Think how big a gallon jug is? Consider hundreds of thousands of those jugs, each weighing over 8 pounds, moving. That’s power. Add in the following equation:
Six inches of moving water will take a person down. One foot of moving water can sweep a car away. In the desert. In fact, deserts are particularly prone to flash floods due to rocky terrain and lack of vegetation and dirt to absorb rainfall.
Having commanded a Special Forces A-Team that was focused on Maritime Operations, I learned first-hand the power of water. To demonstrate this, the instructors at the Royal Danish Navy Fromankorpset Combat Swim School had us try to swim to land near the mouth of a river. It easily pushed us back out to sea despite our best efforts.
How Likely Is a Flood In Your Area? FEMA has a web site where you can check the flood map for your location. Remember, though, that if you are traveling, you don’t know the possibilities along roads and in different areas. FEMA Flood Map Service Center
Note that there are many areas that were not in flood zones, that are now included because of rising water levels. A new map as of 2020 includes 6 million more homes than previously mapped.
There are three main types of floods: Coastal (surge) Flood River (fluvial) Flood Surface (pluvial) Flood).
COASTAL: Occurs on coast-lines of large bodies of water as the name implies. It is the result of extreme tides caused by severe weather. Storm surge pushes water onto shore. A storm surge timed with a high tide can be devastating. There are 3 levels: Minor: some beach erosion but no major damage. Moderate: more beach erosion and some damage to homes and businesses. Major: Serious threat to life and property. Large scale beach erosion. Roads will be flooded and structures damaged. Remember that a tidal surge can cause flooding.
When we lived on Hilton Head Island, many people were unaware that almost the entire island is a flood zone. When one friend who lived on the beach heard that there was a possibility of a twelve-foot storm surge, she thought that meant 12 feet horizontal (inland). We had to explain that meant 12 feet vertical which then reaches out horizontally.
If you live in a tidal zone, make sure you understand tide tables. Not all tides are the same. There are ‘spring’ tides which have nothing to do with spring, but rather when the Earth, moon and Sun are in alignment. This occurs twice a month and produces higher than usual tides. Combine a spring tide with storm surge and you have a disaster.
RIVER FLOOD: This happens when excessive rainfall over a period of time overwhelms a river’s capacity to carry the water. It can also be caused by snow melt, ice jams, and debris jams. A dam failure can cause an abrupt and catastrophic form of river flood. And vice versa: a river flood can cause dam and levee failures downstream. There are two types of river floods: Overbank flooding is when the water continues to rise over the banks. Flash flooding occurs when there is an intense, high velocity rainfall. These often are doubly dangerous as debris can be carried by the flood water. Remember, it might not be raining where you are, but the river can flood from rain and run off upstream.
The Big Thompson River flood in Colorado in 1976 killed 144 people. 12 inches of rain fell in four hours. The river is usually an average of eighteen inches deep. After this sudden rain, a wall of water 20 feet high swept through the canyon at 14 miles an hour. Farther down stream there had been no rain at all so this surprised many. The car below was crushed by the river flood.
More and more dams are aging and degrading. During your AREA STUDY, you should know whether you live downstream of a dam and what the potential is. I have a free short read about when the St. Francis Dam failed.
SURFACE FLOOD: This happens separate from an existing body of water. Torrential rainfall overwhelms the area’s normal way of channeling water. Intense rain saturates an urban drainage system and water back flows into streets and structures. Run off isn’t absorbed by the ground and the water level rises. (our house flooded at over a mile high in altitude, on top of a ridge, in Boulder, Colorado, because the rocky ground couldn’t absorb a short, intense period of rain— the ground water simply rose up into it).
A big concern with a surface flood is when the sewage system overflows. Also, floods can cause many stored toxins to be inundated and poison the flood waters. NEVER DRINK FLOOD WATER. This is why maintaining an adequate emergency supply of drinking water is critical as tap water sources will be contaminated. The same with a filtering system. More on water in that slideshow.
A Flood Watch means a flood is possible A Flood Warning means a flood is happening Flood Alerts
If you have time, move valuables to the highest level before evacuating. When evacuating, move to higher ground, away from water sources such as rivers or lakes. NEVER go around a barrier on a road during a flood. If evacuating by car avoid standing water. Drive slowly. If walking, never go through moving water. Remember earlier when I gave how much water weighed? Mass times velocity will knock you off your feet and sweep you into deeper water.
