Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why This Matters

Possibly the most frequently-asked-question to emerge amid the swine-flu crisis has been: "Why is this such a big deal? I don't get it. Tens of thousands of people die of flu every year."

Here's why these events bear watching.

First, because the swine flu is a new strain, no one has any immunity to it. This means a lot more people will potentially get sick at one time. Not only could this put a big strain on the existing health care system (potentially causing a greater number of deaths because treatment will be difficult to get when all the hospital beds are full), but also it quite possibly will tend to kill healthy adults, not the elderly or infants as usual. This is because of the "cytokine storm" theory that says that a completely new virus can cause healthy immune systems -- typically found in young, healthy adults -- to massively overreact and destroy the body in the process.

Another reason to watch this outbreak closely is because the virus could mutate yet again, and either become more contagious, or more lethal. So while it isn't doing too much damage now, if it's permitted to spread and that gives it the opportunity to mutate, it could really cause problems later.

Third, it is estimated that during a fullblown, severe pandemic, as many as 40% of people will not report to work. This would result in severe economic disruption -- shutting down businesses, trucking, and essential services, not to mention derailing any chance of near-term economic recovery. Food would not be reliably delivered to grocery stores. Power plants and water sanitation plants may not have the needed personnel to remain operational. Schools and daycares will be shut down for extended periods of time, causing even healthy adults to stay home to care for their children. And without utilities, food, or medical care, and with a bunch of people very sick... it's not far to public disorder.

A final note: there is some hope that this flu strain will disappear as the weather warms and humidity increases -- conditions which are not favorable to the spread of this virus. If this happens, do not throw out your face mask. There is a very good chance that the virus will simply make the rounds in the southern hemisphere -- which is just now entering it's winter flu season -- and reappear here in the States this fall with the cooler temperatures.

Houston confirms first swine flu cases; 4 schools closed

Get details on the newly-confirmed cases here.

Mexican toddler, first U.S. fatality, spent time at the Houston Galleria the day before he fell ill.

Fort Worth closes entire school district

Mexico hopeful worst is over as number of cases levels off

Seattle-area pediatrician and entire family ill with probable swine flu

U.S. vaccines primarily manufactured overseas; capacity shared with Europe -- "All the manufacturers in the world could probably only produce enough vaccine for 10 to 20 percent of the global population"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quick News Update

WHO Raises Pandemic Level to 5
Says pandemic is "imminent," countries should immediately implement their pandemic preparedness plans.

North Korea Threatens Nuclear, Missile Tests
Can someone please just assassinate Kim Jong Il already? I grow bored with his "look at me!" games.

Obama Claims he is "Remaking America"
“The priorities that we’ve acted on are the things we said we would do during the campaign,” Obama said. “It’s not like anybody should be surprised.”

An Ill-Considered Plan

Some much needed humor, courtesy of the lolcats over at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

US Gov't Wastes Time on Semantics as Swine Flu Picks Up Steam; Seven Hospitalizations, 2 Possible Deaths

Mayor Bloomberg says "many hundreds" of NYC schoolchildren sick with suspected swine flu; outbreak unrelated to St. Francis preparatory school cases

Two deaths in L.A. are being investigated for potential link to swine flu

Houston awaiting word from CDC today regarding four suspected cases, all from different hospitals

And, incredibly, the government is taking precious time and energy away from figuring out how to stop this thing to politely ask us all to stop calling it swine flu, because then pork exports might be threatened, and God knows we can't afford to have pork farmers lose money while other people are sick and dying.

This is obviously worthy of ridicule because any half-educated person who has made the most miniscule attempt to educate themselves about this illness knows it's not spread by eating pork, or even by contact with pigs.

Worst-Case Pandemic Scenario

FOX News has the story describing the U. S. Government's worst-case pandemic scenario here.

I've read some things to suggest the underlying assumptions for the scenario described above might be unduly optimistic. For example, the U.S. is assuming a 2 percent case fatality rate. The author of the Bird Flu Manual suggests 5 percent is a more likely worst case scenario.

Second, the article states that "Although some U.S. states are less prepared than others, the nation has stockpiled antiviral medicines, speeded the production of vaccines, and laid down basic public health guidelines."

Unfortunately, it's been reported elsewhere that at present only one vaccine manufacturing facility is located in the U.S. The others are in Europe. And in the event of a global pandemic, other countries are not likely to share their manufacturing capacity with us.

I'm not suggesting there's cause for alarm -- only that the media is trying to balance ratings-grabbing coverage with a desire not to sow panic among the public.

Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue

This refreshing dose of reality comes to you courtesy of the U.S. Military. Somebody give this soldier a promotion!

The more I think about it, the more I think America should follow the Israeli example of having all citizens do mandatory service when they turn 18. It would instill discipline and pride in our country. And maybe just take care of our obesity problems too.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu May Have Reached Houston

From (excellent, well-informed) Houston Chronicle science blogger Eric Berger:

"There are rumors circulating in the Texas Medical Center this morning of a few suspected cases of swine flu in Harris County. Houston Health and Human Services spokeswoman Kathy Barton said, 'We are in active surveillance mode. We have cases we are interested in, but we are only going to talk about confirmed cases.' Confirmation may come later today."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

And Now for Something Entirely Different...

... OK. No swine flu stuff for a moment. Here's some refreshingly different news items to spark your concern:

Pentagon Conducts Economic War Games

Yuppies Do the Math, Realize that Home-Schooling is Less Expensive Than Private School, but Requires Actual Interaction with Children

FDA Warns Consumers to Avoid Eating Raw Alfalfa Sprouts, Citing Rash of Salmonella Cases
(Note you never have to worry about this if you grow your own sprouts... but more on that some other time.)

Welcome to the New Normal: Experts Acknowledge North Korea is Now a Nuclear Power
And to think that missile test wasn't any big deal.

Happy Monday, y'all!

Swine Flu: Summary of Weekend Developments

Never doubt that the world can change in a day. This story broke on Thursday and exploded on Friday. Now it's 48 hours later -- what's changed?

The U.S. is reporting 20 known cases in California, Texas, Ohio, Kansas, and New York. One person has been hospitalized. On the international front, France, Canada (6), Spain (7), Israel (1), Brazil (1), and New Zealand (10) have joined the club in fighting suspected or confirmed swine flu infections. Mexico is reporting 103 suspected fatalities and over 1,324 ill.

In Texas, officials are awaiting CDC confirmation on eight new cases -- 3 in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and 5 in Guadalupe County north of San Antonio, where there are already 2 confirmed cases.

As far as prevention and treatment, it appears that the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza are effective in shortening the duration of illness -- but this season's flu shot is probably not effective in providing any protection. The incubation period is reportedly short -- 24 to 48 hours.

