Re-Blog: Ancient Survival Skills


(Originally posted 9/5/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

The gringa’s been thinking a lot about survival skills lately. Not only do I wonder what might happen to the average person’s way of life should nuclear war break out (thanks to the bad behavior of Trump and Kim Jong Un), I personally have survived several natural disasters. 


The gringa survived Hurricane Allison. There was a terrifying moment in a motor vehicle, faced with rising waters, when, as I performed a hasty 3-point turn-around to beat a quick retreat, the gringa wondered if she would be forced to choose swimming to safety with her 6-year-old son tucked under her arm and leaving behind her mother to fend for herself who couldn’t swim.


I also survived an earthquake in Los Angeles when visiting friends. It was the scariest natural disaster I have ever experienced. Tornadoes and hurricanes usually provide advance warning. You at least have a chance to get to a safe place. Not so with an earthquake. BOOM. It just happens. It’s a roll of the dice if you are in a safe place or not. No amount of planning really matters. 


I was one of the many evacuees finding safe harbor with friends, family and various hotels for almost a month after Hurricane Katrina. Although Houston didn’t get the brunt of the storm, suffering like New Orleans, we got severe wind damage. This meant rolling black-outs off and on for about a month.

The gringa, a single mom at the time, lived with a mother who had high blood pressure. No A/C in the middle of a Texas summer can be deadly for older individuals with high blood pressure. So, we stayed here and there for a few days at a time over the course of a month, so as not to wear out our welcome. After all, we were a traveling troupe of an old lady, 30-something gal, a child, 4 dogs and a rabbit.


Then Hurricane Ike came along and the gringa hunkered down with the caveman and kids, watching as 30-40′ pine trees bent over horizontal to the plane of the yard as the storm blasted through our neighborhood. We were basically cut off from civilization by floodwaters with no electricity in our neighborhood for nearly 2 weeks. 


We cooked out on the grill in our neighborhood from our hurricane food stores not knowing how long we might need them to last. Although we had a battery back-up pack that we used sparingly to listen to news on the radio, eventually it ran out of juice and we, along with our neighbors, new nothing about when or if to expect rescue or help.


Now, the gringa has most recently survived Hurricane Harvey. The caveman, our children and I are some of the luckiest people in the world. All we got were floodwaters hemming us into our respective apartment complexes. No loss of life or property and only about 5 hours without electricity. 


As the gringa woke in the morning to a raging storm, no electricity and warming coffee water over a few candles, I wondered just how long we might be inconvenienced and if our inconvenience might become dangerous. Over the course of the next week I watched news broadcasts 24/7 to see if we might get a mandatory evacuation order, witnessed the courage and generosity of so many come to the aid of my fellow Houstonians, and battled depression as I saw the lives lost.


Needless to say, the gringa has now been mulling over survival skills. I know all about having a hurricane kit with backup necessities and supplies. However, as I talk to neighbors and hear them mention how secure they feel because they have a generator, the gringa can’t help but think how that is a false sense of security.

After all, Harvey shut down all of our refineries. The entire city and surrounding areas were out of gas within a couple of days. And there is little hope of keeping gas resources readily supplied on the scale the city needs. To really survive a disaster, one must be able to do it without gasoline. And, in case floodwaters require you to flee, a survival kit must be portable. That means no bulky stuff. 


Most Americans may think that they simply can’t live without the technology that makes their current lifestyle possible. Trust me, thousands of generations of indigenous people throughout history have done it. Some are still living in such a way. 

Shelter, water and fire are the first survival necessities to secure. Here are some old survival secrets modified for modern survivors:


Shelter: Think about all those indigenous North Americans who were nomadic, taking their tepee shelters with them.

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A modern survival shelter needs to be waterproof yet still provide plenty of air circulation during warm weather. Keeping out insects is also a must. A tarp roof and mosquito netting walls are perfect. In colder weather additional tarps can replace mosquito netting.


Skip the bulky, heavy commercial tents that include a frame that adds weight and bulk. Instead, add lots of rope and clothespins. Then, all you need is to find a place to hang everything. Some nice shade trees are the perfect location. It’s easier than you think to create a shelter.

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Water: The most common advice is for people to stock up on water. That usually means survival minded folks find themselves stashing a supply of bottled water. But bottled water has an expiration date. If you wait until a natural disaster is imminent, you usually arrive at a store to find there is no water left. 


Even if you have a supply laid aside that hasn’t expired, it is rare that you have set aside enough to meet your needs for the long haul of a few weeks. For hydration, cooking, hygiene and cleaning purposes, about 3 gallons daily are needed per person. That’s a lot of water to tuck away into a closet in the event you are cut off from regular water supplies for a couple of weeks.


