With the recent report of an Ebola infected patient surfacing in the US, there is widespread panic. How many people did this person infect? How did they enter the US without anyone knowing? Is this the plague we’ve been waiting for to validate why we are preppers? In the vein of the popular memes, I’ll say, “Keep Calm, You’re Not Going to Get Ebola.”
There is a lot of misinformation and fear mongering when it comes to Ebola. There are many ways of contracting it and they all include bodily fluid contact. Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids when symptoms are present. Period. Simply being in the same room or plane is not enough to be infected. Transmission occurs from direct or close contact with an infected patient’s bodily fluids when they are exhibiting symptoms. It can also be transmitted from contact with a surface that is contaminated, which is why it is important to wash hands regularly and not touch your eyes, mouth and nose after touching public surfaces.
Washing hands is the single most effective preventative method, as well as using alcohol based hand sanitizer. In most cases, Ebola was contracted when providing care to those who were infected. It’s best to listen to information presented by institutions that have been studying and following Ebola as well as other viruses for decades. Conspiracy theories and misinformation only create unnecessary panic and will lead to distrust of facts. As preppers, knowledge and accurate information is key to survival. Prepping based on misinformation will ultimately lead to death.
With the current extreme cold temperatures sweeping the nation, we should look at this as an opportunity to reassess our cold weather preparedness. This should not only take into account what we do at home, but should also include what we do while traveling. As always, prepping isn’t just about being prepared for what we can foresee, it’s also being prepared with the knowledge and tools to adapt to the unimaginable. Many communities are experiencing record low temperatures that many of us have never experienced. As the temperature falls, the number of situations we should be prepared for increases.
The highest priority situation to be ready for is fire, rather, taking the necessary steps to prevent a fire. Many of us have space heaters that we use when our standard heating element isn’t sufficient. These are one of the leading causes of fires during these cold spells. The best course to take is to replace older space heaters with newer ones for a number of reasons. Most fires caused by space heaters are from the constant power being drawn and old and ill-maintained circuitry in the home. Modern space heaters have automatic temperature controls that turn the unit off when the set temperature is reached. Another reason to replace old units is the possibility that the cords may be worn and brittle. The very least one should do is to inspect the space heater itself for obvious damage, including the power cord and plug. Be sure to keep flammable material and liquid away from the heater and outlet. This may seem like common sense, but sometimes we get lazy and don’t always do our due diligence. Electric blankets and heating pads should be inspected for damage as they also pose a risk of fire and injury.
First damaged space heater plug
Second damaged space heater plug
Another avenue of concern is using an oven to provide heat. This should never be done as it can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. It may be tempting when it is bitterly cold and you have no heat, but the risk outweighs the benefit. Using candles as a heat source also runs the risk of fire and the heat provided by the candle is minimal. Again, this is not worth the risk.
While we should also be prepared in our vehicles, special considerations should be made during the cold weather. Keep a blanket in the car, any blanket. There is no need to get a fancy, fold up into a matchbook blanket, when a regular full sized blanket will work. Check tire pressure; cold temperatures cause tires to lose air pressure. Underinflated tires lessen gas mileage as well as increases the tires’ susceptibility to a blowout. Also, replace worn tires. Driving on snow or ice with severely worn tires is asking for trouble. You may pay a premium now, as demand is high, but it is better to shell out the extra money than to put it off and pay for it with an expensive car repair bill. Keep your vehicle’s gas tank filled to at least half tank. Being stranded in the cold is among the last things you want. No gas means no heat. Invest in roadside assistance. Your cellphone company may offer it, your car insurance company offers it and there is AAA.
These are just a few cold weather preparations to consider. Remember, like in situations of extreme heat, extreme cold can be deadly. A few preparatory actions can save time and money and in some cases, your life.
When some of us were young children, we had a password or phrase that our parents told us. This was to be used to either allow someone entrance into the home or when our parent sent someone to pick us up from school. When we became older we abandoned this security measure because we felt it was no longer needed. Odds are, the only time we use this type of security again is when we have children of our own. As an adult, the security password can be invaluable. It can be used to simply communicate to your family that you want to leave a function without broadcasting it, or communicate an important situation, like being under duress.
In a situation where you need to leave the premises immediately, having a code is the fastest way to inform others in your party of your intentions. It is understood that this code is not to be used unless there is a true emergency. When the code is given, it means a time for action, not a time for questions. Here is an experiment you can try with your family. The next time you want to take them somewhere, don’t tell them beforehand. When the time comes, say, “We have to leave right now.” Most people will not spring into action immediately, instead they will ask, “why?” or “what’s going on?” This is not the reaction you want when there is an emergency and time is a factor. You may not have time to give a detailed account of the situation, but you need to convey a sense of urgency while at the same time giving a general idea of the situation.
There is no need for 10’s or 100’s of codes, but you should, at the very least, have two. One code should be for evacuation and the other for duress. Along with the code, there should be a plan for when those codes are given. For evacuation, everyone should know the plan inside and out, who is to grab what and where to rendezvous. When under duress, more information may need to be given with the code, such as the number of assailants and whether they are armed. For example, “Omaha 2A” could mean that there are two armed intruders who are unaware of your presence. “Omaha” because, in my case, it is not a word often used and it is a good distance away. “2” for the number of intruders. And “A” because they are armed. Or “Omaha” by itself could mean an unknown number of intruders and it is unknown if they are armed.
Code names for each family member can also prove to be invaluable. Referring to members by the code name can be used in an emergency to signal distress, safety or masking identities. For example, during a home invasion, dad has been subdued as the intruders wait for the entire family to arrive home. Mom comes home and calls out to dad. The intruders tell him to respond and dad replies, “Did you remember to pick up ‘the baroness’?” Mom says, “Oh no, I forgot. I’ll get her now,” and immediately leaves with haste. Once away from the house she sends a text to the remaining members, “Jellybelly’s home” and calls the police. The remaining members find the nearest restroom and lock themselves in. Mom goes to retrieve them with a police escort while the other cops tend to the situation at the home. While this is an extreme situation, the principles are always the same. Have a plan, everyone should know the plan and execute the plan when the signal is given.
Your codes should mean something to you as you and your family/party will have to remember them. Avoid commonly used codes and complex number codes. The purpose of the codes is for them to become second nature; easy to remember and easy to say. Getting too complex and detailed may work against you in time of need. You may find yourself trying to figure out if the situation is a 10-603k or 10-115g because you didn’t clearly see if it was a handgun or a knife. At the end of the day, what works best for you is ultimately up to you. Keep in mind that simple always works best.