Archive for December, 2009

On the way home from doing some last minute Christmas shopping this evening, I came upon a roadside situation that at first appeared to be an accident.

Fortunately, it was not an accident.  A college kid apparently slid through an icy intersection.  His car was hanging over the snow banked berm, just a few feet short of falling into a the ditch that lines a farm field.

When I came upon the scene, another college age kid was already tying a tow line to his 4×4 to pull him out.

I assisted by stopping and directing traffic while they finished hooking up and pulling the car back onto the road.  The unlit country road had a fair bit of traffic for this time of evening (18:30).

While I always have my emergency kit in my vehicles, this was the first time I’ve needed to use it in a rural night time situation. I don’t think I was nearly as visible as I should have been.

I think an investment in a couple of reflective worker vests for our two vehicle kits is in order. Harbor Freight has some for $4.99 each.  Cheap insurance!

I think I’ll pick up two for each vehicle, so I have an extra in case someone directs traffic from the other side of the scene.


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Finally making time…

It’s long overdue! Time to do some development work on SPISBLOG. I’ve been finding 100’s of things to do instead, but it’s finally time to get to work. I’ve started with a new theme and the start of the blogroll. Many more changes/ posts coming in the near future. Stay tuned.

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Today we received our first real snow accumulation of the season.  Nearly two inches, with more to come.

I really love snow and look forward to getting out and doing some hiking in it tomorrow, but that’s another post 🙂

This is a great time to assess the winter car survival kits and make sure everything is still in both vehicles.  This will also be a great time to confirm that the spare tires are both properly inflated in case of curb hits or flat tire.

For as long as I can remember, I have kept small ‘winter survival kits’ in the trunk of the car and cab of the truck.  These ‘kits’ consisted of the bare minimum for a Great Lakes region winter- heavy duty window scraper/snow brush, battery jumper cables, pair of leather gloves, wool army blanket, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, collapsible snow shovel, reflective belt (to be worn during roadside emergencies), shake-style flashlight, shop rags, can of sand, and umbrella.

Another important consideration that I’ll be doing this year (that I haven’t done in years past) is review the kits with my wife so she knows exactly what is and is not in the trunk.

I am, also, currently building some general purpose survival bags that contain fire building materials, cordage, simple tools, headlamps, cutting tools, etc. These will be part of the nested vehicle go-bags I’m working on.

These kits are being updated and expanded on a budget, so they will take time to fully develop.  I plan on creating a post with photos once these bags are fully stocked.

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What a difference a year makes.

Last year on this date, northeast Indiana was impacted by a major ice and wind storm that did considerable damage to thousands of trees and power lines, resulting in a widespread power outage.  The ice storm was immediately followed by a cold snap of windy, sub-zero (F) temperatures for several days.

For the most part, the region was without power from 2-7 days.  We were one of the last areas to come back on day seven.

Crews of lineman came in from all over the Midwest, South and Eastern seaboard.  It took a few days for them to roll in, but what a sight it was when they arrived!  Hundreds of heavy trucks from all over, rolling in like the calvary.

Regardless of those who said they only did it for the money, they chose to leave their families during Christmas week, to travel 100’s of miles by truck, so they could do dangerous work for 16 hour shifts in sub-zero weather.  This doesn’t excuse me for not being more prepared, but I’m extremely grateful for the sacrifice they made.

Though I’ve had an eye and mind towards preparedness for several years, it was often nothing more than an unproven theory.  I’ve experienced short term outages before, but they were always in temperate weather.  This was the first extended ‘cold-weather’ test of my emergency preparedness plan.  After day 3, the deficiency in heating proved to be too much for my wife (with my psyche not far behind).  The plan failed.  We ended up spending the nights at my step-daughter’s house.

An overview of our needs and how the implemented plan worked out (failed)…

Water- We were on city water, so we had available water pressure (and potable water- at least for a limited time).  Once the situation was assessed, I immediately filled containers, pans, etc. with ‘good’ water, in anticipation of water main breaks and/or failed pumping stations.

Shelter- Fortunately, our house was not damaged by the storm.  We lost some large branches near the house, but none hit it directly.  This was probably due to the extensive tree trimming and removal we had done just a few months earlier.  If we had not done that, this paragraph could have been a lot longer.

Heat-The plan to keep us from freezing was rather simple.

Heat retention- To retain the heat in the family room, I hung heavy canvas painters’ tarps across the opening between the family room and rest of the house.  this proved to work rather well.  During day 2 and 3, the temperature difference between the family room and kitchen was around 20 degrees F.

Heat source- We had a full cord of seasoned wood and a wood burning fireplace in our family room.  I figured we were good to go.  WRONG!  I knew it was very inefficient, but wouldn’t realize the full extent until the theory was put to the test.  With no power for the Heatilator ,and the lack of a screen behind the glass doors, so we could safely leave the doors open, we didn’t get nearly as much heat as I was expecting.

As alternate sources of heat (for very short term, attended use), we used the burners on the stove to heat the kitchen and cook (thank goodness for gas heat!) and a gas hot water heater so we could take hot showers before going to work.

Freezer/refrigerator food preservation-  We had a stocked deep-freeze, in addition to our kitchen fridge/freezer.  I keep the temp in the deep freeze between 0 and -5.  During the duration, of the outage, it maintained a temp below freezing.   The food from the fridge/kitchen freezer was transfered into coolers and placed outside.  I filled some plastic bottles with water and set them outside to freeze- these would later serve as ice blocks when the temp started to climb and we still didn’t have power.

I’ve learned a lot from that experience and am still adjusting my plan for when it happens again.  We’ve since moved to a different house, so a number of the factors have changed significantly.  These will force a rework of the entire plan.  The well pump, well saver, sump pump, electric water heater, electric ignition gas fire place, etc. all need AC to provide any services.

I’ve recently been giving this a lot of consideration.  A couple of weeks ago we had a storm roll through the region that could have repeated last year’s situation.  Fortunately, we only got the rain and not the cold, but it’s still food for thought.

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