Saturday, September 22, 2012

Identifying Hazards

When my folks moved permanently into their bug-out location, they spent a significant amount of time trying to determine what posed the greatest threat to their survival.  After considering their location, their climate and their terrain, they determined that fire was their greatest threat.  They live in an area that is not prone to high winds, earthquakes or monsoons, however, they are surrounded by timber and thousands of acres of uninhabited mountainous terrain.  When the forest dries out in late summer and early fall, they have a tremendous fire load.

Knowing that fire was the greatest natural hazard they faced, they decided to prepare to the best of their ability.  Dad located an old Forest Service fire trailer that had been most recently owned by a logger, made a deal for it and hauled it home.  The fire rig consists of a 250 gallon water tank mounted on a heavy duty trailer frame.  It has a tool box, fire hose, pump and nozzle with hose and reel assembly.  It also has a pump hooked up specifically to "draught" (suck water directly out of a pond or creek).

Mom and dad bought their fire rig a number of years ago and had updated and repaired a number of systems on it, however, they had not gotten around to really using until this year.  Their idea was to use the rig to water their garden.  Really, it was an ingenious solution.  Not only was their garden watered regularly, they had the opportunity to put their fire gear into service and become well acquainted with its operation.

One of the first orders of business was to figure out how to use the trash pump to draught from their creek.  Sir Knight, the kids and I had headed up to their place to spend the weekend and Dad decided that was the perfect time to press the fire trailer into service.  He and Sir Knight hooked the trailer up to Dad's pick-up and headed off to the creek.  One of the first things that became apparent was that the suction line needed a float in order to keep it from resting on the bottom of the creek and sucking up sand, dirt and other debris.  Once they had the suction line in a good position and got the pump started, they discovered that the pump was not self-priming.  Grabbing a bucket out of the tool box (they happened to have an old canvas bucket tucked in a corner of the tool box), they unscrewed the top off the trash pump and primed the pump.  Less than 5 minutes later, water came shooting out of the top of the tank, indicating that over 250 gallons of water had been successfully transferred from the creek into the tank.  The fire rig was now ready to dump a tank of water on the nearest fire (or in this case, potatoes, carrots and onions).

Throughout the summer, mom and dad made regular trips to the creek to fill up the tank. Their logic was irrefutable - by using their fire rig regularly they would instinctively know how to operate it in an emergency and, because the rig was in constant service, it would be operational and at the ready if needed.

That emergency came.  One afternoon a neighbor (they live about 2 miles away) called, frantic.  A fire had broken out in their "back yard" - could mom and dad help?  The Forest Service and the local fire department had been called, but both were at least 45 minutes out (did I mention that my folks live "way out", even by Redoubt standards?).  Dad hooked his trailer up to his pick-up, made a quick stop at the creek to top off his tank and quickly made his way towards the neighbor's.

The fire was quickly contained.  When the fire department eventually showed up, they had to ask dad to borrow a screw driver from his fire rig in order to hook their hoses together.  Dad left his full fire trailer at the neighbor's house, just in case the fire reignited during the night.  What could have been an emergency of immense proportions became nothing more than an inconvenient scare.

It is impossible to plan for every potential hazard.  It is, however, very possible to plan for the ones most likely to confront you.  Do you live in an area prone to drought?  Water storage is for you.  Have earthquakes?  Plan accordingly.  Do you regularly have hurricanes?  You might want to think of putting working shutters up to cover your windows and your doors.  Ice storms?  Have an alternative way to heat your house (no grills, please) and make sure you have enough food to last at least a week.

One of the most important aspects of survival is the ability to accurately identify potential hazards and prepare accordingly.  Now is the time to identify your hazards, while you still have the time and the resources to do something about it.   Remember, they don't call us "preppers" for nothing!


  1. Agreed, you must always prepare for anything!

  2. This is a great article! Thanks for reminding readers they have to analyze the risks -- and then prepare. I have been thinking about our greatest risk -- tornadoes. I need to get some professional advice due to the orientation of our house. My basement is not entirely safe as it is daylight close to the top of a steep hill. I would love to dig a combo root celler/shelter into the side of our 7 - 8 foot retaining wall along the side of the house. Unfortunately that would mean the door of the shelter would be the first thing the wind hit as it snaked up the 300 foot elevation from the road. You have me thinking.

