Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Are You Prepared for Snowmageddon?
How to prepare for a long hard winter
By Stefan Verstappen

 Last winter was tough, this past summer has been one of the coldest on record, and before the season was over, parts of Canada and the U.S. had already been hit with snow. Sunspot activity is in a 12 year low and The Farmers' Almanac predicts continued below-average temperatures.

All these signs point to one conclusion - Snowmageddon is coming!

Winter can be cold, dark, and depressing, but with a little preparation and some old fashioned advice you can make the best of what could be a record harsh winter.

The following are some steps everyone should be taking right now to ensure you survive as comfortable as possible should you be trapped at home, in your car, or at the office by ice storms, blizzards, and blackouts.

What You Should Have in Your Home

 Alternative Heating
Whether your home is heated by gas or electric, if there’s a power outage you’ll be left in the dark and in the cold. You should be prepared to heat your living space for up to a month using alternative methods.

If you have a fireplace or wood stove now is the time to order-in or chop extra firewood, before the sudden demand after the first blizzard causes scarcity and high prices.

If you don't have wood burning capability then the next best source for alternative heating is a portable propane heater. These are the heaters people normally use up at the cottage or in RVs, and are capable of heating a room up to 400 sq. ft. (37 sq. m) so if you live in a large home you may need to get a couple.  Make sure that any heater you purchase is safe for indoor use, and does not require external venting.

You should also stock-up on propane since this will become scarce, if available at all, by January and February.

A severe storm could empty and then shut down grocery stores for weeks. Best to have at least a months' supply of food and water stored up for the winter. Also stockpile any prescription medications you need on a daily basis, and don’t forget extra pet food for the pooches and pussies.

Alternative Cooking
Without power you will have to find another way to cook your food and make hot toddies. If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace you can cook your food just like your great grandparents did, provided you have the cast iron grills, pots, and pans suitable to open flame cooking.
If not, your next best option is a camping style propane cook stove. Again, make sure that any stove you purchase is safe for indoor use.

During a black-out once you have a warm place to sleep and enough food, then boredom becomes your next biggest enemy. Fortunately there are both high tech and low tech solutions.
High tech solutions include purchasing a portable generator to run heaters, stoves, and entertainment systems. However they are noisy and need to be run outdoors making this an option for rural and suburban dwellers.

For urban dwellers battery power is the way to go. Stock-up on rechargeable batteries now because they will likewise become scarce once the deep freeze settles in.  Batteries can be used to run cellphones, radios, music players, portable MP4 players or laptops. Download a couple dozen of your favorite movies or TV shows and store them on a flash-drive, then you can have movie night with the kids using your laptop. Just remember the golden rule of batteries, like bacon, you can never have enough.

Once you run out of fuel for the generator, and batteries for the electronics, you're down to low tech solutions. Now's the time to break out the acoustic instruments and learn to play that song you've been meaning to learn. Music was invented by people who had nothing to do but freeze in a damp cave for five months a year.

Aso get a few of the old storm lanterns that use lamp oil, they last forever and you can use cooking oil in a pinch. Then make sure you have some board games and a couple of decks of cards. Oh, and candles, just remember the golden rule of candles...

Finally, stock up on some good books. Getting immersed in a book you can't put down will make your stay in Helheim (Norse mythology meaning frozen house of hell) fly by and after you've finished reading the complete works of William Shakespeare you'll look up to see the sun rising again.

What You Should Have in Your Office

For many, there could be no worse nightmare than to be trapped at the office by a sudden ice blizzard and have to spend the night there with your boss and fellow co-workers. 

To make the best of an awkward situation you need to be prepared. One day, after the leaves have fallen, bring to work a small tote bag and keep it under your desk or in the file cabinet somewhere. 

In it you should have:

  • A flashlight
  • A small battery/ hand crank powered radio
  • A small fleece blanket
  • A couple of candles
  • Some packets of cup-a-soup, hot chocolate and instant coffee
  • A dozen small individually wrapped chocolates
  • A deck of playing cards.

Then if the lights go out at the office; you can use the flashlight to find your way around, listen to the radio for weather up-dates, add to your retirement fund with few hands of poker by candlelight, offer your co-workers a hot beverage, (the water in the hot water heater will stay hot for up to 12 hours) and use some of the chocolates to bribe your way onto the couch in reception where you can sleep snug and smug under your fleece blanket.

