What I Did This Week To Prep

and Storm After Action Review

Anytime you use your preps–after you neatly put them away for the next time–it’s important to review how things went. What went well? What needs to be changed or improved? And what did you learn? We were pleased with how our preps worked during the storm, and because of them the power outage was only a minor inconvenience.

However, there were a couple of things I needed to follow-up on. I checked the generator to see why it had stopped running. As stated, I assumed it had stopped because it ran out of gasoline. I looked in the tank, it still had plenty of fuel left, and it started just fine. I let it run for about 20 minutes and there were no issues. I don’t know why it had stopped. My only concern was the age of the gasoline in it. When we bought it a year ago the tank was full and we still had that same fuel. The previous owner had added Sta-Bil, but I don’t know when. I decided to drain the tank and fill it with fresh gasoline. I siphoned as much as I could into the Jeep, then let the generator run until it was empty (it ran for over an hour before it stopped – an inadvertent but useful test). Then I added new gasoline and Sta-Bil, started it up to double-check, and put it away.

While working with the generator, Sarah, Ryan and I all practiced starting it.  It’s important that all adults (and as many of the kids as possible) in the home know how to run the critical prepper equipment. We had been concerned that Sarah wouldn’t have the ‘bulk’ to pull-start the generator, but she was able to do it without much trouble.

Next, when the battery bank was in use it had shut off earlier than I expected; I thought it was because of some kind of a surge. But my understanding may have been flawed. Fellow prepping blogger Homestead Fritz send me a link to The 12volt Side of Life; a 12-volt battery information site. I’m going to do some additional research on that topic. I’ve said before, I have a decent amount of knowledge about a variety of topics – but electricity is not one of them (though I’m learning).

Finally, I went by the hardware store and bought an 8-foot, 14-gauge extension cord that will be dedicated to use with the furnace. During the power outage I realized I was one cord short, so we had to shuffle cords around. The battery bank and the furnace are only about six feet apart so it seemed like a waste to use a 25-foot cord, but the smaller ones I own were only 2-prong household types and I needed a heavier duty 3-prong one.

Also this week, I found out my favorite collapse medicine experts, Doctor Bones and Nurse Amy of the Doom & Bloom Hour, had written a book. The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook was published last week. I immediately ordered one and just received it in the mail. I’m very excited to have what I believe will be a fantastic medical reference. I’ll post a review on it soon.

I’ve started posting more to the TraceMyPreps Facebook page. I’d encourage you to “like” it and join our budding community; use that forum to comment, ask questions, and give advice. To make it easier I’ve added a ‘TraceMyPreps on Facebook’ like button on the top of the right side of my blog page. Also, right below that is a ‘Follow Blog Via Email’ box, if you sign up there each post I write will be automatically sent to you as soon as I publish it – this is an easy way to keep up on the posts as they come out.

What did you do?

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Weathering The Storm

Winter Power Outage = Good Chance To Test Preps

Western Washington had a pretty good storm last week. I realize, in the larger category of “winter storms”, this wasn’t anywhere among the worst. That being said, it was a big deal around here – we don’t have storms like that very often. What started off as a good amount of snow coming down, transitioned into an ice storm. The tree branches were weighed down and many broke, taking down power lines and causing a power outage that affected close to 300,000 homes.

We were one of those homes, our power was out for about 36 hours. So when life gives you lemons… I figured this was the perfect opportunity to test our preps! At 7:30 am, as Sarah and I were in the Jeep driving back from the train station (the trains were cancelled because of frozen switches), I got the call the power was out. As I drove up to the house, even though I knew the power was off, I still tried to use the garage door opener (habits). First lesson of the power outage: make sure everyone knows how to manually open the garage door.

Since we have had a couple of “lights-out” drills we knew where to start. We:

  1. ‘Fired-up’ the battery bank and, using a volt meter, checked and recorded the starting voltage (12.6 volts).
  2. Ran a 50 foot, 14-gauge extension cord into the house and plugged it into a surge protector for inside use.
  3. Connected another extension cord to the natural gas furnace to run the blower*.
  4. Put a temperature probe inside the deep freezer (in the garage), with one end out so that it could be easily read, and recorded the starting temperature (10 degrees).
  5. Brought lamps, with low energy bulbs, into the main room and plugged them into the surge protector.