Never drive through a flooded road or bridge. Do not stay in a flooded car. If your car is swept away or submerged, stay calm and break the window to get out or go through the sun roof. Hold your breath, open the door, and swim for the surface. You will be in the current. Point your feet downstream. Go over obstacles, never under. Strive to angle toward dry ground but don’t fight directly against the current. If stuck above a flash flood, such as in a tree, stay there and wait for rescue.
While on the water, always wear your life vest. It’s the equivalent of putting your seat belt on in a car. Too many people have drowned with a life vest left on the boat. The very nature of an accident means it’s not anticipated. Therefore, you probably won’t have a chance to put it on before you’re in the water. I wrote an article on how reading a tweet about always wearing a life vest would have saved someone’s friends lives, I started wearing mine all the time and there’s a good chance it saved my life when I capsized in the fast-moving Little River in TN while kayaking.
A good tool to have within reach of your car is a combination seat belt cutter and glass breaker. Your Home If you are caught at home and can’t evacuate: Pack any coolers with as much ice as possible and use this first before opening fridge once power goes out. Fill bathtubs with water. Make sure all vehicles are topped off. Know where the closest shelter for you and pets is. Unplug everything. Do not use tap water after a storm until certain it’s not contaminated.
It’s too late to prepare once the flood is on you. There will also be a huge run of panicked people buying many of these same items, so order it now so you have it ready. This sounds trite, but after every flood, most people list these following items as things they wished they’d had on hand. Not only for the flood itself, but as importantly, for living afterwards in the chaos.
What To Have Ready BEFORE
Water: Enough for at least three days. Minimum is one gallon per person, per day. Double that for warm climates. 8 average 500ml water bottles is just over one gallon. A case of water (24 bottles) is the minimum three days supply per person. I recommend at least two cases per person. WATER
You must have a way of quickly filtering water for your family. Assume all water you find in nature is contaminated. Assume your tap water is contaminated until it is confirmed otherwise.
Non-perishables for three days minimum. Food that doesn’t require refrigeration. Don’t have food that will make you thirsty. Plan for infants and special dietary requirements. Keep separate and out of normal food rotation. Note expiration dates.
Being able to see in the dark is key. Batteries tend to be heavy and get used up but AA/AAA are light and small. Also, with solar, you can use rechargeable lights.
Know what the emergency broadcast stations are. Have a hand crank radio/flashlight combo.
Power will be out. ATMs won’t work Store computer systems will have crashed. It will be a cash environment for a while.
Know how to turn off the water coming into the house. How to turn off the power. Where the safe spots in the house are. Where the family IRP- immediate rally point— outside the house where all will gather is. Who the out of area emergency point of contact is for the family.
I constantly update free, downloadable slideshows on my web site for preparation and survival and other topics. FREE SLIDESHOWS
I have to be honest; I fast-forwarded through a good portion of this. Amazon and Netflix put out a lot of movies and they often have the most intriguing one-liners or premises, then are done on what is obviously a shoe-string budget.
Tomorrow War wasn’t done on a shoestring budget but it was unevenly made. There were times, as a writer, I saw threads develop, that never delivered.
The premise is intriguing: people from 2050 are coming back and recruiting people from our time to fight in their timeline. However, thinking on that, my next thought is: really? That’s the best use you can make of time travel? Cannon fodder?
Another gripe? Much like the awful Starship Troopers, it seems we can’t make tanks any more. Yes, they had F-35 jets and fancy guns, but no tanks? I mean tankers call Infantry “crunchies”. Seems these Whitespikes were crunchable.
Any time travel story has to have holes in it. I always like Bruce Willis explaining time travel to his younger self in Loopers. In my time travel series, I just have it happen. I handle the paradoxes by having the mantra that history has to stay the same. That’s the mission of the Time Patrol.
Here, the future doesn’t seem to want to change their own past so they are better prepared for their present problem. They just want bodies who are told literally that they need no training. Just grab a gun and go. Huh? Pretty much up there with the opening of Enemy at the Gate where every other man gets the gun, then the other guy scavenges off the dead.
Kudoes to Sam Richardson who was wonderful in Veep. He added a great sense of humor to it all, although, again, his background opened up a thread that just died. I really got the sense that the original screenplay was different and got mangled in production.
I was really hoping Tunguska would be the source of the problem, but no, something else. And the way the current powers-that-be shrugged off the problem once the time machine was gone seemed weird. Of course, we’re shrugging off Climate Change as the Pacific Northwest burns, the Southwest is in an epic drought and the Gulf of Mexico is on fire, so, yeah. Probably true.
