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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thermos Cooking

I've wanted to do Thermos Cooking for a while.  The general idea is, you add boiling water to a food, put it in a thermos, and let it slow cook.

I've done little tests in the past, but they were with the cheaper plastic lined deals.  All of the research I did indicated that you needed to use a high quality, stainless steel-lined thermos.

My past tests certainly indicated that the plastic models would not work - even with rice.  So I broke out my trust Stanley one quart thermos to give it a shot.


I started with beans.  I soaked one cup of red beans over night.  The next morning, I took the soaked beans, two and a half cups of water and some spices, and brought them to a boil.  I covered them and let them boil for 5 minutes.

The beans, spices and liquids were placed in the thermos, given a good shake, and placed on their side.  Every article I had read said to do this to ensure the greatest coverage of water over whatever is being cooked.

I then waited for 6 hours, giving the thermos a shake ever hour or so just to make sure everything was staying covered.

The result?  Total failure.

The beans were still way too hard to eat.  I have a plan to fix this, though (later).


Next up were pastas.  Everything I read said that this was a natural for thermos cooking.

I started with orzo.  Personally, I love the shape and cooked texture of orzo.  It is a small, oval-shaped pasta.  I like it for my preps as well because it doesn't have any sharp edges.  This ensures it doesn't pierce my vacuum-sealed bags like spaghetti and other dry pasta have a tendency to do.

I poured one cup of orzo into the thermos, and covered it with about 3 cups of boiling water.  I sealed it, gave it a shake, and placed it on its side for 25 minutes (regular orzo takes about 9 minutes of boiling).

After the allotted time, I poured the contents into a strainer.  It appeared that not all of the orzo came out.  Perhaps half came out, with the other half stuck to the bottom of the thermos in a big ball.

Apparently, there was still a bit of water in the bottom of the thermos, and it made the orzo stick to it - enough so that even when I shook up the thermos, it did not dislodge from the bottom.

I was eventually able to get it out, and I must say, the orzo was cooked perfectly.  Just a bit al dente, which is how I like it.

Next up was curly-Q pasta (I forget what its real name might be).  It's that corkscrew-looking stuff.  This time, to prevent the sticking pasta problem, I added about a cup of boiling water, THEN a cup of the pasta, and covered that with another 2 cups of  boiling water.  Like the orzo, this had a regular cook time of 9 minutes, so I sealed up the thermos, shook it for good measure, placed it on its side, and set the timer for 25 minutes.

I poured this out into the strainer, and it too was cooked perfectly.  It was a bit broken up, so I'm guessing that it could have spent a little less time in the thermos.


Lastly, I did whole-grain wheat - hard winter red wheat, to be precise.

I poured in 3/4 of the wheat, covered it with 3 cups of water, gave it a big shake, and set it on its side.

The next morning, I strained it, and it was perfectly cooked, but cold.  I estimate it was in there for 12 hours.  I took some of the wheat, added a bit of milk and sugar, and had a bowl for breakfast.

It's not really my favorite way of eating rehydrated wheat berries.  I prefer them added to a salad or mixed in with some sort of savory dish.  They're a bit too rubbery/chewy to eat all by themselves, IMO.


So what did I learn?

Large whole beans will likely never be able to become a meal in thermos cooking.  In my next test, I'm going to try lentils and split peas to see if they work better.  Also, I'm going to try the fully-cook, dehydrated beans I made a while back (see here for specifics).

Pasta is the big winner, especially if you were in a situation where you HAD TO conserve fuel.  Instead of burning fuel for about 14 minutes (5 to bring it to boil, and then boiling the pasta for another 9 minutes), you can cut that to just the 5 minutes it takes to bring the water to boil.  Total cook-time is doubled, but fuel usage is only 1/3 of normal.

The wheat was a winner as well - performing as expected, but it just isn't my cup-of-tea when eaten by itself.  In terms of fuel savings, wheat would be the clear winner, as it can take an hour to boil up kernels to the tender stage.  Personally, I just need to find some more uses of the boiled-up kernels.

My next set of experiments will also include some full meals.  I found a couple of them on the Internet, which I may tweak and take a stab at.

Lastly, get a wide-mouth thermos.  I had the regular type, and it's a pain getting the water and foodstuffs in and out of there.

Accept The Challenge

Finding alternate ways of preparing food, especially under difficult conditions, should be a part of everyone's prep skills.  Thermos cooking, while significantly increasing the cook time of a food, offers a fantastic alternative, especially when cooking fuel is at a premium.

Identify some foods you enjoy, and test some small portions to see how they turn out when cooked in a thermos. 

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Time To Push Back

I'm going to try and remain calm while I tell you about this.  Things like this tend to take me right over the edge - on so many levels.

A young man in California went duck hunting.  As shocking as that may sound, that's still legal here in CA.

He put his empty shotguns in his trunk and drove to school.  Here's the rest -
The NRA and the CRPA Foundation have joined forces under their California Legal Action Project (LAP) to provide legal assistance for high school student Gary Tudesko in his fight to be readmitted to Willows High School. Sixteen-year-old Tudesko was expelled on November 19th for having unloaded shotguns in his pick-up truck that he legally parked on an off-campus, public street near the Willows High School campus. The high school is in a small rural community near Sacramento. The unloaded shotguns were in his truck because he had gone duck hunting in the early morning hours before school. The case has garnered significant national media coverage as an example of zero-tolerance policies run amuck.

The shotguns were discovered in the pick up truck by scent-sniffing dogs on October 26th during a questionable school search. Police ran the license plates and determined Tudesko was the owner, then called Tudesko out of class. Tudesko readily told the Principal about the shotguns and his early morning hunting trip.
What?  Why are police dogs searching public streets in the first place?  Excuse me one moment while I check my driver's license to ensure it says "USA" somewhere on it.

So the zero-brains tolerance SOB of a principal misinterprets his god-like powers, confusing an education code item with a penal code item.  The kid didn't break the education code.  He DID technically break the penal code, but since there was no intent to harm, the Police Chief and the District Attorney have refused to arrest and prosecute.

I've mentioned a couple of times over at Ride Fast & Shoot Straight that I hope this family sues the school district into backrupcy.  That may seem harsh, as it will harm kids and blah, blah, blah.

But it will send a message, loud and clear.

Schools are there to teach, not to run the lives of our kids.  Not to tell them what kind of soda they can drink.  Not to tell them what kind of snacks are allowed on birthdays.  And not to tell them what kind of sporting activities they can participate in on their own time.

I hope they crush these bastards.

BTW, I'll be there on January 15th for the meeting with the Glenn County Board of Education.

Accept The Challenge

The attorneys are handling this case pro bono, but there are still many expenses that need to be covered.  If you live in California and want to help retain your already limited gun rights, send them some money.  If you live outside of California, and you want to help stop this anti-gun fervor from reaching your state, send them some money.

Click here to donate.

At the very least, click the links in the story and send an email - a respectful one for now - to the School Board members.  Let them know this is wholly unacceptable behavior for this principal, and perhaps his over-zealousness should result in some unpaid time off work.  He does seem quite stressed out...

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Emergency Notifications

Most states and localities  have some sort of Emergency Alert System.  It may be a tornado siren or a TV or radio alert that interrupts your regular programming.

California has a system that goes a bit further.  It is called the Emergency Digital Information System (EDIS).  It is a system where you can receive an alert via an email message.  What is nice, is that you can get an alert sent to your cell phone as well.

The system allows you to select the specific county for which you want alerts - in some cases, allowing you to choose specific cities.  You can also select the type and severity of emergency about which you're notified.