The government is advising standard flu precautions -- frequent hand washing, avoid touching your face, etc. Unfortunately these are the sort of precautions that must be consistently and thoroughly practiced in order to have any preventive effect.

Friday, April 24, 2009

UPDATE: Mexico Confirms Deaths Caused by Swine Flu

FOX News is reporting that Mexico's health minister has confirmed that an outbreak of fatal flu cases in his country was caused by swine flu:

"An outbreak of flu deaths in Mexico in recent days was caused by swine flu, Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said Friday.

"It is a virus that mutated from pigs and then at some point was transmitted to humans," he told the Televisa network.

The virus has sickened 800 and killed at least 20, according to the Mexican government. Other reports put the death toll closer to 60.

The never-before-seen virus is comprised of bird, swine and human influenza strains, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mexico City has suspended classes at schools and universities to contain what could be a new strain of influenza.

Cordova says private and public schools in this metropolis of 20 million have been ordered to remain closed Friday. The measure could be extended in coming days.

Cordova says the flu is a "new, different strain that can attack anyone." He says authorities are investigating whether it is related to an influenza strain reported in Texas and California.

U.S. public health officials said on Thursday that seven people had been diagnosed with a new kind of swine flu in California and Texas.

Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said officials believe it can spread human-to-human, which is unusual for a swine flu virus.

Because of intensive searching, it's likely health officials will find additional cases, said Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

CDC officials detected a virus with a unique combination of gene segments that have not been seen in people or pigs before. The bug contains human virus, avian virus from North America and pig viruses from North America, Europe and Asia.

Health officials have seen mixes of bird, pig and human virus before, but never such an intercontinental combination with more than one pig virus in the mix.

Scientists keep a close eye on flu viruses that emerge from pigs. The animals are considered particularly susceptible to both avian and human viruses and a likely place where the kind of genetic reassortment can take place that might lead to a new form of pandemic flu, said Dr. John Treanor, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The virus may be something completely new, or it may have been around for a while but was only detected now because of improved lab testing and disease surveillance, CDC officials said. The virus was first detected in two children in southern California — a 10-year-old boy in San Diego County and a 9-year-old girl in neighboring Imperial County.

The cases were detected under unusual circumstances. One was seen at a Navy clinic that participates in a specialized disease detection network, and the other was caught through a specialized surveillance system set up in border communities, CDC officials said.

On Thursday, investigators said they had discovered five more cases. That includes a father and his teenage daughter in San Diego County, a 41-year-old woman in Imperial County (the only person hospitalized), and two 16-year-old boys who are friends and live in Guadalupe County, Texas, near San Antonio.

The Texas cases are especially puzzling. One of the California cases — the 10-year-old boy — traveled to Texas early this month, but that was to Dallas, about 270 miles northeast of San Antonio. He did not travel to the San Antonio area, Schuchat said.

The two 16-year-olds had not traveled recently, Texas health officials said.

The swine flu's symptoms are like those of the regular flu, mostly involving fever, cough and sore throat, though some of the seven also experienced vomiting and diarrhea.

U.S. health officials are consulting with Mexican and Canadian health officials, and the CDC is beginning to receive samples from Mexico for testing, a CDC spokesman said. The ethnicity of the seven confirmed cases was not disclosed."

  1. Do not freak, tempting though it may be.
  2. Download and print out this free document on good home treatment of influenza. Read it carefully and make sure you understand everything in it. You may wish to make copies to give to friends and family.
  3. Go to the store tomorrow morning, or tonight, and get the items listed therein for a Flu Treatment Kit (I have also listed these below).
  4. Do what you can to stock up on nonperishable food and water. Even if you're not up to several months storage, something is better than nothing. See my previous posts "Food Storage Shopping List" and "Preparedness Focus: Pandemics" for a list of items to purchase.
Flu Treatment Kit items for one person (Source:

Grocery store items
  • Table salt: 1 lb (for making Oral Rehydration Solution, gargle and nasal wash)
  • Table sugar: 10 lbs (for making Oral Rehydration Solution)
  • Baking soda: 6 oz (for making Oral Rehydration Solution and nasal wash)
  • Household bleach, unscented 2 gal (for purifying water and cleaning contaminated items)
  • Caffeine containing tea, bags or dry loose: 1 lb (for treatment of respiratory symptoms)
  • Two 8 oz plastic baby bottles with rubber nipples (for administering Oral Rehydration Solution to severely ill)
  • Two 16 oz plastic squeeze bottles with swivel nozzle s(for administering Oral Rehydration Solution to the ill)
  • Two Kitchen measuring cups with 500 cc (two cup) capacity (for measuring lots of things)
  • One set of kitchen measuring spoons 1/8 tsp up to 1 tbsp (for making oral solutions and dosing)
  • Fifty Soda Straws (for administering fluids easier)
  • One composition-style notebook (for keeping a medical record on the patient)
  • Teakettle (for steam therapy)
Drug Store Items
  • Petroleum jelly 4oz (for lubrication of tubes, suppositories, and skin treatment and protection)
  • Cocoa butter, pure 2 oz (for making suppositories and skin treatment and protection)
  • An accurate bathroom scale (for weighing)
  • Two Electronic thermometers (to measure temperature)
  • Automatic blood pressure monitor (to measure blood pressure)
  • Humidifier (for increasing the relative humidity of the air breathed by the patient)
  • Pill cutter (to make it easier to reduce the dose of medications if desired)
  • 1 box of Latex gloves # 100, (to help reduce contamination and spread of the virus and bacteria)

Non-Prescription Drugs

  • Ibuprofen 200mg (Motrin®) # 100 tablets (for treatment of flu symptoms)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) 25mg capsules # 100 (for treatment of flu symptoms)
  • Robitussin DM Cough Syrup® or its generic equivalent (12 oz) (for treatment of cough)
  • Acetaminophen 500mg (Tylenol®) # 100 tablets (for treatment of flu symptoms)
  • Loperamide 2mg # 100 tables (for diarrhea and abdominal cramps)
  • Meclizine 25mg # 100 tablets (for nausea and vomiting)

Hardware Store Items

  • N-95 masks #20 (2boxes) (to reduce diseases spread to and from the patient)
  • 50 gallon sturdy plastic garbage container with top (used to store clean water for drinking)

New Swine Flu Developments: 20 Dead in Mexico From Unnamed Respiratory Illness

From CNN:

(CNN) -- U.S. medical experts investigating a novel swine flu outbreak in California and Texas will examine samples from Mexico, where a respiratory illness has killed at least 20 people.

As a precaution to avoid further contamination, schools and universities in Mexico City and the state of Mexico were closed Friday, said National Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova. He indicated Friday the schools may remain closed for a while.