What You Should Have in Your Car

Probably the worst winter scenario is becoming stranded in your vehicle on the side of the road. Each year snow storms have trapped people in their cars from a few hours to a few days. If you take the time to put a few extra items in the trunk now you will be thankful you did later.

First, everyone should keep a roadside emergency kit in their vehicles year round. 

 This should include; 

  • battery cables
  • towing strap
  • road flares and reflectors
  • emergency blanket
  • first aid kit
  • flashlight. 
 For winter you should add the following items to the kit.

  • Extra hat, scarf, and gloves
  • A thick blanket or sleeping bag
  • Some energy bars
  • Extra antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid
  • A shovel and ice scraper
  • A 12v portable coffee maker (plugs into your vehicles’ cigarette lighter) and packets of instant soup, coffee and hot chocolate
  • A safety candle
 With this gear you have several options in case you get stuck in the snow. You can put on the extra hat and gloves, grab the shovel and try to dig your way out, or you can have a friend or Good Samaritan tow you out using the tow strap.

If you have to wait for help to arrive you can run the engine for ten minutes every hour to heat up the interior and make yourself a cup of hot soup. (Always leave a small opening in the window to let in fresh air.) If you run out of gas before help arrives, then wrap yourself in the sleeping bag and light a candle.

With a little preparation you can tell your grandchildren how you survived Snowmageddon by bonding with the family gathered around the heater, playing music, listening to Grandma read stories, and how you got that big promotion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Protesting in the Time of Police State: How to stay safe when exercising your rights

If you’re planning on participating in a peaceful demonstration or protest keep one thing in mind, at any time it could turn into a bloody riot. 

In the past it has been a common practice for governments to send agent provocateurs to mingle among the demonstrators until a given time or signal, and then to begin instigating violence as both a way to demonize the peaceful protesters in the media, and as an excuse to send in the riot troops to bust heads. As demonstrations around the world can attest to, this tactic has not gone out of fashion.

So what should you do if suddenly rubber bullets, tear gas canisters, and flash bang grenades are whizzing past you and a hundred Mad Max extras waiving clubs start goose-stepping in your direction?

The following will provide you some tips and advice to keep you as safe as possible should you suddenly find yourself in a war-zone.

When the storm troopers make their appearance at your protest march, you’ll notice they came dressed to kill. They typically wear helmets, face shields, gas masks, chest protectors, elbow pads, knee and shin pads, and combat boots. In addition, they will carry shields, batons, Tasers, radios, medical kits, shotguns and pistols. Meanwhile, you are standing there in a t-shirt and flip flops. The first tip is to come dressed for the occasion.

What to Wear
Long pants and long sleeves to reduce the exposure of skin to RCAs. (Riot Control Agents)
Wear only cotton or wool. Natural fibers are fire resistant whereas most of the synthetic materials are highly flammable and can quickly ignite from a spark from a flash bang or Molotov cocktail. When these materials burn they will melt right into your skin and cannot be removed without taking the skin with it.

A bicycle helmet, this can be a life saver in case agitators begin throwing rocks and you happen to be in the line of fire. Also useful as protection against police nightstick attacks.

A backpack, fill the book pocket, the pocket that is closest to the back straps, with a large hardcover book. This can act like body armor protecting your back from rubber bullets. In addition, it can be used as a shield by placing your forearm through the shoulder straps and holding the pack as a shield if front of you if you have to escape volleys of projectiles and rubber bullets.

A bandanna: can be used as an emergency bandage, sweat band, improvised dust mask, and washcloth.

Bring work gloves to protect your hands if you have to escape through broken windows, or other sharp wreckage caused by rioting. Wearing gloves will also help prevent burns if you have to remove smoking teargas canisters.

Wear work boots or hiking boots, or at least good high top leather runners. This is to help protect your feet from broken glass and sharp debris on the ground, and will help support your ankles when running, or climbing over barriers.

Wear protective eye-wear. The sports style sunglasses with padding on the inside such as used in racket ball and other sports works best. This is to protect against RCAs, rubber bullets and fragments from teargas canisters and Flash Bangs.

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What to Carry
The riot police typically carry a lot of gear and it is a good idea for you to carry some items on your person as well.