For instance, you can choose to receive an alert that occurs in any of the 9 Bay Area counties for a chemical, meteorological or transportation emergency.  You can decide if you want to know if it is of an Extreme, Severe, Moderate, Minor or Unknown severity.  You can select one or all of them.

Having these alerts sent to your cell phone will allow you to know about emergencies that happen while you are away from home.  These alerts could be life-savers.

Accept The Challenge

Emergencies don't always occur when we're safely inside of our homes.  Getting as much advanced notice of an emergency that may affect you or a family member can be crucially important.

Start with a Google search of your area's emergency alert system.  I had the best results when starting on the county basis - doing a Google search of 'Contra Costa County emergency alerts'.  Drill down to find out which ways you can receive notification.

If your area does not appear to have a program, search for your local CERT - Community Emergency Response Team (national site with state links here).  Let them know you think an alert program would be a good idea.  Send them a link to the California system as an example of what can work.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Unconventional Self-Defense Weapons

Something most people don't consider is that they may not always have their self-defense weapon with them when an attack occurs.  You may just be making a quick run to the store, so you don't bring along your firearm, pepper spray or stun gun.  Or, you may be in a horribly mis-named "safe zone" where self-defense weapons are not allowed - for law-abiding citizens.  Bad guys don't seem to read the signs.

So what do you do in an instance where you need to defend yourself but you've been stripped of your self-defense tools?  You improvise.

For instance, you can bring a ball-point pen with you virtually everywhere.  And as the National Institute of Health notes, they can be quite effective -
Commonly available items including a ball point pen, a plastic knife, a broken wine bottle, and a broken wine glass were used to inflict stab and incised wounds to the necks of 3 previously euthanized Large White pigs. With relative ease, these items could be inserted into the necks of the pigs next to the jugular veins and carotid arteries.
Some other considerations -
  • Pencils, forks and spoons
  • Walking canes and walking sticks
  • Your belt and buckle, used to slash and strike
Use whatever is available to you.
A 22-year-old woman used a hot cup of coffee to fend off an armed assailant during a violent struggle in a parking lot Friday morning, police said.


The attacker put a handgun to the woman’s back and threatened to shoot her if she didn’t get into the car, Griffin said.

The woman resisted and the carjacker struck her in the head with his gun during the ensuing struggle, Griffin said.

“He had her in the car,” Griffin said. “He actually even said, ‘You’re going to drive,’ or words to that effect.”

The fight ended when the woman threw hot coffee in the carjacker’s face and freed herself, he said.
Accept The Challenge

A criminal will use the element of surprise to mount their attack.  You need to be mentally prepared to improvise and defend yourself if you find yourself without your traditional self-defense tools.

In addition to using the "striking tools" of your body - your fists/hands, elbows, forehead, knees, feet and legs - you need to consider other unconventional weapons, and how you'd use them.

What is available to strike an attacker?  Scald?  Club?  Blind?  Stab?  Choke?

Remember to attack the weakest point of your assailant - the eyes, nose, throat, groin - and make your escape.  You're not there to make an arrest.  Disable, Escape and Report.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Communications and Personal Data Security

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a wonderful Christmas.  I know I did!

I've come across a website and some information it contains that is absolutely fascinating, and at the same time, very disturbing.

I subscribe to a techie monthly newsletter (old habits are hard to break) called, "Crypto-gram".  The guy who produces it is a security wiz.  He and his company design the encryption algorithms we all use to protect our electronic data.  His newsletter looks at all facets of security, from computers, to terrorism, to the government.

His latest issue had a piece about the 9/11 attacks.  It seems that someone - unknown at this point - intercepted every single pager text message from the New York City and Washington, DC areas.  Now, we're not talking about text messages we commonly exchange on our cell phones.  These are text pagers primarily used by government officials and businesses.

He provided a link to that contained the text messages -
WikiLeaks released half a million US national text pager intercepts. The intercepts cover a 24 hour period surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

The messages were broadcasted "live" to the global community — sychronized to the time of day they were sent. The first message was from 3AM September 11, 2001, five hours before the first attack, and the last, 24 hours later.

Text pagers are usualy carried by persons operating in an official capacity. Messages in the archive range from Pentagon, FBI, FEMA and New York Police Department exchanges, to computers reporting faults at investment banks inside the World Trade Center
They have an index where they break down the messages into 5 minute increments.  Still, each page has thousands of entries.

Fascinating stuff.  The following messages are from about an hour after the first impact. I'm not going to edit anything, including names and phone numbers, as they are already in the public domain (and to make a later point). Some of the messages are cut short, probably due to the limitations of the individual pagers -

Personal Messages

2001-09-11 09:55:01 Arch [1152951] B ALPHA 07-WANDA, THIS IS TRISHA. THE PENTAGON HAS BEEN HIT TOO. CALL ME.

2001-09-11 09:55:27 Metrocall [1308583] B ALPHA Hi Honey Did you hear about the terrorist hijacking etc? I'm totally freaked. My heart is in

2001-09-11 09:55:29 Metrocall [1308583] B ALPHA my throat. Just wanted you to know that I was thinking about you. Love you!!!!!

2001-09-11 09:55:33 Metrocall [1036044] D ALPHA [kmiller] Sharon just called, would like to hear your voice. Two planes cr ashed into the World Trade Center, they are closing airports all over US. km

9:55:48 Arch [0981022] D ALPHA kevin.helmich@my|my2way|dennis-- just wanted to make sure you're not in d.c. today. saw the pentagon in flames on the news. send a page to 877.870.0013 --Kevin

Likely Business Messages


2001-09-11 09:55:18 Metrocall [0527005] D ALPHA Did you get my message about the world trade center. There was an explosion at the Pentagon too. Jake will be busy.

Likely government messages


2001-09-11 09:55:19 Arch [1020272] A ALPHA a white jet was seen circling the white house and evacuees from the White House are panicking - and were told to run from the building.......

Someone who is quite twisted


I'm sure the historians are going to have a field day sifting through all of the messages, and trying to identify who owned the text pagers that were receiving the messages.  Personally, reading through the messages is like taking an addictive drug - you want to stop, but you can't!

It is also VERY disturbing.  Someone, somehow gathered or intercepted this information.

You absolutely, positively have got to assume that every single communication you make that uses any electronic device is being recorded.  To think otherwise is simply foolish.

As one of the articles noted, this text information could be gathered using free software and a common PC.  If you must have a totally private conversation, you had better do it face-to-face after sweeping the area for listening devices!

If you encrypt your electronic information, you are only providing a speed-bump to a motivated person that wants to see what you had to say.  Still, encryption of your data or communications will provide some level of protection.  Just don't bet your life (literally) on it.

Accept The Challenge

Consider the sensitivity of your communications and data.  Most of us don't have a need for high-security messages.  There is commercially available secure communication equipment for voice (not cheap) and email.

At the very minimum, though, personally sensitive information kept in your emergency packs should be encrypted. 

If you have scanned this information - your passport, drivers license, insurance policies, mortgage documents, birth certificates, social security cards, bank records, retirement accounts and other similarly sensitive information - and placed it on a CD for rapid access, encrypt the information using any of the free, high-strength programs available on the Internet.

These programs will defeat the attempts of the casual viewer from gaining access to your information.  If a government agency want to see it, chances are they'll be able to crack your encryption.


Free Encryption Software Listing

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Like Guns

 I'll be taking the next two days off from blogging, doing my best to help stimulate the economy, eat way too much food, and most importantly, spend some time with family.

I'll leave you with this to enjoy in the mean time.  I saw this over at Smoke Signals, and he got it from Mayberry.

I couldn't have said it better myself...

