Monday, August 29, 2011

More Irene Follow Up

I've seen several stories calling the new coverage of Irene over-hyped, and in some measure it was. However, what a lot of folks seem to have forgotten is that even a Category 1 hurricane dumps a lot of rain on an area, and combines it with high winds. Irene may have been no Katrina, but that's far from saying it was a non-event.

I was lucky in that I only had a relatively brief power outage (9 hours, followed by a 1 hour outage). However, I did get some water in my crawlspace which has resulted in my den being filled with stuff that was in the crawlspace, while it dries out.  Combine a ton of rain along with already saturated soil, and you have a recipe for flooding.  Several areas including upstate New York and Vermont have seen massive floods.

Two words I repeatedly heard at work today were "sump pump." A coworker has a home with a wet basement. He'd gone and bought an auxiliary sump pump beforehand and used it along with his primary pump, until the auxiliary unit burned out.  He's looking at getting his yard landscaped to better divert water away from his home, getting his basement waterproofed, and seriously considering an automatic, natural gas powered generator to power the sump pump in the event of a power outage coinciding with flooding.

Over at Snowflakes in Hell, Sebastian and Bitter have posted about their experience in trying to keep water out of their home, along with a few other major inconveniences.

Aside from the flooding, even sub-hurricane force winds can take down trees, which knock down power and phone lines.  We have a lot of people in the northeast without power now, and who won't get it back for several days at least.

Keeping Your Cell Phone Working in a Disaster

Instapundit links to an article at MIT's Technology Review with tips on keeping your cell phone running as long as possible in the aftermath of a disaster.  The article has some good tips but one that is missing is to keep a spare, charged battery with you.  Spare batteries are light and not very expensive.  This is especially important for smartphones, since the large touch screens use up a lot of juice.

For example, after returning to work following the February 2010 Snowpocalypse, when Philadelphia got hit with two Nor'Easters in one week, I had the need to swap batteries in my Motorola Droid. When coming home from work, a railroad switch got frozen and SEPTA (Philly's mass transit provider) dumped me off at Wayne Junction in North Philly.  I.e., da hood.  I'd failed to fully charge my phone before leaving the office, but since I was able to swap in a spare, I was able to call for my wife to come pick me up.

Now that I'm using an iPhone, I don't have a user-replaceable battery. So, I got a Duracell Instant USB Charger with Lithium ion battery, that I keep in my laptop bag. Several other rechargeable batteries are available here.

With cell phones being such an important part of modern communications, and especially since pay phones are now rare, it's important to be able to keep them running in an emergency.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene AAR


It looks like we made it through Hurricane Irene OK.  Last night we started getting heavy rain and high winds.

Power for a good chunk of my neighborhood went out around midnight last night but was restored between 0930 and 1000 this morning. That lasted for about 45 minutes and it went out again. It was restored after about another hour.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll stay up but we still have some high wind gusts, so I won't be shocked if it goes out again.

This morning when I called PECO to report the outage I got a recorded message indicating that they are experiencing very high call volumes and to call back later.

I finished my preps before the storm, including putting some extra water bottles (about 2/3 full) in the freezer, and a bunch in the refrigerator, to help keep them cool in the event of a power outage.  I already store water in empty cleaned 2L soda bottles, plus I filled the 7 gallon jug I take camping.

We made sure that all of our cell phones, iPods, and other rechargeable items were charged ahead of time, but I forgot my Yaesu VX-5 handheld 2m/70cm amateur radio, so that's currently out in my truck charging. I did confirm that the 12v outlet-to-Powerpole adapter works when connected to my Powergate, which is fed from my 70AH gel cell.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ten Things To Do In Advance of a Hurricane

It looks like there is a good chance that the Northeast US is going to get hit by Hurricane Irene this weekend
.  Depending on your location there are several things you can do to prepare, even at the last minute:

1. Ensure you have plenty of food and water.
2. Fill the gas tanks in your vehicles. If you have gas cans fill them, too.
3. If you have a generator, do a test run and make sure you have plenty of fuel.
4. Make sure you have an ample supply of batteries for flashlights, lanterns, radios, etc.
5. If you might need to use an alternative cooking device, have plenty of fuel on hand. E.g., propane, Coleman fuel, or charcoal.
6. Have fuel and oil for chainsaws. Make sure it's working ahead of time.
7. Get some large tarps for quickly covering any roof or window damage due to wind or falling trees. You'll also need some means of securing the tarps - heavy duty cord, drywall screws, or nails.
8. Clean your gutters and make sure any drainage ditches or storm drains are clear.
9. Have a few hundred dollars in cash on hand.
10. Charge any rechargeable electric or electronic devices. E.g., drills, saws, cell phones, iPods, etc.

This is hardly an exhaustive list, but should get you started.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hoppe's M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner

After reading a recommendation for it as an effective, odorless carbon remover, I ordered an 8 oz. bottle of Hoppe's M-Pro-7 gun cleaner from Amazon last week. This past weekend I gave it a try, and based on the results, I am now a fan.