If municipal water is contaminated or a tap has actually run dry, what are the options? Collecting rainwater or using natural resources like rivers and streams like they did in the good ol’ days. And you need to do more than boil the water to make it suitable for use. Having a portable carbon filter is a necessity in addition to water purification tablets that kill micro-organisms. Having other options than boiling water are necessary when it is important to conserve precious resources like firewood.


Rather than stock up on bottled water, fill up your bathtubs, even your washing machine, and any suitable vessels on hand to store water. But also have some buckets for the express purpose of harvesting rainwater or toting supplies from a nearby river or stream. You may be inclined to set-up a dedicated rainwater harvesting system for your home. But, again, don’t let that create a false sense of security. Have portable buckets on hand should you need to evacuate and setup shelter in a safer place.

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Fire: Fire serves to keep you warm and make it possible to cook your food when in a survival situation. Fire, in essence, is an energy source. Modern survivalists often replace the fires of old with a gas-powered generator. They use this generator to energize all their essentials that require electricity. They may rely on gas grills for cooking. Again, reliance on fuels that will become scarce in a disaster is a false sense of security.


To cook, lay aside plenty of charcoal briquettes that are safer to store than propane tanks. Charcoal also has a longer shelf life. Also have a healthy stock of firestarter sticks. Don’t forget about portability. If you have to evacuate, you will not want to be towing a barbecue grill with you. For evac purposes, pack a stainless steel pan and a lightweight stainless steel rack that can rest on top.


Instead of a generator that will become useless once there’s no gas for sale, why not put your trust in the Sun? Portable solar power generators can be packed and taken with you if you need to evacuate. Not so with a monster-size gas-powered generator. There are lightweight, fold-away solar generator kits that will keep you connected no matter where you setup camp.

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Although the gringa will leave first-aid kit details up to the dear reader to decide, I will offer one tip. Don’t overlook one key first-aid kit item that is rarely mentioned on the average tip list. One thing every survivalist needs today, especially considering the banter between Trump and Kim Jong Un, is a supply of Potassium Iodide tablets that will last for a couple of weeks.


Good luck and the gringa hopes that you will never need to use your survival kit. But if you live in an area prone to natural disasters like the gringa, it is a necessity that you will likely dip into from time to time.


Image Credits:


Bubi Bottle


DW Milhorne


The Bush Craft Cave


Parkway Partners NOLA


Powerenz


Video Credit: Blade HQ

Re-Blog: Surviving A Nuclear War


(Originally posted 8/29/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

With Trump and Kim Jong Un rattling their sabers, many minds are pondering what happens in the event of nuclear war. Although the gringa thinks both knuckleheads are simply posturing, trying to establish who is the big dog on the porch, their silly pissing contest also has me thinking. 


What kind of plans are in place? Will the US government try to save most of the American people or is it every man for himself? Please do tell, government by the people and for the people, is there a plan for these here people?


According to de-classified CIA documents that date back as early as the Carter administration, along with presidential archives, there is good news. Nuclear war survival plans do, indeed exist. The big questions is, “The survival of WHOM?”


Early plans were developed to survive a nuclear holocaust with the old Soviet Union. Although the general public believes a tense but effective truce is in place between the US and Russia based on what is commonly called the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine, the gringa says, “Um, not so fast.”


The US government doesn’t really have any faith in such a doctrine. That’s why, since the 1950s, preparations have always been underway and updated for the the country to survive an all-out nuclear war. Where the government is concerned, the needs of the rabble are low on the priority list. Topping their list of problems to solve are:

  1. Can the presidency survive a nuclear war?
  2. If so, what would it do after a nuclear holocaust?
  3. How is the identification of the Commander-In-Chief verified and confirmed for the public?
  4. Who is responsible for official identification?
  5. How will a surviving president fulfill the 3 main duties of office: lead the government, perform as head of state, and command the armed forces?

Yeah, sorry folks, not a single word about the survival of the US populace. Although one can infer that surely there is still a plan to save us all. Otherwise, what point would there be to maintain a presidency? Who would there be to govern and rebuild the radiated ravaged nation?

To address the 5 predicaments of a post-apocalyptic presidency, President Carter came up with the bright idea of Presidential Directive 58. He issued this directive near the end of his term. Ronald Reagan added his own flourish to the directive in 1983. It is this amended version which would be in effect should Trump drag us into nuclear war with North Korea. 

Now, the gringa would like to inform the dear reader that key to survival is preparedness. Although we Americans would like to think that our government has our best interest at heart, the lack of drills, preparedness training, community evaluation and basic instruction and education on surviving a nuclear holocaust testifies to a different reality.

There are all sorts of crises that will erupt in the event of nuclear disaster. And as far as the gringa can tell, the public’s lack of any training and education makes it completely reliant on agencies like FEMA or the local National Guardsmen posted in our local communities.