It was mildly entertaining but nowhere near as good as Edge of Tomorrow.
This was a tough book to write because Kane goes through another transition in it. We do finally find out who the triggerman was on the Cambodia mission years previously, but Kane, in the present, is dealing with an adversary who seems to be one step ahead of him. As all my books do now, the story evolved with deeper implications for the figured into the plot.
The ending, all leaves Kane’s future wide open. My goal in the next book will be more action in a Jack Reacher style where Kane runs into trouble on the road. But who knows?
The book before this one, Hell of a Town, is only .99 today, through the 4th
With the 4th of July coming up, Independence Day (Time Patrol) is free starting today through Sunday, the 4th. Roland’s mission in that book to Gettysburg on the 4th, 1863, is one of my favorites. You can listen to it for free on Soundcloud, here.
With Amazon now opening up hardcover publication, I have put The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide into hardcover. I also plan on doing a 25th Anniversary special edition hardcover of Area 51, with a new forward about how I came up with the idea so many years ago and how the storyline evolved. Hard as it is to believe, it was originally slotted to be a stand-alone title. The second in a two-book deal with Random House. And the original title wasn’t Area 51.
With the holiday weekend fast approaching, let’s all stay safe! Here’s a link to an article I wrote about always wearing a life vest when on the water and why I decided to do it and how it might have saved my life. Treat a life vest like the seat belt in a car. It does no good if it’s not on!
For those who haven’t heard, Gus passed at the end of last month. He had a great 14 years and will always be in our hearts. Scout is doing well and our new rescue puppy, Maggie, a long-haired German Shepherd who is just over four months old, had surgery last week (part of the reason she was a rescue as she had been slated to be a service dog, but was rejected) and is healing well although she hates the cone of shame as much as Gus did.
Enjoy the weekend!
If disaster struck, whom would you want at your side, helping you? A doctor? Lawyer? Policeman? Teacher? While they all have special skills, I submit that the overwhelming choice would be a Special Forces Green Beret. Are you Prepared?
S U R V I V A L
S – Size up the situation, your surroundings, yourself, and your equipment. U – Use All Your Senses; Undue Haste Makes Waste R – Remember Where You Are V – Vanquish Fear and Panic I – Improvise V – Value Living A – Act Like the Natives L – Live by Your Wits, But for Now, Learn Basic Skills In Special Forces we’re taught that the word SURVIVAL provides you with the first letters of the keys you need
The Three Stages of Disaster Mild Disaster: Do you know what to do if you were snowed in for a few days? Or the power was out? Moderate Disaster: Can you survive being stranded in your car for several days? An extended power outage? Extreme Disaster: Are you ready for a large Catastrophe?
Simple rules of: You can go 3 minutes without air. You can go 3 hours without regulated body temperate. You can go 3 days without water. You can go 3 weeks without food. PRIORITIZE ACCORDINGLY
Do you have a plan in place and the Equipment ready to Deal with disaster? Clothing Footwear Grab & Go Bag Survival Gear
Can you make an A-Team? In a Catastrophe who can you count on? I am not a fan of picking strangers for your survival team (Rick learned this!). The level of trust needed, especially in an extreme emergency, is very, very high. One way to figure out your team: Ask yourself: do I trust this person, these people, with my life?
One of many Things You’ll Need Grab & Go Bag Know how much you can carry Plan your gear based on situation and environment— conduct an Area Study now. Have several bags Car, Home, Place of Work Pre-Pack Food, Water, Tools, Tent, Sleeping bag, Fire, Flashlight, Ziplock bags, Gloves, I.D., Weapons Make sure its water-repellant if not waterproof
No matter how hard it gets, Never quit! A survivor must have: Above all a determination to survive. All else is secondary. Fear serves a purpose, but too much fear can paralyze.
Okay. Let’s Take a Break! Overwhelmed? We all are. That’s why I’ve written my survival manuals Step by step, common sense, guides to everything that just overwhelmed you. So you can become prepared via one, easily accomplished, checklist at a time. We can do it!
More Free Information I constantly update free, downloadable slideshows like this on my web site for preparation and survival and other topics. www.bobmayer.com/workshops Also, I conduct Area Study workshops for those interested in properly preparing for their specific circumstances.
