Monday, April 30, 2012

This is a Drill !


     This is a quick mental exercise for you.  Although there are never tornadoes in your area, your Spring weather has been unusual. Overnight, a tornado has significantly damaged the electrical infrastructure where you live, and your water will likely be out there for at least two weeks.  Some of your neighbors lost everything. You awaken to a bewildering site, but with minimal damage to the outside of your home.  You are being told to lock up and to evacuate.  A bus is coming to evacuate you and your family in two hours.  What do you gather ? What do your turn off ?  What are your plans with your pets ?

For the sake of this exercise, this is your closest neighbor's home.   (Photo:

 There are many different ways to respond to this scenario and many of them would be correct. What is most important is that you do have sufficient of the mental work done in this exercise to react correctly and not waste time.   Since your house has only superficial loss of trim and exterior items due to wind, it is still important to find the gas turn off, and turn it off immediately, should you have gas.   It is also a good idea to shut off your water should you depend upon municipal or city water.    If you are a rural person, and your generator permits you to pump well water, you may still wish to hear from your area, that it is still safe to do so, although it likely is.
     Whether you evacuate or not, largely depends upon whether this is a mandated evacuation or whether this is an optional one.  If you have small children, or are elderly, it might be a good idea to evacuate, as injuries could occur without electricity for an extended period.   If you are set up for long term power outages, you may wish to stay, to avoid looting of your home,
      If you evacuate, you need to bring:

    1. Your regular medications and those for any family members.
    2. First aid evacuation kit
    3. General evacuation kit     All of which we discussed when the blog began
        aka "Bug Out Bag:.   Remember solid protective shoes and socks for everyone.
    4.  Food and water for evacuation.
    5. Pet evacuation kit including their food and dishes.
    6. Your pets and family
    7. Your Evacuation Document File
    8. Medical Evacuation notebook.

It is also essential that you lock everything before your departure.    Your valuables should be in a hidden safe anyway.

     Since you have animals, you should evacuate using your own vehicle, not the bus which is coming.

          In such a situation,  in a rural area without water or sewer provided here, we would likely remain.   We would use our diesel supplies to fuel our generator to pump each days water.  Then we would depend upon the battery array for electricity for refrigeration, and lights.  (The generator powers both the pump and allows us to store a days charge on our marine battery array through inverters.)   Life would not be grand, but it is survivable.  We would bucket flush our toilets.   We would eat easily prepared foods and cook using our gas stove or gas grill, for which we use tanked fuel.  (There are no gaslines here)  We would not leave home unless we wished to add to the stockpile of diesel fuel we would be gradually depleting.

      After power restoration, other than clean up and repairs, to restock we would need to:

 1. Restock emergency foods used, and any bottled water we used or gave to trusted friends.
 2. Restock any fuels used.
 3. Arrange any necessary inspections or repairs of essential systems.

        This is not complete or comprehensive.  It would not be possible for us to set out every potential task or possibility here.  What is important is that you think about, and plan for the possibilities yourself.

  These are some of our prior posts which may help you with this task:

Discussing Evacuation:

Creating emergency kits for home base:

Continuation of the emergency medical kit for home:

Deciding which foods to stock:

Formulating farm disaster plans:

Emergency preparations for pets:

Assembling your own excellent first aid kit:

Considering an Escape Cabin for Emergencies:

The Document Evacuation Bag:

How are your Evacuation Kits, and your Medical Kits ?

Planning for Tornadoes:

Evaluating the Need for a Safe:

The Evacuation Notebook: Personalized Information:

Information on the Diabetic Ecase:  Updated:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Avoidance of Tick-Borne Illnesses

If you must walk through taller grass, wearing pants and tucking softs on the outside, then spraying tick repellant on the outside of the clothing can go a long way to preventing tick bites. (Photo: tickencounter,com)

This is the second post in a series of two, concerning Tick-Borne Illness.   Please see the prior posting also.    

       Since the diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne illnesses can range from fairly simple to quite complex, by far, the best strategy is avoidance of these types of infection through prevention.  We are fortunate that ticks are unable to jump to attack us.  They wait in taller, or even ankle high grass and simply crawl to us.
         These are some of the things you can do to help avoid ticks, tick bites, and the infections which can accompany them.

 1. Since mice are the primary breeding area for ticks infected with anaplasma and babesia, then remove or kill mice when possible.   This is easier said then done, because they are extremely prevalent in field, rural and suburban areas, and sometimes they look quite clean and harmless.  Still, you do not need them within structures you or your family inhabit.
 2. Some people annually spray yards for ticks. We do not.  We purchase 10,000 ladybugs for every acre we need tick free, each autumn, and then liberate them by spraying the netting they come in with water.  The ladybugs eat the tick eggs and the amount of ticks you see the following year are noticeably less.  We beef these up every so many years.  Keep in mind that the ladybugs do want to come in to stay warm over winter, so you will need a ladybug house for them in a warm area outdoors, near a building.  This is an integrated pest management approach to reducing ticks. (IPM)
 3. Protecting yourself from ticks also involves protecting your pets. Ask your vet what type of tick preventive is recommended in your area. Check your pets regularly for ticks and remove them with tweezers reserved just for them.  We drown the ticks removed from animals in a small container of alcohol.
  4. Protect yourself when outside or in forested areas, by wearing well covering clothing. Many tock preventives can be applied to the outside of ones clothing.  For years our family used "Skin So Soft" the Avon product, because it repels ticks because they apparently dislike the odor. Depending upon where you are, this alone may be adequate.  In other places, you will need to modestly apply pyrethrins to the outside of clothing and shoes.  Take great care with young children not to overdo pyrethrin use.   A couple of times a day, check your children's scalps, and bodies for embedded ticks.  These should be removed with tweezers immediately if found. Then, you need to check the site every day for a few days for infection, and then every week for a few weeks noting rashes.  We write down the tick bites and dates because some summers, it can be hard to keep track.  Of course, adults will need to check each other.  It will be necessary to bathe daily in summer in tick regions.  This is such a problem here, that we have an annual Lyme titre drawn on everyone here, when they see their physicians for annual physicals. There was a Lyme disease immunization for humans, but there is no longer.  Perhaps a safe reliable formulation will be developed. There is one for pets.


