Thursday 22/01/15

We just passed the halfway point and it's already been a long, hot summer. The days have regularly been in excess of 30⁰ Celsius and the nights haven't been much better. It has also been very dry. If any rain has fallen, it's only been light drizzle in the evenings. Over the last couple of days the heavens have opened up and given the eastern seaboard some much needed rain. Unfortunately, some areas have experienced flash flooding as a result of localised heavy downpours.

If you're in an urban environment, flash flooding won't impact too greatly on your life (unless you make a habit of playing in stormwater drains). On the other hand, if you're in a rural area, flash flooding can be problematic. Unfortunately, inexperienced campers can quickly find themselves in a lot of trouble if they've set-up camp in a dry creek bed. Flash floods can turn seemingly dry, solid ground into a raging torrent of water in a matter of minutes. A wall of dirty water isn't the only problem; the debris in the water can be just as dangerous as the water itself. Pointy sticks, heavy logs, animal carcases, snakes and spiders are common debris found in flood water.

You don't have to be in the creek bed to find yourself in trouble. If you camp too close to the edge of the creek, you might find flood water gushing through the front door of your tent. Don't panic; quickly and calmly seek higher ground immediately. Take your food, water and other supplies with you, but do not place your life at risk to do so.

If you find yourself cut off by flood water, do not attempt to cross it. You have no idea how quick it's actually moving, how deep it is, or what perils lurk below the surface. If you become cut-off or isolated, do not panic. You need to use your eyes, ears and brain to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Your path home might simply be via higher ground. If not, you need to be patient. Unless the area is being subjected to major flooding, the flood water should recede within 24 hours.

A word of advice for four wheel drive enthusiasts; your vehicle is designed to handle rough terrain a normal family sedan couldn't drive across. It is not an indestructible, amphibious vehicle. It was not designed to travel through flood water. Under no circumstance should you attempt to cross a submerged bridge or road. You might be a bit of a risk-taker and be ok with risking your life in such situations. You might even get away with it. But if it goes wrong, not only have you put your own life in danger, you are also gambling with the lives of the rescue personnel who have to find and rescue you.

If you've prepared properly for your camping trip, a 24 hour delay before returning home won't be a problem, because you will have brought enough food and water with you to cover an additional 48 hours on the land (just in case of emergency). Minor to moderate flooding should resolve itself within 24 hours.

If you're tempted to go wading through flood waters, I want you to keep in mind that the contents of septic tanks and sewerage treatment works often find their way into flood water. You really don't want to accidentally swallow any of this water; or get it in any scratches, cuts or open wounds.

Don't be afraid to enjoy the outdoors, just make sure you plan for the conditions and be prepared to alter your plans as conditions change.

For your convenience, I have included the link to the NSW State Emergency Services Flood Safe page:

Thursday 15/01/15

It's a strange title for a blog; but a simple concept. Living in an urban environment, it is unlikely that you will have unwanted visitors sleeping in your shoes overnight. At least, until Funnel Web season. Then the chances of finding something nasty in your shoe increases dramatically. Funnel Web spiders aren't looking for permanent lodgings, just somewhere to sleep during the day. A hollowed out log is preferable, but an empty shoe will do just as well. A spider in a boot is an aggressive spider. It's not biting a person, it's trapped in a confined space and it is defending itself from a large animal invading its sleeping quarters.

Clearing your boots is easy. Don't just shove your hand inside your boot and feel around. Pick your boot up and hit the heel against the ground several times, then turn your boot upside-down and shake it. This should dislodge anything hiding inside. This seems obvious, but after watching a grown man squeal because he put his foot on something sleeping in his boot, I thought I should remind everyone about the basics.

Funnel Web spiders aren't the only culprits. Redbacks, huntsmen, white-tips, and black house spiders also like empty shoes. Cockroaches, mice, centipedes, scorpions and other critters have also been known to sleep in boots on many campsites.

Something else to keep in mind; if you're going away from civilisation for a day or two, pack a spare pair of bootlaces. They weigh nothing and take up no room in your backpack. You'd be surprised just how often a short length of cord will come in handy. Also, nothing's more annoying than a boot loosely flopping around on your foot.

Thursday 08/01/15

Like it or not, social media has become a daily part of most people's lives. The positive aspect of this form of communication is that it lets us keep up-to-date with our friends and family. The downside is that you now have people sending you lots of (not so) funny pictures; and emergency alerts that are nothing more than urban legends.

Because social media tends to be an easy going environment, people make the mistake of oversharing. People love to post pictures of their birthday and Christmas presents, as well as other expensive toys they've purchased during the year. How often do you see these sorts of pictures in your own news feed? Perhaps you've posted a few yourself.

People also love to share travel plans, often well in advance of their holiday. Some might even post a daily countdown to share their excitement with everyone. Why not? You've worked long and hard to earn that holiday. Unfortunately, there is a sinister side to oversharing (especially this sort of information). Have you worked out what that is?

Over the course of the year, you have publically announced all the shiny new toys you have in your house, and told everyone when you'll be away from your house (and for how long). The worst offenders are those who make status updates from another town, interstate, or even from overseas. They've just told everyone that their home is unoccupied, and the owners are miles away.

Another downside to social media is that you have no control over who sees your posts. Even if you only share with a select few people, if one of those friends "likes" or "shares" your post, there's no end to who else can see it.

Did you just feel a little knot form in your stomach? Perhaps that was your subconscious telling you that you share too much information in the web. Remember, once you put something on the internet, it's there forever.