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Uninterrupted Power Supplies

 Back in my other life (the corporate world), in the event of a power outage, I had to make sure that a number of computer items always had power.  Always, never fail, no excuses, pack-your-crap-up-if-it-goes-down serious.

For those systems, we had a number of redundant, very expensive schemes to ensure they all had power. 

We also had a number of systems - usually desktop PCs - located in each department that needed to have power so that any important information could be entered or accessed during the outage.  The power needs of these systems were generally less demanding, both in terms of electrical draw and length of service.  Typically, if a system was available for an hour after a power outage, we were in good shape.

For these systems, we used UPSs - Uninterrupted Power Supplies.  Basically, these were large, but mobile battery units that had a number of outlets so that you could run a PC and monitor.  One very nice feature is that they automatically kick in when utility power is lost.  With modern UPSs, you will generally not have any interruption in service for any attached device.

These can very easily be used in a home power outage situation as well.

For computers, a system to run a desktop PC, monitor, cable modem and wireless access point will run about $400.  A bit pricey, but if you run a business that depends on your PC, it is an option to consider.

Another use is to power medical equipment, such as home dialysis.  These machines have significantly differing power consumption profiles, and the UPS demands would need to be tailored to a specific machine.  Clearly, a UPS to power a dialysis machine would be more expensive than for a PC.  But if your life is dependent upon getting a dialysis treatment, how much is too much?

Accept The Challenge

We are a very electricity-dependent society.  Part of your emergency preps should include identifying items that you could not do without.  Identify the absolute minimum amount of time you would need power, and  consider your options.

Generators are an item to be considered, as are UPS systems.  A plan that incorporates both items might be considered for life sustaining items.  The UPS to ensure short-term uninterrupted power while the long-term generator is activated.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, December 21, 2009

High-End Shortages?

 Short post - psycho day.  I'm working on a project for a potential client.  One with some serious money.

One with virtually no preps.

I've been doing some research on buying a large amount of MREs.  Literally hundreds of cases.  They are VERY difficult to track down.  A number of sites are simply flat out of MREs.  Others have a few cases, but nothing near what I need.  Most are quoting delivery dates of at least 2 months, usually longer.

I don't know if this is "sign" or if production has been impacted somehow, but it seems pretty consistent with all of the companies I've contacted.  If this works out, I'm pretty confident I can patch together an order from multiple vendors, but I'm sure the cost will be steeper than usual.

Other "survival foods" appear to be fairly plentiful.  Canned meats, grains and other products seem to be readily available.  Same with freeze dried foods and meals from producers like Mountain House, and other bulk dried survival foods.

Anyone seen anything else with shortages right now?  I've got a long laundry list of items to research!

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Using Common Sense In Your Plans

I was speaking with  one of my sons on Friday.  He made a comment about how it was good news that the California unemployment rate had dropped - albeit slightly - during the month of November.

Without having seen the information source he used, I blurted out, "No way."

"That's what I read, dad.  That's what the headline said."

This son of mine is one of the most politically-aware and inquisitive 22 year olds you'll ever meet.  He generally gets the details on an issue and makes up his own mind.

He got lazy this time.

I jumped on the Internet and there was the headline blaring, "California Unemployment Rate Shrinks."

Hmm.  I still don't believe it.  I clicked the link and got a story from the LA Times.  Not shockingly, the headline reported the "facts" as ciphered and cajoled by the government.  The actual information told a very different story.  The first two sentences revealed -
California's employment misery continued in November, as employers sliced 10,200 more workers from their payrolls.

The statewide unemployment rate fell slightly to 12.3% last month from 12.5% in October, according to figures released Friday by the Employment Development Department, but only because thousands of discouraged workers have left the labor force or even moved out of state.
My son, like the overwhelming majority of Californians and Americans, just read the headline.  A single click of the headline revealed an entirely different story.  But that's too much trouble for too many Americans.

We all know that Information is Power.  The more good information you have, the better decisions you can make about your life and plans, and the better off you'll be.

But how do you know that the information you're receving is valid?  How do you know it's any good?  There is an old acronym called GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out.  If you rely on faulty information, your resulting plans will also be faulty.

Personally, I think that what the LA Times did with their headline borders on the criminal.  It could not have been further removed from what is actually happening, as their own story indicated.  At the very least, they are doing their readers a huge disservice (which is why I don't consider myself on of their regular readers).

I'm not going to get into the politics of the whole Global Warming deal (well, not just yet!), but this story in the Wall Street Journal ("How to Manufacture a Climate Consensus") is a great "Insider View" of what kind of data and information manipulation is at play with this incredibly important issue.

These "scientists" not only manipulated data, they also boycotted the scientific journals and destroyed the careers of scientists who dared to present an opposing view.

Yet people and governments are making multi-billion (trillions?) dollar decisions based upon this information.  How do you ensure the information you're using is of the highest quality?

Accept The Challenge

The depth and breadth of your personal safety and preparedness plans are driven by information.  All good plans have "trip wires" that set parts of a plan into motion.  If the information you're relying upon is faulty, you can very easily waste valuable time and resources.

Complacency - it will kill you.  You must be committed enough to take the extra bit of time necessary to research an issue.

Skepticism - will save you.  Question everything.  Assume the information provider has some sort of agenda or personal interest to sway you to their way of thinking.  Especially if that way of thinking currently coincides with your own.  Don't be a sucker!

Diversify - Develop alternative sources of information, including first-hand investigations.  You must read views and data on both sides of an issue before making a decision.

Use your Common Sense -  Do the "facts" as presented make sense?  Trust your gut.  Just because everyone seems to be agreeing to something does not mean it is true.  That in and of itself should have you questioning the item.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dehydrating Beans

Beans are obviously one of the main staples people store in their preps. They are very nutritious and very inexpensive, and they store forever.

Their main drawback is the amount of time and resources they take to prepare. While this isn't generally an issue if you have access to water from the tap, and gas or electricity from a utility company, in a grid down situation, this can be a major problem.

The traditional way of preparing beans first involves a pre-soak. You take the dry beans, throw them in a pot with triple the volume of water, and let them soak for 6 to 8 hours. You then pour away any remaining water, and add more water to cover the beans by an inch or so. They are then brought to a boil, then slow cooked for another 3 hours or so.

Lots of time and resources.

My local grocery store has a bulk foods section that had this ground mix labeled, "Refried Beans". The instructions said that you added 1 cup of boiling water to 3/4 cups of the mix, stirred it well, covered it for 10 minutes and viola! - refried beans.  This bean mix cost $4.75 a pound!

We did our weekly meal using emergency prep foods on Wednesday (burritos using beans, spices and home-canned meat from our prep stores) .  I doubled the amount of beans (a total of 2 lbs dry) so I could do this test.

I took what was originally about 1 pound of beans that had since been cooked as described above (no seasoning whatsoever), got as much liquid out of them by letting them sit in a strainer for 10 minutes, and put them in my dehydrator.  I needed 4 trays in my American Harvest dehydrator, which I set on 140F degrees.

After two hours, I turned off the dehydrator, and moved around the beans that had clumped together - trying to ensure each bean was getting fully dried.  I let it run another two hours.  I'd estimate that a good 95% of the beans were done - quite dry and brittle.  I stirred things up again, and let it go for another hour to ensure everything was fully dehydrated.

I wanted to do my test with the beans in their whole state and in a ground up state.  I took 1/2 cup of each and put them in separate bowls.  The part I ground up just went into a coffee grinder that I gave a couple of pulses.

The whole beans kind of looked like dry roasted peanuts with the skins on.  Most of them had developed cracks and splits.

I added about 3/4 cups of boiling water to each bowl, stirred them up and covered them.  I set a timer for 5 minutes, and gave them a try.