        Two diseases that are also may be tick borne are Tularemia and Babesiosis.    Tularemia is also known as rabbit feve, and the causative organism is Francisella tularensis.  The handlinf of sick or dead animals can also result in Tularemia.  It has sudden onset with chills and fever. An uncer develops at the site of the initial tick bite, and the infection spreads through the lymph nodes, and there is resultant enlargement.  Ciprofloxacin and other antibiotics of the tetracycline class are used to treat Tularemia, usually for a couple of weeks.     Babesiosis is caused by Babesia microti, a microscopic organism contracted through the tick. Although some people feel relatively well, fever, chills, sweating, headaches, fatigue, malaise and nausea are more common.  If left untreated,  destruction of red blood cells (as in hemolytic anemia) and thrombocytopenia, (a dangerous drop in blood platelets), and end organ damage can result in death.  This disease is often treated with Clindamycin or Azithromycin.

Great tick information and avoidance resources:

I hope this quick primer, Parts One and Two, help you to keep tick avoidance in mind, whether you are at home, or vacationing this Spring and Summer.

Please also see a new post on this subject:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Learn Something About Your Areas Tick Borne Diseases

It's easy to see how you could be bitten and might not be aware that you were, or be clear about which tick may have bitten you.

                                       In my area, the Mid-Atlantic American South, Lyme Disease has been entrenched for some time.  Although Family Practitioners in suburbs often tell their patients, "It's rare", every farmer and every rural realtor I know from the area have been treated for Lyme Disease, have had positive tests, and some of them have permanent damage from it.   Lyme Disease was first noted in Lyme Connecticut in the mid 1970s, when a cluster of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis was observed in much higher numbers than would ordinarily occur.  Eventually, it was detected that an organism, which normally infected the deer of the region, had jumped to infecting human beings through the bite of a particular tick.   Lyme has spread through the US pretty effectively since, where it is the most common vector-borne illness in this country.  Now felt to be possible in all US states, it has infected people in North America, Europe and Asia.    We spend time in Nova Scotia each year. Nova Scotia had believed until recently that Lyme did not afflict its inhabitants, and therefore treatment for children with Lyme was off to a slow start.  Now, physicians in Nova Scotia know that this is possible, and they are more alert to this as a possibility.    Some references claim that Lyme has afflicted human beings on six continents. Lyme Disease is caused by a bacteria known a Borellia burgdorferi, a spirochete, yes a distant relative of syphilis.   Interestingly, tests for Lyme Disease can often be false negatives, so it is important to follow up with your physician and not trust one negative test too completely.  In some nations it is called Borelliosis, and has reached epidemic proportions. Lyme can impact just about any organ system, and even following treatment, the damage you sustain from it, you may keep, so early diagnosis and treatment is preferable.  The first signs of Lyme Disease are usually, "migrating arthralgias" which are joint pains which seem to move around.  There may be intermittent fevers, and general malasise.  Often the patient remembers a tick bite, but sometimes, they do not. Not all ticks carry Lyme Disease. In Virginia, for example, deer ticks do, and the American dog and lone star ticks do not.

A classic "Bulls Eye" rash as is often seen in Lyme Disease.   Sometimes it is more or less diffuse.

                  When a person is bitten by a tick with Lyme, the tick is of a small variety, so sometimes the person has no idea.  Between three days to a few weeks after being bitten, about 80% of people develop a rash.  Sometimes this rash has a bulls eye appearance, and sometimes it does not.  It usually does not itch or hurt.  If this is missed, Lyme can progress to the joints, the nervous system or to the heart.  If you have been bitten by a tick and later are ill, mention this to your doctor.  Lyme can be successfully treated with antibiotics, although some longstanding infections may not be able to be completely eradicated.    Our dogs can also be impacted by this, and an immunization for them is available.
                    About two years ago, I went out to the kennel one morning to find our young Labrador Zelina, unable to bear weight on her back legs.  She was scarcely a year old, and was up to date on all immunizations and was up to date on heartworm preventive.  We took her to the vet immediately.  The vet said that she had seen several cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever among dogs lately, and that if Zelina responded quickly to the antibiotic she was being given that this likely was the cause.  Zelina was completely well twenty four hours later, but still completed the full run of the antibiotics.   In human beings, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever symptoms begin 2-14 days following a tick bite by the "Dog Tick, ( aka Dermacentor variabilis).  Fever, chills, severe muscle pain, upset stomach and possibly vomiting occurs.  A red spotted rash appears on the wrists and the ankles and then spread to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Blood tests can confirm the presence of this illness.  As with Lyme, it is extremely important for treatment to occur as quickly as possible.
                 I am afraid that there are multiple diseases which are tick borne, but two more are being diagnosed more in my home state.   Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis are tick borne illnesses in which a bacteria causes an infection.  Ehrlichiosis is spread by a lone star tick, and anaplasmosis by a black legged ot deer tick.  Many times physicians choose to treat a patient for these with an antibiotic before waiting for confirmatory testing.  Patients in whom these diseases are permitted to progress develop liver enzyme spikes and platelet abnormalities.   Tularemia and babesiosis are two other serious tick borne illnesses.  We will discuss tick removal and prevention in a subsequent post.    Find out what tick-borne illnesses are seen in your area.

