Covered Topics

Please see the list of the topics I've covered. It's located near the bottom of the page. Thanks for stopping in!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Retrofitting New Window Screens On Restored 'Retro' RV Camper

RV camping is currently enjoying a resurgence in America. Among the thousands of people taking to America's highways in trailers and motor homes in recent times, there is a growing segment of folks who are restoring older units. This is often done for nostalgic reasons and/or to beat the high cost of a new RV. Recently, I got my hands on an online bargain. The camper shown in the photo dates to the early 1970s and was near completely restored by the previous owner. He sold it to me because he has a child and large dog, and now needs a larger RV. There was one issue with this camper: The restoration job did NOT include screens on the windows. And anyone who has been camping knows how troublesome mosquitoes and flies can be. Also, anyone who has camped in an RV knows that if one is camping in an area where power for the air conditioner is not available, it quickly becomes a "sweat box" unless one can open windows for cross ventilation. So window screens are a MUST.

This RV presented a unique problem due to the design and construction of its windows. Most RVs I have owned or traveled in have a crank that operates the window. On some, this crank is intelligently positioned into the window frame; in others, there is a small, discrete hole in the screen through which the shaft for the window crank protrudes. In the case of this particular camper, the latches which hold the window glass closed are located directly behind where a window screen would be. Thus, it would be impossible to open and close the window when using a conventional window screen. The next photos show this problem:

I came up with my own novel engineering solution. I'm not saying this is necessarily the best or only solution, but it is what I came up with and it works. My approach was to have an immovable section of screen in the middle of the window, between the bottom latches, with movable screens resembling shutters on either side to allow access to the window latches. The next photo shows my completed installation:
When I first installed this, I realized that despite considerable care in minimizing the gap between the movable and fixed screens, that gap was still wide enough to potentially allow mosquitoes and other "no-seeum"type insects to get in. So I used an outdoor-rated duct tape to seal this opening. This can be seen in the next three photos:

To some folks, the tape scheme might seem a bit "hillbilly", but it was inexpensive; I had it lying around, and it is certainly easy enough to fix if/when needed. And finally, the next two pictures show how it operates:

I hope this helps someone restoring an older RV or at least gives them ideas for a workaround.

Monday, July 16, 2018

This Is The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of

An article came out today in the Idaho Statesman that enumerates various incidents where the US government has LOST weapons grade nuclear materials. According to the article, "since the cold war ... 6 TONS of bomb materials have gone MUF", meaning "material unaccounted for". The article goes on to say that some of this "may be stuck in pipes at processing facilities, etc." so just because it is unaccounted for does NOT necessarily mean that 6 tons were stolen.

That said, the article starts off mentioning some samples of material that WERE recently stolen from a rented SUV that was being used by "two security experts from the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory." While these samples were NOT sufficient quantity to make a nuclear weapon, it bespeaks of a lack of security in the handling of such materials.

Idaho Statesman Article

But knowing that there are 6 TONS of nuclear material - much of it weapons grade - that are MISSING or unaccounted for, does NOT leave one feeling "warm and fuzzy". This is theoretically enough to "make hundreds of nuclear explosives', according to the article. Also, according to the article, an amount of plutonium the size of a grapefruit is sufficient to produce a bomb.

Think terrorist bomb, 'dirty bomb', possible EMP weapon, etc. SCARY!!!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Help In Preparing For Emergency/Austere Medical Situations - A Shout Out To A Fellow YouTuber

Folks who read my last post know I got my EMT-Basic certification about a year ago. But I didn't stop there.

In my constant effort to be more prepared for whatever comes, and to be of help to my family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, I took some additional seminars dealing with emergency medicine in an "austere" setting. What do I mean by "austere"? My EMT training was primarily geared toward helping the patient stay alive, and preventing further injury, until they could get to the hospital. This is all well and good, and works in most situations. But what about a massive grid down situation? Or another hurricane Katrina, where massive flooding prevents rescue workers from getting to you in a timely manner? Those situations can be termed "austere", because doctors, nurses and hospital care may NOT be readily available - for some time, if at all. A fellow YouTuber comes to the rescue for these scenarios.