In the United States, seven cases of a previously undetected strain of swine flu have been confirmed in humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. All of the patients have recovered, officials said. None of the patients had direct contact with pigs.

Five of the cases were found in California, and two in Texas, near San Antonio, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC's interim deputy director for science and public health program.

The Mexican samples will be tested at the centers based in Atlanta, Georgia, spokesman David Daigle told CNN by e-mail. The samples were taken from an affected area just north of Mexico City. Canada also is testing samples from Mexico "and has placed a travel alert for travel to Mexico," Daigle said.

The Public Health Agency of Canada issued a respiratory alert for Mexico on Wednesday, recommending that health providers "actively look for cases" in Canada, particularly in people who've returned from Mexico within the last two weeks.

An alert issued Friday by the International SOS medical and consulting company said more than 130 cases of a severe respiratory illness have been detected in south and central Mexico, some of which are due to influenza.

"Public health officials in Mexico began actively looking for cases of respiratory illness upon noticing that the seasonal peak of influenza extended into April, when cases usually decline in number," the medical alert said. "They found two outbreaks of illness -- one centered around Distrito Federal (Mexico City), involving about 120 cases with 13 deaths. The other is in San Luis Potosi, with 14 cases and four deaths."

Authorities also detected one death in Oaxaca, in the south, and two in Baja California Norte, near San Diego, California.

The majority of cases are occurring in adults between 25 and 44 years of age.

The CDC reported Tuesday that two California children in the San Diego area were infected with a virus called swine influenza A H1N1, whose combination of genes had not been seen before in flu viruses in humans or pigs.

The seven patients range from age 9 to 54, the CDC's Schuchat said. "The good news is that all seven of these patients have recovered," she said.

The first two cases were picked up through an influenza monitoring program, with stations in San Diego and El Paso, Texas. The program monitors strains and tries to detect new ones before they spread, the CDC said. Other cases emerged through routine and expanded surveillance. The human influenza vaccine's ability to protect against the new swine flu strain is unknown, and studies are ongoing, Schuchat said. There is no danger of contracting the virus from eating pork products, she said.

The new virus has genes from North American swine and avian influenza; human influenza; and swine influenza normally found in Asia and Europe, said Nancy Cox, chief of the CDC's Influenza Division.

Swine flu is caused by type A influenza, according to the CDC. The virus does not normally infect humans, but cases have occurred among people, especially those with exposure to pigs. There also have been cases of one person spreading swine flu to other people, the CDC said. In 1988, in an apparent swine flu infection among pigs in Wisconsin, there also was evidence of a patient transmitting the virus to health workers, the CDC said.

Experts think coughing, sneezing and contaminated surfaces spread the infection among people. From December 2005 to February 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were documented. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, the CDC said.

The new strain of swine flu has resisted some antiviral drugs.

The CDC is working with health officials in California and Texas and expects to find more cases, Schuchat said.

There's no need for alarm, but people at risk -- those who live in or have visited areas where patients live or have had contact with pigs -- should get tested if they notice symptoms, said Dr. William Short at the division of infectious diseases at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A pandemic is defined as: a new virus to which everybody is susceptible; the ability to readily spread from person to person; and wide geographic spread, said Dr. Jay Steinberg, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta. The new strain of swine flu meets only one of the criteria: novelty. [Lynnaea asks: really? Seems able to spread readily between people to me, and it's attaining a wide geographic spread pretty darn fast...]

History indicates that flu pandemics tend to occur once every 20 years or so, so we're due for one, Steinberg said. However, it is not likely to be swine flu, he said.

"I can say with 100 percent confidence that a pandemic of a new flu strain will spread in humans," he said. "What I can't say is when it will occur."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Preparedness Focus: Pandemics

Given today's news item on the possible human-to-human spread of swine flu in two California children, I thought it would be good to discuss how to prepare for a pandemic.

If a pandemic occurs, you should expect it to hit quickly due to the universality and speed of modern travel. Quarantines will be likely; expect major services and utilities to be unavailable as the people who staff those facilities fall ill or become subject to quarantine themselves. Schools will be shut down. Food and supplies will be unavailable either due to quarantine or, more likely, because of massive runs on supplies. Anyone seeking to prepare for a pandemic should attain self-sufficiency capabilities for a minimum of 6-8 weeks up to three months. While the length of time a pandemic takes to run its course may be a year or two, the action is compressed into 2 or 3 periods lasting two or three months each.

Consequently, you can break down pandemic preparedness into several key areas:

1. Food and Water. The government recommends a two-week supply of food and water. I consider this to be completely insufficient. As stated above, you should prepare for 2-3 months. Even if the grocery stores have supplies, if everyone around you is a potential incubator for a deadly virus, do you really want to go to the grocery store?

Three months' food storage is very doable, but that much water takes up a lot of space and is very heavy. Assuming that your home maintains water pressure but the water is of questionable drinkability, I would recommend purchasing a water filter such as the ones made by Katadyn. You can use the Home Emergency Water System (HEWS) to store water in your bathtub while there's still water pressure and the sanitation facilities are operating. Lehman's also has a gravity filter that might work well.

In addition to food and water, you'll need a means to prepare it. Since the power may be out, be prepared to use a solar cooker, gas grill, JetBoil personal cooking system (or Helios system for families), or other camp stove. You will need plenty of fuel.

Any regular reader of this blog knows that I harp on food and water storage ad nauseam. The good news is, food and water will see you through nearly any type of emergency, not just a pandemic.

2. Hygiene and Sanitation. You can acquire N-95 particulate masks from for a reasonable price. Each family member will need a new one each day for maximum protection. Hand sanitizer and nitrile gloves will also be needed.

You may want a portable toilet with plenty of liner bags, and plenty of toilet paper. You will want heavy duty large trash bags with rubber bands or strong plastic ties to store your waste as trash removal services will probably not be running, as well as a large plastic waste barrel.

3. First Aid and Medical. You will need to store prescription medicines as well as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other flu-related items. Focus on fever reducers, anti-nausea medications, anti-diarrhea medicines, and cough medicines. A simple first-aid kit could also be useful.

A multi-vitamin is critical for maintaining your health. There are vitamins available that can be stored for up to ten years without losing their potency.

I would store powdered gatorade or another electrolyte restorer such as CeraLyte to help with dehydration from diarrhea.

4. Entertainment. Since you will not be reporting to work unless you are critical personnel, be prepared for boredom. Have books on hand, jigsaw puzzles, board games, playing cards, books of crossword puzzles, crayons and coloring books, paper, knitting, or anything creative that does not require electricity and will keep your mind off the complete disintegration of society occurring outside your door. Also, you will want gas lamps or other light sources (candles and flashlights are not really sufficient) so that you can entertain yourself after dark.