Please also see a new post on the subject of tick borne illnesses:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Alternative Therapies for Early UTIs

"Clear Tract" is available over the internet, and is 100% D-Mannose formula.
       I still stand behind my contention that a deep seated fulminant urinary tract infection needs the attention of a licensed physician, but for the sake of completeness, both of my friends Kymber and Marion wish to have me place a post which includes more alternative information.   Those who are beginning a urinary tract infection or who have urethral irritation may benefit from a regime in which they use something called D-Mannose.     D-Mannose used for early bladder infection is urged by Jonathan Wright, who holds both an MD from Harvard, as well as an honorary degree in Naturopathy.   Dr. Wright practices medicine and also naturopathy in Renton, Washington.  He can be a controversial figure in medicine.     D-Mannose is a simple sugar, and therefore is harmless to us, in itself.  However, my main concern was and is, that incomplete treatment could allow a urinary tract infection to move higher toward the kidneys while we are using a less proven treatment, and this is why I decline to recommend it myself, without careful guidelines.  D-Mannose, according to pharmacists, can only improve urinary tract infections which are caused by E-Coli, and since most are, for some, this may be worth a trial of a couple of days.

How fascinating that such a simple chemical formula impedes the ability of the bacteria E-coli to adhere to certain internal areas of the urinary tract.

     Here is the information from:  

I am super stoked to be sharing this particular post with you!  Not only does it fall into our natural/home remedies series, but it provides information about an OTC treatment option for urinary tract infections (UTIs).
I cannot begin to tell you how many patients approach me with discomfort written all over their faces, looking for a way to rid their bodies of the classic symptoms of a UTI.  Upon conversation with a good friend of mine, I became introduced to a very decent natural remedy that helps prevent AND treat UTIs.
The natural supplement name: D-Mannose!
What is D-Mannose?
It’s simply a sugar that is similar to glucose (a component of table sugar) and a natural substance found in our bodies, particularly in the urine.
How does D-Mannose work to treat or prevent UTIs?
D-Mannose passes through our bodies mostly unchanged, with the rest being excreted into the urine.  When it reaches the walls of the urinary tract, the D-Mannose molecules attach to certain target spots that would normally be occupied by the bacteria causing the UTI.  In other words, the D-Mannose molecules remove the bacteria from their target spots, which helps clear up the bacterial infection.  The displaced bacteria is washed out of the body by our urine.  
D-Mannose also appears to prevent the bacteria from attaching to their targets, which in turn, helps to keep the infection from occurring in the first place.
The catch is that D-Mannose seems to only work for the E. coli bacteria; there are several types of bacteria that cause a UTI.  The good news is that E. coli causes a majority (about 80-85%) of the cases of urinary tract infections.  If D-Mannose does not seem to be working for you, then you can assume that your UTI may be caused by a non-E. coli bacteria and an alternative treatment option should be considered.
What is the recommended dosage for D-Mannose?
The simple sugar is available on the market as a capsule and powder.
A typcial dosing regimen to treat a UTI using the powder would be one teaspoon dissolved in a liquid and taken every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days.
To prevent a UTI, a common guideline is to dissolve one teaspoon of powder in a liquid and drink it up once a day!   
The capsule form may have directions like: take one to two capsules by mouth twice a day with water.
NOTE: These directions are going to vary from person to person and on the product that is purchased!
Is it okay to take D-Mannose if you have diabetes?
It sure is!  I know, sounds funny because it is a natural sugar, but because D-Mannose pretty much goes straight to your urinary tract (unlike glucose, which is metabolized), it will not affect your blood sugar levels.
Since D-Mannose is not regulated by the FDA, is it safe to take?
So far, it appears that D-Mannose is a safe alternative to your traditional antibiotics.  A couple of side effects include loose stools and bloating.
Please do remember that since it is a supplement and not regulated by the FDA, the product may contain significantly more or less of the active ingredient per dose than what is listed on the product label!
Where can I find D-Mannose?
Since D-Mannose is pretty much an unknown entity in the world of pharmacy or traditional medicine, it may be difficult to find.  If you’re lucky, you may find it at a health food store, but your best bet is to locate it online!
That just about wraps it up!  Just be cautious when trying to self-treat a UTI.  It may still be in your best interest to take a trip to your doctor’s office -keep that in mind anyway.
I would love to hear about your experience with D-Mannose.  Definitely leave a comment below to share your thoughts!  Yup, you can always e-mail me at too!

(The work inside the undulating double lines in the sole work product of Cate Sibley, PharmD )

             Adding lactobacillus acidophilus to your regime is also beneficial, in this case helping to restore bacterial balance.

Other authoritative information regarding the use of D- Mannose in uncomplicated urinary tract infectiion is available by:  Dr. James Pendleton at:

Ordering D-Mannose can be done by going to:

or many other sources.

This is an enlargement of one variety of Escherichia Coli (E-coli) which is most often the causative organism in urinary tract infections.  D-Mannose will only aid in the urinary tract infections caused by E-coli.        Urinary tract infections can also be caused by Proteus mirabilis,  Klebsiella, Pseudomanas sp., Mycoplasma, Staphylococcus, Chlamydia, Neisseria sp,  Serratia sp. and many others.  Urinary tract infections which are caused by organisms other than E-coli comprise 20% of such infections.