The battery bank operated well that day. My parents, visiting from Colorado, were able to appreciated all our preps. My mom was especially grateful to be able to blow dry and curl her hair (before leaving to see more family) – she felt this alone justified all our preparations. We had heat (though we kept it lower than normal, 62 degrees), light, Ryan was able to play Xbox, and we watched a movie after dinner. Every couple of hours we’d check and record the battery voltage and the deep freezer temperature.

However, when we woke up the next morning I realized the heat wasn’t on. I checked the battery bank and it had powered off. Even though it registered plenty of voltage (11.3 volts) the indicator light showed the batteries had gotten too low – this shouldn’t have happened until it reached 10.0 volts. It’s possible this occurred because I had left the inverter plugged into the wall and the line may have surged, but I don’t know for sure. We got out the generator, fired it up, and connected it to the:

  • inverter, to recharge the battery bank. As soon as it was plugged in the inverter began to charge and work again.
  • freezer, even though the temperature was still below 20 degrees.
  • furnace blower, and turned the heat up to 70 degrees.
  • laptop computer and all other rechargeable devices.

Once the generator was running we used our Volcano Grill and percolator to make coffee, then boiled water for oatmeal.

Sarah and I then left for work. The generator ran for about three hours, then Ryan called and told me it had stopped. I assumed it had run out of gas. I had him plug things back into the inverter and continue to power the house from the battery bank (Repetitive & Redundant). That evening the power came back on. We put everything neatly away, ready for the next time.

(Friday: What I Did This Week To Prep including Storm After Action Review)

*Last summer my good friend, fellow prepper, and HVAC/R technician, Rick helped me rewire the line that powers the blower on my natural gas furnace. This allows me to plug the blower into an alternate power supply if needed. Rick has agreed to guest blog for me next Monday (1/30/12), when he’ll write about how you can do this same project yourself, complete with a detailed how-to video.

As The Water Slosheth

We Prepare For The Aftermath

The other day there was a casserole dish, full of water, soaking in the kitchen sink. I was ready to wash it, so I lifted it and began to pour the water out. Immediately I realized I had misjudged and the majority of the water would miss the sink and land on the adjacent counter. I tried to jerk the dish back, but the water was already in motion and flooded over the counter causing a wet mess.

As I was cleaning up the spilled dishwater, I reflected on what had happened. I hadn’t meant to spill the water. The moment it started moving the wrong way I realized it and tried to correct it, but it was too late. The water was in motion and the consequences were unstoppable. There was going to be dirty dishwater all over the counter – all I could do is clean it up.

Though the spilled water, once in motion, was unavoidable, the consequences were mitigated by established habit and routine. There weren’t any dishes drying in the rack next to the sink, so nothing had to be re-washed. We don’t prepare food in that area, so no food was ruined. A towel is kept under the sink, so clean up was started immediately. Because of our kitchen ‘preparedness’ a potential disaster became just a minor inconvenience.

This happened in less time than it takes to tell about it. That is frequently how life’s disasters–big or small–occur. It could be a tornado, a fall, a car crash, a fire, an earthquake, a bicycle accident, or an explosion. Even if there are indicators (seen or unseen) the actual incident typically happens incredibly quickly.

As a prepper you’re not preparing to stop, or even survive, the disaster; you’re preparing to survive the aftermath. The disaster itself–once in motion–is unstoppable; you either die in the immediate “burst” (or very soon after), or live to face the aftermath.

In that aftermath, while those around us are panicking and searching for direction; we know what we need: food, water, shelter, security, and energy. Our goal is to have preparations in place with a plan to use them, and the knowledge that we many have to improvise that plan as needed.

We have very little control over most things in our life, but we will still be forced to deal with the consequences. Once things are set into motion all we can do is respond. Plan and prepare to survive the aftermath.

(Wednesday: Weathering The Storm)

Adding A New Page: My Reading List

At the top of my site, under the TraceMyPreps banner, it reads ‘Home’ (which is the page you are currently on), ‘About Trace’, and ‘Check Here…”. Hopefully you’ve looked at those pages. Today I’m adding a new page: ‘My Reading List’.