There is a Registered Nurse (RN) who maintains a YouTube channel called "The Patriot Nurse". If you go back and search through her videos, you will find she has posted lots of valuable medical information - as well as some at times brutally frank, politically oriented ones. I'm NOT here to debate politics or to comment one way or the other on the merit of the political stances expressed in some of her YouTube and Patreon videos - THAT is for another blog. I will NOT address or render comments on politics or take sides here in this forum. BUT the FREE MEDICAL information she provides in some of her videos is outstanding and is of concern and potentially helpful to all of us - regardless of one's religious or political persuasion. Additionally, she offers a series of paid seminars called "Medical Prep 101, Medical Prep 201, and Medical Prep 301.

My adult step daughter and I took all three of the medical prep classes several months after I got my EMT-Basic patch. So I had some background with which to evaluate the course content. In short, I think the classes are EXCELLENT - especially for laypersons, or even people with a "nurse's aide" level of training. There was another EMT there besides myself; we both thought it was a good review as well as offering certain valuable info that we DON'T normally get through EMT training and continuing education. To follow is a very brief synopsis of what you get during the classes:

Medical Prep 101 and 201 - covers all major aspects of first aid, diseases one is likely to encounter now or during a disaster, and also offers frank discussion of how quickly medical care deteriorates when infrastructure is damaged or destroyed. She comes from a background of having been a nurse in 3rd world countries where the facilities and technology we take for granted are at times severely lacking. Video presentations and a course notebook she provides augment the lecture and hands-on exercises. A question and answer period after each "chapter" or section gives ample opportunity for students to get their questions answered, as well as for class discussion that can be quite informative.

Medical Prep 301 - briefly recaps some material covered in Medical Prep 101 and 201, then offers excellent coverage dealing with new and re-emerging old diseases which bear watching now, and which can quickly become problematic during a disaster. She presented good information about the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria, ebola, plague, tic-borne diseases and other potential threats - diseases that can in themselves trigger a major disaster. Exctensive coverage is given to nutritional and holistic approaches to maintaining health as well as helping the body's own defenses and systems fight back and heal from a disease or injury. Issues such as maintaining adequate sanitation when water and sewer utilities are damaged/destroyed are discussed at length and are a topic EVERYONE should know and be equipped to deal with.

Other topics include feminine hygiene, childbirth, preventing (and recognizing) STDs.

Much of the information she presented dovetailed nicely with my prior EMT training. After all, emergency medicine is emergency medicine. However, FOR ME, the true value I found in it was the viewpoint or "angle" the material was presented from. As stated earlier, all of my prior training was STRICTLY geared toward pre-hospital care during "normal" times in "normal" circumstances. Her presentation is more akin to what is given in's book titled "Where There Is No Doctor". But UNLIKE reading Hesperian's book - which I DO recommend - The Patriot Nurse offers the hands-on experiences, the classroom interaction and question-answer opportunities one does NOT get from reading a book.

And As I mentioned earlier, these classes are a superb primer for those with little medical knowledge, yet contain enough solid information to arm even those folks to contribute meaningfully to helping during a disaster or grid down scenario. The information that my step daughter has gotten from Patriot Nurse's Medical Prep seminars has also helped empower her in terms of knowing what to do in a medical emergency.

And what is wonderful about knowledge is it is one thing that cannot be taken away from you. FWIW.

EMT-Basic Course; Good, Basic Preparation For Medical Emergencies

Readers of this blog know that as an emergency volunteer, I take basic, common sense preparedness quite seriously. I have published articles on this blog about emergency communications using amateur (HAM) radio as well as by other means when power, Internet and phones (cellular included) inevitably fail during disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. MANY "prepper" oriented folks forget the "band-aids" part of the "beans, bullets and band-aids" equation. As a nurse's aide as well as in my emergency volunteer training, I have had plenty of "first aid" training. But a situation at work a year or so back where an office girl passed out, as well as my step daughter falling and injuring her ankle, raised some serious questions in my mind about the real value of the training I had. I decided to do something about it. A buddy of mine, who is an RN at a major hospital, suggested I go for EMT-Basic training. He proposed it because it would be the less expensive option - both in terms of money and time, and that it "would still put me way ahead of the typical layperson" in an emergency. I did considerable research, and indeed ended up getting my EMT-Basic patch as of Summer 2017, and also have taken some additional training in "austere" medicine. I'll discuss the austere medicine training in another post.