UPDATE:      I wish to reiterate this point, since I get a lot of questions about this.Although most urinary tract infections are in fact,  caused by E-Coli.,   D-Mannose may be effective in early treatment of this, prior to an antibiotic being required.     HOWEVER: D-Mannose has been studied and WILL NOT aid in urinary tract infections caused by any other organisms.  This is an important distinction.
                     See your physician quickly for urinary tract infections that do not respond to an increase in fluids, or D-Mannose.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Preparedness and Urinary Tract Infections

     Urinary tract infections are one of the most commonly seen issues by nurse practitioners, general practice physicians and family practitioners.  Since a percentage of women use an obstetrician/gynecologist for their primary health care, they treat an awful lot of them too. Recurrent, confusing, or complex cases wind up as the purview of the urologist.    Although men can and do develop urinary tract infections, most of the cases seen are in women.  The reasons for this are purely anatomical.  A woman's urethra has a length of about 4 cm. while a male urethra is about 20 cm.   Bacteria have very little distance to travel in women, before contaminating the bladder which under normal circumstances, houses urine which is sterile.  In either sex, a bladder infection can progress into the ureters above, and then on to the kidneys, so most of the time, physicians and nurses call it a UTI or urinary tract infection rather than simply a cystitis or bladder infection.
      The symptoms of urinary tract infection include burning on urination, stinging, and may progress to fever, chills, back pain or pain in the genital region.  When it progresses to pyelonephritis, there will be fever, chills, nausea and often severe vomiting.  It is very important that pyelonephritis be correctly treated because it can progress to sepsis, shock and death very quickly. (It's pyelonephritis which kills so many paraplegics and quadriplegics who are not able to sense the pain of such an infection.)       The urine in UTIs can look normal, or in can be bloody, smoky, or have mucus shreds.

Note that in both men and women, the patient's right kidney is lower than the other. In pyelonephritis, the right kidney is therefore usually infected first.  Kidney pain is often felt just below in our backs just below the scapula.

                  Sometimes normally healthy people get a urinary tract infection for no discernible cause, but certain groups are more prone to them.   The people who are most likely to be afflicted are those who are run down for some reason, have a chronic illness of some kind, are elderly or diabetic, pregnant,  have some type of an anomaly of the urethra,  bladder, ureters, or kidneys,  have chronic diarrhea or have had recent diarrhea.  Drinking lots of water can help flush the urinary tract and may prevent a very early UTI from becoming something more.  Powders, creams, and synthetic underwear can also irritate the urethra, and some people with chronic irritation, move on to an infection.
                   Once the patient has burning on urination sufficient that she is reluctant to to urinate, or have bloody urine,  then there is nothing more you can do at home. You need to see your primary care physician/nurse practitioner who may take a sample of the urine, for a dipstick and a culture.  They will prescribe an antibiotic, and perhaps another drug also for the spasms and discomfort of an active urinary tract infection.  Most urinary tract infections are caused by one organism, E-coli, the bacteria which is a normal colonist in our stool.  However, sometimes other organisms have infected the bladder, and this is why a culture of the urine should ideally be taken in order to be certain about which organism has caused the infection, and been certain that the antibiotic chosen by your physician will indeed eradicate it..  The newest thinking is that they assume this is an uncomplicated E-Coli infection and treat you with an appropriate antibiotic for three days.  Yes, earlier thinking was that 10-14 days would eradicate more infections, but it was found that we were producing more resistant strains of E-coli in your colon, which would wind up as resistant bacteria in your bladder sometime in the future.  If your UTI returns after treatment, then you must return to your physician to get treatment with an antibiotic which will be effective for more resistant strains of E-coli or for other bacteria entirely.  Usually a longer course of antibiotic is required for a resistant case. and we see 7-10 days being prescribed then.  UTIs comprise a lot of the visits to physicians, and over 100,000 hospitalizations per year in the US,  when if untreated, they become pyelonephritis (a kidney infection)  They need to be taken seriously.     I have specifically not mentioned kidney stones in this post, but I do wish you to know that kidney stones would certainly complicate any UTI and certainly would complicate pyelonephritis.

             As people with an interest in preparedness, we don't much like being told that this is something we should not manage alone. We can handle prevention, but with something as crucial as your urinary tract and your kidneys, your safest course is to develop a good working relationship with a physician, who even after a collapse or during a real emergency, can still provide this level of medication. A child with a urinary tract infection must ALWAYS see a physician or  nurse practitioner.  Stocking medication that may never be used may not be wise for us.
            We can however, focus on prevention, and there is much we can do to prevent urinary tract infections.  Some of it is likely known to you, and some of it, isn't discussed very much much.  First of all, both men and women need to get rid of synthetic underwear for daily use.  Cotton underwear is for sale at Wal-Mart and this is the safest for most people.  These should be changed daily.  Women who use panty liners should pay attention if a particular brand stays damp or is irritating to them. Irritation can lead to later infection.  Find a panty liner you like, if you use them, and remain with a brand you know. Don't apply talcum or similar powders between your legs. We know that this practice results in talcum crystals being located in ovaries, so it's a much shorter trip to have them wind up in the urinary tract where they can cause irritation. Dribbling or urine from the urethra, whether the patient is a man or a woman, should necessitate a visit to the doctor.  Women should urinate after intercourse in order to help flush bacteria which inadvertently enters her urethra.     Make water your primary drink with any other drink a treat.  Both tea and coffee can irritate the bladder in some people.  Water helps everything function at its best.  Cranberry juice, the juice and not the cocktail drinks do help to acidify urine and can make the replication of bacteria in the bladder more difficult, but there is a fair amount of sugar in it, and many times, the diabetics you seek to have avoid a UTI ,cannot handle the added sugar.