While I know there are many, many good books out there, including many more we need to get; my list is the books we currently have in our library. Feel free to suggest additional books in either the comments section or on the TraceMyPreps FB Page.

So, without further ado:

What I’m Reading Now
The Eagle Has Crashed by Ted Lacksonen

What I Read Last
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

Prepper / Survivalist Novels

  • Lights Out by David Crawford
  • The Eagle Has Crashed by Ted Lacksonen
  • One Second After by William R. Forstchen
  • Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (my review)
  • Patriots by James Wesley Rawles
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Change series by S.M. Stirling

Medical References

  • Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook
  • Delmar Nurse’s Drug Handbook
  • Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green
  • Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, natural remedies for ancient ills

Gardening References

  • Gardening For Dummies
  • Practical Herb Garden by Jessica Houdret
  • Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

Cookbooks

  • Joy of Cooking Erma Rombaur and Marion Rombaur Becker
  • The Woman’s Day Cookbook by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley
  • Fix-It and Forget It Cookbook Feasting with your Slow Cooker by Dawn J. Ranck
  • Dutch It! by Archie and Linda Dixon

Home Repair

  • Straight Poop, A Plumber’s Tattler by Peter Hemp
  • Home Improvement For Dummies
  • Photovoltaic Systems published by American Technical
  • Solar Water Heating by Bob Ramlow
  • Basic Electricity by Milton Gussow

General Prepper Resource Books

  • Hoyle’s Rules of Games
  • Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
  • Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide by Sean Brodrick
  • Tom Brown’s Field Guide to City and Suburban Survival by Tom Brown, Jr.
  • Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian

(Wednesday 1/17/12: no post, site blacked-out in support of the SOPA protest)

What I Did This Week To Prep

Taking my own advice, I bought some new heavy hiking boots. I needed to replace my old Danner boots that I have owned for over 14 years – since I was in the military. I knew they had finally given up the ghost when the Danner Refurbishing Department said they couldn’t rebuild my boots again (they had been rebuilt once and resoled three times – I loved those boots). So I went to a local shop and got them repaired and resoled as best as they could, and passed them down to Ryan. When Danner said they couldn’t rebuild my boots, they did send me a 25% off coupon for a new pair. For a late Christmas gift we ordered me a new pair of Danner Rain Forest Plain Toe Work Boots. They arrived in the mail this week. I was thrilled to have them, but not thrilled to have to break in a new pair of boots. It’s much easier to talk (or blog) the talk, then walk the walk (pun intended). Fortunately today’s genre of hiking boots is far better and easier to break in then they were a generation ago. But they sure felt stiff when Kate (our Border Collie) and I went out for the first three-mile walk. Now, I no longer have an excuse when it’s time to take her for a walk.

We visited Costco this week. (For the record, this month’s coupons sucked; nothing in the way of good prepper stuff.) We purchased a cross-cut paper shredder to be able to ‘create’ more browns for our compost pile (reference last week’s What I Did This Week To Prep). We also got a three-pack set of basic utilities knives for $10 to put in our BOBs*, they’re not as cool as the Gerber EAB, but at 1/3 of the cost they’ll work just fine and they–the utility knifes and the Gerber EAB–all use the same blades so we’ll only have to stock one type. Also, interesting to note, peanut butter (that went up in price in November, see What I Did This Week To Prep 10/21/11) is still $2 higher than it’s price last fall. We’re glad we had our SWYE all stocked up with plenty of PB and don’t need to buy it now at the higher price.

I also ordered the book, The Eagle Has Crashed by Ted Lacksonen. A novel about an economic meltdown and how society collapses in the aftermath. I heard him interviewed on The Survival Podcast (Episode 814) and was impressed with his insights and attitudes. I look forward to reading his book and plan to write a review of it.

What did you do?

(Monday: Adding New Page: My Reading List)

*For my list of abbreviations and other information, open the above ‘Check Here…’ page tab.

“What Do You Think Of All This?”

A Prepper’s Wife’s Point of View

I’m Sarah, Trace’s wife. We have been together almost three years and married for a year and a half. The year I met and moved in with Trace life completely changed. However, it wasn’t until shortly after we got married (a year after we started dating) that Trace discovered The Survival Podcast and our prepping life began.

