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
Something I’ve been interested for a while now is making order out of chaos. I’ve spoken to friends of mine who have been in combat – one a former Navy Seal Medic, and also emergency responders as well as two former homicide detectives. I’ve been working on combining the tips and tricks of what these seasoned professionals do when they are first faced with a traumatic chaotic event. What is the order of how to make sense of things when the shit has hit the fan and how to apply those steps to an event a civilian may face when an earthquake or other natural disaster has hit.
Most of the time the training these people have received is specific and tailored to their specific jobs – there were clear steps each would take. All be it these steps varied widely depending on the scenario there seemed to be a common thread among all of their methods. Each would peel one layer of the onion away at a time. None of them would take a knife an cut to the center. They all made it clear individual steps had to be taken – skipping steps caused harm to either oneself or the injured person or the chain of custody. Skipping steps caused either harm or death of a fellow team mate or bystanders.
The take away from all these conversations was the following:
- Stabilize the Environment – Make sure the structure is safe or stable enough to allow entry. Whether it be an Earthquake or a firefight, the structure you are entering must be taken in phases. Take it in small steps, get through the front door and analyze the threat. Either move on or stabilize this part of the structure then figure out if you can proceed. There are an incredible amount of variables but if you think about each step being a series of ‘Go’ / ‘No Go’ questions you will be able to make progress and get to the injured or the problem. Fools rush in.
- Stabilize any medical needs – Think about the ABC’s. I’ve written previously about the need to change this term to the CAB – Circulation, Airway, Breathing. Especially in a disaster situation bleeding will kill in 30 seconds so stabilizing a bleeding victim is priority one. Tend to the injured ASAP and get them out to a safe location.
- Secure the perimeter – Make sure you get everyone including the non injured to a safe place. Look for faults in structure, downed power lines, vulnerable lines of attack. Turn off utilities – power, gas, water. Again, this area is vast with it’s variables depending on what the specific situation is. If the event was large enough it could be several days or weeks till things begin to normalize so you must know your environment and what it will take to live within it and survive. If you are in a cold climate what will your plan be to keep people warm and sheltered through the night? Knowing in advance how to deal with these things will help you if and when an event happens. Along with securing your perimeter is checking on your neighbors. Are their elderly in the area who might need help? Is the neighbor down the street who always thought prepping was a waste of time hurt or displaced? Unfortunately, no matter how much you’d like to let them realize the hard way they were wrong and you were right – helping them now is the most important thing for securing your perimeter. Happy neighbors along your perimeter will create a buffer zone aid in keeping riff raff at a distance.
- Establish Communications – What are the ways you can communicate? Do you have your HAM radio? Cel phone? Painting SOS on your roof? What ever the lines of communication are, the sooner you can get them up the better. Sending and receiving intel about the event will allow professionals and other members of your family and community to assess the situation enabling them to send assets to the correct location.
- Recover Data – When the situation has stabilized recover data. If it is your home try to recover legal papers, pictures, computers, insurance policies. Hopefully you have organized these in advance and you know exactly where they are so even in rubble you should be able to locate the rough geography in the structure of where they should be.
Many of the people I spoke with had mission specific things they would do, but in the end the common thread which applies to civilians faced with a disaster was those steps. Many times in military or law enforcement situations these people would establish communications ASAP, but for a civilian tending to the injured will become a priority.