There are several levels of EMT: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate (in some jurisdictions), and EMT-Paramedic. EMTs are registered with the National Registry of EMTs (NREMT - as shown on the patch in the above photo) as well as at the state level. EMTs generally work for fire departments, but some also work for private ambulance services and in hospital emergency rooms and ICUs (Intensive Care Units).

I think of EMT-Basic as "first aid on steroids". EMT-Basic focuses on the "ABCs" - airway, breathing, circulation - as well as delves into performing assessments on a patient to determine how much of an emergency it truly is. In other words, "is the patient going to die or otherwise suffer grievous injury within 10 minutes unless immediate intervention is given, or can they wait an hour or so while one gets them to the hospital?" Or is a hospital visit even needed? In addressing the "ABCs", the EMT verifies the patient has an open (or patent) airway, controls/stops any serious bleeding, and makes sure the heart is pumping adequately. If breathing and heart function is not sufficient or gone entirely, then high quality CPR is started. EMT-Basics can insert certain devices such as a "King" airway, an oropharyngeal (OP) or nasopharyngeal (NP) airway to help a patient whose own airway is collapsed. The EMT will administer spinal stabilization to protect the spinal cord from (further) damage, place a "C-collar" (short for cervical collar) on the patient in the event of possible neck injuries, as needed. Splinting of bones, safe moving and transport of patients, safe extrication of patients - such as from a wrecked vehicle or a structure collapse, are also covered. Medical assessment skills for determining if a patient is in shock, is having a possible stroke or heart attack, is having a diabetic or hypoglycemic issue, etc. are emphasized. We also covered mass casualty incidents, terrorist situations, biological/chemical hazards, plant poisons, insect stings and snake bites, water emergencies such as from boating accidents, burns, electric shock, etc.

EMT-Basic training generally takes 4-5 months; exact number of class hours vary as per jurisdiction. We had a certain quota of clinical hours we spent on ambulance ride-alongs and in hospital ER situations. Part of the ER time dealt with adults in a regular hospital and part of the time was in a pediatric ER. This was very important, as children are NOT merely miniatures of adults; there ARE some different considerations in treating a child. My training took 4 months and cost about $1500 for everything - tuition, books, mandatory drug testing, the NREMT exam, ...

EMT-Intermediate is somewhat of a gray area. Not every state has this classification. But generally it is EMT-Basic with some Paramedic skills thrown in. EMT-Intermediates are sometimes allowed to give injections, do EKGs (electrocardiograms), and certain other things associated with Paramedics.

EMT-Paramedics do ALL the above PLUS can give injections of certain medications, run EKGs, intubate patients - meaning insert endo tracheal airways, and generally need a year or sometimes more of classroom training. The requirements on clinical hours are far more stringent as well. Cost may be anywhere between $5000 - $10,000 for the training.

Reading this, you may be saying to yourself "That's great, Karl. What does this have to do with me?" Quite possibly, PLENTY. If you are an outdoors person, canoe/kayak paddler, backpacker, shoot archery or firearms, camp, etc.; ALL these sorts of activities can place you in situations where YOU or whoever you are with ARE the "first responder(s)" available. Ambulances and paramedics may be HOURS away. If you are caught up in a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, flooding, severe snowstorm, etc. you may also find yourself dealing with injuries or other medical situations on your own for some period of time UNTIL someone else can get to you. And if it is a man-made disaster, depending on the nature of that, all bets for finding another EMT,a doctor, nurse or hospital may be off.