Both the whole and ground beans were not yet fully rehydrated.  There were little bits that had that undone-bean mouth feel.

I covered them for another 5 minutes and tried again.  Still a bit underdone.  Five more minutes, and they were perfect!  Well, at least in flavor and mouth feel.

Here is a picture of the same batch of beans that had NOT been dehydrated/rehydrated -

Honestly, the taste and feel of the rehydrated beans was the same as the regular beans.  As you can see, they don't look quite as pretty, but in a grid down situation, who cares?  Also, if you were out camping, these would be a fantastic quick and nutritious meal for the trail.

I'm guessing that if they had been added to water which was then brought to a boil, taken off the heat and covered, they would have been ready in no more than 10 minutes.

These are absolutely going to become a part of my prep stores.  While I won't make a special batch of beans to do this, I WILL do as I did with this batch - I'll double up the recipe and dehydrate half of it.

Also, my next batch will be with seasoned beans.  No meats or fats, just vegetables, herbs and spices.  That will make one less thing to have to worry about if we don't have access to all of our supplies.

Accept The Challenge

Give dehydrating cooked foods a try.  We have done wheat (making bulgur wheat) in the past, and now beans.  I'm going to be trying beef in the near future, as the price of the dehydrated/freeze dried stuff is obscene.  Great tasting, but the price is just too high to have much on hand.

I have a near obsession with Just Add Water foods and meals that I can make myself.  I'll share some of these main courses and soups in the future.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Reverse Gentrification and Safety Awareness

I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Smoke Signals, and The Hermit was talking about how Atlanta has become a festering boil on the buttocks of Georgia. It was similar in sentiment to a post I was reading yesterday about the same things happening in New York State.

Gentrification is the process whereby people with money identify a section of a city that has "promise" and start buying up the real estate.  It eventually changes the character of the area and sometimes forces out the "old timers".   Still, money came into the area, and raised the quality of life and living standards.

The reverse of that is when an area "has it good" and the politicians decide that it is time to raise the quality of life and living standards of the poor in the area.  It is done under the umbrella of "Social Justice" or "Economic Equality".  Unlike gentrification - which is a free choice of people to invest into a real estate investment - in the eyes of the people that are heavily taxed by the government choices, this is nothing short of theft.

The people with the money leave for greener pastures, and the area falls into despair.  The result is an increasing pattern of assaults, drugs or other crimes, and the local PD and politicians either can't or won't stop the criminal encroachment.    The article about New York had a right-to-the-point solution -
The solution to getting out of this cycle of doom is simple – stop using the wealthy to fund bloated public employees’ pensions, politicians’ salaries, welfare, and all of the myriad largesse of city government. When people don’t get what they want with the vote, they vote with their feet – and the moneyed are voting to not live in metropolises where their precious pennies are appropriated to provide filthy lucre for the undeserving.

Some folks can't or won't move.  I can absolutely respect that.  Some choose to "stick it out" and fight to bring back their neighborhoods and cities.

That's great, but if this is your plan, you must improve your safety awareness and recognize that the likelihood of having to defend yourself is significantly increased.

I recently did an Advanced Pistol session for a man whose profession requires him to carry a handgun.  He is a black male in his late 50's.  His personal life often has him traveling through crime-ridden and gang-infested Oakland and Richmond.  He does not possess a Concealed Carry permit while he is not working.

Without getting into specifics, he has ensured he has the ability to protect himself while traveling through these areas.  It has nothing to do with race, economics or political correctness.

It's all about self-preservation.  His level of safety awareness is on DefCon 1.

We Californians need to all raise our level of safety awareness, regardless of where we live.  It has been relatively lightly reported, but (not shockingly) the "social safety net" is beginning to rip.  We are out of money as a state, and we are starting to see flashes of what is likely to become more common in our very near future.
  • A group of truckers recently held a non-violent protest about an emission standards ruling by the California Air Resources Board that will go into effect on January 1st.  The state had promised to give the truckers money to retrofit their trucks.  Then the money ran out, and 1,000 truckers that service the Port of Oakland will not be able to make a living in less than 2 weeks.  Any bets on what will happen if the state is unable to dig up some money for these truckers.  (Heads up to the Ports of SF, LA and Long Beach).

Pay attention America:  Your state could be next.

Accept The Challenge

More now than ever, we all need to, "keep our head on a swivel" - being aware of our surroundings.  Perhaps more importantly, we need to be prepared for spontaneous violent events.

What would you do if you were strolling down the streets in Berkeley when a mob with burning torches suddenly crossed your path?  The idea of this happening in the very heart of the peace movement is inconceivable to many people, yet it just happened.

Pay attention to the news.  While in your car, don't listen to your regular music station, listen to the news station.  Learn to recognize potential hot spots.  For instance, the trial of an Oakland BART police officer will start early next year.  The trial has been moved to the LA area.  If it has an outcome of anything short of "Guilty as Charged", there will be massive riots at least in Oakland, and perhaps across the state.

There will likely be riots even with a guilty verdict.  Don't be in a vulnerable location when it is announced.

Pay attention.  Have a plan to evade trouble.  If all else fails, be prepared to defend yourself.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Urban Survival Tips

Busy day today, so everyone gets to watch TV! OK, a video, but still...

Pretty basic stuff, but the tuna can opening trick was kind of cool, and could come in handy in a pinch.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Preps: Food - Part 2

This is the conclusion of the second of twelve "drill downs" for the Disaster Impacts you can encounter if an emergency occurs.  Click here to update yourself on the entire list of twelve, and our philosophy on Emergency Preparedness.  All of these drill-downs will be categorized under the 12 Impacts label listing.

Click here to see Part 1 of this post. 

In yesterday's post, we talked about determining Food Selection and Amounts, and Storage Preparation options.  Today we'll tackle:
  • Location options
  • Eating Preparation options
Location Options

Location options come down to two words:  Cool and Dry.  Regardless of the actual site(s) chosen, you will significantly extend the shelf life of your food preps by ensuring they are kept as cool as possible, and as devoid of as much moisture as possible.

An excellent demonstration of the effects of temperature on stored foods is given with regards to recommendations for Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).  These are military-style cooked foods in self-contained packaging.  The lower the storage temperature, the longer the food stays edible (click image to expand) -

While this information is specifically related to MREs, the principle is sound:  Lower temps are better for shelf life.

Many of the dryness issues can be overcome with proper packaging.  NEVER store foods directly in cardboard or paper packaging.  Moisture in the air or a burst pipe in your storage room may ruin/spoil your foods.

Re-package your store-bought preps into water-resistant packaging, such as vacuum bags, mason jars, mylar bags and food-grade buckets.  Consider adding desiccant packages to absorb any moisture that may be present in dried foods such as grains and flours.

These "rules" apply regardless of the sites you choose to store your foods - and you should have multiple sites.  These include:
  • Home
  • Vehicle
  • Work
  • Retreat/Other Secondary Site
At your home, you generally have the most control over the environment where you store your foods.  This is generally not the case with the other sites.

Having a minimal (3-day) emergency pack in your vehicle or at work (a Get Home Bag - GHB) is prudent - you never know where you'll be if a disaster occurs.  But these locations - especially your vehicle - are environments over which you have little control.

You may park your vehicle in a lot with no cover.  The interior of your car can easily reach temperatures in excess of 120F.  Any foods you have in your GHB will lose their quality and nutritional value much more quickly than the same foods being stored in your home.  You need to rotate those food items more often than the same foods stored elsewhere.

Multiple large storage locations should also be selected to ensure against having, "all your eggs in one basket".  If your home is your primary storage location, and you have a fire, tornado, earthquake or flood, you may lose all of your food preps.  You now become a refugee that is dependent upon the government, or the charity of others.

