that it isn’t. Do yourself a favor and only store food in containers made for storing food. That sounds really obvious, and I’m sure you wouldn’t even consider putting leftover food in your fridge overnight in a container that might not be safe for food, but there are actually people out there that are putting their long term food storage items in containers that are clearly not safe for storing food. Some of these people even recommend doing it, or at the very least try to downplay the risks. It’s one thing to take chances with your own health, but something else entirely to play games with the health of others.

It would take a special kind of stupid to store Shasta Draft Orange Soda in a tin can these days, now that we know what it does to the can. Don’t store your food in a container that wasn’t made for food, knowing that it will contaminate your food.

Posted in: Food Storage,Safety


Lighters in Your Emergency Kits

February 12, 2010

Which type of lighter should you buy as part of your emergency supplies?

Well, that depends. Different lighters have different advantages and disadvantage. For instance, I love the jet flame lighters. They work so much better in a windy environment, you don’t have to hold the flame underneath what you’re trying to light, and let’s face it- they’re just plain cool to watch.

However, they’re not necessarily the best for a survival situation. While the flint in a standard sparking lighter won’t last forever, it will at least create some good sparks for a long time as long as it’s kept dry. Even after the fuel has been used up or if the butane has leaked out due to damage to the lighter or from the button being held down accidentally while in storage, the flint and striker wheel can be used to start a fire much more easily than the piezoelectric element on the jet flame lighter can.

From what I’ve seen, the actual Bic brand disposable lighters seem to be made of thicker/stronger plastic and would be less susceptible to breakage. Lighters that have a “child safety” feature are less likely to lose their fuel because something was pressing on the button. Refillable lighters are going to be the most durable, since they are designed to last through repeated fillings. Make sure you have butane or lighter fluid for refilling them, and store the fuel safely.

What about in your car kit? What kind of lighter should you put in there? Personally, I recommend that you put matches in it, rather than a lighter. The inside of a car can get very hot and there have been known instances of lighters exploding inside overheated cars. Besides, unless you end up leaving your car behind, you can always use the shelter of your car to get out of the wind and use a match to get a fire started. Be VERY careful so that you don’t set your car on fire while doing that. A fairly safe method is to get a “punk” the next time fireworks are for sale in your area and put it in your kit. It would be easy enough to light with a match, yet it doesn’t produce a flame and it’s easy to hold on to when lit. Get a good glow on it and then use it to light your fire.

Lighters are subject to the “two is one, one is none” axiom. When I went to use my lighter the other day, it was empty. So, I refilled it. However, when I finished filling it and took the butane canister off of it, I discovered that the reason it was empty was because it had developed a small leak at the refilling valve. Within a half hour it was empty again. If I had been counting on that lighter in an emergency, it would have been useless. Unless I had some sort of highly flammable fuel, I would not have been able to start a fire with its minuscule piezoelectric spark. Have backups for your emergency supplies, especially for those items that are inexpensive and serve a critical purpose.


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