Sunday, September 24, 2006

Outdoor Products Power Pack

After last week's fun in center city Philadelphia I decided it was time to redo my get home bag (GHB). My GHB is actually my laptop bag, so it needs to securely hold my G4 iBook in addition to providing room for normal GHB stuff. I've been using an REI Big Byte computer backpack but wanted something a bit larger with better designed pockets.

Yesterday I went to REI and bought an Outdoor Products Power Pack in black. I used Outdoor Products backpacks in high school, college, and law school as book bags and was not nice to them. They shrugged off all the mistreatment I dished out and were no worse for the wear, except for getting dirty. The bag I used in law school is now the GHB in my truck.

Anyway, the Power Pack seems well made like my older bags. The pockets are well designed for a laptop bag and there's plenty of room to carry survival and first aid supplies. The shoulder straps are well padded, as is the back, and there's a sternum strap for long hauls. There's a mesh bottle pocket on the side which will hold a 32 oz. Nalgene. On front there's a place to stash a jacket, held in place with mesh and straps with a Fastex buckle.

It's not tacticool but it looks like a good choice for those of us stuck working in the city.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Minor SHTF in Philly Today

We experienced a minor SHTF event today in Philadelphia due to an electrical fire and explosion on south 15th Street, very close to City Hall. I work in a high-rise at 15th & Market, right near the epicenter. I later found out that a 36-square block area was closed off to traffic and about 5,000 people had to evac the immediate area.

Around 1300 we heard a kaboom. For the next 10 - 15 minutes everyone was wondering what had happened. At about 1315 the message was passed to evacuate the building. For some reason the fire alarm was not activated nor was the building’s P.A. system used. Rather, the floor captains were telling everyone to leave. They have Blackberries to send and receive text messages in emergencies.

Shortly after the kaboom I grabbed my stuff and made to ready to evacuate in case the order was given. I got my jacket and bag ready and shutdown one of my PCs. So, when we finally were told to leave all I had to do was to close my laptop and put it in my bag, put on my jacket, and go.

A few things disturbed me about how the whole thing was handled and I intend to (nicely) speak to our HR person tomorrow. First, within a few minutes of the kB, I saw one of our floor captains leaving the building. Considering that it’s a floor captain’s job to make sure that everyone is out, I regard this as abandoning her post. Her panicked reaction demonstrates that she’s unsuited for the role.

Our other floor captain performed his job but left his emergency bag behind, which he immediately regretted. The floor captains’ emergency bags contain stuff like a hard hat, megaphone, flashlight, etc.

Also, although we had fire drill on Tuesday, today’s event was a real cluster. Communication was fragmented, nobody responsible thought to activate the fire alarm, and no use was made of the building’s P.A. system. When people were told to leave the building they weren’t told where to go until after milling around outside for about ten minutes.

Natually, the rumors started flying immediately. The first was that the boom was due to a gas leak, and it wasn’t for awhile that we heard the true cause.

I carry some basic survival supplies in my bag: water bottle, a snack bar, small first aid kit, bandanna, Gerber Multiplier, chemlight, Princeton Tec LED flashlight, poncho, and a space blanket. I’m strongly considering adding my Yaesu VX-5RS ham radio which has wide-band receive, although I've learned that Philadelphia recently implemented a trunked Motorola system for the police and fire departments, so I'm not sure how useful it would be.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Preps to keep in your vehicle

Having just returned from an overnight trip to Arlington, VA, I am prompted to discuss things that should be kept in a vehicle to help deal with emergencies on the road. The possibility always exists that you’ll run into a mechanical failure which requires dealing with, or outside emergencies. Keeping a bag or box in your trunk or behind the seat of a pickup can make life a lot easier in the event of an inconvenience, or save a life in an emergency.

For dealing with mechanical issues I keep several items in my truck:

  • Some basic hand tools

  • A spare quart of motor oil

  • A jug of antifreeze

  • A jug of windshield wiper fluid

  • A D-cell flashlight

  • The factory jack

  • A can of WD-40

  • A few shop rags, a roll of paper shop towels, and waterless hand cleaner wipes

  • Jumper cables

  • A few magnesium road flares

  • 12VDC air compressor/flashlight

  • A can of Fix-A-Flat
  • Four-way tire iron

To deal with other issues I add:

  • A Kershaw lock blade knife

  • A Gerber Multiplier Scout multitool

  • CB radio (also handy for real-time traffic reports)

  • My everyday carry cell phone

  • First aid kit

  • Rain poncho

  • Space blanket
A lot more stuff could be added, and this list would be expanded if I didn't live in a large metro area.

Out trip remained within heavily-travelled areas so I wasn’t worried about taking anything for an overnight stay in the boonies, like the BOB shown in this post.

I normally also carry a get-home bag with additional supplies including an MRE, water, another poncho, compass, etc. but had to take it out for this trip since we were short on space. I need to change some of the contents and downsize it into a smaller bag. That will be a project for a future post.