If you have already established a secondary retreat site, that would be a logical location for your secondary storage (as long as the site had adequate measures to prevent theft).

Some other options:
  • The home or garage of a friend or family member.  Establish reciprocal storage agreements in advance.  An incredible amount of food can be held in the plastic tubs that are available at Walmart or similar stores.  If properly planned and packed, one month of food for a family of four can be stored in 4, 64-quart tubs.
  • A storage shed on your property that is sufficiently distant from your primary storage site to reduce the likelihood of both stores being destroyed by the same event.
  • A month-to-month storage site sufficiently distance which is accessible 24/7.  This can get very expensive, very quickly, but it may be an option for some.
  • Caching stores of food and equipment.  There are many things to consider with this option, and it will be the subject of a future post.
With all of these secondary options, you want to achieve the highest density of calories and protein as possible.  This chart, gleaned from our own preparedness spreadsheets, shows the calories and protein per pound for a number of commonly stored foods (sorted by protein per pound - click to expand) -


Eating Preparation Options

So, you've stored all of this food.  How are you going to prepare it for consumption?

If you're still in your home, that is generally not an issue.  You have your stove, oven, whisks, spoons, trays, bowls and "gadgets".  You have your cookbooks and the Internet to read and follow recipes.

What if you're not at home?  What if part of the disaster allows you to stay in your home, but you have no cooking/heating gas and electricity?

What then?  Having the tools and knowledge to cook your food using alternative methods can mean the difference between just surviving, and eating well.

When you are "off-grid", conservation of fuel is generally a major consideration.  These methods will generally require different cooking techniques and timing.  You MUST practice with these methods before you are forced to use them.

Consider the following alternative methods of cooking your foods -
  • Camp stoves with portable propane or white gas fuels
  • Bar-B-Ques using charcoal or propane
  • Campfires
  • Penny Stoves or other ultra-light camping stoves
  • Solar ovens
  • Rocket or Hobo stoves
  • Thermos cooking
Make your choices - with at least one that uses natural fuels found in your area - and practice making meals on a regular basis.

When you make the meal, make it in a space that can hold everything you need.  Every bowl, spoon, can opener, pinch of salt, half-cup of oil, piece of aluminum foil, knife, pot, Bic lighter and printed recipe.   

Then make sure all of those items are a part of your primary and secondary storage.

Near the top of the "easy to cook, yet very tasty and nutritious" list are soups, pasta, beans and rice.  Beans and rice, in particular, are very easily cooked using the low-fuel thermos method.

In a pot, you bring your rice and pre-soaked beans (and spices) to a boil.  Immediately dump them into a stainless steel-lined thermos (NOT one of the injection molded cheap ones), close it up and set a timer.  Some bean varieties will take longer than others to cook.  For instance, lentils don't even need to be pre-soaked, but pinto or kidney beans will almost certainly be under-cooked.  Smaller beans (and peas) cook more quickly with lower fuel requirements.

Pasta is also a natural for thermos cooking.  Couscous takes under 5 minutes from the time the water starts boiling.  Try pasta shells, spaghetti and other long forms of pasta.

Add meat and vegetables.  Try oatmeal, cream of wheat, bulgur wheat, and many other cereal grains.  Make whole meals like Tuna Macaroni (or chicken, beef or pork).

Practice, take notes and place those notes in your food prep stores.

Accept The Challenge

Work to identify alternative sites while you still have options available.  In addition to the storage sites having the proper moisture and temperature requirements, consider how you will reach those supplies in the event of an emergency.  Perfectly stored supplies are useless if you cannot access them!

Commit to making at least one meal a week only using supplies found in your storage.  Commit to cooking one meal a month only using storage foods AND an alternative cooking source.  Develop the skills and acquire the tools needed to provide for your family in times of crisis.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Preps: Food - Part 1

This is the second of twelve "drill downs" for the Disaster Impacts you can encounter if an emergency occurs.  Click here to update yourself on the entire list of twelve, and our philosophy on Emergency Preparedness.  All of these drill-downs will be categorized under the 12 Impacts listing.


Having sufficient amounts of food is obviously a key to anyone's survival.  While of lesser importance than Air (dead in 3-4 minutes without it), Shelter (dead in as little as 3 hours depending upon weather conditions) and water (dead within 3 days without it), food is still one of the necessities of life (dead within 3 weeks without it).

Most people who have recognized a need to prepare, start their preps by storing food.  There are four major items that should be considered when preparing for food shortages:

  • Food selection and amounts
  • Storage Preparation options 
  • Location options
  • Eating Preparation options
Food Selection and Amounts

A maxim in preparation circles is, "Store what you eat".  It's a great rule of thumb.  You don't want to buy truck loads of flour if everyone in your family is sensitive to gluten.  Don't buy cases of peanut butter because it has such a great cost-per-gram of protein ratio if you have peanut allergies!

And consider finicky eaters - mostly children and pets.  If they absolutely won't eat the otherwise healthy foods you've stored, your preparations may have been (at least partially) wasted.

You also need to consider the nutritional and caloric requirements humans need to survive.  We all need fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to survive.  Don't just stock up on CoCo Crunch cereal for Junior because that's all he will eat!

Determining the amount of food to store has three major influences:  (1) Home many calories you anticipate "burning" per day during an emergency situation?  (2)  How long to you want to be able to eat without having the ability to run to the store and buy more food?  (3) What kind and size of storage facilities do you have?

The Mormon church (LONG time believers in food storage) recommends that you store at least 1 year of food for every person in your family.  They provide a free calculator to determine how much food that amounts to.

While their list is a great starting point, I think it comes up short in three areas - meat protein, fruits/vegetables and spices.  Their bare-bones approach should form the bedrock of your home food storage preps.  Supplement it with meat, fruits/veggies and spices that will allow you to live and eat as "normally" as possible.  That's a huge aspect of the Mental Health category in preparedness.

Along the lines of Mental Health, be sure to include some treats - puddings, cakes, candies and the like.  They go a long way in helping to make your predicament more bearable.

And as alluded to earlier, be sure to have any special dietary needs worked into your storage as well.

Storage Preparation Options

You have five ways of preparing your foods for storage:  Fresh, refrigerated/frozen, pre-cooked, cured/fermented and dried.  For long-term storage, the last four options are generally utilized to extend a stored food's "shelf life".  Certain root vegetables can be stored fresh in root cellars, but usually only extend the shelf life of the vegetable for a few months.

Using multiple methods for each category of food is very important.  For instance, you don't want to have all of your meat protein in a frozen state.  If electrical power is lost at your home/storage location, you may loose all but a small portion of your meat storage supplies.

Freezing (more than refrigeration) stops virtually all metabolic activity which spoils a food.  It can be used for meat protein, dairy products (eggs, milk, butter), fruits/vegetables and cooked foods.  While it will work for legumes, grains and certain fats, there are less expensive options for storing those types of foods.

A key with freezing (in addition to maintaining the required temperatures) is to ensure the packaging is as air-tight as possible.  The well known, "freezer burn" which often happens to meat proteins can dry out the food, and make it appear unappetizing.  Freezer burn does not affect the safety of the food.

Properly wrapped and prepared frozen foods can easily last a year or more.

Pre-Cooking foods will also kill some, if not all of the various microbes that spoil food.  This can run the gamut from preparing and freezing meaty spaghetti sauce to pressure canning meats, beans and vegetables.  One of the major benefits of pre-cooking these foods is that they can generally be eaten without further cooking being required (although they will have to sometimes be thawed prior to eating).