5. Personal Protection. Imagine the family next door, who hasn't prepared, has a sick eight-year old daughter. She's in severe respiratory distress. The hospitals are overwhelmed and closed to new patients. The neighbors know you're still healthy and suspect you have food, water, and medicines. What do you think those parents are going to do, or how they are going to behave, in an attempt to save their daughter's life? Enough said.

6. Other items. Since emergency services will probably not be available, have a fire extinguisher on hand; take a First Aid course; and make sure you have plenty of batteries for your emergency radio. Telephone services will probably still be available, but you will want to use a simple phone that jacks directly into the wall - not a cordless or digital phone. Finally, keep cash on hand to avoid having to run to the bank, or in the event that ATMs are not working or are out of cash.

Further reading:

The Bird Flu Manual (US Health & Human Services)

Swine Flu Sickens 2 California Children; Human Spread Feared

From WebMD:

April 21, 2009 -- Two California children got sick with a mysterious new strain of swine flu -- and the CDC thinks they got the pig virus via person-to-person contact.

Both kids, a 10-year-old boy from San Diego County and a 9-year-old girl from Imperial County, are now well. However, the girl had a 104.3-degree fever before she recovered. And the boy traveled by airplane from San Diego to Dallas while he still had flu symptoms.

Is this the first sign of a flu pandemic? That's possible, but not likely, says Lyn Finelli, DrPH, chief of flu surveillance at the CDC. "While we have a low index of suspicion this is a pandemic, we are being careful to rule out any possibility," Finelli says. "We don't know yet." "We have here detection of two cases of swine flu virus in children. We are trying to figure out where they came from and how serious they are," says Dan Jernigan, MD, MPH, deputy director of the CDC's influenza division.

The CDC has dozens of people tracing the children's contacts, beginning with close family members. Each of the children had two family members come down with the flu -- in both cases, one family member had the flu before the child had the flu, and one after. All recovered, but flu virus was not obtained from any of these family members while they still had symptoms. Over the weekend, the CDC developed a specific test for the new swine flu virus; testing of the children's contacts is now under way. It's likely that the tests will reveal other people who recovered from the infection.

CDC has not activated its Atlanta-based command center. But California has, Finelli says, and is putting all available health care workers on the job of tracking down the children's contacts.
Both children attended school, and California authorities are planning to trace the children's school contacts.

Meanwhile, the 10-year-old boy remains in the Dallas area and has made a full recovery from his one-week symptoms of fever, cough, and vomiting.

So far, the CDC says, Texas health authorities have not found any new infections. The boy traveled to Texas with three other children unaccompanied by adults; crew members who assisted the children are now being tested.

The CDC is withholding the name of the airline that flew the boy and his three companions from San Diego to Dallas on April 3.

Swine flu viruses don't normally infect humans. When they do, it's almost always because of contact with an infected pig. But neither child had any direct contact with pigs. Moreover, the viruses recovered from the children are not like the swine flu viruses common among pigs. That raises the specter of human-to-human spread of the virus, Finelli says.

"This virus is different, very different from that circulating in pigs. That was a red flag," Finelli told WebMD and several other news organizations. "The other red flag is both cases appeared almost simultaneously, 100 miles apart. When we see two cases [of swine flu] without animal contact that occur simultaneously and they have a different virus [than in pigs], we are concerned."

What worries the CDC is that the two cases might signal the beginning of a flu pandemic with a virus new to humans. But CDC spokesman Tom Skinner notes that it's the CDC's job to be worried. Several things about the cases are reassuring:

  • Both cases were detected by routine flu surveillance.
  • Southern California has unusually excellent flu surveillance -- and there has not been a large number of flu cases from unusual flu strains.
  • The virus is the H1N1 strain of swine flu. There are human strains of H1N1, raising at least the possibility of cross-protection -- especially in adults.

Not reassuring is the finding that the new swine flu strain carries three genes from Eurasian swine flu bugs not known to be circulating in the U.S. The new strain apparently is a reassortant virus that assembled itself from the genes of at least two different swine flu viruses. It carries no human flu genes.

Swine flu last spurred headlines in 1976 when an outbreak of swine flu at Fort Dix, N.J., killed one healthy recruit, caused four cases of serious pneumonia, and spread to some 230 soldiers before it vanished.

It's still not clear where the 1976 virus came from or why it went away -- but it spurred widespread public alarm and a vaccination program that badly misfired before being terminated.
The CDC, the California Department of Public Health, and the health departments of Imperial and San Diego counties urge all of those counties' residents and visitors who develop flu-like symptoms to seek medical attention.

Doctors who see these patients are advised to send swab samples to state or local health authorities. They are also asked to get full interviews to ask about other family members or contacts who may be ill.

Here's the CDC's advice for all people who get flu-like symptoms, whether it's normal seasonal flu or swine flu:

  • Stay home when you are sick to avoid spreading illness to co-workers and friends.
  • Children with flu-like symptoms should stay home to avoid spreading illness to classmates and staff.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and properly dispose of used tissues.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to get rid of most germs, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay healthy by eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting adequate rest and exercise.
The new swine flu bug is resistant to the older flu drugs amantadine and rimantadine. Tests are under way to see if it remains sensitive to the newer flu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza.

The CDC announced the swine flu cases in a special MMWR Dispatch published today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

IMF: Global Economy Shrinking for First Time in 60 Years

Another AP news item.

WASHINGTON — The world economy is likely to shrink this year for the first time in six decades.

The International Monetary Fund projected the 1.3 percent drop in a dour forecast released today. That could leave at least 10 million more people around the world jobless, some private economists said.

“By any measure, this downturn represents by far the deepest global recession since the Great Depression,” the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook. “All corners of the globe are being affected.”

The new forecast of a decline in global economic activity for 2009 is much weaker than the 0.5 percent growth the IMF had estimated in January.

Big factors in the gloomier outlook: It’s expected to take longer than previously thought to stabilize world financial markets and get credit flowing freely again to consumers and businesses. Doing so will be necessary to lift the U.S., and the global economy, out of recession.

The report comes in advance of Friday’s meetings between the United States and other major economic powers, and weekend sessions of the IMF and World Bank. The talks will seek to flesh out the commitments made at a G-20 leaders summit in London last month, when President Barack Obama and the others pledged to boost financial support for the IMF and other international lending institutions by $1.1 trillion.

The IMF’s outlook for the U.S. is bleaker than for the world as a whole: It predicts the U.S. economy will shrink 2.8 percent this year. That would mark the biggest such decline since 1946. Among the major industrialized nations studied, Japan is expected to suffer the sharpest contraction this year: 6.2 percent. Russia’s economy would shrink 6 percent, Germany 5.6 percent and Britain 4.1 percent. Mexico’s economic activity would contract 3.7 percent and Canada’s 2.5 percent.