While each federal agency is fortunate enough to have a fully-stocked, state-of-the-art underground facility to escape to, where do us regular folk go? The best advice I’ve heard so far is to tape up the windows and don’t use conditioner when you wash your hair. Really? Pretty sure the last thing the gringa will be interested in is using radiation contaminated tap water all over her body in the shower. But I digress.

The truth is, despite living in a country that touts the benefits of an armed populace to preserve freedom, that same well-armed populace has never been tapped by the government to create a credible and functional civil defense program. Do we then assume that the US government’s lack of attention to the welfare of civilians is a Darwinian approach? Do they just leave us to duck and cover, the survivors hunkering down, and at the end of this survival of the fittest exercise the new American emerges? The deserving American? The American who had true grit? That sounds about right.

If nuclear war happens, there is an expectation that martial law will be declared. Resources will be under government control and re-distributed as they see fit. Does that mean resources will be strategically deployed to areas the government considers to be the most likely to benefit? Will a capitalist attitude affect redistribution decisions? Will they consider return-on-investment more important than equitable distribution? Could some communities get nothing at all because, strategically speaking, they are just not worth depleting precious, limited resources?

These are the nasty little questions that will always be asked. That is exactly why politicians have no intention of bringing up such a nasty little subject. And that is just one more reason the nation does not pursue a goal of organizing a credible civil defense program involving actual civilians. When the government keeps secrets and makes secret plans, there is only one reason for doing so. The public will not like any of it.  

Government survival plans have relocation sites scattered across the nation at about 60 sites, mostly concentrated in southern and east coast states so as to be near DC. The dear reader can bet their bottom dollar that those are the areas that will receive the surest and largest portion of re-distributed resources. If you happen to live on the west coast you better have some really good walking shoes. Because, chances are, if you want to eat you will have to head east.

In the end, the US government doesn’t look at Americans as people when it comes to nuclear holocaust survival plans. They just look at us as numbers. And the magic number is that the government expects only about 80% of us to survive. Doesn’t sound too bad unless you happen to be among the unfortunate 20%.  And the stockpile of resources is not designated so much for the civilian population’s continued survival but more so that the government can rebuild its own stability and strength.

That also means that, in order to rebuild critical infrastructure like communications and transportation, survivors may also find themselves pressed into service and labor. The gringa’s advice is that if you value your freedom as an American, start organizing within your own community. 

Don’t count on the government to show up with the cavalry and pass out bottled water and diapers. Muster your real American spirit and make a plan to do it all on your own, along with the help of your neighbors. Otherwise you might have to become an indentured servant for clean water and a bunk. In other words, a post-apocalypse American slave. 

The video below has some nuclear war survival tips. If you want to skip the bluster and politics and get straight to the tips, start at the 3:25 mark.

Source: 

Image Credit: A Sheep No More

Video Credit: The Economist

Forget Trump – What About Fukushima?


(Originally posted on Read With The Gringa 7/27/2017)

While the world has been distracted with all things Trump, everyone seems to have forgotten that the world’s worst industrial disaster is still unfolding. Yeah, remember Fukushima? That nuclear reactor that had 3 cores melt down after a 9.0 earthquake triggered a 15-meter tsunami that devastated Japan? Would you, dear reader, like the gringa, like to know what the heck is still going on? Well, Ima gonna tell ya. First, the basics on the history:


March 11, 2011: After said earthquake and tsunami, 3 of the 4 cores of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors melted down over the course of three days. 


The World Nuclear Organization (WNO) rated the disaster a 7 on the INES scale. What the heck is that, the dear reader asks? And what the heck does it mean? 


The INES is an international standard used to measure the significance of a nuclear event primarily determined by the amount of radiation ionization exposure. There is no higher rating than a 7. That being said, the gringa would like to know is Fukushima a true 7 or is it listed as a 7 simply because there is no higher rating to assign? I mean, would an INES rating of 9 or 15 or 28 be a  more honest reflection of what happened? But I digress. Back to what a 7 actually means as we know it.


Fukushima was given a 7 because during days #4 through #6 a total of 940 PBq (1-131 eq) was released of radioactive material.  But what does that mean? 


PBq does not stand for “Please Be Quiet” with regard to Fukushima. It refers to the metric measurement of radioactivity. It is shorthand for Petabecquerel. It’s root word, becquerel, is defined as:

“… the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second.”


When the prefix “peta” is attached it becomes a measurement equal to 10 to the fifteenth power becquerels. In other words, one-thousand-billion. Crazy number, huh? So Fukushima released 940 thousand billion radioactive nuclei into the sea and atmosphere. Sounds pretty awful, right? So why is the world’s media and national leaders seemingly unconcerned? Are they correct in their “no big deal” assessment? Should we just move on and continue letting the Trump circus and side-show dominate our attention?