Water: you can quickly become dehydrated standing outdoors and access to water may be restricted. Local stores may be closed for fear of rioting and looting and police may block off access to public fountains and washrooms. Bring 2 litres minimum and double if the temperatures are high.

Snacks: the excitement and physical exertion can quickly use up your glucose stores and leave you feeling weak and nauseous. Bring some snacks to nibble on through the day to maintain your blood sugar levels.

Cell Phone: to call for help, an attorney, or a cab to help you get out if you become trapped or arrested. A cell phone is also useful for filming the violation of human rights.

Pocket First Aid Kit: to treat minor injuries like cuts and blisters. Add one or two a chemical cold packs to help treat welts raised by rubber bullets and baton strikes.

Small Flashlight: in case you’re out after dark and the power goes out.

Cash: to pay for parking, or public transportation, or to hire a taxi.

Dust Mask: to help filter out riot control agents.

Identification: in case you are detained or arrested providing I.D. can get you released sooner.

Attorneys’ Business Card: If you participate regularly in an activist community you will eventually have an encounter with law enforcement. It is best to be prepared ahead of any such encounter by finding a reputable lawyer that specializes in civil rights cases and get several of his or her business cards to keep in your wallet and another in your protest emergency kit. Don’t rely solely on your cell phone for contact information since cell phones and other electronic devices will be seized when you are arrested.

How to Deal With Riot Control Agents
The term “riot control agents” (RCAs) refers to several gases commonly known as ‘Tear Gas’ or ‘Pepper Spray’. Exposure to these chemicals can cause skin, nose, and eye irritation, nausea, and respiratory difficulties within minutes. In rare cases, RCAs can cause long-term health complications, blindness, and even death. The effects generally last less than half an hour but can be extremely uncomfortable.

The first defense is to try to stay out of the line of fire and away from the front lines of the police. If the chemicals are released in front of you, you should run straight behind you to get out of range. Try to get upwind of the point of release where there is fresh air.

If RCAs are deployed inside a building, get out as quickly as possible. The chemicals do not dissipate as they would outdoors, and the high concentrations can be extremely dangerous with prolonged exposure.

Get to high ground. RCAs are heavier than air, and the highest concentrations thus tend to be near the ground. Try to get to the highest point possible. This could be up a hill, atop a wall, etc.

If you are caught in a smoke cloud, soak a bandanna or other cloth in apple-cider vinegar or lemon juice and tightly cover your mouth and nose with it. (Bring these items in your kit.)

Finally, avoid wearing oil-based creams or sunscreens, as these aid absorption of the RCAs. If you are exposed to these agents follow decontamination procedures.

In emergencies, dry powder such as flour, baking soda, detergents, or even soil can be used to reduce the quantity of chemical agent available for uptake through the skin. Pouring flour onto the chemical followed by wiping with wet tissue paper is reported to be effective against the nerve agents soman, VX, and mustard gas.

How to Escape a Riot
Try to look as inconspicuous as possible, and slowly and carefully move to the outside of the mob. Stay close to walls or other protective barriers if possible.

Get inside and stay inside if you can. Find a retail store, office building, or coffee shop to go into and off the streets. Look for a rear exit to these buildings that will lead out to a back street where there are no rioters or police and carefully make you way home.

It can be dangerous to move against a crowd, so go with the flow until you are able to escape into a doorway or up a side street or alley. It may also be advantageous to stay with the crowd until you are certain you can safely escape because it will help you remain inconspicuous and improve your odds of survival if shots are fired. In addition, police may barricade side routes and ambush anyone seeking to escape the main mob. You do not want to be the only person trying to get past a police barricade.

Avoid public transportation. Buses, subways, and trains will likely be out of service, and stations and depots will probably be packed with people. Even if you succeed in getting on a train or bus, rioters may stop it. Subway stations are particularly bad places to be, both because they are difficult to escape and because riot control agents are heavier than air and may drift down into subway stations and accumulate there.

Protesting in a police state can be a dangerous, if vital exercise of your basic human rights. You cannot trust that unstable elements within the ranks of law enforcement would not instigate violence that would trigger the police into attack mode. You could be entering a war zone, and so to protect yourself and fellow activists make sure you follow the advice given and come prepared.