A free slideshow on this topic and many others about interesting history, survival, writing and other topics is on my web site at www.bobmayer.com/workshops
Heat can kill directly via heatstroke. It can also increase your chances of succumbing to a heart condition, stroke or other breathing problems. Hundreds in the US die each year during heat waves. It is estimated that number will only grow higher as temperatures continue, on average, to increase. Hot Weather Preparation
Your body wants to maintain a steady core temperature of 98.6 F. When you begin to heat up, your nervous system diverts blood away from your internal organs and to your skin to radiate heat away. Sweat glands release water, which has a cooling effect as it evaporates from your skin.
The best preparation to prevent heat injuries and death is to stay cool. Get out of the sun. Don’t over-exert yourself.
Keep air-conditioning at a livable level. However, if there is a power outage or you don’t have air-conditioning, there are things to keep in mind: Lower floors are always cooler as heat rises. Close shades and lower blinds. Go somewhere that does have air conditioning such as a mall, shelter or theater.
Use fans in your house to promote circulation of air. In the evening and at night, open windows to let in cooler air, then close them in the morning along with blinds and shades. Turn off extra sources of heat such as lights and appliances. Don’t use the stove or oven.
Eat lighter meals during a heat wave so the body doesn’t have work as hard digesting, producing more internal heat. Keep your skin covered. If outdoors, wear a hat to protect from sunlight. Wear lighter colors to reflect sunlight. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they are diuretics and dehydrate you.
Remember your pets. They also suffer in a heat wave. Put them in the shower. Give them a cool, wet towel to lie on. Make sure they have plenty of water to drink.
Over three-quarters of your body is composed of fluid. Perspiration is not the only way you lose water. We actually lose more water just by breathing. And you can’t stop that loss. We lose around 2 to 4 cups of water a day by exhaling (16 cups equal one gallon). We lose about 2 cups via perspiration. We lose one half to a full cup just from the soles of our feet. We lose six cups via urination. You lose a more than half a gallon of water a day just existing; more depending on the weather and your activity level.
Dehydration results from inadequate replacement of lost body fluids. It decreases your efficiency and, if injured, increases your susceptibility to shock.
Symptoms of dehydration are: Dark urine with a very strong odor. Low urine output. Dark, sunken eyes. Fatigue and Emotional instability. Delayed capillary refill in fingernail beds. Trench line down center of tongue. Thirst. Last on the list because you are already 2 percent dehydrated by the time you crave fluids.
Treatment: Replace the water as you lose it. Trying to make up a deficit is difficult in an emergency situation, and thirst is not a sign of how much water you need. Most people cannot comfortably drink more than 1 liter of water at a time. Nor do you want to. So, even when not thirsty, drink small amounts of water at regular intervals each hour to prevent dehydration.
Drink sufficient water but don’t overdo it. Over- hydration is a potentially fatal condition. You drink too much water for your kidneys to process. It’s not just the amount, but how quickly you drink the water. Drinking too much water increases the amount of water in your blood. This dilutes the electrolytes, especially sodium. Sodium is critical in balancing the fluid inside and outside of cells. When there is an imbalance from over-hydration, sodium moves inside the cells, causing them to swell. This is particularly dangerous to your brain cells.
Thus one of the first symptoms of over- hydration is a headache. Nausea and vomiting are also symptoms. If it gets worse, more symptoms follow, including high blood pressure, confusion, double vision, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness and cramping. If not caught in time, seizures will occur, brain damage, coma and even death
If you are under physical and mental stress or subject to severe conditions, increase your water intake. Drink enough liquids to maintain a urine output of at least half a quart every 24 hours.
For dehydration that is short of heat stroke: Drink two quarts of water, juice or sports drinks in 2 to 4 hours, not all at once. Small sips every few minutes work best. If vomiting, try ice chips, popsicles and small sips. If also suffering from diarrhea, stay away from using sports drinks as the sugar can make it worse.
The breakdown of the body’s heat regulatory system causes a heat stroke. It occurs when your core body temperature goes to 104 degrees. Other heat injuries, such as cramps or dehydration, do not always precede a heatstroke. Heat stroke is extremely dangerous. As with all other dangerous conditions, call 911, evacuate or get profession help if possible.
Heat Stroke Symptoms: Swollen, beet-red face. Reddened whites of eyes. Victim not sweating. Red, hot and dry skin. Unconsciousness or delirium, which can cause pallor, a bluish color to lips and nail beds (cyanosis), and cool skin.
Heat Stroke Treatment: Fan air over the victim while wetting skin with water. Apply ice packs to the armpits, groin, neck, and back. These areas have more blood vessels on average, so cooling them can reduce the body temperature. Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water. Or a stream or lake. Be sure to wet the victim’s head.