Fukushima’s atmospheric radioactive releases had 2 primary contaminants: volatile iodine-131 and caesium-137. The iodine has a half-life of 8 days. No big deal there. The caesium, on the other hand, is a really big deal. It is easily carried throughout the atmosphere, has a 30-year half-life, so wherever it finally lands it’s going to be there for a very long time, a silent and invisible invader. But is it deadly?


Caesium is soluble. That means the human body can absorb it. The good news is that it does not concentrate within internal organs. After about 70 days the body is rid of the substance. 


The most highly concentrated atmospheric releases were detected around the end of March 2011. The good news is that in mid-March Japan had already anticipated this problem and taken preventative measures. 


A dust-suppressing polymer resin had been applied around the nuclear plant to suppress fallout, preventing the iodine and caesium from becoming mobile through wind and rain. By 2012, effective permanent covers were in place to contain fallout from atmospheric releases. Nearby crops of rice have been tested and reveal that caesium levels are one-quarter of the allowable limit. That means there is Fukushima rice for sale. Yum.


The worst news from Fukushima is that run-off of contaminated water into the sea was profuse and well above allowable levels of radionuclides. Although storage tanks for contaminated water were eventually erected, they began leaking in 2013. In addition to this is the more than 10,000 cubic meters of “slightly” contaminated water purposely released into the sea by Japan. This was a deal with the devil. They had to release less-contaminated water in order to make room for storing highly-contaminated water.


All sorts of new technology has been quickly developed by innovators eager to help Japan clean-up radioactive water quicker and more effectively. The gringa finds it sad how catastrophe inspires innovation. But I won’t knock it. Better to be desperate and have options than to be desperate and hopeless.


Concrete panels were constructed to prevent further leakage of contaminated water into the harbor surrounding Fukushima. These were later reinforced with steel shielding that extends one kilometer through rock strata. Testing of harbor waters in 2013 indicate that contamination levels are below acceptable standards. But is this good news? Who decides what is safe when it comes to contamination?


When it comes to interpreting contamination results for the harbor, Japan refers to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) standard for drinking water. The harbor surrounding Fukushima tests consistently lower for caesium contamination that the WHO requires for safe drinking water. Sounds pretty safe to me. But what about the fish and stuff? Can you eat what you catch?


The gringa thinks so. You see, prior to 2012 the Japanese national standard was for food sources not to exceed 500 Bq/kg of caesium contamination. After the disaster, this standard was dropped to 100 Bq/kg. What this means is that although they dropped the measurement standard they raised the standard for expectations. In order for fish caught off of Japan’s shores to be eligible for sale and dining pleasure, they have to test for less caesium now than before the disaster. And what do the fish say?


Within the months immediately after the disaster, more than 50% were too contaminated to eat. By the summer of 2014 things had changed dramatically. In about 3 years 99.4% of fish caught in the harbor surrounding Fukushima were safe to eat. Not bad, Japan, not bad.


But what about the doom and gloom reports about a wave of sea-borne Fukushima radiation that is finally reaching the shores of other nations? Well, first keep in mind that there are pre-existing levels of caesium radiation in the earth’s oceans. That would be the caesium-137 isotope contamination caused by nuclear weapons testing decades ago. Thanks, United States. 


But there is another caesium isotope, #134, floating around the Pacific. It can only have originated from Fukushima. The good news is that instead of having a half-life of 30 years, like #137, it only sticks around for about 2 years. But here it is 2017, 5 years after the disaster. Why is it still floating around in the Pacific? Well, to understand that you have to understand what half-life means. 


Having a 2-year half-life doesn’t mean that #134 will disappear or become non-radioactive in 2 years. It means that it takes 2 years for it to lose half of its radioactive value. So, let’s do the math:

  • 5 years ago # 134 is full strength
  • 3 years ago #134 is half strength
  • 1 year ago up to present #134 is one-quarter strength

But is the Pacific Ocean deadly? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regularly tested and monitored west coast waters, fully aware of the potential for deadly radioactivity due to Fukushima. The results of Fukushima radiation off the coast of California average to about 2 Becquerels per cubic meter. 

Since 7400 becquerels per cubic meter are the standard for safe drinking water, it seems California beach bums are safe. Even if a beach bum stays in the water non-stop for an entire year, their radiation exposure would be about the same as sitting for an x-ray at the dentist. So surf at your pleasure, beach bums.

So what does all of this mean? The worst man-made/natural combo disaster a human could imagine occurred 5 years ago. Amazingly enough, human ingenuity was up to the task. Fukushima is not going to kill the planet. And according to the latest findings recovered by robotic explorers, Fukushima will most likely be officially de-commissioned. Now who is inspired to become a scientist?

Sources: 

World Nuclear Organization


International Atomic Energy Agency


IFL Science


Image Credit: Suffolk University Blogs


Video Credit: New Scientist