Cranberry juice cocktails are less likely to acidify urine making the environment for organisms less hospitable in urine.  However, cranberry juice is marketed, and if you look carefully, this can usually be found.

              Recently, an astute reader, asked me  to point out that there is a 100% cranberry juice available also, but the labels need to be read closely to be sure that no other juices are added.

The pure 100% cranberry will have 7 grams of sugar per 8 oz serving, where when other juices are added will have closer to 17 grams of sugar, and the juice cocktail will be even higher.  Our astute reader also adds that the pure cranberry juice flavor takes some getting used to, but that it's worth such adjustments.

 There are cranberry juice capsules which are available OTC **   in the US and Canada, that will help to acidify urine, but they also can interrupt blood clotting, and so your physician needs to approve your use of these.  Children and adults should be taught to wipe after defecation from the back and from front to back.  The goal is to keep stool away from the urethra.   In emergencies, or during water outages, a squirt bottle can be fashioned to facilitate cleaning after defecation for those who can't shower as frequently as they might normally.  Men and boys should be instructed to void standing, and to take great care that their penis not touch the toilet seat or the toilet water, particularly in public bathrooms if they must sit to have a bowel movement.  We are seeing an increase in young male urinary tract infections unrelated to STDs.  Both sexes should avoid holding urine. We should void as reasonably soon as possible when we feel the urge to go.

**  OTC means over-the-counter or available without prescription, if you are reading from another nation.

This is helpful to acidify urine when we experience the irritation we may notice prior to developing an overt infection.  However, if you take any medications or have any chronic medical issues whatsoever, you must run this past your primary physician.  It does interrupt clotting time.

               Adequate plain water intake,  using the bathroom to empty the bladder when we need to, avoiding urine stagnation in the bladder, getting enough sleep, buying cotton underwear, showering or using a peri bottle during emergencies when showering is not possible, wiping correctly, and using great care in public bathrooms will go a long way in terms of avoiding a lot of urinary tract infections. 

Lots of water is our best defense during an uncomplicated urinary tract infection, although patients with nausea often prefer to drink their water without ice.

Please also see our next post on this subject at:

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Evacuation Notebook.. Personalized Information

    Because we have such a large family, and because we have the space to do this, we generally prepare for most possibilities at home. Our primary emergency plan is to shelter-in-place.  In prior homes where we did not stock supplies as readily or have sufficient space to do this, we would have evacuated sooner.  However, everyone needs to plan for the possibility that they will have to evacuate from their home.    Where we live is secluded and our evacuation from this location would be unlikely unless there were a significant forest fire, or if there were some type of hazardous contamination of some type, or significant radiologic emergency.
          Still, we all need to define under what conditions we would evacuate from our homes.  In many areas this would be decided for you, but in mine, we have such low population clusters, that no one knows we are here unless we call.  Even if you are ordered to evacuate, you should be watching situations well enough that you make your own decision to evacuate in advance of the masses.
           Next, I am afraid I have some homework for you.  Please get a notebook and begin something called an Evacuation Notebook.  The pages you place in your evacuation notebook should be written on your computer so that at least annually, you may easily update the material, reprint a page and then evacuate with a hard copy.  One page of the Evacuation Notebook includes family and friends contact information.  Names, addresses, phones, cellphone numbers, and e-mail addresses.  Then, on another page, list physicians in the same way.   On page three, list places you get supplies.  On page four, list hotels or places to stay during an evacuation.  Include whether they will allow cats or dogs, how much they charge, etc.  List multiple places depending upon the direction of your evacuation. Remember to list gas stations and their special services.  (We have a truckers stop a distance from here, with actual full private individual showers for long distance truckers. Bring your flip flops) You may also wish to add area and distance maps to your Evacuation Notebook. (I add protective sleeves and then put the folded maps inside them.)

For evacuation information, personalized to your situation, with maps included.  Bring your medical notebook also.

  If you do ever evacuate, remember to bring your health information notebook with your meds and family member meds listed.  Some of us also copy our prescriptions and keep copies in such a notebook, should meds need to be replaced in a hurry during a mass evacuation.    Do the pre-work of analyzing what you would do during a forced evacuation, when you are not under duress, and place all of this in your evacuation notebook.  Then, keep the notebook in a preferably locked file cabinet, or bookcase for future use.  This is a small and fairly simple task, and yet it could be absolutely INVALUABLE.  If you have an evacuation RV, this is great, but sometimes, those of us with one, cannot take them with us, depending upon the issues.

The smoke alone could trigger a reasonable evacuation from your home.

Have multiple evacuation routes planned in your notebook, if possible.



Chapter Five  in my new book "Rational Preparedness:A Primer to Preparedness"
has quite a bit more on The Evacuation Notebook and it's use.   See links at the top of the page in order to get one.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Evaluating the Need for a Safe

                  A lot of people who are interested in preparedness ask about whether they should have a safe, and if so, what kind they might consider.   Again, as with most aspects of preparedness, this depends upon your family configuration, your location, what you need to protect, how much space you have, and why you might need to protect it.

