Thursday, September 30, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 5

I was looking for another knife for my hiking Essentials, a subset of my preparedness kit, when I realized I hadn't replaced my pocket-sized knife sharpener that had been in my hydration pack when it was stolen from the trunk of my car three years ago while I was in San Ysidro, California.

My first thought was to buy another Smith's 2-Step sharpener from Wal-Mart for less than US$4 because, although uncomfortable to hold (and you can NOT hold it at the base as illustrated on the packaging because drawing the blade through will topple it toward you and possibly get you cut), it produces a satisfactory edge on the cheap Pampered Chef paring and Farberware utility knives I use for motel camping and is a lot less expensive than professional sharpening.

However, the poorly designed finger guard prevents as much as 7/16" of a knife's edge from being sharpened depending on the knife's design. For a 2-1/2" blade I have, this means about 20% won't be sharpened. For a small knife like the SAK Classic model, close to a third of the cutting edge is left dull. That's unacceptable.

Unable to recall the brand name of the stolen sharpener that I liked better than the Smith's 2-Step and happening to run across the Lansky Quick Fix pocket sharpener, I bought one for US$5.95 and was pleased to find it the most comfortable to hold of the three pocket sharpeners I've used and able to sharpen the entire length of the blades the Smith's sharpener can't.

I advocate having a pocket-sized knife sharpener in your preparedness kit to touch up your knife should you have to leave home because the safest knife is a sharp knife since less pressure is needed to cut. A duller knife, needing more pressure, is more likely to slip and cut you.

With a pocket sharpener that has the angle preset for you, all you have to do is hold it firmly on a stable surface and draw the knife straight through three to five times although a hard stainless steel blade like a SAK, will need more than those few. The carbide side is for very dull or damaged edges while the ceramic rods are for touch ups. Inexpensive and easy!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 4

Basically, I'm the kind of person who rather install new flashlight batteries and forget about them until they fail and need replacing which always occurs while I'm using it.

Playing electronic solitaire gave me an idea. Why don't I replace all AA cells every six months whether they need it or not when I check my emergency food and water supplies and save the older cells to power my solitaire game that also uses AA cells?

That way, the flashlights for my home, car, and Grab & Go bag will always have the freshest batteries.

After all, it isn't much more effort than replacing the cells in my NOAA weather radio or home's smoke detector twice a year when we change to/from Daylight Savings Time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 3 update

After putting the packages of food likely to be chewed into by mice into a plastic bin with a latching top, it occurred to me that if I enter the expiration dates on my new list in pencil, I wouldn't have to reprint the list until I change the contents.

If I do the entire list in pencil, I will save paper because I'll be using an eraser instead of reprinting the list.

Hooray for low-tech solutions!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 3

I've been doing it twice a year for two years and it's gotten old.

I'm talking about checking the expiration dates on my preparedness food supplies.

As I unpack everything from the two large shopping bags in which they're stored, I check each date, having rewritten those that are hard to find or read with a fine Sharpie before putting them in the bags.

Those expiring within 9-16 months, for example, January 2011 for this past April's food check and January 2012 for this month's food check, get moved to my regular food supply and are added to my shopping list to replenish my preparedness kit so I always have fresher food in my kit and nothing's wasted due to an expiration date. The rest are put back into the bags.

It's dull work and I'm doing it for only one person. Imagine how grumpy I'd be if I were doing it for a family!

This year, I decided to make a list of items with their expiration dates. The list is organized by meals: breakfasts, lunches and dinners with meat or fish, rice or potato, and veggie; followed by snacks and beverages. That would make it quick to check what I set aside and the quantities as well as their expiration dates because I have only to scan the list and won't have to remove anything from a bag until it's due to be moved to my regular food supply and replaced.

When I replenish items, all I have to do is write the new expiration dates onto the list until it's so cluttered and difficult to read that I have to make a new printout.

Ha! Let's see how well this idea works out.

[Update 3/31/11 - The list is working out well. I left the spaces for the expiration dates blank on my computer and filled them in with pencil so I can erase the old expiration dates and write the new dates for the replacements in the same spaces. As expected, the list is staying neater, longer.]

I also need to change from storing them in shopping bags to something more secure like a plastic bin and an ice chest. While shopping bags are easy to load into and out of my car in case of evacuation or while traveling, they're also too easy for critters to get into. Although canned food is secure and will stay in a bag, lined with another to hold the weight, the last thing I need in an emergency situation is to discover holes in my packages of instant oatmeal, potatoes, rice, or snacks where wee furry beasties helped themselves to the food as they would depending on where I stay and park.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 2

Another cause for concern last winter was that a part broke in the city's water supply system. The pressure dropped and residents were advised to conserve water until the new part, expected to be delivered the next day, was installed.

Panic ensued with people rushing to buy every single bottle of water in town, arguing and pushing to fill their shopping carts with as many bottles as they could get.

Although we might laugh at people over-reacting that way, the truth is that water is precious. The panicked response is proof.

The shame of it is that it was totally unnecessary not only because there was no danger of the city running out of water, but also because if everyone already had their three days to two weeks worth of water set aside for emergency use and checked it every six months as federal agencies advise, they never would have panicked.

Having the confidence that you can face an emergency situation is what preparedness is all about.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 1

This is the seventh annual National Preparedness Month.

One of the lessons of last winter was how important it is to be prepared for ice storms.

With power lines down, local officials asked residents to shelter in place because the iced-over streets were too dangerous for people to make their ways to the community shelters.

I was fortunate in that where I was lost power for only two hours.

Some neighborhoods went without electricity for a week and a half while rural areas between towns didn't get service restored for up to two months.

That meant, of course, that motels filled up and most guests stayed far longer than the 72 hours minimum for which we are supposed to be prepared making finances for lodging and meals the primary concern.

I'm thinking the simplest way for a family to save up the funds is to shave off a few days from the annual family vacation for two to three years and set the saved money aside for emergency lodging.

For those who vacation at home or restrict their traveling to day trips, it isn't that simple. They'll have to figure out another method to squirrel money away that works for them.

One friend, for example, returned home at the end of each day and emptied all the coins that accumulated in his pocket during the day into various big glass jars and piggy banks he kept.

That way, he managed to save up about $300 per year without feeling like he was depriving himself. The trick is that he always paid with paper money, never coins received as change from a prior purchase.

Another method might be getting cash back while paying for shopping with check or credit card and stashing into the emergency fund the extra $5, $10, $20, or whatever amount that won't be missed.