Thursday 07/12/17

Summer is upon us, and so is the Bushfire season.


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I took these pictures yesterday and today after work. The bushfire is six and a half kilometres away, and on the other side of the river. Thick black smoke filled the sky, blanketing my neighbourhood with hot, teaspoon-sized debris. The fire couldn’t cross the river, but spot-fires were still a risk, as they could be started by airborne embers (especially if you don’t regularly clean the leaves from your gutters).


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Despite my distance from the fire, I was grateful I had my Bug Out Bag, and a supply of food and water ready to go if the fire somehow managed to jump the river.

Everyone needs a Bug Out Bag. Yes; even if you live in the city. You might not have to worry about bushfires, but what about other natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, pyroclastic flows, landslides, cyclones, hurricanes, or floods? In the current political climate, you also have to consider the possibility of acts of terrorism. Every single one of these situations may require you to leave your home with only a few moment's notice. You won’t have time to ‘pack a few essentials’ when you’re being herded toward your local evacuation centre.

I have covered Bug Out Bags in one of my earlier blogs; but for those of you who arrived late to the party, here’s a summary of what you’ll need:

• A backpack. You don’t need a huge, metal framed backpack. Your backpack only needs to be big enough to carry your essential equipment. A 30-litre daypack should be sufficient.
• A fixed-blade, full tang knife.
• Good quality multi-tool.
• 2 x one litre stainless steel water-bottles with a wide opening and a screw-top lid.
• Lensatic compass.
• Fire steel.
• Matches in weatherproof container.
• Chemical glow-stick.
• Signalling mirror.
• Space blanket.
• Plastic storm whistle.
• Waterproof marker pen.
• Military can opener.
• 10 metres of green para-cord.
• Small LED torch with spare batteries.
• Small bottle of hand sanitizer.
• Small bottle of sunscreen.
• Roll-on bottle of insect repellent
• Roll of duct tape.
• A floppy bucket hat. (This can be folded to fit in your pack).
• Socks x 2 pair.
• Jumper/Sweater (Lightweight).
• Protein bar/chocolate bar/trail mix; enough for three days.
• Tinned food (eg baked beans/spaghetti/tuna/processed meat); enough for three days.
• A deck of cards. (Card games can help pass the time if you are stranded).

Yes, these items are going to cost you a few dollars, and you may even resent spending the money if you never have to use your Bug Out Bag. But think of it as insurance. Aren’t you better off having insurance and not needing it; than needing it but not having it?

That’s me done for the year, so I’ll take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Thank you for coming back month after month to read my blog. I’ll see you all again in 2018.

Thursday 02/11/17

Travelling in your own car is convenient, because you know (if you’ve been following the advice in my previous blogs), that your vehicle has the necessary supplies to deal with any inconveniences or minor emergencies you might encounter. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for other people’s cars. Accepting a lift from a friend, family member, colleague, or a complete stranger can leave you at the fickle whim of Lady Luck.

Over the years I’ve ridden in vehicles that ranged from ‘show room empty’, through to cars that looked like the inside of a garbage truck, and everything in-between. If your trip goes smoothly, none of this will matter. Unfortunately, trips don’t always go according to plan.

However, you can tip the odds in your favour by making sure you take four simple items with you every time you travel. Not when you remember, not most of the time, every time.

What are these mystical items, and how can I acquire them’, I hear you ask.

These items are common, and you already own most, if not all of them.

  • Mobile Phone: Ok, not everyone has a mobile phone, but you could class them as an essential travel item. You don’t need the latest, greatest phone to travel. A cheap pre-paid phone will suffice. The only thing you need this phone to do is call emergency services, and the auto club (assuming the owner of the car is a member). Failing that, you can call friends or family for help. And make sure it is fully charged. I am astounded by the number of people I know that leave their house in the morning with a phone that has no more than an hour or two of battery left.
  • A bottle of water: Essential for travel, especially if you break down. Help could be many hours away. A bottle of water can help you prevent heat stroke if you are travelling during summer.
  • A packet of tissues: ‘I have a hankie. Why would I need a packet of tissues?’ you ask. You’ll thank me when you’re squatting beside the road, using the car doors as privacy screens.
  • A $20 note. Fold this up and stash it in your wallet or purse, behind some rarely used loyalty cards..... then forget you have it. If you run out of fuel in a remote location, and are lucky enough to encounter a fellow traveller with a jerry can full of petrol, or run into a farmer on a nearby property, offering to pay them for fuel is going to go a long way. They won’t completely refill your tank, but they will give you enough to get you to the nearest petrol station. Trust me, giving them $20 for a couple of litres of petrol is far better than spending several hours hiking to the nearest service station.

And there you have it; nothing mysterious or exotic to ponder. Four everyday items that will save you from a lot of grief when travelling. If you know someone who could benefit from the information in tonight’s blog, please share it with them on your social media account.

Thursday 05/10/17

As we all know, duct tape is an essential item in every toolbox and Bug Out Bag. You can use it for everything from strapping a broken shoe together through to repairing holes in tents. If you’re desperate, you can use it to splint a broken leg (but only over jeans. I really don’t recommend sticking this stuff on your skin if you have hairy legs). Having said that, in a dire emergency where a first-aid kit cannot be located, duct tape can hold gauze padding or some other absorbent pad onto a wound.

If you don’t have a roll of duct tape in your Bug Out Bag, you need to remedy this ASAP. Add this to your list of things to do this weekend. Think of it as insurance. You probably won’t use any in your day-to day life, but you’ll be glad you own a roll when things go wrong (usually at night, and in the rain).

Good quality duct tape can be torn from the roll. The cheap rubbish stretches, usually rendering that piece unable to be used. This will quickly become a problem in an emergency if you don’t have a pair of scissors or a knife with you (think of this as a timely reminder – you get what you pay for). When applying the tape, you will get the best results if the surfaces being repaired are clean and dry. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible, especially if you’re making repairs during a storm. You’ll just have to do your best.

Duct tape or gaffer tape; which one is right for you? I have a personal preference for gaffer tape, but other people swear by duct tape. It comes down to what task you intend to use it for. If you can’t decide, or your expected range of requirements is wide, buy a roll of each and experiment. Learn by trial-and-error.

Duct Tape

Pros:

  • Waterproof and weatherproof.
  • Has a shiny surface, making the repairs easier to see by torchlight.

Cons:

  • The adhesive is very susceptible to heat.
  • The tape difficult to remove after it is applied (it will pull paint from painted surfaces).
  • It leaves a lot of sticky residue behind when it is removed (which requires a lot of work to successfully clean off).

Gaffer Tape

Pros:

  • Resilient to heat (including direct exposure to sunlight).
  • It is easy to remove when it is no longer required.
  • It doesn’t leave (much) sticky residue.

Cons:

  • Water resistant (not waterproof).
  • More expensive than duct tape.

As an example of exposure to sunlight, have a look at the two photos below. Both samples were applied at the same time and subjected to identical environmental conditions (these repairs were made to a waterproof canvas advertising display). After several hours of exposure to the sun, the heat caused the adhesive of the duct tape to soften, causing the repair to fail and allowed the tape to contract and stick to itself. The gaffer tape was not affected by exposure to sunlight. Even after a week of exposure to the sun, the gaffer tape remained unaffected by environmental conditions. Both rolls of tape were made by reputable manufacturers.

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Nowadays, I am far more conscious about environmental factors and length of time the repair is expected to last when choosing which tape to use. Hopefully, you will be too. If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media.