On a more mundane level, what if a family member or friend suddenly gets hurt, or goes into cardiac arrest? In the latter situation, SECONDS COUNT! The SOONER high quality CPR is started, statistically the BETTER THE OUTCOME. Those several minutes while waiting for the ambulance can be spent performing CPR, stopping blood loss - or otherwise improving your loved one's chances of survival. And back to my step daughter's ankle for a minute - knowing how to perform an assessment of a traumatic injury can help determine "do we simply put ice on it, have her take an ibuprofen and stay OFF the foot, and reevaluate in the morning, OR is it truly ER time?"

THINK about this: Avoiding the cost of ONE unneeded ER visit could PAY FOR THE TRAINING.


Book Review - "EMP Attacks and Solar Storms" An Excellent Resource on the Topic

Many of us have heard about "EMP", or Electromagnetic Pulse, and what it could theoretically do to our power grid, our appliances, personal electronics and possibly even our cars. An EMP event could shut down the power grid and thus interrupt communications, food and fuel distribution, transportation systems, hospitals, emergency response, etc. for MONTHS or even YEARS. To complicate matters, the transformers that are the backbone of our nation's power grid are huge monstrosities that are no longer made in the United States. These are a special order item that could take anywhere from a year to two years to order, have produced and shipped here. And of course, without a functioning power grid, getting all this done would be problematic. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, during her fare well speech, said "it is not a matter of IF, it is a matter of WHEN we have a collapse of the power grid". Her warning was specifically in reference to a cyber attack, NOT an EMP, but NASA has also issued warnings about the danger posed by large solar flares causing an EMP. Some sources estimate that a major EMP incident could potentially kill off up to 90% of the US population within one year! It is believed by some folks in government that regimes such as Iran, North Korea, and even Russia have done research and development into the sorts of weapons needed to produce large, destructive EMP events. Clearly, this is a subject that should concern us all, but even in this era of instant access to information, getting the straight facts is not as easy as one might think. There is much written on the Internet about this subject, but much of it is vague or just plain inaccurate.

Fortunately, there is a go-to guide for those wanting good, accurate information so they may learn the truth and/or take intelligent steps to protect their equipment - and potentially the lives of their families and themselves.

The book is "Disaster Preparedness For EMP Attacks and Solar Storms", by Arthur T. Bradley, Ph.D. The copy I own is dated 2012, and is the 'expanded edition'. ISBN 13 number 978-1278376651; Library of Congress control number 2012914769

In his book, Bradley covers both man made EMP events caused by rogue governments or terrorists, as well as details how a solar EMP could happen. He explains that there are considerable differences in the type of EMP produced from each of these sources. For example, a naturally occurring EMP due to a solar event consists primarily of lower frequency radio waves that would not couple efficiently into small electronics - such as your iPad, a digital watch, or the amateur (HAM) radio I have sitting on the table, UNPLUGGED from any power or antenna when I'm not actively using it. So such devices - and even your car - likely would come through a naturally produced EMP event in usable condition. Things like the electrical grid, items PLUGGED IN when the EMP hit, telephone lines, etc. WOULD LIKELY be damaged or destroyed.

A man made nuclear generated EMP, or one generated by a HEMP (High Energy Magnetic Pulse) weapon, on the other hand, COULD damage/destroy small electronics because of the higher radio frequencies and power levels produced by such weapons. While equipment and even vehicles CAN be protected in event of a man made EMP, such protections would necessarily have to be more carefully constructed and more thorough because of the nature of the type of EMP involved. Emergency volunteers such as myself, as well as anyone trying to prepare for ANY reason, need to give due consideration to this and prepare accordingly.

Bradley gives detailed scientific and engineering data, along with clearly written explanations, that greatly help demystify EMP. He then details what to expect during and after the event, and most importantly, what an individual can do to deal with it.

"Disaster Preparedness For EMP Attacks and Solar Storms" is a must-have reference guide for engineers, emergency responders, military personnel, planners, preppers, and anyone else interested in getting real information (NOT someone's fantasy or personal opinions) about this issue.

Hopefully this information will help some folks to gain real, useful knowledge and make intelligent, informed choices.