Expect, during cooling: Vomiting. Diarrhea. Struggling. Shivering. Shouting. Prolonged unconsciousness. Rebound heatstroke within 48 hours. Cardiac arrest; be ready to perform CPR. Bottom line: Get to an ER or doctor ASAP! Hot Weather Preparation and Survival
STAY COOL! Hot Weather Preparation and Survival
A free slideshow on this topic and many others about interesting history, survival, writing and other topics is on my web site at www.bobmayer.com/workshops
Today we remember fallen comrades. I think of two team-mates, Jim and Dave, who were KIA on deployments but didn’t know it until years later when disease that can be traced directly to toxins they were exposed to during combat deployments ravaged their bodies and took them slowly. May they finally rest in peace.
In honor of Memorial Day, today and tomorrow only, 31 May and 1 June, the Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide is free on Kindle.
Today is the last day for Black Tuesday at .99. Valentines Day (Time Patrol) is also free today. And the latest Area 51 book, Earth Abides is only .99
On a sad note, Cool Gus passed away peacefully this past week. He was the kindest and most mellow dog ever. I can’t recall him ever barking aggressively at another dog, never mind a person. His calm and loving presence is greatly missed. We have Scout and new addition, Maggie, a long-haired German Shepherd who we received a call about and immediately drove to South Carolina to get. We sponsor a working dog for veterans every year and Maggie was supposed to fulfill that, but the veteran said he couldn’t take her at the last moment and she also has a problem with a left eye that will eventually require surgery so we got her since all her siblings were gone and she was heading to a kennel. We’d sworn no more puppies, but Scout wouldn’t have done alone well since she’s always a little bit scared. They’re already running around together like nuts and playing hard, so it’s working out well.
Take a moment and remember the fallen and enjoy your day off!
Some years ago, I was finally diagnosed with what used to be called Asperger’s. It helped explain a lot of things. When our son died in 2007, I had a difficult time processing my grief because normal ways of expressing emotion are foreign to me.
Not long after Corey died, we got a puppy, an English Yellow Lab. Gus helped me deal with the grief which I couldn’t express. Given the way my brain works, I kept writing, because that routine, that need to express, is something that can’t be stopped and is a form of escapism. But now I had Gus who I had to take care of, and was with me 24/7, and sleeping under my desk and we went for runs in the forests of the Pacific Northwest together. He’d sit in my Jeep, looking straight ahead and tourists would take pictures of him, because he was so calm and regal. Gus was a dog who emanated peacefulness and earned the moniker Cool Gus. Because his entire emotional being was facing outwards, he taught me to feel my grief and was with me every step of the way from denial to acceptance.
I didn’t know how to share what I felt with people, not even my wife or friends. I’d dealt with my feelings all my adult life by writing to escape. Gus didn’t care under the desk–but he got me out on my kayak, promptly capsizing it the first time we launched in Puget Sound, and made me laugh. He got me back to the water and our son, Corey, was in the water. We’d go to the beach and I throw him a ball and he’d swam after it and one time pushed it so far out that I had to go into the freezing water and get him back. And I felt Corey all around me in the water and I began to cry and my salty tears fell into the salt of the ocean and Gus heard me and turned around and I carried him to the beach and we watched the red ball float out till it was a speck under the setting sun and Gus and I sat on a pile of driftwood while I cried so hard and he leaned into me and licked the tears from my face. We let the ball go because it was Corey and I wondered if Gus pushed it out there so I could watch it float away and know that everything we love does float away eventually, but we can keep it all around us once we express the pain and keep the love. Cool Gus gave me that. Then I said–let’s go home, Gus.
Cool Gus passed the other morning after almost 14 years. In my mind’s eye, I go back to that beach and see not a set of human footprints and a dog’s but just four paw prints because Gus carried me until I could walk on my own. He rescued me because he had no expectations; he didn’t wonder why I was sad but couldn’t cry. He didn’t wonder why I wrote and wrote; he just sat under my desk with his head on my feet.
We miss you, Gus.
We watched the Oscar winner last night and I can verify we both woke up this morning depressed. That’s not to say don’t see it. It’s a very well done movie. A lot of that depression is personal as one story in it, by Bob Wells, had a personal resonance with us. But also, if you pare down to the essence of the movie, it’s about the refusal to care again about others because of fear of the inevitable pain of loss. Death is what I call a “no do-over” event that can never be changed. When it happens to someone you love, it stays with you forever and is extremely painful. It springs up at the strangest times and can also blunt happiness with a reminder of loss. Regret and sadness can shrivel life to the bare minimum or one can face it, incorporate it and give life more value.