  3. Enola,


    I have aluminum hurricane shutters on my house, besides being great for hurricanes the shutters block out the intense gulf coast sun (I just wish they were bullet proof)

    The story of your parents place and thier foresight for having that fire rig was really good (Your parents would make great Texans)

    I value the time I get to talk to any "older people" becouse they have lived long enough see lots of stuff happen and know from firsthand experience "what could happen again"
    I always pick thier brains for insight, wisdom and opinions. I really like talking to old cowboys and Texas Hill Country rednecks. Thats what I want to be when I grow up, either a Cowboy, or a Hill Country Redneck.
    Theres TV show called "American Hogger" I watch the show to look at the Texas hill country sceanery and the 65 year old professional hog hunter and all the wise things he as to say (and redneck things he has to say)
    That show is filmed just north of Fredricksburg, Texas, about two hours from where Im at in South Texas. (it takes 14 hours to drive from El Paso to Houston to give some estimate of the size of Texas)

  4. I would like to Thank you for all the information you put on your blog including recipes.I live in Northern Ireland with my husband, our two grown children are living and working in Australia for a few years.

    My husband and I do what ever we can to be prepared for what is coming. We store food, grow as much as we can,recycle all our clothes, we have set up a gas cooker in the shed should we lose power and have lots of water stored.We dont tell friends or family as when we bring it up they say nothing will happen.
    We have friends in Greece and Spain and it is really bad there.

    So Thank you once again we really enjoy your blog.

    Northern Ireland

  5. Thank you for this! I live where snow and ice are my biggest risk. During the summer it is tornadoes. So funny - I live in an urban setting but when the snow starts to fly the rush on snow shovels always makes the news. Are people taken by surprise that it always snows in the winter??
    I have learned much from your blog and have worked on my pantry for some time. I am now getting my oil lamps in clean condition for winter. Blessings to you!

  6. Enola,

    Here is a tip for your Dad's Fire Rig.

    Put two to three tablespoons (or a short squirt out of the bottle) of Dawn liquid dish soap into his tank when full/almost full prior to using on a fire. We liked Dawn as it seems to be the fastest tension remover when compared to the others.

    It makes the water into WetWater(r). What this does is to rid the water of Surface Tension, which allows better penetration into the fuel load.

    We used to use this on our Brush Rig when we ran out of foam on BIG fires when out on Task Forces, back before I retired.

    Our 750 gal tank would get approximately a two to three second squeeze when we drafted out of a water source. It makes all the difference in the world on knock down of fire as nooks and crannies of dry fuels would suck in the WetWater(r) due to no surface tension. Plus it is environmentally friendly so no worries there either.

  7. i love the idea of having your own "fire truck" of sorts...this is what my husband does...we live in the woods with farmland all around us...every now and then we have to build a fire outdoors, burn off ditches husband carries a container of water with a pump and nozzle with him to use on fires that may spread if not attended..just a squirt or two can save someones pasture from being burned up or a house where a grass fire is getting too close for comfort...a person can have a good contained fire and all it takes is a slight change of wind to make a very bad situation. best to be prepared in the first place.

  8. Here, storms of varying kinds-from wind to ice. You'll notice a lot of older homes out of town don't have trees nearby-during ice storms, you really don't want huge limbs coming through the roof-you'll have enough problems as it is.
    I was sort of accidentally prepared for the last huge ice storm. I just so happened to have enough junk around and food stored. "Alternate heat" was kerosene lanterns(which crank out a surprising amount of heat-enough to warm up canned 'sketty)and candles. Lots of battery power as well. It's what made me look at being prepared a lot closer.

  9. Hi Enola, Thanks for this post. I have a ranch in a wildfire prone area of The Southwest. recently we had a lightening strike less than a mile away which turned into a 72 hour fire watch episode. We also have a 250 gal firefighting trailer. Unfortunately It is and has been inoperable for a few years. Your blog has given me the boot in the butt I need to get it up and running. As if the recent fire didn't. Thanks also to the previous commenter about the Dawn surfectant. We also have Fire Gel to coat the structures on the ranch, but it is useless if the power goes down and the well doesn't work to spray it. Another reason to have auxilary water and a way to pump it.

  10. We live in fire country, have survived two wildfires and just bought a Home Defense Unit system from FireIce. (GOOGLE it.) That along with an emergency generator will allow us to coat the house and out buildings with fire gel even in a grid down situation. We have a well and a 5K gal. holding tank close to the house. I also plan to get a water pump to use as a backup. Redundancy is good.

    The system uses a pressure washer to apply the gel to the house. The gel can also be used to create fire breaks and you can even coat yourself if you intend to fight fires up close with the pressure washer.

    I also like the idea of a portable fire rig mentioned in your blog to fight fires down on the lower 40 plus the idea of 'wetter' water.

    I think the Home Defense Unit was money well spent and and a cheap insurance policy compared to replacing your home.

    Somewhere behind enemy lines,
    Peoples Republik of Kalifornistan