Global powerhouse China, meanwhile, is expected to see its growth slow to 6.5 percent this year. India’s growth is likely to slow to 4.5 percent.

All told, the lost output could be as high as $4 trillion this year alone, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner estimated.

Besides trillions in lost business, a sinking world economy means fewer trade opportunities and higher unemployment. It raises the odds more people will fall into poverty, go hungry or lose their homes. And while keeping a lid on interest rates and consumer prices, the global recession increases the risk of deflation, which would drag down prices and wages, making it harder for people to make payments on their debt.

The jobless rate in the United States is expected to average 8.9 percent this year and climb to 10.1 percent next year, the IMF said.

In Germany, the jobless rate is expected to average 9 percent this year and 10.8 percent next year. Britain’s unemployment rate is projected to rise to 7.4 percent this year and to 9.2 percent next year.

Brian Bethune, economist at IHS Global Insight, estimates that at least 10 million jobs could be lost this year, mostly in the United States and Europe, because of sinking global economic activity.

He and other economists said the 1.3 percent projected decline would be the first in roughly 60 years. In a report issued in mid-March, the IMF predicted global activity would contract this year “for the first time in 60 years,” though it didn’t offer a precise estimate then.

Next year, the IMF predicts the world economy will grow again — but just 1.9 percent. It said this would be consistent with its findings that economic recoveries after financial crises “are significantly slower” than ordinary recoveries typically are.

All those factors tend to weigh against prospects “for a speedy turnaround,” the IMF said. In 2010, the IMF predicts the U.S. economy will be flat, neither shrinking nor growing. Germany’s and Britain’s economies, meanwhile, will shrink less — by 1 percent and 0.4 percent respectively — it estimates.

Others countries, such as Japan, Russia, Canada and Mexico are projected to grow again. And China and India should pick up speed.

The financial crisis erupted in the United States in August 2007 and spread around the globe. The crisis entered a tumultuous new phase last fall, shaking confidence in global financial institutions and markets. Total worldwide losses from the financial crisis from 2007 to 2010 could reach nearly $4.1 trillion, the IMF estimated in a separate report Tuesday.

The crisis has led to bank failures, wiped out Lehman Brothers and forced other big institutions, like insurance giant American International Group, to be bailed out by U.S. taxpayers. And it’s triggered radical government interventions — such as the United States’ $700 billion financial bailout program and the Federal Reserve’s $1.2 trillion effort to lower interest rates and spur spending.

Actions by the United States and government in other countries have helped ease the crisis in some ways. But markets are still not operating normally.

The 185-nation IMF, headquartered in Washington, is the globe’s economic rescue squad, providing emergency loans to countries facing financial troubles. It has urged countries to take bolder actions to bolster banks.

The IMF also has pushed countries to work more closely together. It favors coordinating fiscal stimulus efforts through tax reductions or greater government spending to stimulate the appetites of consumers and businesses. And it warned countries to resist the temptation of enacting protectionist trade measures.

“Fiscal policies had made a gigantic difference,” said IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard. Without them, the hit to the global economy would have been much greater and pushed it perilously close to “a depression,” he added.

Because the world economy won’t be back to normal next year or perhaps even in 2011, Blanchard urged countries to spend money on big public works projects — something the Obama administration is doing — to bolster activity.

Bold policy actions could set off a mutually reinforcing “relief rally” in financial markets and a revival in consumer and business confidence, the IMF said in its report. But it remains concerned that these policies won’t be enough to break the vicious cycle whereby deteriorating financial institutions feed, in turn, weaker economic conditions.

“The problem is that the longer the downturn continues to deepen, the slimmer the chances that such a strong rebound will occur, as pessimism about the outlook becomes entrenched and balance sheets are damaged further,” the IMF said in the report today.

With the global economy stuck in a recession, the risks of a dangerous bout of deflation — a prolonged decline in prices that can worsen the economy — has risen. The IMF cited a “moderate” risk of deflation in the United States and in the 16 countries that use the euro. It saw a “significant likelihood of deeper price deflation” in Japan.

Texas Group Sues DHS Over Kansas Placement of Biohazard Lab

From the AP:

SAN ANTONIO — A group of Texas research facilities has indicated they will sue the Department of Homeland Security over its selection of a Kansas site for a planned $450 million biodefense laboratory.

The Texas group filed notice in federal court in Washington today indicating their intention to sue. They contend the Kansas site should not have been selected because of the danger of tornadoes in the region.

The lab will research foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever and the Hendra and Nipah viruses.

Kansas officials were quick to react to the Texas group's claims, saying the site was chosen by experts and provides an opportunity for the best research on threats to the nation's food supply.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stranded on the Island

Several years ago, I was stranded in the student lounge in the University of Texas Law School in Austin due to torrential downpours and tornado alerts. The shuttle service wasn't running -- meaning there was no way for any of us to get home -- so me and my small group of first-year law student friends huddled up in the lounge to eat dinner out of the vending machine and wait for the storm to pass.

At this time, the reality show "Survivor" had been a big hit for several years. If you ever watched the show, you know that at the end of each episode, a tribe would have to "vote someone off the island," usually because they had not contributed enough to the survival and well-being of the group.

Well, since we were stranded on our own little island in the lounge, we decided to pass the time by holding a secret ballot to vote someone off the island, just like on Survivor. We all wrote down a name and a reason on a scrap of paper and handed it in to our ringleader.

I don't recall the specific outcome of the vote, but I do remember who I voted for -- my friend Sean. Now, Sean had a doctorate in philosophy and was nothing short of brilliant. Today he's a high-powered, six-figure-earning litigator for a prominent international law firm. His powers of logical deduction were unmatched. But I voted for him to be kicked off the island because, as I noted at the time, "Thinking doesn't feed me."

Now, I was being funny then. But it is true that if the S hit the F tomorrow, and your office job just evaporated into thin air, you would want to seriously consider what contributions you could make to the survival of your family or community so that you would not be considered a drag on the survival of everyone. Hopefully you would contribute because you care about the people around you -- but it's also a matter of saving your own skin, if the veneer of civilization begins to wear thin and people begin to act in selfish and anti-social ways.

And so we come to the point of the matter: what can you do? Make? Fix? The answer to these questions could easily be found in how you choose to spend your spare time, or a hobby you pursued when you were younger. Are you a weekend grease monkey, tinkering around with that old junker in your garage until it runs like new? Do you live just to spend time rooting around in your vegetable garden on a Saturday morning? Do you have a passion for carpentry?