The ending is a bit open-ending although one can assume by what she did, trying not to give away too much, she closed out that part of her life and was ready to insert herself among people again. But we can’t be sure of that, which is okay. Sometimes it’s good to have open endings. I will say our initial reaction was negative to the ending, but on reflection we felt some hope for a change as we reflected on what was shown and where it ended and her actions.
It’s a slow movie that grows on you over time. It feels like a documentary and actually most of the people in it are telling their own stories with Frances McDormand inserted as a character.
I don’t live out of a van, although I do spend time on the road living out of my vehicles—just traded in my 2012 Jeep Wrangler for a Gladiator so I’ll go from sleeping where the passenger seat was (no back seat) to the bed of the Gladiator. I do it for ease, to be able to go up into the mountains or take long Jeep-Abouts and not have to stop in motels or campground. One theme throughout was enjoying the beauty of nature. A place is not a person or a construct of man and is always there. Nature is not likely to hurt you, although there was one interesting scene in a park where she wandered off.
Most of the movie took place in the west and, as noted, there is a lot of BLM land there so living out of your vehicle is easier than here in the east. Nevertheless in my travels here I come across people living in vehicles in campgrounds and on the side of National Forest roads. There are those who’ve pitched their tent and you can tell from the huge pile of firewood they’re going to be there for a while. Another tell is the tarp over the tent. Campers don’t do that—squatters do. I don’t mean that in a negative way.
One thing that occasionally came up in the movie was that for many, living in a vehicle or a tent is not a choice—it is an economic reality. Those who have never been poor or lived among poor people often don’t understand that kind of life. I do grow disgusted when news pundits and politicians who were born with silver spoons in their mouth pontificate about things which they have no experience in.
One thing that surprised me was how little she cared about the vehicle she lived in. In a way, she couldn’t even really become attached to it, even though she was dependent on it. But that was the theme—caring opens one up to hurt. Protect yourself, even if it means hurting yourself and denying yourself. And, more importantly, denying others. For most of the movie, frankly, Frances character was extremely selfish. She didn’t seem to grasp that others might need her—not just the dog, but other humans. That she could be a plus in their lives and make their lives better. Our time, our most valuable asset which can never be gotten back, is what we offer. Early in our relationship I asked my wife what she though love was and she said “time”.
The movie was very well done, with most things very understated. When she didn’t take the dog offered and simply walked away from it, that was very telling. When she took the seat at the head of the table, after her friend had been in it during the dinner the night before, that was also very telling.
I was impressed with the number and array of jobs she held. I am always impressed when I see people working minimum wage or tip jobs, knowing how far behind economically their time invested makes them in our society. To argue about a minimum wage increase to an amount that still isn’t sufficient infuriates me. Especially as the rich grow richer. How much is enough?
Bottom line? Is it worth your time to watch? Yes. Because it will make you think about how we interact with nature and people and that is what life is about.
Of all natural disasters, wildfires are among the most dangerous. They can spring up quickly and spread very fast.
The United States averages over 73,000 wildfires every year. They cause 2 billion dollars worth of damage annually. Over 7 million acres are burned annually. They kill over 340,000 people worldwide each year.
All fires start small. All fires go out. Eventually. What is key is what happens in between.
A wildfire is an unplanned, unwanted fire. They can be caused naturally, usually by lightning. However, most are human-initiated, either by campfires, cigarettes, broken power lines, outdoor burning that gets out of control or arson.
They can occur any time throughout the year. The potential is greatest during periods of drought. High winds make a wildfire very dangerous and unpredictable. They can move very fast!
Make sure you know what your local wildfire alert system is. Normally, alerts are broadcast to all cell phones within range. However, because wildfires are unpredictable and can shift quickly depending on winds, be proactive in tracking any wildfire. There are several maps that indicate threat levels. Here is a page that collects several.
They kill humans and animals They destroy buildings and structures They destroy far from the actual fire— embers can be blown by the wind and set fire to structures over a mile away Smoke can kill and cause health issues, even many miles away Wildfires affect the land for years after with lost vegetation and the subsequent greater threat of flood and landslides.
A fast-moving wildfire has a wall of heat in front of it that you cannot see. But you will feel it. It will spontaneously combust flammable material even when there is no visible flame. The larger the fire, the more it makes its own wind.