This is designed for handguns, magazines, and ammunition. It can be hidden in a closet, or anchored there with screws or a metal cord.  Remember that your handgun must be quickly accessible, but only to you, and not to criminals or your children.
It's best nor to store valuables with ammunition.
                   The first aspect of having a safe of some kind, is that someone besides you needs to know it is there. Fairly often, during home demolitions, the location of a hidden safe or strong box is discovered.  These are almost always completely unknown to the family members who authorized the demolition at that location.  Sometimes, they are filled with family papers or a Will, sometimes jewelry, sometimes coins, sometimes old firearms, and occasionally, small family momentos.   Most of the time,a reputable demolition company will stop their work until the family members are notified and the contents of the strong box or safe are returned to them.  A friend of mine recycles antique and vintage features from old homes through painstaking progressive demolition, and he says that the finding of a safe of some kind, that present family members knew nothing about is fairly common.  So, first, you must assess whether you will be in your home long enough to warrant a permanent safe or strongbox anchored into its floor or wall.   Second, if you choose to place one in a hidden manner, make sure that you not only tell a family member, but that there is notation somewhere in your file, a note with your Will, a double-bagged set of directions sitting in the back of your freezer. telling about the location your safe, and how to get in to it.   Many times, when someone dies, especially unexpectedly, no one knows where anything is, and valuables of many kinds are forgotten and lost to the family.

This nanovault gun safe is not only inexpensive, but comes either with a couple of keys or with a combination lock. It can be anchored in your car, in your closet at home, or be used for travel, either for general valuables, or for your firearm should you be traveling domestically.  Nanovault makes an entire line of these, available at sporting gear shops, gun shops, Ebay, Amazon, or on the internet.  This could ultimately be broken in to, but it's value is that it can be moved around.

Most people have one of these. These are not generally anchored, and may or may not survive a fire which takes everything. 

This is also a variety of fireproof safe.  This one is fire-resistant, but not fire safe as a Liberty Safe or many of the large variety would more likely be.

               Secondly, what do you wish to protect ?   If you have twenty thousand dollars worth of gold coins and a ton of bearer bonds, then invest in a safe deposit box, and place several family members names on it, as insurance.  This way, SOMEONE will be able to access it, and it will not be lost to the state upon your passing. This also happens more often than it should.     If you have birth certificates, passports, paid off mortgage papers, etc. you could keep these in a safe deposit box, or you could place these in a fire safe in the safest area of your home.  Many fire safes can be anchored to the home, so thieves don't have too easy a time taking something they feel might be valuable.  I have a friend who has a fire hardened double fire cabinet that she keeps her tax papers, personal documents and likely, a few valuables in.  It looks like a regular piece of furniture, but below it, is a heavy fire hardened double file cabinet.  Once again, her husband and eldest daughter know about this file, and have directions for accessing it.   Ebay sellers also occasionally sells a metal cabinet which looks an awful lot like a breaker box which you can hire someone to install in a hidden area of your home.  These are often lockable, and can house valuables on their way to the safe deposit box.   In Russia, some hotels have hidden safes in the closets of rooms.  You could hide yours anywhere in your home, just remember it is there.
This is a concealment safe for a full sized handgun.  Many common home objects can be turned into concealment safes for the home.  Keep in mind, this should not be how you conceal your weapon if you have children living or visiting your home. This particular one is only $55. before postage.  (Item available on:

This is a Homak, between the studs, wall safe.  It is designed to be hidden as a long gun safe, but you could store valuables in it. It is $149. with free shipping from this source.   

This is a Cobalt floor safe. Remember that you can spend a fair bit, and that this one would almost certainly require professional installation.  ( )

             Suppose you wish to protect more items or larger items than will fit in a strongbox, a document firesafe, or even a file cabinet.  Then, you need a safe.   Do not rule out the possibility of buying and installing a used safe from a safe company.   Many businesses upgrade their safes, and this leaves a fairly strong market of lower priced high security safes.   Some safes are large and heavy enough to sit in a bedroom with a lovely small tablecloth over them with a vase on top, and not be secured to the home otherwise.  Other safes are designed to be anchored to the floor, or to be secured in the floor under a rug.
              If you have a lot of stuff to protect, including rifles and ammunition, you might just need a tall safe, or even two.   One could be reserved for firearms and ammunition, and another for papers and other valuables.  At one time, only the wealthy could invest in a large freestanding safe.  Now, Liberty Safes and others sell fine safes which are reasonable enough that many people may have one.  These can also be hidden by placing a tablecloth over them, or hiding them in a dry but unusual place in your home.  One friend keeps his in the family room at the end of a game closet.  It looks like a room for his kids, but it also houses valuables.

The Liberty safe line is an excellent product.   From the website, these are American made.    Lowes, the hardware store, also sells a cheaper line of a Chinese made Liberty safe for those who could not afford the American line.  

This is the Liberty Centurion series which I mentioned above.  It is assembled off shore and can be purchased either through Liberty or from Lowes or some other retailers.  It is available with either an electronic lock or a conventional dial.

         Again, I can provide you with ideas, but you must assess your own needs, what you need to protect, and in an emergency what you could remove quickly.   The larger Liberty safes have the advantage that they are both robbery resistant and fire resistant.  You could leave your home with family rapidly in an emergency, and then return, even if your home were destroyed, to empty your safe.