With regards to pressure canning, achieving proper cooking temperatures is an absolute requirement.  All meat protein, vegetables and any canned meals that contain these ingredients must be pressure canned.  Failure to achieve at least 240 degrees F can result in botulism poisoning, which can be deadly.

Properly canned foods can last years (with many people reporting decades of shelf life).  Generally speaking, the nutritional value of canned goods (whether commercially-purchased products or home-produced items) will degrade over time.

Fruits can be canned using the less time- and resource-intensive Water Bath method.  As with the pressure canned foods, water bath preserved fruits (and jams/jellies) can last many years.

Curing/fermenting is the process of adding some sort of ingredient - generally salt and/or acid - to the food to inhibit spoilage.

Curing is used exclusively with animal proteins.  Salt and other ingredients are applied to the meat.  This draws out much of the water that is present in the meat, resulting in a product that is less susceptible to spoilage.  Cured meats include sausages such as salami and fish such as salt cod.

Care needs to be taken when preparing cured meats.  If improper amounts of time, cure ingredients and temperature are used, the cured meat can result in illness and death.

Fermenting  for home storage generally refers to lacto-fermentation.  This is the addition of an acid - usually vinegar - to meats and vegetables.  Common examples are sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), pickles (fermented cucumbers) and pickled fish.  Hard-boiled eggs are also another staple.

You can also ferment milk to make yogurt, buttermilk and sour cream.  Generally speaking, these dairy products will require refrigeration after they are made, but the shelf life of the dairy product will have been significantly extended.

Drying is the process of removing all or most of the moisture from a food.  Common examples are beans and peas, pasta, grains and corn, vegetables and meats.  Dried legumes and grains can easily have shelf lives of decades, if not centuries (!) when properly stored and kept separate from sources of moisture.

The drying process can be done by the sun, but most home preppers use a dehydrator or a low oven setting.  Either method requires the right mix of time and temperature to achieve the best results.

The major benefits of drying foods are the significantly extended shelf life, and the large reduction in weight and bulk of the item.  With the weight of water being over 8lbs per gallon and generally taking up the majority of the volume of most foods, drying foods allows you to store more food in less space.

It is also very beneficial for preps that need to be carried, such as when camping or in Bug Out Bags or Get Home Bags that are kept in your vehicle.

To ensure moisture does not come in contact with your dried foods, packaging is very important.  Home vacuum sealers, mylar bags/food grade buckets and other containers impervious to moisture must be utilized.

Many dried foods - including freeze-dried foods - are available commercially.  They can come in a variety of packaging, from nitrogen-flushed cans to individual meal mylar packs.  The prices of these commercially purchased goods is generally much higher that a similar, home-dried product.

Tomorrow:  Part 2 - Storage locations and Eating Preparation options.

Accept The Challenge

After running the various food needs calculators, it can become a bit daunting when you see how much food you need to store.  Don't panic!  While you should start with your preps immediately, if finances don't permit you to immediately buy everything you need right now, buy or produce what you what you are able when you are able.

Just be consistent and dedicated.  Buy a few dollars of prep foods each time you go to the store.  You'll be surprised how quickly your personal stores will grow.

Start developing the skills you will need to properly prepare your stored food.  Learn how to pressure can foods.  Learn how to cure meat.  Learn how to make pickles.  Make dehydrated meat (beef jerky) with store-bought meat - the same process will work with venison you shoot or are given.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Preparing For The Next Wave

With nary a mention in the press, last week, the FDIC held a seminar open to all insured banks.  The name of the seminar? The Interagency Commercial Real Estate Loan Workouts Seminar.

What might "workout" mean?  Is this about loans to gyms or other places to work up a sweat?

Nope.  Workouts are when banks attempt to save or revive a loan whose borrower is no longer willing or able to pay as agreed.  Times like when they aren't making any money.  Not like now, though.  The administration tells us everything is chugging along just fine.

Maybe the FDIC and the other banking regulators didn't get that memo.

The scary part is the potential impact on banks - and with the bailout mania, the potential impact on us.  While a home loan is perhaps a couple of hundred thousand dollars, a commercial real estate loan is most times a couple of million dollars - sometime tens or hundreds of millions.  One single big loan going under can drag the bank down with it.

Want to REALLY be scared?  The dollar volume of C & I Loans (Commercial and Industrial) is more than DOUBLE that of the Commercial Real Estate loans (despite the individual loan amounts generally being smaller).  C&I loans are usually made for working capital (cash flow) and equipment purchases.

Among the top 21 TARP bailout recipients alone, commercial real estate and C&I loans total $1.8 trillion (PDF).  That's nearly two trillion, with a "T", concentrated in only 21 banks.

Now, workouts are a common, everyday occurrence at banks.  The expected volume is not.  The bank regulators sees what's coming, and are preparing the banks for how to handle the deluge.

While the regulators were quietly bracing the banks for what is expected to come, I can just see some Administration talking-head at the close of the seminar -

Nothing to see here.  Keep moving.  Thanks for comin'.  Don't trip over the Green Shoots on your way out...

Accept The Challenge

Unless we have a spectacular Christmas sales season, we're going to see large numbers of companies going under in the next few fiscal quarters.  Unless, that is, there's another bailout - and I suspect there will be.

How will that affect you?  In the short-term, it could be beneficial.  The company you work for may be able to get easier access to cash to keep the business open.

Long-term, though, it is unlikely to be good for any of us.  At some point, the money printed or borrowed by the Treasury department, or created out of thin air by the Federal Reserve will hurt our economy.  Higher inflation and higher taxes are both in our future.

You know the drill:  Buy and store tangible goods you use, reduce your expenses and buckle-up for a bumpy ride.  Washington is going to be digging deeper into your pockets.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"There's a man at my back door"

I don't understand some people.

I don't understand criminals in general, and home invaders specifically.  I can't comprehend how someone would have the audacity to enter someone else's home to attack them or take their stuff.  That is such a foreign concept for me that I have difficulty putting it into words.

I also don't understand people that won't accept the fact that there are people living all around us that have no problem whatsoever with violating your home and person.

Perhaps they recognize that these criminals exist.  They may even intellectually acknowledge that their home could be a target to one of these criminals.

Yet they won't do a thing to protect against such an incident.  Not one damned thing.

This lady wasn't one of them.  Listen to her 911 call.  She had no desire to hurt or fire at anyone.  She was pleading with the police to hurry and get to her home.

But they couldn't get there in time.  She had to take matters into her own hands.  And she's most likely still alive because of it.

At 10:30 minutes after making the call, she had to shoot Billy Dean Riley as he broke down her door.  At 23:45 after the call was made, she was on the phone with her son telling him she was still alive.  

The police arrived at about 24:45 after the call was made.

Accept The Challenge

At its highest efficiency, the 911 Emergency system will have an officer at your home in 4 to 7 minutes.  That is a VERY long time if you're being attacked.  Most of the time, it takes much, much longer.

At the very top of our web page, we have a link asking, "Unsure YOU need training?"  Take a look.  Do not fall into the trap that the police are there to protect you.  They're not.  They're there to investigate crimes.

Don't be a victim.  Learn to defend yourself.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Perfect Stocking Stuffer

Shameless Plug Alert!

With 2010 rapidly approaching, it's time for a new calendar.  Lucky you!  We can help with the Life and Liberty Insurance 2010 Calendar.

You can have one in your hot little hands by clicking the Life and Liberty Insurance image in the left hand column, and forking over a mere $6.

And don't worry, you'll be in good company.

Office workers have 'em -

Auto shops have chosen them instead of the usual Pin-up girl calendars -

Even the very seat of American power has one -

 All the Cool Kids have one!  Show your unabashed support of your Second Amendment rights and put a couple of bucks in our pockets.