Keep your roof and gutter free of leaves. Store firewood at least thirty feet away from structures (do not pile up on an outside wall). Outdoor furniture should be made of noncombustible material. Clear the area around your house of combustible material, such as leaves, bark, pine needles, and underbrush. The optimum clear area is 100 feet.
If constructing in a wildfire area, carefully choose fire-proof materials not only for the building, but also gates, fences, landscaping, etc.
Know your evacuation routes. Plan your transportation. If you need to share, make preparations now. Realize public transportation is likely to be disrupted. Find out what your community has planned in case of evacuation. Have a pre-planned place to stay if evacuated. Have your IRP (Immediate Rally Point), ERP (Emergency Rally Point) and out of area contact ready and everyone updated on them. (explained in Survival Guide)
There are wildfire apps listed on my free Slideshare page in the Wildfire slideshow.
Know how to use fire extinguishers, evacuate your house, etc. as you would in normal fire preparation. More on that in my slideshare on FIRE, on the slideshow page.
Use caution any time you start a fire. Do not use welders or equipment that sparks on dry, windy days. Do not park in tall, dry grass or piles of leaves; the heat from your exhaust system could ignite them. Keep propane and gas away from structures.
Be ready to evacuate. Besides your Grab-n-Go bag here are special considerations and advice from those who’ve been affected by wildfires: fuel your car and keep it topped off, even if you think you are not under direct threat. Make a video of everything in your house and store it in the cloud or elsewhere for insurance purposes. Have key documents in a secure fireproof box packed and ready to be grabbed. Also, uploading the information into the cloud gives you a backup. Load copies onto a thumb drive kept elsewhere.
Pack enough supplies (Grab-n-Go) but water is the most critical! If evacuated, call your insurance company ASAP so they can start a claim #. Keep receipts of everything you buy while evacuated.
Key things to pack: Drivers license/photo ID/Passport Social Security Card Bank and credit cards Health insurance card Roadside assistance card Cash Extra fuel WATER
Key things to have packed and ready to go: Phone charger. Deed for house. Insurance paperwork. Prescriptions. First aid kit ( a complete list is in Survival Guide)
Leave as soon as you get notice. You cannot defeat a wildfire. People are more important than a house or objects. Leave gates open for firefighters and others. Drive with headlights on. If it’s smoky close all windows and set recirculate.
If trapped in your car, park in an area clear of vegetation— parking lot, gravel area, dirt. Close all windows and vents. Cover yourself with a blanket or coat and lie on the floor. Car tires may burst from heat.
If trapped in your house: Use a hose or sprinkler to wet the yard. Wet the roof. Turn off all propane and gas. Close all windows and doors and fireplace flues. Move fabric furniture away from large windows or glass doors. Turn off everything that circulates air in the house. Close all interior doors.
Turn on all lights to make the house more visible from the outside for rescuers. Disconnect automatic garage door openers so you can open by hand if you lose power. If you have a pool, put outdoor furniture in it. Fill everything possible with water (tubs, sinks, etc)
Wildfires are one of the most frightening and dangerous natural disasters. Being prepared can bring peace of mind. And save your life!
A free slideshow on this topic and many others about interesting history, survival, writing and other topics is on my web site at www.bobmayer.com/workshops
We can get lost in a variety of ways. I work under Daniel Boone’s precept.
While I’ve done a lot of land navigation, both day and night, and spent considerable time working off of maps during training and on deployments, there have been times when I’ve gotten ‘confused’. My experience is that once I got lost, it could easily escalate into something worse, unless I follow some guidelines.
As with all aspects of preparation and survival there are numerous variables. We should be properly prepared before any trip with the correct supplies to keep from getting lost such as GPS with applicable map tiles loaded, paper map backups (including in your car), a compass, signal mirror, whistle, signal panel and more.
Know how to us a map and compass. Remember, a compass can’t tell you which way to go if you don’t have an idea where you are. Your local REI stores runs courses on basic land navigation. There is no substitute for actually getting out there and actually doing it.
A big key is if you are off road is to know what is your ‘safe’ direction. That’s the direction where you will eventually hit a known line, whether a road, rail-line, river, etcetera which will let you know where you are. Then you also need to know whether to turn left or right on that limit to get to safety.
Have enough food and water for whatever activity you plan, plus a bit extra.
Always have a paper map and compass. You can lose your GPS/phone or the battery might die.