I gave M-Pro 7 a tough test. I went camping over the weekend and brought two guns with me. The first was my Euroarms Rogers & Spencer black powder percussion revolver. The second was my 1945-vintage M-1944 Mosin-Nagant carbine, shooting some early 1960s-vintage Soviet surplus 7.62x54R light ball ammo.

We shot the R&S with 30 grains of Swiss 3Fg black powder. Swiss powder burns cleaner than Goex, but it's still black powder and leaves behind plenty of fouling. We put about 36 to 40 shots through the gun. Afterwards, no more than 6 patches wet with M-Pro 7 got the bore clean. It was similarly effective on the rest of the gun.

The Soviet surplus ammo we fired through the Mosin-Nagant is some of the dirtiest "smokeless" ammo I've shot, and of course it has corrosive primers. I also put a 5 round clip of Hungarian light ball through the gun. Again, only a few patches wet with M-Pro 7 through the bore got it clean. I followed up with a patch wet with Ballistol to verify that M-Pro 7 hadn't left anything behind, and it too came out clean.

We did our shooting on Saturday, I cleaned the guns immediately thereafter, and then I checked them the following Monday. Neither gun showed any signs of corrosion. I ran a patch wet with Remoil through the Mosin's bore and it came out green, indicating that the residual M-Pro7 and Ballistol left in the bore had been attacking copper fouling.

I am impressed with M-Pro 7. It is odorless with no fumes, not flammable, doesn't require any special ventilation, and according to the MSDS doesn't contain anything especially nasty. After years of using smelly, carcinogenic gun cleaners I think I found my new favorite.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Couple Inexpensive, Useful Xterra Mods

My daily driver/BOV is a 2007 Nissan Xterra S that I bought back in April. It's a great truck. After reading the Xterra forum I did a couple of inexpensive modifications. 

First, my baby: 

The Xterra comes with two cargo tie-downs near the lift gate. Unfortunately, they are cheap plastic and will pull out if 
you put to much weight on them. So, I went to Home Depot and picked up a 4-pack of Stanley steel cargo tie-down shackles and a pack of selt-tapping sheet metal screws. I pulled out the OEM tie-downs and installed the metal tie-downs in their place. The screws go into sheet metal under the plastic, so they are secure. I used the left one this weekend to secure a 7 gal. water jug, worked great.

I wanted a mat to cover the plastic floor of the cargo area. It helps to keep things from sliding around and may dampen road noise a little. Nissan wants about $75 for a factory mat. Screw that. Along with the shackles I picked up a 3'x5' rug at Home Depot. Upon getting it home I took out all my crap and laid the rug inside the cargo area. I then used a piece of chalk to trace around the areas I needed to remove, then cut them off. Finally, I sealed the edges with a lighter. It even matches the truck. 

The cargo box is a Contico SUV box that I bought a few years ago at Lowe's. I can highly recommend it. It's made of some sort of hard expanded foam. It does not latch although it does have two places for a padlock. I had to leave it on my back patio over the weekend because I needed the space, and it got rained on heavily. No water got inside the box.

You may notice that I also added a cargo area cover. IMO, if you drive an SUV or a station wagon it's a good idea for security to cover up whatever you keep in the back. What people can't see won't tempt them. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Making a Lockable Ammo Can

I ran across this video on Youtube showing how to make a lockable ammo can, and thought it worthwhile to pass on.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Going to try Hammocking

My annual camping trip to North Central PA is coming up in a couple weeks, and the following weekend I have an overnight hike planned with my brother. The North Central PA trip will be truck camping, so it'll be easy to bring a tent and a cot. In contrast, the trip with my brother will have us hiking a few miles into a state forest. Not being keen on sleeping on the ground, even on a pad, I decided to give hammocking a try.

After reading through the Hammocks forum on Bushcraft USA, and product reviews on, I ordered a Grand Trunk Skeeter Beater hammock. It's nicely made with a polyester taffetta body and a zip-open bug net sewn to it. There are S-hooks attached to each end, and it comes with two cords to hang it, along with some smaller diamter cord to hang the netting. There's also a sewn-on stuff sack for storage.  The hang cords aren't very long and in some places you're not supposed to use rope to hang hammocks because they can damage tree bark. So, I also ordered a set of Hammock Bliss extra long tree straps. The webbing straps don't dig into tree bark like rope, and will allow me to hang the hammock between trees that are further apart.

In case of rain or squirrel poop, I'm planning to rig a tarp over me as a fly. For now, I have a cheap camo poly tarp. Assuming that I like hammocking, I'll probably get a lighter nylon tarp like an Etowah or one of the tarps from the BCUSA store.

To prevent getting bitten by bugs through the hammock, I plan on spraying it down with a permethrin-based bug repellent before taking it into the woods. I normally use DEET-based sprays but it's my understanding that DEET can damage polyester, and the last thing I need is for it to dump me on the ground.

I plan on trying the hammock on the first trip and will post a follow up after I get back.

Monday, August 01, 2011

You know preparedness is going mainstream

... when you see this on the comics page:

The comment about defensive weaponry should be taken to heart, as well as the unspoken lesson about OPSEC.

(Click the comic to view full width.)