It is possible that some professions will be even more valued in such a situation than they are now. Doctors, for example, will probably be some of the most sought-after "tribe members." Lawyers like me -- eh, not so much. Which is why my particular hobbies, which are centered around the fiber arts -- knitting, crocheting, spinning, quilting, and sewing -- will most likely be my contribution to my family and friends in the event of a Long Emergency.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Preparedness Pop Quiz

It's Monday morning. For those of you sitting at your office desks, quick: Where is the nearest emergency exit?

If you know, good for you. Now here's your preparedness assignment for the week.

Find the nearest exit. Then find a second one (in an emergency, the first one may be blocked). On your way out of work this week, pick a day to take the stairs out of the building. Time how long it takes. Ladies, do your heels give you trouble? Do you need to take them off to get down the stairs faster? (Please don't turn your ankles in this exercise.)

Extra credit: this week, practice situational awareness. Try to be aware at all times where the nearest exit or escape route is, what people around you are doing, and whether any of them don't fit in. If a gunman were to suddenly come on the scene, what could you take shelter behind?

This quiz was inspired by The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - And Why by Amanda Ripley.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Solemn Anniversary

The view from Galveston on that day. Source: UNT Portal to Texas History.

Today marks the 62nd anniversary of the 1947 Texas City Disaster, where two ships in the harbor, the Grandcamp and the Highflyer, carrying tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded in the worst industrial accident in American history:

The tremendous blast sent a 15-foot (4.5 m) tsunami/tidal wave surging over nearly 100 miles (160 km) of the Texas shoreline, leveled nearly 1,000 buildings on land, and sunk virtually every ship within the harbor. A chain reaction caused an explosion on board the High Flyer and ignited refineries on the waterfront, destroying the Monsanto Chemical Company plant and several explosive facilities. Falling bales of burning twine added to the damage while the anchor of the Grandcamp was hurled across the city. Sightseeing airplanes flying nearby had their wings sheared off [4], forcing both out of the sky. The blast caused people in Galveston, Texas, 10 miles (16 km) away, to drop to their knees. Windows were shattered in Houston, Texas, 40 miles (60 km) away. People felt the shock 250 miles (400 km) away in Louisiana. The explosion blew almost 6,350 tons of the ship's steel into the air, some at supersonic speed. Official casualty estimates came to a total of 567, but many victims were burned to ashes or literally blown to bits, and the official total is believed to be an underestimate. The entire volunteer fire department of Texas City was killed in the initial explosion, and with the fires and aftermath raging, first responders from other areas were unable to reach the site of the disaster.

. . . The Texas City Disaster is generally considered the worst industrial accident in American history. Witnesses compared the scene to the fairly recent images of the 1943 German bombing of ammunition ships in the harbor at Bari and the much larger devastation at Nagasaki. The official death toll was 581. Of the dead, 405 were identified and 63 have never been identified. The remaining 113 people were classified as missing, for no identifiable parts were ever found. This figure includes all 28 firefighters who were aboard Grandcamp when it exploded. There is some speculation that there may have been hundreds more killed but uncounted, including visiting seamen, non-census laborers and their families, and an untold number of travelers. However, there were some survivors as close as 70 feet (21 m) from the dock. The victims' bodies quickly filled the local morgue, and several bodies were laid out in the local high school's gymnasium for identification by loved ones.

Over 5,000 people were injured, with 1,784 admitted to twenty-one area hospitals. More than 500 homes were destroyed and hundreds damaged, leaving 2,000 homeless. The seaport was destroyed and many businesses were flattened or burned. Over 1,100 vehicles were damaged, 362 freight cars obliterated — the property damage was estimated at $100 million.[5] A 2 ton anchor of Grandcamp was hurled 1.62 miles (2.61 km) and found in a 10-foot (3 m) crater. It now rests in a memorial park. The other main 5 ton anchor was hurled 1/2 mile (800 m) to the entrance of the Texas City Dike, and rests on a Texas shaped memorial at the entrance. Burning wreckage ignited everything within miles, including dozens of oil storage tanks and chemical tanks. The nearby city of Galveston, Texas, was covered with an oily fog which left deposits over every exposed outdoor surface. (Source: Wikipedia.)

Rescue workers search through debris near a multi-storied building which has been destroyed. (This building is probably the Monsanto building.) Only the metal framework remains of much of the building, and twisted and bent metal is very visible on the front top section of the building. A group of men are examining a section of railroad track which has been damaged. Metal and wooden debris is widely scattered. On the left side of the photograph, an ambulance is parked with back doors open. Rescue workers include both military and civilians. On the reverse of the photograph is written: "From John P. Blazetic with 32nd medical battalion." Source: UNT Portal to Texas History.

Also see the Houston Chronicle archives for eyewitness accounts of that day that make you feel as if you were there.

Today, Texas City still thrives with industry. It is the 9th largest deep water port in the U.S. Also nearby is the Port of Houston and the Houston Ship Channel, which boasted 7,703 ships making call at the Port and handled 225 million tons of cargo in 2007. (See trade statistics.) More than 150 private industrial companies line the ship channel. Ship channel-related businesses support more than 785,000 jobs throughout Texas while generating nearly $118 billion of statewide economic impact. Additionally, more than $3.7 billion in state and local tax revenues are generated by business activities related to the port.

The ship channel ends just a few miles from downtown Houston. More than 17 million people live within 300 miles of Houston, which ranks as the nation's fourth largest city, and approximately 60 million live within 700 miles.

Small wonder then, that Texas Monthly magazine ran a November 2004 article entitled "Attack Here" discussing the attractiveness of the ship channel as a target for terrorists looking to attack the U.S.

Houston-area residents seeking to prepare for a Texas City-type disaster, whether accidental or terroristic in nature, should follow the standard NBC (nuclear/biological/chemical) preparedness procedures. The top priorities should be:

  1. An emergency radio to listen to local authorities' instructions for sheltering-in-place;
  2. A 72-hour survival kit for each family member in case evacuations are ordered;
  3. A full tank of gas in your car (I fill up every Sunday regardless of how full or empty my tank is);
  4. Pre-planned out-of-area contacts for family members to call and check in with in case the family is separated at the time of an attack;
  5. An NBC-rated gas mask. Good-quality civilian masks and extra filters can be found here (see here for pet masks);
  6. Two weeks' supply of food, water, and medicines.

San Antonio Tea Party Does Texas Proud

Here's Glenn Beck at the Alamo yesterday -- WHAT a crowd!!!

And here he is later, on Greta Van Susteren:

Alamo City Pundit liveblogged the event and has a lot of great photos up on his blog. He reports that an estimated 16,000 polite, non-pushy, law-abiding, sober (mostly), goodhumored, peaceful protesters were in attendance -- but of course, no MSM coverage.