Liberty also sells vault doors.  This makes a hardened saferoom possible for you and a local contractor. I think I would hide mine though.
Data on Liberty Safe fire protection:

        Be careful about who you select to deliver and install your safe. There is a film called "This is Not a Test" (2008) in which a male prepper has a local company deliver his safe.  They wait long enough for him to fill it with goodies and coins, before they are back one night, while he is there, to steal it.  Safe companies are bonded, and Liberty Safe is likely a good choice for delivery, but be careful who you choose.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

About Intershelter


  What would happen if you had already lost a home to a natural disaster, or if you needed to relocate quickly to a piece of land for a period of time, and that land was shelterless ?  An Alaskan company has an answer.  Built to withstand an 8.5 earthquake and Class 4 hurricanes, this shelter comes with component parts stacked like chips in a bag of Pringles.  The company says that two inexperienced people can carry the package which weighs about 55 lbs. to an area of their choice in a pick up truck and assemble it themselves in a period of two hours using a ladder, a screwdriver and a small pocket wrench.  The structure can also be disassembled and assembled elsewhere, and is felt to be able to last 15 to 20 years.  The beginning packages, depending upon size, range from $7,000 US-$12,000 US.  

The interior of this structure when added to.   Home kits can be combined to create larger units.

A bedroom to this structure, which can be made solar.

 These can be made bulletproof and relatively bomb proof with the added feature sold called "Dragonshield".  They are now found in 54 nations across the globe.

These are helpful links:

These units combined to make a durable and inexpensive structure.

Note: This pricing is correct as of the date of the posting of this blog entry.

Factor Direct Intershelter Dome Pricing
Item Price
Intershelter (20 foot w/ one custom door & two windows) $12,500
Intershelter (14 foot w/ one custom door & two windows) $7,500
P2000 Insulation Kit 20' $2,500
P2000 Insulation Kit 14' $1,800
Ground Flooring System (Instant military setup) $2,500
Ground Flooring System 14' $2,000
Custom Color (20 footer) $500
Custom Color (14 footer) $400
Custom Door (w/ lock, hardware, and installation) $500
Window (vinyl dual thermo panel) $300
Crating for Intershelter (crating not needed for bulk orders) $500
Crating for extra door frame $100
Crating for extra window frame $100
Quantity Discount Break Points
20 ft "Force 5 Dome" 14 ft "Survival Dome"
1-25 $12,500 1-25 $7,500
26-100 $12,000 26-100 $7,000
101-500 $11,500 101-500 $6,500
501-1,000 $10,500 501-1,000 $6,000
> 1,000 $9,500 > 1,000 $6,000

(****These prices were correct the day this blog post was created, but of course, could change at any time.  Please verify prices before ordering. )

Contact Details:

Intershelter, Inc.
Don Kubley, President
15945 Glacier Highway
Juneau, Alaska 99801
Phone: (907) 789-9273


Note from Jane:

I have absolutely no personal financial interest in Intershelter whatsoever.   I simply believe this is an intriguing idea at what appears to be an excellent price.  As with any product or offer, profiled here or otherwise, please do all of your due diligence, not only in ensuring whether these products will meet your needs, but also as to zoning laws and whether your subdivision, town,  township, county or region will permit such structures, and under what circumstances.

Examining Bomb, Tornado and Security Shelters

This is the header from the Security Disasters website.  Scroll right to see entire picture.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
         With a number of deaths occurring this week following tornadoes in Kansas this week, I am receiving questions once again, about shelters.  Before investing a huge sum in such a thing, we all need to do a great deal of research.  We need to make sure that we tailor our responses to the reasonable risks in our area.  I think it unwise to take a second mortgage for an emergency shelter when the fortification of a basement, or a storm cellar might not only be cheaper,  but might financially allow the stocking of more supplies, broadening the overall preparedness of a family.

                  Still, I have promised to mention, some of the companies who will provide emergency shelters. Perhaps a discussion of these, will give you your own ideas.

                 Security Disaster Shelters is a Silverthorne, Colorado  company which is forty years old.
They specialize in the fabrication of steel structures for the purpose of egress from a home,  blast valve sleeves, hatches, blast door components etc.  They also build single and multi-unit emergency shelters.  There is value in visiting the offices and meeting with the people who make such structures, and so I will include many of these contractors so that you may talk to several.

           Security Disaster Shelters
        (970) 468-2125

      They are also associated with

We profiled on another post, so all I will do here, is provide their website:


Our prior post which discussed their company is here: d-about-construction.html


  Deep Earth Bunker is a company which specializes in the creation of everything from tsunami pods, to safe rooms, tornado safety shelters.  Their designs carry a Professional Engineer stamp, who also has a Ph D.  They also can fire proof, and bullet proof existing structures. They claim to be able to provide alternatives on lower budgets also.  They will discuss projects anywhere in the world.



This is the sleeping area of just one of their underground structures.

  Radius Engineering  designs and constructs a variety of in ground structures for worldwide clients. They are a US Dept of Defense contractor who can build anything you need.  They are Texas based.  They can provide pre-made shelters or manufacture these on site.

This is an installation of one of their ready-made units.

Phone: 972.552.2484
Fax: 866.503.3854                    

(6 Ft W x 10 Ft L X 6 Ft H) Seating up to 18 people
*Actual shelter shown, to be installed 100% below ground.
 Exterior colored paint for advertising purposes only.

  Many people who have contacted me lately, aren't looking for a bomb shelter, or hidden shelter per se, as much as they are looking for a tornado shelter, as they have no basement.

Here are some companies who can help with this issue:

Tornado Shelters Inc. for a short period have free delivery anywhere in the US.   They can provide shelters which are focused on tornado sheltering for 10-40 people.  These shelters cost anywhere from $3,000. US to about $17,000. US, and are a great value.

