Friday, March 9, 2018

It is that time again where you are told to check your smoke detector batteries. What else should you check twice a year?

We have been conditioned to check our smoke alarm batteries twice a year; once in the spring time and once in fall to coincide with Daylight Saving Time. And now, we are being conditioned to check our carbon monoxide detector batteries also. These are important tasks and undoubtably have and will continue to save lives. Since these habits are being created twice a year, what else in your life do you need to evaluate twice a year? For me, since my domains of concern center around helping other people prepare for everyday situations that you see on the news everyday; I use this weekend to check my own gear and evaluate other important areas of my life.

Could you use this weekend to evaluate your business plans, your retirement accounts, or how to build your own safety net around the domains of concern for yourself and your family? See the below article I wrote for Paratus Business News to get an idea on how you could possibly start your own bi-annual self-evaluations.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s that time of year again when we set our clocks back.
We heard all the reminders from the talking heads on TV of whether you gain or lose another hour of sleep; heart attack rates spike up; how lucky Indiana is; moving our clocks around because kids walk to school in the dark; how farmers now have lights on their tractors; and on and on. (We live in a 24-hour society now, I think we should just move to UTC everywhere, but that is another discussion.)With the time change, society is conditioned to develop complementary habits as well, such as checking the batteries in our smoke alarms, and now we are told to check our Carbon Monoxide detectors.
So, maybe this is a good time for you and your family to develop new bi-annual habits of checking various things around your home to strengthen your family’s self-reliance.

You took your first steps in preparation: you purchased survival gear; stored enough food to get through a week of hunkering down at home. Now it is time to maintain your stores to ensure they are ready.
To confirm that in the event of an emergency you are prepared, or to mitigate the chances of a situation getting worse, Daylight Saving Time is a great time to check your preparations so they are ready when you need them.
Here are some things that I like to do, and I use this weekend as a reminder to get them done. This is not an all-inclusive list, but use it as a general guideline for you to formulate your own plans:

 Bug Out Bags/Every Day Carry
  • If you have a bug out bag or any every day carry gear, this is the weekend to check them out. Are all the items still relevant in terms of technology or any new skills you have learned in the past six months?
  • Check any batteries for leakage and voltage (you should be using lithium batteries anyway).
First Aid Kits
  • Check for expired medications.
  • Refresh products in your first aid kit.
  • Replace your Bic lighters. They are cheap to begin with and their ferrocium flints can, and will, deteriorate over time.
  • All ferro rods will deteriorate over time due to oxidation and bimetallic corrosion due to it being a conglomeration of dissimilar metals. Coat your ferro rods with clear nail polish or any type of nail polish. Coating them will stave oxidation off for a period of time.
  • Do you have any water stored? Various sources state that you should have one gallon per day, per person stored up somewhere. It’s time to refresh it also.
  • I generally put seven drops of bleach (unscented, named brand) per gallon to ensure that nothing grows in it while in storage.
Automobile/Bug Out Vehicle
  • Check the tire pressure of your spare tire. When in the hell did you do that last? Probably never. Wouldn’t you hate to have a flat, only to discover that your spare is flat also?
  • Check, clean and lube any firearms.
  • If you have humidity issues, check your firearms and ammo storage dehumidifiers.
  • If you wear eyeglasses, do you have your latest old pair in your BOB or emergency kit? Make sure they are in good condition, and a prescription you could wear for extended periods.
  • Wear contact lenses? The last thing you want is to bug out while wearing your contact lenses, only to find out you cannot take them out for days. This could lead to an eye infection.
Storage Food
  • Check and rotate any foods that you have stored.
  • Be sure to mark your foods with a sharpie, since it is sometimes hard to read the factory dates.
  • If any of your food stores expire in the next six months, rotate these to your kitchen for consumption. Buy replacements on your next shopping trip.
  • Make sure they have all their foods and medications in storage taken care of.
  • There are some over-the-counter medications you should have on hand for your pets.
  • Do you have any leather footwear? Get them ready for the snow and harsh elements that winter brings.
  • If you have dry cell batteries, rechargeable batteries or solar panels in storage; this is the weekend to test them out, exercise them or replace.
Important Documents
  • Do you have any or all of your documents saved in an electronic format, stored on a USB drive and somewhere in the cloud? This is a good time to update your archives or begin one. Take pictures of your home and all the contents of your home, scan all birth certificates, important insurance documents, living wills, advanced directives, etc…
  • It is easier to evacuate from your home with a USB drive in your bug out bag, versus trying to carry a 20-pound fireproof box of documents.
Make Your Home More Self-Reliant
  • If you have a basement sump pump, test it. Take a five-gallon bucket of water, pour it into your basin and see if your sump pump works. Check the drain lines to see if they are clear and not routed back towards your house. Wouldn’t you hate to have a failed sump pump the next rain storm and you happen to be away from home?
  • If your washer or dishwasher water supply lines are over five years old, inspect and/or replace them. If one of these rupture (of course, it will happen when you are away from home!), you will have a flood in your home. These lines can and will deteriorate over time.
  • When have you cleaned your chimney last? The next ice storm that knocks out power, and you need to heat your home with the fireplace, is the wrong time to ask this question. Failure to keep a clean chimney can result in a chimney fire.

Food for Thought

Hopefully, these ideas of things you can do this weekend to help mitigate the severity of an emergency. This is not paranoia, but rather just being prepared, since we are all peppers to some degree. That is why you keep a bottle of ibuprofen in your medicine cabinet, and spare TV remote batteries in your kitchen junk drawer.
Take your preparedness awareness to another level. People insure their iPhones in case of damage, yet they will not insure the health and safety of their family’s lives by taking a day to do basic bi-annual checks in and around their homes.
While it is fun to fantasize about being a “survivalist” and living off the land, chances are you’ll be home during a natural disaster or a weather event. It could be as simple as a contractor’s backhoe severing a water line two blocks from your house, causing you to be under a boil water order for three days, and now you have to fight the soccer moms at the store for bottled water. To me, that is worth spending a weekend rotating my water supplies.

Chris Swanda has been practicing, teaching and consulting wilderness survival and practical, common-sense preparedness for more than 30 years. He studies the ethnobotany of the Kansas tall grass prairies, and practices fermenting foods, and custom knife designs. He currently is on the advisory board of Game Plan Experts, featured in various publications and has been featured to worldwide audiences on the Discovery Channel’s TV show “Dude, You’re Screwed” and “Survive That!”.