Thursday, January 29, 2009

Preparedness: Introducing the Fifteen Essential Systems

As mentioned in my last post, issues were raised as I contemplated my 10-day car survival kit.

One issue was whether the Mountaineers Club's list of Ten Essential Systems can serve as a blueprint for preparedness whether for the home, car, workplace, or while traveling by air or on a road trip. I think it can. After all, it's a preparedness list for climbers, hikers, backpackers, and other people who enjoy the great outdoors who sometime find themselves in adverse conditions. It only needs to be adapted to suit other people and situations.

I've taken the liberty of rearranging the Ten Essential Systems, combining and adding to them to suit general preparedness issues. The result is the Fifteen Essential Systems as follows:

1. NAVIGATION - Being disoriented or not being able to figure out how to get to your desired destination is, at best, a momentarily uncomfortable experience. At worst, being lost forces us into survival mode and requires the rest of these Essential Systems. It's best to stay found and know where you're going.

2. PERSONAL ATTIRE - Since the leading cause of death in situations requiring Search and Rescue (SAR) efforts is from exposure, everything you can wear to avoid either hypothermia or hyperthermia, from long johns to sun hat, is in this system.

3. HYDRATION - The second leading cause of death in situations requiring a SAR effort is dehydration. Not only do you need water, you need to know how to make water safe for drinking.

4. SHELTER - In most cases, this is your home, vehicle, motel, boat, or tent; but may be a garbage bag, bivy sack, lean-to, or snow cave.

5. COMMUNICATION - Not only will you want to contact other people and signal for help, you need to know what's going on in the world especially in regards to the weather.

6. FIRE - Although a system of its own, by providing heat and light, fire supplements the Personal Attire, Hydration, Communication, Illumination, Nutrition, Entertainment, and Security systems. Because fire is required to light them, stoves are included in this category.

7. ILLUMINATION - You want to be able to see in the dark, don't you? Since light can be used for signaling, this category also supplements the Communication system. If you have incandescent flashlights, except for children's flashlights, I recommend you upgrade them to LEDs or replace them simply because LEDs will make your batteries last longer for all but the brightest tactical flashlights.

8. NUTRITION - People can survive for several days, even weeks, without food, but appropriate nutrition will stave off hypothermia and help structure your day as you wait for something to change your circumstances. Too many people give up on being prepared because they don't like the waste of money when they set food aside then forget about it, instead of rotating it into their kitchen pantry and replacing it. Yes, checking expiration dates is inconvenient, but that is simply part of being prepared.

9. FIRST AID KIT - This includes personal hygiene and laundry.

10. REPAIR AND TOOLS - Stuff happens and you can& we need to do to be prepared for the contingencies most likely to interrupt us at home, work, and during our travels whether on a road trip or by air.

[The next article in this series is, "The Essential Systems: Navigation."]

[Update - as of Jan. 7, 2012, I've posted the following kits:

1. My Micro Survival Kit carried in my wallet-on-a-string.

2. My Mini Survival Kit carried in my medium-sized purse.

3. My Mobile Survival Kit carried in a pouch that can be carried as a shoulder bag or a waist pack.

4. My Car Survival Kit.]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Whistles and Car Escape Tools

While Christmas shopping at, I spent a few dollars on myself to buy a "Glow" (in the dark) Fox 40 Mini whistle and a yellow ResQMe tool for my key ring.

I debated whether to get the Mini whistle or a Micro which is slimmer and better suited for a key ring, but the Glow was impossible for me to resist. To reduce the Mini's traditional profile, I clipped down the rounded sides and filed them smooth with my Leatherman multitool while watching TV.

I decided a ResQMe is better for me than the considerably larger and much heavier LifeHammer because my travels include flying to destinations and renting a car as well as riding with friends who drive their own. With the ResQMe on my key ring, I'll always have an escape tool, in whichever vehicle I happen to be.

I considered getting the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife RescueTool because it has tools for breaking windshields as well as side windows, but decided against it because of the price and the greater weight although the price is down from $90 to $50 at a couple of websites where I saw it.

When my ResQMe arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at how lightweight it is. It doesn't weigh down my key ring as much as I thought it would.

The picture instructions on the back of the blister pack card are simple:

A. Pull the ResQMe tool to separate it from your key ring. This also removes the protective sheath from the blade.

B. Cut your seat belt with the blade.

C. Position the spike end of the tool against the side window and press the tool against the window using about 12 lbs. of pressure. Repeat as needed until enough glass is broken for you to escape safely. The tool recocks automatically so all you have to do is position the spike end against the glass and press.

In addition to buying the whistle and the ResQMe, a half-day of ice from freezing rain occurring the week before Christmas motivated me to make up my 10-day survival kit for my car as previously referenced in my blog post, "Are You Prepared?" because the last week of December through the first half of February is the most-likely time in my region for ice storms that knock out power and impede traffic.

In the process of doing so, several issues were raised which I've been thinking about and researching for another blog post that I thought I'd have done by now. Please be on the watch for it, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

[Update 1/29/09 - I decided to do a series on preparedness. My next post introduces the Fifteen Essential Systems].