Order them for your acquaintences that perhaps don't see things quite as clearly as you do:
  • The local Brady Bunch mouth-piece
  • Sheeple
  • The guy that wets himself each New Years and Independence Day when the fireworks go off
  • Statists
  • Commies
  • People who think calling 911 will keep them safe from the guy kicking in their front door
  • Your favorite "reporter" on the NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post or SF Chronicle
The list is endless and has the potential to make us fabulously wealthy during this Christmas season. The economic recovery is up to YOU!  Share the wealth while you still can!

Get 'em a mug and T-shirt while you're at it.  Don't be so cheap!

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I've Just Gotta Ask...

I've been spending a good deal of time with our family preps as of late.  I'm one of those guys that will never be satisfied with his preps or systems - I'm always tweaking and adjusting.

While I'm not a big conspiracy theory guy, I seem to be seeing  a lot of stuff that points to TSHTF in February or March of 2010.  Martial law.  Crop failures.  Gun seizures.  Economic collapse.

This constant drum beat has me worried, so I've stepped up my pace of prepping.

Still, I've just gotta ask:  Where are the facts? I see lots and LOTS of blog posts and predictions, but I find little with any factual basis for the timing.  I now worry I'm getting sucked into a false sense of urgency.

Don't get me wrong.  For instance, I believe our past and present federal spending practices - printing money or borrowing to pay for more and more social services - IS going to destroy our economy.  You simply cannot continue to print-and-spend without dire economic results.  Inflation, hyper-inflation, etc.

I believe that when/if hyper-inflation occurs, there could very easily be civil unrest that could result in martial law and gun seizures.  I'm continuing to store food, cache equipment and purchase precious metals.  I'm fine-tuning our plans.

But why in February or March?  Why not later this month?  Why not February of 2011?

Where is the evidence?


A recent example:  There is a post that is now VERY widely circulated which says the US Northern Command is in the midst of a huge build-up of personnel on US soil.  One million soldiers.

Is this realistic?  The US has a total of about 1.5 million TOTAL service members, spread across 5 branches of service, and currently in over 800 bases world wide.

Where are they putting all of these soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors?  We already have nearly 900,000 military members stationed in the contiguous United States.  Are they now ALL going to be assigned to Northern Command or is this a "new" one million troops (which we don't have)?   Will the 850,000 National Guard members be thrown into the mix?

Also consider that this is every type of service member, from accountants, cooks, supply-chain and maintenance personnel, to combat troops.  I've read it takes between 8 and 10 support personnel for each combat troop or pilot.

This story fits very nicely into many people's perception of the current administration.  But is it realistic?  Personally, I'm more concerned with the militarization of our police departments than the military being used for domestic disturbances.

I'm not trying to dissuade anyone from getting ready for ANY type of disaster - natural or man-made.  Hell, personal preps and responsibility are the entire purpose of this blog and my business!  I just think it behooves us to ensure our preps, plans and actions are based upon facts.

Most plans have, "trip wires" which are events that cause certain parts of our plans to go into effect.  Without evidence and facts, we will find ourselves "going off half-cocked" day in and day out.

That is a waste of time, energy and resources.

Accept The Challenge

Question everything!  I'd suggest questioning reports that fit into your type of thinking with even greater scrutiny.  Don't fall into the trap of only hearing what you want to hear.

Insist on facts.  Insist on projections based upon facts.  Insist on multiple, independent sources.  Don't get lulled into believing reports and projections that fit into your belief system unless they are substantiated.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Preps: Toxic Air Contamination

In our view, Emergency Preparedness needs to focus more on limiting negative impacts to disasters than on preparing for specific events (earthquake, hurricane, etc.).  We discussed that philosophy and those Twelve Impacts in an earlier post.

We're going to drill down into one of the twelve impacts:  Toxic Air Contamination. 

As with any personal Emergency Prep plan, the operative word is, "personal".  YOU need to decide what impacts are most likely in your area, region, house or business.  It is generally a waste of resources to prepare for every single possible impact in every category.

Each individual family or group also needs to determine how indepth they want to get into establishing  warning systems, preventative measures and responses.

Toxic Air Contamination covers any airborne threat - the air is unsafe in one way or another - and breaks down into three broad groups:  NBC - Nuclear, Biological and Chemical.  The likelihood of each happening differs greatly for most Americans.  For instance, you are more likely to be contaminated by an airborne biological agent (someone sneezing on you with a cold virus) than by nuclear fallout.

Biological runs the gammut from regularly occuring infectious agents such as cold virus' and  influenza, to aerosolized anthrax being disbursed by terrorists.

Chemical can be anything from a train car full of ammonia gas being released while traveling through your town, to choking smoke from a house fire, to professionals-turned-terrorist releasing Sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system.

Nuclear could run from terrorist nuclear "dirty bombs" to attacks by other countries and the resulting fall-out.

There are literally thousands of scenarios that could occur, but it's unrealistic to plan for each of them.  Focus your plans on the potential impacts instead.


So, something bad is in the air and it's headed your way.  What to do?

N95 masks will stop many forms of airborne biological agents, but are generally ineffective against most chemicals.  They are generally recognized to be ineffective for people with facial hair, as you are unable to get a tight fit on your face.  It should also be noted that a number of studies comparing the more costly N95 masks against standard surgical masks, showed that both provided about the same level of protection.

Gas Masks at their most basic level pass the outside air through a filter system to provide the user with purified air.  Depending upon the filtration media and staging, they are generally effective against both biological and chemical airborne contaminants.  Purchasers of gas masks must recognize that many airborne contaminants - primarily chemical - can also cause harm by simply landing on the person's skin.  These masks only protect the air entering the lungs.  There are also air-assisted gas masks - such as those used by firefighters - which don't filter the air, but provide a dedicated source of air.  There are "home versions" of these masks as well.

"Protective Suits" are the most extreme and effective defense against biological and chemical airborne contaminants, as they cover you head-to-toe, and protect the lungs as well as the skin.  Generally speaking, if a suit will protect you against chemical, it will also protect you against biological, but not necessarily vice versa.  The suits are also the most expensive solution. 

You'll notice that none of these mobile solutions protects you against nuclear/radiological.  After the shock wave and fire of the initial blast, the two primary killers - gamma rays and neutrons - require deep or dense defenses.

The idea is to place as much mass between you and the radiation.  If you're in your home, go into your basement (you have the entire home above you offering some protection).  If you don't have a basement, get to the lowest floor towards the center of the home (more walls and structure to shield you).  The same goes if you are in an office building.

Here's a decent summary of chemical, biological and radiological Agents, Protection Required and Physiological Effects of exposure.

Regardless of what type of protection you purchase, be sure you are VERY clear about the ratings of the product.  Assume nothing.  For instance, not all N95 masks are equally made or rated.


Public television and radio are far and away the best warning mechanism, aside from witnessing an event in person.  Many communities also have Public Alert sirens which blare during an emergency.  My county has an automated telephone service that calls all potentially affected homes if one of the refineries (yes, we still have SOME in California!) or chemical plants has an emergency.

You can also purchase products such as Geiger counters and survey meters,  and key chain radiation monitors and alarms to have with you at all times.


Unless your plan is to live underground in your bunker 24/7, you can't prevent the impact of an event which would release NBC contaminants into the air.

Limiting your exposure through a good warning system is your best defense.  Many communities now issue, "Shelter In Place" alerts when certain emergency events occur. 

Each year, influenza immunizations are available throughout America.  You can also take potassium iodide to protect against some of the effects of radiation (thyroid cancer).