Prepping, in our house, began in the “normal” way – with 72-hour kits. Since we live in Western Washington – prime earthquake territory – I’d always thought an emergency kit was a good idea. Although I would never have actually created one, I was quietly supportive when Trace started putting them together. Slowly, however, the “kits” began taking on a life of their own. They went from manageable backpacks to a backpack plus extra bags, totaling close to 60 pounds. At some point the bags went from being called 72-hour kits to Bug Out Bags, and the rest is history…

I didn’t totally “get” it, but I went along with his prepping. I love my husband and it seemed very important to him that we do this. It wasn’t until several friends – and then my mom – asked me, “What do you think of all this?” that I was forced to actually articulate my thinking. Trace does this, all of this, because he loves us and wants to protect us. If he were single he would not be prepping this way. He does this to give us the best chance in a worst case scenario.

There are parts of prepping I enjoy more than others. I like contemplating “what if?” scenarios. “What if” Mount Rainier (which is within 20 miles of our backyard) erupts and we’re trapped because of landslides? How would I get home from work? “What if” a pandemic breaks out? How do we help the kids when they’ve been at their mom’s for over a week and possibly exposed? “What if” the kids are with us when disaster strikes? They want their mom, Trace wants the kids with him…so we plan for me and Trace, the kids, and Trace’s ex-wife.

The  more tedious logistical aspects, i.e. calculating how much of each item we need, rotating food, etc. are less interesting to me. I help out as needed and appreciate our preps and all their redundancies, but – if it were just me – I wouldn’t be doing all this.

Being the wife of a prepper has had its eyebrow-raising moments, but when I remember that Trace does this because he wants us to be safe and happy no matter what life brings, I can’t help but smile. What girl doesn’t want to help her man be her knight in shining armor?

(Friday (back to Trace with): What I Did This Week To Prep)

Product Review: Gerber EAB Lite Utility Knife

When I was 8 years old, and became a Cub Scout, my grandfather gave me my first pocket knife. Since then I’ve carried a knife almost every day of my life (when I was a kid we could have a knife at school). For the last few years I’ve carried a  Benchmade 930 Kulgera. I love my knife and I don’t like to use it to cut cardboard (which quickly dulls it), sticky stuff, in the dirt, etc. – I will if I have to, but I’m not happy about it.

I first heard about the Gerber EAB Lite on The Survival Podcast (Episode 611). EAB stands for Exchange A Blade. The Gerber EAB is a folding, lightweight, utility knife that uses a standard size utility blade. It was described as a knife that was so compact and convenient that you could easily carry it–in addition to your normal every day carry knife–and have it available to use for those dirty jobs. Once the blade is dull, change it by either flipping it around or exchange the blade for a new one (like a traditional utility knife).

I decided to go ahead and buy one – it only cost $12. When I got it home I was very pleased. It’s a nice looking tool, very compact, with a good pocket clip. The blade is kept in place with a set screw so it won’t come loose; to change it you will need to remove the screw (but it can even be done with a dime). It clips and fits nicely in the right side watch pocket of my Carhartt jeans. The folded knife could also double as a money clip; when folded it looks very innocuous – most people would never notice that your money clip is actually a knife.

I was so impressed with this knife that I bought three more, one for: Sarah, Ryan, and Chanse. I stocked up on extra blades, 100 utility knife blades costs less than $15; with that you could change the blade of your knife each week for almost two years. Because of the durability of the handle and the razor sharpness of the utility blade, you could easily use it for anything from cutting carpet to skinning small game to minor surgery (it’s sharp enough, but not clean enough). All you do to keep sharp it is change the blade.

I still carry my Benchmade everyday, but now I also carry a second knife: a Gerber EAB Lite. (Repetitive and Redundant)

Stats for the Gerber EAB Lite

  • Open Length: 5.1”
  • Closed Length: 2.85”
  • Weight: 2.5 oz
  • Handle Material: Stainless Steel

(Disclaimer: I have no association with this product or any dealer or manufacturer. I researched and bought the product to add to my preps and I wanted to pass along the experience I have had with it.)

(Wednesday: My wife, Sarah, guest posts and answers the question she frequently hears, What Do You Think About All This?)