The above prices reflect cash purchase pricing.
Call and ask about our
"Rent To Own" Program!
Payments starting as low as $199.00 per month.      214-686-3696


This excellent information found within the two sets of two undulating lines, came from:

Considerations to keep in mind when looking at commercially made underground shelters:
  • What kind of material is used in its manufacture? Shelters may be made of concrete, steel, fiberglass, or other materials. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, for both installation and long-term use.
  • What style would best suit our needs and situation? There are storm shelters that are meant to be built into a new home, there are storm shelters that are meant to be installed in an existing home, there are storm shelters that are meant to be installed in the ground adjacent to a home. Some manufacturers are marketing "double duty" shelters, that can be used for valuables or extra storage area.
  • If you live in an area where you are affected by hurricanes, you will want to use the shelter for protection from them as well. So you will need to consider the possibility of storm surge in determining whether or not you want an underground or partially underground shelter.
  • How thick is the fiberglass/steel/concrete? Thick enough to withstand the stresses that will undoubtedly be put on it whether there is a tornado or not?
  • Were engineers involved with the design or is this an offshoot of another business that makes a different product that is not subject to the kind of stresses a storm shelter has?
  • What sizes are available?
  • How many people can fit comfortably into the shelter?
  • What provision is made for seating?
  • What provision is made for lighting?
  • What provision is made for ventilation, especially if the door is blocked for several hours?
  • Is there storage space for emergency supplies like water, a first aid kit, etc?
  • Does the entry to the shelter open outward, inward, or slide sideways?
  • Is there provision for getting out if the door is blocked or a tree falls on it?
  • How high is the water table in your area, and what provision is there to keep the shelter in position? If you have a high water table, you don't want water leaking into the shelter, nor do you want it bobbing up out of the ground.
  • If I live on a flood plain that sees frequent high water, what provision has been made to keep flood water from entering the shelter?
  • Is the shelter seamless, or are there seams that might allow water or soil in?
  • How deeply does the soil freeze? If you live in a northern climate, you don't want the frost in the ground buckling or cracking the sides or forcing the shelter out of the ground little by little.
  • How far down is the bedrock in your area? Shallow soils above bedrock may add considerably to the installation cost, although it doesn't prevent you from installing an underground shelter.
  • Shelters may be partially sunk into the ground, then banked with soil. What is the cost of drawing in additional dirt to bank a storm cellar that is only half underground?
  • What is the basic cost of the shelter?
  • Can I have it shipped here and install it myself with local help?
  • What "accessories" are available and what is the cost of each?
  • What is the cost of installation if we have to drill through rock to put it underground?
  • What is the cost to ship it to my location? The proximity to a dealer is often THE determining factor in choosing a shelter! Fortunately, there are a number of manufacturers with dealers in many states, so the choices now are better than they were a few years ago.
  • What is the installation cost if there is no bedrock?
  • How long a warranty is provided, and what does it cover?
  • What circumstances might negate that warranty?
  • What if I have a problem with it a few years from now--what kind of support do the company offer?
  • Are there additional costs I haven't asked about, and if so, what are they?
  • What is the amount of time it will take to complete the installation process?
  • Will unwelcome guests like rodents, snakes, scorpions, etc, be able to get into the shelter and either live or even worse, die there?
  • What kind of monthly/yearly maintenance is required or suggested?
  • How long has the company been in business? The longer the company has been in business, the more likely it is that they have created a good product and stand behind it. And the more likely they are still going to be around if you do have problems.
  • Ask for the names of previous customers that have shelters and speak to them about the performance of the product.
And ask yourself:
  • Are there underground pipes, conduits, gas lines, sewer lines, or cables that will have to be considered in or near the location you want to put your shelter?
  • Will their location have a part in determining which shelter is possible?
  • Do I want to consider investing in a larger shelter, and purchasing it jointly with a neighbor(s)? Is the neighbor going to be there permanently--is it another family member--might be factors here.
The FEMA site now has a document you can download on the performance criteria for tornado shelters. It is worthwhile reading! You can download it in Microsoft Word format here.

However, this is a good time to remind everyone that there are always "companies" that rush in after a disaster to take advantage of the victims of that disaster. It is sad but true. After Hurricane Andrew struck southern Florida, trucks crammed with jugs of tap water pulled into town, charging exhorbitant prices for something that, a day or so before, was not even considered valuable. After the ice storm struck Quebec, Canada in January, 1998, the same kind of thing happened. We heard of one person buying a whole truck-load of generators, then trying to peddle them to power-less Canadians at twice the price. There are companies that have products that can be "turned into" storm shelters. They have jumped into the shelter business, adapting these products somewhat. So go by the old adage, "Let the buyer beware!" If you have already decided that you are going to buy a shelter, ask the hard questions before you invest--because it really IS an investment.


The Tornado Risk Map shows the areas in which you may need to seek shelter.  You should do your own research.  Is your home or your own basement sufficient in a tornado ?


A final word from Jane,

      If you do determine that you need some type of a tornado or bomb protective structure, do not be rushed. Consider carefully all the aspects of this decision above, and consider your own finances as well. Make sure that you know what type of maintenance will be necessary for such a structure. I know some of you feel pressured to protect your families from this years tornado season, but remember, even if you purchase it, and make the decision today, it must be installed, and your family still need to stock it, and know under what conditions it should be used.  It would be unwise to spend a lot of money and find that you need something a little different.  Make sure that you complete your thinking before ordering.  One thing that does make such a purchase a little easier to swallow is that it IS a capital improvement to your home, and in many places, it is a purchase that can be added to the purchase price of your home, and that you may get back when it is time to sell.