Your Plans

For your location and lifestyle, which types of impacts have a high probability of occurring?  Teachers and medical personnel might want to consider flu shots because of their constant contact with many different people.  If you live in close proximity to chemical plants, rail ways, refineries or any facilities that handle toxic items, you might want to consider a higher-grade mask or breathing system.

And you won't always be sitting in your home when the impact occurs.  Incorporate "off-site" items as well.

Don't forget to consider, "low probability, high impact" items.  If the local nuclear power plant blows up, or some nuclear country decides to fire off a burst to fry our electronics via an EMP burst, having potassium iodide on hand would be a low-cost, high-return solution (two weeks of exposure protection is about $10 per person).

Accept The Challenge

We all need clean air to breath.  There is no single life requirement that, should it be taken away, results in our death so quickly.  Three or four minutes without it, and you're dead.

How many of you have as little as a N95 mask in your car in the event you suddenly find yourself in some sort of toxic cloud?

How far away are the nearest railroad tracks?  Chemical plant?  Power station?  A manufacturing plant that uses any kind of chemical?

If an alarm is sounded, do you know what to do?  Where do you go or what do you do when a Civil Defense siren blares away?

Plan.  Now.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shooting and Training Philosophy

I had a new Advanced Pistol student today.  This was a gentleman who was a part-time security guard who I crossed paths with this past Saturday at the shooting range.  His objective was to increase his accuracy and rapid target acquistition.

Before the first session with any of my Advanced students, I spend 15 or 20 minutes going over some basic safety rules and make sure we both use and understand the same terminology.  During this period, I encourage the new student to ask as many questions as they need to feel comfortable, and so I can give them the exact type of training they desire.

We were talking about shooting and training techniques.  I explained that I am a believer in (as you've read here ad nauseum) "practice like it's real".  Your practice and training regime should apply to real-life situations and employ real-life techniques as often as possible.

I explained that I teach to reduce most of the fine motor skills usually associated with shooting a firearm.  I teach how to "aim" not so much by setting up a perfect sight picture, but by presenting the firearm in such away that it naturally aims itself.  We use large muscle groups and gross motor skills for everything other than the trigger pull.

The student was nodding and agreeing that this sounded great and he was ready to go.  There WAS one thing though:  He'd taken a class at one time and a great technique he learned was to tape over the weak-eye side of his shooting glasses.  He said that it had really improved his accuracy and was only used during practice.


I repeated my philosophy - practice like it's real.  He nodded.  I said that while I will sometimes use the tape on the glasses for VERY short periods of time with students having great difficulty seeing the target, it is a crutch you want to shed as quickly as possible.

I said it would be quite difficult for him to ask the intruder who just kicked in his door to, "wait a second while I go get my taped-over shooting glasses so I can aim at you more accurately."

He nodded again, and said he'd like start with the taped over glasses.  I'm thinking to myself, "Fine.  I charge by the hour.  Take all the time you need!"

So we get into the range, and I have him shoot two 6-round magazines at an 8-inch target 7-yards away.

Two hits.  No pattern whatsoever to the other 10 shots - they're all over the joint, up to 12 inches off center.

We exchanged his taped-over glasses with a spare pair I keep in my bag, made a minor adjustment to his grip (he was 'tea cupping' a bit) and did a couple dry-fire pistol presentation drills using the techniques I teach.

Two more 6-round magazines:  8 shots on target, and the other 4 were all within 1 inch of the edge (5 inches off center).  All without the taped-over glasses.

He was now "a believer" and the lesson progressed very nicely after that.  He'll be putting 12-of-12 on target in short order.

Accept The Challenge

Remember:  If you ever are put into a situation where you have to draw your weapon, you want to reserve your mental facilities for determining WHEN to shoot, not HOW to shoot.  You want that process to come as naturally as possible.

Use props and other crutches only for short durations to correct faults - don't become dependent upon them for your regular shooting practice.  One more time:  Practice like it's real.
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Day In The Life...

I need some help understanding something.  After the Fort Hood massacre, it was difficult enough for me to believe that soldiers on our military bases don't walk around armed.  What I found out yesterday seems impossible.

I spent the day yesterday at an NRA Day At The Range function.  It's basically a sign-up day to increase NRA membership.  I offered to set up a "loop" of some screens from my First Steps Pistol Orientation class.  I set up a loop that ran for about 5 minutes, then repeated over and over (and over and over) all day.

It was pretty successful, with a lot of people coming through the gun shop, and the NRA got a number of sign-ups (including one Life Membership).  It also turned out well for me, as I signed-up one person for one of my upcoming scheduled classes, and two folks for my advanced class.

That leads me to my question.  One of the Advanced students is active-duty Air Force.  It has come to my attention (from another source) that aside from the firearms training received during Basic Training, the average, run-of-the-mill soldier/airman/sailor does not receive regular, on-going firearms training.

Can this be true?  This kid I'm going to be training recently returned from Iraq.  I have no idea (yet) what function he performed.  He may have been a bookkeeper, a cook or someone else well behind the fight, or he may have been located at a remote airbase right in the thick of it- I just don't know.

And it's irrelevant.

Why is this kid having to go to a civilian range and instructor?  How can our country send ANYONE in any capacity over into a war zone and not have them proficient in firearms usage?

Someone please help me understand the rationale behind this.

After the NRA Day, I went to Wally World to pick up some stick-on targets and other items.  I was wearing one of my NRA Certified Instructor shirts.

I'm up at the register, and the guy looks at my shirt, looks at the targets and asks, "So, dude, are these targets for air soft or something?"  I look at the NRA insignia and Certified Instructor patch on my chest, then look back at him and say, "No.  I'm a firearms instructor." 

I thought he was going to wet himself.  The look on his face made a good day, great.

I recently made a fairly large 90% silver purchase.  Well, it was large for me and it was actually a number of purchases.

One of them was an ebay auction for 90% silver dimes.  After my count of the dimes, I came up two short.  Now, we're not talking huge money here - the two dimes are worth about $1.40 each.

I emailed the guy telling him about the problem.  He emailed me back this morning, saying he was sorry for the problem, and would be sending me 3 dimes - two to fulfill the original order and one for causing me problems.

It is so refreshing to come across someone with some personal and business integrity. It is very easy to "talk the talk".  It may just be him working to maintain his 100% ebay rating, which is kind of the point, isn't it?  He's making sure his customers are happy.

He will receive glowing feedback upon my receipt of the coins.

Historically, I have only purchased silver bullion rounds - 1 ounce of .999 pure silver each.  These latest purchases are my first purchases of 90% silver coins - half dollars, quarters and dimes minted in 1964 or earlier.

I had a learning curve.  Instead of basing the price soley on the spot price of silver, you buy the coins based upon face value.  For instance, you may pay $13 for each $1 of face value.  As of late, this pricing multiple has been anywhere between $13 and north of $14 per $1 face.

A friend of mine gave me a spreadsheet that has formulas for determining what the multiple should be based upon the current spot price of silver.  You then decide how much of a premium over spot/face multiple you want to pay. 

To say the least, it is more confusing, but that's how things are done with the 90% coins.  There are some nuances involved as well.  For instance, even though AT MINTING ten dimes had the same amount of silver as two half-dollars, over time, the two half-dollars will generally contain more silver.

Why?  Because they were less heavily circulated when they were being used as money to buy goods and services.  Over time, more silver was "rubbed off" of dimes than off of half dollars.  To account for this, on some online coin shops, the multiple for half-dollars is higher than it is for dimes - usually a few cents per dollar of face value.

There really is something to this.  As I was counting and cataloging my recent purchases, my fingertips were quite "dirty" - covered with the black oxidation that occurs with silver.

Always learnin'...

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.