SHORTS CUT ARE RARELY EVER SHORT
AND CAN BE DEADLY
Let someone know where you’re going. What your plan is. When you expect to be back. An important key is to tell them after what time, without hearing from you, they should notify help. I do this even if just heading out for a bike ride or run. I use Road ID when I go for hikes/bikes/runs where there is cell phone coverage. I check in with my SPOTX when going on longer or overnight trips. If I change plans for any reason, I update my contacts for both.
At a trailhead it pays to leave a note inside your car/truck window, facing out, with information on what your plans on. When you expect to be back. I’ve checked trucks and cars at trailheads and most are unmarked. I know there might be a fear that someone would break in to the car, but weigh that against not making it back?
Fill out wilderness permits and check in at Ranger Stations. Make yourself noticeable. A couple was left behind on a scuba trip because they kept to themselves, didn’t interact with others and no one missed them on the trip back.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET LOST:
Should you stay or should you go?
For most situations, it’s best to stay in place.
If you are injured. Don’t exacerbate your injury by moving.
Search and Rescue will start at the last known place you were or where they think you are. Moving could take you out of the likeliest search area. If you’re lost and don’t have a plan, you will get more lost.
LOOK BEHIND YOU WHEN
TRAVELING SO YOU KNOW
THE ROUTE BACK
Search and Rescue is usually free. The reason for that is often these teams are made up of volunteers. More importantly, they don’t want people to hesitate to call. When in doubt, Call 911 because most teams work through the local sheriff’s office. Remember, a text has a better chance getting through than voice if your signal is shaky. Conserve your phone’s battery as much as possible. If you make contact, set up a time to check in so you can turn the phone off in between.
The key rule to follow is STOP:
STOP: As soon as you suspect you are lost immediately STOP. Many people panic and while in that panic make the situation worse. Panic is your greatest threat.
THINK: How did you get here? What landmarks do you remember? Which way did you turn if you left an established trail? What direction? Do not move until you have a specific reason.
OBSERVE: Which direction is north? Do you have boundaries such as a river, mountain range, road, etcetera that you know for certain are in a certain direction?
If you are on a trail or road stay on it. Roads and trails are built to take advantage of the easiest route. While you might think taking a “shortcut” cross-country might save time and distance, it won’t.
As a last resort, follow drainage downhill. Streams run into rivers and there is usually civilization along rivers. However, depending on terrain, this might not be possible. Also, try not to get wet, especially if the temperature will drop, as hypothermia is deadly.
Can you follow your own trail back to the last known spot? Footprints? Broken branches?
Before moving make sure you have a plan. Think the plan through. Are there other options?
If you are not confident in your plan, stay in place.
Don’t move at night. When we were heading toward the Grand Canyon, my wife said she thought people probably fell into it. When we got there, I saw she was right. Anyone who has been on patrol at night can tell stories of the cat eyes on the back of the cap of the patrol member right in front disappearing as they fell off a ledge or cliff.
STOP: As soon as you suspect you are lost immediately STOP.
Many people panic and make the situation worse.
THINK: How did you get here? What landmarks do you remember?
Do not move until you have a specific reason.
OBSERVE: Get oriented. Which direction is north?
If you are on a trail or road stay on it.
Roads and trails are built to take advantage of the easiest route.
PLAN: Before moving make sure you have a plan.
Think the plan through. Are there other options?
If you are not confident in your plan, stay in place.
Signal for help: Cell phone. Satellite messenger. Mirror or anything reflective.
The universal distress signal comes in threes: three blasts on a whistle.
Make a smoky fire. Green leaves and grass help. Ruber makes black smoke. The flame at night is a signal. A VS-17 or bright clothing can be used to signal.
To aim a mirror, hold it in the palm of your hand. Extend the other hand with two fingers forming a V in the direction you want to signal. Angle the mirror so that the reflected light passes through the V.
If you must self-rescue:
Rest when you feel tired. Don’t push it too hard so that you become exhausted.
You can’t hike and easily digest food at the same time. Eat and then rest.
Mark your trail as you move, so at the very least, if need be, you can get back to where you started.
WHAT TO TEACH CHILDREN TO DO IF THEY GET LOST:
Make sure your child knows both parent’s full name, phone number and address. Memorizing key phone numbers is a skill all of us need to practice.
Have your child practice calling your phone.
Teach your child how to ask for help. While we emphasize ‘never talk to strangers’ tell them who it is best to ask: police, a mother with a child, a store salesperson with a name tag, a security guard.
Tell them not to go looking for you if they become detached. It is best they stay in place and you find them.
Excerpt from The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide