Up until now I’ve tried to keep the topic of firearms out of this blog. I’ve never really felt it was applicable to having a 72 Hour Bag. I don’t think there will be an apocalypse suddenly calling for the need to arm yourself like in the movie The Road or The Road Warrior… It just ain’t going to happen. And during an earthquake or in the aftermath of a disaster those first 72 hours typically have shown one of unity, so I remain completely impartial on how any individual feels about packing a gun in their 72 Hour Bag.
The Orlando shooting has prompted the gun control issue to the fore front of the national debate. Because of my experiences during the weeks after Hurricane Katrina it became abundantly clear that there were people who owned guns and gained power and those who didn’t. I never owned a gun till I moved back to Los Angeles and looked critically at my surroundings, we live in a disaster prone area – and here too there will be a power vacuum when disaster strikes. After I made the choice to purchase a gun, I told myself that if I were to own a gun, I wanted to become very proficient with it, like obsessively good. I sought out training, and probably because of the line of work I am in I had access to people who used weapons in the most hostile situations and several of the people I worked with were some of the most elite warriors of their time allowing me to gain insight into how a highly proficient shooter operates. I practiced and I practiced on my own and taking classes – classes that were typically not available to civilians. I learned quickly that going to the range with 1,000 rounds of ammunition for one single day of shooting was just barely scratching the surface to become proficient. When I hear of someone caught with 1,000 rounds of ammo I generally laugh for two reasons. One, I have friends who typically drive around with close to 10,000 rounds and two, the same people who scream in horror at the though of a person having 1,000 rounds are the same who feel you should have to pass a marksmanship test to own a fire arm. What do you think you just pick a weapon up and can actually hit the side of a barn. I can tell you, it ain’t that easy.
For those of you who have never purchased a gun or shot a gun I can tell you this: this myth that you can walk into a Walmart and walk out with a gun is ridiculous – at least here in California. The are background checks, there is finger printing, there is a test. Every time I purchase ammunition I am finger printed. Period. If you peer into the looking glass you will see just how difficult it is to acquire a weapon legally. With every law the legislators create they make it more difficult for legal owners to purchase and it does nothing to prevent criminals from owning a gun. I have been critical of the NRA not stepping up and helping solve the problem of criminals getting guns, as well as figuring how to stop a psychopath from gaining possession of any weapon. The need to become more proactive in solving those two issues.
Today there are four pieces of legislation going up, I have no issue with any of them. You can read about them here. They propose the following:
1. Tighten the background check system. (Republican lead)- Great, go for it.
2.Expand Background checks. (Democrat lead) – Great, sounds like the same thing but what ever.
3. Prevent terrorist from buying guns. (Republican version) – WTF? Are you serious, sounds like a no brainer.
4. Prevent Suspected Terrorists from buying guns. (Democratic version) – Same as above. Just do it.
Here’s the problem with most gun legislation that bans a specific type of weapon. Most legislators couldn’t tell the difference from a AR15 to a magazine or a clip. A friend of mine who was law enforcement in Los Angeles said that when trying to prevent gang shootings in South Central during the 80’s the legislators reacted by banning the Uzi. Those weapons had unarguably caused some high profile shootings but my friend argued that if they really wanted to prevent a large number of homicides they would have banned the Saturday Night Special. He claimed the Saturday Night Special was the gun of choice during that era and more homicides had been committed by that weapon than the Uzi. I know what you are going to say, but the Uzi is an automatic weapon and can spray bullets killing a greater number of victims. Here’s the rub. There is already a law on the books banning that weapon, the National Firearms Act of 1934. Automatic weapons are illegal and have been since 1934, the sale or purchase of any weapon must be regulated by a person with a Federal Firearms License. So getting back to banning specific weapons, a friend recently said there is no reason for a person to own a weapon such as the AR15 (which wasn’t the weapon used in Orlando), it’s only purpose is for killing people. Well I say that is it’s only purpose if that’s what you do with it. But mine is locked up in my safe and I like shooting at paper targets with mine, so I guess there’s one other use. Or perhaps if you go hunting with it, that could be another use. And if you don’t think it’s a good weapon to hunt with, why is it called a Varmint Gun? Just watch an episode of Life Below Zero and you’ll see there is another use for that weapon. Why use it for hunting? Well it’s pretty darn accurate and really reliable.
Listen, evil people do evil things, and they will always find a way to do harm to their fellow man. I’m not saying there aren’t crimes committed with a gun, but there are a lot of crimes committed with a knife. Point being mere hours after the Orlando shooting 29 people were killed by attackers in a subway in China with knives. We had a saying when training with knives – if a person has a gun, take it away. If a person has a knife, run. The knife is far deadlier than the gun. A gun takes skill to use, a knife doesn’t. In the United Kingdom they banned possession of all handguns. And now? You guessed it, they have one of the highest incidences of knife attacks in the world (probably second to the Philippines) and as a result? They are discussing the possibility of outlawing knives over a certain length. This highlights one of the issues with people who know nothing about what they are legislating. The large knife looks really scary, but in fact a small blade is far deadlier. With a large blade you gain distance, good in a knife against knife fight, but a small blade gives you stealth and it makes it all the more difficult to take away from the attacker.
So I say instead of legislating against an object figure out a way to change behaviors, Canada has more weapons per capita than the US, but has a far lower homicide rate… Why? Answer that question and we might get some where.
Enough of my rambling, here are some infographics I fin applicable to the conversation, especially the one on Kennesaw GA.
I have a LifeStraw I keep in my 72 Hour Bag and I’ve written about it in the past, but there’s one issue with the LifeStraw I don’t think you can ignore. Below are some pictures I found which show off the LifeStraws ability to allow its owner to drink from a literal cesspool and not only live but actually be completely unaffected by the little nasties living in there. As you can see from the pictures below the LifeStraw is an amazing water filter which has a great design, allowing it to filter 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water and weighs only 2 oz.
The commonality in all the photos above are that the people have water. The major issue I have with the LifeStraw is that you must have access to water and drink it at the source to make it worth it’s light weight feature. The fact that it is a straw makes it difficult to hook up to a hydration bladder and make use of it’s water filtering ability. As seen in the photo below, if you live in an area with access to water then it’s probably not much of a concern.
However, if you live in an arid area where water is scarce and you’re going to need to collect your water and take it with you then you must take further steps and not rely solely on the LifeStraw. You can’t just throw this item in your 72 Hour Bag and go blindly forward thinking you’ll sort it out when the time arises. Figure out how you’re going to collect water and take it with you. Something as simple as two gallon zip lock baggies may be enough for you to double bag a gallon of water and go. I’m not saying this is the answer I would choose, but for some simplicity is the key… I assure you there are going to be complications with the zip lock baggies, but at least it’s a back up plan. A good quality dry bag can be used backwards and used to carry water as well, old Gatorade bottles are some of my favorites because they are pretty strong, last a long time, carry a good quantity of water and have a wide mouth so filling is easier than a regular plastic water bottle.
With all these limitations of the LifeStraw I still carry it in my 72 Hour Bag but I keep it as my backup. My primary water filtration system is the Sawyer Mini. Remember: “One is none, and two is one.” Out of the box it’s pretty much exactly like the LifeStraw with it’s capabilities. Yeah, yeah, it ain’t exactly the same and the LifeStraw surpasses it’s filtration by a squeak, but at that level of filtration I don’t think it is really going to make all that much difference. Here’s the Mini:
Here is the comparison chart between the two filters:
Out of the box it’s designed to attach to a water pouch which you squeeze to get the water to flow through and into your mouth, but with some very simple steps you can cut the hose on your hydration bladder, add a couple little zip ties and you have an in line water filter stowed and ready to go in the 72 Hour Bag.
I take this filter system from my 72 Hour Bag and use it for all my backpacking trips. The ability to take my hydration bladder to a stream, fill it up and not have to take any time to process the water is invaluable and one less bit of work I have to do or stress about when trying to enjoy the outdoors. The fact that the Sawyer Mini will filter out 100,000 gallons of water makes it a much better bang for the buck, is 1/3 the length and it weighs exactly the same amount. I’ve attached mine to the Platypus Big Zip and find is the best bladder on the market, it’s zip lock opening make it a cinch to refill and clean and it’s got an antibacterial coating to stop nasty things from building up over time. Here’s what the Big Zip looks like:
In the end, the LifeStraw goes for about $20. The Sawyer Mini goes for about $25. For the extra $5 I think the Mini is a much better way to go especially seeing how you can filter out 378 times the amount of water!
This week I’d like to go over the FEMA marking system for buildings, searches and victims. Building markings should be made by structural engineers so it’s not something the average person should be putting on to a building, however, knowing what the markings mean will aid you during an emergency situation. The marking system I’ll be reviewing here is the CA OES/FEMA marking system which is very slightly different from the federal FEMA marking system but close enough – and since I’m in California that’s the system I know. Knowing these markings will aid you during a disaster if you are seeking shelter or aiding in search and rescue.
Building Markings are always done where they can be easily seen from the front of the building and not necessarily at the front entrance. The marker will use arrows to point to the safest entry point into the structure or safe haven. The markers must be two feet by two feet so you can see them from a good distance. Building markings look like this:
A building labeled Good will have cosmetic damage, there could be debris without structural damage and the utilities are probably still functional.
A building labeled with a single slash signifies that it has problems and evidence of structural damage. This could mean cracks around the foundation, door and window frames and other structural damage which could need bracing or shoring up. It is a structure which you need to access the risk versus reward to entering the building – get in, do what you need to do and get out because if there is an aftershock the structure may fall.
A box with an X means this structure is in bad shape, it could fall and has structural failure. Do not enter a structure such as this.
Main Entrance Markings start with a single slash /. Later when the search is completed the slash will become an X. Knowing this, at the top of the slash the date and time of search is written, on the left of the X is what team checked it. On the right of the X is what was found I.E. chemicals, etc. At the bottom of the X is if there were victims found.
The X marking system is also used at the entrance to each room or apartment within a building. This way search and rescue teams know which interior rooms have been checked allowing them to pass and know not to waste time on places that have already been checked.
The last important markings are for Victims, there are four marks. If there is a victim trapped under debris and the initial search team is waiting for a recovery team the team will mark the wall with a V and an arrow pointing to the location of the victim. A V with a circle around it means the victim is alive. A victim (V) with a circle around it ( O ) and a single slash ( / ) means the victim is known to be deceased. When the recovery team removes the body they will then create another slash through the circled V creating an X.
The full CA OES/FEMA PDF can be downloaded here: BUILDI~1Rev1
The National Urban Search & Rescue Response System PDF can be downloaded here: usr_23_20080205_rog