Don't mess with Texas, y'all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Texas Tea Party coverage

The Houston Chronicle has photos from around the state here. My favorite signs read "Don't tax me bro" and "Get Barney Frank's dirty hand out of my pocket."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Could DHS classify Texas as a terror state?

Don't be so quick to laugh. Conservatives all over the internet are disgusted over the latest DHS report on the growth of "rightwing extremism" in the U.S. Michelle Malkin has the story:

...[T]the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives. And the intent is clear. As the two spokespeople I talked with on the phone today made clear: They both pinpointed the recent “economic downturn” and the “general state of the economy” for stoking “rightwing extremism.” One of the spokespeople said he was told that the report has been in the works for a year. My b.s. detector went off the chart, and yours will, too, if you read through the entire report — which asserts with no evidence that an unquantified “resurgence in rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalizations activity” is due to home foreclosures, job losses, and…the historical presidential election.

In Obama land, there are no coincidences. It is no coincidence that this report echoes Tea Party-bashing left-wing blogs (check this one out comparing the Tea Party movement to the Weather Underground!) and demonizes the very Americans who will be protesting in the thousands on Wednesday for the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party.

Jim Byrd at the American Thinker points out that, under those criteria, Texas would be classified as a terror state:

Islamic extremists' acts of domestic terrorism were recently given the dignity, by Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and President Obama, of being classified as man-made disasters, and abroad, the "war on terror" has been reclassified as an "overseas contingency plan". But an entire non-Islamic class, or perhaps by extension entire states, according to the report, are not afforded such considerate and cordial titles if they are anti-abortion, tend to harbor returning soldiers stationed in the Middle East, aid and abet the reintegration of military personnel into civilian life within their borders, are anti-illegal immigration, are anti-gun control, possess Christian views, are against high taxes, and are opposed to the overreaching power of the federal government. They fit the assessment of "extremists" that was "provided to federal, state, local, and tribal counterterrorism and law enforcement officials so they may effectively deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks."

On a more encouraging note, Byrd states that the Obama administration would especially regard Texas as a cause for concern because of Governor

Rick Perry's statement on the Governor's website . . . supporting HCR 50, which supports states' rights under the 10th Amendment. You know the 10th Amendment--the one that expounds on Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution and spells out explicitly the limits of the federal government, just in case the federal government became confused of their limits. Perry stated, "I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state. That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states' rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union....Millions of Texans are tired of Washington, DC trying to come down here to tell us how to run Texas."

The remaining text of the declaration:

"A number of recent federal proposals are not within the scope of the federal government's constitutionally designated powers and impede the states' right to govern itself. HCR 50 affirms that Texas claims sovereignty under the 10th Amendment over all powers not otherwise granted to the federal government."

It also designates that all compulsory federal legislation that requires states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties, or that requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding, be prohibited or repealed.
This may be the first time ever that I've agreed with something Governor Goodhair did. God bless him, and God bless this great state.

Get the official DHS report here: Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Food Storage Shopping List

Happy Easter weekend, everyone. Christ is Risen!

I'm likely to get a Costco membership soon, and found this great list of items to stock up on in bulk:
  • Fruits in glass jars or cans
  • Canned Salmon
  • Canned Sardines
  • Olive Oil (This oil will keep for many years)
  • Peanut Butter (Jiff is recommended as it has a high sugar content and will last for years)
  • Canned Coconut Milk (It is recommended that you shop at a local Asian food market, as it is much cheaper to purchase)
  • Soups in glass jars or cans
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Dry Soup Mixes (CATERING SIZE)
  • Fruit Juice in glass or plastic containers
  • Canned Chicken
  • Jams and Jellies
  • Baked Beans
  • Chili and Beans
  • Canned Milk such as Evaporated and/or Condensed
  • Sugar ((Please reconsider and purchase a lot of sugar, it will last forever and be a fabulous bartering tool)
  • Salt (Please reconsider purchasing a lot of this product)
  • Honey (Whether creamed or not, there will be a shortage of honey if we continue the current weather patterns)
  • Molasses (Excellent source of B vitamins)
  • Chocolate Powder (Please - anything you purchase in a box MUST go into a sealed bucket)
  • Hard Candies (These tasty candies are wonderful for everyone in your family. One candy will assist in adjusting blood sugar levels if anyone is in a state of shock)
  • Instant Coffee Crystals (Better known as Freeze Dried Coffee. It can be difficult to store coffee beans as the oils in coffee can go rancid)
  • Tea Bags or Boxes of Tea (These should be stored in sealed plastic buckets)
  • Ketchup (Lasts forever)
  • Mayonnaise (Lasts well in a cool place)
  • Pasta Sauces in glass jars or cans
  • Olives in glass jars or cans (If you are preparing for only 2 people make sure that “IF” you purchase in large canned containers that you will need to “decant” into smaller containers)
  • Spices and Herbs
  • Dry Pasta (If purchased in plastic leave in bags and transfer to plastic buckets)
  • Aluminum Foil (CATERING SIZE)
  • Plastic Shrink Wrap (CATERING SIZE)
  • Plastic Containers
  • Plastic zip-lock bags (All sizes)
  • Wine and Spirits
  • Vinegar (Handy for not only cooking but also used as a cleaning aid and for first aid purposes)
  • Note pads and plenty of Ball Point Pens
  • Bath Soap
  • Shampoos and Conditioner (Is used to wash clothing and condition any wool items as well as your hair)
  • Toothpaste and Toothbrushes
  • Feminine Products
  • Toilet Paper
  • Board Games

On a related note, I eat the Alessi packaged dry soup mixes all the time. All you have to do is boil water and they make a pot full of really delicious soup. They are especially great if you drizzle just a teaspoon or so (okay, maybe a little more than a teaspoon) of extra virgin olive oil into your bowl and stir, or grate some parmesan cheese over them. There are six different flavors and they're all good. You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Amazon will sell you boxes of six packets at a 23% savings off retail -- what a great preparedness item! Inexpensive, healthy, and tasty.

Alessi Zuppa Toscana (Tuscan White Bean)

Alessi Split Pea Soup

Alessi Pasta Fazool

Alessi Brodo di Pollo (Chicken Noodle)

Alessi Sicilian Lentil

Alessi Raviolini with Chicken Soup

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

For Those Just Starting Out

Many people in the preparedness community have been cultivating a self-sufficient lifestyle for some time. Others, however, are new to the idea -- and feeling panicked because of the rapid way in which our world is apparently unraveling. There's so much to do, and so little time.

There's no need for panic. The bottom line is that there's no way anyone will ever be completely prepared. A prepper will most likely not be completely unaffected by a crisis, sipping a latte and enjoying the air-conditioned comfort of his survival retreat, while the rest of us attempt to eke out a meager living. I don't say this to discourage anyone, but merely to point out that we're all in the same boat, and that even small preparations can make a big difference.

Here's my suggested list for those just getting started.

1. Get out of debt. Debt is a millstone around your neck that limits your options. If inflation becomes a problem, as seems likely in the future given the present trends in government spending, your wages will not keep pace and the debt will become an increasingly harder obligation to meet. At the very least, pay off your credit cards. Other, long-term forms of debt, such as student loans or mortgages, are more difficult to pay off. Just do the best you can and begin a cash-basis lifestyle starting today. Dave Ramsey has a very valuable program to help people pay off debt quickly.

2. Do not defer maintenance -- on your home, your car, or yourself. When the SHTF it will be difficult to make repairs on anything. Doctors will likely be in very short supply. Therefore, if you need a new roof, replace it. If your car needs a tune-up, get it. And if you need medical care, dental fillings, or even to lose twenty pounds and get in better shape -- then take care of that too.

3. Store food and water. There are tons of resources on the internet and in printed form that help you figure out how to do this. Crisis Preparedness by Jack Spigarelli is one good book, as is Just in Case by Kathy Harrison. You can simply buy some extra canned food and bottled water every time you go to the grocery store; you can buy MREs or emergency rations; or you can look at the dehydrated survival food suppliers like Sam Andy or Mountain House for a one-stop solution. Set easily achievable goals -- first, aim for a two-week supply, then one month, then three months, then a year. It's easier than you think.

4. Get an evacuation pack. I will likely post in greater depth on this topic soon, but for now, suffice it to say that you need to carry with you or near you at all times a "bug out bag" that will keep you alive for 72 hours in the event that you are stranded in a crisis or need to evacuate an urban area. You can either create your own, or you can purchase one that has already been assembled for you. Options for purchasing a pre-assembled pack can be found here and here.

5. Take a First-Aid course. Your local chapter of the Red Cross offers first-aid classes for a nominal fee. One Saturday spent in a class that will teach you CPR, first aid, and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) for adults, children, and infants can save lives in the event of an emergency.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Former KGB Agent Accurately Predicts the Future of America...

It's just that his timing is off by a few decades. This video is from 1985:

Thanks to Humble Wife at the New Mexico Preppers Network for the link.

US Officials Confirm Electrical Grid Hacked by Chinese, Russian Spies

The Wall Street Journal is breaking a story tonight that Chinese and Russian spies have penetrated the US electrical grid, and have been doing so for a year or more. There are even indications that the spies left malware in place giving them the ability to destroy certain parts of the infrastructure at a future date. Water, sewage, and other infrastructure systems are also reported to be at risk.

This is not a conspiracy theory. This is being reported in the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by "senior intelligence officials." This is as credible as any threat information we're ever going to get that isn't directly observed by our own eyes and ears.

Here's what I take away from this:
  1. China and Russia are not our friends and it's time we stopped pretending they were.
  2. This underscores the importance of having redundant systems. If the grid goes down, those who have backup generators, woodburning stoves, access to solar or wind power, stores of gasoline, and tools that do not require electricity in order to run will be far, far ahead of the game. (It also makes them a target of the sweaty, starving masses, but let's handle one problem at a time.)
  3. It's not a question of capabilities. Other countries have the means to seriously mess with our way of life and already view us with great animosity for any number of reasons. All they lack is sufficient provocation, whether real or imagined. Therefore it is more profitable for the reader to view these scenarios as a question of "when" rather than "if."

Here are some resources for living off the grid, either by choice or necessity:

Solar Power Your Home for Dummies

ClearDome Parabolic Solar Cooker

Sun Oven

Cooking with Sunshine by Lorraine Anderson and Rick Palkovic

How to Live Without Electricity and Like It by Anita Evangelista

Lehman's Online Catalog

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende

The New Woodburner's Handbook by Stephen Bushway

Monday, April 6, 2009

Preparedness Potpourri

Here's a smattering of some really awesome preparedness items:

Murray McMurray Hatchery -- buy day-old chicks and all the equipment needed to care for them. Also deals in rare breeds.

Petzl TakTikka LED Headlamp and Storage Case -- wear this headlamp and keep your hands free for whatever it is you're trying to do in the dark. Very long 30 meter range at full power; four intensity settings. Powered by three AAA batteries; has a flip-down red filter to preserve your night vision. When stored in storage case, fits in the palm of your hand -- it's the size of a tennis ball. Great equipment for your emergency evacuation pack.

JetBoil Personal Cooking System -- Weighs 15 ounces; boils 2 cups of water in 2 minutes. Disassembles and stores in the cooking cup for compact storage -- perfect for your evacuation pack. The propane fuel canisters are very inexpensive ($3.99) and each will boil up to 12 liters (50 cups) of water. Available accessories include additional cooking cups, french press, field maintenance kit, and pot/pan stabilizer so that you can use small skillets and pots with the burner.

Nitro-Pak Preparedness Store -- your one-stop preparedness shop. Amazing selection.

HeaterMeals -- MREs (meals ready to eat). Available for order in cases of 12; several product lines available. I recommend the HeaterMeal EX (extended storage) series; they have a five-year shelf life. I can personally testify that these things are extremely tasty and the chemical heater is extremely effective at bringing the entree up to a piping-hot temperature.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Recession Gardening

CNN has this article on "recession gardening" -- although I think I prefer the term "Victory gardening."

There are a number of benefits to growing your own food. It's great exercise; it tastes better and is more nutritious; it saves you money on your food bill for a minimal financial investment; it's educational to your children; there's less concern of contamination with pesticides or bacteria; it's an important life skill that helps you reduce your dependence on others; it's better for the environment because you are not buying food that has been trucked halfway across the continent.

If you are thinking of planting a garden, consider raising your plants from seed rather than from transplants. The transplants you buy at your local nursery are likely hybrids, that is, a cross between two different species of a plant. If you try to save the seeds from a hybrid, it will either be infertile or will not produce "true" to its parent. Heirloom seeds, on the other hand, are not hybrids, and will produce true to their parent. Also, in the event of a real crisis, you may not be able to simply go to a nursery and buy transplants.

Here are some resources for purchasing heirloom seeds:

Seed Savers Exchange

And if you want to make an emergency seed bank part of your survival items, here are some great options for long-term storage of a variety of seeds to feed you and your family in the event of a Long Emergency:

Survival Seed Bank - this seed bank has great, sturdy long-term storage that you could even bury if you needed to hide it from confiscation or theft.

Survivalist Seeds

Survival Heirloom Seeds - has different kits depending upon your living situation -- urban, suburban, family, homestead, or farm.

Finally, saving seeds requires some know-how. Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth is the recognized leading authority for learning how to save vegetable seeds.